Total Pageviews

Saturday, July 30, 2011

It's Official

'Base Spirits' is going to be my first self-published book this September. It will not be my last.

In designing my book cover, Neil Jackson (be patient-- his website isn't up quite yet... ) asked me if I had a company name to put on the spine. Well... no, I didn't. Or at least, I didn't think I had. What's the name of your blog, Barrett? Oh yeah! So here it is:

Spirited Words Book Co.

On top of all the brilliant cover work Neil did, he also designed a pretty spiffy logo for me and my fledgling company. I searched the name to make sure no one else has used it for an existing business, then registered it with myself as sole proprietor on the Ontario Government website. If you are in the same province and are thinking of going the same route, check it out-- it's worth it to at least grab your preferred name and make it your own. The registration lasts 5 years and costs $60. I did it on-line in a few minutes. ( If you ever want to open a separate business banking account, you will need to have a name registered.

To make things more publicly official, I started a Facebook group for the book company. Please drop by and 'like' it. I'll be updating news and adding links as I go along.

Why do all of this? It puts the right kind of good pressure on me. I can't let the firm down, you see. I'll *have* to treat it like a business as well as a creative journey.

What do you think of the logo, folks? It'll make a zippy-looking business card. (Oh yeah-- business cards!) My 'to-do' list seems to get longer every day, but every day I knock a couple of things off (ta-da!). I haven't been so busy in years, but I don't mind. I know my days won't always have to be this long, and it's MY baby. I want it to thrive.

That's all for July, folks. Looking back, I sure have come along way already. Thanks for dropping by and being a part of it.

Oh... and let's take another look at Neil Jackson's superb cover!

Friday, July 22, 2011

My Guest Blogger Debut... and a Cover Concept!!

It's been a busy week!

I finished up my final big edit of Base Spirits, just in time for my 'day job' writing described video scripts to kick in. I had a meeting with a local gang of creative women-- the Network Gals-- and sharing what we're up to artistically always gets us all excited about our own projects. I was also honoured to have 'guest blogged' for the first time here: My humble thanks to author Hannah Warren for the kind invitation! Her blog is worth a close look. Have a wander through.

Okay. I was trying to wait until after the final tweaks had been made, but I got this last night and it is FAR too cool not to share!!

I have a book cover!! And WHAT a book cover!

Jeez... I'm shouting. Sorry. I'm just so happy with it!

A million thanks to author Mark Edward Hall. I 'met' Mark on Twitter and admired the cover designs on his website: He generously put me in touch with artist Neil Jackson. Much more of his work can be viewed here: I'll post his contact info when I hear back... just holding off until then. It's only polite to ask, and I want to be sure to direct traffic in the right direction.

There are a few very minor tweaks, but here it is! Ta-da!!! What do you think? Pretty damned snazzy, eh? You may recognize the Durham Cathedral sanctuary door knocker. I have a bit of a fetish for it... and it has never seemed more striking and appropriate!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Jacket Blurb

Hi folks- I'm fiddling with a jacket blurb.

Would YOU buy this book?

Some crimes are so horrific, they reverberate through the centuries.
In 1605, Sir Walter Calverley’s murderous rampage leaves a family shattered. The killer suffers a torturous execution… but is it truly the end? A noble Yorkshire house stands forever tarnished by blood.

And possessed by anguished spirits.
            As a troubled modern couple vacation in the guesthouse at Calverley Old Hall, playwright Clara, and her scholarly husband Scott, unwittingly awaken a dark history. Clara is trapped and forced back in time to bear witness to a family’s bloody saga. Overtaken by the malevolent echoes, Scott is pushed over the edge from possessive husband to wholly possessed…

            Inspired by a true-life drama from Shakespeare’s day, this is itself a play within a play… a supernatural thriller with a historical core.

Only one player can survive.

‘Murder has took this chamber with full hands
And will ne’er out as long as the house stands.’
~A Yorkshire Tragedy


Tuesday, July 12, 2011

I haven't forgotten you...

It's been a busy few days since my last post. I'm beavering away at the final-final-FINAL edit of 'Base Spirits', and I've seen the first mock-up of my cover design. I'm absolutely chuffed to little mint-balls. I will reveal the final version after my artist does his tweaks, but it is a variation on the Durham Cathedral sanctuary door knocker pictured to the left.

