The Good Old Days on the Prairies

snow drifts

 

God, my mom could tell you about prairie life—the loneliness and isolation—no neighbours for miles and miles.

And winds—always winds—blowing  the top soil away, or packing the snow into drifts sometimes as high as the house and so hard the cattle and horses could walk on them without breaking through.

And the poverty; fried potatoes and eggs three times a day all winter because that was all they had, walking nine miles to town with a dime to buy a box of corn flakes and taking the penny change home to her mother.

Wearing hand-me-downs from her aunts—flapper dresses that didn’t fit, the neckline hanging much too low on her gangly teen body. Wearing her brothers’ long johns under her dresses—long johns that bagged and sagged under those flapper dresses (imagine how lovely that looked), her legs rubbed raw from her rubber boots—the only boots she had. Using goose fat to try to cure chapped skin.

And the terrible depression that ensued from it all.

We moved to the city with its modern conveniences when I was ten. Mom was not sorry to leave those “good old days” behind.

Email lists: What do you want from the author?

 

email 2

For most authors marketing their books is tougher than writing them.

Numerous blogs, webinars, and courses provide advice. The general consensus, at the moment, (I say this advisedly, because a month or two from now, the direction might be quite different) is to build an email list of subscribers.

I’ve subscribed to a number of author emails lists. Some email only to announce a new book, which means I hear from them once a year or so. One gentleman emails about his latest release and also writes about the state of publishing and marketing. This author is prolific. His emails come every few months. Yet another sends fascinating tidbits a couple of times a month related to ancient history—you won’t be surprised to learn that his genre is historical fiction. One woman writes weekly with sage advice and tips about writing.  Then there’s the guy who sends out short bits daily.

So, for an author trying to market his or her books, what is the magic “email” answer?

We’re told:

  • Offer them books, extra chapters, character profiles—al for free of course.
  • Email often—once a week at least.
  • Don’t email too often—once a month will do.
  • Keep your emails short.
  • Provide long, informative emails.

The thing is, with all these emails floating about, I don’t know that anyone has stopped to ask subscribers what they really want. So, here’s the question of the day:

Once you’ve decided to sign up to an author’s email list, what do you expect to receive from that author and how often do you want to hear from him or her?

http://www.darlenejonesauthor.com

Could reincarnation be real?

doors

I believe in reincarnation. How else to explain that sense of déjà-vu? How else to explain the dreams of childhood that came each and every night like never ending reruns of some television show? How else to explain the meeting of those dreams in reality years later?

As a child I had recurring dreams, some scary, some reassuring, all puzzling for they were of places beyond my farm yard experience. Rooms with wooden slatted doors: I’d never seen one of those in real life. Vast high roofed buildings with wide open staircases; we surely had none of those on the farm.

When I encountered the doors as an adult, when I climbed that stairway in the new airport as a teen, I knew I had lived before. Nothing else could explain the clarity of the dream, the exact match of that dream image to reality.

 

http://reluctant-messenger.com/reincarnation-proof.htm

http://www.buddhanet.net/e-learning/reincarnation.htm

Victoria, BC – Northwest Deuce Days

They roll off the Coho Ferry from Port Angeles, the Spirit of British Columbia from the mainland — hundreds and hundreds of antique cars from across Canada and the US.

And hundreds and hundreds of people come to admire and drool over these beauties.

cars 1

cars 2

cars 3

cars 431

cars 5

 

 

http://www.northwestdeuceday.com/

http://www.darlenejonesauthor.com

The Persistent Author

 

AgfaPhoto

AgfaPhoto

I wrote a book, something I’d yearned to do since childhood. I naively thought I’d start at page one and proceed in a logical fashion to “The End.” Instead the story came together in fits and starts with a whole lot of organizing, reorganizing, writing and rewriting—much of it done at night when I suffered from insomnia. Scribbles on yellow sticky notes, written in the dark, barely decipherable in the morning, eventually came together as a novel.

In all of my childhood dreaming, I had never considered the roller coaster of emotions that would come with the author role.

Initially, I told no one about my writing, rather embarrassed to presume to have the ability to put myself somewhere among the ranks of my favorite authors. But I couldn’t just leave my baby, er, I mean my novel, sitting on my computer so I joined the provincial writing guild and became a member of a critiquing group.

We were strangers on a mission, all new to the business of being an author, but determined to succeed and intent on helping each other reach our goals. Meeting once a month, nervousness morphed into confidence—not only of our own work, but also of the members’ genuine desire to help, not insult or hurt.

From the critiquing group I progressed to working with a writing partner sending work back and forth, brainstorming ideas, and making corrections. With a completed manuscript it was time to search out agents. I trotted off to the post office and, hands trembling a little, handed my letters over to the clerk.

