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How to Meet Deadlines and Remain Sane

4 Apr

I meant to post these thoughts some time ago, but am only now getting around to it. Oh and by the way, this post was also posted over on http://fabulosityreads.blogspot.ca/2014/03/how-to-meet-deadlines-remain-sane-by_11.html#.Uz8L1VdnA2s. (A fabulous blog, true to its name!) Somehow I met the deadline for that… 😀

My name is Dianne and I am a procrastinator – a busy one, but nevertheless I am an authentic procrastinator. Image
Yet somehow I manage to work at a fulltime day job, assist Hot Stuff Hubby with a part-time endeavor, direct an annual 2 week stint of dinner theatre, take care of two very large yards year round, sit on three community boards, keep in touch with 6 grown children and dispense motherly wisdom on a daily, sometimes hourly basis (yes, I am, as well, a hovering helicopter parent with 30 plus years of experience), and I write novels. Sandwiched in between all of this big stuff is the little stuff – the “crack filler stuff” that holds my life together. (More on this later.)

 

Know this truism and Rule of The Universe: WORK EXPANDS TO FILL THE AMOUNT OF TIME ALLOTTED TO IT.

It always has and always will.

This is actually an unwritten law from the higher realms of Quantum physics. (C’mon, stick with me as I ramble on here – it will soon make sense, and you will be able to brag to your friends about your literary choices by casually saying something to the effect of, “Yeah, so I was reading this blog post on Quantum physics the other day ….” Now how impressive would THAT be?)

Model, Science, Mike, Symbol, AndrewBut I digress. It’s all about the energy not being able to be created or destroyed. Which means there will always be stuff to get done. Always. You will never get caught up. All the great minds in physics realize this. Just ask them – physicists like Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking. Ok, well maybe it’s too late to chat up ol’ Albert but Steve, if you’re reading this post, feel free to leave a comment at the end.    Science, People, Einstein, Cartoon The point of the Rule of The Universe is that in order to meet deadlines, you must put your tasks on The List (see point #1 below), and assign a start and stop time to each one. Do this and It. Will. Get. Done. The trick is to get through The List without bleeding every last drop of energy out of you.

Here’s how I manage to meet deadlines in view of the aforementioned rule, while remaining calm and a little bit shy of crazy:

1.Make THE LIST. Here’s how. Get a calendar. No, not just the one in your phone, although that’s a dandy way to get audible reminders of how much time you’ve got left. Get a paper one as well, or at least a piece of paper and write down the deadlines in the spaces of the appropriate days. Estimate, realistically, how many minutes/hours/days it will take you to do the task and, working backwards from the deadline date, write the start time down.

Oh, and seriously? Capturing all of the things/events/issues/meetings/promised outcomes on paper makes them much easier to keep track of. This in itself relieves an unbelievable amount of mental stress. You no longer have to attempt to lasso all of those thoughts and mental memos racing and banging around inside the old noggin, which is kind of like trying to herd an armload of cats into your car for a trip to the vet for yearly vaccinations. (Cats instinctively know what you’re planning. Think only kind thoughts towards them.)

Brown, Cat, Kitten, Kitty, Illustration

2.Stay focused and devote the time solely to the task at hand. You’ll be surprised at how quickly you finish something if you have only a set amount of time in which to do it, and you’ll be surprised at how good the wash of relief feels when you can tick a task off your list of things-to-be-done.

Ever get a phone call from friends who want to drop by in 15 minutes? Suddenly you can do the sink full of dishes, or at least hide them in the dishwasher, vacuum the cat hair off the couches, wipe the last meal’s crumbs from your kitchen counters, sweep the floors, toss the smelly bag of garbage into the outside can, and put your feet up, looking like you have nothing else to do for the evening, before the doorbell even rings. Under normal circumstances, those household tasks could have eaten up an entire afternoon.

Home, Education, People, Lady, Woman3.Break up overwhelming tasks into manageable bits and set a goal for yourself with a time limit. One hour. One day. Maybe one week, although that’s almost too big – it leaves lots of squirming room for those of us who have an issue with staying on task. Hoping to write your next novel and get it finished in this decade? (I speak from personal experience in trying to get Book Three in my Quintspinner Series done.) How about writing 100 words at every meal? That’s not asking a lot. How many times have you been asked to fill in an online form for your book and in doing so, must leave a 100 word description? All of a sudden 100 words fly onto the page in a matter of a few sentences, and before you know it, you’re OVER your allotted limit. (Take this #3 point for example. It’s 143 words up to this point, not counting this sentence. How easy was that?)

Pencil, Happy, Jumping, School, Writing4.Learn to say “No.” And practice saying it out loud. There IS a practical limit to how many tasks a non-super-human being can take on and still retain some semblance of sanity. Pass that limit, and unmet deadlines will fall by the wayside like heat-struck guards at the palace gates. 

Old, Sign, Stop, Office, People, Man

5.Set rewards for yourself, to be enjoyed at the end of tasks. Rewards are the crack-filler stuff that stops me from fragmenting. (See? I promised that I would get to this part.) Rewards can be as decadent as a glass of wine, some white chocolate, and a soak in the hot tub, or as practical as watching a favorite TV show, reading for pleasure, or indulging in a hobby.

Woman, Tan, Watering, Garden, Spring

However you choose to time-manage your commitments, make sure that they leave you with a feeling of enjoyment, or at least some level of satisfaction upon completion.  Otherwise it’s just an expenditure of energy on matter that doesn’t matter. But that’s another lecture on a subset of Quantum physics, best saved for another time. I’d love to hear from you on how you effectively meet YOUR deadlines.  Now go get that calendar.

