Friday, November 28, 2014

P. D. James and Me

I've been reading P. D. James for so many years, I can't remember a time when she wasn't "my" mystery author. I have a handful of authors I read over and over again for comfort or to make sense of the world or to just take care of me after I've had a crap day. P. D. James was one of those authors. She delivered the perfect blend of literary fiction and detective novel every single time.

When I started writing mysteries of my own, I felt a kind of obligation to her, to try to be as brave and intelligent. Her writing became the gold standard by which I measured my own work. I knew I wouldn't measure up but striving to get there was making me a better author. So when I read about her death, I cried a little because I felt like I'd failed her because I'd lost faith in writing, and in my writing in particular.

And then, on the same day, I got an email from Smashwords saying a review had been posted for The River Bride. Here is the link:

Review of The River Bride

It is hard to express the impact one thought-provoking, critical review can have on an author. In order to write well, we need the intelligence of the authors who came before us. And to continue to write well, we need the critical faculties of readers to guide us when we've lost faith.

I am grateful to the reviewer for taking the time. I am constantly amazed by the co-creation that is writing and reading. It really is something to have faith in.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

The Frugal Author

It's Sunday. It's November. We've had snow flurries which I love. I am not one of those November-haters. I love November. Because:

1) It's hunting season.
2) It's quiet.
3) It's not too early for Christmas music.
4) It is too early to stress about Christmas shopping.

I woke at 6:00 am. Wrote/edited/swore at my latest manuscript. Then popped downstairs for televised church, then back upstairs for a teeny bit of writing. Just enough to keep me from sticking my head in a gas oven when I open the file again.

I joke about the gas oven. As if I could afford a gas oven.

Which brings me to The Frugal Author. I've been following an online discussion about how to weather the lean times in writing---a subject I consider myself an expert in as I've only known lean times. If you are considering chucking your job to write full-time, read on.

The Frugal Author: Tips to Living the Dream.

1) If you are currently spending money, stop. Break the habit of spending money while you still earn it. This will lessen the trauma to your central nervous system when you have no money to spend.

2) If you can save, save. If you can't save---see above.

3) Brace yourself to work hard. You will write every day, all day. Plan to write genre fiction even if you are working on The Great Canadian Novel. It will comfort you when no one buys your lit-fic and possibly pay some bills.

4) No. 3 does not apply if you are a New York City journalist, a plastic surgeon, or in the entertainment industry.

5) Don't worry about eating, it's overrated. But if you must, then learn to cook, shop local and (it goes without saying) don't shell out money for junk food (incl. booze). (I know, I know, this one hurt me too.)

6)  Do not go into debt for your books. Ever. You will be tempted. Resist. Hundreds of thousands of authors will back me up on this. Do not get so deep into debt that you can't write. This is the best advice I didn't take when I was starting out. I didn't take it and I still owe money for Living the Dream.

7) Self-publishing, you say? The temptation (and pressure) to spend is even higher. Do not spend more on your books than you can realistically expect to earn from them. And then ratchet those expectations down by about fifty percent. I'm not being negative. I'm being positive. You will positively have a tough slog to sell 100 copies of your book. Pace your expenses accordingly. Your market will grow ... but baby steps.

8) Agents reject you. Publishers don't respond. Your savings have dwindled and your life is shit. You never see your kids/husband/wife/mother/friends and your body is falling apart. Was it worth it? If your answer is no, then please do not quit the day job. Not a living soul will fault you for it. And if they do, send them to me and I'll set them straight.

9) The last frugal tip I have is for your ego. You'll have to adjust to working without reward. And don't kid yourself that the joy of writing will be enough. It's a hell of a joy but it's rarely enough to replace the validation, income, and society of the workplace. Think hard. There will be no reviews of your work. No feedback. You will have to accept silence for a very long time and write anyway.  

10) You took the red pill. You're all in and today is the first day of Living the Dream. You've got such a tiny economic footprint that you barely register on the grid of household expenses. You're eating rice and beans but on the upside, you've lost 10 pounds. The price of gas is something you never think about because you never drive anywhere. You write every single day. Even Sunday. And you are happy. Frugal living is a walk in the park. So the last tip is, this is the money shot. This day. This moment. Work hard. Give it your all. Enjoy every minute and give thanks.

