D. Lambert, author
Enter a new world. Stay for a while.
It was hard to sort out what to say in this blog right now. It's been crazy recently. We're in a strange lockdown, many businesses forced to close or at least limit people coming in. My job has been deemed 'essential,' so I'm working, but we're at half strength and working restricted hours, so we don't burn out our remaining staff.
I'm looking forwards to the day this ends, and I can write about how things did, or did not, change after COVID-19.
A meme inspired this post. It went something like this: Instead of thinking of self-isolation as punishment, think of it as the greatest demonstration of love humanity has ever performed.
Because what I'm seeing right now is a lot of love out there.
In my area, the kids are hanging hearts in the windows. Our house is up a hill, so we walked down the driveway and drew hearts on the drive with chalk and hung hearts in the trees. Then we walked, husband, wife and son, through the neighbourhood and looked for the hearts.
I'm seeing people diverting their businesses to help selflessly (here's looking at you Sheringham Distillery), offering to drive and deliver (Comb and Collar Grooming!) to people trapped, and supporting the community with information (District of Sooke Emergency Operations Centre).
So this post is going to be about love.
I've been writing someone learning a fantasy-world "English" as their second language, and it's been fascinating to bring to light some lapses in the language. English is silly; we have only one word for love, despite what the thesaurus may say. "Love" and "fondness" are not the same thing. Neither does endearment, devotion, adoration, doting, idolization, or others really capture the definition of "love". Those are aspects of love, but not the whole thing. Yet, we have only one word for love.
When I check the dictionary, there are only three definitions of "love."
1. Deep affection for someone
2. Deep romantic or sexual attachment
3. Like or enjoy very much
In my mind, there are six kinds of love. I'm stealing from Rydans here (something you'll find in the world of Espar), but it ought to show what I mean.
Here are the six versions of love I wish we had words to differentiate.
1. Love for a thing, something you like or enjoy very much. It's a weak emotion, this kind of love. I love my bicycle, for instance. (Tinluv in Rydan)
2. The love of a good friend, someone you are close to and will follow. This comes with loyalty and shared trust. (Faluv in Rydan; the love between follower and leader)
3. A family's love. Close family, a love that you don't always think about, but never wavers. The love of a mother, siblings, or guardian. (Famluv in Rydan)
4. The love of a larger group, like an extended family, or a clan, or even a country. Something you don't know personally, but are bound to and care about. Patriotism. (Claluv in Rydan)
5. Foolish, desperate love. This is the love that blinds people and drives them to do crazy things in passion. It can be manipulative if one-sided (Foluv to the Rydans, and a terrible thing!)
6. Sweet love, true love. A love that is soul-binding. Absolute trust and support. A good marriage or a soul-mate. (Rydan's don't recognize this one! They think it's foluv)
Right now, I have seen so much of number 4. We've come together as a province and as a country. We're sacrificing freedoms and our own desires to protect each other. I am personally at minimal risk of being significantly ill should I get COVID-19. But I know my mother and father are at high risk. I also know my clients consist of a high proportion of elderly. And I know that if I go down, my work family suffers.
So I'm letting go of tinluv, minor things I would like to do, and talking to my family regularly to show my famluv. I'm leading my work-family with deep faluv, and staying isolated with my loving husband. That is how I demonstrate the claluv I have for my community, the province and my country.
The Rydans believe no love is greater than claluv. The greater good for the clan must prevail.
We are not alone. We are in this together. Just look at the hearts in the windows.
When I was fourteen, I heard a remarkable story about a woman who had kept a journal from the age of fourteen. She had lived through World War II, and her journal was filled with the details of her hiding in attics and escaping persecution. And, in 1998, her journal was being transcribed to be gifted to her grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
I thought it was fascinating that a life had been so wholly recorded. So, in May 1998, I started a journal.
I never call it a diary, because diaries are personal and should never be shared. A journal is less about complaints and emotions, more about events and thoughts. At least tat is how I see it. I made the promise I would write every night. Even if I had nothing to say, I would write.
