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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Silly Season

My tree!

Ho ho HOLY CRAP! I have been dreadful at posting lately!! A thousand apologies.

Life does get in the way. I have a lot of illness and worry in my family these days, and my energy is better spent elsewhere.

Writing DOES continue apace. I have a new, true ghost story just out in Jeff Bennington's CREEPY 3 anthology. Christmas is the traditional time for ghost stories, and there are some nice spine-tinglers in this collection. Check out mine: 'The Watcher in the Woods' about an apparition I saw just after my own near-death experience. http://www.amazon.com/Creepy-Collection-Stories-Series-ebook/dp/B00AKYD120

Another ghostly short story turned into a fourteen thousand word novelette! 'In Sarah's Room' is a period piece... a creepy slow-burn of a ghost story in the tradition of M.R. James. This anthology (tentatively entitled TREADING CLOSE BEHIND) was also aiming for a Christmas release, but the consensus of the authors means that we'll likely be releasing it through a small UK publisher instead, hopefully not too far into 2013. Look for great dark stuff from B.L. Lloyd, Shalini Boland, V.R. Christensen and myself, to name a few...

Meantime, if you're doing your holiday shopping, books are always a good choice!

BASE SPIRITS is perfect to read whilst shivering by the fireplace...
In paperback- US: http://www.amazon.com/Base-Spirits-Ruth-Barrett/dp/1453643001 Also in the UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Base-Spirits-Ruth-Barrett/dp/1453643001
In e-book format- Kindle US (but also everywhere else where Kindle is marketed!) http://www.amazon.com/Base-Spirits-ebook/dp/B005L38G8E
All other e-book formats at Smashwords: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/84640

I have received Scrivener ( http://www.literatureandlatte.com/scrivener.php) as an early Christmas gift, so I'm hoping it will help streamline my fiction writing process. I aim to have the first book of THE DEAD DRUNK mystery series IN THE BAG done over the winter. There's not much else to do in Stratford over the snowy months!

I wish one and all the very best of the season and a brilliant 2013. May you be surrounded by love, abundance, and good health. Enjoy every minute with your family and friends. Make merry. The rest is just so much noise.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Of 'Fearful Morsels' and Downton Abbey Manners



I admit it. I love Downton Abbey, even if it really is just a high-class soap opera.

I imagine a lot of you watch it. No doubt you giggle at the Dowager Countess and the extremity of household protocol. Surely people were never so silly!

Or were they?

I am a history nut. When digging around in musty book shops, sometimes a treasure is unearthed... like a book of etiquette from times past. One such tome is a prized possession of mine by one Emily Holt, and bears the rather florid title:

~ENCYCLOPAEDIA OF ETIQUETTE ~
~WHAT TO DO
~WHAT TO SAY
~WHAT TO WRITE
~WHAT TO WEAR
~A BOOK OF MANNERS FOR EVERYDAY USE~
[Augmented by Eight Half-Tone Illustrations]

(*Whew* I feel under scrutiny even before I crack open the cover, don't you?)

This is not an English book, but Canadian! Brought to you by the good people at Toronto's Musson Book Company Ltd., it lays it on the line for the more uppity colonials precisely how to behave in a civilized society. I cannot find a date, but I would guess it must be just about pre-WWI, due to some references to proper motorcar etiquette.

It is packed full of gems. I will share my favourite here today-- as the holidays are drawing close, and you wouldn't want to make a fatal social blunder at a dinner party, now would you?

[Tip: it is best read aloud in your most convincing Maggie Smith impersonation.]

'ACCIDENTS AT TABLE'

'MISHAPS will overtake the best regulated diner, who, however, when anything flies from the plate or lap to the floor, should allow the servant to pick it up. Should grease or jelly drop from the fork to one's person, then to remove the deposit with the napkin corner is the only remedy.

How often, oh how often! does the apparently well-conducted man or woman, when such an accident befalls, gravely wipe his or her knife on a bit of bread or the plate's edge and heedfully scrape away at the the offending morsel. This is decidedly the wrong way to do it, just as it is an egregious error thoughtfully to scrape up a bit of butter or fragment of fowl from the tablecloth where it has fallen beside the plate. At the family board this is well enough, but to do so at a restaurant or a friend's table is wholly unnecessary.

If an ill-starred individual overturns a full wine or water glass at a dinner table, profuse apologies are out of place. To give the hostess an appealing glance and say: Pray forgive me, I am very awkward, or, I must apologize for my stupidity, this is quite unforgivable, I fear, is enough.

Should a cup, glass or dish be broken through carelessness, then a quick, quiet apology can be made and within a few days sincere repentance indicated by forwarding the hostess, if possible, a duplicate of the broken article and a contrite little note.

A serious and unpleasant accident is that of taking into the mouth half done, burning hot, or tainted foods and the one course to pursue is quickly and quietly to eject the fearful morsel on the fork or spoon, whence it can be quietly laid on the plate, or into a corner of the napkin. This can be so deftly accomplished that none need suspect the state of affairs and the napkin folded over and held in the lap throughout the meal.'

(I would be tempted to add, 'Whilst the juices of the of the fearful morsel may then stealthily seep in the fabric of one's dinner jacket or evening dress, this unfortunate side-effect of one's masochistic politeness must be borne without complaint. If one has a close family relationship with the hostess, a discreet bill for the cleaning may be sent in due course with a polite request for recompense, but, in the case of business partnerships or nobility, a stiff upper lip and a greasy lap is the only remedy'.'

Until my next post, dear Reader, I remain faithfully yours,

Ms. Ruth Anne Barrett


Saturday, October 13, 2012

That Way Madness Lies

Calm on the outside...


I remember as a young teen researching a class presentation for a science fair. We could choose any topic, and I took it upon myself to explore the connection between creativity and madness.

What kind of a topic is that for a fourteen year old? Ambitious! One might even say... crazy. But it's not a new concept by any stretch of the imagination: so many painters, writers, musicians, actors and creatives of all sorts are remembered just as much-- or more-- for their despair, manias, or erratic behaviour than they are for their artistic contributions to the world. As a prime example, I recall being particularly fascinated by the tragic figures of visual artists, and that they played a central role in this odd academic exercise: after all, they literally illustrated my point. I had glossy books of whirling, tormented paintings by the likes of Van Gogh and Hieronymus Bosch propped up beside my carefully assembled Bristol board musings to share with my classmates. I had sunk my teeth into my serious research with gusto, and I knew my stuff.

But?

When I stood up before a room of my contemporaries and introduced my topic, I suddenly was struck hard by the absurdity of it all. Don't get me wrong-- mental illness is no joke: I didn't think it then, and I don't think it now. But there-- in that moment-- I found it hilarious, and was possessed by a fit of the giggles. As I choked back my inappropriate hilarity and forced myself to continue, I became aware of my classmates' faces: some looked amused, but there were expressions ranging anywhere from bafflement and boredom to contempt and open dislike. "They must think I'm nuts!" I thought. That revelation did not exactly help me recapture my self-control. I stumbled through the rest of presentation, and returned-- still giggling-- to my desk.

To this day, that thought bubble is never really out of my head: "They must think I'm crazy" has been a sort of underscore to my life's journey.

This morning, I was slowly getting into my day-- I'll be working on a ghost story this afternoon-- and as  I often do, I found something interesting to watch on-line as I downed a pot of black coffee. I tend to gravitate toward history and documentaries... always in search of new story and character ideas. I found this post on Open Culture dedicated to Stephen Fry: http://www.openculture.com/2012/10/stephen_fry_friday_his_musings_on_life_swearing_depression_shakespeare_nanoscience_more.html

Perfect Saturday morning brain fodder. I love Stephen Fry. And of all the video options on this page, I chose his 'Secret Life of the Manic Depressive' that he shot for the BBC in 2006.

And it is extraordinary. And it's had me thinking.

How much madness is in any artist's 'method'? I have stacks of notebooks filled with scribbled ideas for stories. If I actually followed through on every thread I conceive, I'd never leave my desk. My dreams are epic and filled with vivid imagery and complex themes. I've always been drawn to music, acting, visual art, opera, writing, dance, comedy and film... the richness of the worlds created from pure imagination washes over me like the warmth of the sun, and I simply cannot get enough.

