Welcome to the world of unicorns.

Welcome to the world of unicorns.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

First They Took Downtown and Now the Mall - Is this Amazon's Fault?

I'm a 57-year-old woman from Vancouver, Canada. I grew up in Chilliwack. And I still remember when I was a girl, if you wanted to go shopping, you went downtown. That's where the Eaton's Department Store was, the Sweet Sixteen Store, and all kinds of mom and pop businesses. But of course, that all changed in the 70s as malls rose from nothing all over the lower mainland... including our small town. 

Well at first, we loved it. Heck, you could go and try on all kinds of different things in stores in very close proximity without getting cold and wet. It gave you time to make up your mind. But then downtown died. It became a haven of second-hand clothes and used furniture shops. But now the malls have all changed too.

When I go to most of Vancouver's malls, stores sit empty, their windows boarded over. And I can't help but think, "What's going on here? Have people gotten so lazy they can't get up and go to the mall anymore? They'd rather stay home staring at a computer screen, too busy to enjoy life a little? To go for a walk? To meet with a friend for coffee?"

Seems it's true. 

I've watched over the years as department stores have disappeared - Eaton's, Zellers, Woodward's, Saan's, Field's. Even boutiques have gone the way of the cemetery: Mariposa's, Rickie's, Dalmy's, Radio Shack, names that have all slipped from the public's minds.

Is it Amazon's fault? I mean, they make it so easy to purchase anything with just one click. And they're sure giving Walmart a run for their money. Walmart's scrambling to catch up. Some author friend of mine posted today that she was a Walmart Bestseller? She was so happy! A what? Seriously? A Walmart bestseller?

What's our world coming to? We are slowly but surely being alienated from one another. Folks sit at home watching Netflix instead of going out. Teens text instead of having a friend over. People order things instead of going to the mall to buy them. People, can't you see, we're all sitting around alone!

It makes me think of Petula Clark's song, Downtown, where all the lights are bright. But that day is gone, and now our malls are dying a painful death too. Slowly, we're being taken over, our own slovenliness handing the control to the giants: Amazon, Walmart...

Think about it...

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

The Embarrassing Truth About Book Launches

So I just had two book launches for my new novel, Fields of Gold Beneath Prairie Skies, a book based on a true story that I poured my soul into. It was exhausting meeting the deadline and perfecting it before handing it back to my publisher, BWL Publishing so they could push it out into the world, the young innocent babe it is. And then...I had to do the book launch.

Well, let me tell you, book launches are the hardest work of all because no one likes going to book launches unless it's someone really famous. Sometimes only two people show up. 

But a typical book launch consists of 15 or 20 people who have been forced to come because either they're related to you, or in your writer's group, or because you twisted their arm to breaking point. And that's me - the arm twister.

So I start out by making an invitation that sounds like it's going to be the most sensational event ever. I provide live music, food, and prizes. I do FB ads, Twitter ads, send out press releases, personal invitations. I make sure it's on a day that will have no soccer practices, isn't a long weekend, and is convenient for everyone. My image is that 100 people will show up. Sigh.

To begin with, no one in my writer's group could come. And my dear old aunt who I was thinking of the whole time, went away on a trip for two days, and arrived back a half hour after the launch was over. Cousins were working. Someone got sick. A couple of people had unexpected company. And then there are the pingers and ringers. You know, those people who either call or text you at the last minute to say they can't make it?

But strangely, despite the embarrassingly small crowds (if you can call them crowds), there's always the handful of people who did come three hours out of their way to support you, or the cousin who just had her teeth pulled and is sore, or the friend from childhood who's a die-hard. And they buy books. And they tell all their friends. And that's who I'm doing it for.

And so I swallow my pride, realize I'm not alone. (I've been to many book launches that are poorly attended.) And I go on. And I dream that some day, I'll have that huge crowd going out the door. 

In the meantime, here's the book trailer for Fields of Gold Beneath Prairie Skies.

And here is the link. Fields of Gold Beneath Prairie Skies

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Big Book Giveaway in Honour of the Canadian Historical Bride Series

I’m very excited to blog about the Canadian Historical Bride series published by BWL Publishing. These are books created especially to celebrate Canada’s 150th anniversary of confederation. My novel, Fields of Gold Beneath Prairie Skies is coming out on Sept. 19th. Can’t wait. So to promote the Canadian Historical Bride series, I’ve asked the various authors to give one of their other novels for free! And to start out, here’s mine: www.instafreebie.com/free92piu.