What goes into a journal? For me, it's whatever is on my mind at the end of the day. If I had a big event that day, not surprisingly, it's in there. But sometimes something smaller gets in, simply because it was the most recent thing. A phone call from family. A beautiful pair of slippers. A funny movie. Sometimes short, something long. Sometimes serious, sometimes silly. Anything and everything. And if there's nothing that jumps to mind, it gets "Nothing to say. Good Night."
Recently, I sat down and thought about this practice that is going on its 22nd birthday. I believe it has been profoundly helpful. Here is why:
1. A log of things.
I don't remember everything. When did I first mention a given character? What day did my husband get stuck outside of town and sleep at my parent's house? Sometimes even medical things got into the journal, so I have a record of when my shoulder first hurt, and when my son first spoke. Anything that earned a mention has a date on it, a log.
2. A chance to reflect.
This is part of my routine, a chance to unwind, reflect, and look back at the day. There are times I deliberately do NOT record something, something I feel there is no reason to remember. But usually I can process the day, figure out what mattered and what didn't, and write about it. It's a moment of calm in days that have been too harried. Rough days and difficult emotions lose their power in the words on the page.
3. A prompt for sleep.
My brain knows that, once the journal is out, it's time for sleep. It's become such a routine, it has conditioned me to fall sleep! I may be a bit like Pavlov's dogs, but it's to my benefit. I fall asleep when my head hits the pillow now, instead of staring into space for hours trying to talk my brain into calming down.
4. Better handwriting!
The practice of writing has markedly improved my handwriting. Just looking back at the May 1998 entries proves that! I was one of the last generations to do a lot of my schooling written. But I was taught typing (unlike now when they don't have to teach it; everyone knows how to type). Instead of letting my handwriting atrophy, my journal has kept my writing muscles strong! While this seems trivial, it made a difference when I was looking for work.
5. A means of communication with my mind
Sometimes even I don't know what I think about something. Similar to my 'rant file' (a topic for another day), these entries let me think "out loud", working through something that has been bothering me and helping me find a solution or at least peace with it. It's therapy on a page!
6. A chance to share
I have handed journal entries to my husband. This was particularly helpful when I was working through something. It helped open up a conversation and help him undertand where I was at with something.
And it's fun to flip through to find silly entries to share too! I have the entire West Highland Way trip in my journal. It's hilarious reminiscing about the adventures (and misadventures)!
When I sought counselling after my second miscarriage, the first thing the mental health nurse suggested was a journal. I guess I'm not alone in seeing the benefits. It's a simple thing that takes only a moment.
Don't edit it. Don't overthink. Write what you are thinking, and stop when you're done.
Give it a try. It may surprise you.
Did you find a new author you love? Want to support them? It’s simple: write a review. Better yet, write a few. Or write one and post it in multiple places, at least.
When consumers approach a purchase, they want a quick way to verify it will be worthwhile. Most of us are guilty of scrolling down to check reviews. I hope I’m not alone in always checking both the top positive ones and the top negative ones. It’s a fact that no one can please everyone, so a negative review is not a deal-breaker for me, but I want to see why the consumer was upset. Does it apply to my circumstances? I’m suspicious of anyone with only positive reviews, but sometimes there are so few reviews. We need more voices out there, more opinions!
Now, look at books. It’s easy for famous authors to have vast lists of reviews. But books with small readerships (like emerging authors) struggle to get any reviews. And if no one writes reviews, then buyers will not want to take a chance on it.
Most platforms don’t have many rules for leaving reviews. If you have a profile, you can write a review. Some expect you to have bought the item through them, but most do not. The biggest fish in the pond is Amazon, and that’s where it gets a little complicated.
There were some concerns that Amazon would not allow everyone to write reviews. They do have different standards that are worth knowing. Breaking the rules will see the review removed at the least, but can get the author or the reviewer suspended as well.
1. Authors cannot pay for CUSTOMER reviews, but can for EDITORIAL (professional) reviews.
2. Authors can give out free or discounted copies and request a review, but they cannot demand a review in exchange.
3. Authors cannot limit reviews. Some authors put “I encourage reviews, whether positive or negative” to assure Amazon that they are not soliciting for only good reviews.