School, Black, Notebook, Icon, Note

IT’S THE MARCH BOOK FRENZY!! YES, INDEEDY!

27 Mar

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Well the blog hop has begun and it runs until Sunday, March 30th! Your help sharing the March Book Frenzy would be greatly appreciated. Tell your friends!
This March Book Frenzy is brought to you by http://fabulosityreads.blogspot.ca/Image

FOR MORE INFORMATION ON THE  FREE AND DISCOUNTED BOOKS YOU SEE ON THE BANNER PLEASE REFER TO THIS BOOK CATALOG.

 

There’s also A WONDERFUL GIVEAWAY:

 

FOR READERS $35, $25 and $20CashPLUS2 eBooks from each author. Refer to the BOOK CATALOG Giveaway Link: March Book Frenzy (Readers)

FOR PARTICIPATING BLOGGERS ONLY

2 X $20 Cash Giveaway Link (Bloggers ONLY): Bloggers Giveaway

Increase your chances to win by visiting as many of the blogs on the book tour as possible. (Find the list of participating blogs by clicking here). Here’s a list of all of the stops: http://new.inlinkz.com//luwpview.php?id=375044.

Why not click around and visit these blog sites? Such a selection! And all of them are full of really great reading suggestions. The hosts have a huge collection of posts from authors, as well as many, many book reviews.

I’ve started things off for the tour with a post about 10 things that I wish I had known before I became an author. It’s been a steep learning curve and I probably could have had a list three times longer….

If you are like me – multitasking, trying to keep my head above water while tending to all of the bazillion things that threaten to pull me under while competing for my time and attention – well, I’m left with the attention span of a fruit fly. Therefore, I have added the post in it’s entirety below. (one less click step for you!)  Here goes:

10 Things I Wish I Had Known Before I Became An Author

 

  1. Some people write just for themselves. (Drawers full of scribbled down short stories and poems for-your-eyes-only anyone?) These people are writers. Not authors. There IS a difference. The author part is where you do the hard work that is required to get the story or poem ready for judgment by the rest of the world, and then succeed in doing so. Writers write for the joy of capturing thoughts down on paper or screen. Authors do this too, but hope to make a living at it. Most writers secretly long to become authors.
  2. Telling the story is the easy part. Then comes the hard part of editing, rewrites, cover design, and marketing your product.
  3. Writing to make money is a business. There are costs involved and hopefully, monies earned. You do not have to spend a fortune to get a good quality book out there (although some have) but you probably DO need to pay for some services such as book cover design (if you don’t have a fantastic, eye-popping cover, it will never be noticed at thumbnail size. I hire Derek Murphy at http://bookcovers.creativindie.com/ to do the book covers for my Quintspinner series. Treat yourself to seeing some amazing book covers over on his site). The Internet provides groups to join professionally (http://allianceindependentauthors.org/ ) and lists places to get answers to questions about “how-to” for most things related to publishing a book and becoming an author. Other jobs, such as proper formatting can be hired out at a reasonable cost, to people who will make sure that it’s done properly. End result? You will have a great product to sell. Do not skimp on the quality.
  4. You MUST embrace technology. You cannot get away from using it and it will be a steep learning curve. If, like me, you are somewhat of a computer troglodyte, learn what you can on your own, and then hunt down a teenager who, for the price of some weekend beer money, will teach you how to upload, download, resize jpg’s, start a blog and a Facebook page, etc. They have grown up with this stuff. They’re really, really good at it. Pretend the money you’re paying them is going toward their university savings.
  5. You should have a plan. Several of them actually. A plan for your book’s plot. A marketing plan for your book’s introduction to the world. A financial plan for your expenditures. Do not do any of these by the seat of your pants.
  6. Word of mouth is still the most effective (and cheapest) way to get your book out there in front of hopefully thousands of pairs of readers’ eyes, and without a doubt, book bloggers are the best way to spread the word about your book. They connect with a built-in audience of readers. Book bloggers are an author’s BEST avenue of book discovery.
  7. Most of your friends and family members will abandon you after the novelty of your first book wears off and you have not immediately been invited to be a guest sitting and chatting on Oprah Winfrey’s couch. See the next point.
  8. Writing is a solitary occupation and it is vitally important to make connections with other writers. Preferably those who are authors. Not only will they have advice about formatting issues, royalty statements, Amazon algorithms, and be able to offer encouragement to you when you are full of self-depreciating thoughts (Why can’t I write the next BIG THING? Why do I continue with this?), but they will completely understand your need for a glass of spiced rum and coke and a bowl of chips and dip to get the creative juices going. (Hey, I am writing a pirate series after all.)
  9. The pathway to authorship will become littered with sacrifices. It’s a demanding career choice and it does not willingly share your time with anything or anyone else in your life. Got time to watch a season’s worth of your favorite TV show? Nope. Spend a few hours on a lazy afternoon reading for pleasure? Not likely. Want a weekend to work on [insert your favorite hobby here]? Not going to happen. You will be hunched and crunched over your keyboard, eyes nervously flickering over your accumulated word count, as the sounds of your family’s laugher floats over your head from the family room elsewhere in your home.
  10. This is the most important point of all and if I had known this, it would have made the journey of writing my first book so much easier: the heart-pounding, intense thrill of seeing your book available for sale online for the very first time, or better yet, holding it as a physical copy in your hands, makes all of the above WORTH IT. Every lonely, frustrating, exciting, wonderful, challenging minute of it. I really wish I’d known this from the start. Wouldn’t have gone through quite so much spiced rum, I expect Cheers!