I've always been on the outside, observing, taking it all in. Storing it up. I hoard.

I'm weird.

I'm not saying I'm on the same level of genius as those I admire, or suffer some real form of manic depression (I don't think I do-- there seem to be such wild variations and levels that it's not impossible.) But I do wonder. What is the nature behind of all this inspiration-- this literal 'breathing in' of concepts and images, words and music? It can become overwhelming. There are times I avoid my own creativity. Sometimes I go months without 'really' writing. It's almost like I'm afraid of the obsessive quality of the process. When I let it take charge, the false world I'm inventing seems almost more vibrant and 'real' than the literal world around me.

I can contain it and function, but it sometimes makes for a difficult dance. Repression of creativity is doubly dangerous: too many times in my life, I have found myself a frustrated artistic soul. Only other creatives have any clue what inner torture it is when you are working in an office, or a bank, or retail or what have you in order to merely survive. It sucks the soul out of you. People who don't 'get it' judge you by the fact that you aren't a bestseller or starring on Broadway, and assume it's because you're a talentless hack with delusions of grandeur, and not due to the innumerable vagaries of pursuing any artistic profession. This causes the frustration to take on an even darker edge. Like the faces of the kids in my classroom, I feel aware of 'them' looking at me askance.

"They must think I'm nuts."

So-- are all creative types off-kilter? Is artistic output a coping mechanism, or is creativity itself the sort of madness that can become something wonderful when it finds its proper conduit?

I haven't found any answers yet. Maybe all humans are a bit crazy. It's the degree and the manifestation that makes all the difference.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Haunted House Virtual Tour with V.R.Christensen and B.Lloyd


Dig into the past... if you dare.


As promised, some lovely guests! Old houses hold secrets (as shown by Calverley Old Hall in Base Spirits... http://www.amazon.com/Base-Spirits-ebook/dp/B005L38G8E) If you're reading this blog, you yearn for tales such as these... and so here is a stop on a virtual Haunted House tour... ladies? You have the stage.


This time, on the Haunted House Virtual Tour promoting our ghost novellas Blind and Ungentle Sleep (by V.R.Christensen and B.Lloyd respectively), it’s a bit of a cross-over: characters from one book visit the house from the other… if that doesn’t make sense yet, well, try reading the novellas and maybe it will…


***

‘There have been stories, well, like so many of these old places of course, but nothing you need take any notice of,’ said the house agent smoothly, as he escorted his latest clients around the house.

Newly-weds, he guessed, just back from the continent. She looked ... a trifle nervous, Dark shadows under the eyes, denoting sleepless night. The husband, protective. ‘My wife is in need of somewhere quiet, peaceful. We were in the area, caught sight of it and thought we would see around the place.’
‘What sort of stories, exactly?’ asked the lady.
‘Well, you would need to ask Mrs Beadsley, she was housekeeper to the last occupant and comes in to air the place and keep an eye on things generally. But stories they are and no more, I am sure.’
‘Not a happy house, then?’ pursued the lady.
The agent was a little taken aback by this, but quickly collected himself.
‘It has never remained empty for long – and with the female touch, and a little care, you will find it makes an excellent family home..’
‘Why did the last occupant leave?’
‘I believe he found occupation elsewhere which necessitated much travel and decided to relinquish it as a result. And now, can I show you the dining room? The drawing room? And then perhaps upstairs?’
 They viewed the dining room, followed by the drawing room, which was the house agents particular pet and one he particularly like to show to advantage: ‘A rare timepiece, I think you’ll agree – everything kept in the old style, some quite rare pieces, which are becoming increasingly difficult to find …’ To the agent’s satisfaction they reached the upper floor without further questions. Comments were more along the lines of ‘comfortable, spacious, well-lit’ – much more in his line of business.
‘And here is the master bedroom,’ he declared, sweeping the massive oak door back on its well-oiled hinges and extending an all-embracing arm to indicate the painted ceiling, the oriental carpet, the four-poster bed, the curtains, the armchair by the fireplace. A movement by the curtains caused him to purse his lips and he strode across the room in order to close the window.
‘Mrs Beadsley, airing the rooms as I said, no doubt forgot to close the window … ah, this appears to be a little sticky – well, that can soon be fixed …’
He turned to see the husband half supporting his wife who seemed barely conscious. The two men helped her to a chair.
‘Dear, dear, perhaps a little fresh air …’suggested the agent.
‘It’s nothing, it has passed already,’ said the woman, sitting up straight suddenly.
‘Who lived here originally?’ They asked the question together.
‘Well, it belonged to the Tremonton family in the 19th century, but the line died out with the last incumbent, and so it came through a series of hands to be on the market by 1900. Now, if you’re sure you’re quite recovered, perhaps we should …’

The agent felt uncomfortable as he watched the couple walk up the drive. Still, you can’t win them all, he mused briefly, before proceeding to lock up.

Once they were well clear of the grounds, the lady turned to her husband: ‘I knew there was something wrong the moment I stepped through the door – there was a man sitting in the armchair by the fireplace, staring straight ahead; I saw the agent pass straight past him, without a word – and you also did not see him. But what most disturbed me . . .’
‘Yes?’ asked her husband.
‘The eyes. Opaque, sightless. Staring. I think that is what made me faint. Then when I came round – there was no sign of him.’
‘Well, I think after your recent experiences at home, it would be advisable to look elsewhere for a house to live in, my dear, don’t you?  I don’t think Tremonton Manor would quite fit the bill, do you?’
‘I suppose not. Although . . . ‘
‘Yes?’
‘I do wonder what become of him. The last of the Tremontons …’

***

What did happen to Tremonton indeed? And what had been the wife’s previous experiences? If you are curious, read these to find out :

Blind, by V.R.Christensen

And

Ungentle Sleep by B.Lloyd

Links :

Blind : US http://www.amazon.com/Blind-a-novella-ebook/dp/B007E3SNJ6
Blind : UK http://www.amazon.co.uk/Blind-V-R-Christensen/dp/0615598005

Ungentle Sleep : US http://www.amazon.com/Ungentle-Sleep-ebook/dp/B008VIJFLI
Ungentle Sleep : UK http://www.amazon.co.uk/Ungentle-Sleep-ebook/dp/B008VIJFLI

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Of Description and Stratford

I am still among the living!

Work has been getting more interesting lately-- for those of you who don't know what my 'day job' is, I actually *write* for money. Most folks know about closed captions for the deaf and hard of hearing (something else I used to write), but another film and television accessibility service for the blind and visually impaired is described video or audio description. That's me. Well not *just* me. I have a theatre background and tons of experience in voice over and narration, so I have recorded a few shows and films. I also live-described the Royal Wedding in 2011 as part of a two-person describer team for the CBC.

In a pouffy big CBC sweater after the ultimate royal all-nighter!


But most of the time... I write scripts.

I don't write in the normal script format, as they are rather technical: I include time codes and cues leading in and out of whatever narration I have added into the story. By way of simple explanation, I end up with something that sounds a bit like a radio play. I am meant to avoid stepping on existing dialogue or soundtrack as much as possible: I describe visuals as they unfold so that the blind can enjoy the same storytelling experience as the sighted audience. I paint pictures with words.

TV and film work is volatile. I know that from my acting days. It's feast or famine... and when it's time to feast, everything else has to go by the wayside. Work isn't as busy as I'd like it to be, but there's enough going on for me to have to set aside the WIP ('In The Bag') for a break... let things simmer on the back-burner while I earn my living.

The magical Stratford Shakespeare Festival Theatre


A fun addition to my work schedule this year is helping to launch a live theatre description service at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Ontario. http://www.stratfordfestival.ca/ I live an easy stroll along the Avon from the main stage, and this season I am describing a couple of performances of  '42nd Street' and 'Much Ado About Nothing'. This entails my sitting in the director's booth on headset and microphone and describing the show as it runs to the sight-impaired audience members on their personal headsets. It is a very cool little gig. Not many other jobs start with a trumpet fanfare... ! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FJ7O7KwbZZs I am chuffed to little mint-balls to be involved with a theatre company I have loved and admired for over 30 years, and to be providing this service.

