Saturday 23 August 2014

ALS Bucket Challenge & the Californian Drought

     This blogpost is in response to viewing these before and after photos, and from reading so many comments on Twitter, Facebook and even on the comments below the photos.
     Quite shocking when the before and after pictures show the drastic difference and show just how dry it really is in California :(. I can only imagine the sense of urgency there is there, and perhaps bordering on desperation. Sadly, that is usually what it takes for a change to occur.

     But the people slamming the ALS challenge, saying they are so pissed off that the ALS bucket challenge hasn't stopped, that we are using up all the somewhat senseless. Participants of the challenge live worldwide. Someone in NY, UK, Canada, dumping a bucket on their heads and donating to the cause is NOT going to have any effect on California's water situation.

     Points that do seem to hold some validity are those made about:
> All the houses that insist on watering their lawns every day to keep them green, and people being excessive in the DAILY use of their water.
> The many golf courses maintaining their beautiful green lawns.
> An exceptionally dry rain season (only two rainfalls this year).
> The natural desert climate.
> Over population - more people than resources can handle.
> Climate change. Dun-Dun-Dunnnn. (even here in Vancouver we are experiencing some obvious changes.)
     I think the Californian government is in the right for giving fines of $500 to people who are visibly wasting water, and continuing to monitor the use. Also, for giving cash incentives to people who will convert their lawns into other, not-needing-of-watering yards.
     These pictures really help relay exactly what kind of situation California is dealing with. Hopefully people living in the immediate and surrounding areas will make the conscious decisions to conserve their water.

     I am fortunate enough to live in the rainy Pacific Northwest: Vancouver Canada. It's beautiful and green here and yes, often very rainy and grey. Doesn't mean we can be careless with our water usage either. I for one, take short showers and even follow (excuse the phrasing): "If it's yellow let it mellow, it's brown flush it down".
     That being said, I wouldn't hesitate to participate in the ALS Bucket challenge. People who participate have been doing the challenge AND donating ( for the most part ). Evidence is in the funds raised this year. Last year at this time the ALS foundation (also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease) raised 2 million+ dollars. This year they are around 30 million dollars! That to me tells me the challenge IS doing exactly what was hoped and intended for it. To raise awareness and to raise money. It is not contributing to the empty reservoirs in California.

     Anyway, this is just my response to the many naysayers on the ALS Bucket Challenge that make direct jabs and blame these participants for the sad state of water California is in.

What are your thoughts, on the drought or the ALS challenge?
What are some of the things YOU DO to conserve water?
I'd love to hear them!
P.S. I've donated $25 to ALS Canada ( even without participating in the bucket challenge, can you meet or beat my donation??

Wednesday 11 June 2014

In Your Face, Procrastination.

     It should come as no surprise to me that procrastination is still one of my worst habits. Although, habit doesn't feel like the right word here. It seems to be a much bigger problem than nail-biting, fibbing or swearing.

     Back in high school, I most enjoyed language arts and English classes. And to this day, especially when I am in the middle of some serious procrastination, I can still hear the comments of my twelfth grade teacher as he handed back my essay on "The Outsiders." He told me "I would have had a high 'A' had the assignment been handed in on time." I accepted my paper back and the very low B, borderline C grade begrudgingly. I had no one to blame but myself.

     Over a decade later, the problem is still as prevalent as ever, but I am making small strides to change this. For me, I feel great triumphs in even small strides and accomplishments. For instance, it's been a few years now that I have been wanting to submit an entry for the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival's annual Haiku invitational. I always go check the website, read the past winners and think 'this year I'll enter.' Of course, the deadline for entries comes and goes, and I think to myself, I guess there's next year. Only this year, I did it! As someone always captivated by the beauty of cherry blossoms, I started practicing writing haiku for a full month leading to the deadline, and I actually entered my two samples to the contest - with a day to spare!