4. Friends and family of authors CAN put up reviews, but “individuals who share a household with the author or close friends” cannot. I’m not exactly clear how close is ‘close friend,’ but I’m assuming this means my husband is out since I live with him.
5. Someone must have spent $50 on Amazon within the last12 months to write a review.
The last point was surprising. On the one hand, I understand not wanting people to write reviews for things they have never bought/used, but as Amazon has become such an incredible hub, it worries me that people outside the platform cannot be heard.
Where to find or post book reviews:
Check Goodreads, amazon, google, iBooks and pretty much anywhere the ebook is sold. They all have review options.
Writing a review:
Be honest! As much as I wish to support friends and other writers, I never lie in a review. I don’t want to trick someone into buying something they don’t want, and I don’t want to discredit the author. But don’t expect your review to necessarily reach the author, as many authors do not read reviews. If you want to reach out to the author, try the contact page on their website, their Facebook page, twitter account, Instagram etc.
While adding a review to a book that already has five hundred is a drop in an overflowing bucket, a review to a new author is worth gold! So, if you enjoyed a book, any book, take a moment to find it online wherever you shop and leave a review. It is probably the single-most supporting thing you can do for any new writer.
It's a New Year. The gamer in me appreciates that it's going to be a good year because it's 2020. I'm not going to explain the joke, sorry.
Since launching Dragon's Voice in November, I've been compiling a list of things I wish I had known before publishing. These are the little things that some people may have told me and I forgot, or no one said and I didn't know to ask. So, here are "More Things we Learned" It's a continuation of the "Things we learned today" Blog from October 2019. Read that one HERE first, then come back.
Done? Ok, here's the new stuff.
1. Make sure your word document has "keep lines together" UNCLICKED on the paragraph settings. This means the program will NOT bump your paragraph to the next page to keep it together. That way you won't end up with a huge dead space at the end of the page when the paragraph falls across it. It DOES mean you'll have widows and orphans (a single word or sentence on a page followed by a break like a chapter). Now you have to find those and fix them.
If you fail to do this, correcting it later will mean you will suddenly SHORTEN your book and may have to redo your cover (because the spine is now a different thickness).
2. Don't put a subtitle in Amazon for the paperback. The ebook from Draft2Digital doesn't do subtitles, and now your two items don't match by way of description. No, you can't edit the paperback after it's up. You could edit the ebook, but D2D doesn't do subtitles, so you are stuck. Amazon won't help you by matching them.
I ended up removing Amazon from D2D's distribution and loading the doggone thing myself. It worked, but defeats a bit of the purpose! On the plus side, the ebooks count towards the Amazon total now, and since they payout when I hit a threshold, it may help me reach that threshold sooner and actually get paid. So, maybe a good thing?
3. Make a file for your links. Yes, D2D has a new "universal link" feature, but you'll still want the paperback one, and your website, and your event link and whatever else. If you have a single file with it on, it's easy to click and connect the icons to the page you want. But some links are too long… so I learned about Bitly. It shortens links for you.
4. Sell author copies to sell to family and friends, those who would buy MY book but not really likely to buy a fantasy novel. This means you will not confuse the algorithms online. Apparently, Amazon and such are using your sales to categorize your book (so they know who to show it to in the "you may be interested in" parts. If all my friends buy it, but they are not fantasy readers, then it doesn't show it to the right people.
The downside to this is that these sales do not count towards my rankings or online presence. Pros and cons to that one.
5. I sold 25 books easily. I should have brought in more.
6. Reviews. Please, if you remember only one thing from this, let it be; "support your author with reviews." Online reviews drive sales. They let people know the new book by an unknown person is legitimate. If you have thirty seconds, go write a review. Even if it's not for me, write one for another author you love. It doesn't matter as much to the multi-million sales top-seller with thousands already (but they would probably like to hear from you!), but it is a HUGE thing to an author just starting. You can write reviews on websites, Goodreads, Amazon and more.
I didn't do a good job of setting up reviews. I have to play catch-up now. It's hard to have reviews without having readers. I should have requested reviews from early readers (eARC), but that's a work in progress now.
