Wednesday, April 16, 2014

In the Midst of Uncertainty

I live in a beautiful but small mining town in British Columbia. Yesterday, Walter Energy, one of the major employers in my community of Tumbler Ridge, announced that it was laying off more than 700 workers in its BC operations. A vast majority of these workers live and work in TR.

It was a shock, to say the least, especially since most people did not see it coming. My husband works for a different company, so his is not one of the jobs lost. My son-in-law wasn't so fortunate. He and my daughter just finished a beautiful kitchen renovation on their house. At least they have until June to figure something out. Some people weren't so lucky.

There is a lot of uncertainty in the air. Even students at the high school were more sober than usual. Many of them will be facing a move in the near future. This in turn wreaks havoc with school planning for next year. Budgets are set based on enrollment and if there is a mass exodus, it will affect teaching jobs as well.

I have more seniority than some teachers on staff, so I should be safe, and as I said, my husband's job is secure - for now. If coal prices continue to plummet, that could change. We bought a second house on speculation two years ago when there was a housing shortage due to a bit of a boom. The plan was to renovate it, move in, sell our current home, and pay off our debts. In theory it was a good plan. Too bad it didn't take place fast enough. We might be saddled with two mortgages for awhile if things don't pick up, especially since real estate prices are sure to collapse if too many houses go on the market at once.

Despite the gloom and doom, I am thankful for many things. God has blessed us abundantly, and even in the worst case scenario, we have family and friends to support us. My husband and I have been through uncertain times before and somehow we've always had enough to eat and a roof over our heads. Hopefully we can be an encouragement to a younger generation who may not have had to suffer through times of want. Instead as asking "Why?" I am content with the knowledge that God is still in control, even when big corporations forget that hundreds of people might not be able to make their next mortgage payment.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Moving On After Negative Criticism

WIND OVER MARSHDALE got its first two start review on Amazon the other day. I don't check my reviews that often, but just happened to notice it when I was copying the link. It's not the first negative review I've received, but it still hits home for a few moments when you realize someone didn't like the book and then took the time to share that information with other potential readers. Ouch.

The bottom line is this. Not everyone is going to like what I, or any other author, has written. There are books that I don't care for that have lots of positive reviews on Amazon and elsewhere. The fact that I didn't like them simply means that we have different tastes in reading material.

I don't think many readers understand the impact of reviews, however. For some, it just seems like too much bother to write and post a review on Amazon, goodreads, or other places and I'm sure many readers feel like their two cents really won't make that much difference. Think again. Reviews have a huge impact on both ranking and rating, not to mention the fact that they help other readers choose what to read next. If you are one of the people who have read a good book (like one of mine!) but have not bothered to write a review, may I implore you to take ten minutes and post one. It doesn't have to be long, just honest.

Which brings me to another point. Honesty is all important when it comes to reviews so in a way I am glad to have a few less than stellar ones. It shows that I am not paying or otherwise coercing anyone into writing a positive review. As a side note, my own family members have been quite negligent in bothering to post reviews, even though I have asked, so rest assured I am not riding any kind of illegitimate review train! (Come on, sis! You said you liked it... )

Rather than dwell on the negative, I try to focus on the positive feedback I've received. Precious to me are the hand written notes I've gotten in the mail from both family and friends, but also from complete strangers. One elderly woman wrote to say she really enjoyed my book AND THE BEAT FOES ON, and although she didn't know how to write an online review, she wanted me to know how much she felt the story impacted her. She said she was planning to pass it on to others.

Another reader contacted me through facebook and expressed how she loved PLAY IT AGAIN. She said it made her feel like she was back in the 80s and mirrored some of her own experiences. My daughter lent a copy of MY MOTHER THE MAN-EATER to a colleague and after reading it, she wanted a copy for herself and for her sister-in-law. She said the 'realism' of Joleen's struggles really hit home for her. She felt that her sister-in-law, a non-Christian, might respond well to the message of redemption and grace because of her own checkered past. WIND OVER MARSHDALE has had more than one similar remark from readers, either on facebook, via email, or verbally.

To my knowledge, none of these people bothered to write a review on Amazon, but the fact that they contacted me personally perhaps says even more. I can't think of the last time I contacted an author to tell them I enjoyed a book, even though I regularly write and post reviews on Amazon and elsewhere. Sometimes the personal touch is so much more validating.

In the end, I have decided to leave reader response in God's hands. Knowing that even one person was affected in a positive way is enough for me to want to persevere.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Links - An Interview and the Book Club

I was interviewed on Hallee Bridgeman's blog on Thursday, April 10. Check it out!

Author book chat and reviews on BOOKFUN - are coming up on Monday. Join the fun at 8pm eastern time.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Logo - Fictitious Ink

I've been in the process of starting up a small publishing company now for about a year. I haven't published anything yet, and quite honestly, its more of an experiment than anything else. I hope to some day republish some of my own work once the contracts are up - maybe.

In any case, a talented logo artist I know made a logo for me. Here is the prototype. What do you think?

Monday, April 7, 2014

Collaboration - An Invigorating Process

I'm once again in the midst of a collaborative writing stint with my theatre students. As always, it can be a tiring process, but the rewards are enormous. I often use a step by step form of collaboration with students when it comes to writing a play and this year is no exception. It has made for many late nights as I take their ideas and suggestions and try to fit them together into something we can hash over each day at our round table discussions. I wrote a detailed post about it last year when my class wrote a full length play called 'Kind William Travels the World'. If you are interested in how this works, check out the post. 

This year we are writing a murder mystery called 'Murder on the Paradise Express'. There are some very loose references to Agatha Christie, but it is actually turning out to be a very unique plot, with lots of twists that will hopefully keep the audience on the edge of their seats. This year's class wanted to do something a bit more dramatic as opposed to comedy, although there is still some comic relief.

As you may know, I recently co-wrote the first instalment in the COLONY ZERO series, as well. This form of collaboration was a bit different than the one I use for writing plays, but just as interesting and exciting. There is something special about getting together with other creative minds. We tend to feed off one another's ideas.  

For anyone who has thought about collaborative writing, may I encourage you to give it a try. It is one of the most exciting and invigorating exercises I know.