I waited, impatiently for the post man. Replies did come—eventually. My heart beat faster, my hopes rose. I tore open the envelopes.  Rejection. Rejection. Rejection. Hopes dashed, I glared at my computer, gave it a figurative kick and left it standing alone and lonely on my desk. This period of gloom lasted anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours after the receipt of one of those letters.

Refusing to give up, I started to write a second novel while preparing more queries for the first. Eventually a fat envelop arrived. My heart lept. This had to be good, right? All the others were skinny with little “Dear Author” notes inside. A fat letter had to be a positive response. Not! Rejection and pages of agent advertising urging me to spend a bundle of dollars on various services they just happened to be able to offer. Angry and frustrated, I debated quitting. Any sane person would give up. Not me. I persisted. I kept writing.

It was at the Willamette Writers’ Conference (not the first conference or workshop I’d attended, by any means) that I first heard about self-publishing. My writing partner and I pitched to an agent. She was positive, asked to see our work. Elated, we drove home plotting our future. A couple of weeks later we received identically worded rejections from this agent for two very different genres and writing styles. Angry at first, frustrated beyond belief, then overcome with laughter, our determination solidified. That was it! No more agonizing. Future defined. We’d self-publish.

Persistence paid off. I now have six books published (a four novel science-fiction series, one collection of short bits, and a contemporary novel) available in all formats. Ideas are swirling in my head for book seven. Now to get them to settle down into a logical order so that I can write it.

http://www.darlenejonesauthor.com

 

It’s so quiet here

I posted this about 2 years ago, but in light of what’s happening in the world these days, I felt compelled to post it again. The picture is from Aleppo, Syria, taken a few days ago.

war 2

“We need you to interview a couple who have applied to teach in our province,” said the government voice at the end of the line.

“O-kay,” I said wondering why they couldn’t do it themselves.

“They’re from Lebanon and they only speak Arabic and French.”

Aha, that explained it. We had many immigrants coming into our city from war torn areas of the world and the Lebanese civil war was on-going at the time.

“We need you to evaluate their French language competency.”

A date and time were set and I met the couple in the appointed government office. I talked to each of them in turn.

The wife was shy and timid, but her French was fine. The husband was more willing to talk about conditions in Lebanon.

“I was a teacher,” he said. “They took my job away and sent me to work at the airport. Every morning I said good-bye to my family not knowing if I would see them again. Every morning a guard pointed a gun in my chest and asked me to produce my identification. The same guard. Every morning. As if he didn’t know who I was. We were so lucky to come to Canada. We had to come. I couldn’t risk the lives of my wife, my children.”

He paused for a moment as if gathering himself. “It’s so quiet here. You have peace. It’s so quiet here.”

All these years later, especially as I watch the news of war and strife around the world, one phrase echoes in my head. “It’s so quiet here.”

 

 

 

 

Joys of deciphering English

Dictionary

 

Uzo (my writing partner from Nigeria) writes:

When I am at a loss as to what a word means or how to write something, I consult my English dictionary. But then it’s English we are talking about; a vast somewhat complex language. It appears changes are being made every two or three years. And who am I to question another man’s language?

I imagine traditional speakers of English hold different views when it comes to the application of certain words. Take for e.g. “fell” in the sentence “His face fell.” In the Oxford dictionary there is an example like that along with its meaning. If as a writer, one is trying to convey to his readers that Jane is discouraged by her test results, how does he do so without being wordy? Do I simply say Jane looked discouraged? I am sure a good editor will point that out to me as “telling” how Jane feels. Yes, a writer doesn’t have to “show” everything, but when he does, he either is talking about a body part or anything around his book’s character(s). And from what I gather excessive use of “…ly” words make for lazy writing. So we are back to creativity in writing. How much description is bad and what sentences are now a cliché or not grammatical enough?

 

I write:

English is a horrendous language to learn. Culture plays a role too of course. I was getting my teeth cleaned yesterday and the hygienist, who is Vietnamese, said that her nieces and nephew are half-breeds. She used this expression because her sister and brother married white Canadians. I told her that “half-breed” has a terrible negative connotation coming from racism. When I was a kid, native Indians, (or to use the current politically correct term, aboriginals), who had an Indian parent and a white parent, were referred to, in a very derogatory way, as half-breeds. Of course she was completely unaware of this. Now, people use the term bi-racial. So I would say my granddaughter is bi-racial because she is half Mexican and half white Canadian.

 

At the same time, the complexity of English offers a multitude of nuances of meaning and that, of course, is where the difficulty lies. The article I sent you is just one writer’s opinion. She makes some very good points, but I disagree when she says the expression “his face fell” has the reader picturing his face on the floor. In fact “his face fell” is perfectly understood by native speakers to signify his shock or disappointment.