The iconic main stage


So this explains my lack of posts... but it does not excuse it. I am sorry. I really am a bad blogger sometimes. I *do* have a guest post coming up in the next week or so (I promise!) so I hope you'll check that out... and some of the past posts are worth a peek-- have a boo at the archives in the right hand column and see what grabs you.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Interview: Author Stant Litore and His Extraordinary Undead




http://www.amazon.com/dp/B007FJHDBI
One of the great things about being an Indie writer is the true sense of community I've discovered along the way. Writing is a tough and largely solitary slog, so finding connection with others in the same boat is vital if we are to keep sane and true to the journey.

Today I am pleased to share some time with one of my favourite folks I've 'met' over the past year... zombie author extraordinaire Stant Litore.

Now before you nay-sayers out there roll your eyes and groan 'not more zombies', you need to know that Stant's Zombie Bible series has raised the bar for this genre. His work is lyrical and beautifully crafted. The emotion is raw and heartfelt in ways that surprise and hook you at every turn. This is not all about half-rotten ghouls staggering after the hero endlessly growling for 'braaiiinzzzzzzzz'. Stant peels away the layers to the core of our own humanity, and the spiritual stakes are very high indeed. Even if you are not a fan of zombies, give Stant's fiction a try. If you do love zombies, I urge you to have a look at this fresh and intelligent take. It is not for the squeamish, certainly-- but it is so much more than a gory yarn. This is truly literary stuff.

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B007EUOF6Y


Stant has also been incredibly fortunate along his own Indie journey. After launching on his own and creating a devoted following, his books have been picked up by Amazon's publishing imprint 47North! New and fantastic cover art has been revealed [we'll insert the images here] and the excitement is mounting ahead of the release dates: August 14th for the first two books Death Has Come Up to Our Windows and What Our Eyes Have Witnessed, and October 16th is the much-anticipated launch of Strangers in the Land. Here are the links for the books:

Death Has Come Up To Our Windowshttp://www.amazon.com/dp/B007FJHDBI
What Our Eyes Have Witnessedhttp://www.amazon.com/dp/B007EUOF6Y
(Strangers in the Land is forthcoming: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B007EUOP3W)

Welcome Stant! And congratulations. This is all very exciting!



First of all... why Zombies?

Zombies have always held an eerie fascination for me. It’s the eyes – that these are bodies that look at you and do not see you; they see only food. That’s a terrifying thing. It’s terrifying to the gut, and it’s terrifying in a metaphysical sense.

What inspired you to meld this very specific horror sub-genre with such heightened spiritual matters?

I have no idea. Perhaps just the chance of watching Night of the Living Dead while reading the biblical book of Judges. But zombies do allow us to explore some very intense spiritual questions about both our relationship to our dead … and our relationships with the living. Questions such as “How do we remember our dead, how do we grieve for them and say goodbye to them?” and “What do we see when we look at another human being? How often do we look at another person and see only food – fuel for our desires, our fears, our ambitions?”

When you first began, what were your goals for your books?

Writing them. And holding nothing back.

What's changed?

Not much in terms of the what, but a lot in terms of the how. Originally, The Zombie Bible was going to be a long book containing five novella-length stories. It rapidly became clear that these were big stories, and their character deserved more. It is now a series of very ambitious scope. Of the original five stories, one has been published, one will be published this October, and the other three are yet to come. Along the way, other stories I wasn’t aware of when I began have insisted that I write them.

Tell us about how the 47North deal was born.

I’ve told the full story here, under the title “How the Kindle and KDP Helped Save My Little Girl”: http://zombiebible.blogspot.ca/2012/06/how-kindle-and-kdp-helped-save-my.html It’s worth a read.

Did you ever at any point feel yourself falter along the way? If so, how did you keep yourself on track?

The short answer is no and the long answer is yes. No, not since opening up The Zombie Bible – these stories have torn themselves out of my chest and have not let any doubt or any obstacle get in their way. The long answer is that for years during my twenties I moved very slowly and often faltered in my writing—less from doubts about my craft than from doubts about whether this was the life I *should* be committing myself to. I did not keep myself on track.
Then I had children. I looked down at my daughter’s beautiful face and realized it was time. There could be no more waiting, no more dithering. How could I teach my girls to follow their dreams if I did not pursue my own aggressively and with truth and ferocity?

You're a busy man with a growing family. How have you managed your life/work balance?

Precariously, and with diligence. It helps that I write fast and I revise fast. I trigger myself into a creative mood with music, and I get in fast. That’s not luck, it’s hard work – I’ve trained myself to do that over years. But it does mean I can accomplish a great deal over a lunch break or after the kids are in bed.

What future writing projects are in the cards?

Ah, now that would be telling. You have to be surprised. But I will say that The Zombie Bible will be ongoing for a while, and that you should expect a few fantasy novels in upcoming years that do not involve zombies. Expect panache, pirates (though not on Earth), true love, giants (this is beginning to sound like The Princess Bride), and tales of insane things happening to not entirely sane people. Expect novels that will demand that you hold on tight for a very fierce ride.

Any advice for aspiring Indie authors that you'd care to share?

Find out who your characters really are, let them show you, and find the truth your novel has to tell. Nothing matters more than that. Do not compromise or take shortcuts. Do not chicken out under pressure and write the easier path for your story. If that means you find out two thirds the way through that a near-complete rewrite would give you a story nine times as powerful, you do it. If you won’t have the courage to let your story dig deep into the heart, you’re wasting your time.
Secondly, if you are an indie writer, hire a good developmental editor. This is crucial. I have heard a lot of indies talking about the need for a good copy editor, and that’s certainly essential. But you need a good developmental editor, too – someone who will take an experienced and impartial look at your story and talk with you about which scenes to cut, which scenes to move, where a character is inconsistent or falling flat for a while. Don’t skip this phase. That one additional draft with an expert’s questions to prompt you may be the difference between an okay novel and a great novel.

As always it's been a pleasure-- I hope you'll return and let us know how the books are faring in the coming months!



Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Mea Culpa!

So I wrote a post exactly one month ago today, promising to be more diligent and post more often.

Oops.

The past few weeks has been a struggle about finding work/life balance in my day. My 'day job' is writing descriptive video TV/Film scripts for the blind and visually impaired. This is contract work that I can do from home (huzzah!) but it is also feast or famine (boo!) I try to tell myself that the relative freedom I have (cool perks like making my own hours, a commute that is a mere stumble from bed to coffee maker to desk, no dress code, and no snarky co-workers or supervisors hanging over my shoulder) is worth the sacrifice of no employment insurance, dental benefits or predictable workflow.

Reality is harsh. I had virtually no income from mid-April until three weeks ago.

In theory, this gave me plenty of time to work on my new novel In The Bag- Book One of The Dead Drunks Mystery series. I did spend a respectable amount of time with my 'boys' Winston and Teddy,  and their ever-flatulent and compellingly ugly bulldog sidekick, Hotspur. But when there is no income, the walls tend to close in. That sort of fear and depression can make one's creativity dry up.

So-- hooray-- there is paid writing work coming in again. But I need to make hay while the sun shines, so I end up putting in 12 hour days. The last thing I feel like doing after sitting at the computer writing all day is to stay put and write well into the evening. I keep reading studies about how sitting more than a few hours a day shortens your life span. Awesome. Did I mention my back hurts? I also stayed inside for 4 days running last week and went a bit stir-crazy. Whee!

As the contract work steadies out into a more predictable flow, I'll find ways to regularly get back to my fictional Stratford sleuths. I enjoy my time with them, so I'm sure you'll all like getting to know them just as much... eventually. I've also been getting outside more this week. I'm feeling a little more human again.

Meantime, I promise to be more faithful to my word! I have some guests on the blog coming up soon. Watch this space...


Sunday, July 8, 2012

Confessions of a Writer


The Work In Progess...


I have not been blogging all that much of late.

