Saturday, December 31, 2016

5 reasons resolutions fail and how to fix them

THIS WAS MY DECEMBER 31, 2015 POST

It bears repeating...

As during 2016 I: 

- wrote and published book 3 in the Caleb Cove Mystery Series - CAME HOME TOO LATE
- helped plan and participated in panels at When Words Collide
- signed with a publisher to write an historical book set in Nova Scotia and then researched like crazy
- plotted, planned and outlined book 4 in the Caleb Cove Mystery Series - CAME HOME FROM THE GRAVE
- went under the knife and got myself another titanium knee! 
- designed and presented two, full day workshops for ARWA
- lived my life and had fun!

New Year’s Resolutions?

Run, run fast in the other direction...

Modern society has taken up goal setting and making New Year’s Resolutions with a vengeance. Almost everyone talks about that resolution list. Either they make one or they declare they are not making one.

Looking back over the years I recall more failures to follow through (both mine and others) than I do accomplishments. Weight loss maybe the #1 resolution, or within my writing world,  finishing a book tops the list.

Why we fail: Our resolutions are:


  • Overwhelming large (Save the world, buy a house, write four books….)
  • Non- specific ('I want to be thin' instead of 'I want to lose fifteen pounds.')
  • Not task/action oriented (Break that “lose fifteen pounds” into steps you can DO)
  • Too large to chew. (I will write three hours every day – if you go to work and have a family, this might be more than can be managed.)
  • Stated in words that let our brains off the hook. (I will lose fifteen pounds leaves your brain saying – oh no worries – 'will' is in the future - she wants to do this later.)

How do we fix that?

  • Step back and make sure you have a resolution that is an achievable goal. Be realistic about your life style, the people around you and the temptations that will accost you. One small step achieved is more effective than one giant leap that misses the mark.
  • Break it down. Start with the end goal and then back it up.  If you want to publish a book, start with that as a fait accompli and ask what happened right before you published. Maybe it is ‘up-loaded book to Amazon.’ Then ask: What did I have to do right before that? Completing edits received from you line editor might be the answer. Work backwards until you get to that which is manageable now. For me that is writing free-fall pages for fifteen minutes every day.
  • Make sure it is an action step. “Losing weight” is a goal. “Drinking two glasses of water before every meal” is an action step.

Now let’s get to the “Bite sized habits."


  1. Write down 12 things you need to do this year to reach your overall goal.
  2. Prioritize them.
  3. Assign one to each month.
  4. Tackle one new task a month
  5. At the first of each month add the new task for that month.

 8 Helpful concepts to keep you on track:

  • Tackle one task at a time. Maybe you alternate: writing one month and health the next.
  • Realize that it takes 30 days to hammer a habit into place. Keep at it for 30 days.
  • Be aware that consistency is more effective than volume.
  • Figure out your “bite size.”  Set a manageable time for writing or exercise or piano practice piano. Find what works for your life and your brain.
  • Be aware that some days you might fall short and be prepared to forgive yourself. Too often we miss for two days and our thinker says ‘you can’t do this – you might as well quit.’ Tell your thinker to buzz off and to get back at it the next day.
  • Use positive phrasing. I AM WRITING fifteen minutes a day. This sets your inner gyroscope to get at it! (Check out Shad Helmstetter's material. A free PDF download)What To Say When You Talk To Yourself
  • At the end of each month reward yourself.
    • Make a list of rewards when you set up your plan.
    • Make sure you do use the rewards. You don’t want your brain saying “Hey – you didn’t give me that reward you promised – why should I help you next month?”
  • If you know you are going to have days you can’t fit things in – schedule that as a planned day off. And then take it off so you stay honest with your brain.
  • Pick tasks you like or tasks you can live with. I dislike running but enjoy my bike and free weights.

Setting small, daily habits supports our life and goals. 