I promise you, it's eerie. It will give you the shivers. I guarantee, it is far scarier than this:


I'd like to express my sincere gratitude to all those who have visited my blog so far. It's only been a week, and there have been an encouraging number of views (209 the last time I peeked). I was tantalizingly close to that magical 200 mark last night, so I put out a little plea on Twitter and lo and behold, the twits delivered! My humblest of thanks.

I hope to have a book cover to show off in the very near future!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Setting the Scene

Thanks for dropping by-- come in, come in. I'd like to show you around Calverley Old Hall.

This is the setting for my upcoming novel Base Spirits (September 2011-- Ooh! Scary, kids!

I guarantee Base Spirits is much scarier. And there are no pancakes... or are there? AROOOO!

The book is a bit of a mongrel, genre-wise. I call it 'a supernatural thriller with a historical core'. ('an historical'? Nitpicking...) The Old Hall, as you can see by the Flickr slide show I found on the Web, is a bit of a mongrel as well.

It was kismet that led me to discover the Old Hall back in my acting days. I was playing the woebegone wife of the murderous Sir Walter Calverley in a Summerworks Theatre Festival production of 'A Yorkshire Tragedy' (but that's a whole other blog post!), and had a chance to visit Yorkshire that summer. Calverley is a small village just outside of Leeds halfway to Bradford. I went to find the Old Hall, and happily also found a local historian Ted Garnett who gave me a tour and a book about the murders. Invaluable research for a difficult role... and the seeds to a future novel.

The fact that one can rent out the North Wing as a holiday guesthouse stuck in my craw, and informed my story's eventual structure. I love reading work that plays with historical events and people. But rather than pen a purely historical novel, I created a 'play within a play'. What if a modern marriage's discord could somehow dredge up the horrors of the past? And since I adore a good ghost story, this idea grabbed my imagination and ran off with it like a bat out of Hell.

I hope it will grab your attention, too-- in September.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Not Dead Yet

Despite the Monty Python reference, this is serious.

Why now? Why have I reached this conclusion to throw caution (and possibly my sanity) to the wind and join the self-publishing revolution/evolution?

Because we must never take life and good health for granted. And no, I'm not going all Oprah on your asses. This is real.

All of us make excuses: 'I'll call so-and-so for coffee next week' or 'I'll do some writing after I finish the laundry and run my errands' or 'I'll finish my novel over the holidays or when I retire' blah-blah-blah... I'm here to tell you to stop putting things off.

And when I say 'I'm here to tell you', I mean I am here by the skin of my teeth.

Since I turned 40 in 2007, I have been at death's door- not once, not twice, but three times. On the first occasion, the lights did indeed go out; but I happened to have a very efficient nurse by my side at the time, so I'm still here.

Strike one...

I've always been healthy. I had no reason to think anything could change that. I won't go into all the horrid details, but I landed up with pulmonary embolisms (blood clots) in both lungs in 2008. A cheery little side-effect from the Pill, and no- I don't smoke. I recovered-- barely-- and then was back in the hospital later that year with life-threatening internal bleeding.

Strike two...

After my second release, I was left an unrecognizable shell of myself. I was weak and terrified. Convinced I would be going back to die in the hospital, I kept a bag packed and handy for months. Kind of a 'mortality bag', where other women pack a maternity bag.

Life did get better. A new 'day job' as a paid writer and a move to my favourite town healed the spirit. My friends cheered and supported me. And still I was distracted, and somehow too unwilling and blocked to do what I must and get 'Base Spirits' out to the world.

So the universe gave me another little shove at New Year's of 2011.

Long, ugly story short: complications from the flu landed me in the hospital, half-dead in an induced coma. I don't remember a whole week of my life. Thankfully, my friend Craig happened to be with me (again) when I collapsed in a seizure. He spent the week I was out worrying that I'd be brain-damaged. Imagine that: a brain-damaged writer.

Wait for it... strike three.