In fact, I've pulled back on Twitter, KDP, Facebook groups and anything that smacks of the treadmill of marketing.

I confess: I sort of lost heart. For months and months, I pushed and prodded and presented my most upbeat positive self... and barely budged my sales. It was depressing. The fact that my 'day job' of descriptive video script writing has gone from slow to nil lately didn't help my mood. I figured people didn't want to hear about it if all I felt like doing was whining about crappy sales and pounding my head against the wall about the vagaries of self-promotion.

That much is true: no one wants to hear me bitch!

Things will look up. My day job work will resume this month, so at least I won't be without income for too much longer. That's a scary place to be. I don't wish it on anyone.

I'm still not in a totally fantastic mood, frankly. But I also can't ignore my blog. That doesn't accomplish much of anything! I promise to post more often moving forward into happier, more optimistic times. I have some special guests coming up soon, and I'll try to be inspiring or at least entertaining.

The other big reason I've not been spending so much time on social networking and platform building is because I've been WRITING. Remember writing? You know, that thing authors do so that we have books to market in the first place? Yep. I'm waist-deep in Book One of The Dead Drunk mystery series In The Bag.

If you are excited to get your hands on my new book, I'm grateful. But? Please don't hold your breath. I don't rush when I write. I'm not about crankin' 'em out and slappin' 'em up on Kindle. I want to work until I have the best possible version of In The Bag before I foist it upon the world of paying readers. That will mean at least a few weeks more hard work before I show this draft to my editor, and start that whole fun process of rewriting and polishing. Once that's done, there are at least three other titles in the series that have already been planned out or started.

And then will I self-publish The Dead Drunks?

Frankly, I'm not so sure. This has been liberating in a lot of ways. It's great to have total creative control and reach readers world-wide. I've loved getting to know some of the truly amazing, talented and supportive folks on the Indie scene. Overall, reviews for Base Spirits and my Kindle short story 'Family Secrets' have been outstanding. And sure: the theory of earning a whopping 70% in royalties is wonderful... but the harsh reality has been a mere trickle of money. In my case. So far.

I won't turn my back on the Indie route. There are plans to contribute to an Indie ghost story anthology later in the year with a handful of other quality authors. It's an interesting project, and I like the idea of collaboration. I still have a bunch of previously published short stories that I intend to polish and publish individually on Kindle-- with an eye to eventually bundling them into a collection.

Traditional vs. Indie. Does it have to be either/or? I don't think so. I think what authors have now more than ever is the freedom to choose. I believe in getting help in the more traditional sense with a commercial mystery series if I want things like translations and film or TV rights (and I bloody well do want those things!) I know there are some rabid/stubborn/successful Indie authors out there who will scream at me not to bother with the 'old ways', but to them I'd like to say with respect that I'd like to give it a shot. I DO know what I'm up against, believe me. Been there, done that. But I've learned a lot of lessons over the past year, and I'd just like to see what happens this time around. Maybe that's foolish or masochistic, but please humour me. I may end up Indie publishing after all. No shame in either method. Let's see what happens.

So for now, I promise I will pay more attention to my blog. I'd like to spend my energy primarily on writing, but I also know that I need to keep my platform current and active. Mea culpa. I'd also like to see what the effect of getting more good reviews has on sales and word of mouth rather than engaging in endless rounds of Tweeting and hopping and waving my virtual arms in the air. I just need a break from the marketing madness. I believe in my work. Its time will come. 

If you'd like to read and review my writing, here are my links:

For a spooky full-length chill ride, try Base Spiritshttp://www.amazon.com/Base-Spirits-ebook/dp/B005L38G8E

For an unsettling short read about a family's dark side, here's 'Family Secrets'http://www.amazon.com/Family-Secrets-ebook/dp/B007D8TLP2

See? I'm done sulking. I'm back. I'll see you soon.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Marketing is Hell!



I know, I know. "It's a marathon, not a sprint" blah blah blah. I get it.

The thing is, my personal marathon has been going on for well over a decade. I've been writing stories all of my life, and seriously working at this 'writing-to-publish' gig in one way or another since 1999. I've had a bunch of short stories published, won a few prizes, and been awarded a grant. I've studied English Literature and creative writing. I've always been a voracious reader, and carefully studied and honed my craft. I'm still honing: I don't think any writer should ever sit back and say "That's good enough" and rest on their laurels. That's cheating.

Yes, I went the traditional route with endless rounds of agents and publisher queries. I even had an agent at one point, but we were not a good team. The traditional route is a baffling one. A lot of people at Big Six publishers liked my writing and encouraged me, but no one went that extra step to publish it.

Yadda yadda yadda.

Fast-forward to the Indie Revolution and the breath of fresh air it offered as a way to reach readers. I was ready to give it a go, so I did. I finally presented 'Base Spirits' after professional editing and formatting and getting some kick-ass cover art. For the most part, I've enjoyed the process and all the fabulous, encouraging people I've been meeting along the journey. I've had great feedback and reviews from readers from all over the world. Yay!

But?

I have to come clean. Marketing-- for me-- is pure, unadulterated HELL.

I've carefully followed examples and taken suggestions: giveaways, KDP Select, contests, blog hops, guest interviews (both giving and hosting), blogging, Facebooking, Twittering, Triberr, Goodreads, cross-promotions, layered marketing etc. ad infinitum. I am not renewing my KDP Select after this round. I fear that the e-book market has been saturated with all the freebies to the point where a great many readers just expect us to hand over our hard work for nothing. If one has a large backlist, it makes more sense: one book helps introduce your writing to the world. I may revisit it once I have more ready to publish.

It's still the Wild West for Indie Publishing. What used to work as a 'surefire' marketing or promotional tool last month may not work now. I'm not bitter-- just sort of baffled. I admit it. It's a mystery.

I've decided I am more interested in writing books than standing on a virtual street corner wearing a jester's hat and making balloon animals for passersby who really couldn't give a toss. So for now, please forgive me while I happily type away on Book One of the Dead Drunk Mystery series. I'm not giving up: I just need to write books instead of spending hours a day on social media.

What I am trying to do is get more reviews. I think reviews are a good idea for the long haul. Readers are much more likely to be impressed by a decent third party review than any clever Twitter blurb or barely-disguised subtle plea from me to give my work a try. I've been pretty lucky so far: most of the 21 Amazon reviews to date have been stellar. Now I'd like to concentrate on being reviewed further afield on blogs and websites.

In fact, if you are a reviewer or book blogger reading this and you'd like a free review copy of either 'Base Spirits' http://www.amazon.com/Base-Spirits-ebook/dp/B005L38G8E or my short story 'Family Secrets' http://www.amazon.com/Family-Secrets-ebook/dp/B007D8TLP2, I'd be more than happy to send them your way. Please leave me your e-mail in the comment section below.

Now back to our regularly scheduled marathon...


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

A Taste of 'Base Spirits'


Enter the Darkness...



Taking a chance on an Indie author is risky for readers. I get that. I've been burned myself by buying underdeveloped, poorly edited, and just plain badly written books. But here's the thing... it's not all poo. Really! There's gold in them thar hills. I've also discovered some excellent Indie published books: writing rejected by the bean-counters and gatekeepers of traditional publishing. Indie books are also cheap as chips... hours of amazing entertainment for a few measly bucks. Far more often, I have also been burned by paying top dollar for top selling authors published by the Big Six. I don't know about you, but I'd rather chance a new discovery for the price of a specialty coffee than fork out $20 for a crappy bestseller. Still hesitant? Savvy Indies make samples of their books available through Amazon's 'Look Inside!' feature, and even give their books away free from time to time.

I've done that. As a result, I know I reached a wider audience... maybe. Lately, I'm feeling a bit cynical. I think there are a lot of readers out there who are perhaps being trained to think that Indies aren't worth paying for if they can just wait it out and grab freebies by the armload. Will all of these folks read my book? Maybe. Maybe not. I'll bet they have hundreds of e-books downloaded and may not get around to mine for months. I hope some of them read it... review it... and tell a friend about it.