Doing these does not mean you don’t do more. It simply means that these are agreements with yourself that you can meet. Small success create a foundation for bigger ones. Making your tasks a daily choice leaves room to quit. Make it a daily habit – like brushing your teeth- and don’t think

JUST DO IT

 "Your life works to the degree you keep your agreements." Werner Erhard 

And this includes the agreements you make with yourself.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Stress-free Christmas at our house

 It is Christmas time again....

  Lots of folk are still running around, buying, baking and decorating. I'm done. I send three packages this time of year, one to each set of grandchildren. This year they were all in the mail by November 24th. (I had surgery on the 25th- only reason for the earliness.)

However, it has been relaxing to have it done. Here in our home we place a few ornaments on the shelves and call it a day. Both my husband and I have had less the stellar Christmases at times. We both find it less stressful to stay quiet, watch a couple of movies and wish each other Merry Christmas without a turkey dinner or a tree, or even presents. Out gift to each other is the calm, stress free atmosphere.

This is Dad and Mom the last Christmas they were both alive. Dad, who had dementia, played Santa in the care home and managed to stay in character for the entire event. Mom was so proud of him she gave him a big kiss. It made the day for both of them--at least I like to think. When I was young, Christmas was huge and busy for my clergyman father, With miscellaneous guests coming for dinner, mom was just as busy. They did give me and my brother a great Christmas morning, no matter what.



If the grandchildren were close enough to arrive at Christmas, that would be a different bundle of mistletoe. For them we have, and would again, put out the fixin's and brightly wrapped gifts. Children in the house make a difference and spread excitement and joy to all of us. 




Remember, Christmas for some is stressful and perhaps even depressing. For them we wish a good day. Others, like us, enjoy being quiet. But don't feel sad for us. We are happy at this time of year. We are content to be here with each other and we are delighted that those of you who love the tinsel and glitter get to enjoy it--in your own way.

To all of us:

A Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

however we choose to celebrate.





Thursday, November 17, 2016

3 things learned from leaving Facebook

Taking a Break From Facebook



When I joined Facebook several years ago, one of my daughters warned me I'd find it "as addictive as crack." In many ways she was correct. Eventually, I found myself diving into FB numerous times a day, liking posts willy-nilly and taking part in quizzes designed (supposedly) to test general knowledge, vocabulary level or history recall when in truth, although fun, they are time wasters.


Not to say that there are not good uses for Facebook. Getting to know other authors on various writing groups, getting photos and video clips of grandkids far away, chatting with friends and learning their opinions, and following links to useful writing articles is all good.


Fish Beta Reader

Time is the issue. 


For some of us, it can become addictive, and if one is to be writing, pursuing Facebook is a detriment. I started to analyze what I was getting from and doing on FB.  First, I stopped liking most posts. Then I hid everything that was an ad. And finally, I closed my account (with an option to return). I went without for a total of 44 days. 



1) Did I miss any great and wonderful news? 

Not in the least. People who wanted me to know things sent emails or used Messenger which was functional on its own. It turns out that I do not NEED what comes in on Facebook. (As interesting as it seems.) I wrote more personal emails to several people instead of assuming they'd see my updates on their News feed.

2) Did I have withdrawal symptoms? 

Without an active ICON to tempt me into its pages, Facebook almost never entered my mind. I found myself doing other things: more brainstorming, more reading, more (necessary) housework and more writing. When I give my brain a bit more time on its own, it comes up with some pretty unique ideas.

3) Will I go back to using Facebook? 

Yes, I already have. It does have benefits such as keeping in touch with the writing community, family and friends and letting them know what's going on in my world. (Especially bigger events like a new book coming out / mine or others/ - or a spectacular sunset or sunrise - two of my weaknesses) FB also has distractions and those I need to ignore..

 However, I keep in mind that balance is needed.


FB won't melt, disappear in a puff of smoke, or disown me if I don't visit five or six (or more) times a day. Balance people, balance. Once in the morning and once after supper (sort of like dessert) is plenty for me.


And a great big hello-type hug for all those who put up with me on Facebook.

QUESTION:  What does FB do for you? Are you addicted? Or a casual user? Thoughts and comments welcome. 




