Friday, March 29, 2013

The good, the bad and the OMG

In the world of literature, there are famous authors, published writers, self-published works and people who have completed a manuscript or want to write a story, but are too afraid to publish.

It’s hardly surprising.  Writers who tried to publish their work tell horror stories of contacting literary agent after literary agent, only to receive a polite letter of rejection.  One writers admitted that he received so many rejections, that he wallpapered his office with them.

Being an avid reader and book buyer, I have a favorite set of authors.  Whenever I go to the book store, I scan the shelves for their names first, looking if they’ve come out with something new.  I just know if I buy from them I’m guaranteed a good story.

For the longest time I believed this to be true, but now I’m not so sure anymore.

The latest novel of one of my favorite authors was a total let down.  The first chapter dragged on, I thought the story would improve but it didn’t, if anything it got worse.  The story was uninteresting, the characters unsympathetic and the setting as dull as dishwater.  I gave up at page 106.

How was it possible that this writer, whose previous book was an absolute masterpiece of imagination could produce something so bad?  

When I needed something else to read, and couldn’t find anything of my favorites, I took a chance on the debut novel of a new author.  Part of me was interested in the story (having read the synopsis) and another part wanted to find out what it was that had captured a literary agent’s attention to take a chance on the writer.  What made the story unique?

The story was unique alright, unique in crappiness.  With that book I only made it to page 27, before I tossed it aside thinking “How could this have found a publisher?”  Was this what agents were looking for?  Stories so over the top in their ridiculousness that they became laughable?

I wonder how many other people got fooled and bought the book?  I wonder how many will do the same as me and return the book to the store?

I really think there are a lot of self-published authors out there who deserve the attention of the respected publishing houses and I also think that a lot of mainstream authors need to rethink what they’re writing.

It’s not because they’re published by Orion that they’re good; it’s not because someone is self-published that they’re work is inferior.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Meet Nancy Matson

With the release of “Debbie” just days away, I thought I’d introduce everyone to Nancy Matson, the illustrator of the book. 
Robin Tidwell interviewed Nancy and what an interesting lady she is.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Writing tips

This morning I read a blog post entitled “The 5 Worst Writing Tips I’ve Ever Received”.  I didn’t agree with the information and posted a reply.  I was promptly challenged by both the blogger to explain my criticism.  Always happy to oblige I agreed and promised to explain my criticism in a blog post of my own.  Make yourself comfortable as this could take a while.

According to the blogger, the five worst writing tips she received were:

5. Outline your stories before you write.
I wouldn’t say that’s bad advice, that is very good advice.
While there’s no need to go into great detail, a writer should have some idea of what his story will be about.  Let’s say that the story is about John and Jane.  Who are John and Jane?  Where do they live?  What did they do that’s worth telling others about?  What hurdles did they have to overcome to make the story interesting? 

While I agree that a writer should be flexible in his ideas and go with the flow, there has to be a basic plot.  If not on paper, then at least in the writer’s mind.

Having something on paper helps as the story develops.  John can’t have black, curly hair on page 5 and blond floppy hair on page 83.  Jane can’t celebrate her birthday on July 15th on page 3 and shiver in a freezing temperature on her way to her birthday party on page 90.

4. Set a writing schedule and stick to it.

Absolutely.  Writers are notorious procrastinators.  They want to write, they feel the need to write, but … oh yes, there are a whole lot of but’s.

Many writers have a full-time job and feel tired at the end of the day.  They’d much rather veg out in front of TV than sitting in front of a computer.  At work they decide to write “tonight”, when they get home they think “I’ll write something between lunchtime tomorrow”, when that doesn’t happen they promise themselves to start writing “over the weekend”. 

Unemployed writers face other challenges.  They’re going to write as soon as:

  • They’ve checked their emails and replied to those that need a response.
  • They’ve checked Facebook/Twitter updates and responded to the statements or experiences of their friends.
  • Updated their own status.
  • Posted pictures of their children and/or pets (Fluffy did something so cute they just have to share it).
  • Played one or several games online (they can be so addictive).
  • Done the house chores.
  • Went shopping for groceries.
  • Had a nap.

Take it from any writer … getting something on paper (hard copy or electronic), takes discipline.

3. Show, don’t tell.

I agree with that too.

It’s not enough to say that John or Jane were mad, show the reader how mad they were.  Did they scream and stomp their feet in frustration?  Did they grab a plate and hurl it against the wall? 

Neither is it enough to say that the island was beautiful, show the reader its beauty by describing the scenery in detail.  Make it so accurate that they can smell the flowers and hear the birds in the trees.

2. If you’re not depressed, alcoholic, or somewhat clinically insane, you can’t create a good story.

Plenty of writers are in a pleasant state of mind, stick to non-alcoholic drinks, are perfectly sane and still manage to write a gripping story.  Then again, the most beautiful poetry and heartwarming stories are written when a writer feels depressed.  Depression heightens emotions.

1.  Write about what you know.


It’s the first thing experienced authors will tell any aspiring author.  

