Thursday, September 29, 2016

Why take a break from social media?

Today's Indie / self-published author must be writer, author, marketer, publisher and more. Sometimes you have to separate the functions and stick to only one for awhile.

Writing is most important. 

If you don't have stories and books you don't have anything to fill the other areas.
When you feel overwhelmed - it's best to let folks know that you're knocking off a few of the functions for a short period of time. IT IS OKAY TO HIDE AWAY AND WRITE. (As long as you remember to return.) 

I'll be back!
with - Home From the Grave

Meanwhile - check these blogs from the past.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Platform building and use for the newbie or clueless.

The Writer’s Commute - Platform building when you don’t have a clue.

(First published in Opal Publishing, August 2016 )

Going to Work

Going out to work, you have a commute to make the transition. Working at home, it’s difficult to leave home duties and settle into writing. To help me, I developed my Writer’s Commute. It happens in my office, on my computer.

What the heck do I do with this Social Media?

As a woman of a certain age, computers are not my natural habitat. I know the basics and can find articles that tell me what to do. The thought of building a platform overwhelmed me. I was advised to start small and expand slowly. I took an orientation course offered on-line by a member of my writing group. It could have been called: Platform Building for Dummies. Lorraine Paton was patient with us and assured us that slow was fine.

First I formed goals for my platform.

1)      Expand name recognition.
2)      Learn and share about all things writing.
3)      Support other writers.
4)      Promote my books when they are first launched.
5)      Stay up-to-date with the world of Indie writers.

Decide what social media sites will accomplish this for your market.

Over of a year, I hammered out a process I call my writer’s commute. All commutes need coffee, so that’s first. Then I visit, in no particular order:

  • ·        Emails (2 accounts – personal and author link)
  • ·        Facebook – Profile and Author Page and Groups
  • ·        Twitter
  • ·        Blog/webpage
  • ·        Internet in general

Learn how to use the sites you choose.

Tasks to do on each site

It is not necessary to do every single thing, every day.

  • I review both personal and writer accounts and respond to items requiring short answers. 
  • If a writing newsletter arrives, read it and make a short comment. 
  • Most sites have a place to put your website. Be sure to add it.
 If it’s a social chatty email, I come back to it and respond in depth at the END of my writing day (or at lunch).


I use Blogger from (Where we are right now.) I find it user friendly and simple enough that even my older brain can grasp it. I played with it before hitting publish. The layout and content on the blog expanded as I became more familiar with the layout function. There is no rush. Take your time to learn.


       On my blog homepage, I post bi-monthly blogs. Choose a frequency you can maintain and a  content based on topics relating to your stories, your life and your hobbies.

    I have additional pages to this blog one. (See the other tabs above. About me, Why Writers Write) Set up a permanent sidebar or similar. It is best (so I’ve read) to be consistent and to set a schedule you can maintain. I alter my content between items for readers and those for writers and do interviews with writers launching books my followers might like. (

    Tweet, twitter, tiddly winks     

    One day, I bit the bullet and added a Twitter account. It confused me. However, I followed along and got the hang of it. (@MahrieGReid)

      Twitter –you don’t need to check every day.

    Tweet about your new blogs or book launches. Pre-write six posts and post them through the day with links to your blog or book. Otherwise, scan the tweets and re-tweet interesting posts. If you click through and read an article, retweet making a specific comment.

    Go to notifications and see who has retweeted or followed you. Check them out. Follow back if you like. The ones that want your business, you don’t have follow. Do tweet thanking all followers and re-tweeters using their Twitter address. Be polite

    Internet Browsing

    • For the general internet, I decided on topics and went searching. As I found sites I liked, I added them to my save-list. If a site offered an email link, I often chose that option.
    • If you see groups you like, ask to join them. That way their posts will show up in your feed and cut out the task of going to the group. I belong to a few private groups and several public groups. Follow sites you'd like to be in touch with. (Other author pages and so on.)  

    • Scan profile news list quickly. Many posts are cute but not helpful to a writer’s career. Pass them over. Read short writerly articles and comment. Personal items can be left for later.
    • Check Author Page and answer any messages plus respond to comments even if it is only a “like.” Post a new message once or twice a week. Promote books by other authors and/or add a teaser with a link to your newest blog post. Post any launch information for your own books. ( )
    • Visit a couple of your writer/author groups a day. You can follow on an irregular schedule. Reply, share or comment on a post that catches your eye. Become known as a contributor. 