There you go! Hopefully, someone can learn from my oversights and have a smoother publishing run!
Overall, I was floored by how well Dragon's Voice did. I called the book my "Training wheels book" because I knew it would be a bit wobbly, a stepping stone along the path to publications, but it was smoother and better received than I had ever expected.
If I did my job right, the people who enjoyed Dragon's Voice will be excited to know Dragon's Talon (following Sair's descendant through starting a war) is aiming to be released in May 2020. It'll be going to Beta Readers no later than mid-January.
Happy reading and Happy New Year!
When I approached the Sooke branch of the Vancouver Island Regional Library about being a venue, they cautioned me that these events did not tend to draw big crowds. I told them that was my job, not theirs. But I didn't know who would be interested. I had no idea what to expect. A few? Maybe a dozen?
We filled the room. Not an empty seat to be found. I was flabbergasted. I ran out of books to sell and took orders for more. Wow!
Thank you! Thank you for coming out with curiosity and support! Thank you for making it less terrifying to show the author side of me that was hiding.
I'm glad it's over, to be honest. I can move on with polishing Dragon's Talon now (next book, but not a sequel). The library was incredibly helpful during this, and I need to go pick up a thank you card for them tomorrow. We were the biggest author reading they had ever seen. For all the nervousness it generated, it was a huge success.
I talked about where the stories came from and how I worked to get it done. It's the sort of thing for another post, but for now, suffice to say this book is out there to enjoy. I hope people have fun hanging out with Sair and Cinder and Elora and all the dragons. I hope they enjoy the adventure.
But again, wow. And THANK YOU. Thank you to those who came, those who sent support and regrets, and those who took a chance on the book.
I guess I'd better work on the next one.
It's officially here!
Dragon's Voice hit the "shelves" November 4th and is available online as an ebook as well as a paperback from Amazon. It's a concept I'm still getting used to! You'll probably see a post in the near future going through "What we learned in self-publishing" but for now... LAUNCH!
Due to my local Sooke Writing Collective (check them out HERE), I have gone ahead with having a launch. It's in Sooke at the Vancouver Island Library (who have been AWESOME) at 2065 Anne Marie Rd on December 7th, 2019, from 3:30-4:30. It's a celebration of the fun and joy of the book. Yes, I'll read some excerpt (because who doesn't want to hear from sassy fairy dragon Cinder?), discuss the book a bit, and answer questions.
Books will be on sale, but don't feel pressured. I've just discovered the library has bought two copies and are doing their best to have them available for loan by the 7th. So you can take it out with your library card from here to Tofino!
I am beyond thrilled by the support the library and the Sooke Writing Collective has shown me in this adventure. Thank you so much to everyone and see you on the 7th!
These are a bit random, but useful in their own ways. Most arose from conversations with other authors or in talks at SiWC. I'm not a member of all of them. Please don't consider this an endorsement as I don't know the ins and outs of all the platforms in great detail, but I do think they can help someone out there!
1. The 12 steps of Intimacy.
This wasn't where you thought this was going, was it?
So this is useful in general. Desmond Morris is credited for defining the twelve stages of intimacy. These steps increase bonds and provide a better connection. The fun thing? Well, it's also how you build a realistic relationship in a novel. You can't skip through these, else things feel rushed, forced, or artificial.
There! Now you know! And for me, who struggles to get characters together, it helps to ensure I didn't just skip over a few steps.
Reference: Morris, D. (1971). Intimate Behaviour: A Zoologist's Classic Study of Human Intimacy. New York: Kodansha America, Inc.
2. The Creative academy
This is an online community with resources for courses and mentors. Fully in, there are writing prompts, daily forum conversations, and access to mentors. Connect with other writers and take advantage of three experts: Donna Barker, Eileen Cook, and Crystal Stranaghan. I could lose days in there, learning! I'm putting it on the back burner for now, but it comes highly recommended.
3. Rambo's Academy for Wayward Writers
Another community, this time put together by the amazing Fantasy/SciFi author Cat Rambo (her blog: http://www.kittywumpus.net/blog/). Courses by a veteran author and teacher (30 years and counting!) But also support, market news, and critique exchange on their forums. Being that it's Cat Rambo, the website is populated by the fantasy and science fiction community. Plus, she's an awesome person.