Today, I’m interviewing Victoria Chatham, author of Brides of Banff Springs, book 1 of the CHB series.

So tell us about your Canadian Historical Bride novel. I loved the paranormal element in it. Who knew that the Banff Springs Hotel was haunted?

The story of the Ghost Bride has been around since the late 1920s. According to the story, while she descended a winding staircase at the hotel, her heel caught the hem of her wedding gown and she fell. Other reports state the skirt of her gown brushed against a candle flame, causing her to fall. The sad fact is that, whatever the cause, the bride did not survive her fall. Guests and hotel staff have reported seeing a veiled figure on those stairs or a figure in a wedding gown dancing in the ballroom, so the story has had a lot of publicity.

Ohhhh, I love it – a good ghost story! What made you decide to write about Banff besides the awe-inspiring beauty and the ghost?

I’m a very visual person and the photographs I’d seen of Banff as it was prior to the hotel being built to the town, and as it is today, intrigued me. When I started researching my story I found there was so much more to Banff than I had realized, much of it because of its connection with the Canadian Pacific Railway. It really wasn’t difficult to go and do on-site research as Banff is only roughly an hour’s drive from where I live. Here’s the blurb:

In the Dirty Thirties jobs were hard to come by. Having lost her father and her home in southern Alberta, Tilly McCormack is thrilled when her application for a position as a chambermaid at the prestigious Banff Springs Hotel, one of Canada’s great railway hotels, is accepted. 

Tilly loves her new life in the Rocky Mountain town and the people she meets there. Local trail guide Ryan Blake, is taken with Tilly’s sparkling blue eyes and mischievous sense of humor, and thinks she is just the girl for him. Ryan’s work with a guiding and outfitting company keeps him busy but he makes time for Tilly at every opportunity and he’s already decided to make her his bride. 

On the night he plans to propose to Tilly another bride-to-be, whose wedding is being held at the Hotel, disappears. Tilly has an idea where she might have gone and together with Ryan sets out to search for her. 

Will they find the missing bride and will Tilly accept Ryan’s proposal?
I so enjoyed reading this. I may just have to read it again. So what’s the link to buy it?

Just click on the book cover and it will show all available markets.

And what’s the book you’re giving for free?

His Dark Enchantress. It’s a Regency romance and the first in my Berkeley Square series. You download it here: https://www.instafreebie.com/free/FI0wg

Great! Thanks! I’m off to download it.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Big Book Giveaway in Honour of the Canadian Historical Bride series.

I’m very excited to blog about the Canadian Historical Bride series published by BWL in honour of  Canada’s 150th anniversary. My novel, Fields of Gold Beneath Prairie Skies is coming out on Sept. 19th. Can’t wait. So to promote the Canadian Historical Bride series, I’ve asked the various authors to give one of their other novels for free! And to start out, here’s mine: https://www.instafreebie.com/free/92piu

Today, I’m interviewing Katherine Pym, co-author of Pillars of Avalon, book 5 of the CHB series. Hey, Katherine, how’s it going?

Great, thanks.

So tell us about your Canadian Historical Bride novel. I’m reading it right now and I have to say I’m really impressed with the realistic language you use from that era. I feel as though I’ve gone back in time.

The language comes from reading so much of the era, so it attaches naturally to my thought processes as I write.

Now, to tell you of Pillars of Avalon, a story that covers several decades and centers on the early colonization of Newfoundland: King Charles I gives David Kirke a letter of marque, allowing him the freedom to pillage any French ports in New France (now Quebec). He is successful but after King Louis XIV cries foul, King Charles reneges and forces David to return everything he’d fought for, even furs he’d negotiated on his own.

He marries Sara Andrews whom he’s known most of his life and refers to her as ‘Twig’, since she’s so slight. They are each other’s match and support each other during their marriage. David gives Sara free reign to run portions of their companies which she does very well. I had to make her a strong woman because Lady Sara Kirke is considered the foremost North American Female Entrepreneur, and there is an award given each year in her name.

How did you come up with this idea?

I discovered David and Sara Kirke one day while searching for information on events of the 17th century. You see, my expertise is London 1660’s, which I’ll admit is pretty narrow, but due to the heavy tomes I borrow or purchase, a lot of history expands to both sides of the 1660’s. During the research phase, and again during the writing of Pillars, I found some amazing books published in the 17th century that helped me with the colonial days of Newfoundland.

I love Newfoundland. I had an ancestor land there only to move to Quebec later on. So what’s the link to buy it? https://books2read.com/u/3k0pWR

And what’s the book you’re giving for free? 