MULTIPLE AWARD WINNER including B.R.A.G. Medallion Winner, Best
Historical (Reader Views, NIEBA), Best YA (Writer’s Digest, Hollywood
Book Festival), Best Commercial Novel (Eric Hoffer), Book of the Year
(Foreword Reviews)

 
Even in the year 1717, one month, one week, or one day, can make all the difference in the world.
 
One month ago, Tess Willoughby was the daughter of a well-to-do physician in London, and she witnessed the murder of an old seer. Coming into possession of the dead woman’s odd ring – an ancient Spinner ring, known by the locals as the Ring of Prophesy, she was wrongly accused by her father of having stolen the ring.
Three weeks ago, by her father’s arrangement for the family, she became an unwilling passenger on a merchant ship bound for the pirate-infested waters of the Caribbean.
Two weeks ago, at her father’s insistence, she became forcibly betrothed to a man who she recognized as being the seer’s murderer – a man who covets her only for her ring.
One week ago, she met a sailor and experienced the thrill of being in love for the first time.
Two days ago, she realized that such a secret love would endanger them both, and, heart-broken, she was forced to choose her loyalty. 
Yesterday, her fiancé betrayed her during a pirate attack and those she loved were slaughtered.
Today, she is plotting to save her own life and perhaps to take his in retribution. The ring is urging her to decide quickly…
 
Tomorrow will be too late.
 
 
 
Born and raised on the Canadian prairies, Dianne Greenlay is the author of the hilarious story, THE CAMPING GUY, as well as QUINTSPINNER – A PIRATE’S QUEST and DEADLY MISFORTUNE, Books One and Two in a fast-paced award – winning adventure series, set in the 1700’s, in the pirate-infested waters of the West Indies. Greenlay is also a playwright, producer, and Creative Director of the long-running community theater group, Darkhorse Theatre. She is fluent in at least her mother tongue and she thanks her fierce English teachers for that. More of her thoughts on life can be found at www.diannegreenlay.com.

Connect With Dianne Here:

More of Dianne’s books on her AMAZON page.
Follow her on TWITTER.

 

Damn Fine Stuff!

25 Mar

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I once had an old aunt who, in her youth had been quite a fire cracker. Years later, in the twilight of her life, she was still a confident, opinionated, and quite deaf old gal, but a bundle of entertainment to be around.

Most notably, she had a signature expression of everything that was to her liking, as being “Damn fine stuff” – as in music she liked: “Now that’s damn fine music!”, or in a sip of the ol’ medicinal: “Now that’s a damn fine drink!”, or (my favorite) in judgment of a particular lifeguard’s overall build: “Now that’s a damn fine piece of beautiful walking past us right there!”

Like I said, she was deaf, not blind…

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She passed away at the end of March several years ago, and I can’t help but think of her at this time of year, and so, in borrowing her phrase, I’d like to introduce you to some Damn Fine Stuff.

It just so happens that I am a part of the eNovel Author March Book Frenzy.  It’s an 8 author multi-blog (55 stops at last count, yup – NOT a typo. Fifty-five stops) that is running this week, March 27th through to March 30th. There are several amusing and revealing posts by the authors, book give-aways, and contests with cash prizes to be entered into. Here’s the link: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/share-code/YTQ1NWM3Zjk2MGMzZTg0ZThhYTIzYWJlNDcwMWUxOjI3/

You can find details for all of this incredibly Damn Fine Stuff here: http://fabulosityreadsbookpromotions.blogspot.ca/p/enovel-authors-march-book-frenzy.html

And free and give-away and cash is always good, isn’t it?

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G’wan. Check it out. You know you wanna’… (Did I mention it was FREE stuff??)

Oh, and by the way, here is one of those entertaining author posts by yours truly ( a little bit of personal history in it) http://fabulosityreads.blogspot.com/2014/03/10-things-i-wish-i-had-known-before-i.html

Hope to chat with you somewhere along the blog hop! –Dianne

What I Live For

9 May

Today I’m taking part in ‘What I Live For’, an online event organized by author Satya Robyn. People like me all over the world will be sharing what gives their lives meaning. In Satya Robyn’s novel ‘Thaw’, Ruth gives herself three months to decide whether she can find a reason to carry on living. There’s 75% off the kindle version today (99p / $1.49) – you can read more here: http://www.satyarobyn.com/?page_id=56 .

And here are my thoughts on the subject of “What I Live For”.

I come from a dysfunctional family. At the time of growing up, there was no such term. I certainly wasn’t the only kid in school to come from a less than stellar background, but mine, in my younger years,  made me shy and insecure. I developed a tough exterior out of a need to survive, but I was always afraid that someone would find a chip in my armor and destroy the frightened little girl inside. Eventually I came to realize that I was OK. Each morning, the sun still came up, and each day I gained confidence in myself.

 My father was a workaholic, holding down a full-time real estate seller’s job, farming a small farm, and playing in a local band on weekends. He was also someone whose friends and social status was of much more importance to him that the feelings and needs of his family members were. The only time he really paid any attention to my brother and to me was to administer discipline at the end of his work day, for any infractions that we had done.

My mother was a severe alcoholic – so much so, that by the time I was the age of 12, I could no longer bring any friends home to play at our house after school, as Mom would be fall-down drunk and snarly. She was a demanding woman when she was sober, and a pugilistic one when drunk.

My brother was four years younger than myself, and I learned to “mother” at a very early age.

However, I outline these details, not to have a pity party but to rejoice in having grown up in such a family situation, because it has made me the person that I am today, and for that I am extremely grateful.