4. Writing excuses podcasts
This long-running podcast series is at https://writingexcuses.com. It covers a vast gambit; from personal reflections on books, to interviews with authors, to nitty-gritty of the industry, including marketing and financing (you know, those things new authors don't know anything about). There are many, many hours available, but season 2 and 3 are the most useful for me so far! Check it out (and be prepared to spend a lot of time enjoying their conversations!)
5. Canva.com website
I did warn you these were random.
I was recently introduced to this and wow! It's a free (you can pay for a fancier version) website with a huge stock of images and templates for any kind of visual art. This means posters, advertisements, twitter banners, facebook posts, and more! No more worrying about resolution; it handles that! It's easy to learn and fast. Once done, you can download your image and use it again and again and again....
I hope someone finds these at least useful!
To explain: this is the third year I have attended the Surrey International Writer's Conference (check it out HERE), albeit not consecutively. I enjoy it every time, but I cannot always afford it or the time off to get there. I seem to get more out of it every time, reflecting on where I am as a writer. This year has inspired several posts. I'll start with the 'main takeaways,' the gems. These are the points or ideas that kept coming up, reinforcing themselves, desperate to be accepted.
1. Your first book is unlikely to be the first thing you publish. In fact, it's unlikely to ever be published at all.
For some reason, while I knew this fact, I had never heard a published author admit it. Everyone (with a few exceptions), has their trunk books. These are the books you write on your way to writing your bigger, better, awesome book. These books get hidden deep within a trunk and never see the light of day. They are where we make our mistakes, learn about ourselves, and explore the craft. This is how we learn what a story is. What makes it tick. Where it goes wrong. How to fix things. They are necessary steps along the journey.
Then we bury them in the trunk and ignore them for the rest of our writing career. Or at least don't bring it out until it's had an overhaul.
And that's ok. The process of writing the first book (and yes, you need to finish it!!) moulds us as writers and puts us closer to the true goal: our real novel. It was just nice to hear someone admit it.
2. Character arcs and plots are not separate things.
There are ways of breaking down plots (3 Acts, the Hero's Journey, etc.), but they actually follow the same pattern as the character arc. Of course, there is no hard-fast rule about how this must be done, but it's a pattern to be aware of. In particular, if you're stuck on a character or plot, and something's not right, it's the thing to fall back on. Figuring out the Character Arc (Elizabeth Boyle is a wonderful teacher) as it nests within the standard 3-Act story was enlightening.
Entire courses and books go into these points in fascinating detail, but suffice to say, if your story revolves around just the character or just the plot, you're missing out. They are inseparable.
3. We're weird. That's ok.
This conference is weird, and everyone keeps saying it. For some reason, it shocks people to have top-of-their-game authors and agents sharing their tips and tricks. At SiWC, there are newbies and veterans, and everyone is welcomed. As a relative newbie, there's a degree of 'inside jokes' and some circles of friends, but no one is deliberately keeping others out. And where else are you going to see people in capes, tiaras, and fabulously bright footwear? Better still, no one bats an eye at it! Authors are weird, but at SiWC, we are in good company!
Stayed tuned! The next installment will cover new resources. While I know not all are for me, I hope they can help others too.
After that, we shall see!
I rather accidentally created pre-orders for the ebook of Dragon's Voice, set to launch November 4th, 2019! So check it out at THIS LINK!
I also discovered a glitch in the print copy, which meant I had to have the cover artist repeat the paperback cover (oops) and have now submitted it to KDP for print. The ebook distribution to Amazon does take a little longer (I missed a few steps!) so it's not up as of the time of this note, but I hope it will be soon! It's a sharp learning curve over here...
So here it is... the real deal!
I'm a little excited.
Things I learned today while playing with publishing.
Sharp learning curve, but I know more today than I did yesterday! And Dragon's Voice ebook (link-depending) should be available shortly for pre-order. Check out this YA romp with dragons! It goes live November 4th, which is coming up way too fast!