Saturday, October 15, 2011

Poetry Corner ~ Calling all Poets

Good morning and happy Saturday :-)

I figured we would do something different today on Mystery Writers Unite party because I think it is a fun thing to do....shake things up...and party because I'm getting into the "artsy" mood before I go to support Kate Burns in her book signing today (see yesterday's post Author Interview ~ Kate Burns). I'm so excited for her!!

Anyhow, I know poetry doesn't really fall in line with mystery writing or writing novel's but sometimes it can be fun to try and write something different...something that is not your "norm". I will go first and hope that some of the readers today will be brave, silly, or inspired enough to post some of their work by leaving a comment :-)

"The Lock Master"

I stand in the vast openness; an insignificant part of the world feeling vulnerable and naked,
The lock master passes by and smirks at me as keys jangle from their bony hand,
I quickly avoid making eye contact because it is the only way I can think to protect myself,
I'm hoping this tactic will enable me to avoid yet another locked chain on my soul,
I've already had so many placed there, sometimes at my own hand and sometimes at others,
The chains I carry clang in my path and the constant white noise serves as a reminder; like I needed one,
Some days the weight draws me to my knees and I pray for some divine intervention of relief,
Other days, when I pick the right poison, I can lighten my own load at least for awhile,
Will I ever be given redemption for my sins or transgressions?
The lock master is grinning openly at my blatant ignorance; I guess I'm that translucent in my thoughts,
This obvious pleasure over my inner pain and turmoil awakens my anger and I want wipe that cruel smile away,
I want to shake off the shadows that enfold me and fight for me; for what is right,
I realize that in order for me to accomplish this I would have to make the eye contact I've been avoiding; what a risk to take, 
Then I think it will be okay; I've done stupid things before and for the moment I'm feeling strong and reckless,
I focus my breathing, in through my nose out through my mouth, and begin my approach steeling myself to make the lock master's acquaintance, 
As my eyes reach their intended target, my nails bite the palm of my hand and my knees buckle,
For at this moment I have discovered the most unmistakable truth - the lock master is me! 

Written by: Becky Illson-Skinner
February 2011

For those readers who love poetry as much as I do, you may want to check out " Every Thing On It" by Shel Silverstein, a classic top selling book; here is a tease....

A spider lives inside my head
Who weaves a strange and wondrous web
Of silken threads and silver strings
To catch all sorts of flying things,
Like crumbs of thought and bits of smiles
And specks of dried-up tears,
And dust of dreams that catch and cling
For years and years and years . . .

What an amazing collection of never-before-published poems and drawings from the creator of Where the Sidewalk Ends, A Light in the Attic, and Falling Up. You will say Hi-ho for the toilet troll, get tongue-tied with Stick-a-Tongue-Out-Sid, play a highly unusual horn, and experience the joys of growing down. What's that? You have a case of the Lovetobutcants? Impossible! Just come on in and let the magic of Shel Silverstein bend your brain and open your heart. 

Have a great day!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Author Interview ~ Kate Burns

Happy Friday!!

What a special day at Mystery Writers Unite as I share with you an interview that was conducted with the local author of  The Ophelia Trap, Kate Burns.

Karin: I see your book ( The Ophelia Trap) is climbing the charts on iTunes.

Kate: Well, it’s not climbing anymore! It’s now stabilized to falling, but we will see how that turns out. It is selling and that is really good. And it was awfully fun to write.

Karin: Can you give us an idea of what the book is about?

Kate: The Ophelia Trap is about the ultimate victim. The name of the book is taken from Shakespeare’s ultimate victim. The trap could be one that was laid for her or one she lays for somebody else and  -- without giving too much away -- there is a little bit of both in there. It’s also about the taking back of one's own identity. When I was writing this book, September 11th had already happened, and it was sort of fresh in my mind.

I thought about the jumpers; these people who were trapped in the buildings... either with fire and jet fuel behind them or the thick smoke above them. And what lay ahead of them was this clear blue open sky and very few choices.

One of the last choices they had, the only ones left really, was the manner of their death, and how they chose the manner of their death was their very last exercise in control. The plot points in my novel and the theme ties in very closely to that – when you have no choices, what choices you have left become your most important choices.

Karin: It could be your last choice.

Kate: Exactly, and one could argue that your last choice is your most important choice. It’s the man that chooses to drive his car off a bridge rather than into oncoming traffic. He made a choice to sacrifice his life and save the lives of others on the road in a terrible moment when it seemed as if there is no time to make a choice. Like that line out of the Edmond Fitzgerald, “When the winds turn the moments to hours"… there is a space in those final seconds where human beings explore the very depths of what they are capable of doing, thinking, feeling, changing, deciding on and accepting.” So, unless you get a bullet through the brain; every human being has a chance, even if it is only a fraction of second long, to accept fate and to make a choice about it too. There is a lot of that in the first book.

