Thursday, December 30, 2010

How Hard is it to Write a Book?

I find it comforting to know that many writers over the years have struggled with their writing just as I have:

“The profession of book writing makes horse racing seem like a solid, stable business.”
- John Steinbeck

“I’ve never written a book because there’s going to be a lot of money in it, because I know that’s the surest way to take five years off your life.”
- Norman Mailer

“You have to sink way down to a level of hopelessness and desperation to find the book that you can write.”
- Susan Sontag

“For God’s sake don’t do it unless you have to…It’s not easy. It shouldn’t be easy, but it shouldn’t be impossible, and it’s damn near impossible.”
- Frank Conroy

“Writing is easy. All you do is sit staring at a blank piece of paper until blood forms on your forehead.”
- Gene Fowler

“If a young writer can refrain from writing, he shouldn’t hesitate to do so.”
- Andre Gide

“There’s nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at typewriter and open a vein.”
- Red Smith

“Unless you think you can do better than Tolstoy, we don’t need you.”
- James Michener
“Ever tried? Ever failed? No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”
- Samuel Beckett

“Throw up on your typewriter every morning. Clean up every noon.”
- Ray Bradbury

“I like to do and can do many things better than I can write, but when I don’t write, I feel like s***. I’ve got the talent, and I feel that I’m wasting it.”
- Ernest Hemingway

“First of all, you must have an agent, and in order to get a good one, you must have sold a considerable amount of material. And in order to sell a considerable amount of material, you must have an agent. Well, you get the idea.”
- Steve McNeil

“Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon who one can neither resist nor understand. For all one knows, that demon is simply the same instinct that makes a baby squall for attention.”
- George Orwell

“Every book is the wreck of a perfect idea.”
- Iris Murdoch

“The first thing a writer has to do is find another source of income. Then, after you have begged, borrowed, stolen, or saved up the money to give you time to write and spend all of it staying alive while you write, and you write your heart out after that, maybe no one will publish it, and if they publish it, maybe no one will read it.”
- Ellen Gilchrist

“I’m in favour of keeping dangerous weapons out of the hands of fools. Let’s start with the typewriters.”
- Frank Lloyd Wright

“Literature will neither yield thee bread, nor a stomach to digest bread with; quit it in God’s name.”
- Thomas Carlyle

“Almost anyone can be an author; the business is to collect money and fame from this state of being.”
- A.A. Milne

Do any of these quotes resonant with you? Do you have a favourite quote about writing, or an inspirational quote you’d like to share?

Sources: Writers on Writers, by Jon Winokur (Running Press, 1990); For Writers Only, by Sophy Burnham (Ballantine Books, 1994); Advice to Wrtiers, by Jon Winokur (Pantheon Books, 1999).

Happy New Year everyone!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Twelve Days of Christmas

Here's a comic version of "The Twelve Days of Christmas". Listen carefully. I hope you enjoy it!

The release of "Flawless" is getting closer; just eight days away. I'm so excited! Please go to my website at to read a blurb and excerpt and to see a list of guest appearances to launch my newest romantic suspense. I hope to see you there!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas Strudel

In honour of Christmas, I wanted to write about Christmases past, and the traditions that make make the season so special.

I’ve read that people are losing the skill of cooking.  In this age of prepared, pre-packaged, pre-washed fast foods, a lot of the dishes our grandmothers made have been lost to us.  No where is this more apparent to me than in some of the dishes I remember from Christmases past.

My great-grandparents and grandparents emigrated from Europe around the turn of the twentieth century, lured to Saskatchewan on the Canadian prairies by the promise of free land and a better life.  They were Germans who had never lived in Germany, having been born in Galacia and Bukovina, then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, but now part of Poland and the Ukraine.  They were simple farmers who arrived in Canada without much except a desire to own their own land and to grow their own food.

Their desires were fulfilled on both counts. In my childhood, Christmas was a time of church and food, with the emphasis on food.  I remember gathering at my grandmother’s tiny house with my aunts and uncles and cousins on Christmas Eve.  We’d arrive after the church Christmas concert to open presents and to eat.  My maternal grandmother learned the recipes of her German heritage while living in Canada in a German community.  She was a marvelous cook and took offence if every morsel wasn’t gobbled up.  No one came away hungry from Granny’s table.