I'm going to be honest. Sure-- it's great that people are scooping up my book whenever I make it free... but guess what? I'm attempting to build a career, and I am aiming to make at least a partial living with my fiction. I think it's a bargain at a mere $3.99. I admit I've been baffled by marketing... so here goes another blog post! Currently, I am writing a new novel In The Bag -the first of a projected series of character-driven crime novels: The Dead Drunks. Meantime, my short story Family Secrets http://amzn.to/GUbPPN and my first novel Base Spirits are getting excellent reviews.

Now I'd like you to take a chance, dear prospective reader.

Here's the blurb for Base Spirits, followed by a teaser from the opening chapter (Note: the cut and paste into blog form messed the formatting slightly-- the actual book has impeccable formatting and editing). Give it a read. If you like it, please follow this link and download your very own shiny Kindle copy http://amzn.to/wQ1ms4. If you are a person who loves the tactile experience of reading an actual book, here is the paperback link: http://amzn.to/HukdEZ If you like fast-paced ghostly chills wrapped around a fascinating and brutal historical tale (think Possession meets The Shining), this may just float your boat...

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


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. Some crimes are so horrific, they reverberate through the centuries. 
As an unhappy modern couple vacation in the guesthouse at Calverley Old Hall, playwright Clara, and her scholar 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 in Shakespeare’s day, this is itself a play within a play: a supernatural thriller with a historical core. 
Only one player can survive.



York, England, 1605

Sir Thomas Leventhorpe had failed the victims in life. He could not fail them now.

            Though he longed to be anywhere else that August dawn, his choice was irrefutable. The noble family murders had left him as the village of Calverley’s highest-ranking citizen, and he bore a duty to witness the conclusion of its history’s most tragic chapter. It was his sacred charge to stand present for those innocent lives cruelly dispatched by the very man that should have loved them most.

He lingered in the stark main corridor of Clifford’s Tower, waiting to accompany the killer on his final procession. There seemed to be a delay. From what Leventhorpe could gather, the entourage was incomplete. He glanced about the small, silent group and caught the eye of the anxious man standing at his side-- the only other soul afflicted with first-hand knowledge of the horrors that had led them to the Tower. Leventhorpe ventured an encouraging smile at the murderer’s former servant, but John's pale, scarred face was stony. Sir Thomas touched the younger man on the shoulder and felt him quivering like a nervous beast, his arms tightly wrapped about himself in a desperate embrace. The brutal April morning at Calverley Hall had shattered John. Withdrawing his hand, Leventhorpe wondered why the lad had come to this dread place to be reunited with his nemesis. Perhaps in his own way John had no choice but to see the tragedy through to its conclusion. Leventhorpe could offer him no real solace but to share the burden of bearing witness.

In the Tower’s stairwell door, a grizzled magistrate stood lost in thought, tugging gently at his beard. The elderly head gaoler, Master Key, waited outside the prisoner’s cell door. A younger, assistant gaoler tapped his foot loudly against the flagstones and glowered toward the doorway at the opposite end of the corridor, a sneer playing on his lean face. Turning to his superior, he grumbled in a low voice:

“That idiot boy is late again-- and today of all days! I say we have tarried long enough.”

Master Key held up his hand. “Be thou patient, Jack. The magistrate is not yet concerned with the time. Hugh must be present to learn the proper order of how matters proceed.”
         
Leventhorpe’s skin prickled at the thought. He dreaded having to witness the ‘matter’ in question, and felt pity for the unseen boy who would today be taught the finer details of his trade.  
     
Footsteps pounded up the outside stairs and-- as if overhearing his cue-- a scrawny lad of no more than twelve skidded into sight. White-faced and out of breath, Hugh blanched still further as the men turned as one and fixed him with expectant looks. Giving an awkward bow of his head by way of apology, he staggered as he took a halberd down from the wall hooks. Jack strode over to collect the apprentice and hauled him into place by the ear. Leventhorpe was close enough to hear the gaoler’s hissed threats.

“Yer in luck, boy. The magistrate himself was late to rise, else ye’d be wishin’ ye could trade places with our esteemed prisoner.”

Master Key shot his underlings a sharp glance from beneath his heavy grey brows and they ceased their disruption. Key unlocked the door, and he and Jack entered the cell. Leventhorpe heard the muted clanking of chains and after a moment, Sir Walter Calverley was led out between the two men.

Leventhorpe’s stomach twisted at the sight of his former friend and neighbour. He caught John by the arm, steadying him as the lad’s knees buckled. Neither had seen Calverley for months-- not since his hellish rampage. Although Calverley was thin and drawn, he held himself with dignity. He wore a fine black doublet, and his lace cuffs and collar gleamed in contrast to the gloom of the corridor. Leventhorpe couldn’t help but think that Calverley was very well dressed for a dead man: he must have set this outfit aside in anticipation of the occasion. Calverley did not so much as glance in their direction.

Master Key cleared his throat and nodded to the magistrate. The procession began its descent into the bowels of the Tower, the close quarters of the stairwell making for an awkward single-file progress. The stately magistrate set a careful pace for those behind. Leventhorpe and John followed next, with Master Key leading Calverley. Jack and Hugh took up the rear to prevent any chance of the prisoner’s escape.  
         
Time of day carried no meaning as they moved down into the still depths of the Tower. No one spoke: the only sound was the scuffling of heavy-booted feet. Flickering torches from the wall sconces lit the way, casting long, dancing shadows on the muted grey stones. Leventhorpe had the sensation of being buried in the earth as they moved ever deeper. He kept his eyes lowered, mindful of the uneven stairs, eroded by countless footsteps over several lifetimes. Suddenly, a rush of iridescent green-and-black beetles scattered out of the men’s path. Leventhorpe felt a brief flash of delight to see something so lively-- these animated jewels-- existing in such a bleak place.

At the foot of the tightly coiled stone staircase lay a narrow, low-ceilinged passageway. Leventhorpe glanced along a seemingly endless succession of closed doors and gaping antechambers. Today’s method of execution-- ‘peine forte et dure,’ less elegantly known as ‘pressing’-- could take several hours. His throat constricted. Already he found the dank air putrid and hard to breathe. The clammy walls, coated with an orange mildew, gave off a pungent odour. Here and there between the cracks in the stones grew a strangely pretty fungus with pale yellow flowers. Leventhorpe touched a curious finger to a cluster of the petals as he passed by. They disintegrated instantly and left a lurid smear on his fine lace cuff.

Lord, I pray this ends quickly--

At last, the magistrate came to a halt and peered around to catch the eye of Master Key. Jack and Hugh stepped ahead to replace their Master’s hold on the prisoner. Hugh’s hand clearly shook as he tried to get a firm grip on Calverley’s arm, but he was met with no resistance: Calverley kept his manacled hands clasped before him in the manner of a clergyman and focused his dark eyes into the shadows at the far end of the passageway. Leventhorpe was again struck by the man’s poise. Of those present, he seemed the least moved by what was about to take place.
        
Fumbling at his belt for an oversized key, the old Master slipped to the front of the group to unlock the low, windowless portal. He heaved his stooped shoulder against the recalcitrant door and swung it inwards. The magistrate ducked his head as he entered the chamber, followed by the others. As Key lit the torches in the iron wall sconces, Leventhorpe blinked and looked about the room. A wide plank of coarsely hewn oak leaned against one wall. Beside it was a heap of stones, each roughly the same size-- twelve to fourteen pounds in weight.  Four iron rings were set into the flagstones in the centre of the floor. The room was otherwise barren. Once the condemned man was safely inside, the door was shut and bolted. Leventhorpe felt trapped.

“Make him ready,” said the magistrate.

As placidly as a docile horse, Calverley allowed himself to be taken by his chains and roughly stripped by Jack. The assistant gleefully assessed the clothing as he folded each item. Handing the garments over to Hugh, he winked at the boy’s dumbfounded expression.

“For safe-keepin’, lad. A boon for me. They’re about my size-- and he won’t be needin’ ’em in Hell now, will he?”

Leventhorpe was shocked by the outrageous theft but no one else seemed fazed. It must be routine in such matters, he thought. Perhaps it was considered part of the assistant’s payment.