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. 
http://www.mahriegreid.com/2014/04/creating-setting-for-your-novel.html
http://www.mahriegreid.com/2016/08/what-heck-are-forerunners-of-death.html
http://www.mahriegreid.com/p/blog.html
http://www.mahriegreid.com/2016/07/how-to-use-5-senses-for-more-vivid.html


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).

Blogging

I use Blogger from blogspot.com. (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.

   Blog/webpage 

       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. (www.mahriegreid.com)

    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. (https://www.facebook.com/MahrieGReid/ )
    • 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

    ...is 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:

    First:
    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?


    Second:
    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.

    Third:
    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: http://www.novascotia.com/explore)

    BELL'S ISLAND 


    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.



    PETITE RIVIERE


    • 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 Amazon.ca 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.

    Sight

    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.)

    Sound

    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)


    Touch


    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)

    Smell

    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)

    Taste

    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.)




    Monday, July 11, 2016

    Have you made Blueberry Grunt?

    What do you do with your blueberries? 

    This year the blueberries are luscious. On the South Shore, Nova Scotia the folk make Blueberry Grunt. If you have never had it, you're in for a hot, steamy, blueberry treat that rivals blueberry muffins.

    BLUEBERRY GRUNT

    (From the Pages of Out of Old Nova Scotia Kitchens, collected by Marie Nightingale, 1975 printing)

    The Sauce:
    1 Quart of blueberries
    1/2 cup of sugar (more to taste optional)
    1/2 cup of water

    Put berries, sugar and water in a pot, cover and boil gently until there is plenty of juice.


    Dumplings:
    2 cups flour
    4 teaspoons baking powder
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1 teaspoon sugar
    1 tablespoon butter
    1 tablespoon shortening
    1/4 to 1/3 cup milk

    Sift flour, baking powder, salt and sugar into a bowl. (I put it in and whisk it.) Cut in the butter and shortening and add enough mile to make a soft biscuit dough. (A bit dampish)

    Drop by spoonfuls onto the hot blueberries. Cover closely (tightly) and do not peek for 15 minutes. Serve hot.


    For a TASTY BLUEBERRY MUFFIN recipe, go to JOANNE GUIDOCCIO'S BLOG for today, July 11-2016 - National Blueberry Muffin Day.



    Monday, June 27, 2016

    How to Stumble into Writing a Series.

    HOW I STUMBLED INTO A SERIES


    Photo by Destination Halifax
    As readers, we tend to love a series. Getting to know characters and having the ability to re-visit them in subsequent books makes for happy reading. Originally, I'd intended this series to be in Toronto. However, the South Shore of Nova Scotia kept popping into my head and we have The Caleb Cove Mystery Series.

    My first book ever (I was about 8 or so) was set on Tancook Island off Nova Scotia. A mystery with an old house, hidden rooms and a ghost, the story starred twins, Pam and Penny. A few years ago, I followed my inner urging and returned to an island off the East Coast for my first published grown-up book. After reading it, a sister-in-law said, "Why don't you write a three book series like Jayne Ann Krentz does?" Off I went and wrote the first three books in the series. (They are not necessarily as well written or romantic as Jayne's.)

    I write what I like to read. 

    My books are traditional mysteries with a touch of suspense and sometimes incorporate the voice of an evil antagonist. Written in a style blended from my favorite authors, Mary Stewart, Dorothy Gilman and Dana Stabenow with an underling hue of Agatha Christie, they are "clean" reads suitable for anyone from an older teen to grandmother.


    Series that Grow After the Fact: 


    I had plots for three books and they became linked as I wrote. However, one original character fell off the grid and his sister took his place. She's quite a demanding character and has insisted on her own book. Therefore the Caleb Cove Mystery Series will continue in Book Four. There are also rumblings from the cast for a five and six as well. It's fun to return to a known group of characters in order to throw in a stumbling block (usually a murder). How they handle it is sometimes a surprise to me.
    For example, in book three they have formed a club called The Touched by Murder Club. I had not seen that coming.