     It's not at all about winning, although, who am I kidding, even an honourable mention would be nice. I am quite certain there are people out there more skilled with haiku writing than I - this was my first time trying! Personally, it's more about doing what I set out to, completing what I've started, so just the fact that I managed to get my entries in before the deadline made me extremely happy.

     On a larger scale, pursuing a possible career in writing, has been something I have been thinking about for about a decade. I was writing up a frenzy and even had some online readers 'back in the day.' All of their comments were super positive, saying things like 'Are you sure you're not published?' and 'make sure you tell us when you are.' That might be over ten years ago now, but it was those comments that inspired me to consider if this hobby of mine could be something more.

     Then, of course, life got in the way and took me on a journey ninety degrees to the left. Years later, I am back on this course, and the idea of being published has reborn; I am doing what I can make this happen. I've attended the Surrey International Writer's Conference, pitched to an agent (they were interested = YAY!), joined the Romance Writer's Association and local Greater Vancouver Chapter (a group which - according to an email I found in my 'keep' folder - I initially inquired about registration with, back in 2008! If that wasn't a whopping example of my procrastination problem, I don't know what is). Recently, I have also taken an online class about preparing and editing the final project for submitting to agents.

    I still find it very hard to stay focused, but as difficult as it is at times, I barrel onwards because I do want to make this happen. I know, just like receiving the poor grade on an otherwise outstanding essay, the only reason for this not to become reality, is if I don't stick with it and do what I need to do to make that happen. Specifically, to show procrastination the door and close it in it's face.  Here's hoping!

Friday 30 May 2014

The Inner Workings of Me.: Devastating Reality: Millions of Lives Lost.

The Inner Workings of Me.: Devastating Reality: Millions of Lives Lost.: I was just reading the alarming page that compiles the growing occurrences of massive fish deaths. The headline should actually read Millio...

Devastating Reality: Millions of Lives Lost.

I was just reading the alarming page that compiles the growing occurrences of massive fish deaths. The headline should actually read Millions of Marine Lives Lost rather than Fish.

With this particular article, it's impact hit harder with each example provided that linked to local news articles from when the tragic mystery occurred in their area.

The main article can be seen here:

Dolphins, Sea Lions, Starfish, Turtles, along with the various fish species, have been turning up dead or close to it, in astonishing numbers, right across the globe. Kentucky, New York, Minnesota, San Diego, Singapore, Australia, Canada, are a few of the examples. Examples that, in my opinion, should cause alarm to everyone.

Many difference theories to determine the root causes are considered. Many of the articles reporting the local devastation, claim it's a mystery. I'm not so quick to accept that. Here are some possible explanations:

This could be the major repercussions of the earthquake in Japan resulting in the Fukushima Nuclear Plant exploding and dumping TONNES of hyper-radioactive materials into the oceans. At the time, there were predictions made of what the impact to the oceans could be. I live in the Pacific North West, we've seen continuous debris wash up on shore here ever since that earthquake. If physical debris has been washing ashore, it's not too hard to believe that radio-active materials have reach our shorelines as well. Many of the locations witnessing these occurrences are along coastlines.

In the Gulf and waterways nearby, or to/from the Gulf of Mexico, this could also be the residual affects, a heartbreaking reminder of the horrific BP spill. The Gulf IS still wracked with oil. I can still remember watching this catastrophic event unfold with tears in my eyes. Absolutely devastating. Reviewing those videos now are still painful, but they reminds us that, just because a few years have passed, doesn't mean the effects of this disaster have.

An obvious culprit could also be global warming. With the continual melting of the ice-caps and glaciers, the depletion of O2 in the oceans and waterways, is just one of the results.

Whatever the true causes of this alarm loss of marine life, this is devastating. I, personally, do not believe just one is to blame but rather an accumulation of situations resulting in unlivable conditions in the oceans and waterways. And, although all these causes are devastating in their own right, it's the toxic radio-active materials that I find very concerning.

