Saturday, October 30, 2010

Blog Jog Day revisted.

I met many wonderful bloggers during the May 2010 first Blog Jog Day. The next one is November 21st. If you stop by here on that date, you'll see the next link in the chain of links for the day. Mark it on your calendar and join me for jog through blogland. Guaranteed you'll meet some fascinating bloggers.

By the way... If you have a question for PZM, you still have time to submit. Marketing expert Phyllis Zimbler Miller's column airs on the 5th day of each month. Email me at cluculzwriter at yahoo dot ca with your question.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A Writer's Retreat By Any Other Name Would Be As Sweet

Driftwood Lodge Bed and Breakfast is about twenty minutes west of Smithers, BC. We gathered to connect and to share what it means to be a rural writer. From beginning to end, it was a peaceful,  enlightening and inspiring weekend. Everything a writer could ask for.

You can't tell by the photograph below, but beneath that layer of clouds is the town of Smithers, BC.

The lodge is situated on 114 acres with breathtaking views of Bulkley Valley. It's approximately 340 km northwest of my home in Cluculz Lake. While those of us in Vanderhoof, Cluculz Lake, and Prince George sit on top of the mountains in the Bulkley Nechako and see only hills around us, Smithers is located in the valley and has spectacular views of the Hudson Bay Mountains and Telkwa Range.

Through the front door is an unique inside door that opens to two chairs waiting
a comfortable room...

writers writing

Writers in Residence with an abundance of quiet.
Intimate readings 

captive audience

A workshop on what it means to be a rural writer.

 Using online archives to inspire and instruct

Sarah de Leeuw gave an informative workshop on Writing Yourself Towards North: Exploring Creative Non-Fiction And The Geographies In Which We Live. 
Fifteen exceptionally gifted writers who are now friends.
Many thanks to organizing team: Amanda Follett and Gail Hochachka. Thanks to workshop leaders: Jane Stevenson, Sheila Peters, Ali Howard, and Sarah de Leeuw. And a special thank you to Antoinette Austin for sharing her knowledge and wonder for the Art of Aboriginal Storytelling. Thank you, Birdy and Jennifer. It was a lovely, restful, and inspiring weekend.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

When Your Best Is Never Good Enough

While I'm off at the Rural Writers Retreat in Smithers, I wanted to re-post this poem by Selene Skye because even after all this time, I'm still moved to tears when I read it. If you're acquainted with Selene's work, books such as Crow/Woman And Mudgirl, or  The Raspberry Girl, then you'll understand why her words move me so. 

When your best never seems to satisfy
when your hair isn't blond enough
or pony mane
bouncy in a tail against long neck
as feet pound pavement and dirt roads
because of course
you must run
because you can never be thin enough
slender lean hip curves
a fatty at your back
bouncy boobs high from the last lift
a strong back to ride waves of sound
at the club all night long
voluptuous soul
against a pole
a pulse you can't put your finger on
because you'd really much rather be at home
sleeping in a warm bed
then having boys who were in diapers
the year you turned sixteen and wild
gaping at you with MILF dreams within their dilated
ecstasy wide pupils

When your best seems to get you into a heapingful of blues
and troubles
maybe it's time to stop trying so hard
to be the silkiest monster in the day
the woman with the yellow eyes and sharpest of tongues
whipping up a storm of wounds across the palms
that never meant an ounce of harm
and yet were stripped down to the bone
Maybe it's time to stop being your daughter's friend
her hip-hop princessa partner in the sublime crime of misanthropy
and be her mother
get her back beneath the arbor of wings
before the freedom you've unleashed before her
whips her up into a frenzied maelstrom
far from any Wizard of Oz dream

When your best has turned you inside-out
to cannibalize your own dreams and needs and wants;
when your lashes feather spider darkness
coy green eyes beneath
they forget how to see your eyes
when your lips have been stung with such intense wasp kisses
to swell ruby and doll like
they forget to hear the words coming from between those pouty
porn star delicacies
and you
that the only reason you'd puffed your lips to begin with
was to erase the scars and the damage
left behind by Eagle's hard fists

