Friday 30 March 2012

Okay, so I'm totally impatient and have to tell you NOW ... #AtoZChallenge

I was going to wait until the beginning of the A-Z Challenge to reveal this. BUT. I'm sooooo impatient. And I have to tell you now.

All my music, from 1998 until 2011 is now available to buy (very cheap) online from HERE. You can also listen to all tracks the entire way through for free.

I'm so excited to be able to put all my music out there. It's been sitting on my shelf, lonely and neglected for years.

Also, you must know, that during the challenge, I will choose a random commenter every two days, to receive a FREE DOWNLOAD of one of my albums. Your choice!  That's THIRTEEN winners. Tell your friends?

Just comment on my A-Z posts from this Sunday until Monday April 30th, for a chance to win. 

Check it out at!

Monday 26 March 2012

#AtoZChallenge: Gearing Up!

I'm taking this week off posting to finish preparing my A to Z posts for April. And guess what? I have a superduperawesome surprise for you all when the challenge begins.

Hint: You know how all my posts are going to be about music? You know how I'm a musician? Well, let's just say it is going to fit together very nicely, and you are going to benefit from it :o)

In other news, if you missed it yesterday, check out my post over at Writer's Digest discussing why literary fiction is NOT boring. Would really appreciate if you could share the link around too, you know, FB, Tweet, etc. Thanks!

A great friend of mine, Glynis Smy, not too far away in Cyprus, is gearing up for something else. A book launch! She is an excellent writer, so if you're in any way interested in historical fiction and feel like helping a fellow author promote a new book, please head over to her blog to see how! I'll definitely be jumping on board!

Also, the Homeric Writers' Retreat & Workshop now has a FACEBOOK PAGE! Please come like us! :o)

Are you preparing for A to Z? Looking forward to it?

Wednesday 21 March 2012

When disappointment strikes and hits a nerve ...

I really don't mind the fact that I got a rejection from a publisher on Bitter Like Orange Peel, and found out that I didn't make the quarter finalists of ABNA, all in one day. I don't mind at all. In fact, I'm pretty numb to rejections nowadays because I've finally reached that point in my career where I trust my instincts and fully believe in myself (well ... most of the time).

I'm different. Some people get me. Others don't. No problemo.

These things don't disappoint me. What disappoints me is feedback that makes me question whether 'being true to myself' and 'writing honestly' is really the way to go. I'd finally come to the conclusion that it didn't matter if I got an agent or published by the big six. In reality, it still doesn't matter. I just want my books read and to have the opportunity to get my work better exposure ... so far things are going pretty well, it's early days ... but ... when I read feedback on my writing that says it would have a limited audience because it's too realistic, and contains not very attractive visuals, then I start to doubt the reason I write like this. Is there a point in being true to my instincts if in the end it's not going to help me progress? Can I accept having a niche audience for the rest of my life?

I get that people read to escape and don't want other people's shit thrown in their faces. And you're not going to be able to escape reading my books. You're going to be made to feel stuff. Lots of stuff. And some of it is ugly. Such is life. And I also get that my work isn't commercial. I do get that. I have accepted these things. So why have these comments stung so much? My stomach is in knots!

I don't know. I guess my expectations are too high. I'm never going to single-handedly change the trends in commercial fiction. But I tell you one thing ... there's no way I'm going to stop writing fiction that bites.

Do you read literary fiction? Is there anything you've read that's disgusted you? How did you react to it? Did it make you hate the book? Why?

ANNOUNCEMENT: The Homeric Writers' Retreat & Workshop has been discounted. It is now 1,550 Euro with accommodation and 950 Euro without. Check out the site for more details!

Monday 19 March 2012

The business of writing ... a never-ending story?

It's not difficult to get caught up in the business of writing once you get that first book out. There are always things to do which may benefit your sales. Yes, may, being the operative word. You never know what strategy is going to work for you, if any. All you can do is spread yourself near and far and hope for the best.

And when I say marketing. I don't just mean plugging your books. That's boring. It means "getting involved", such as writing guest posts that DO NOT focus on your own work, helping other writers reach their goals, and you know, doing things like running writers' retreats with Chuck Sambuchino :o)

Marketing also means participating in forums that are not about writing, to get your name heard (or seen) by readers. For example, I found a thread the other day which asked for recommendations for books about musicians. You know what I did? Created an anonymous profile there and pimped my book. Sneaky, yes. But I made a couple sales that day ... Sometimes you've got to get creative.

But you don't want to overdo it, do you? And where do you draw the line? Because marketing is as addictive as cra--  um ... chocolate. :o)

So, is there a time frame on this? Can you let marketing take the back burner for a while to give yourself a breather? Or should you never stop? I'm pretty sure it's the latter ...

What do you think? Is it possible to take a hiatus from marketing yourself, or do you think it might create a slump that's difficult to recover from?

Friday 16 March 2012

National Day of Action Against Bullying and Violence: Bloggers Join Forces ...

Today is the National Day of Action Against Bullying and Violence, and a few fellow bloggers are joining forces to take a little action. As Sheri Larsen, who initiated the idea, said, there's strength in numbers, right? So if you have ever been bullied, know someone who has been bullied, or simply believe in taking action for a worthy cause, today is the day to tell the world, or even your next door neighbor, to take a stand.