Yes. Grateful for that home life. How can that be? Well, it afforded me the environment in which to learn so much. As the popular poster says, “Children learn what they live.” In a way, that one wouldn’t probably expect, here’s what I learned:

  1. I became an excellent student. If I had 97%, I was not praised, but expected to have a reason for having lost those 3 marks. I still, to this day, strive to be the best that I can be, in all of my interests.
  2. I learned to cook. To do laundry. (Um, to drive underage.) To do my own banking. To administer simple first aid. These things I am grateful for, for I not only learned to cope, but began to thrive in all kinds of new or difficult situations.
  3. I learned of the damage that emotions can do, and resolved to not become embroiled in the inner struggles of others around me. Their wars are not mine. I now consciously decide where to spend my mental energies.
  4. I learned of the extraordinary feeling of bliss that loving one’s own family evokes. I now “mother” a blended family of six, and I do not think that I would have or could have appreciated how wonderful this family that I have is, had I not had the flip side to compare it to.
  5. My brother, who felt more like a child to me than a brother, passed away on his thirty-fifth birthday. He left me with so many happy memories of him (he had a deadly sense of humor that I miss most of all), but even with his passing, I have come to learn the incredible lesson that some people come into your life just to teach you how to let go.
  6. I wake each morning, grateful for all that I have, excited to see what my day holds for me, and I close my eyes at the end of each day, reviewing all that had been given to me.

And so, “What I Live For” is the opportunity to continue to experience all that life has yet in store for me, good and bad, frightful and restful, familiar and new. It is the purr of the feral cat who has decided that I am to be trusted, the whirr of the wings of the flock of birds who take flight at my advance, it is the comments of people that my writing has put me in touch with all over the world, it is the sunshine on my face, it is the excitement and sometimes the sadness that I hear in friends’ voices, and it is the feelings of love and contentment that catch me off-guard and pour over me at unexpected moments, filling me with the most joyous energy.

It is all part of my journey and I cherish it.

 Satya’s novel, “Thaw”, the story of a woman’s life choices, is available here: http://www.satyarobyn.com/?page_id=56 . Treat yourself to the pleasure of reading. Enjoy.

Happiness is a large fuzzy puppy at your side.

Happiness is a large fuzzy puppy at your side.

Friends and a Book Review

15 Mar

The Camping GuySee these two guys in this picture? Well, they are Earl, an experienced outdoorsman, and Johnson, a hapless city slicker, who end up spending a weekend camping together. Guess which one is which? If you care for a bit of a laugh, you can read their story here: http://amzn.to/WBQT4x Here’s the description:

“I opened my business magazine, and that’s when I saw the ad.

Executive De-stressing. Get away from it all.

Guided one-on-one wilderness camping.

Our motto is “If you’re not living on the edge,

You’re taking up TOO MUCH ROOM!”

Call Earl – the Camping Guy!

So I did, and I signed up on the spot. I’d never been camping before. I was really looking forward to it and Earl – well, Earl, he was quite the guy.”

Reminiscent of television’s and theater’s The Odd Couple, The Camping Guy follows the misadventures of Earl, an experienced woodsman, and Johnson, his inept city slicker client, as they spend a camping weekend in the wilds of the Rockies. What was intended to be a de-stressing weekend soon turns into a distressing one, as these two mismatched campers find themselves engaged in unintended and hilarious situations.

 Male bonding has never been more funny, nor more dangerous!

(For those of us with short attention spans, here’s that link again: http://amzn.to/WBQT4x)

And still on the topic of friends, I have a lot of friends.

Well, that is to say, I’m talking about my virtual ones. Not unlike the imaginary ones of one’s childhood, I suppose, but this time, these are real people – virtual only in that they are my online friends. Social media allows, nay, DEMANDS this. Somewhere in this vast wonderful world, these friends of mine, they walk, talk, write stories, and blog. It’s a whole new world out there, folks. And the wonderful thing is, these people are interesting, lovely, funny, obnoxious at times, but mostly genuine and caring. And I’m all of the above, right back atcha’! So from time to time I read my friends’ books. And although I have an opinion on most things that I read (don’t we all?) on occasion, (like now) I also have the time and mental energy to write a review.

Shame on me.

I should be leaving a written review on everything that I have read and enjoyed. (You see, I don’t have the spare time to spend on those that I haven’t enjoyed – in fact I probably didn’t even finish reading anything that I didn’t enjoy.)

But these days I am making an attempt to actually read through my WTBR pile (“waiting to be read”) and so today I am sharing with you, the following review of Seumas Gallacher’s THE BLOGGER’S GUIDE TO ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. It’s a goody! (His book, I mean, not my review…) and you can purchase it here: http://amzn.to/WtKLhO

Mr. Gallacher’s “Guide” is a collection of his blog posts, expounding on his views about the world of writing. He covers topics from writing rules (splitting an infinitive, anyone?) to conventional wisdom on marketing (just go for it!) to the experience of being in Face Book jail. Each blog is set within the imaginary framework of an insane asylum, his premise being that writers are all a wee bit crazy, and each post ends with Matron’s imminent arrival (I became quite fond of the old gal by the end of the book.)

Self-described as an “old Luddite” and a “crazy Scotsman”, I would add the adjectives of “witty, sarcastic, and a joy to read”, but especially “prolific”. (He aspires to write a minimum of 3 blogs per week, as well as continuing to churn out best-selling novels and successfully marketing the hell out of them. Go Seumas!)

My favorite musings of this clever word smith is the post in which he mirthfully describes acquiring his computer skills (Computer Hell for Dummies.) As one who began my own journey into writing and publishing not knowing how to even cut and paste, I loved this selection.

All in all, this Guide is clever, sassy, and downright enjoyable. Every word of it. Buy it. Read it. Laugh out loud till your cheeks hurt. Oh, and watch out for Matron….