Christmas at Granny’s house wouldn’t be Christmas without two things:  cabbage rolls and strudel.

Strictly speaking, cabbage rolls, or halopchi, are thought of as a Ukrainian dish, but everyone in my family and community made them and ate them when I was growing up, even though we were of German descent.  Though the Ukrainian version are often meatless and are filled with rice, my grandmother’s cabbage rolls were made of a hearty combination of ground pork, long grained rice, and diced onion spiced with salt and pepper. The meat mixture was then rolled inside a leaf of sour cabbage and gently boiled on top of the stove until the rice was soft.  Granny’s cabbage rolls were the best.

The Christmas strudel was usually made long before Christmas and then frozen until the holidays.  Granny had a wooden table in her living room that folded into a compact two feet by three feet when not in use, but could be extended with leaves to become eight feet long.  I have memories of my grandmother, my mother and my aunts gently pulling the strudel dough across this table until it stretched from one end to another, all the while taking care not to tear the delicate dough.  Once it was stretched to near transparency, my grandmother would cover the dough with slices of apple and raisin, dot it liberally with butter, and sprinkle the whole thing with sugar and cinnamon.  Then the painstaking job of rolling the strudel would then begin.  Each aunt would take her position at one part of the strudel and they would roll in unison until they reached the end.  This long roll was then cut into sections and distributed among the aunts.  When baked, the result was a flaky, fragrant, delicious concoction that melted in the mouth.  I looked forward to it every Christmas.

When I give you the ingredients for Christmas strudel, it comes from my memory of the taste and what I remember seeing.  As far as I know Granny had no written recipe.  She could barely read and write, at least in English.  I have no idea how that flaky, phyllo type dough was created.  I know my mother never made strudel on her own after Granny died and as far as I know, neither did my aunts.  When Granny died, the Christmas strudel died with her.

Fortunately, the cabbage rolls fared better.  My mother and aunts, and now me, my sister in law and cousins, all learned to make our family staple.  I still don’t have a written recipe, instead preferring the tried and true method of mixing ingredients until it feels and tastes just right.  This Christmas my daughters and I will get together around the kitchen table and roll dollops of meat and rice inside leaves of cabbage and debate who rolls the prettiest cabbage roll.  It just wouldn’t be Christmas without them.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Social Media - Part Two