If this is what we are witnessing now? What will we be seeing in the months and years to come? With the scale of Earth's oceans and waterways compared to land, and how the places seeing these massive deaths are spread across the globe, I am extremely worried. For the creatures of the oceans, and for all of us.

(An aside:) I will be the first to admit that I'm not an overly religious person. It's not that I don't believe that there is a God(s), while I lean on the side of evolutionary evidence, I still find myself talking out loud asking whomever he/she is for assistance for time to time.
Someone did post a quote from the Bible in the comments at the end of the article:

Hosea 4:3 Therefore shall the land mourn, and every one that dwelleth therein shall languish, with the beasts of the field, and with the fowls of heaven; yea, the fishes of the sea also shall be taken away.

What do YOU think?


Tuesday 27 May 2014

The Inner Workings of Me.: The Train Keeps Rolling: Eighty Thousand Words & C...

The Inner Workings of Me.: The Train Keeps Rolling: Eighty Thousand Words & C...:      I have long since discovered how easy it is to over-estimate progress. When I attended the Surrey International Writer's Conferenc...

The Train Keeps Rolling: Eighty Thousand Words & Counting...

     I have long since discovered how easy it is to over-estimate progress. When I attended the Surrey International Writer's Conference last year, even the agent I pitched to had a sneaking suspicion that I wasn't as close to the finish line as I thought I was.

     Fortunately for me, this little known reality didn't deter her from asking for my first three chapters by saying something along the lines of "Whenever you do get it completed, send it here." She requested it be around 80-85,000 words. I was hovering around 72,000 at the time, but already had an idea of what chapters were needed and what areas I needed to revisit (ie. quickly added scenes that needed reworking).

    At the start of the May, I joined the "Edit the Heck Out of it" 30-day intensive online course led by Beth Daniels. It's the first class I have taken since 2005, and first online class ever. The very first lectures were about checking for info gaps, info dumps and also checking over transitions; transitions between paragraphs, scenes, chapters. Being a self-defined 'scene-writer' I knew this would be an area that would require a lot of time. I was already aware that I needed to work in transitions so my scenes can be developed into chapters. Now was the time for me to get cracking!

     Time, you see, is still not on my side. It's nearly the end of the month and I am still ploughing my way through my manuscript. As you can rightly assume, many more lectures have come and gone. And yes, I have read each one as it has come about, remarking on just how much I can tell these editing steps, tips, suggestions will help improve my story. I am not even there yet and the information is invaluable.

     Early on I reasoned with myself, that as long as I am making progress, there's no reason to stress out that I am miles behind this editing process. I can't put the wagon before the horse. The fact that I am okay with this, says tons!

     I tend to be a busy-minded individual; I hardly get an reasonable amount of sleep because my mind is reeling. The same problem presents itself in my writing. I usually am working in multiple scenes of the book at the same time - whenever a scene would present itself, I had to write it. It's very distracting and can sometimes seem like less work is actually getting accomplished.

     By forcing myself to focus on going from the start of my story, through each scene, into the next, I have gained confidence in the process. And even in my more in my work itself.

     Today, I am at 82,000 words. That's a comfortable number because I still have a little ways to go until the end, which leaves me with room for the words needs for remaining transitions.

     The train not only has rolled out of the station, but is rolling along steadily toward it's final destination. I am so much more excited to get to the finish line, and more motivated than ever!


Monday 21 April 2014

The Inner Workings of Me.: Operation: Recovery

The Inner Workings of Me.: Operation: Recovery:      I deal with a handful of 'invisible' medical conditions. I don't think anyone understands exactly how exhausting that is....

Operation: Recovery

     I deal with a handful of 'invisible' medical conditions. I don't think anyone understands exactly how exhausting that is. The fact that I can maintain my performance at my job often is a success in itself; many days just making it to work, through work, and home again is an outstanding accomplishment. And I know I should be thankful for the fact that I get to do that. Go to work. And believe me, I am. As I know there are many out there, battling with a handful of medical conditions of their, invisible or otherwise, and are unable to work. It really is a matter of being grateful for what you have.

