Essays

Wolf’s Bane is here!

There were moments when I thought Wolf’s Bane would never come out. I started writing it in 2012, and it has gone through many rounds of beta-readings and even more rounds of rewrites, then proofreading, and followed by more tweaking since. I was determined that the book following The Purple Morrow would be as good as it could possibly be despite being an independently published book.

Why was producing this book such a challenge?

WolfsBane_Cover_2015_smashwords

There are a few reasons. Bane is my third completed novel but it is also the most complex one I’ve written to date. After having enjoyed building the world of Marathana so much, I wanted to explore it more fully and give readers more of a taste. This meant delving deeper into the various cultures and belief systems, creating new characters and people groups, exploring new terrain…no small challenge. As well, Bane is a bridge book, connecting the story’s beginning to its end, and it was a challenge to find the right story balance. Some betas felt there was too little back story, others that there was too much. And as the author, I didn’t want to give away all the secrets too soon, nor did I want to leave the story so bland that people wouldn’t want to advance to the final instalment. Finally, finding the right balance between my two main characters was tough. Morrow is Jeru’s story and Bane is Kelen’s, though both men are integral to each other’s lives, destinies, and the overarching storyline. It was a big challenge and I hope I did both characters justice.

Wolf’s Bane owes its existence to many people, and I will include them here. It’s been a long road to get here so if I forget someone please, please forgive me:

Beta Readers: Judith MacNamee, Authonomy’s Christian Lit Forum members, Zach Bonelli, T.A. Miles, Joshua Evans, Katie Cross, Bernard Cullen.

Thanks to my writing group for their support, enthusiasm and helping me feel that being indie is cool. And special shout out to Cora Siré, who gave me pointers on the poetic sections of the book.

To the Quebec Writers Federation for supporting local writers and for being an excellent resource over all (workshops, networking opportunities, etc.) It’s great to be around people who love writing so much.  

Thanks to William Bryan Miller for proofreading. He was quick, professional and on time!

To Phil Partington for keeping me grounded and for being a tireless listener (‘Being a writer is so hard!’). To Cairo Amani for having more infectious enthusiasm than anyone I know. And when it comes to editing, she’s almost as terrifying as Phil. To my super-talented sister Amy Hands for providing me with fantastic digital paintings of Jeru, and more recently, Bane’s  cover wolf in all its raging glory.

And to my family. Kids, you guys keep me motivated and I’m thrilled that you are proud of me. And to Sam Lampron, my super-supportive husband, for designing my book covers and for encouraging me to keep pursuing this ‘writing thing.’

Wolf’s Bane is available NOW at Smashwords and its affiliates. It is available now via Kindle on pre-order and for purchase as of Feb. 27, 2015.

 

Essays, Misc

Red Wine and a Side Order of Confidence, Please

There’s nothing quite like setting foot in a social function for triggering every insecurity I have in a span of 2 seconds flat. Last night, I got a taste of how far I had come in regards to self-confidence as well as a view of how far I still have to go.

Let me explain.

Last week, Deanna Radford from my writing group (a wonderful poet who’s into some really interesting edgy music) mentioned a cocktail party that was taking place on Feb. 16 at a local hotel. It was part of an event where sales reps from book publishers meet with local bookstores to do business, but a new feature—the cocktail—was added to allow writers the chance to mingle with these publishing superpowers. Though I’m not a fan of social gatherings of this kind, I am trying to figure out the Montreal writing scene and thought this would be a great chance to get a lay of the land, so to speak, and agreed to go. Honestly, I had no idea what I was walking into. I figured the event would be held conference-style in a hall where I could sip wine in a dark corner and recon the room. If things got too crazy, then I could slip out ninja-style and no one would be the wiser. But right from the start, I was confounded. The event was held in a penthouse and it was a small group, maybe 30-40 people. This meant I would be in close proximity to people. And OMG, people would see me and I would have to talk.

And then it happened: a very nice, talkative sales rep entered my bubble and asked the question I was not prepared for: ‘So what’s your book about?’