    The Internet

    If you have time left – pick one of the sites on your saved-list and click-in to check out their most recent articles. Again, here’s where you can leave a comment and a link to your information. Participate Positively

    When 1 hour is up 

    I’ve reviewed in-coming information, responded appropriately, and liked, linked or commented. Most important my brain is transitioned to writing. I open my Word or Scrivener, or grab pen and paper and get to the writing. Give it a try and good luck in designing a writer’s commute that works for you.

    Monday, August 29, 2016

    Ho Ho Ho and Oceans of Rum

    Regrets or Not

    My life has been busy, crazy, varied, sad and happy. Generally, I have no regrets because what I lived through made me who I am today, and I'm okay with that.

    Reading Oceans of Rum triggered regrets.

    And no, not of the alcoholic variety. This book, whose subtitle is The Nova Scotia Banana Fleet in Run Rummer Heaven, details many of the acts and events of the rum runners from Rosebay and Riverport on Nova Scotia's South Shore. Reading it, preparing to write a book set in that area during those years, I wish I had asked more questions earlier in my life.

    Many of the ships and their captains came from Riverport. The crews came from surrounding areas, many of them arriving home from the war to find fishing no longer lucrative. Rum running offered another chance at excitement as well as money.

    Much of the booze came from St. Pierre and Miquelon, the French Islands off the coast of Newfoundland. It consisted of whiskey from Scotland, wine and champagne from France and beer from Germany. After running such a load down the Rum Coast of the United States, the ships often went on to Barbados where they did pick up rum, or the makings of rum, and dropped it off on the return trip. It was dangerous and hard work.

    The Regret

    My regret is that, as a young woman, I knew some of the rum runners and their families. (I married into one of them.) I visited Riverport more than once, and both the families who came from there, and these stories are part of my children's heritage. And I never asked the "old timers" about it. Of course, they might not have told me.

    But what I regret the most is not talking to the women. There are records of the ships and the men, but little is said of the wives and sweethearts. Lots of pictures of flappers, stories of the suffrage movement, and tidbits of life can be gleaned if you look hard enough. But what about the individuals and their fears, tasks, hopes and more. Maybe out there is a book where the author interviewed the women, but I have yet to find it. (Still looking.) However, with stories, if we know a person, we value their story even more.

    What to do about your family history.

    When we are young we are interested in our lives going forward. It is only later in life we appreciate those that came before. How will our children and grandchildren think about us? What will they marvel at about our lives? Are we leaving stories for them to read? Are we retelling the family legends/stories or our parents? If you are a baby boomer you are the link between two amazing generations and of course your own. We cannot always go back but we can record NOW for the future.

    My challenge for you to write down your stories. Find old pictures and write what was happening on that day, with those people, at the point in time. Include all the details, even those mundane ones you have almost forgotten. One day in the not too distant future, other generations will look back and be happy you did so.

    My Grandmother's Story Starts Here:

    Born Lena Harriet Marshall on January 31, 1874, she lived in Westville, Nova Scotia. Her father, Sam Marshall, was principal at the high school and she had numerous brothers and sisters. (I think 11 in the family but not sure.) The photo is from a class picture taken when she was at the Pictou Academy for Young Women in Pictou. She traveled to classes on the local rail line.

    Sunday, August 21, 2016

    Three Steps to Creating a Contemporary Setting for your Novel

    World Building - Creating Fictional Communities

    Red fisheries sheds, Tancook Island
    Writers can be inspired by characters or an event, but as the story evolves the characters need a place to live. Setting is a character is it's own right and often dictates direction in the story. Some writers set books in real places. In a large city, this works. However, using a smaller, limited population creates privacy issues and limits events. The solution is to create a fictional community to showcase the story. Caleb's Cove in the Caleb Cove Mystery series is a created community inspired by three real-life geographical locations.

    Although a contemporary setting is easier to create than a fantasy world, it's still necessary to define geography, to understand and remember the residents' philosophy and to know who in "town" your characters can trust.

    To create your fictional, contemporary world:

    Brainstorm what type of community you want.

    • Do you want a large place or a cozy, hamlet? 
    • Will you locate it on the ocean's edge or the prairie's bold sweeping field?
    • Canada has been settled by varied ethnic groups over the years. 
    • What is the origin of the community? Has the town grown from the WW11 interment camps in Canada? Or did its settlers arrive in the 1700s?
    • Is a second language spoken in the area you are creating?
    • What about the geography, the buildings, the occupations in your newly created town?

    Find towns and locations that have your wanted ingredients.