     One of the conditions I am faced with daily is Endometriosis. The main symptoms are pain in the pelvis area (abdomen and even the lower back region) and extreme fatigue. While it isn't curable, there are procedures to reduce, at least temporarily, the pain experienced. Last week, I had an operation to remove a cyst from one ovary, and remove endometriosis from the other ovary - as well as my pelvic area. In the pre-procedure appointment, my specialist estimated I would need 1-2 weeks for recovery time. At first, I figured he was over-estimating that time, just to be on the safe side. Now that I am just at the one week marker, I realize he was right on target. For me, I can honestly say I underestimated the impact of the procedure. I have had a laparoscopy once before, for endometriosis. The last time the growth of endometriosis was only on the wall of my pelvis. Perhaps because this procedure involved both of my ovaries...maybe this is why the pain and discomfort persists? I can only speculate. I personally expected to be back at work today! That didn't happen. With how physically exhausted I still am, and the pain in my abdomen - albeit better, I am doubtful that tomorrow will be the day either.

     It's just hard for me to just relax. I am learning this with each passing day. It's one thing to come home after work and unwind after ones' day, but it seems to be another thing all together to honestly rest and recover, and truly relax. I feel like I should be getting chores done, accomplishing something - anything. Since, small efforts seem like monumental physical exertions, I may need to accept the fact that things can wait. There will be another day to catch up on chores. For today, right now, I just need to stop worrying about all I am not doing when I am simply lying around. And just be.

     I thought a positive in all of this, along with a successful procedure which hopefully will give me another year with minimized pain caused by endometriosis, would be that I would have time to write. Write and read, that was the plan. It was frustrating to realize I had no focus for either. I would crack open a book and the words would blur before my eyes. Just as it would when I opened a word document to work on my book. A friend made a very wise, apparently true statement the other day: That nothing special would be created during a time if I have to force the effort. This blog entry, and a few practice Haikus sums up my writing success during the past week. Hopefully as each day passes toward me being back to normal, these examples will grow in number. Until then, I will simply have to accept is what it is.

      The bewildering thing is, even though I have a valid reason for it, I actually feel guilty about each day I miss at work (and each day I am not producing with my story). I feel the need to hop to it, get on with my recovery and get back to work. Not that there is any way to rush the body as it heals.

     I guess the lesson of the day, or more appropriately the week, is acceptance. If it's something I cannot change, ie the time it takes for my body to recovery from this particular operation, to learn to accept that and relax and everything will work out in due time. Life has a way of reminding us of this, doesn't it?

Tuesday 1 April 2014

A New Writer's Conundrum: Trust my instincts? Or trust the constructive criticism?

Since I won a critique of my current manuscript, I have been eagerly and nervously anticipating the response. Well, today I received it and, while I have points to work on, I know it will only serve to improve my novel so I couldn't be more grateful.

It was interesting to have someone highlight some of the areas I already knew I somewhat skirted past. I sometimes sacrifice some of the extra details, only doing so can assume the readers knows what I am talking about - which isn't always a safe bet. I will have to keep this in mind as I review and improve my novel. It was suggested to infuse more information about the setting and I absolutely agree so am so thankful to have this in my editing toolbag. I realized I need to introduce the city to my readers just as I need to introduce it to my protagonist. Along with highlighting my setting more, I definitely need to determine how much is too much (or too little) with regards to referring to accents. My 'lead male' is Scottish. From some previous feedback and research, it seems to be more common to choose a few choice words to highlight the characters accent and remind the reader that the character is Scottish (or another background). I have always struggled with this. If I put too little, someone comments to add more and vice versa. Is there a rule? I especially want to know because I don't want to submit this to the interested agent only for her to reject it on some small facts that I could of/should have corrected before hand.