I learned some interesting things from the Writer’s Digest webinar on social media I participated in on December 9. These are some of the things I’ve learned, and some of the decisions I’ve made.
Facebook - I need to quit being afraid of it (don’t ask me why I find it so intimidating) and just dive in. I can share bits of industry news and interesting links, mixed in with a bit of promotion.
It’s not like I have to be posting constantly. I.J. Schecter (, presenter of the webinar, says that a moderate poster will post a couple of times a week. A high frequency poster will post everyday or several times a day. He believes there is a “sweet spot” between the frequency of the posts, and the focus or topic of the posts. If your focus is always the same, for instance, on writing topics, you are highly focused. If you post on variety of subjects that often have little to do with your primary focus, you are a low focus poster. Schecter believes it is best to be relatively highly focused and relatively highly frequent.
However often I post, I must always be conscious and safe. Similar to email, don’t write anything you’d be embarrassed to have certain people read, or be sorry about later. Always be aware of your tone – watch the snark! You want to project a certain voice in all your postings. That voice is your brand.
There’s that word again – brand. I know what I would like people to think of when they think of my writing; I’d like them to think of hard-to-put down romance, memorable storylines and unforgettable characters. I would love readers to think of me as an automatic buy. So how do I get there?
I can start by showing readers in my posts that I love writing. I’m also interested in sharing information on writing and technology with other writers. My hope is that by showing myself to be a warm and decent human being (hopefully!) readers will be interested enough to check out my books.
I.J. says that figuring out what you want your brand to be and how you want to present yourself to the world is a little like writing an outline for a book. Once you figure out all the plot twists and turning points, the actual writing isn’t so hard. The same is true for posting on either Facebook or Twitter. Once you figure out how you want the world to think of you, then writing the posts is easy.
Blogging – Blogging is a good thing, but only if you’ve got something to say.  Don’t do it just to do it. I.J.’s examples of blogs were very focused. For instance, his own blog is all about golf and golf courses. Sports writing, and golf in particular, is part of his writing career, and he’s decided his blog will be the place for public discussions about golf. I’ve decided to reduce to one blog a week, and I’ve decided that I want to concentrate on topics dedicated to writing. So beginning in the New Year I will be blogging on Thursdays only.
LinkedIn – At this point I don’t think I want to venture into another social media. But one thing I did learn is that LinkedIn seems to be the place to advertise yourself as a professional, in whatever profession you happen to be in. Eighty percent of employers go to LinkedIn first when looking for an employee. I’ve wanted to write magazine articles for some time, so when I get to the point where that becomes a reality for me, I would set up an account on LinkedIn under my real name.
Twitter – Many people claim it’s actually easier to use than Facebook and is more effective. But until I feel more comfortable using the social media I’m using now, I can’t add any more. That’s a project for the future. However, I am researching the Twitter-verse and trying to figure out how it works. Sage Cohen offers these reasons for a writer to tweet:
1.  Give Service. Share relevant information with the people who are seeking your advice on a certain topic or genre.
2.  Build Community. Connect with people all over the world who share your interests and inclinations. Exchange insight, information and inspiration with them.
3.  Evolve. Through the offerings of your tweeting community, you can discover new resources, learn about new opportunities, and plug into possibilities that take your writing life where you want it to go.
Click here for some really good tips and advice from Robert Brewer on how to make Twitter work for writers.
And my friend Hayley Lavik ( ) offers up this super “Introduction to Twitter”:
I’m starting to feel a bit more comfortable with social media and building my “platform”. There are other avenues I’d like to explore at some point, like Goodreads ( ) , but for now I’m taking I.J. Schecter’s advice and not spreading myself too thin.
 Which social media do you use? Which do you feel most comfortable with? What new avenue do you plan to use in the future? Which do you think most effectively promotes you as a writer?

And just to blow my own horn a bit, I'm very excited that the release of "Flawless" is only 15 days away on January 5, 2011. To read a blurb and an excerpt, please go to my website at

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Everything I wanted to Know About Social Media...

but was afraid to ask! Well, I'm still afraid, but the mist is beginning to clear a bit.

On December 9, I participated in a live webinar hosted by Writer’s Digest and presented by I.J. Schecter ( called “How to use Social Media to promote your writing and yourself.” I.J. concentrated mostly on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, with a short time devoted to blogging. I learned some new things in the 1 ½ hour lecture, a combination of live audio and power point presentation, and I’d like to share my thoughts with you.
We hear so much about branding in the writing world, and this webinar also touched on that theme. What is branding? I.J. described it as a combination of telling the world “Who I am” and “What I do”. In the who I am component, I must think about how I want to present myself to the world. What do I want people to think of when they think of me? What I do means telling people how I spend my day.
I think the question “What do I want people to think of when they think of me?” is very profound for a writer, and quite frankly, I haven’t given it the deep thought it deserves. There are certain writers whose work immediately brings to mind a thought, feeling or expectation. For instance, when I say to you “Steven King”, you immediately think horror, supernatural mystery, or psychological thriller. You will never think romance when you think of Steven King; he has a clear handle on what he wants people to think of when they think of him.
We should keep in mind that brand we want to project in any of our postings on social media. For instance, if I want to present myself as a person who can deliver funny and witty writing, maybe my posts on Facebook should reflect that.
But whatever brand we want to project, or however tempted we are to promote ourselves silly, screaming “Buy my book, please, please, please! It’s really good, I swear!”, we must resist. If someone posts constantly with messages exhorting readers to buy her book, to read excerpts from her newest release, or to comment on her latest review, it’s soon going to be ignored. You can only hit someone over the head with the hard sell for so long before they turn off. I.J. gave examples from the Facebook profiles of people he knows who have handled that delicate balance between the hardsell and the softsell very well. His friend, a freelance writer, will send several unrelated-to-writing type posts before slipping one in about his writing. For instance, he sent a post about the death of Lesley Nielsen, paying homage to the funnyman. It started a conversation among his friends. By talking about things not always related to what you’re trying to sell or promote, you build relationships in the online community. The hope is that once you’ve built those relationships, people will be more inclined to click on your profile and support your other endeavors.
I’ll talk more about this social media class and what I’ve learned next Tuesday. For today, I’ll leave you with this question: What is your brand? Do you have a brand? Do you think it’s important? I can honestly tell you this: I have no idea what my brand is. But I’ll be thinking about it, a lot, in the next few weeks. What do I want people to think of when they think of me?
Please friend me at I need all the friends I can get!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Looking for a Few Good Men...And Women