    • You do not have to take a whole town,  you can choose elements and relocate them to wherever you like in your town. I found elements in a number of places and combined them to create Caleb's Cove, set on Dane's islands off Nova Scotia's South Shore. following are some of those places. 
    • Several real locations provided inspiration, visuals and ambiance for Caleb's Cove. However, all people and story events are products of my writer's imagination and other than the awesome ocean setting, bear no connection to any real person in the three background communities.

    Create your town, describe it, download pictures and draw a map of the areas in your book.

    TANCOOK ISLANDS, Nova Scotia, Canada 

    Tancook Island started it all. I've had a fascination with Tancook for decades. My sister-in-law's mother worked on Little Tancook and I loved her stories and the name. At eight I thought it a great setting for a mystery and wrote (longhand in a Hilary Scribbler) The Mystery on Tancook Island.

    Accidentally, or at the bidding of  my unconscious, my mystery series is set on an island off Nova Scotia. Additional details and ideas for Caleb's Cove came from Tancook and two other Nova Scotia locations. (For more on Nova Scotia visit:


    What is know as Bell island today is actually three older islands that were combined when the road through the LaHave Islands was built. The road now joins Jenkin's Island, LaHave Island and Bell's Island into one large island know collectively as Bell Island.


    • Caleb's Cove is on a fictional set of islands modeled on current day Bell Island. Bridges join the three separate parts and the main fictional island is larger than the real one.
    • The hamlet and various buildings and stores are based on Petite Riviere along the 331 and Fisherman's Wharf located in Eastern Passage, back of Dartmouth.

    Thursday, August 18, 2016

    What the heck are forerunners of death?

    The East Coast of Nova Scotia, 

    as well as other parts of the province, have unlimited stories of forerunners, ghosts, apparitions and all things other-worldly.

    Forerunners are those ghostly events that foretell a death. 

    They include:
    - three knocks on the door with no one outside
    - visions of a relative seen in the night
    - ghostly figures following you on the road
    - non-existent figures seen in a rear-view mirror
    - footsteps heard on the stairs with no one there
    - footprints seen on a floor where no one has walked recently
    - the sound of a vehicle coming to the house but no one is there

    Usually these forerunners are followed by a death of a family  member or friend within a few months or less and well before that person has reached a ripe old age.

    For two real ghost stories of this generation, visit my blog on legends and ghosts.

    Ghost story collections. 

    Stories of these events and their outcomes are available in a number of books. The most famous eastern story collector is Helen Creighton whose books, Bluenose Ghosts, are well known.
    (All titles are linked to if you would like the book.)

    Ghost Stories of Nova Scotia
    I've also shivered to the tales of local authors like Veron Oickle and others.

    Ghosts of the Titanic
    Julie Lawson

    Haunted Harbours - Ghost Stories
    Steve Vernon

    Friday, August 5, 2016

    3 things I learned from a fourteen year old.

    Have you ever hung out with someone a few decades younger?

    Someone who is not a grandchild. I did this recently. The neighbors daughter was visiting her dad for a month. A lovely, curious teenager getting ready to turn fifteen.

    I needed help with a glue gun and a stack of things for making steam punk jewelry. My thought that she might be able and also like to help was right. We ended up hanging out together for several days.

    We built the jewelry. 

    She turned out to be a whiz with the glue gun and had a great eye for adding one more detail that just made a piece "pop."

    We  picked cherries off the neighbor's tree (with permission) and made cherry juice. She picked, squashed, stirred and strained to get her own jar of juice.

    Shopping and hair things

    Shopping at a thrift store for old jewelry to convert is way more fun with a teenager. But the crowning piece (and that is a pun) was my hair cutting visit. We stocked her with a full Mac Meal, and she ate as I took the chair.

    A visit the day before had left her hair an amazing mix of blue, black, and sort of a pewter color with a funky short one-side cut. At my hair salon, she sat in a chair backing on the main store and people stopped to comment on her "do." It is an amazing, creative statement of  "look out world, here I come and I'm ME."  (Photo here does not do it justice.)

    Meanwhile, I mentioned that I'd have loved hair like that as a teen. Both my young friend and my hairdresser jumped right on that comment and said, "so what's stopping you now?" I absorbed the possibility while the stylist fetched the samples of colors available. The teen picked purple and the stylist went to work.

    End result: I now have purple streaks and I LOVE THEM. 

    (they are plum purple in real life)

    3 things I am taking away from this week

    1) Teenagers have optimism and expansive creativity. 

    And occasionally the let it all hang out and it is infectious. I enjoyed my designing and jewelry building way more because of her presence. A few "old" scales have fallen from my eyes, and I'll work to make sure they don't come back.

    2) The young, when alone with an older person not a relative, just might ask surprising questions.