Erasmus T. Muddiman, a story of a lad who is caught up in the buildup of the 2nd Anglo/Dutch war. He’s press-ganged to caulk new and used ships at Deptford. After he escapes, he finds London embroiled in the great plague of 1665. 

Great! Thanks! I better go and check this out. Nothing more fascinating than the Bubonic plague!!!

Friday, September 1, 2017

Big Book Giveaway in Honour of the Canadian Historical Bride Series

I’m very excited to blog about the Canadian Historical Bride series published by BWL Publishing. These are books created especially to celebrate Canada’s 150th anniversary of confederation. My novel, Fields of Gold Beneath Prairie Skies is coming out on Sept. 19th. Can’t wait. So to promote the Canadian Historical Bride series, I’ve asked the various authors to give one of their other novels for free! And to start out, here’s mine: https://www.instafreebie.com/free/92piu

Today, I’m interviewing Nancy M. Bell, author of His Brother’s Bride, book 2 of the CHB series. Hey, Nancy, how’s it going?

Hi Suzanne, thanks for inviting me. Things are crazy! It’s been a busy summer with book signings and events to promote the Brides collection. I’m excited to report that in October I’b going on a 20 library/10 day tour of northern Alberta for the Northern Lights Library System. I’ll be talking to various age groups about my books, books in general and the writing process. I’ll also be seeing you at the Surrey International Writers Conference at the end of October. Always so much fun.

Wow! Sounds like you’re the hot author of Alberta! I totally understand why. So tell us about your Canadian Historical Bride novel. I absolutely loved it. It was poignant and kept me on the edge of my seat, plus I didn’t see that ending coming. You totally got me.

Thanks for the kind words. His Brother’s Bride is set in Ontario during the first world war. The location is Eaganville and then the Sprucedale/Huntsville area. It touches on the story of the “Dr. Barnardo children” those who were sent to Canada as children to be ‘adopted’ by families here. Some were treated well, some were no more than endentured servants who were not treated so well. Annie Baldwin is the youngest daughter of a reasonably well to do family who farm outside Eaganville. She meets and becomes friends with two brothers who were both sent to Canada from Liverpool, England as Dr. Barnardo boys. They were lucky enough to be placed close to each other even though they came at different times on different ships. Both boys end up going to France while Annie waits at home for them and her brothers to come back.  The trio also take a bit of a side trip early in the story to explore the caves along the Bonnechere River. Today the caves are a tourist attraction with guided tours, but in the early 1900s they were entered via a sink hole and the explorers were on their own.   

What made you decide to write this particular story?

The premise of the novel is based very roughly on my grandparent’s story. I took some liberties with their actual story line, but the foundation is there. It just seemed like it would be a good story to tell and it had a lot of personal meaning to me. I felt closer to my grandfather and his brother as I delved into the research. It also helped that I’ve been to the places in the novel, Sprucedale, Doe Lake, the Bonnechere Caves and the Haliburton Highlands.

I know what you mean about feeling closer to your grandfather. My story is about my grandparents as well, and even though I’ve never met my great grandfather, I feel like I know him well after having written this story. Now please do tell where can we get His Brother’s Bride?

His Brother’s Bride is available in e-format and print. It can be found on all the normal ebook sites as well as in print from Chapters/Indigo in Canada and the Red Tuque Books website.
Here is the link to my author page. If you click on the cover of a book it will take you to a page where you can take your pick of vendors. 

And what’s the book you’re giving for free?

I thought I’d add some humour here, so I’m giving away The Teddy Dialogues.  Here’s a bit about Teddy, a most remarkable dog.

Do you ever look at your dog and wonder what he’s thinking? Well, wonder no more. The Teddy Dialogues takes the reader on a whirlwind tour of what goes in a dog’s mind and how they perceive the odd way their humans behave. Teddy’s dry wit and irascible personality make this a quirky and fun read. You’ll never look at your dog the same after you read The Teddy Dialogues. Prepare to be entertained.

https://www.instafreebie.com/free/lB5uZ  Here’s the giveaway link.

Great! Thanks! I really laughed when I read that book, but His Brother’s Bride is my favourite so far.

Thanks Suzanne, I always enjoy reading your work. Love those unicorns.

And in case you'd like to be one of the first to read Fields of Gold Beneath Prairie Skies, you can pre-order it here:

Saturday, August 19, 2017

The Grouchy Amazon Guy - Could Have Sworn it was Donald Trump

I don't remember exactly how it happened, but it seemed I had signed myself up for a free Amazon course of two hours in Burnaby, B.C. 