And you've fallen so easily to your own glitter
your porcelain
ivory existence
devour without thought and despise without reason each bittersweet slice
of hate
and love
come to flutter through your fingers
God, you are so convoluted
such a contradiction
and I can tell you one thing
my green-eyed monster
when your best is never good enough
it's too good to be true


It's impossible to know what goes through someone else' mind when they create something as tender and haunting as Selene's poem. But I do understand why it moves me so deeply. I've been as guilty of this as the next. I've judged myself and others by appearance. I've looked at a woman's attire and render expectations. Or misgivings. During my 30s, I yearned to be perfect. The perfect woman, the perfect wife and mother. Anything short of that meant failure.

My mother was an entertainer; she understood about appearances. Did she teach me to demand perfection? No, in fact she told me I was luckier than most because not only was I smart, I had personality and looks. "Enjoy who you are," she would say.
So, what do you suppose my reaction was? In light of the continual influence of movies, TV and magazines, I thought because she was my mother, she didn't see me as the world did: full of imperfections; unworthy. I think back now to the look of pain on her face when I described myself in degrading terms. Adjectives like fat, stupid, unworthy, pitiful, and ugly were familiar choices. I was her daughter, the result of the union between her and her husband, my father. "You look like your dad," she often told me. He was attractive, dark like Dean, outgoing like Frank.
All I saw was my thick frame, eyes that were too deep set, and short legs. I heard a masculine voice when I spoke and a throaty noise when I laughed.
This search for perfection and the fear that your best is never good enough isn't new. My mother felt it, and her mother. And whether they passed it along to me isn't important. Our society feeds on such lack of confidence. How else would they sell their products?
I revel in the thought that women are living longer. And menopause, despite its ghastly side-affects is proving to be good for something. Now that I'm well into my fifties I no longer care what others think. I'm grateful for my wrinkles and laugh lines and all the other gravity fallouts. The sadness I feel for girls coming of age is probably the same pity my grandmother's generation felt for us. But is this new generation strong enough to change society's attitudes? Sadly, it doesn't look like it. Hopefully, I'm wrong.
For more of Selene's work, please check out

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Good, the Bad, and the Unusual

A Half Dozen Hints for Creating Realistic Characters

The best plot in the world won’t sell a story unless readers care what happens to the characters. People care about people, so here’s how to make fictional characters seem human:

1. Know them inside and out. Make a chart for each major character, with headings like Eye Color, Mannerisms, Favorite Foods, and Deepest Fears. Whether these traits appear in the story is irrelevant; the main purpose is to help you see a real person with human attributes. Once you know characters yourself, it’s easier to make them real for readers.

2. Pick one to four “viewpoint” characters—the fewer the better—through whose eyes readers will experience the story. Any direct thoughts or feelings in the text must belong to viewpoint characters.

If you tell your story in first person (as an “I”), a single viewpoint character is almost required. Speaking as a character experiencing the action does make it easier to stay in one viewpoint. (Not always easy, though. No fair describing the narrator unless he has reason to consider his appearance.) The alternative is third person (an invisible narrator does the talking), which can be used with a single viewpoint character or several.

With several, it’s tempting to jump back and forth between their heads. Don’t. Readers go crazy trying to decide whom to empathize with. Not:

“I don’t know what to do.” Ted felt miserable. How could he explain?

LaDonna didn’t understand why he was so upset.


“I don’t know what to do.” Ted felt miserable. How could he explain?

LaDonna shook her head. “I don’t understand why you’re so upset.”


“I don’t know what to do.” Ted buried his face in his hands.

LaDonna didn’t understand why he was so upset.

If you’re in Ted’s viewpoint and want to show LaDonna’s internal reaction, give her a separate scene after this conversation is over.