Take Dan Brown for instance.  Dan is a highly educated writer with a fascination for the paradoxical interplay between science and religion.  His books are so well researched that there’s no doubt in my mind he knows the location of his stories like the back of his hand.

Equally knowledgeable about what she writes is Deborah Harkness.   For the past 28 years, Deborah has been a student and scholar of history, with numerous degrees to her name from the University of California, Northwestern University and Mount Holyoke College.  She has done extensive research on the history of science and magic between the years 1500 to 1700. 

Personally I’m in favor of writers writing about what they know, because they obviously have knowledge on the subject and can give details. 

A few weeks ago I read part of a story that was set in Africa.  Having lived in Africa for 15 years, I managed to get to page 5, after which I abandoned the story.  There were so many inaccuracies that the setting of the story infuriated me.  I subsequently wrote to the author and asked where she got her information?  In which part of Africa had she lived?  She admitted that she had never set foot outside of Minnesota.

So, all in all I think what the blogger describes as bad advice is in actual fact good advice.  Feel welcome to share your thoughts.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

“Debbie” … the countdown

Rocking Horse Publishing notified me today that copies of “Debbie” are on the way to Toronto.  Their arrival is scheduled for Wednesday, March 27.

To say that I'm anxious to see what the end product looks like would be an understatement.  I’m burning with curiosity.

While I know the story of course, I haven’t seen the colorful illustrations inside.  If the cover of the book is anything to go by, the drawings inside will be wonderful too.  Actually, I already got a sneak preview and they’re adorable.  Just as Debbie was.

As soon as the books arrive I will take pictures of course.  A picture of the box, a picture of opening the box, obviously a picture of the book and knowing my fur kids … a picture of one or more cats checking out and taking possession of the box.

The imminent arrival of “Debbie” is the second good thing that happened this week.  The first happened on Sunday in the bowling alley.

Ever since winter started, it’s been a crap shoot going to Kennedy Bowl.  It happened more than once that we braved the cold and tracked through the snow to the bowling alley, only to find out that all the lanes were booked.  Especially over the weekend the place is heaving with bowlers.

When we arrived last Sunday, the noise that greeted us at the door didn’t sound encouraging.  I heard balls rolling and pins falling and from the sound of people talking, yelling, screaming and laughing the place was packed.

When we got to the lanes that suspicion was confirmed … not a free lane in sight.  Fortunately, after a bit of waiting and negotiating, we managed to get one lane and unpacked our gear: balls, shoes, gloves.

My family of balls

My latest edition - the Hammer Wrench

Dieter's family of balls

Dieter's latest edition - the Raptor Talon

Seeing that I was about to bowl with a new ball, the Hammer Wrench, I didn’t know what to expect.  After all, it always takes time getting to know how a new ball will perform.

But my Hammer performed beautifully.  From the moment he came off my fingers, he rolled toward the pins, picking up speed as he went along, took a sharp turn to the left toward the end of the lane and hammered the pins down.

Over 5 games he scored:

193 … not bad

204 … even better

156 … he had an oops moment


193 … finish the way he started

I think this is the beginning of a beautiful relationship.

Tomorrow the Hammer will join the rest of my ball family and play league for the first time.  He will either get cold feet and chicken out, or take me to new heights.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Debbie - a children's book


Here it is ... the approved cover for  "Debbie".

Isn't it cute?

This children's book will be available on March 30, but pre-orders are accepted.  

Later on this afternoon Rocking Horse Publishing  will provide details.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

My interview

In an attempt to tickle reader’s curiosity, I announced the upcoming release of my children’s book “Debbie” a few days ago.

Over the weekend I had the pleasure of doing an interview with Robin Tidwell, during which I got the opportunity to put the real Debbie, and the book’s co-star Charlie, in the limelight, along with a few other details.

While I feared about the length of the interview, my friend Alex immediately put my mind at ease when she said “I personally prefer authors who are not afraid to show their readers more about themselves.  In my opinion, this makes for a better connection with readers.”

I invite you all to hop over to Robin’s blog and read the interview.  It will only take five minutes or so.  Go on, take a break and get to know Debbie and her story better.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

How Debbie came to live with us

My last blog post finished with … “Come back tomorrow and I’ll tell you a bit more about Debbie”.  Well that didn’t happen, did it.

You know how it goes, you fully intend on doing something, but then life gets in the way and there’s a change of plans.
Which incidentally is how we got Debbie in the first place.

Dieter and I went to the mall on a Saturday morning to pick out a bird.  A canary, or another bird that sings.

“Only a bird, right Mom,” Dieter said to me before going into the store, “nothing else.”

“Of course,” I said, “what else would we get?”

Knowing me he didn’t reply.  He didn’t have to, I know what he meant.  Seeing so many cute rabbits and puppies, not to mention kittens, I would be thoroughly led into temptation.

Then again, why spend between $300 and $1,000 on a kitten, when so many cats and kittens need a good home from an adoption shelter?

Anyway, in we went inside looking for a bird. 