But? I am far from 'out'. It was a rough start to the year, but I finally began to pay attention. This 'brush with mortality' stuff is heavy. I won't pretend it was easy, but I am now physically sound and able to smile, and find humour and beauty-- more than ever. I am still processing. Among other things, I have been making effort to get to know all the wonderful new friends I have made, involve myself in my community, and to let go of some unwieldy past baggage.

And FINALLY, I am getting my work out there. Yes, I have had many short stories published, but not a stand-alone novel. And time and life and spirit are all far too precious to waste waiting around for the wheels of the publishing world to turn and maybe-- eventually-- give you a break.

So that is why, folks.

Now- go grab a stiff drink and a cold compress and get on with life.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Time Lines and the Process

My friend Russell Smith ( suggested that I 'blog' the experience of the self-publishing process. I'll try not to be tedious with my postings. Bear with me. I'm making this up and learning as I go. Every day I find out something new and exciting about the possibilities ahead... I'm still a muddle when it comes to sorting through the heaps of information. Hopefully along the way, my experience may help any of my other writer friends who want to follow the same route.

The one vital thing is to make sure your book is ready. I've read some self-published stuff over the years, and the authors had done themselves a disservice by putting their work out there in poor condition. Re-write. Tweak. Edit. Take some writing courses. Get some 'friendly readers' to give you their opinions-- and not just your Mom! (Although my Mom liked my book. A lot.) Join a writers' group. If there aren't any in your area, why not start one? The local library may be a good place to post and find other authors. If all else fails, there are a number of on-line writers' circles. Google is your friend.

I was blessed with excellent editorial support: 'Base Spirits' has been professionally edited by Heather Sangster at Strong Finish:
Happily, the substantive/line edit was a birthday gift from one of my friends who believed in me and my project. At the time, I was given a choice of either a really good office chair or the professional editorial service. Needless to say, I still get a sore ass from my work chair, but my manuscript is in great shape! If you can afford a pro editor, I say it is well worth it. Even if you plan on going the traditional route of agents and bricks-and-mortar publishers, you owe it to yourself to offer up the best book you can. These are busy, harried people and you need to grab their attention with polished writing.

Likewise, the readers of e-books and indie-published work deserve the very best, too. There is a LOT of crap out there in the virtual world. Why insult your potential fans with sloppy editing or ugly cover designs?

This much I know: I am aiming for publication in September 2011. I've been in touch over the past few weeks with formatters and a cover designer, and this is our collective plan. I realize that there are step-by-step instructions on sites like Smashwords and Amazon to walk me through the process of interior formatting and designing a cover for free; but I have decided that if I am going to do this, then I want 'Base Spirits' to not only read well, but look damned spiffy and professional.

Once I get into the back-and-forth with the formatter and the designer, I'll let you know how it works.

Until we meet again...

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Carpe Diem

Well, here we go.

I've never been comfortable with the idea of blogging. Then again, I've never been comfortable with the idea of self-publishing either... and that is what I am about to do.

Breaking out of one's comfort zone is not easy. I grew up with the idea that I had to go the traditional route as an author, and I have faithfully done so-- I have a degree in English Literature from Trent University. I've written heaps of short stories and had them published, thus proving that someone believed in me enough to put me in print. I studied with Peter Carey as my mentor through the Humber School for Writers. I wrote a novel-- Base Spirits-- that I think is good, had it professionally edited and began the endless rounds of queries to agents and publishers.  I've belonged to writers' groups, in person and on-line.  I've been paid to write. I've received praise and grant money and won prizes.

I read a lot. I write a lot. I take pains to hone my craft, and when I get rejected, I dust myself off and try again. And again.

But there comes a time when a sea change is needed.

Self-publishing had a rotten stigma for a very long time... and mostly for very good reasons. I resisted the idea for years, determined to keep on throwing myself at the mercy of editors and agents. My friend Craig saw my frustration, and encouraged me to try the new trend in self-publishing a couple of years ago. I wasn't in the right state of mind to hear it at the time, but his words must have sunk in. I've been watching the growth and evolution of self-publishing... and now I'm ready to give it a shot.

This won't be easy, and the rewards may seem paltry at first... but I will no longer be waiting on the whims of faceless, overworked publishers and agents. I will-- with luck and perseverance-- find a readership.

This blog is part of the process. I invite you to come along for the ride.