I'll race you to the bestseller lists.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

True North. Strong and Free.

C.S. Lewis once said: "How monotonously alike are all the great tyrants and conquerors have been: how gloriously different the saints."

The young man who murdered the Canadian soldier in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Ottawa on October 22, 2014 was a Canadian. They were probably close in age and valued the same things--family, children, faith, freedom.

The difference between those two young men (now both dead) is that one of them understood the meaning of the word "freedom" and one did not. One death will further the cause of freedom and one will not.

A Canadian soldier was run over earlier this week by an extremist who was known to Quebec police and a spokesperson explained why they had not detained him. "We cannot arrest someone for what is in his thoughts. For what is his beliefs."

That is freedom. Get it? The Canadian soldier died to preserve the freedom of the Canadian who had killed him. To safeguard the guy's freedom to express extremist beliefs without fear of arrest. That is the hardcore price of democracy and that is why terrorists and tyrants will never beat it down.

History has proven again and again that despots and dictators gravely overestimate the power of fear and gravely underestimate the power of free will. You can't force anything down anyone's throat for very long. Democratic nations have learned this through trial and error for centuries. We're still learning. But whatever mistakes we might make, there is no going back for us. The foundation of every democratic nation is freedom. We are willing to die for it. In great numbers. Nothing will stop us if it is threatened.

Two Canadian soldiers were killed this month by two Canadians who did not understand the truth of their lives, but instead chose to believe a myth. That is the real tragedy in this story.

Two men had faith and two men did not. Guess which two.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Wedding Madness

This is a quick fly-by post because I am supposed to be:

1) setting up chairs
2) writing my speech
3) vacuuming (again!)
4) fixing the hem on my Mother of the Bride outfit
5) foraging in the forest for fall cuttings to decorate house

I've discovered that the only thing worse than writing is not writing. Going a bit crazy actually. I hope this month off results in a huge surge of productivity when the wedding is over. Not writing causes me to over-think my life and that leads to stressing over non-issues like the thread count in sheets. I can tell you one thing: I will not be doing any more housework for the foreseeable.

I got a new haircut out of the deal though. My first professional cut since 2009 and wow, what a difference! I thought I was doing a pretty good job cutting my own hair until now. Who knew?

(As it turns out--everyone. I'm the only person who thought my hair looked okay.)

Wedding-wise everything is under control. The weather has vastly improved. There is never enough money but we haven't set fire to the credit card yet. My book sales paid for some of the extras which is amazing considering where I was a year ago as an author. My daughter is very happy with her groom and the wedding plans. I'm going to see my sisters again and my beautiful nieces and my sweet little grandson will be here as well....

Who am I kidding? I'm a nervous wreck. Giving birth was less terrifying.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Mother of the Bride

It's raining. It's been raining since August. My daughter is getting married at my home at the end of September. Last year at this time, we were outside enjoying the sun and the blue sky of Indian Summer, that gorgeous last gasp of summer when the bugs die off and the air is crisp, and I said: "This is perfect."

In 54 years of life I still haven't learned the meaning of Murphy's Law.

It's raining and that's not all: Leaky taps, safety railings that need to be installed, electricians waited upon, flowers that have drowned, dog hair and dirt that is bewilderingly self-generating, bedding, housing for out of town guests, dishwashers that abruptly don't do what they are advertised to do. Suddenly, my house is against me and the wilderness presses in. Friends and family have told me: "Don't worry, everything will be fine." They mean well, but they're insane.

For those of us who have thrown weddings or parties or hosted big gatherings, who have led troops into battle or mounted stage plays--we know perfectly well that the event "will be fine" only after hours and hours of back-breaking work.

The bride and groom are fantastic, doing extraordinary things on a shoestring budget. This is truly the DIY generation. And when it comes right down to it, it's all about the ceremony. I can say with all honesty that I'll relax after their union is confirmed, vows exchanged and they are wed. For some reason, it's less worrying imagining 75 guests crammed into a converted woodworking shop than it is to see one's daughter happily matched for life.

Go figure.

Book I'm reading for Bookclub: Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo

Just finished: The Complaints Department by Susan Haley.

Movie that made me think: Sunset Unlimited starring Tommy Lee Jones and Samuel L. Jackson

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Humanity and Indie Publishing

I couldn't think of a better title for this post which is really a potpourri of this week's events in Writing for My Life.