Another advantage of third person is that you can start by describing the viewpoint character from outside, before dropping fully into her head. However:

3. You needn’t go into extensive detail when describing characters. One or two notable physical traits (his height, her brilliant blue eyes), plus anything that will affect the story directly, should be sufficient. Don’t get so thorough that readers wonder if you honed your writing skills on missing-person reports.

4. Actually, descriptions of any kind are better shown than told—and “showing” does a better job of establishing character. Don’t say, “He was angry”; have him pound the table, slam the door, or—if he’s the passive-aggressive type—hunch his shoulders and glare at the ground. The way someone shows anger says a lot about his personality.

5. Dialogue is another useful tool. You can establish a character as a bore by having him go on and on about his triumphs (don’t overdo it, or readers will get bored too!), or indicate someone’s education through her vocabulary. Do think twice before using slang (soon dated) or “spell it like it’s said” dialect (offensive to many, and quickly becomes boring). In a first-person story, speech patterns should show in the narrative as well.

6. Don’t make your characters perfect; there’s nothing less human. Give everyone a fault or shortcoming. And though it’s not as universal a rule, consider giving the “bad guy” a sympathetic trait; a total sociopath is hard to portray convincingly.

However good or bad the characters, every story (whether the writer knows it or not) has a theme, e.g.: "Love conquers all"; "Crime does not pay"; "It's no use fighting fate." 

Katherine Swarts, Spread the Word's founder, owner, and head copywriter, has been writing professionally for more than ten years—and reading voraciously for as long as she can remember.

Published in/by:
Besides having over 100 article  credits, Katherine is a writer of Christian and inspirational poetry. Visit her blog.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Literary Agent Wendy Lawton, a honest perspective

If you've ever waited 12 months or longer for an agent's response, or you've been told you were in only to discover a month later that you're out, this link to Rachelle Gardner's blog is for you. Wendy Lawton's week-long topic on #AgentFail is as honest an insight as I've ever read.  She convinced me that in understanding the fallibility of the  agent's process and why it's so important to never take their rejection personally, the road to success is open to anyone. 
 Enjoy her posts.

Japanese Garden, Royal Roads University, British Columbia 
© Don Paulson

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Self-Publishing, You Say?

If you've been around long enough, you've probably heard or participated in the ongoing discussion on the merits of self-publishing. The consensus seems to be that only another self-published author considers the process reputable. The remaining 95% believe self-publishing is a nasty deed performed by deluded and undisciplined hackers pretending to know what good writing is, or what readers want. 
Can you tell which group I belong to?

The wonderful thing about being a new writer today is the accessibility to information on any subject you deem interesting. If you're determined to self-publish or already have, and now you want to change attitudes, how do you go about doing that? By writing the very best novel you can possibly write. And how do you do that? By taking advantage of the accessibility to the hundreds and possibly thousands of experts online on writing. And when you're not doing that? You're writing, editing, revising and rewriting. Need to study characterizations, dialogue, grammar, or marketing? The help is as close as your fingertips. Need a good critique partner. Yo, wide world of web!

If you're self-published and you're tired of other writers assuming you're a fake, then here's my story. Maybe it can help.

Silly YOU!
Don't tell me you actually believed I would blog about my life story! Ha ha, fooled ya.

Instead, here's an exercise: Go to Google or your favourite search engine and type in How to self-publish a bestseller.

Did you just receive over 6 million links?

See what I mean?

No, I'm not advocating that all self-published novels are well written. But neither are all traditionally published ones. We need to remove labels and start judging books by their content. Some publishers are donkeys, some are horse, and some are just plain mules. But you can ride them all.

When my grandmother was a young mother, one of her daughter's asked her why girls couldn't be doctors or lawyers, or even vote. My grandmother said because only men knew what was best. She said that in 1915, and of course, she grew to see the nonsense of that declaration. So, I'm not begging or demanding that you follow my way of thinking, but to consider not why attitudes like my grandmother's changed, but how. How does any attitude that doesn't promote equality or the freedom of choice come about?