Calverley was made to stretch out face up on the cold floor. A jagged stone was placed underneath the small of his back. His ribs standing out in sharp relief, he arched his body upward to accommodate the work of Master Key’s calloused hands. The prisoner’s long limbs were pulled into a cruciform position and shackled to the iron rings. At a quick count of three, the two gaolers heaved the plank from where it stood. With a grunt, they laid it over top of Calverley’s naked torso. The strain showed immediately in his breathing.

From where he stood, Leventhorpe had the clearest view. Only the doomed man’s face was visible at the top edge of the plank. Leventhorpe looked closely at his one-time friend. Calverley’s full lips were parted as he gasped from the burden already on his chest-- and the anticipation of what was soon to come. Beads of perspiration dotted his moustache and beard, and sweat soaked the thick waves of his dark hair. Leventhorpe felt sick with pity. For all that Calverley had so brutally performed to visit this fate upon him, his serene determination from the outset to lighten the work of his own executioners gave him the aspect of a martyr.

Perhaps he hath repented. Will he at last speak his mind to the Law?

Leventhorpe could not catch his eyes to ask this silent question. Calverley had disconnected. He fixed his unblinking gaze on the grimy ceiling, entombing any emotion he may have felt deep within and unreachable.

The magistrate stepped forward from the corner, where he’d been absorbed in the examination of loose threads on the hem of his cloak. He had paid little attention to the tasks of the others. Master Key pulled his apprentice out of the way and made him drop the bundle of clothes he’d been hugging to his chest.

“Ye’ll need to keep yer hands free now, son.”

The nervous boy leaned his halberd against the wall, where it slipped along the moisture and clattered to the floor. Already skittish, Leventhorpe and John started at the racket, and John pressed up against his back as if to be shielded from the very Devil. The magistrate clenched his jaw and waited for the echo to subside. He spoke in a strong voice that belied his great age.

“You had your chance to speak before the Assizes. You chose silence. I therefore put it to you here and now for the Crown, and before these good men: Sir Walter Calverley, how do you plead?”

Leventhorpe stood waiting by his friend’s head. John’s nervous breath was hot on his neck.

There came no reply from Calverley but laboured breathing.

“Very well-- ” The magistrate stepped aside and nodded to the gaolers.

“Lay on the weights.”

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

An Overnight Success... in Only 25 Years!

This post is all about being in it for the long haul.

Let me tell you about my dear friend Stephen Ayres. (Remember that name. You'll start hearing about him soon, I promise... and not just here on my blog.)

Cheers to Success!


I met Steve in our first year at Trent University in 1986. He was relatively shy compared to my general 'out there' self, but we were in a lot of the same classes and the same residence hall. He came to see me in a terrible play I was in during first term, and we both worked on a production of Othello later in the year: him backstage and me 'out there' as Emilia. We also ended up doing some short films around campus-- just 'cause we wanted to.

Steve was-- and is-- a 'film guy'. He loves movies. He has a quick wit, a great eye, and a way with storytelling. He's always wanted nothing more than to be a part of it all. After earning his BA at Trent, he moved on to Ryerson for film and the shy guy really blossomed.

Jump ahead a few years.

Steve met and married a lovely Australian woman, Kim. They ended up living Down Under in Sydney and have two great kids... now teenagers. Kim works in health, and has become very busy in her career with a cancer foundation and the specialty training of nurses. Steve ended up working in banking and finance for years, and all but put the idea of filmmaking on the back-burner. Where does the time go?

Yes. Where does it go? And what about the idealistic dreams and goals we have in our younger days? Do they ever entirely vanish, even as people build a family and a home, and make all those realistic tough decisions along the way... like getting a 'real' job? Who was that clean-shaven guy in the mirror wearing a suit and heading out everyday to a job he loathed in the core of Sydney's financial district?

So-- a few years ago-- a very unhappy Steve decided to give himself a little time to get back to screenwriting and see what he could do. Kim's job is good, and he took a package from the bank when he left. It was enough to buy some time: not indefinite, but a bit of breathing and writing space.

He sweated over ideas and honed scripts. Pitched to agents and producers. Felt hope. Saw hope dashed. Made his kids' lunches and ironed their school uniforms. Cooked dinner for Kim and did the laundry and the yard work. Soul searched. Nearly gave up but never did. Got into some prestigious Australian screenwriting programs, and inched further ahead toward that elusive dream.

Finally, a couple of years ago, a big producer finally took proper notice of one of his many scripts. Su Armstrong produced a little movie called Good Will Hunting. You may have heard of it.

Wow. Surely this was the proverbial 'it'. Any second now his film would be shot and hit the big time, right?

Not quite.

It still took a lot of back-and-forthing. A lot of pitching to get a director and a cast on board. That meant chasing a lot of dead ends and the heartache of schedule conflicts. Even with the main players falling into place, funding still needed to be secured... and that meant getting an international distributor on board to win the funding bodies' confidence. It's a long, slow state of limbo with no guarantee.

But? He kept that hope alive through some very dark moments.

And we don't get there alone, folks. His family and friends stuck by, and enough people along the way believed in his writing to make it happen. And now a distribution agent is backing the film... and suddenly it's a go!

I am THRILLED to be able to tell you that my pal's screenplay 33 Liberty Lane is going to be shot this summer directed by Peter Hewitt. http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/sandra-oh-emily-watson-nia-vardalos-melora-hardin-317904 Yep. That's the Hollywood Reporter carrying the story. And yes, those are the incredible women who are starring in MY old buddy's first produced script! Not too shabby.

I am so, so proud of Steve. For over two decades I've watched-- from up close and at a distance-- as he took baby steps forward and got shoved back time and time again by bad luck and circumstance, and the vagaries of the film industry, and real life and family being more important. Here we are at last!

This story is an example to all of us who struggle to keep that spark of hope alive through the darkest of times. We can do this. We CAN.

Now go follow your own paths, and I'll stop blogging and get back to my novel in progress.





Thursday, April 19, 2012

Winners and a Bit of Ennui

I'm proud of my last two blog posts. I was very fortunate to have two great Indie bestselling authors agree to do an interview. Not only did they share a few insights, but they both kindly offered up a free e-book of their respective guides: Jeff Bennington's 'Indie Author's Guide to the Universe' (http://amzn.to/HUMbaN) and Scott Nichoson's 'The Indie Journey' (http://amzn.to/HGMyse). I am terribly slow in getting around to announcing the giveaway winners for these two awesome Indie guidebooks. Sometimes life needs attending to, and I have been a little lax with my blogging as a result of being away at a convention for a few days, and then catching up on my life once I returned home.

How dull! But that's why.

Without any further ado or lame excuses, I will avert my eyes and get my friend to enter the room and arbitrarily choose a winner from the kind folks who left comments on these recent (and I hope helpful) blog posts. In case you missed them, here are the links to the interviews with bestselling Indies Scott Nicholson and Jeff Bennington:

http://ruth-barrett-spiritedwords.blogspot.ca/2012/04/scott-nicholson-shares-tips-for-indie.html

http://ruth-barrett-spiritedwords.blogspot.ca/2012/04/bestselling-author-jeff-bennington.html

Drumroll please...

Aaaaaaaaand the winners are:

Lisa Lane gets a shiny e-copy of The Indie Journey!

(Wild applause!)

And TJ Reed gets The Indie Author's Guide to the Universe!

WOOOT!

I hope you both find these books helpful and encouraging. I know that I did. If you didn't win a copy, they are worth the investment if you are serious about pursuing the Indie author's path. Check them out!

And now here's the ennui I mentioned at the outset-- Henri the cat: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q34z5dCmC4M

Friday, April 6, 2012

Bestselling Author Jeff Bennington Shares Tips from the Indie Author's Guide to the Universe!



Today's special blog guest is author Jeff Bennington. Jeff has written some great spooky thrill-rides-- Twisted Vengeance, Reunion and Creepy-- and learned a lot along the way. He shares some of that process in The Indie Author’s Guide to the Universe. As always, check below the interview for links. As a special bonus, Jeff and I will give away an e-book of this fantastic guide! For a chance to enter the draw, just leave a comment and share this post around.