1) Sales in August fell off a cliff. The benefit of falling off the sales cliff was that it was going to happen sooner or later, right? I was cured of watching the graph thingy at KDP because it was too depressing.

2) Plagiarism seems to be a hot topic among indie authors these days. Plagiarism (for those too busy plagiarizing to use a dictionary) means "to steal ideas or passages from another's work and present them as one's own." - Collins English Dictionary. In the exchanges I'm reading online, the offenders argue that because they made changes to the original work it's all copasetic. Dear Plagiarizer: It is not. Write your own stuff. (and look up copasetic) I have more thoughts on this subject but it's been a busy week so onward!

3) Lots of traffic from Turkey this week so a big shout out to all my visitors. I wrote a thesis paper on Turkey when I was in high school so I feel like we're old friends. Nice to shake virtual hands! Think of my sales cliff! Buy a book!

4) Piracy. I found a pirated copy of Iced Under on an ebook site, heavens knows where or how or why, but there it was buried in pages and pages of mysteries. When I made it available for free, I assume it got passed around as books do. So until I am as popular as Grisham, no more free ebooks. At least one person out of 7 billion will have to buy the book first before passing it on. The humanity!

5) Diet. I'm on one again. Must lose weight for daughter's wedding to get into Mother of the Bride outfit. So what I want to know is how am I supposed to write if I can't eat Skittles?

6) Spent the day correcting minor errors in Wanton because that was soooo much easier than writing a new scene in Wastrel. (Confused about plagiarism? If you find writing a book is easy-peasy you're probably stealing it.)

7) I have a book event on Saturday! Authors' Day at the Wakefield Market in beautiful downtown Wakefield, Quebec. From 9:00 am to 1:00 pm. I will be selling print copies of Iced Under, The Grey Lady and The River Bride in a 3-Book Gift Pack for Christmas at a shockingly low price. So get over here!

8) The winners of the Goodreads Giveaway were Cassandra Edwards, Sausan Sumar and Dorothy Huckaby. Signed copies of The Grey Lady were popped in the mail on Tuesday so it is anybody's guess when your books will arrive, ladies. I love Canada Post but ... well. You know.

That's me for another week. Be nice to each other.

Friday, August 29, 2014

The Trouble with Kindle Select

If you are traditionally published you delude yourself that your publisher will honour the contract. If you are self-published you delude yourself that you are in control of the contract. I'll say this for Kindle Select--it has a way of disabusing authors of the notion that we are anything but in control.

A Case Study:

On Thu, Aug 28, 2014 at 11:06 PM, Kindle Direct Publishing wrote:

We found the following book(s) you've published doesn’t meet the KDP Select content guidelines. Books enrolled in KDP Select must be exclusive to Amazon in digital format during the entirety of their enrollment in the program.
Iced Under (Gatineau Hills Mystery Book 1) (ASIN: B00JR9ZSAW) is available on:

Our records indicate that we previously informed you that submitting non-exclusive content to KDP Select is not acceptable and may result in loss of KDP Select benefits.
As a result of repeat violations of the KDP Select exclusivity requirement, we have removed all of your books from the KDP Select program. Your titles remain available in the Kindle Store. Please note that repeat violations of the program’s exclusivity requirement may result in loss of KDP Select benefits, including participation in the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library (KOLL), Kindle Unlimited, and the usage of free promotion days. To ensure KDP Select benefits are not revoked, please be sure that all of your KDP Select-enrolled books are exclusive to Amazon in digital format at the time of enrollment.
Check out this page to learn more about the KDP Select guidelines: For all other KDP questions visit:

Best regards, Kindle Direct Publishing


How is this even possible! I closed my account with Smashwords months ago which was the only distributor I used for these ebooks. I unpublished them long before that. I fully understand Select's requirements and I have adhered to them. You say there have been repeat violations:

1) The Grey Lady found at iBooks (for which it was removed from Select) was not even the same ISBN! I emailed Apple immediately to remove this previously published edition; the book was removed immediately. I was still penalized.

2) Lie For Me was removed Select although the product page at Kobo clearly indicated the book was not available for sale until after the term ended. I queried before I listed it there and was informed pre-orders were okay. Apparently not. ​​

3) I did everything in my power long before enrolling Iced Under in Select to remove all digital copies. It wasn't enough. Apparently ebook distributors are just as irresponsible as traditional publishers.