While I have only had feedback from a few people now: a blue pencil review, 3 beta readers and now a critique, the results have all varied, exactly representing the vast differences of opinions out there. I love that I am receiving feedback like this because, like all writer's, I just want the readers to love my characters and enjoy their story. Having readers of different preferences helps me improve my story even more.

The slight downside to having some difference in opinions is when it comes to working off of those suggestions to make improvements. I actually changed the start of my story based on a blue pencil appointment at the SIWC, indicating I should include some background of how we get to the scene I had the story starting on, as opposed to just jumping into it and revealing more details along the way. With the new beginning in place, when sending my first chapter to beta readers, I asked their opinion specifically on the current start compared to where it previously began. I received unanimous response that the addition works better which was rewarding. I felt that I was able to take the constructive feedback from SIWC and improve the start of my story because of it.

Now, with the response from my critique, it's questioning if the readers need this information (a reason why I didn't have it to begin with). Similarly, some descriptive choices I make, while I have had a reader boldly plead that I never change that sentence ever, the critique narrowed on this point more negatively, once again leaving me with the question: Which is right?

I feel inclined to sway toward the information from the critique, though a rebellious side of me wants to pretend I didn't even notice the suggestion. The first beta reader I was lucky enough to find, has been responding exactly as I had hoped a reader would: commenting on areas of improvement yes, but also becoming instantly attached to the characters. She gets me as a story teller, including these particular descriptive points, but I know it's not as simple as that. As we all know, just because one person likes it, doesn't mean the next will. It's more difficult than I imagined.

 I am not necessary a 'new writer' but I am new in the sense that only in the last year have I begun working at improving this manuscript, completing it and cross-my-fingers becoming published. Meaning, I care more. I feel more invested. That's not to say I was disinterested before with my writing. That couldn't be further from the truth. I always love writing. I love learning about my characters and the story that develops around them. What I am learning is that the 'writing' part is much easier than attempting to become published. There is much more work involved and, it feels like, much more is at stake. Because, now that I have decided I want to have these stories published, the real work began. It's just...the more I reach out for feedback and suggestions, and the more I work on improving my story, I'm finding it quite like a tennis match. Left or right. Yes or no. I just am not sure how I will know which is correct and which will have a more positive affect on my novel. I already tend to edit and re-write my scenes over and over again. I just don't want to make changes that will hinder an agent from wanting my novel. I already feel I can edit until I am blue in the face, especially having contradicting comments. It makes me think it's only going to get more difficult from here. I am prepared for all feedback...I just want to somehow avoid writing and rewriting and not knowing when to 'put down the pencil and eraser.'

To fellow writers out there: how do you know when to incorporate the feedback, and when to STOP with the re-editing and rewriting? When to know to trust your instincts and when to listen to the feedback?

I appreciate any comments. I want to be able to move forward in my editing and get to the finish line. Your feedback here will help me so thank you in advance!

Sunday 9 March 2014

The Dreaded Synopsis continues...A light to the dark side?

     In my last post, I shared my reluctance to starting a synopsis. I was finding it particularly difficult to divulge the secret plot twists of my story upfront and personal like a synopsis requires. Now that I know it is mandatory, and in my own best interest as a hopeful writer, I set aside some time today to take on this task.
     I spent a good portion of my evening facing the daunting task of writing a synopsis for my not quite completed novel Going for Gold. Hopefully I won't lose any points as it is already a month after I was lucky enough to win a critique of the beginning of my book, it's just prior to that author requesting one along with the start of my story, the idea of a synopsis had yet to cross my mind. It has been longer than I care to admit since I have last had to attempt a synopsis and as I am quickly learning, I might as well get used to writing these if I want to become a published author.