I'm a very visual writer. I like to have a picture in my mind, or better yet, an actual picture close to my computer, of the characters in my story. So I started looking around the Internet for pictures of people that "feel" like the characters I'm currently working on.

For "The Girl Most Likely" I need a slightly more mature heroine. Cara is 43 and I picture her as volumptuous, although she thinks of herself as fat. She's got shoulder length straight blonde hair and hazel eyes. I think she kind of looks like Genevieve Gorder, from TLC's "Trading Places" and HGTV's "Dear Genevieve". (Apologizes to Ms. Gorder who is not yet 43. Cara just looks really good for her age!)

Genevieve has the kind of wholesome good looks that I imagine Cara has. But her love interest, Finn Cooper, has to be a stunner. He has dark brown hair and amazing blue eyes. And for me one of the best looking guys out there is Canadian actor Paul Gross.

Paul could be the inspiration for just about all my heroes!

After Christmas I'm starting some serious rewrites of my WIP "Welcome to Paradise". Again, I need a slightly more mature heroine, about forty. Bridget is tall with really curly red hair. 

Maybe someone like Sophia Milos here. I'm not certain. But the curly, curly thick red hair is important to Bridget's character. It's a legacy from her father, so it must remain. 

Bridget's love interest, Jack, is a harder guy to pin down. He's attractive, about 42, blonde. I have a guy in my head from the Masterpiece Theatre version of Jane Austen's "Persuasion". Perhaps he could be my Jack. Rupert Penray-Jones is so-so British.

He was quite adorable as Captain Wentworth in "Persuasion".

For the manuscript that I hope to write during the Saskatchewan Romance Writers Book of the Week extravanganza in January, my character Daniella is petite, of Italian descent and feels her nose is too big. I can see her in my head but she's not an easy girl to find a find of. 

This is Mila Kuniz, from "That '70s Show" and the upcoming movie "The Black Swan". I think she's a little too beautiful for my Dani in "Always a Bridesmaid". Part of Dani's motive for doing the things she does is because she doesn't believe she's attractive. But Mila Kuniz is petite like Dani, about the right age, with very dark eyes and hair. I'll keep looking for this character.

Dani's love interest in this story is Zach. I don't have a handle on Zach yet, physically or personality- wise, but I think he's going to be tall, broad-shouldered and of course, handsome. He could be someone like Blake Shelton here,

or perhaps someone like British actor Lawrence Penray-Jones, brother to Rupert above:

I must do more work on Zach's character until I know who he is as a person and what he looks like in my head.

What do you do to figure out who your character is? Do you like an actual picture of them or do you prefer a picture in your head? Based on the physical characteristics I've given my characters, can you suggest any other people who might meet my requirements? 

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Good News, and The Bad News

So first, here's the good news. I finished my revisions for "The Girl Most Likely" and sent off a query to The Wild Rose Press. Yay! I'd love to be part of their Class of '85 series, a series of stories about the graduates of Summerville High School coming home for their 25th year reunion. Soon after I sent in my query, I got an email from the editor of the series asking me to send her the full manuscript. Which I did as fast as my little fingers could type. The editor has promised to give me an answer by January 7, 2011. That's one thing I love about The Wild Rose Press; they give you a definite date and they stick to it. So now I wait. I hope I did enough work on the revisions to interest her in the story. Like I told you earlier, these revisions have been something of a struggle. But I finally made myself buckle down and concentrate on the story, and I think it came out okay. Thanks to Janet once more for her critiquing expertise and her cheerleading. Wish me luck!