Finally, because this is the third time I have experienced trouble "adhering to the guidelines" it is perhaps best if I don't participate in the program. If a backlist book has been published anywhere in the world, the author has no hope of finding every digital copy that has been distributed. I did my very best to make sure I was following the rules and it wasn't good enough.

I give up.

Sincerely, Nadine Doolittle

I know I did what was legally and ethically required of me to remove my ebooks from all channels before enrolling them in Select. But it wasn't enough because the guy at the other end did not do all that was legally and ethically required of him to remove the ebooks from all channels.

And so endth the lesson.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Amazon acquires Twitch


Amazon has acquired/merged/bought Twitch for something between 970 mil and 1.1 bil depending on your news source. Now, this next bit I have to explain very slowly because I'm still in shock even though it's been 12 hours since I heard the news clip on the CBC National last night. Bear with me. Twitch Interactive, Inc. is a streaming website where users watch other people play video games.

Users WATCH other users play video games.

Let that sink in for a minute. (God knows, a minute is all we can stand to think about anything these days.) It was suggested by a young gamer in the segment that this was similar to viewers watching televised sports. At this point I said "What the fuck?"

And now I have to do the unthinkable. I have to defend televised sports. There are three reasons why watching a kid playing video games is NOTHING like watching professional sports.

1) Athletes. Real people taking real hits. Watching a gamer get to the next level in a digital environment is not the same thing because a gamer is not an athlete. Watch if you must, but don't compare it to watching a professional athlete on the field/court/rink/track. And if you don't see why you can't, go outside and run around the block. For a year. See? Gaming is not athletics.

2) Risk. In professional sports, all the stakeholders have assumed a level of risk and responsibility. Money is on the line, careers and reputations. What's on the line for a gamer who screws up? Nada. Zip. Sitting in mom's basement, gaming on devices bought by one's parents is not a high risk endeavor.

3) Rarity. Few human beings are willing to put in the hours of training required to become pro athletes but there are hundreds of thousands of us willing to play games all day. Which makes gaming a hobby, not a profession. If watching people play video games is your thing then make it your thing. Give it your own designation. Unplug it from comparisons that are just plain insulting. I have no suggestions because to me it's the equivalent of watching nothing happen. Even paint drying has a purpose to it...

In conclusion, I want to congratulate Twitch and Amazon for driving this gym-loathing, sports-hating bookworm into defending professional sports! Nice going! Hell just froze over!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Canada only - THE GREY LADY Goodreads Giveaway!

WE HAVE A WINNER! (Or three!)

  • Cassandra Edwards in Saskatchewan (My dad was born in Saskatchewan!)
  • Sausan Sumar in Ontario (I used to live in Ontario!)
  • Dorothy Huckaby in Alberta (I have family in Alberta!)

Copies of THE GREY LADY will be put in the mail today (August 29) and Canada Post willing, you'll have them after Labour Day.

Ladies, if you like the book, please let your fellow Goodreaders know. And a big thank you to the 105 folks who entered the Giveaway! Stay tuned because I'll be running another one in November for my third book in the series: THE RIVER BRIDE.

If there is enough money in the kitty, I'll open up the next Giveaway to the US and UK but for now, I wanted to introduce the series to Canadian readers who are always on the lookout for mysteries set in Canada. I know I am. 

Congratulations to the winners!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Robin Williams

Because he is all we can think about right now. 

I didn't know him, obviously. But here's what I received from Robin Williams and how I most remember him.

There is a scene in Good Will Hunting (the performance for which Williams won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor):
In this scene, Matt Damon's character reveals to Williams (his therapist) that he was beaten as a child. Williams says "It was not your fault." Damon nods "Yes, yes, I know." Williams repeats, "It was not your fault." Damon, impatiently, "I know."
He repeats it again and again until Damon's character breaks down and admits he believed the beatings were his fault.

It is one of the most powerful moments on screen. A simple exchange of dialogue delivered by two truly fine actors. That scene has been called into my consciousness in some pretty tough times and saved me. It wasn't the words or the production values or the media buzz or even the Oscar win that gave that moment its power--it was Robin Williams. 