My experience:
I was never beaten, pushed or called names ... well, I was sometimes, especially on out-of-school-uniform days when I'd come with rainbow-coloured tights and get called a fruit-loop -- little did they know it had a double meaning. But ... I was ignored and manipulated and tricked by other kids, which is just as horrible as being picked on. I was in tears at the end of every single recess and lunchtime. Either due to kids blatantly running away from me, or from being coaxed to be 'it' in hide-and-seek and having everyone run off on me when my eyes were closed. Sometimes, though, kids would let me play with them. But it would always be a role-play game in which I was someone such as a victim of a kidnapping. Of course, that entailed many hours of loneliness in the school yard, because "it was realistic to the situation". For the majority of the time, however, I just sat on a school bench, watching my feet swing backward and forward. No one liked me because I was shy.

I was alone for pretty much my entire school life. Even in high school. Because my shyness was mistaken for snobbishness. Until one day I started dressing like a goth. Then everyone was just too apprehensive to approach me. But at least then there was a reason to be ignored. And it felt good to have control of it. At least that's how it made me feel then.

No kid should feel this way in school. It should be an environment in which children are able to grow in every aspect of living, not just educationally. Luckily, I was strong enough to overcome such ill-experiences, but there are young people out there who aren't as strong as others. Bullying can have all sorts of effects. Even suicide. And I wouldn't be surprised if it is linked to adult depression either.

Bullying must stop.

Let's take a stand. Together.

Stand up to a bully today and make a difference. Even the smallest difference counts.

The following bloggers are also taking part today. Please drop by and say hi:

Sheri Larsen -
Dawn Dalton -
Talli Roland -
Candace Ganger -
LM Preston -
Donna Martin -
Jonathon Arntson -
Nicole Zoltack -
PK Hrezo -

Wednesday 14 March 2012

Music for the A-Z April Challenge ... #atozchallenge

Dawn Ius and I are partnering up this year for the April A-Z Challenge (surprise, surprise, yeah yeah, I know ...).

Blogging from A to Z April Challenge
To put it simply, we're posting about musicians/bands that have inspired us creatively in some way throughout our lives. We'll keep the posts short and sweet, and also try to include YouTube tracks so you can hear them too.

Dawn, apparently, has already started scheduling her posts. I think I'd better get a move on! (Silently freaking out here.)

I participated in this the last two years and, despite it being quite hard on my fingers, eyes, brain and stomach (I won't get into that last one), I had a great time and met some WONDERFUL new bloggers through it.

I can't fathom missing out on the fun. So I'm going to do it. Even if it's a struggle. I think I can I think I can I know I can ... 


Oh, and hey, how can I resist an event logo that matches the colour scheme of my blog?

Are you participating? All prepared? Or shaking in your boots like me?

*Book on my bedside table: Room, by Emma Donoghue

(Yep, stole your sign-off Dawn, couldn't resist. :o)

Monday 12 March 2012

Wow. So I'm back. In full swing ... from a string that's strong, but wearing thin ...

Dawn and me in the back of her car
in -16 degree Celsius temperatures! :o) Can't
you see I'm all rugged up?
Right ... where were we?

Um ... yep ...

Oh Canada
With your face sketched on it twice
Oh you're in my blood like holy wine
You taste so bitter and so sweet

Oh I could drink a case of you darling
Still I'd be on my feet
oh I would still be on my feet ...

I had a MARVELOUS time with Dawn in Canada. No, we didn't leave the house much (except when going to her office to do some work -- yep I had to take it with me -- boo), but, oh my gosh, did we get along like a house on fire. Lucky, because we really needed the heat in the blizzardy weather :o)

Yep, it was blizzarding when I arrived and it was blizzarding when I returned. We had planned to go on a trip to Jasper and Banff but never made it because this (on the left) is pretty much all  I could see. We also didn't want to get stuck in the mountains when I had a plane to catch ... not that that would have really mattered, because my flight, due to maintenance issues was cancelled ...


And I was in Calgary. In an airport, four hours drive away from Dawn, (she lives in Edmonton) so I couldn't even go back to spend the time with her. :o( I didn't leave Canada until a full 24 hours later than scheduled and I'm really behind on my work, but ... ho hum, never mind, it was TOTALLY worth it.

For the past 1.5 years, Dawn and I have been chatting on Gmail EVERY SINGLE DAY. I knew our friendship was a very special one. I knew she would take up a big chunk of my heart for the rest of my life, but I had no idea the feeling could get even more special, until I met her face-to-face. Now the chats do not really suffice. We've got a taste of this friendship in "real life" now, and it's going to be very difficult to adjust to this "internet thing" again. Woe is me ...

Dawn, if only I could call you up and say, "Wanna meet at Tim Horton's for a coffee after work despite the coffee tasting like shit?" (Sorry, Tim Horton, but after drinking European coffee all these years, yours sucks.)

Dawn. I miss you! And you had BETTER make it to Greece this summer! Or ... or ... or ... I'll kidnap your dogs somehow and you'll just have to come and get them.