And now the bad news. I hate Facebook! I spent a good part of Monday trying to upload this blog onto Facebook so that it appears there as well. I found instructions for this procedure on Facebook Help. They are as follows:

1. Go to you Page and click "Edit Page" beneath the Page profile picture.
2. Select "Applications" and next to "Notes" please click "Go to Application."
3. On the bottom left hand side of the page select "Edit Import Settings."

I did exactly what it said. In the spot where it said to place the URL of my blog, I typed in because that's my URL. Right? Wrong. According to Facebook, this blog does not exist. You are currently reading a figment of your imagination.

I thought perhaps Facebook didn't like the way I typed. So I copied and pasted the URL directly from my alleged blog. Still no go. I knew that I set up an rss feed on my website to have the blog appear there, I had to include an extension at the end of the URL. So I tried that. Nothing.

My husband suggested I go to Google and look up some information about putting the blog on Facebook. I found numerous You Tube videos on the subject, all of them giving the exact same information that I typed above. Except in their situations, the end result was always a message that they'd successfully imported their blog. ARGHHH!!!

I tried Facebook Help again, which, by the way, is not very helpful. But I did discover that I'm not alone. Apparently there are others out there who can't get their blog to import. Some said they'd reported the problem to Facebook and have never heard back from them. After several months! Others said they had a blog importing from an external site for some time and it suddenly quit, with no explanation.

I'm convinced technology is out to get me. I tried on Sunday to upload a video onto this blog. You might notice that there are no videos here. I'm not even going to tell you how much trouble I had uploading the cartoons on Tuesday's blog. It's enough to make me want to go back to paper and pencil and lock myself in a cave somewhere.

What I really need is a twelve year old boy to take me by the hand and show me how to do stuff. Since I don't have access to a twelve year old, I decided to do one of the things I usually do when I can't figure something out: take a class. As we speak, I am participating in a webinar on Social Media given by Writer's Digest. I'm a little afraid the class is going to be more advanced than I am, but I'm hoping to get something out of it. I'll keep you posted.

I'm tired of feeling like the dumbest kid in the class when it comes to technology, especially Facebook. Does anyone know a way to get around the problem I'm having importing my blog? Can I just cut and paste it into the Notes section? Janet mentioned a hot link to me before, but I don't know what a hot link is! What sort of things do you put on your Facebook page to keep people interested? And how do I insert a video in my blog? And I am the only one who feels this stupid? Help!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

I Need a Laugh!

I've been working on revisions, along with a synopsis and a blurb for a submission I'm planning to make to The Wild Rose Press. So I'm needing a little break, and a few laughs. I've scoured the Internet and found a few funnies about writing. Enjoy!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Making the Most of My Blog

So I've got a blog and I've researched and written my posts. But it's all wasted effort if nobody reads them. How can I "optimize" my blog, bringing traffice to my blog and my website that will promote me and my writing? Here are some ideas from Penny Sansevieri, with a few of my own ideas thrown in.
     1.      Make sure your blog is sharable on Facebook and     Twitter.  Okay, I had to admit I didn’t know what this meant when I read it. So I had to look it up. At the top of my blog, it now says "Share". Not sure if I got it right. Maybe someone can let me know?

2.      Create powerpoint presentations and embed them in your blog with Slideshare ( )  I’ve never seen this done on a blog (although I’ve seen many YouTube videos on blogs, also a good idea). But if you’re so inclined this might make an interesting and eye-catching blog presentation.

3.      Promote every blog you write on Facebook and Twitter.  I'm not here yet, but I do promote my blogs on the Yahoo loops that I’m on, and have received very good support there.

4.      Add photos to your blog.  Photos give visual interest and color to plain old boring text. Ms. Sansevieri says that pictures also show up in Google image searches which may bring in more traffic.

5.      Make one blog do double or triple duty.  Many writers post their blogs on their Facebook sites, and places such as Amazon or Goodreads. For the same effort your thoughts are spread around many places on the web.

6.      Comment on other blogs in your market.  If you don’t read the posts of other people they won’t read yours. Always leave a link back to your website or blog. Shauna James Ahern ( ) says that “Blogging is all about community…It’s about sharing and discovery, communion and hilarious stories.”  Penny Sansevieri has written a blog in the Huffington Post about the importance of commenting.