I wish he was still here.  

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Phone calls, deadlines and the self-employed writer

I don't like it when the phone rings in my house. But I like it even less when the call is for me. A woman I met at a party this weekend has called and left a message for me. She wants to talk about something we enjoyed discussing at the party.

Now here's the thing.

I've talked already. I went to the party and I did all the talking I plan to do for a full week. Now I am writing. I write all day. Not always happily or willingly or with mad love in my heart for writing. Quite often I hate it. But it's what I do. Over years I've learned when the writing sucks, when I hate it---that's when I'm in the most danger of losing it. I've learned to dig deep and shut out all distractions and potential derailments. I've learned to stick with a troubled book like a fireman sticks with a person in a burning building or a mountain climber sticks to a mountain.

I have to get this book and another one finished in semi-finished draft form before the end of August. It's a deadline no one cares about or values except me. So do I keep working or call this person back? Now you know why writers are considered arrogant, nasty brutes. I feel like biting somebody. Where's the bloody phone number?

BOOK READ THIS MONTH: "Up and Down" by Terry Fallis. Funny, goofy read. I liked it. Book club was meh. I think you have to be in the mood for light satire and I was.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Due to circumstances beyond my control...

The Kindle Countdown for THE GREY LADY is not on, not going to happen, kicked to the curb.

There is a lesson here--yet another lesson for today's writer. Take notes. There will be a test.

1) The Grey Lady was originally published by McArthur and Co. All rights reversed. Every effort made to have electronic versions removed from all retailers.

2) Author enrolls The Grey Lady in KDP Select to take advantage of wonderful promotional tool of Countdown.

3) Author receives an email from KDP Select team saying terms of Select are being violated as The Grey Lady is for sale at iTunes.

4) Author hustles over. Yes, indeedy, there it is--the old edition of The Grey Lady is still being sold although author had no knowledge of it and has not received a single penny. Responds to KDP that book will be removed pronto. Emails iTunes legal to have book removed. Book is removed. Emails KDP team the good news.

5) Author checks KDP bookshelf and sees The Grey Lady is no longer in Select and therefore not eligible for Countdown. 

Crack open Joseph Heller's "Catch 22" and give it another read. Feel blood pressure return to normal.  

Screw it. Author determines will reduce price of The Grey Lady just because she can. 

Friday, July 25, 2014

I see a Kindle Countdown Deal in your future....

THE GREY LADY is going rogue. To celebrate the Civic Holiday she's throwing herself out there for .99 on July 31. Her price goes up a buck a day thereafter until August 6. 

 A mystery, a puzzle, a psychological suspense novel. One dead man. Eight suspects. A driving rainstorm. Secrets, lies, scandal and hidden hate.

"As with any good mystery, virtually everyone has something to hide ... tightly written and perfectly paced, we feel we are being swept along by the story like a fallen branch in a fast-flowing river of spring runoff." Montreal Review of Books

Thursday, July 17, 2014

New book on the way! New book on the way!

That sound you hear is me shrieking for joy. My third book in the Gatineau Hills Mystery series is due for release on July 24, 2014.

THE RIVER BRIDE is the story of reporter, Alvina Moon (who was given a brief nod in THE GREY LADY) and her doomed investigation into a seven-year-old murder.

From the back jacket:

      Marlee Bremer claims her husband is a sexual deviant. Convicted rapist and murderer, Trey Bremer insists it was only a game. 
     Seven years ago, the family's au pair was found brutally slain in the Bremer's abandoned trailer near the river. Tried and convicted for the girl's murder, Trey Bremer has always asserted his innocence. 
     The truth of what really happened to Teresa Musgrave begins to unravel when an anonymous note arrives at the Stollerton Record. On the hunt for the big story that could save her career, Alvina Moon is caught up in a disturbing crime and the victim's beautiful, troubled artist husband.

This is a sneak peek at the cover. The book will be available for pre-order at Kobo and Amazon for Kindles and available in print at CreateSpace and Amazon. 