(And now for a quick, cheeky word from our sponsor- me! Jeff makes great use of his KDP free days-- it made all the difference to his sales. I will be offering my newest short story 'Family Secrets' on April 7/8th- check it out this Saturday and Sunday only! http://www.amazon.com/Family-Secrets-ebook/dp/B007D8TLP2)

*Cue music: Jeff Bennington walks through a virtual curtain, waves to the audience and has a seat by my desk*

Welcome, Jeff!

Thank you, Ruth. I appreciate the invite.

1- First off, tell us why you decided to write this helpful guide.

I decided to write this book for two reasons. As my blog, The Writing Bomb (http://www.thewritingbomb.blogspot.ca/) has grown, I’ve seen a demand amongst indie authors for creative ways to build their platform, market their books, get motivated, and sell their books. They have questions in an overwhelming business and are seeking answers wherever they can find them. Well, I like sharing so I’ve basically blogged about everything I’ve learned. And of all the blog posts I write, the ones about self-publishing, marketing, cover design, platform building, etc, have been the most popular. And these posts seem to resonate with a lot of authors.

This leads to the second reason. As I looked at the content that I had accumulated over the previous year, I noticed that I had enough material to fill a book. The Indie Author’s Guide to the Universe is not a pamphlet-sized guide. No; this dude is 220 pages of solid indie-author coolness. In the end, I added a few more chapters covering subjects that I didn’t want to miss like marketing layering and my “floatation pricing strategy”.

2- Let’s jump back in time: if you were just starting out on your own Indie journey, what are the top three things you wish you had known from the outset?

Okay. That’s easy.


The first thing I would have wanted to know is that it’s possible to turn my love of writing into a profitable business, but that it would take a lot of patience and multiple titles before that happens. I think that information alone would have created healthier expectations on my part.


The next thing I really needed to know is how important it is to hire a professional editor. Family, friends, old teachers and spouses are the last people you should use to edit your work. They are too emotionally attached. The best person to hire is someone who is an editor with experience, and has a good reputation in editing novels.


The third thing that is so important for writers to understand is that they will no longer be writers when they publish. They will become businessmen and women. I believe authors, both self-pubbed and trad-pubbed completely underestimate how much time and energy they must put into marketing their book.

3- a) What was your biggest misstep?

Not paying for editing on my first try.

b) How did it make you feel?

Like a failure. But I’ve felt that before, and I didn’t like it then either, so I did what I’ve always done; I peeled my sorry ass off the floor, shook the dust off and dove into fixing my mistakes and learning what it takes to write a novel that can compete on a professional level. The results of those efforts paid off when Reunion hit the top 100 on Amazon and is still consistently in the top 100 ghost category.

4- a) What was your greatest triumph?

When Reunion hit the top 100 on Christmas Eve. Next to my wife and children, that was the greatest gift I had ever received.

b) You’ve had some great success along the way. What makes this the most outstanding example?

Mostly because it paid in dollars, and not just accolades. Accolades are great and can in fact sell books. But cash is tangible and it affirmed the effort I had put into my writing.

5- What is the best thing about being an Indie author?


Control. Writers seeking traditional publishing have no idea how little they will have. I can re-edit, make a new cover, reset my pricing, change marketing strategies, add excerpts of one book to another, and the list goes on and on. Being my own publisher has its down side, too. I am responsible for everything. But that’s okay. It’s my life and I can live it they way I want to without being held to deadlines by folks that think my life revolves around my books, because it doesn’t.

6- There’s a dark side to everything in life… so how about the worst thing?

I write about the dark side of life; abuse, hatred, pain. But I also write about the bright side. You can’t have one without the other. That works in indie publishing as well. If you aren’t careful, your writing and marketing can ruin your life. It has the power to grow like a weedy vine and totally consume you if you let it. My advice is, don’t let it. Be proactive in managing your craft and family/life. Darkness and light, good and evil; they can be found on the indie road just as easily as any road you choose.

7- Not only have you produced this great guidebook, but you are also behind The Kindle Book Review (http://www.thekindlebookreview.blogspot.ca/) What inspired you to establish the site, and what sorts of helpful things can Indie authors find when they visit?

Well, first of all, they’ll find a website that is growing at the same rate that indie authors are accepted in the eyes of readers.


This site acts as a filter. That’s bad news for the indie authors who expect us to feature their book when it has not been tested by the public. We won’t do it. We require a minimum of 10 reviews and a 4-star rating.


We do this because we want to strengthen the world’s image of indie authors. So to those indies that have crafted an exceptional read, we give them a voice, a place where they can reach out to readers willing to try new authors. We offer several promotional opportunities, and give free reviews. And now we have initiated The Best Indie Books of 2012 contest. This contest awards cash to authors and prizes for readers, too. This is just another effort in bringing Kindle readers closer to the indie author, which is the ultimate goal.

8- Last but not least… what’s next for Jeff Bennington?

I’d like to finish Twisted Vengeance II, re-publish my political thriller series as in collaboration with Caleb Pirtle and Stephen Woodfin, two highly experienced authors. I am also collecting true ghost stories, believe it or not, from my fans, for Creepy II coming in October 2012. So all in all, I plan to publish 4 books in the coming year and then I think I’ll get back into a non-fiction I’m working on called Spiritually Self-Medicating, the one book I have to write before I’m dead.

Thanks for your time, Jeff!
Thank you. And thanks for being patient with me.


The Happy, Helpful Jeff Bennington!




Check out Jeff Bennington's Amazon Author Page for links to all of his awesome books! http://www.amazon.com/Jeff-Bennington/e/B002UG4PTE

And don't forget to leave a comment below for an entry to win this fabulous book:  The Indie Author's Guide to the Universe.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Scott Nicholson Shares Tips for Indie Authors!



A lot of authors have made the same comparison: we have all found the world of Indie publishing to be like the new Wild West. It’s exciting! There are no set rules, and every author can gallop across that open plain into the sunset without an agent or a publisher telling them what they can and cannot do. Gatekeepers? We don’t need no stinkin’ gatekeepers! Yee-haw!

Maybe not… but some guidance sure would be nice. Gets a bit lonesome and scary out in the middle of nowhere, just you and your horse… er… book.

(Quick commercial insert here: As a result of the marketing tips I've gleaned from my blog guests, Base Spirits is currently on at 99 cents! http://amzn.to/wQ1ms4 )

For the next two blog posts, I am pleased to be hosting the authors of two of my favourite Indie guides. The Indie Author’s Guide to the Universe by Jeff Bennington (http://amzn.to/H9XrSa), and The Indie Journey: Secrets to Writing Success by Scott Nicholson (http://amzn.to/HGMyse) are must-reads for any Indie author. Not only are both books packed full of great ideas, practical tips and inspirational moments, they are a delight to read. The authors’ true voices come across loud and clear: these are two engaging men who approach their subject with heart and humour. You couldn’t ask for better companions out there on the Frontier.

But don't just take my word for it-- read for yourself! Scott has very kindly provided a free e-book to give away. Just leave a comment below, and Tweet or otherwise share this post to win!

Scott Nicholson is a prolific author of dark fiction, and you can find out all about his books and contact Scott here: http://www.hauntedcomputer.com/. There are too many books to list, but some of my own favourites are The Red Church, Drummer Boy, The Vampire Shortstop and Creative Spirit. Scott has been out and about on the traditional publishing route as well over the years, and that background certainly informed his own Indie journey. His invaluable experiences are generously shared in The Indie Journey: Secrets to Writing Success.

Welcome, Scott!

1- First off, tell us why you decided to write this helpful guide. 

I'd seen so much attention placed on rankings and money and trad-pub hate that I wanted to present a more philosophical approach, focusing on happiness as the goal instead of the latest tricks to game the Amazon algorithms. Algorithms constantly change, but a metaphysical and spiritual satisfaction with your career never fades.

2- Let’s jump back in time: if you were just starting out on your own Indie journey, what are the top three things you wish you had known from the outset?

1. Jump in earlier and with both feet. 2. Be fully committed. 3. Don't get caught up in the noise.

3- a) What was your biggest misstep? 