Karin: Tell us about some of the conflicts in the novel.

Kate: In this novel, Julia’s antagonist, not the villain, but her antagonist, is essentially her husband, who doesn’t want her doing what she does and is in some ways the opposite of who she is. She has to find a way to work beyond that and by the end of the novel her husband no longer feels the same.

Karin: That reminds me, it seems that the place where the story transpired had a big part to play in The Ophelia Trap and your book really connected to it.

Kate:  I think if all writers went back and wrote again what we wrote before, we might do something different.  I might have played up the contrast between Aylmer and the bigger city across the river a bit more. I didn’t do that because I really wanted to concentrate on that small town feel.  Even though Aylmer is technically a city, it’s this border town – this town of English and French, and there is a natural contrast there. There is a complementary thing going on, not always but generally working and having that as a setting allowed me to explore a little bit of the fish out of water thing. Our city girl has moved there and married a small town guy and is settling into this life and finds out that in a small town your past can be a lot closer then you think it is.

Karin: Tell us about your new novel...

Kate: In this novel there are several conflicts set up – we have two worlds against each other the world of fine art and the world of commercial art and the world of the finer end of the market and the destitute end of the market, the sinner and the saved. I’m exploring juxtapositions between commercial and fine, rich and poor and city and country and all of those get to land very nicely. But Julia and Matt have to work as more of a team this time around. Their lives depend on it.

Karin: And once more, the setting is very integral.

Kate: This novel gives me the chance to take a tour around the Gatineau region, where there are so many fascinating and almost hidden parts to our region and to this beautiful area. The Byward Market has a beauty all its own, and the Gatineau hills have a beauty all of their own. Each of those settings has its own particular danger, too.

This weekend, Kate Burns will be signing copies of  The Ophelia Trap at the Art on the Ridge event being held in Luskville, Quebec on October 15th and 16th, 2011 from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. (see details below) .

If you can't make the event you can purchase either the paperback version of the book here: The Ophelia Trap or the electronic (e-book) version here: The Ophelia Trap.

Hope to see some locals at the event!!


Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Writers Tool Kit

Ah, Sweet Thursday :-)

Earlier in the week I reviewed several different software solutions (See Writing Software Solutions) that can be utilized for writing your book, which got me to thinking about other tools us writers need to get our work done so I went in search of those too. Here are some of the essentials in my writers tool kit:

Remember when this is all it seemed you needed?
Kingston Digital 16 GB USB 2.0 Hi-speed Datatraveler Flash Drive (Never have your story only save on your computer -- always have at least one back-up)

Webster's New World Thesaurus (Great for those "brain fart" moments or to find a replacement word for repetitive words)

Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, 11th Edition

Apple MacBook Pro MC721LL/A 15.4-Inch Laptop (I love my MAC!!)

45 Master Characters (Utterly priceless book to develop unforgettable characters!)

The First Five Pages: A Writer's Guide To Staying Out of the Rejection Pile (My goal!!)

How to Write Killer Fiction (Another great resource book for writers of mystery and thrillers!) 

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Calling Guest Bloggers!!

Hi everyone and Happy Wednesday :-)

I've noticed on many of the blogs that I've been reading that the "blog owner" will often offer someone a guest spot on their blog and this individual will make a special post. I would like to do this with my blog but don't know how to go about doing so since I'm so new to the world of blogging.

Do you approach someone through an authors blog? Do you ask someone you have been conversing with on Twitter or Facebook? Do they blog about whatever they want or should you have a certain topic in mind that you would like them to blog about or do they get to decide what they want to chat about?

If you would like to have a one-time guest spot on my blog or you would like to have a monthly, bi-weekly or weekly guest spot, please let me know as I would be more than open to this.

Other more experienced bloggers - if you see this and you can give me some tips please do :-)

Have a great day!


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Pros and Cons of Self-publishing

Hi all :-)

Now here is a big topic if debate: Self-publishing vs. Publishing House

Let's look at the "pros" and "cons" of each.



1. Control: Self-publishing assures you that you have control over the entire process and every decision regarding your book will be made by you.  You hold all the "rights" to you work.

2. Time to Market: If you self-publish you can get your book out into the market place faster.

3. Higher Earnings: You get to enjoy higher earnings when you self-publish.

4. Time: You aren't committed to any one's schedule except your own and will  have nobody pushing you to develop the next novel.