     To make sure I was at least on the beaten path, I searched for tips for writing a synopsis online. While there are more articles and examples then I can ever read, I kept my search brief to avoid wasting more time. After sifting through examples and templates that didn't quite fit my story line, I felt relieved to find a template for romance writers.  I'm sure that through practice, I will develop something that comes more naturally for me, but lack that experience with synopsis writing and found I could easily follow Katie Ganshert's template here: I began to fill in the blanks with tidbits about my story, and was very surprise at how suddenly I discovered a few areas that need some more depth worked into them. Currently, there are some points I have skimmed over, perhaps under-emphasize, but working through my synopsis, I learned that they need to be revisited.

     Maybe the synopsis is not such a bad thing after all. Anything that comes with a highlighter to areas of improvement in my work is never a bad thing in my opinion. Who knows, maybe my new found appreciation for synopses will turn my final draft into an agent's pick!
Wouldn't that just be the icing on the cake? Wish me luck!

Thursday 6 March 2014

That dreaded....synopsis? A question for fellow writers...

     Yesterday I wrote about overcoming a current snag with working in some transitions to better connect some of my scenes and chapters. Thankfully I have the confidence to push through and get on to another task at hand, because let's face it: there is always another task at hand.
     While I may not be 100% finished my novel, I am at the 70,000 word count milestone and since I know the additional scenes to work in, I also have to start thinking of the bigger picture: the finish line and all that comes after that. Not only was I fortunate enough to pique the interest of an agent at the 2013 Surrey International Writer's Conference - my first time attending and my first pitch ever. I also recently won a critique by a published author while attending a Romance Writer's of America Greater Vancouver Chapter Valentine's event. Okay so February may have come and gone already, and not I have not submitted my pages for critique yet. And I can honestly say fear is not standing in my way of progress: I need all the feedback I can get so I can make my novel as wrinkle-free as possible and ready for submission. It's just that, with this critique, a synopsis was required.
     I'm going to be brutally honest here, I had to look up and refresh my memory what a synopsis is. Ridiculous coming from an aspiring author, right? I have taken writing courses in college, but it's been a decade since I had heard, seen or read a synopsis.
     Really, how hard can they be?
     Harder than I thought, that's for sure. I know what my story is about, that's not the problem.
It's the giving away 'the goods' - all the plot twists, conflicts and so on - that I'm finding most difficult. Yes, I know. I've checked into this and learned that it's mandatory. There are no exceptions. A synopsis must include all the secrets of the story.
     There is a part of my that wants to shout out: "what's the point of that?" Why would anyone want to read the full story if they pretty much have all the details summarized for them? They know exactly what's going to happen. Where's the fun in that? Where's the surprise? That to me is like accidentally seeing a spoiler for your favourite TV show or a newly released movie before you get to watch it for yourself. Seeing as I loathe spoilers, I can easily see where the reluctance comes from.
What I need to know is, how do I suppress this defiant part of myself that wants to hold onto these details. What's the best way to approach a synopsis for someone who hasn't had a lot of <recent> practice writing them? Any feedback would be greatly appreciated!


Wednesday 5 March 2014

If You Have To Force It....An Epiphany. (Working through Writer's Block & more).

     As I have always known, the more busy I am with outside obligations such as my rent-paying day job and my heart-filling fundraising, the less I accomplish with my writing. There is only so much fire this fuel can spark. Nevertheless, I still tried. It's just despite my efforts lately, I haven't been getting very far.
     Lately I have become more aware of the downside of being, as I usually describe myself, "a scene writer." I don't write stories chapter by chapter, but more from scene to scene. I have always been this way. As much as I love it: I find it as entertaining as reading a book because I too don't know what's going to happen next, I have discovered some downsides. One slight pitfall to this particular style of writing is trying to figure out which scenes build up into which chapter - I haven't tried to discern this yet - I will leave that for my formatting days. The downside I am face to face with now is making sure there are transitions in place to smoothly move from one scene or chapter to the next.
     I have been working on my current novel for roughly a year, and it's quite closed to finished. 70,000 words and counting. Except of course for the few places I knew I needed to revisit to build in some better transitions. It's more challenging task than I expected. While some transitions surprise me and seemingly write themselves, others are more like pulling teeth. Particularly, I've been at an utter standstill, anguishing over a necessary transitional chapter that will better connect my third and fifth chapters. I've started three or four versions but can't seem to finish any of them.
     They do not feel right, therefore do not fit right either. Just like working one's way through a jigsaw puzzle, if the piece doesn't fit, there is not point forcing it as it's just going to ruin the rest of the project.
     That's the epiphany I had today. I've been trying to force something that's not meant to be. This is why it's not working. I didn't have a chapter between them before because there was never supposed to be one there. It's exactly like those well-known memes say, if you have to force it, it's probably shite.
     Interestingly, as soon as I have made this realization, I seem to be able to easily work in a few transitional sentences instead. Suddenly I can see the wrinkles being smoothed. I will be able to complete this task and move on to the next.
     Suddenly, I can breathe.