A 12 Step Program for Authors

3 Mar

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Hello, my name is Dianne Greenlay( remember me from my last post, way back, last fall?) and I am a techno-nimcompoop.

Well, I have just released another novel (released three new books, actually, but more about that further on.) and I have not been gone far, just been quietly in the background, soaking up all of the good advice from other authors’ blogs. And now it’s time to pay back.

One of the topics that is often discussed in the online world of authors is whether KDP Select has lost its effectiveness or not. I have used KDP’s free days twice in the past for my novel, QUINTSPIINNER  http://amzn.to/SvbVyx and had lukewarm success with that. There were 2100 downloads the first time and slightly less than that the second time. These results may have been due to my aforementioned state of nincompoopedness about such things, or maybe the type of story (but who, I ask you, who wouldn’t be interested in an edge-of-your-seat historical action novel with some hot romance thrown in?)However, never one to say “Whoa” in a tough spot, I have just come off of a two day promo ( my remaining 2 days) and THIS time I had over 14,000 downloads of QUINTSPINNER, and for the time it was free, it ranked #1 in the Free list for Fantasy, #3 in romance, #3 in action/adventure, #1 in Sea Adventures, and #1 in Teens. In view of this, I offer to share the following:

What I did:

  1. Read about successful authors and their thoughts on their blogs, like Debbie Young http://offtheshelfbookpromotions.wordpress.com/2013/02/21/how-to-sell-more-books-write-more-books/ and those who had amazing numbers of downloads with KDP (ie Martin Crosbie, BEST-SELLING author of MY TEMPORARY LIFE http://bit.ly/13yMhDE) , and Joel Friedlander’s one stop shopping advice blog Carnival of The Indies  http://bit.ly/XMMgs1 , and I often asked their advice.
  2. Followed said advice (mostly). I looked up an extensive list that had been passed on to me, of links to promo sites, and made my own list of notes as to which ones would be a good fit. Some sites require at least eighteen 4 and 5 star reviews (had that J), some require a couple of weeks’ lead time while others only a day or two.
  3. I did a promo push about 2 weeks before my KDP days, registering my free days on a mixture of free exposure sites, and also spending $150 on the paid-for sites. Some of this money went towards booking a couple of upcoming paid-for spots for book two in the Quintspinner series, DEADLY MISFORTUNE http://amzn.to/SvbVyx .
  4. Tweeted and retweeted the free announcement and links over the two days, probably annoying everyone of my twerps, but what the heck – I really wanted to make this work.
  5. Checked my download numbers compulsively. (I am a great believer in the power of positive thinking and I think I may have actually willed the numbers to keep going up.)

What I didn’t do:

  1. I didn’t do much Facebook connecting. I know there are many lovely and kind authors out there but it seems that most of my FB connections are just that – authors, not readers – and we all try to buy each other’s books, but really, my Kindle is nearly maxed out with books that I struggle to find the time to read, and I’m sure that I’m no exception (in between my day job, my writing time, and book marketing time, reading time for myself is a very guilty pleasure these days).
  2. I didn’t blog (it had been so long since I had been on my own blog that I forgot the darned username/password combo.)
  3. I didn’t have an email list. This is one thing that EVERYONE says is a “must-do” so I hopefully will have one built up for next time. (If you are reading this, there’s a ‘follow me’ button on the right hand side of this page. Go on. Sign up. You know you wanna’ …)

What I should have done:

  1. See afore-mentioned email list.
  2.  I wished that I had had more consecutive days to run the promo, but I didn’t want to commit to another 90 days with Amazon exclusively. The number of downloads built slowly at first, but rose faster, the longer I was into the 2 day promo. I wonder what the final numbers would have been if I had run it for 3 or even 5 consecutive days. I would recommend trying a long stretch of being free.
  3.  I wanted to change my book’s description through Author Central but couldn’t do it during the promo (system won’t let you). It did let me edit when the promo was over (better late than never I guess) and I added what I thought was a more engaging and intriguing style of description, and I also broke the former description into 3 smaller paragraphs. Way more inviting to the eye.

What I’m going to do:

  1.  I’m going to drop a quick thank you note to all of those who tweeted and posted on my behalf, even to those whom I paid (Hey, I’m Canadian. We’re polite to a fault.)
  2.  (Baker’s dozen here) I am going to move on. This means promoting my one act script (it’s a comedy) A One Act Script and short story form of THE CAMPING GUY Short Story Version in a new genre for me (humor) and get busy writing the final book (Book Three) in the Quintspinner series. Hit those links and maybe have a gander, would ya? (I said I was polite but not necessarily humble…)

Next post, later this week: I will post all of those clickable links that I used in my promo, for you. Right here. I promise.

Deadly Misfortune Chapter 6 preview

26 Sep

Chapter Six

Cassie shook and moaned. The fever had left for the moment and she shivered uncontrollably. Her fierce headache threatened to explode inside her skull. She wanted only to slide back into a deep sleep but annoyingly, someone was propping her upright and pouring a liquid into her mouth. Its bitterness made her wretch. She squinted at the blurry face above her.

Tess. She might have known. Tess, her sister, the healer. The liquid tasted like poison, and Cassie mumbled out an accusation. “What is this stuff? You’re trying to finish me off, aren’t you?”

“Drink it.” Tess was firm. “It’s Mambo’s tree bark medicine. She’s made some for everyone with the fever.”

“I’d rather die of the fever than take one more swallow of that!” Cassie hissed through clenched teeth as she turned her head away.