Have you ever met any friends you've made blogging face-to-face? How was it?


PS: I did have a reason for the title of this post, but I seem to have lost it ... hmm ... *rubs jet-laggy eyes*

*Lyrics: Joni Mitchell, A Case of You 

Thursday 8 March 2012

From the Mundane to the Sublime: a guest blog by Magdalena Ball

I know you're all probably wondering how my trip to Canada was (WONDERFUL! And I miss Dawn like hell already). And if you follow me on Facebook, you probably know my flight back home was cancelled twice and I spent two days in airport limbo. I am probably still on the plane as you read this as I scheduled it while waiting at Heathrow airport!

But I'll give you more details next week because today I have the pleasure of introducing you to Magdalena Ball. She is an amazing author and I am a HUGE fan of her work. And this blog post is a part of her blog tour for her latest novel, Black Cow.

Drum roll ... welcome Maggie!

As a writer, I've always been intrigued by the mundane. By mundane, I'm thinking, not of dull or tedious, but rather of it's alternative meaning of being 'of this earthly world', secular, temporal. These are the details of our lives - those things that other readers will recognise - the day to day world that surrounds us. Most of the time we're too busy to stop the endless doing and observe and perceive. But this is a writer's job. To look closely at those moments and allow them to morph into something extraordinary. Morph? What is that? Are we talking magic realism or sci fi here? No, this is real life, such as the observation of a common beetle or bird in the garden - something utterly ordinary. In that moment where we turn our gaze deeply into the thing, we suddenly transcend the limits of our human condition and see things with a certain transformative eye where the detail contains the whole.In Writing Down the Bones, Natalie Goldberg puts it this way: "Go so deep into something that you understand its interpenetration with all things. Then automatically the detail is imbued with the cosmic; they are interchangeable." That all sounds grand and esoteric, so how, specifically, as writers, do we create this kind of transcendence, without making the work so dense that it loses its connection to the everyday?

Here are a few tips:

• Use of point of view. We all come to each situation we find ourselves in with a welter of memories, issues we're currently grappling with, and desires. In short, at any moment we're all in the 'midst of life'. If you take that 'midst', in other words the situation of your characters, and filter it into those things that surround them - the butterfly landing on their hand, the rain that just won't stop, or even the dishes that are being done, the mundane suddenly is infused with the whole of your character perspective. In the early twentieth century, this tended to sit with stream of consciousness writing, where the inner thoughts of characters become apparent to the reader, but it doesn't have to be a random stream. Those thoughts can be anchored in the moment, and reasonably logical, while still coasting across all those desires that make up any character.

 • Step out of the stream. Stop for a moment and let your characters see the bigger picture. You can do this with a third person narrator, or just allow the characters a momentary glimpse at the bigger picture. For example, a young girl may be struggling with bullying, but just for a moment in the midst of the highest conflict, give her a glimpse of the future or even of the broader context of her life and let her see the pain she's struggling with for what it is - momentary and transient. Those kinds of epiphanies are the stuff of character transformation and will progress the story perfectly.

• Use symbols. Symbols do exactly what we're talking about here. They turn the mundane into the sublime, by referring to something else. An office cubicle or conference room might symbolise oppression. A tourist visit to the Statue of Liberty might symbolise freedom. A bird song or plot of dirt might symbolise freedom or getting back to roots or even shaking off a depression that has become overwhelming.

All of these things are subtle, and have to be dealt with carefully, with poetic skill. But being able to use the everyday to hint at a deeper meaning; a secret sub-story below the surface, is what makes art. As readers, we instinctively look for it in the books we read. As writers, we're always aiming to create it.

Magdalena Ball is the author of the newly released novel Black Cow. Grab a free mini e-book brochure here.

For more about Magdalena visit her website.


Monday 5 March 2012

Creepy Hollow Blog Tour Kick Off!

Today the Creepy Hollow series kicks off with the release of the first story, GUARDIAN!

GUARDIAN introduces readers to the magical world of Creepy Hollow, a realm where fae creatures both safe and definitely-not-so-safe dwell. Things are cool as long the fae stick to their own realm. It's when they find their way into the human world that things start going wrong...

1. Receive assignment.
2. Save a life.
3. Sleep.
4. Repeat.

Protecting humans from dangerous magical creatures is all in a day’s work for a faerie training to be a guardian. Seventeen-year-old Violet Fairdale knows this better than anyone—she’s about to become the best guardian the Guild has seen in years. That is, until one of her assignments—a human boy who shouldn’t even be able to see her—follows her into the fae realm. Now she’s broken Guild Law, a crime that could lead to her expulsion.

The last thing Vi wants to do is spend any more time with the boy who got her into this mess, but the Guild requires that she return Nate to his home and make him forget everything he’s discovered of the fae realm. Easy, right? But Nate and Vi are about to land themselves in even bigger trouble—and it’ll take all Vi’s training to get them out alive.

Buy from Amazon US
Buy from Amazon UK
Buy from Smashwords

The Creepy Hollow Series

Author Info

To find out more about the series, the author, and the characters, check out the blog tour that’s happening over the next two weeks.