Tuesday 11 February 2014

The Pros & Cons of aquiring a Beta Reader. Part one.

I know, I know. What possible con could there be of a beta reader? These people volunteer their time and opinions to help improve one's work. I completely agree. Every writer is indebt to the people that offer their time this way! There is everything positive about Beta Readers. All PRO!

I have been avidly hunting down Beta Readers for over a month. I hadn't really contacted any friends or family... I don't know why specifically. Something in me wants my work to be PERFECT before letting them at my work ;) Not that I don't value their opinion just the same. It's that I have some nagging nerves with regards to sharing this big part of me with them. We all have our ticks. This seems to be one of mine.

So, when a colleague whom I really get along with at work expressed such great interest and support when she learned I was an aspiring author, I figured may she'd be the one. And it seemed as though I found my first Beta Reader! She was super excited and interested in the task so I forwarded my first 3 chapters.

Let me clarify first, that my chapters are not 25 pages deep. They are on average 10 pages each.

As weeks tick by without any response or comments of any kind, worry starts to grow. Has my first chapter bored her to tears and she can't bare to tell me? Do her eyes glaze over whenever she starts to read on? Why hasn't she responded? Even an email touching base to see how things were going, telling her she can let me know either way, even if she changed her mind, has still gone unanswered. To the negative thinker in me, it tells me she doesn't want to hurt my feelings so isn't saying anything at all. Isn't that what we learned from Thumper?

Instead of drowning myself in pessimism, I started to shop for more beta readers. Can't have all my eggs in one basket or so they say. I have managed to find a couple other people who have now expressed interest and a willingness to help. In total, I have sent the start of my book to four people and now, it's waiting that's excruciating! I know that these beautiful volunteers are reading my project around obligations of their own. Understandably and acceptably so. Doesn't make the waiting any easier.

What I also am starting to realize is that with each Beta reader I send to, since I read my chapters over before sending, I am starting to fine tune and improve (hopefully) some of the paragraphs and dialogue. Knowing someone else's eyes will run over these sentences, I want them to be good as possible. So, even if my worst fear is answered by lack of response which can sometimes be interpreted for the WORST possible outcome - a dud. At least it is already improving with each nervous click of 'Send.'

So, thank you Beta Readers for all your help! :)

(Part Two will be written after I <hopefully> receive some feedback and critiques on my work).

Monday 10 February 2014

Soliciting Myself. A New Writer's Realization.

I caught a hint of this when I attended my very first Writer's Conference in October 2013 - the SIWC or Surrey International Writer's Conference. Introducing myself to people at the same table or workshop, they almost ALWAYS would ask "Amanda ..." It took a few goes at it until I realized giving your last name was the norm when introducing yourself to other writers. Who knew? And, that wasn't all. People were passing out business cards left right and centre. There were a couple tables with business cards and bios splayed around amongst front covers of some latest releases. Being completely new to the writing world, it was somewhat a surprise.