As I heard the canaries chirping and singing and saw them fluttering around I wondered what our five cats would make of a feathered pet.  Would the canary’s song fill their heart with joy, or would they think of it as something for their stomach?  I got second thoughts.  Maybe a bird wasn’t such a good idea.

As we strolled through the pet store we considered other pets.

A hamster maybe?  Hm, no, too small.  Might also end up in a cat’s stomach.

A guinea pig?  Maybe.

A bunny?  Cute, but don’t bunnies chew through cables and things?

A parrot?  Yes, that we both agreed was a good idea.  An African grey we decided was a bit on the small side (thinking of the cats again), better go for a big, colorful Macaw.  At least such a bird was bigger than the cats and he had quite a beak on him to defend himself.

We were all set to get a nice, red, Macow until we heard the price … $5,000.   $5,000?  FOR A BIRD!!!

Dieter actually stumbled backward a bit when he heard the price, and that’s when we saw them … ferrets.

They were ever so cute with their little eyes and noses and that black stripe across their faces.  Three of them were fast asleep in their hammock, but one came up to the bars of the cage and curiously sniffed Dieter’s hand.

Twenty minutes later we walked out with the curious ferret, along with a cage, wood curls, a hammock, a food and water dish and ferret nibbles. 

It seems like a good choice.  A ferret was large enough not to be a food choice for the cats and was reasonably priced.

“Any idea what you’re going to call her?” I asked Dieter.

“Debbie,” he said without hesitation.

And that’s how Debbie came to live with us.

More about Debbie to follow (I won’t promise a date).

(Debbie’s life story will be available in book form on March 30, published by Rocking Horse Publishing).

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Soon to be released

I have a bit of news.  Very exciting news. 

My children’s book “Debbie” has been accepted by Rocking Horse Publishing  and will be released on March 30. 

The book currently in the editing process, while an illustrator is hard at work sketching drawings to go along with the story, and ideas are being tossed back and forth for the cover art.

I wish I could tell you a bit more about “Debbie” but I don’t want to let the cat out of the bag just yet. 

Tell you what though, to give you a bit of an appetizer.  Here are the first 100 words.

Hi there!
My name is Debbie, and I’m a ferret.
You know what a ferret is, right? Have you ever seen a picture of a ferret? Please don’t say that ferrets look like rats. I’m nothing like a rat, and I’ll take it as insult if you compare me to one!
For starters, rats are rodents, while ferrets are more highly evolved in the animal world.
Rats are very active creatures, always scurrying after something.
Ferrets have a much more relaxed lifestyle. We like to take things easy. Did you know that we sleep, on average, 17 to 20 hours a day?

As you might have guessed, “Debbie” is about a ferret.  A very friendly and very curious ferret.  Want to know more?

Come back tomorrow and I’ll tell you a bit more about Debbie.  

Friday, March 1, 2013

Are we civilized human beings, or bloodthirsty killers?

Tana C posted a message and a picture on Facebook today, showing off the hunting rifle she just bought.

In light of recent violence and stricter gun laws, I thought this was in poor taste.  Of how many shooting have we heard lately? 

Being anti gun, anti violence and certainly anti hunting, I posted a comment in reply to Tana’s announcement.

The comments that followed were divided.  Some shared my views on gun possession, those in favor of guns clearly sided with Tana.

Tana herself defended her gun ownership and hunting actions by stating “Deer and elk provide food for my family”.

No arguing with that, but … just how much does the deer and elk she’s about to shoot cost her? 

I did a little research and found that the rifle Tana bought (a Savage 7 mm + scope) costs $599.  A box of 20 bullets goes for $20.  A hunting license set her back $219 per acre.  Total cost: $838.

I don’t know about you but $838 puts a lot of food on my table.

That’s not all though.  A hunter needs to wear camouflage and needs a hunting knife.  Let’s estimate that at another $200.

Once the animal is processed it needs to be frozen.  One needs a massive chest freezer to hold that much meat.  Shall we say $300 for that appliance?

Grand total: $1338.

Tana also stated that the animal she kills and eats is hormone free, unlike some of the meat that ends up in the supermarket.

While this might be true, there are other things to consider.  

Veterinarians inspect whether animals are fit for slaughter and once killed the Ministry of Health sends their inspectors to verify that meat is disease free and handled and stored in hygienic conditions.

While the deer that Tana shoots might be hormone free, what condition is he in?  He might be sick, he might have eaten contaminated food or drank polluted water.

Fact is, some people pretend hunting provides food for their families and that wild animals are more healthy, but that just an excuse.  It’s the kill they like.  They like to dress up.  They like going back to basics.  They like picking up a gun.  They like the power it gives them.

People will claim that some states are overcrowded with deer and that hunting is necessary to keep down the numbers.  In that case, the hunting rule not to shoot female deer makes no sense.  If anything, it’s the females that should be shot, because they are the ones reproducing.  If there were more male than female dear, there would be less offspring next year and the year after.

I’m against hunting and I make no secret of it.  I’m against the slaughter of animals too, but there are certain things in life that one just cannot change. 

If gun control ever kicks in, maybe the ban should include hunting rifles too.

Are we civilized human beings, or bloodthirsty killers?