Why not go? I thought, being an author and all. After all, Amazon keeps changing the algorithms in favour of their self-published books (so rumour has it). Perhaps this lecture will reveal the secret to getting around these mysterious numbers. And so I showed up, grabbed my free cup of coffee and sat down.

In walks the presenter. Handsome, tall, thirty-something, his hair greased back as slick as the talk he was about to give.  And no sooner did he begin, did he utter a serious Canadian faux-pas. He said, "You can make a lot of money on Amazon despite your race."

Ahhhhh! What????? I immediately turned around to see what the demographics were in the room and discovered there were only three white people there. My hackles raised at his divisiveness, and I nearly let out a low growl, but instead decided to listen to what he had to say. After he's only human, right? We all mistakes.

That's when I noticed his accent was American, and thought, "Perhaps he doesn't know. Maybe I should give him the benefit of the doubt and tell him afterward." 

Soon he was tempting people to sign up for a three-day Amazon course for only $1299 by offering them a free kindle. Then he explained the strategy of buying top selling items at wholesale price and selling them on Amazon at a profit. Hmmmm. So much for my writing career. But still, I had decided to give him the benefit of the doubt.

At the end of the talk, I went to him and asked him about the book algorithms, and he didn't deny it. When I asked him how I could get around them, he suggested I sell something else. (Good thing I didn't pay for this lecture.)

But my kinder side prevailed and I said, "May I give you some feedback?" still reeling from the race thing. 

"No!" he recoiled in true Trumpian fashion, his arms crossed, and face in a scowl.

"But it's important," I said.

He acquiesced, but still looked ready for battle.

"When you said that bit about selling things on Amazon despite your race? Well....this is Canada. We don't have racial problems like you guys have in America. There are some, but all in all, we just get along. It's easy. It's not necessary to say that in Canada."

The handsome young man suddenly transformed to Donald Trump himself, red faced as Potus and began arguing with me.  Real professional.

My reply? "My hackles were raised when you said that. It's just a suggestion. Take it or leave it."

And with that, I left, not having signed up for his course on how to peddle on Amazon and a bad taste in my mouth for the world's largest on-line company.

As I was catching the elevator, I spoke with an Asian man who'd sat through the speech. Turned out he was as offended by the race comment as I was. 

How marred my image is of Amazon now, me, an Amazon Prime holder. Think I'll go hang out at the old-fashioned mall instead of on-line. (Huge sigh of relief.)

Monday, August 14, 2017

A Cool Calgary Author With An Imagination Like Nothing I've Ever Seen

My guest today is Calgary author Simon Rose, who has published fourteen novels for children and young adults, seven guides for writers, almost 100 nonfiction books, and many articles on a wide variety of topics. Earlier this year he released Twisted Fate, the second installment of the paranormal Flashback series. Today, we’re looking at his latest release, the Shadowzone series. I'm exhausted just thinking about it all. Phew.

So what’s the Shadowzone series all about?

The series involves the discovery of a grim dystopian version of Earth that’s ruled by a totalitarian dictatorship, the threat of a deadly virus, and a race against time to save the lives of millions. Without giving too much away, here’s a synopsis for each of the novels.

While watching intense flashes of lightning during a violent storm, Ben experiences mysterious and disturbing visions of another world, one very different from his own. In the chain of events that follow, Ben encounters Charlie, a girl from a dark version of Earth, a planet doomed by the effects of environmental catastrophe, where the leaders will stop at nothing to complete their deadly mission. 

On a doomed version of Earth, the sinister schemes of the Ministry are moving ever closer to completion, with dire consequences for the inhabitants of two worlds. For Ben and Charlie, an unlikely alliance, unexpected reunions, and the mysterious prophecy of the Chosen One offer a glimmer of hope, with the ever-present prospect of betrayal, as they embark on an unpredictable journey into the unknown. 

In a dark parallel world, following attacks by its most determined opponents, the Ministry has been forced to change its plans. Yet the ruthless Director-General is prepared to sacrifice anyone to achieve an entirely new beginning, no matter what the cost. In a deadly race against time, as events spiral out of control, Ben and Charlie must risk their lives in a desperate attempt to save two worlds from destruction. 

I'm overwhelmed. What inspired you to write these three books? What’s the story behind the story?

The original idea was about someone capturing mysterious images on a video camera of a person that no one else could see. It was around the time that a local hospital was about to be demolished. I imagined that my character was filming the event and captured the image of the person stepping seemingly unharmed from the rubble as the building came down. The idea of capturing unexplained images on film was something that I’ve continued working on and it also inspired me to write The Time Camera, which was published in 2011.