“You might get your wish. Mambo says it’s the swamp fever. She says the fever will weaken you and Nathaniel will die.”

“What?” Cassie’s eyes opened wide in alarm. “I don’t feel that sick!”

Tess looked uncomfortable. “Mambo says Carlos’s spirit will take over your body and then claim his son’s.” Tess rested her hand on the raised brand on Cassie’s arm. “She says it’s Carlo’s brand. That his spirit is linked to you and her through it.”

Cassie rolled her eyes in disgust. “He’s dead! Dead is dead! Tess, you can’t really believe her!”

Tess only shrugged her shoulders. Seeing that, Cassie knew Tess would not be drawn into an argument with her. Besides there were the three spinner rings that Tess wore. Supposed powers of prophesy, healing, and persuasion. What had initially seemed to be only the irrational ramblings of a dying woman had since played out to be a series of eerie coincidences beyond explanation.

“You have a duty to stay alive for Nathaniel, if nothing else,” Tess gently reminded her. At the mention of her son, Cassie locked eyes with Tess once more, than reluctantly opened her mouth to accept the bitter liquid. She swallowed hard to keep it down. “Well if we’re dabbling in spirits and potions, you might as well give that emerald ring of yours a spin for my health, and Nate’s, and I suppose for this other little fellow’s, too.”

Cassie’s son, Nathaniel. Cassie had never dreamed she could feel so strongly, or would ever feel so much love, for anyone until she’d had her child. And Samuel Smith, her husband, loved the boy as if he were his own. She was grateful for that. An arm’s length away, little Nate stirred in his woven-frond basket. Cassie smiled. It was as though he knew she was thinking of him. In spite of her fever, Cassie had not lost her milk, and her breasts, swollen and warm, reminded her it was time to nurse him. She didn’t purposefully play favorites, but made sure that he had his fill before nursing the orphan.

“Tess, lift him over to me, would you?” Cassie looked forward to lying with Nathaniel in her arms. It was such a peaceful few minutes for them and–

The doorway darkened as a large body filled it. All hopes for peace and quiet vanished, as Cassie looked up to see Emma entering, with her usual grand smile stretched even bigger from cheek to cheek.

“Tch, tch, what kind of worry-look is that now?” Emma Lancaster clucked to Cassie. “You’re wonderin’ if you’ll be able to continue to feed the extra wee one, aren’t ya’, me darlin’?” Without waiting for a reply, she carried merrily on, “Course ya’ can! An’ if ya’ don’t believe that, just think about why God thought it proper to give us two apple-dumplin’s on our chest, instead of just one big kettledrum right square in the middle!”

She smiled at Cassie. “It just takes some rearrangin’ of the babes at their mealtimes, that’s all. An’ be sure to be tradin’ sides every other feed so’s ya stays balanced!” Having finished dispensing her wisdom for the moment, she scooped up the newest baby into the air and then clasped him to her shoulder, clapping him gently until he emitted a gurgly burp.

Or maybe it was wet bubbles from the other end, Cassie thought, in which case I’m glad someone else is holding him.

***

Smith and William eavesdropped from outside the hut. “He sure is scrawny, that new one, ain’t he?” Smith remarked.

William nodded in agreement. “Will she be able to feed two?” he whispered and tipped his head in Cassie’s direction.

“I dunno,” his friend responded, shrugging his shoulders and frowning. “What choice does she have, but to try? Just so long as my Nathaniel don’t suffer none.” The confusion Smith was feeling was plainly carried in his words.

“Well I guess ….” William’s voice trailed away. How would I feel if Tess had another–  He shook his head What am I thinking? We don’t even have one.

Scalding resentment flared up inside of him again. Tess had been ignoring his advances–sometimes outright rejecting them–and that piqued William even more. His family had been brutally torn from his life. The deep emptiness that he carried around could only be filled by starting a family of his own. Having lost most of her own family, surely Tess could understand that.

He and Tess were as safe now as any could predict. They needed to carry on. Tess would not have her grandmother with her forever. She would need more family, as he did. His forehead furrowed. And what is so wrong with wanting a family of our own anyway? Tess is so busy spending her time tending to everybody else’s needs–what about mine?

He knew Tess was tired. The fever sickness had afflicted nearly two dozen of the camp’s small population, and Tess’s medicinal powders and tinctures from the ship had been lost in the hurricane, leaving her with only her emerald ring to use with the sick.

He’d seen the power of the ring. On board the ship, her treatment results had been nothing short of miraculous when she’d spun the emerald bands around her finger, but here in the hidden confines of the Maroon’s encampment, there were many sick ones all at once, with a variety of conditions, some familiar, and some of unknown strangeness. The continuous demands for healing meditations were exhausting her.

Maybe she just needs more rest. Or maybe when she learns more about the medicines here in the jungle, she’ll relax. He sighed. Tess wouldn’t even talk to him about it. Whatever had brought about her disinterest in him, William had no choice but to wait it out.

Or so he thought.

Deadly Misfortune – Chapter 2 preview

28 Aug

Chapter Two

There were many ways to die on an island. Boredom was surely one of them and Tess had thought it would be a most terrible way to die.

Until now. Now she was sliding though slime-coated water in which, she was sure, lurked invisible horrors.

The hand-gutted canoe, being nothing more than a fired and carved out rotting log that she and the three others sat in, floated low, its gunwale dangerously close to the swamp water’s surface. The opaque water through which William and Smith paddled was a thick, sludgy green, and the canoe left a dark cleft in the algae layer as it slid along the swamp’s edge.