    My advice to writers:

     If a your characters want their own stories - go ahead and create a series. But do start recording details early so you know who is in town when you start the next book. If about book three you realize things will be ongoing, backtrack, re-read your first books and get that character/setting Bible up to date!

    The first three Caleb Cove books are the Came Home books as in ...Dead, ...to a a Killing and ...Too Late. I am looking for a set of titles for three more with a different prefix. (Suggestions welcome.)

    Readers: 

    Caleb Cove Mystery #3
    Please enjoy the current release--Came Home Too Late, (Monday, June 27th, 2016) and if you haven't already done so, check out books One and Two as well. They can be read as stand-alones, but if you'd like to meet the recurring community start with the first one, Came Home Dead**.


    What do you like best about a series? 
    How many books do you think should be in one series? 

    **For an explanation of the term Came Home Dead, visit my interview with Makenzi Fisk on her blog.



    Thursday, June 16, 2016

    3 mystery/thrillers with a truly evil, female antagonist.

    If you like strong, evil and female antagonists, then you need to read the Intuition Series by Makenzi Fisk. Today I'm featuring this mystery/thriller writer, and getting answers to some of the questions I've been meaning to ask her.

     www.facebook.com/makenzi.fisk

    Makenzi Fisk, Author

    Makenzi Fisk's novel, Just Intuition, earned her the distinction of Golden Crown Literary Society Debut Author as well as Mystery Thriller Finalist. Her books take readers to crime's gritty underbelly, northern-style, where few can tell the bad guys from the good ones, and a little bit of intuition always helps.

    Retired from urban policing, Makenzi currently lives in Calgary. She looks forward to her summers in the ruggedly beautiful Canadian Shield, the inspiration for her backwoods thrillers. 



    Welcome, Makenzi,


    Q. Your first three books have a strong thriller element. When you started the intuition books, what was your intent for the story? for the number of books? How did that change, if it did, as you wrote?
    A. When I began to write Just Intuition, I did it out of an overwhelming need to tell a particular story. The catalyst was the antagonist, who was a combination of a number of pathologically toxic personalities I had been personally impacted by, either in my professional career as a police officer or in my private life. All the worst qualities of those people were rolled into one character who wreaks havoc on every person with whom they interact. I'm always interested in the psychology behind human motivations and that is why I wrote the antagonist in first person. I needed to understand and I also wanted readers to have insight on the thought process of a developing psychopath.

    My intent for Just Intuition was to get that story out. Partway into the writing process, I realized that this antagonist would not be so easily contained. There was more substance here than could be confined in a single novel, or even two. Three novels felt right and the Intuition Series was conceived.

    Q. What is your "work" schedule when you are in the midst of a book?

    A. My schedule is relatively inconsistent. There is a lot of humming and hawing and foot shuffling before I reach my stride. I start and stop and then do it again. When I finally get into it, I can't wait to get out of bed in the morning because I'm eager to write the next part of the story. On those days, I write around 3000 words, and usually don't slow down until I'm done. As soon as I type The End, I take a short break and then I'm eager to start revising and editing. I want to polish the story until it feels right.
    Q.  Are there times when your characters seem real to you and do you ever get creeped out when you realize your characters aren't real? Do they "live on" after the book, and do they demand more story time? How do you handle that?

    a. I can't say that my characters ever feel real to me. Some of the actual people who are influences come to mind but I don't usually write a character very close to an actual person. I find that even when if I have a particular person in mind, a cranky boss for example, the character becomes quite different as  write them.
    That being said, it may seem different to others. When I've discussed characters during a brainstorming session, I once heard my daughter remark that it sounds like I'm talking about real people.

    Q. You have solid characters in your first series. Will you continue their story in a book four? If so, what can you tell us about book four?  OR - what is your current project and what can you share with out about it?
    A. The Intuition Series is complete and there is resolution at the end of book three, Fatal Intuition. I did enjoy creating a female FBI character from that book and will spin her off into her own adventure in my current work-in-progress, a thriller set in Northwestern Ontario, tentatively titled Smoke and Murder. I plan to finish writing that novel on location this summer.

