Inspiration from the Past

Yesterday I had the opportunity to decipher a letter written by one of my husband’s ancestors who was in California–a gold rush immigrant–to another family member. My husband remembered listening to his grandfather read the letter to him when he was a kid. The letter was blunt and to the point: “I regrett to write to you at this late date of the death of your father…”

The letter was written five years after the death of said father, and goes on to say that the father had been in debt and the letter writer needed money to clear the debts. It is a glimpse into writing style, family dynamics, and general life in the American west in 1887.

As I transcribed the letter, which has been nearly destroyed with age, all I could think of was what a gift it was. What an incredible source of writing material, and a beautiful starting point for a story.

After I read the transcribed letter aloud, my husband began to laugh. He asked to see my latest book. That story begins with a letter telling of the death of the main character’s father…

The letter had been the prompt for the story, and was written by my husband. Until he heard the historical letter read out, he hadn’t realised what had inspired his story prompt, but the tone and pacing were almost identical.

I’ve squirreled away the transcription, and expect I will bring it out again for inspiration some day. It makes me wonder what scraps of my own life might survive the years and inspire others long after I’m gone.

 

New Project Possibilities

With The Dragon Slayer’s Son published and the next novel in the editing stage, I’m excited to begin work on The Dragon Slayer’s Son‘s sequel.

A new project is all about possibilities. It’s like the beginning of a long hike; I’m prepared, fresh and ready to go. The entire landscape is spread out before me. I can see my destination, way over there, miles away.

At the beginning of a project, I don’t worry about all the treacherous downhills and uphill slogging I’m going to have to do to get to the end. I just see the spectacular scenery.

I can see in detail the first part of my task, and the way seems clear, the path well-marked. I wave my hand in the direction of my ending and say, “Then I’ll go that way.”

It’s beautiful and optimistic. I know it will end.

After thirty thousand words, I’ll suddenly find myself at the edge of a cliff, with no way down to the bottom because I’ve forgotten to pack a rope. After forty thousand words, I’ll realise I should have taken a different path altogether, because the one I’ve chosen has veered the wrong way. At sixty thousand words, I’ll see my goal within reach, but there will be nothing but an impossible climb between me and it.

I know all this is to come. I’ll plunge in momentarily, but I’ll stand here just a moment longer and enjoy the view.

Walk the Plank

The edits are done. It's ready to roll. Shh! Don't tell anyone!

The edits are done. It’s ready to roll. Shh! Don’t tell anyone!

Late last year I made the decision to independently publish my books. I had self-published a book early in the year, just to become familiar with the process. It was easy…except for the crucial step. Once my book was available for everyone to buy and read, I was suddenly not able to tell anyone about it. I’d done some promotion in the lead-up to publication, but once it was out there, I was absolutely petrified to advertise.

So along with the decision to self-publish the next two books, I made a New Year’s resolution. I was going to promote my books. I was going to make phone calls and personal visits to get my books into bookstores and libraries, get them into the hands of readers. I was going to blow my own horn and not be shy about it, because no one else was going to do it for me. This was marketing. People went to school to learn how to do it, so it must be learnable. I would learn to do it.

Yeah…right.

For two weeks, I’ve been agonising over a media release and press kit. I’ve been finding every reason not to send the information out, not to put it on my website.

Not that I think the marketing information I’ve prepared is in any way faulty. The writing of promotional material isn’t rocket science. It’s writing. I’m actually pretty good at that.

No, my problem is the same thing that made me freeze last year; the intense aversion I have to self-promotion. It’s not the fear that someone will read my books and not like them–that’s going to happen, for sure, and it doesn’t worry me. I don’t think it’s the fear that, even after a lot of promotion, no one will read my books. It’s a fear of the marketing process itself. The fear of saying, “Hey, I’ve created something I think you’ll really like. Something that’s worth your time and money.”

It should be easy–I like my books, and I think they are worth people’s time and money. But it is proving to be the single hardest aspect of writing for me.

I started writing because I needed a new challenge. I thought having enough ideas, staying focused on my task, putting words on paper would be the challenges. Little did I know…

I have made the resolution. I will do it. I’ll send out that promotional material. I’ll hand out my advertising bookmarks everywhere I go. I’ll make all those necessary phone calls. I’ll walk into those bookstores…

But one at a time. With sweaty palms and nervous smiles. It’s unlikely to be pretty. It’s sure to be less effective than I’d like. But my bold pirate self is standing on deck with a sword at my back, and the timid self (the one afraid of sharks) is going to have to walk that plank.

Escape the Heat

2017-03-02-15-12-14I love my office. The northeast and northwest walls are formed almost entirely by large sliding glass doors. I have sunlight in the office all day. On warm days I can throw open the doors and enjoy feeling like I’m working outdoors.

In winter, I rarely have to run my heater–even ten minutes of sunshine can heat up the room. The insulated and windowless south-facing walls keep the room cosy and draught-free, even in howling storms.

That’s all great…for most of the year…but when the outside temperature climbs above 30°C (86°F), all that sunshine becomes too much. No matter how nice the breeze through those open doors, sitting in the sun becomes unbearable. My attention starts to wander. My brain become sluggish. My hourly word count plummets. At some point I have to either give up work for the day or take it elsewhere.

A pool of shade, a grassy seat, and a clipboard, and I’m back in business. It’s officially autumn here, but it’s still hot enough to need to escape the heat. I’m looking forward to cooler days when I can appreciate my office again.

The Dragon Slayer’s Son–cover reveal

dragonslayer004d-smI’m thrilled to be able to reveal the cover of The Dragon Slayer’s Son–a middle-grade fantasy set in modern-day New Zealand…with dragons.

Nathan is shocked to learn that his father is dead, and even more shocked to learn that he died in the line of duty as a dragon slayer. Everything he thought he knew about his father was a lie. But he has no time to think about what it means before he is whisked away to the Alexandra School of Heroic Arts to train as his father’s successor.

At school, Nathan and his new friends soon learn:

Dragons are not what they thought.

Neither is the schoolmaster, Claus Drachenmorder.

And Nathan’s dad might not be dead…yet.

Nathan and his friends escape from school and embark on a journey through the mountains to find Nathan’s dad. To succeed, they will need to survive the dangers of the mountains, evade Drachenmorder’s henchmen, seek the aid of the dragons, and unravel an international ring of wildlife smugglers.

Coming soon to an online retailer near you…