It had been decided that the four of them would go. Mambo, the Maroon’s priestess, would navigate their way overland, from the camp down to the foul-smelling swamp and the waiting canoe. The two young men, respective mates of Cassie and Tess, would be needed to push, paddle, and steer the craft, and Tess had insisted in coming along, desperate to free herself from the boredom that she loathed.

Tess gazed at her husband, William, who sat in front of her. They had been together for a few months on this island, dirty and hungry most of the time, but if anything, life here had improved William’s appearance. His sun-bleached locks glistened in a mass of unruly curls mostly refusing to be held back in a loose plait of sorts that laid down the back of his neck. His shoulders and torso were tanned to a dark caramel and were etched with the contours of hard muscle. Only the jagged white strips of his whipping scars broke up the broad expanse of his back.

His eyes are just as blue as the day we met, though. Tess smiled to herself, remembering how polite William had been in the presence of her overbearing father. And she remembered how attracted she had been to the young press-ganged sailor even then. He’s changed since then, she nodded, but then so have I. She no longer wore her thick copper waves in a left sided plait. The birthmark on her neck – an acorn shaped brown mark with a trail of tiny teardrops beneath it–had been a thing of shameful imperfection to her family, but it did not have to be kept hidden here on the island.

Now she watched the muscles in his arms ripple in a smooth dance under his skin as he poled their precarious and quite water-logged vessel along. She had the sudden urge to reach out and touch those arms but at the last moment, the presence of the other two people made her blush with embarrassment that she’d even had the thought of doing so.

Instead she closed her eyes and let the sunshine splash down on her face and she replayed another use for those powerful arms. In her mind, they were wrapped around her, one hand locked in her hair and the fingertips of the other trailing so lightly down her neck and onto the small of her back that her skin buzzed with excitement. Her breathing deepened as his hand slid deliciously further down–

“Tess!” William had twisted around and was smiling his dazzling smile. “This is no time to fall asleep. Look!” He pointed straight ahead. Startled, Tess blinked and then stared. The canoe had stopped. Tess stiffened with alarm and sucked in a breath.

Twenty-five feet away, life and death played out before them. Crouched on an overhanging branch, two tree-dwelling rodents munched contentedly on the leaves of their chosen tree. Cat-sized and covered with coarse brown fur, the plump hutias seemed oblivious to the danger that had gathered in the watery mess of mangrove roots below them.

The attack came with stunning fierceness and speed. Without warning, a crocodile exploded from the water and, launching itself upward, snapped at the branch, narrowly missing its target. Beside it, a second reptile burst out of the turbid water and seized a doomed hutia, crashing back into the mucky liquid below, with the rodent captured and crushed in its tooth filled mouth.

The first crocodile leapt again, having re-estimated the branch’s height, and its eight foot long scaly body was propelled into the air by the enormous strength of its tail. Like its companion, the croc splashed back into the swamp, this time its bloody jaws full with its intended victim. In only a moment more, the two crocodiles and hutias sunk from view, the marshy water’s surface closing over them.

Sweet Jesus! Tess’s heart pounded in her chest. And we’re here to collect crocodile teeth! Why on earth does Mambo think that Cassie is in greater danger from a pirate’s spirit than we are from these ravenous, horrible creatures? And a dead pirate at that! Thank God, Cassie didn’t come! She doesn’t have the stomach for something like this.

Cassie, Tess’s adopted sister, had stayed behind at the hidden Maroon camp, high up in the island’s mountainous interior. Tess couldn’t blame her. Being a pirate’s captive as Cassie had been, had destroyed her sister’s confidence. Had nearly destroyed her life. Besides this was no place for a baby and Cassie never let her son out of her sight.

He has marked us both. Only something stronger can protect can protect from such evil, Mambo had insisted. It was either cut the pirate’s brand from both Cassie’s and Mambo’s arms so that they could not be tracked by the pirate captain’s spirit, now that he was no longer tied to a physical body, or wear an amulet containing the crocodile’s teeth which would hold a power greater than the brand. And Mambo was taking no chances on the pirate’s spirit tracking her and Cassie down.

Such strange beliefs. Tess shook her head. But who am I to judge? She glanced at her left hand at the three spinner rings that she wore. All of them had been fashioned by long ago forgotten crafters, to have moving bands or spinning parts. The one with blue tourmalines supposedly brought on prophetic visions, the emerald spinner healed in ways that were beyond normal explanation, and the third ring, the one with tiny ruby encrusted vanes was the ring of persuasion. That one had been the one she had obtained– no, taken–from Edward, but the words that he had used to activate the ring as he spun it had died with him.

The canoe bumped against something and Tess was brought back to the moment. She lashed out, groping for a handhold in the canoe. God! I hate being on water! She felt her chest tighten. I don’t think I can stand this much longer. I hope Mambo knows what she’s talking about.

The African priestess had explained that the “cocodrilo” as she called them, constantly shed their teeth–the crocodile teeth would be easy to find and collect from bits of logs and roots, or perhaps would have washed up along the swamp’s margin–but she hadn’t gone into detail about the giant reptiles’ actual presence. Tess thought that she would have rather taken her chances being back with the pirates. At least they were only six feet in length.

But now her chest was aching with apprehension and remorse. Nothing, in her short life of nearly eighteen years, not even in her wildest imagination, could have prepared her for this situation. She tightened her grip in an effort to control the shaking she felt and she snapped her head around to speak to Mambo.

“What in the hell have you gotten us into?” Swiveling around to face forward, she pleaded, “William! Please get us out of here!”

White knuckled, William poled the canoe slowly forward, his paddle being no more than a long branch. “Tess, sit still. We really don’t want to capsize.”

“Closer.” Mambo pointed to a half-submerged log to their right.