    Thanks for joining me, Makenzi. 

    I read your books "in progress" and again once they were published. All three kept me glued to the page to find out what happens. Your criminal is as delightful (to read about) as she is evil. I will be watching for your next release - Smoke and Murder (if that stays). Enjoy your summer writing in your northern Ontario hide-away.

    Connect with Makenzi at: www.facebook.com/makenzi.fisk

    Friday, June 3, 2016

    How to find a book you'll love.

    Finding books in a digital store.


    Positioning books for sale on any of the digital sights is a different way to market. As authors and readers, many of us still think in terms of brick and mortar shelving. We think about browsing for books with attractive covers, filed under categories and authors' names.

    Not so in the digital sales world. 

    Topic or key word lists are the first consideration. Books might show up in best seller lists, lists by genre and category and lists by also-read. Readers go to the lists and use the search bar (see the top cell with 'mystery books' entered) to plug in key words for the type of book they want. The might also go to the lists on the left to refine their search: mystery, thriller, Canadian and so on.

    It is therefore important how a book is posted--title, blurb, key words and more to determine where they will show up. Sales will affect place in best sales lists, but that's not something the author can influence directly. They can influence key words for list sorted by relevance.

    Readers, through experimentation, can learn which key words find them books they might like. The can search best selling mysteries or mystery with other components like cozy, traditional or suspense.

    What tags are good for my books?

    I write clean mystery with suspense, and sometimes, a thriller component. Mystery involves the clues scattered through the book. Suspense is keeping the reader guessing, preferably about serious harm to the characters. The thriller component is when the bad-guy shows up with a point of view section and the reader knows, before the character, what terrible things are planned. The reader's questions become-when will the bad things happen and will the character survive and how? And, of course, how and when will the villain be caught.

    Keys words for my type of book would included mystery, suspense and thriller. I found this out by looking at dozens of similar books that showed high in the lists for the general category of mystery. When you use the search bar, you gets books sorted by relevance to your search words. Also Came Home Mysteries or Caleb Cove Mystery Series work to find my books. If you want to find books in a series you are reading, put the name of the series in the search bar without "the".

    Two other lists may show up under a book you bought. These are "suggested for you" because of your earlier purchases and "Customers who bought this item also bought." These help you find books similar to ones you've read and liked.
    Additionally, my descriptions contain words that tell the reader they are a "clean" read. That is, no gratuitous sex and no horrible, bloody murders and no f* bombs. However, stalking, kidnapping and the occasional "damn" might be included.

    Another category I'd like to highlight is "Canadian Mysteries" since mine are set in Canada. The first series is set on Nova Scotia's picturesque South Shore. My planned series will move to other provinces.


    My question: 

    If you read mysteries and look for them on digital sales sights (like Amazon, Kobo etc).

    What search words do you put in the search bar? 

    Thanks for participating.





    Sunday, April 24, 2016

    Do you go in caves?


    Underground, over the waves, or along the trail - visit 

      Nova Scotia's Inspirational South Shore

    The Atlantic coast line offers a multitude of shops, restaurants, sightseeing locations and beaches for visitors and locals alike. They inspired my layout and buildings for Caleb's Cove--the setting of my first series--The Caleb Cove Mysteries. Whether you are a spelunker, a cycle fan, or a water baby, there is something for you.

    Under the ground


    Caves play a big part in Book #3 - Came Home too Late due out in June 2016.

    Caves, islands and beaches line the shores of Nova Scotia and the South Shore has an abundance of all three. Tancook Island, featured in last week's blog in one of the islands. Below are two of the attractions that portrait the feeling and history of the area. Whether you want to go under ground or over the waves, this area offers something for all. If you want a more leisurely tour, try one of the several bike routes available.

    Hayes Caves Near Bridgewater, Nova Scotia


    "One of Nova Scotia's most interesting geological features, long known to local area teenagers, lies hidden in the gypsum cliffs of South Maitland: Hayes Cave. Hayes Cave is one of only two known caves Kris and I could find any information on, but what a doozy!" 