Dang, it feels good to get a this two-year-old out the door. Get out and earn a living already!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

You're So Vain, You Probably Think This Book is About You

Dear Disgruntled Former Friends of Novelists Until You Were Betrayed,

Our book is not about you. You are not featured as a character. We didn't write about you now and we are not likely to write about you in the future. This isn't because you aren't interesting. You are!  It's the nature of writing itself that prevents a novelist from taking hold of a character (even a real life character such as yourself) and forcing that person to live inside a fiction. The fiction always wins in the end. Characters take on traits common to all human beings. Even the writer takes second place to the demands of the story which is universal or there is no point in writing it.

So take a deep breath and trust me on this. Just because you know (or did know) a novelist, it doesn't mean a thing. You are you, and a fictional character is fictional. Not real. Or as I like to think, people in novels are a reality we haven't experienced yet but are chasing after. We don't know why they attract or repel us but they do and such is the power of fiction. 

We didn't write about you. Or anyone else in Creation. We wrote about all of us. 


Novelists Everywhere 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Happy Birthday Canada! Open it, it's a book.

I brought a gift to the party!

To celebrate Canada's birthday and to honour St. Jean Baptiste Day for Quebec, ICED UNDER will be available for FREE for 5 days on Amazon for Kindle e-readers. The gift-giving begins on June 27 and runs until July 1st. 

The story is set in the winter which will make us all appreciate the summer a little more. Because if there is one thing a Canadian enjoys, it's complaining about the weather. 

Don't say I never give ya nothing.


I have a lot to be grateful for as a Canadian author. Inspiration from the land, the people, the diversity of cultures, the weather, a dynamic pool of never-ending talent and artistry to draw from when I run dry.

Thank you, Canada. And a very happy July 1st.

Monday, June 23, 2014

12 Weeks In - A Self-Publishing Report

Over the course of the past three months, I have self-published four titles as ebooks and brought one of those titles out in print. Two titles are making steady sales. One is struggling to gain traction as an ebook but has already earned out as a print title (very soft release on May 10). And one is only 12 hours old so it's too soon to tell.

The Stats:

All sales in the 12 weeks have come from Amazon.
Smashwords reported one sale very early in. Although downloads of the sample were brisk in the beginning, the books haven't moved since and the downloads did not translate to sales.
No sales reported through iBooks
No sales reported through B&N
No sales through Kobo because they are experiencing delays (as per Smashwords) getting titles listed and to list them myself, I'd have to do some reformatting. Which I might one day when I have time.

In fairness to the other sales channels, the titles were listed with zero marketing and I haven't investigated any promotional opportunities that may be available through them. Here is why:  Marketing takes time. Precious time from writing new work, editing current work, formatting, and reading up on changes in the industry just to keep up. Plus I have a wedding to plan in September.

From a business perspective (Hey, I watch Dragon's Den) Amazon is getting me where I want to go faster with the least time-consuming effort. If I enroll all four titles in KDP Select, I can manage promotions in one location for no cost. It's 90 days. Titles are listed with KDP exclusively. At this stage in my self-publishing journey, my priorities are to keep costs down and write new content.

So although it seems counter-intuitive, I'm going to list my titles with KDP Select, run some promotions through Amazon, write the next book and at the end of September, I'll evaluate the strategy. Many authors feel Select is not worth tying up their books for 3 months exclusively, but when I weighed the pros and cons it came down to time. I just don't have time to effectively promote in other channels right now.

12 Weeks SP Positives:

Self-publishing was the only option left for Iced Under and The Grey Lady. If you think getting a new book published is difficult, try attracting interest in a book that has already been under contract. Win!

Self-publishing was the only option for my three romance novels. Surprising, successful, fun and creative, I'm really enjoying giving this older debut work new life. Bonus!

Self-publishing gave print life to The Grey Lady and I've sold out my initial print run. Validation!

I have two full length novels waiting to be revised and formatted to be published. And the book I've started writing as well as two new series I have outlined will keep me busy until 2016. My old enthusiasm for writing is back. Productive!

12 Weeks SP Negatives:

 A lot of work. Long hours at my desk. There is always more to do. Time.

The feeling of having no back up. Writers are for the most part generous with support but I miss having the structure of a publishing house behind me. Or maybe I miss what I imagined a publishing house to be... Exposed is the feeling. It is just you and your books. Solitary.

You make ALL decisions for your books. Everywhere. Constantly. Sooner or later you're bound to make a poor one from sheer fatigue. Responsibility.

There's no money or very little money. There was no money for me the other route so this isn't a total negative but one to keep in mind. No money. No advance. Frugal.