5. Attention: Self-publishers devote all their attention to each project they work on. They work hard to promote it at every turn. This kind of one-on-one attention will not be given at a publishing house.

6. Branding / Image: Self-publishers control their branding and image, which in turn equates to having more control over the "market" that they want to entice.

7. Business Tax Deductions: Yes, in case you were not aware, you can deduct certain expenses when you self-publish your book.

THE BAD (Cons)

1. Wear Many Hats: Self-publishers have to be their own accountant, editor, packager, distributor, and sales person.

2. Marketing/Branding: Self-publishers have to become very good at getting people to want to purchase their book over someone elses book. It can be difficult with all the choices out there to convince a reader to buy your book instead of another one.

3. Time: Chances are if you are a new author, you still have a full time job and other responsibilities to tend to in any given day. You will need to find a way to fit in all the work to writing, publishing and promoting your work, which can be very taxing.

4. Money: You have to spend money to make money and you will have to put all costs out up-front, which can pull on anyone's budget strings these days.

5. Prestige: There can be a prejudice against self-publishing and many buyers will believe that unless you were able to "sell" your ides to someone else, there must be something wrong with it.

If you chose to self-publish there are some tools available to help you succeed. For example, the book entitled " Editors on Editing: What Writers Need to Know About What Editors Do" can help you learn how to edit your work like a professional editor would or "The Fine Print of Self-Publishing, Fourth Edition - Everything You Need to Know About the Costs, Contracts, and Process of Self-Publishing" can guide you through the process of self-publishing if you've never published a novel before. Another great tool for self-publishers is "Bookkeeping Basics for Freelance Writers", which can help you get familiar with what you need to track for income tax purposes for your business.



1. Having a Team: You won't have to wear a lot of hats and the publishing house will have people that will edit, work on layout, get your book printed and packaged, have their salespeople promote your book, distribute your book and of course they have accountants and lawyers that will assist you.

2. Marketing: They have a team of professional marketers that know how to promote a book to increase sales.

3. Money: The amount you will earn as opposed to self-publishing will be less but you won't have to put any money out to see your book to market. Instead, you will usually be paid an advance and of course receives royalties.

4. Prestige: Some readers may believe that your book has more value since it was obviously "good enough" to be picked up by a publishing house.

5. Time: You won't have to worry about devoting a lot of time once your book has been finalized and is ready for print. At that point the majority of your work is done and the team begins their work.

THE BAD (Cons)

1. Loss of Control: The publishing house will own the "rights" to your work. They will decide how to package it, market it and promote it.

2. Money: You will make less money once everyone gets their cut of the pie.

3. Attention: The sales people that work for the publishing houses will not devote the same kind of time and attention to your work as you would. They have numerous books they need to promote at once.

4. Time to Market: Even once you get your book accepted, it can take up to two years before you will see your book on the shelves.

Overall, I think the decision to pursue self-publishing or to try and get a publishing house to publish your work will depend on your lifestyle, ability to part with your work, and finances.

What do you think? Have a missed anything? Add a comment and feel free to share your thoughts on the matter.


Monday, October 10, 2011

The Long and the Short of It

Good morning :-)

I've been reading a lot of blogs since I started mine and I keep coming across the same message time and time again - NEW WRITERS SHOULD START WITH WRITING SHORT STORIES BEFORE THEY ATTEMPT A FULL NOVEL. Message

When I started writing my book I hadn't heard this before. All I knew was I had an idea for a book bouncing around in my head for awhile and that I had always wanted to attempt writing a book. When a good friend of mine read some of my poetry, she encouraged me to use my writing skills to do just that and I thought...why not.

Once I began writing, I wasn't thinking of the "long or the short" of the book. I just began to plan scene's and plot lines. I am now at 367 pages and over 40 chapters and still counting. There is still quite a bit of story to tell and I'm now worried that maybe I'm going about this all wrong. Now I'm wondering if I would be better off in the long run to turn the story from one big fat novel into a series of short stories or perhaps I should shelve the story I've been working on for awhile and write a few short stories first. I guess the latter option would get my writing out sooner and maybe I could build a bit of a readership prior to releasing the big story, which would be a good thing.

What did you do to start your writing career? What tips would you share with new writer? Do you think they should start small or just "go for the gusto" right out of the gate?

Have a great day all!


Sunday, October 9, 2011

Writing Software Solutions

Happy Thanksgiving to all my Canadian Friends :-)

As a new writer, I find it challenging to keep my book ideas organized and when your book in being written in a word processing program, such as word perfect it can be easy to lose track of the various plot points and scene by scene plays.