Okay, let me clarify. I have been writing for nearly a decade and a half. Other than a couple college classes - which confirmed my apparent talent - that writer's conference was the first time I took that next step forward: to learn more, to become a part of what I am quickly learning is a beautiful community and to see if I really have what it takes. It's one thing for me to think I am a good writer. Another for my creative writing professor to insist I never stop writing - and for classmates to demand to know what happen next from short story entries...all of which was very warming and encouraging. It's another altogether for online readers to rave that they still can't believe I am not a published author. That was an awkward pill to swallow. And while that may have been a few years back, but it still warms my heart that readers out there do believe I have what it takes to be a published author.

So, delayed response as it may seem, I finally am pursuing this could-be career. I want so badly to see the cover of my story, to hold the paperback in my hands, to inhale that new book smell as I turn the pages. This is what I truly want.

What I wasn't expecting in all of this was the self-promotion that is part and parcel to bringing this dream into reality. It is as necessary as having the ability to put the words on the paper, as I am quickly catching on. For me, while I am not quite at the stage of business cards or bios and front covers to share, I am already feeling the need in something so simple as finding some beta readers.

Hahahahaha. Okay, so if you are a pre-published author like myself, as Jane Porter called us in the footnote at the SIWC, sounds so good right? You will know that finding a Beta Reader is not simple. At least I haven't found it to be so. And, here I find myself completely soliciting myself as a person: as a writer, selling the product: selling the characters and their story all in hopes of baiting the right person. Hook Line and Sinker. I have so far emailed my first 3 chapters to 4 people over the course of a month. I have yet to have a response back one way or another. Let me say this, my chapters are not 25 pages long. They are short and sweet. Or so I think. The lack of response does tend to fuel the doubt. They all hate it, I'm sure that's why they aren't responding. Or the worry, great, now I've sent my story off to some strangers across cyber space...what will they do with it?

They don't mention this in school. No one ever suggested that sales skills were a pre-requisite to finding success as a writer. I have never really thought myself any good in sales. It's why I steer clear of any commission-type jobs - fear I'd end up owing money instead of earning it! But I need to dig down and channel my inner Sales Superstar, because even if I sometimes doubt my skills as a writer as I am sure many of us do, I believe in my characters. I want to introduce them to the world. Share their stories. I need to! And since I know introducing myself to other writers and fetching beta readers is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to soliciting myself as an author, I am quite prepared, if needed, to sell myself like a pro.

Thursday 6 February 2014

It's the Smallest Things...

It's been a year and a couple months...
Some weeks go by, and my heart remains intact.
Only because I don't allow my thoughts to go there.
Too long or too far and another crack will break through.

Just when I think things are okay, that I am okay.
The smallest things trigger a reaction so instantaneous...
It not only knocks the wind from my lungs,
and the tears from their ducts,
but also stops my feet in their tracks.

December: The Most Difficult Month.
So treacherous, it's unbelievable that I managed to survive.
I tried to get into the spirit of the season.
 I bought some gifts, and decorated my tree.
But the least suspecting moments seemed to get to me.

Walking through the mall, seeing a stocking with "MOM" on it,
Hearing Carol of the Bells chime through the air.
Caused my heart just another tear.
All at once I remembered how
Much I missed you and alone I feel.

Somehow, I made it through.
December is far behind,
Another year starts without you.
Still shaky, recovering from the heart
wrenching weeks around Christmas.

January, another reminder that something's amiss.
I watched two ladies step down off the bus, arm in arm.
As the younger assists the elder down the steps and along the path,
I draw a shaky breath and blink back sudden tears.

February is barely here.
It's not the hearts and lovely sentiments that pinch deep in my chest.
It's simply watching figure skating on the Olympics.
We used to view this together.
But now I sit here alone.

I don't care what they tell say.
Despite the days I pretend to be 'okay.'
It's never going to get easier.
It never goes away.

This hole in my heart
Will be forever gaping.
I love you.
I miss you.
And all of the smallest things.