In all fairness, I'm not sure if my grandmother actually said this or if it was a ploy to get me to think. 

--happy revising,


Monday, October 11, 2010

Author Chimamanda Adichie

In honour of our Canadian Thanksgiving, I'd like to wish everyone a safe and happy Thanksgiving. Wherever you may be, thank you for all your support. It's been truly awesome and much appreciated.

This link came to me from a dear online friend. It's a talk by a wonderful writer from Nigeria by the name of Chimamanda Adichie on the danger of a single story. During your busy day, take time out (18:49 minutes to be exact) to hear Chimamanda's talk. I promise it won't be time wasted. 

Friday, October 8, 2010

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Ask PZM: October 2010

Q: Should I only upload my book-related videos to YouTube or should I upload the videos to numerous free-video sharing sites?

In a perfect world with endless time and resources available to you, there would be no reason NOT to upload to every free-video sharing site you could find.

But most of us live in a world that is limited by time and resources. And I’m a firm believer in getting the “most bang for your buck.”

Therefore, according to Internet marketing guru Terry Dean, “The big king in videos is of course YouTube which produces over 90% of the views.”

(This is from his September 2010 monthly mentoring club newsletter. I’ve been a member of his monthly mentoring club for over two years and highly recommend it. Here’s my affiliate link: and do note that this information is NOT just about book marketing but rather covers a wide range of Internet marketing activities.)

Obviously this means that, with limited time available, uploading to just YouTube can be a very productive video-sharing strategy. (And it is what I now do instead of uploading my videos to other video-sharing sites.)

Response to Joylene’s comment on the September Ask PZM:

“Phyllis, it is always a honor having you on my blog. You bring hope to an often frightening adventure. Marketing should be classified as the new horror. LOL. Just kidding. It's so much fun. Okay, that's stretching things. Marketing is ‘interesting.’ At least since meeting you, it's become that. Thanks for your continuing help!”

Joylene, I understand that marketing can seem like an unfair burden to people who just want to “write.” But the truth is that writers have always had to market (except for the very few very lucky ones) whether they thought of this as marketing.

Let’s think about this:

You want to get an agent and then a publisher for a book. If you’re smart, you’ll study articles and books about writing a compelling query letter and, if appropriate, a compelling nonfiction book proposal.

The effort you put into writing an effective query letter (or email) and nonfiction book proposal is marketing – you are putting your wares on view with what you hope is the most attractive display that you can produce.

And what are book signings but taking your book to a central “marketplace” and “hawking” the book to passersby?

The truth is that the Internet in general and social media in particular have made it much easier (and less expensive) for us writers to market our books. This results from two main reasons:

1) easier access to worthwhile information that helps us market our books
2) easier access to people who might want to buy our books

Bonus tip: If you don’t already know about the book marketing site BookBuzzr, read my latest monthly Bookbuzzr guest post “Four Stages of Successfully Using Social Media to Promote Your Book” and then check out the rest of the site --

© 2010 Miller Mosaic LLC

Phyllis Zimbler Miller (@ZimblerMiller on Twitter) is the co-founder of the social media marketing company Miller Mosaic Power Marketing. The company is committed to taking the mystery out of social media so that individuals and companies can utilize the power of social media marketing. Check out the company program Quick Start Social Media Track at

Friday, October 1, 2010

Bear With Me...

I did manage to get outside yesterday, but it was only to take photographs of the berry hunter.

Interestingly, three adults were outside doing various jobs of pruning and painting when Bear Junior walked into the yard and climbed the tree. It was only when branches started to break that anybody noticed him there.

Our dog Bandit was away on conjugal visits or Bear Junior wouldn't have stayed as long as he did. And how he managed not to fall was sheer luck. At one point his butt was stuck and he had to shake the tree to get loose.

After he had his fill of berries and left, I returned to editing. The tree took a beating, but it'll survive.