For the author just starting out, I'd recommend pursuing traditional publishing before self-publishing for a least a year. If no one bites, revise the manuscript and then go ahead and self-publish. I'm glad I had my trade publishing experience before I took the leap. But at the same time, I am very glad I took the leap.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Famous Authors at a Tiny Writers' Festival!

The first annual Wakefield Writers' Festival on May 9 and 10 in Wakefield, Quebec was a resounding success. It was held at the historic Wakefield Mill Inn and MacLaren House and we packed the place. In true Wakefield fashion, everyone arrived at the eleventh hour for the Authors' Brunch, giving the organizers bleeding ulcers, but hey, that's how the village rolls.

Guest authors were Frances Itani, Trevor Ferguson and Tim Wynne-Jones.

I'm trying to find the words for the level of thrill I felt listening to these generous, talented writers share their experiences and adventures in writing over their long successful careers. I'm still gob-smacked that they were there at our new little festival. All three are award winners. All three have sold millions and millions of books. There's a level of intimacy with a book that is unmatched by any other medium. When I met Tim Wynne-Jones--the author of Zoom at Sea and Zoom Away--children's books that I read over and over to my kids--well, if he were Brad Pitt I couldn't be more excited. As parents we are careful about what we put into our children's bodies, but less cautious about what we allow into their minds. I trusted certain authors with my kids' minds and I have to say, they did a good job. So thank you, Tim Wynne-Jones!

Trevor Ferguson has a new book out called The River Burns (Simon & Schuster). Set in my village, Wakefield, it is a fictionalized account of the burning of the covered bridge. Trevor read from his novel and we were riveted. His style is funny but deeply felt. His characters are human beings we might have met. People are interesting to Trevor Ferguson. I like that in an author. I can spot it right away when an author finds real people interesting. He had a fantastic story about the moment he knew he was going to be a writer. It involves a near-death experience with a train and a pledge written inside a Gideon bible.

Frances Itani is so famous that my blog traffic will increase just by writing her name here. She read from her novel that is coming out in August, 2014 (HarperCollins). Again, it's very hard to sum up our feelings in that moment. All around me, there were whispers from those who had read all of her books and the sheer joy each one gave. Her reading was splendid. I haven't read Frances Itani before but I'm going to now. And not because she is recognized, but because of that reading. I want a good story, told by a master of the craft and she delivered.

For authors out there with book readings coming up, I have a piece of advice that I learned this weekend. Professional writers read professionally. They know their selection, they take their time, they deliver a performance. Frances, Tim and Trevor read to us like we mattered, like they were telling us a great story. In other words, they made the reading about us not them. Watching them was a revelation.

Local author, Kimberley Mansfield read from her first work of fiction, Deadly Tricks (General Store Publishing) and had us spellbound. This book is garnering rave reviews in the community and online. As a writer of fiction, I'm perhaps more in awe of Kimberley's achievement than all the rest of us combined. She was creating and writing against incredible odds. The pressures of life and our own baggage can sink our work but Kimberley held on through some tough times to produce her first work of fiction and she did it exceptionally well.

That is heroism. Yes? We have no excuse not to keep writing. What defines a good book is different for each of us, which is why we need so many. I'm a reader first. So get writing.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Book Launch in a Brave New World

I waited until I saw what it looked like before I wrote this post. I've been burned before.

It arrived an hour ago via DHL from CreateSpace. My self-published (although that isn't entirely accurate: Kim McArthur, Kendra Martin, the copyeditor and the proofreader at McArthur and Co. shaped the mss and turned it into a novel suitable for public consumption).

Okay--my semi-self-published novel, The Grey Lady, arrived today. I opened the box. I felt sick with terror. If you've read what I went through the last time a box of books arrived from a publisher, you'll know why. I lifted the top copy. The cover is a bit dark--no problem--CreateSpace said to expect that. Something to do with transparency being flattened. The designer and I can tweak and upload a new cover in a few weeks if I feel it's really necessary.

But I'm scared to open it. I'm scared it'll feel like a POD. I'm a book snob--I admit it. I was raised with print and I love books. I love them, like spend the-grocery-money-on-them kind of love. The page is part of the experience. Thanks to Kendra, I now understand how the layout and design of a book conveys the story too. We are not only reading words on a page--we are reading the collective consciousness of everyone who works on a book.