 

How much description is bad? It’s too much if the reader skips over parts. It’s too much if it doesn’t advance the story. Before television, books had huge passages of description that readers enjoyed, but with all the visual media we have now, readers don’t have the patience for that sort of thing. But then there is also danger in too little description if it leaves the reader puzzled as to what is happening. We, as the writer, have the scene clear in our heads. It has to be clear for the reader too.

 

One of the “joys” of being a writer is trying to find the balance in all of this.
 

Uzo writes:

Half-breed. Ah! We used to call white people half-caste. I thought that was cool until I got into senior secondary. Imagine how embarrassed I was when I was corrected. I felt terrible because one of my very good childhood friends was a white girl. She’s bi-racial – Nigerian and German.

What are the aliens up to now? Peek into book 3 EMBRACED

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000026_00038]

 

Hi, I’m Curtis. Mrs. Jones—that’s her on the camel—put me in one of her books called EMBRACED. Sounds pretty mushy to me. Anyway, she says I have to tell you a little about the story.

Miss D, my school principal came to me one day with this page of scribbles. She thought it was some kind of code and she wanted me and my buddies to try to figure it out. I like Miss D and all. She’s not bad for an adult. You can talk to her and she doesn’t make fun. But, sheesh, a code from aliens? Anyway, to keep her happy, I said I’d help.

Thing is, once I started studying the scribbles, I could see messages. I told Miss D that Coder Guy (that’s the name Miss D gave to whoever was sending the messages) wanted her to fix things. Of course she asked what things? I didn’t know so I made up some stuff. Miss D wrote letters to newspapers using my ideas and the things she asked for started to come true.

She even let our class write letters on this fancy paper she had and the things we asked for came true too. Kinda spooky, eh? But fun. Secretly I wished Coder Guy could get rid of my zits and help me lose weight so I wouldn’t be such a geek. I didn’t tell Miss D that, but Coder Guy must have read my mind or something cause now I’m taller and better looking and the girls are starting to talk to me. Miss D says everyone changes, but for me it happened awfully fast so I think Coder Guy did it.

Now Miss D is in the hospital. She’s all screwed up by the messages and the letters and this guy named Sam. I think she really liked him, but he dumped her or something and that sent her over the edge. I’m going up to the hospital to see her now.

Oops, Mrs. Jones just told me not to say too much. Doesn’t want any spoilers for her book so you’ll have to read it to find out what happens. But she did tell me I could let you read an excerpt so here’s one for you.

Gotta go see Miss D now. Hope you like the book.

 

EXCERPT

“More drawings?” Curtis gestured at the papers she held.

Abby looked down at the pages and willed her hand to stop trembling. The three pages of code drawings seemed to shimmer and shiver with a life of their own. “Yes. Three pages. From Friday, Saturday, and last night. They’re pretty … they’re … pretty well done, I’d say.”

But Curtis was no longer listening.  He waved the papers she’d just handed him and almost shouted with excitement. “These are amazing. Way better than the first drawing you brought us.”

Abby stifled a small grin, but she had to agree. The drawings outclassed her scratches a million times over. “My friend developed instant artistic talent.”

“I’ll say.” Curtis shuffled the pages back and forth. He shook his head slowly and muttered “wow” over and over. Finally he looked up at her. “Miss D, thanks for getting so many. Now we have four to compare. We’ll see if there are any repeated patterns or sequences of symbols. Your friend is great to share these with us.”

“No problem.” Oh God, I’m such a liar. Of course there was a problem, and not just because she was lying to Curtis. My friend. How lame was that? The mere existence of the pages was the real problem. Some nights the clickings chattered incessantly in her fillings, almost driving her crazy.

Those were the nights of very little sleep. The weekend had been eerily silent. That was a new phenomenon since Friday, no clickings, instead Coder Guy had begun leaving the pages filled with drawings. Either way—no escaping the code.

A while back, she’d grown tired of sharpening the pencil she used each night and replaced it with a pen, which was now almost out of ink. She’d have to remember to get out a new one tonight. Or maybe not? What would happen if there was no writing utensil?

“What’s so funny?” Curtis asked. Abby hadn’t realized she’d laughed out loud. The lack of pen wouldn’t stop her night visitor. She stifled another burst of laughter she knew bordered on hysteria. Truth was, much as the pages of code scared her, she’d be devastated if no more came. The person—being, alien, Coder Guy—was an integral part of her life now; his existence had established a rhythm that kept her balanced. Or so she thought. Maybe she was completely off her rocker.