I sat on the sidelines for at least six months waiting to see where the Kindle was headed, trying to get agents to sell my books and all that. And I was still talking with agents the first six months after I put in a couple of books, and I was holding out books to try to sell the old way. That was foolish in retrospect.
   
b) How did it make you feel? 

My generation of writers was trained that only hacks self-publish and that it kills any chance of a "real career."

4- a) What was your greatest triumph? 

Fulfilling my only real writing goal of being able to do this for a living.

b) You’ve had some great success along the way. What makes this the most outstanding example? 

Because I never required stardom or the ego baggage, only the satisfaction of the universe making room for the thing I loved to do. I accept that as proof that my writing has enough value to others to be worthwhile.

5- What is the best thing about being an Indie author? 

Wearing ratty sweatpants to work.

6- There’s a dark side to everything in life… so how about the worst thing? 

The firm belief that this digital era will not last in its current form, and the uncertainty ahead. Of course, that is also a joy, too.

7- Obviously, you have the experience of having been published traditionally as well as going Indie. What do you think are the top benefits of each route? 

Trad? Your book in a store, which is still cool even if less useful to sustaining a career. Indie? You get paid every month and the boss doesn't suck, hopefully.

8- Last but not least… what’s next for Scott Nicholson?

I am launching a Kindle giveaway site http://ebookswag.com/ because I believe free books are not only here to stay, they are going to become the dominant model. And writers might want to figure out how to monetize the next era if they want to continue writing.

Thanks for your time, Scott! 

Remember to leave a comment/share this post to enter the draw for Scott's book... and for more great swag and free books, drop by http://ebookswag.com/ !

Friday, March 30, 2012

On Writing Devastating Scenes

Print from A Yorkshire Tragedy


I did a bit of soul-searching this week.

On his blog, my fellow author James Garcia Jr. recently featured his reactions to Base Spirits. He very eloquently tackled the question of the infanticides as portrayed in the novel, and I really appreciated his comments. I disturbed him. I made him angry. But? He stuck with the book and pushed on past his own discomfort because he wanted to find out what happened, and because he admired my writing.


"I am positively reviewing this novel for two main reasons. Barrett writes with beautiful prose and she nailed everything that was required of an author doing a period piece. That's what got me through the unsavory subject matter of abuse, as well as the murder of those beautiful children. When Clara and her husband were in present day, we were there with them. It was present day; anyone could pull that off! More importantly, however, when Clara began seeing through Lady Calverley's eyes, Barrett was able to fully transport us there, too. She nailed the culture, the dress, the language, the pacing, the lifestyles - everything! I found myself thoroughly impressed with Barrett here, and am convinced that no one but a master could have pulled that off."

I am truly humbled by his reaction and his high praise. (You can link to the rest of James Garcia Jr.'s blog here: http://bit.ly/H3Bwjg and his Facebook page is here: http://on.fb.me/H6DAjg ) Thank you, James. It means a lot coming from you.

I want to know how others feel when dealing with the dark side, and to that end I'm offering Base Spirits at a deep discount of 99 cents for a limited time: http://amzn.to/wQ1ms4


That difficult reaction is the sort of thing I really need to hear about as a writer. I've been lucky to have had mostly glowing reviews on my Amazon page, on review blogs, via e-mail and in person. Only two poor reviews so far, and those readers just didn't get into the concept. (That's fair- not everyone's going to love what I do.) I am heartened when I hear things like 'I couldn't put it down' or 'I sat up all night jumping at sounds' or 'Freakin' amazing!'. That pleases me. I like hearing comments like those.

But when I have made someone truly uncomfortable with the subject matter-- or with the brutal portrayal of the murders-- it gives me pause. Years ago, I had a good friend give an earlier draft a beta read... and he couldn't get past the murder scene. I really upset him. He had two children about the same ages as Will and little Walter at the time, and he was horrified. Not a 'scary monster in the attic' kind of horror reaction, but HORRIFIED. I remember feeling guilty for upsetting him so much. At times, that has given me pause going forward with the book itself. If I had that strong sort of visceral reaction from my oldest friend and fellow writer, then what would other people think of me? I didn't want readers to think I was some sort of monster who derives pleasure from tackling the harsh subject matter.

(As a sidebar, my old friend has since re-read the novel and really admires it.)

The scenes of abuse and violence were wrenching for me to work on. I felt sick a lot of the time. I hated that these things happened-- really happened-- to this family in 1605. But they were true events at the heart of my story. How could I shy away? There is no easy or 'nice' way to portray a murder.

If Base Spirits was a screenplay (and it may well be... stay tuned!), I would have handled it differently. That's the joy of filmmaking: you visually suggest something, and the viewer can fill in the rest with more truth and horror in their imaginations than any special effects can. I'm not a huge fan of over-the-top splatter onscreen-- sometimes it's necessary, and sometimes it just becomes cartoonish and goofy and doesn't serve the story. It depends on what effect you want to make on the audience.

In a novel, a writer needs to paint a picture. It was a very unpleasant and disturbing picture for me to paint. I played the mother of these children-- the wife of the abusive killer-- onstage. I had to go somewhere very dark deep down within myself and 'feel' all of that anguish. The fictional retelling had me right back there in the pit. It wasn't easy. But I was compelled to write the novel.

In the end, that's the answer of why I didn't shy away: I've elicited a true gut reaction. Isn't that what art is meant to do? Yes, it entertains us and makes us use our imaginations... but if it upsets you, it is reaching you at a deeper level. And as another Canadian writer Timothy Findley once said: "We are all of us a hiding place for monsters".

What do you think?

Why not judge for yourself? I'm putting Base Spirits on sale for 99 cents for a limited time. Here's the Kindle link again: http://www.amazon.com/Base-Spirits-ebook/dp/B005L38G8E

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Who Here Likes Book Trailers?

BASE SPIRITS.... the Trailer! (And another is on the way... )

video


So... my friends at Authors Anonymous made a trailer for 'Base Spirits' not too long ago. Authors Anon has a splendid website that is a joy to visit. They are passionate about showcasing quality Indie authors, and their site is chock full of interesting discoveries and spotlights on some wonderful writers, as well as helpful links. Have a look: http://authorsanon.wordpress.com/ Who knows? Maybe you could be a 'spotlight' author yourself one day. If you think you might be a good fit and you like what you see, why not get in touch? They're very welcoming.

I've had an offer from my cover designer, Neil Jackson, to make another trailer for me. I'll be sure to post it here once it's finished.

As an author, it's very interesting to watch a trailer about your own book. In the case of the one posted above, there are images from the actual real-life location of the story along with the teasers. I think the atmosphere is creepy. Hopefully, it does its job to make the novel sound intriguing enough for a reader to go grab a copy.

(Insert clumsy segue to book links here... )

For Base Spirits e-books: http://www.amazon.com/Base-Spirits-ebook/dp/B005L38G8E
(In the UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Base-Spirits-ebook/dp/B005L38G8E
Available in paperback for all: http://www.amazon.com/Base-Spirits-Ruth-Barrett/dp/1453643001

Back to the trailer question... I was watching a podcast about marketing, and the rather obvious point was made that a trailer for a book works exactly like a movie trailer. It is meant to create buzz and arouse your interest... make you want to rush out and get that amazing novel. Likely the most effective timing for a trailer to hit the Web is before the actual launch date... but as those of you who have been following this blog must know by now, my adventures in the Wild West of Indie publishing have been very much a 'learn-as-you-go' process.

How do you use a trailer to your advantage? Who among you has a book trailer, and how have you found it as a marketing tool? Where have you posted it?

I stumbled across Galleycat last week... and I admit I haven't had time to take a good look at it yet... but it might yield some answers. http://www.mediabistro.com/galleycat/reddit-adds-site-for-literary-videos_b48661 They also seem to offer a lot of good writers' resources in general, so do go poke around and see what you can find.

What do you think? Are book trailers useful at attracting readers? They are fun for the author-- somehow it makes the book seem more 'real', in a way. But are they fun for anyone else?

Tell me what you think.