I open it. Deep breath. It's pretty damn perfect.
I'm pretty damn happy right now.

To sum up this month's adventure in self-publishing: Doing it myself has been the most respectful, empowering experience I've had with publishing to date. CreateSpace, Smashwords and Kindle Direct Publishing will change the face of publishing forever if they keep doing as they have been doing. It's not easy. You have to really want your book out there to do-it-yourself. But so worth it.

I don't believe self-publishing is having an negative impact on literature. I believe a corporate bottom line with shareholders to think about has a negative impact on literature. I believe that by empowering authors to tell a story their way, we are opening the door to critical thinking, to challenging our current beliefs. As a reader, I can stop whining about the lousy "bestsellers" I've been reading these days and go find my own bestseller. And when I do, I'm going to write a goddamned review that says so.

Okay, I'm getting giddy and philosophic right now. But hells bells! I had no hope of seeing this book in print last year and here it is. I don't care--I'm opening the champagne!

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Self-Publishing. Going Independent.

Eleven years ago, I had a small electronic publishing company. I published romances in Adobe and listed them online. At that time, our internet connection was dial-up and no one had heard of Kindle.  A friend of mine said I was wasting my time, no one will read books on a computer.

He was right. No one was interested. I folded after one year of incredibly hard work for very little return.

However, the past eleven years produced three romances, three mysteries, a short historical romance, a poem, a one-act play, and two works-in-progress that are at the half-way mark. Two publishers, one agent, and a nervous breakdown later, I am back in the game. Enter 2014, Kindle, Kobo, iBooks, a reversion of rights, and the tsunami of the independent publishing movement to carry me along. The writers who slogged in the trenches when I bailed have cut a beautiful trail for writers like me to follow. Merci beaucoup.

Mark Coker at Smashwords is a saint. I do not exaggerate. His Style Guide is funny, encouraging and will make you a genius if you follow it, which I did. It took me a week. (Not a few hours. Maybe its a learning curve? I'm not terribly bright, Mark.)

And say what we will about Amazon (and we say some pretty mean things) Kindle and CreateSpace offer me a way to get my books out of my computer, my psyche and get them published. If people buy, they buy. But to write and have no hope that you will reach your readers because your books are unpublished? Well, as Sylvia Plath said, nothing stinks like a pile of unpublished writing.

So off to independent publishing I go, at least for the six completed novels I have. I certainly haven't turned my back on traditional publishers, editors and agents. But for this year at least, I'm working instead of waiting. I'm challenged instead of conforming.

Stay tuned.


Thursday, January 9, 2014

David and Goliath - An Author Fights Back

In September 2013 I discovered my first novel, ICED UNDER was being sold on my former publisher's website three years after my rights were returned to me due to breach of contract.

After a long, often absurd exchange of emails in which the publisher admitted he did not hold the rights to my work or of a few others on his site---nor did he intend to provide royalty statements for the books that were sold, nor did he intend to apologize for the piracy of copyrighted work--the website was abruptly pulled this morning and a new one installed in its place.

He claimed no books were sold and demanded I take his word for it. Hmmm. In my experience, the man who cannot be trusted with little,  cannot be trusted with much. My debut novel was a little thing to him, but ICED UNDER was a big thing to me. I had to fight for it. He accused me of being vindictive. I was not nearly as vindictive as I wanted to be or was capable of being. Hell hath no fury like a writer scorned. He should count his lucky stars that the website was pulled this morning and not 24 hours from now.

The contempt I was treated with during this battle was one thing. It will interest and amuse writers in Canada to learn that this publisher received $65,426.00 in government grants in 2012/2013. It amused me at any rate. I can't get a government grant to write. I have to prove myself first.

Or do I....?

Hey! Why not buy a website, attract a bunch of authors to contract their work to me, and then throw their books out there without editing, proofreading, copy editing and wait for the government grants to start rolling in?

I couldn't do it. No right-minded person could. I like writers and their books, the printed word and trees too much to make a hash out of publishing from laziness and greed as Ashis Gupta of Bayeux Arts Press did.

So there it is. Now you know. Not a happy ending but an ending. The next time I speak of ICED UNDER, (and I will) it will be under happier circumstances.