      (Both quotes  and picture are from TrailPeak's review of the Hayes Caves)
     
    "Exploring Hayes Cave made me wish there were more interesting places like this in the province-- off the beaten path. It helps to remind me that there is still plenty to see in Nova Scotia if you're willing to get dirty."


    The Ovens, Riverport, Nova Scotia

    The sea is a power beyond the comprehension of many. Over the decades the Atlantic ocean has carved caves into the cliffs at Riverport, Nova Scotia. Take the tour and experience the
    roar of the ocean and the power of waves.


    Browse the Shops 

    Stop along your way and browse for gifts for friends and memorable items for home. Stroll through the antique shops and stop for tea or ice cream in one of the shops. Chester and Mahone Bay offer a great selection of antique, art and gift stores.
     
     The Village Emporium gift shop is located at the corner of Queen & Pleasant Streets in the seaside village of Chester, Nova Scotia. Surrounded by an eclectic variety of local businesses, breathtaking scenery and friendly residents, we are proud to be a member of this thriving community.


    The Village Emporium
    11 Pleasant Street (Corner of Queen)
    Chester, Nova Scotia

    (FYI - You can buy my Caleb Cove Mystery books here.)



     
     Suttles & Seawinds

     466 Main Street, Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia

    This Nova Scotia outlet is one that I've liked for over three decades. Their items represent cottage industries and local crafts. Their story is inspirational. Check them out by clicking on their name above.

    Over the waves

     Creaser's Cover Boat Tours
    Riverport, Nova Scotia


      Start in historic Riverport, settled in the 1600's. Sail the ocean, search for whales and get a taste of salt air. Captain Tom Drake and crew are ready to take you sailing.

    "The "Sea 'U' Rattley" is a 43' Coastal Fishing Vessel, which was launched in September 1996. The vessel is equipped with state of the art communications, navigational and safety equipment which has been government inspected and approved. (Quoted from the Creaser's Cove Boat Tour Web site found by clinking on the name.)"

    On a bike...




    Bikers will enjoy the 119 km long Rum Runners Trail running from Halifax to Lunenburg.

     Find all you need to know at http://rumrunnerstrail.ca/ 

    or:
    Nova Scotia Bicycle Tours -Freewheeling Adventures



    WHAT'S YOUR CHOICE? Or would you like to try it all?




    Sunday, April 17, 2016

    Fictional World Building



    How to build a fictional world?

    1) Ask your characters what type of community they want.
    2) Find inspiration in places with ingredients your character likes.
    3) People the world with family, friends and enemies.
    4) Provide jobs on main street; homes on side streets; add beaches, parks or bowling allies as required
    5) Draw a map of the village or town.

    For Caleb's Cove, I looked to Nova Scotia's south shore islands, ocean-side markets and beaches. I sprinkled in hurricanes, boats, history and ghosts.

     Inspiration #1 - Greater TANCOOK ISLAND, Nova Scotia

    WORLD BUILDING - CREATING FICTIONAL COMMUNITIES

    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 Came Home Dead and Came Home to A Killing is a created community inspired by three real-life geographical locations including TANCOOK ISLAND.


    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.

    Inspiration # 1 - Tancook Island, Nova Scotia, Canada 


    Three 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.

    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 first published novel 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. To follow Tancook Island on FB for some great ocean shots, go to: Tancook Island on FB
    For more on Nova Scotia visit: Nova Scotia's South Shore.

    Sweeping his gaze from left to right Greg checked the altered sandy strip, the docks and the rocky protrusions. The waves still arched and crested against the land, splashing through gaps in the boardwalk and sucking back to display the damage. In the harbor beyond, white caps revealed the sea’s continued turmoil. The rhythmic roar and whoosh was primal. He’d wait for calmer seas before launching the dory even if she was designed for rough waters. And you? What are you waiting for?
    Tancook Island-dock in winter

    Came Home Dead 


    Readers, what location would you like to see in a book? 
    Writers, what location inspired a book setting for you?