The log had an indent in its midsection. A large indent. Bumping along side of it, the canoe tipped to one side as Mambo leaned over to run her hand along the log’s surface.

“Hah!” Mambo cried out. “Cocodrilo bite here,” she explained.

She pulled and tugged, digging at the log’s depression with her fingertips. Water slopped over the canoe’s edge, pooling along its bottom. Tess looked down, horrified to see small, undulating bodies in it.

“Can we please go? There are worms in this water!” she shrieked, scrambling to raise herself up out of the collected water. It was one thing to plant fly maggots in wounds to harvest decaying and dead flesh, which, when he was alive, she had once helped her physician father do, and quite another to purposely sit with one’s unprotected bottom amongst a colony of probable burrowing parasites.

“An’ I’m guessin’ there’s plenty more in this swamp, if ya tip us,” Smith warned from the back of the canoe, his voice tight. Mortified at the thought, Tess sat back down.

“See?” Mambo cackled with delight. She held out her hand. Two long, pointy, hollow triangles lay in her palm, their white tips blending into a deep grey near the bases. “Now we go,” she announced, her fingers curling into a protective fist over the teeth. Satisfied and smiling, she nodded and remarked, “This be good trip.”

A good trip? Because none of us were eaten alive? Tess didn’t even want to know what would constitute a bad one.

This island is a giant death trap.

She mentally listed off the dangers–the things, that until now, she had purposefully tried to ignore–the swamp fever, the scarcity of safe water to drink, as well as there never being enough food. Then there was a different classification of dangers including the spotted wild cats in the jungle, the slithery things on the ground, and god-only-knew what other predatory creatures lurking around in the shadows. And now she could obviously add the monsters that cruised in the waters under them.

And it wasn’t just that. There was the strange plant life–trees growing along the beach, that oozed poisonous sap, and those in the jungle coated with thorns large enough to pierce a man’s hand.

From Mambo, Tess was learning to identify both the plants that had medicinal value and those that were deadly. Anything in between was just decoration for now. Tess needed to learn only enough to keep her alive until they could get off this damned island and back to some kind of civilization. And being stuck here revived the ever present fear she had, that before long that pirates would land and would somehow recapture them all.

Of course there was the plantation on the island’s other side, with its Big House. But it was run by slave owners. Owners whose overseers had found Tess’s grandmother and her husband, Brigham, washed up on the shoreline after the hurricane, and who had brought them back to the Big House as indentured workers. No, going to the Big House was not an option for escape from this island.

At first, having been washed up on its shore during the same hurricane, she’d felt only immense relief. After all, she had escaped impending slow death at the hands of the pirate crew of the Bloodhorn. Her skin prickled with the memory of it. And I escaped the clutches of Edward Graham. The man she had been forcibly betrothed to. The same man who had killed the Crone, a defenseless old woman, in an effort to steal the woman’s ring. Even he, a royal courtier, had believed that the ring had ancient prophetic powers when its inner band was spun by the wearer.

Well it’s my ring now. And good riddance to him.

The canoe’s nose bumped into the soft mud, jarring her once again from her thoughts.

“Well, that’s this trip done,” Smith said. “Everyone out.”

William slipped over the side and sank in the muck to mid-calf. He extended his arms out to Tess and smiled. She gathered up the tattered remains of her skirt in one hand and took hold of one of his hands. She was standing and debating about how and where to best step into his arms when the skin under her blue ring began to itch fiercely.

Oh my God! This is not a good sign! Tess jumped into the muck and screamed, “Hurry! Get onto the shore!”

The four of them scrabbled through the ooze and onto firm land just as the tremor hit, knocking them all to their knees. The swamp water rose and crashed against the shore as though trying to capture them and suck them back in.

Tess lay gasping on her back and was mentally adding this island’s increasing tremors to her list of dangers, when William, incredibly, began to laugh.

“So you chose the mud route rather than my arms, eh? That was the fastest exit I’ve ever seen anyone do, Tess. You’re getting braver by the day. Didn’t know you had such speed in you.”

Neither did I. Tess wondered about the itch. It was less now. Definitely less, but still there … and then her grandmother’s voice whispered in her head.

Ya never know what ya can do till misfortune comes nippin’ at yer backside.

 

A First Look at Quintspinner

29 Jul

Have you heard of spinner rings? They are fashioned after ancient Tibetan prayer rattles, which were thought to give users powers of manifestation. I have a new novel available for those who like mystery, romance, action, and intrigue: Quintspinner – A Pirate’s Quest. Here’s an excerpt for you to enjoy. The time has come. A Quintspinner has been found. The woman inhaled a deep shuddering breath and her eyes flew open as she stabbed a bony finger at Tess and hissed, “The rings will seek ye. Pay attention to the inner voice, Quintspinner.” Her eyes narrowed and she continued in a hushed voice, “It is the only sense to trust.” Tess sat quietly on the stool, made speechless by the Crone’s story. Cassie, however, spoke first. “That’s a fine story, it is. A fine yarn for scaring us. Spinner indeed! Tess doesn’t even have a ring, if you haven’t noticed. And she’s not bloody likely to find one in the marketplace, is she now?” “She has the mark. They will come,” the Crone said simply. A sudden loud knock on the door made both girls jump. A wisp of fear flickered in the Crone’s eyes and then was gone, replaced by a look of grim expectancy. “Into the back room with ye both!” she whispered. “Hide so as not to be found.” The knock sounded again, this time louder and more impatiently. The Crone grabbed Tess by her arm.”Ye’ll come to know things, Quintspinner. Do not doubt the inner voice. It will not fail ye, if ye choose to hear it.” The knock swelled into a fierce pounding.

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