     And make comments they wouldn't with a parent. The opportunity to be invited to drop small bits of information into their lives is a gift. It reminded me of how much I've learned over the decades. A satisfying and rewarding feeling.

    3) They tackle what is at hand without worry.

     Although sometimes confused about what life should be and where it will take them, they power ahead. They have a view unencumbered by decades of layers of trying, failing, hard times and pain. That reminder of all the wonderful, new things to learn, and the known things to enjoy in life, is great.

    We usually recognize that babies and younger children offer a renewed view of the world. But teenagers sometimes get a bad rap for their attitudes and habits. I learned that they too have much to offer us.

    My advice to you: 

    If the opportunity to hang out with a young teenager arises, take it. I believe that there are more great teens than not. When they have nothing to prove to parents, teachers and friends, they often show their true selves. And those selves are terrific.

    Monday, July 18, 2016

    How to use the 5 senses for more vivid writing

    Using the five senses enriches the setting, enhances character and shows your reader the story.

    Used wisely and folded into the world of your characters, the senses ground your reader in a unique location, add textures and atmosphere to the story, and draw your reader in.

    The five senses at work.


    What does you character see in the surroundings? What is unique to the current location?

    Trees crowded the road but here and there squares of cleared land sported buildings. On the inner side of the island he saw a house with an outbuilding and a circle of trees at its back. The clearings on the left, the ocean side, often left gaps and he caught glimpses of water, dark, rolling and cold looking. Some of the houses were older two story places— weathered and over-painted, houses of time and displayed character. (A glimpse at Dane's Island and Caleb's Cove in the Caleb Cove Mystery Series.)


    Are the sounds those of a city, an ocean, a mountain? A city boy at night in the country will be aware in a different manner than a country boy in the same spot. How does your character react to the sounds around them? What memories or anticipations do those sounds trigger?

    Frank tipped his head against the tree and closed his eyes tuning in to the sounds. Two birds nattered above him. A slight breeze brushed the tree, the sound not soft enough to be a rustle, not sharp enough to be a clatter. He'd spent years drunk, sleeping in parks and culverts in good weather and heading to the homeless shelters in bad. Back then he wouldn't have noticed the birds or the breeze. He'd have been too consumed with locating the next drink.
    A cough echoed around him, and he jerked up. He checked the open area, the rock pile off to the right and the bush on the left. There was a second cough. Tension drained away. Some poor slob was behind the bushes. A drunk who couldn't or wouldn't get sober. (Excerpt from Came Home to a Killing, Book 2 in the Caleb Cove Mystery Series)


    This is much more than a hand on an object. It is the brush of air against a cheek or the chill seeping into toes about to freeze. Air can be perceived as soft or harsh, breezy or still. The elements, air, water, fire, and earth create touch.

    She breathed in. There is air. I won’t smother. She rolled onto her knees and felt with her hands. One hand plunged in the water. She lost her balance, rolled and hit the ocean's cold, gasping, she sank under the surface. The shock stopped her breath for a heartbeat. She kicked and came up sputtering and clawing at the ledge. Fright once again had her by the neck. (Excerpt: Came Home Too Late, Book 3)


    The odors of a farm yard are very different from the local bus terminal. Smell evokes the strongest memories and reactions. Use it to your advantage when portraying your characters.

    He sipped his coffee and savored both it and the pungent salt odor of seaweed roiled by the storm and the damp, old smell of the dock soaked by the waves. (Came Home Dead)


    This gives you a wide area in which to play. Can we taste the air? Experience city grit when rain hits our tongues? Does the freshness of ripe cherries burst over our senses when we kiss our lover?

    Additionally, food eaten is different cultures and areas of the country can add to the texture of the setting. Hodge Podge, a mixture of baby vegetables topped with a butter and cream sauce, followed by a dessert of Blueberry Grunt is a meal indicative of the South Shore of Nova Scotia. (Find the Blueberry Grunt Recipe in last week's blog below.)

    Mix and Match

    The senses can be combined in various ways. The odor of BBQing pork precedes the taste and texture of the meat on our tongues. The sight of a field of ripe, plump blueberries can bring back memories and summon taste experienced from the past. A vivid mix of senses intensifies the experience of a character.

    Heat filled the trailer and voices echoed in the campground and, in one final, jerky movement, Emily sat up. Her hair straggled around her head and strands stuckto her cheeks. Her shoulders ached and her P.J. collar, damp and clammy, clung to her. Her mouth was once again that telltale dryness that followed being drugged. Pounding filled her head and tightened her scalp. One hell of a night. (Came Home Too Late.)