For a while, that’s all I had and it was one of those ideas that I was never sure would come to anything. It was early in my writing career and I put it aside and worked on other stories, but I’d periodically add another element to the story about the camera and the mysterious individual. At one point, I decided that the person that the boy caught on film wasn’t a ghost but from another dimension or perhaps a parallel universe and they were attempting to contact him for some reason. I then began to add details of this other Earth and the reasons for the connection to our world, and it went from there. An initial concept involving kidnappings from hospitals didn’t quite work, so instead I developed the idea of a deadly virus, which was a good fit with the type of government running the other Earth. Once that was all in place, I was able to get to work.

Was it always going to be a series?

Shadowzone was originally only one novel, but once I’d finished it I immediately realized that the story wasn’t over and that I need to write more. The final installment was written very quickly and in the process I knew that I needed to expand the earlier sections too, so in the end I had a trilogy.

 So of course, people need to read all three :)

You could certainly just read Shadowzone, but there’s a cliffhanger ending and hopefully most people will feel utterly compelled to be read on and learn what happens next. Into The Web and Black Dawn also don’t make sense if you haven’t read the first book in the series. Taken together, it’s an exciting, fast paced adventure that I hope everyone will really enjoy.

So do you think it’s a good idea for authors to write a series of books?

It can be, but only if you have enough material for multiple books. If readers are sufficiently interested in the story and the characters after completing the first installment, they’d usually like to read more. However, the story or theme has to be strong enough to warrant more adventures. It’s important to remember that the reader won’t appreciate any novel that’s overloaded with filler, just for the sake of creating a series, and might easily avoid any books by the same author in the future.

So where can people buy all three books in the Shadowzone series?

The books can be purchased at most of the usual places, as follows:

Paperback: AmazonCreatespace

Into The Web

Black Dawn
Ebook: Amazon CanadaAmazon USAKoboiBooks, and Smashwords

You published these yourself, whereas most of your earlier work was traditionally published, correct?

The first eight novels were published by Tradewind Books, while Flashback, Future Imperfect, and Twisted Fate were published by Tyche Books, but my seven books featuring tips and advice for writers were self-published as paperbacks and as ebooks.  I hadn’t self-published fiction before and thought it was time that I did. The Shadowzone books were finished and I believed that they were as good, if not better, than my other work. I also asked some people read them to confirm this and then decided to go ahead with publication. A lot of traditionally published authors also self publish as well now, so it’s quite common practice these days. 

Will you self publish again in the future?

Yes, I think so. The third part of the Flashback series will be published by Tyche Books next spring, but I do have several other projects that I’ll most likely publish myself as well soon. 

What are you currently working on?

I always have a current project or two and right now I’m working on a historical fiction novel for young adults set in the turbulent era of the English Civil War in the 1640s. The novel’s about half finished, but I still have a lot of work to do. I’m also working on sequels to Future Imperfect and The Sphere of Septimus.

Are your other books in this similar dystopian genre?

No, although my novels are all in the science fiction and fantasy genre. The Sorcerer’s Letterbox and The Heretic’s Tomb are historical fiction adventures set in medieval England, The Alchemist’s Portrait is a time travel story, The Emerald Curse is all about superheroes and comic books, The Doomsday Mask is all about the legend of Atlantis, and The Sphere of Septimus involves the characters traveling into another world and is in the same vein as the Harry Potter series, The Chronicles of Narnia, or Lord of the Rings. Future Imperfect is a technology-driven story featuring mysterious messages from the future, and Flashback and Twisted Fate are in the paranormal genre. I’ve also written nonfiction guides for writers, including The Children’s Writer's Guide and The Time Traveler’s Guide.
You also work with other authors, don’t you?

Yes, I do quite a lot of that these days. I’ve edited books in all kinds of genres for a wide range of writers in the last few years, offering both substantive and copy editing. I also work as a writing coach and consultant for people with works in progress or those that are struggling with writer’s block. You can learn more about some of the projects I’ve worked on that have subsequently been published are here on my website. I also offer online courses for adults and workshops on a variety of themes for aspiring young writers.

Thanks Simon, for being my guest here today and the very best of luck with the Shadowzone series. I hope the books sell thousands of copies in the coming weeks and months.

You can learn more about Simon and his work on his website at www.simon-rose.com or online at the following social media sites:

·      Facebook
·      Twitter
·      LinkedIn
·      YouTube
·      Google +
·      Pinterest