7.      Create great headlines.  Since most readers will see your blog through an rss feed, you need a catchy headline to grab their attention. Here are some idea generators from Ms. Sansevieri that will give you an idea of what she means by catchy:
. 10 Secrets to
· 7 Myths Exposed
· 10 Inspiring Ways to
· 10 Funny Things That Happened to Me on the Way to Publishing My Book
· 7 Cool ways to
· 10 Tips for the best
· 10 Shocking reasons
· 5 Amazing Blog Sites You Must Read, and Why
· How to increase your success
· 10 Simple things you can do right now to

You don’t need to use this kind of headline all the time but every once in a while use one of these to bring attention to your post.

I’ve made the decision that posting three times a week is too much for me right now. Starting next week I’m going to a new schedule of posting twice a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I’ll try that for a while and see if it’s a better fit. Until next Tuesday, I’ll be doing some planning, some list making, some scheduling and some promoting.

It’s not enough to have a blog and write a few posts. You have to be willing to work that blog and promote yourself, otherwise your blog won’t fulfill its potential. What do you do to promote your blog? Seriously, I’m really looking for ideas!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

What Should I Blog About?

    I'm pondering the world of blogging this week. I want to continue writing my blog, but I want to find ways to keep it manageable, effortwise and timewise. I want to connect with people and promote myself while still finding time to write. How do I do that? Maybe I can save some time on my blog posts by figuring out well in advance what to write about.

1.      Plan ahead.   Penny C. Sansevieri, at Author Marketing Experts  says that one of the things that bloggers find intimidating is coming up with ideas to blog about.  She says that if you spend some time planning ahead it makes creating posts easier and faster. For instance, look through the calendar and find upcoming holidays and observances. Do any of them spark an idea for a blog? What’s your favorite St. Valentine’s Day memory?  Have you ever had anything funny happen to you on Ground Hog Day?  Ms. Sansevieri uses a list of monthly, weekly and daily observances each month to spark a blog idea. For example did you know that November 15 is “I love to write day”? You could build a blog around the reasons you got into this crazy business. Click here for Ms. Sansevieri’s list of observance for March.

2.      Keep a file of your own blogging ideas. Do a little brainstorming and come up with some topics in advance. Keep them in a file in your computer or in a notebook. Facing a deadline isn’t quite so intimidating if you’ve got a clue as to what you’re writing about.

3.      Blog about the Biz. Educate yourself on trends in the writing marketplace. What are agents looking for? What is selling in the romance genre? I’ve written blogs on e-publishing and e-book readers, as well as news in the bookseller world.

4.      Size matters. Don’t think that you have to write a long post. Monica Bhide ( says: “Blog readers are drawn not to 3,000 word essays, but to posts of bite-sized info.” If you’ve got a topic that needs more room, break it into two or more parts.

5.      Develop a series of How-To posts. This could be on any subject you’re passionate about from gardening to cooking. Ms. Sansevieri says that How-To posts have a lot of appeal, even how-to write posts: “…83% of Americans want to write a book so it's likely someone reading your books (or a potential reader) is interested in this topic, too.”

6.      Talk about the work of others. Have you read a book recently that really inspired you? Maybe you’d like to review it on your blog.

7.      What inspires your writing and creativity? Is there a special place where you love to write? Does certain music spark your creativity? Share it your inspiration.

8.      Share your mistakes. I’ve certainly made a few in my writing career. By telling others where I’ve gone wrong maybe I can help them avoid some of the pitfalls.

9.      Ask questions. Ms. Sansevieri says: “ask your readers questions, grab some of the top-of-mind issues that are relevant to your market and address them on your blog.”
10.    Have theme days. My friend Janet at Janet's Journal has designated themes such as Fiction Fridays and Inspiration Wednesdays. She says that having a theme helps her to focus on a certain subject to blog about.
Once you've got several blog topics nailed down, the actual writing shouldn't take too long. Ms. Sansevieri suggests that with good planning, 15 minutes a day should be enough to get the job done. To be honest, it normally takes me longer than that to write a blog post, (actually it took me longer than that to format this post) but I know that half the battle is figuring out what to write about.
Do you plan your blogs ahead of time? Do you find coming up with ideas intimidating? How much time does it take you to write a blog post?