In addition, and I'm sure this happens to every writer out there, I find that new ideas come to me all the time that would be great for the next book I would like to write.  I've been looking for software that will assist me in my writing and not detract from it. I don't want a complicated program that will take me months to learn how to navigate.  That being said, I would like one central program that I could use to keep track of plot lines, character profiles, and scenes. It would also be nice to "store" future story ideas in an electronic format instead of in a tattered notebook.  To address this, I spent some time looking around at what is out there and thought I would share my findings.

New Novelist 2.0

It's said that with New Novelist 2.0 you are never faced with a blank screen or piece of paper, great for those that suffer from writer's block, because there are prompts and help at every turn.  In addition, you don't have to start with your introduction and work until you reach the end of your book. Instead the software allows you to jump from one part of your project to another (e.g.; character development, plot turns) or if you like you could even write your book backwards if you want! Dance around as your inspiration takes you knowing that your work is being collected in one single file together with the background, and research notes for each section. Very cool!

The New Novelist 2.0 is said to be simple to install and fun to use. It has spell check, thesaurus, Internet search, audio read back text, USA or UK dictionary selection, full word processor functionality and many more features. You can also move chapters around and fully organize your writing, write short stories or full-length novels.

The Sunday Times of London, England says "The Magic of New Novelist 2.0 is that it doesn't feel as if you're writing a book".

Practical PC Magazine says "New Novelist 2.0 should be considered an essential purchase for anyone who is ready to start a Novel".

One drawback -- only good for those that use PC's -- to bad for us MAC users :-(

Storyist 2

It seemed only fair that since the above software was only for use with PC, I would look at one that is only for use with MAC :-)

So why would I want to buy Storyist 2? I can write fiction with a word processor, right? One reason that may be worth it is because my word processor won't automatically format my novel or screenplay for submission. Something, believe it or not, I've been a little worried about since I've never submitted one before and I've been told that if the formatting is wrong it will be rejected.

It would seem that writing and formatting are only the beginning of what Storyist 2 can do for writers and it's big strength is its ability to keep you organized. For example: Orson Scott Card once wrote about a lovely scene he constructed in which one of his characters called his mother on the phone; then, during revisions, he remembered he'd made the character an orphan. He began keeping a "bible" listing all the decisions he made in the course of a story. With Storyist 2, he would have that "bible" at his fingertips, right next to the manuscript and fully searchable, so he could find out in a flash whether his character had parents or siblings. And if he discovered that it got in the way of his writing, Storyist 2 has a full screen mode that would allow him to banish it from view (but it would still be lurking in the background in case of need). Again, very cool!

Some of the other tools available in Storyist 2 includes organization of characters, plot, and settings but all the miscellaneous ideas, notes to self, reference sources, web links.  It offers multiple windows where you can display alternate views of the manuscript. You can import pictures of your characters and settings (or just generally into the notebook) and, once there, drag them into as many locations as you like. You can also link sections to characters, notes, plot points; import and export files to standard formats; link notes to one another; set up your own categories for outlines and timelines. The program comes with ample help files and a printed manual, and if you get stuck or just don't like reading manuals, you can find instant support on the Storyist 2 forums--often from the developer himself. It's said that the program is intuitive enough to start using right away, although it takes a while to master all the options it offers.

Writer's Dream Kit 4.0

As with the other two solutions, the Writer's Dream Kit 4.0 is a complete step-by-step fiction writing system designed for the aspiring writer. The good news, this product will run on both PC and MAC!

I've read that if you thrive on the angst-ridden masochism of neverending writer’s block, then you need to read no further. However, if you seek sound solutions to story development dilemmas, then your search is over––the Writer's Dream Kit 4.0 is the tool for you. As your creative writing partner, it takes you to a special place—a story development environment where together you’ll solve the plot and character problems that prevent many stories from becoming great enough to sell.

You’ll cast and build your characters, plot out your story, layer in themes with universal meaning, and put it all together into scenes to form a solid step outline. And as your mentor, the Writer's Dream Kit 4.0 will do something no other writing program can do—it predicts parts of your story based on creative decisions you make! You’ll be inspired to incorporate those ideas into your developing story and make it even tighter—with no plot holes or character inconsistencies.

I think of the three solutions reviewed, I like what Storyist 2 has to offer the most, which doesn't surprise me since it is the most expensive solution reviewed. My next best, which is probably more affordable for me, would be the Writer's Dream Kit 4.0.

Which one most appeals to you? If you have used one of these solutions, please leave a comment (in favor or against) and share your experience with other readers.

Have a great day!