Now, I write all the time about characters sweating bullets when under stress, but this was the first time in a while that I can remember actually feeling sweat ‘trickling down my back’ and ‘pricking at my brow’. Note that it is a horrible, horrible…horrible…feeling. I literally stood there thinking: Do I give her a log line? Tag line? Short or long pitch? Or talk from the heart? The traffic jam in my brain led to nonsensical stuttering until something—I have no idea what–came out. Luckily, she was very understanding, and seeing that I was a genre writer and independent, she very kindly hooked me up with the manager of a popular local bookstore.

From www.beyondanxietyanddepression.com
From http://www.beyondanxietyanddepression.com

By then, I was more than thankful for the counter stocked with wine. Lots and lots of wonderful, red, nerve-soothing, brain-numbing wine. I made sure my cup was full. The fuller it was, the less I had to talk. Oh, and the food table also came in handy for that.

The evening trucked on. The wine kicked in. My brain settled down. I met some lovely writers, two of which I gave my business card to once they showed interest in what I was doing (writing and this blog). I chatted with reps from some of the big publishing companies, sat across an ottoman from the Harper Collins rep, and chatted with the rep from Penguin-Random House from across the dinning room table about the power of social media and how it has become an essential too to writers and publishers. I smiled and nodded, happy to learn that, in this regard, I seem to be on the right track. I walked away going, ‘I just talked to the rep from one of the biggest publishing houses in the country. Say what?!’

Talking about myself is the hardest thing to do, as I can’t imagine anything more boring to a listener than hearing about me. And being introduced as ‘a writer’ with ‘one published book and another on the way’ was hard to get used to, especially being independent amidst people working under the traditional model. I mean, I write and have published, but I don’t have a label backing me. Who can vouch for my legitimacy as a ‘writer’? But, I was lucky. I had two wonderful friends flanking me (Cora Siré, a fantastic writer and poet and one of the most intelligent women I know, and Deanna already mentioned above). They introduced me to publishers and other people deeply involved in the Montreal writing scene that they already knew, and their lead-ins made for smooth introductions. Not only that, they talked me up. Listening to them made me realize that I had done some interesting things–stuff I was proud of–that were worth talking about. This realization enabled me to smile wider, shake hands with more gusto, and greet people with greater ease (dare I say confidence?).

I left the evening with my head swirling. What did I really get out of the experience? How can I apply it to what’s happening in my writing life now? Here are two thoughts:

1) As in independent author, the evening itself wasn’t that useful. None of my books are published by any of the companies present nor will they appear in bookstores because of it (I’ve learned that many bookstores don’t accept independently published books unless they are backed by a label of some sort). However, Deanna noted that it’s important to put faces to names. One day, if I manage to successfully publish with a traditional company, or try to set up a reading or a book-launch or other event, these contacts just might come in handy.  

2) I learned that independent/self-published authors are making strides and are earning respect. Most of the time, when I stated that I had self-published, I detected what I thought were looks bordering on respect and interest. One seemed to appreciate that ‘going it alone’ gave me the chance to learn the ropes. Another rep admitted that indie publishing has its place and that it was a good thing that writers have more options than before. I hadn’t expected these responses but they were definitely welcome.

I think my point is this: being a lone writer and staying behind the desk might be comfortable, but we’ve known for a long time that the market is changing. Writers are expected to ‘get out there’ more than ever before. We are being called to understand and to participate in the business side of things, including marketing, promotion, and networking, things that don’t have anything to do with writing itself. It’s not comfortable, but it seems to be becoming a must. Did everything go smoothly last night? Nope. But I survived. It was scary and challenging, but the experience was invaluable. My suggestion? Try to get out there, see what you can learn from other writers, about the relationships between the movers and the shakers. Start with small events and go with good friends who have experience with this sort of thing who can help you out when you need it. And then feel good about stepping out of your comfort zone.

What are your thoughts? Do you find it hard to talk about yourself and your work? What do you do to get over it? Do you like these kinds of social functions? What do you think about writers being called to step into the forefront more and more often?