Shandazra and the Gypsy (Steeds … Chapter II)

national velvetThe horsey dreams of young girls (and old ones) have been portrayed in many pieces of literature and film over time–National Velvet and The Horse Whisperer to name a couple of my favourites–and there’s a reason for this. Girls, at least a lot of girls, are drawn to horses. For some, it’s just a passing childhood attachment, for others, a lifetime passion. My hand is in the air on that second one. Continue reading

To All the Steeds I’ve Loved Before (Chapter I)

I_Love_You_Too
“I Love You Too” — a print that hangs in my office by Arizona artist Glen Powell

Writing last week’s blog about my lifelong obsession with all things horse brought up a pile of old memories of my equine friends through the years. It inspired me to turn this into a series that I’m calling “To All The Steeds I’ve Loved Before” (cue the Julio and Willie duet). Continue reading

Horse, Paper, Scissors

Since I was twelve, it’s been horses, like the home plate of my life. I often said in my twenties, and even into my thirties, that horses were my rock, the place I returned to, the constant in an ever-shifting landscape of homes, jobs, and relationships.

Selfie with Storm
Me and my equine soul mate, Storm.

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Judging a Book By Its Cover

They say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. There’s some truth to this and, as a general rule, it’s good practice to not judge the worth or value of something by its outward appearance alone. But, English idiom aside, the cover of a book should match what’s inside, give you a glimpse of the story or the information contained in the pages. A good cover will draw a person to a book they’ll enjoy. A poor cover will mislead or be overlooked altogether. So, you see, for an indie author, choosing the cover art is a monumental task.

Racing-in-the-Rain
The cover has since been redesigned but mine looks like this.

I’d never heard of Garth Stein or The Art of Racing in the Rain when I spotted a copy on a table in Vernon’s Bookland, and I don’t normally buy books without some kind of recommendation, but I was irresistibly drawn to the cover (that’s Enzo with the goggles and scarf). I bought it, loved the story and the writing, laughed out loud on numerous occasions, shed some tears, and was permanently touched by Enzo’s story, all thanks to a good cover. Continue reading

Ode to the Sunrise Junkie

I’ll be the first to admit that of the 19,000-plus sunrises in my lifetime, I’ve witnessed a relatively small number. You see, even though sunrise is a magical event, it comes at a rather inconvenient time of day. Back in my 9 to 5 career days, I was likely driving to work, at the gym, or already in the office at sunrise. In summer, when the sun comes up hyper-early in Canada, I’m probably still sleeping when the sun makes its appearance. I love a sunrise, but I’m not a true sunrise junkie.

Along the Colorado
Cibola Wildlife Refuge — I made a point to exit the RV early for this one.

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Casa del Mar Azul

The plan for my novel, House of the Blue Sea, was that it be set in Spain. Problem was, I`d never been to Spain and, at the time I was starting on the initial draft, I couldn’t  see how I’d be visiting there anytime in the near future. I had a dilemma. Then, one day, driving home from another inspiring writing class with Rona Altrows, it came to me … Mexico! It had the elements I was looking for in a location: warm during Canadian winter, oceanside, exotic, Spanish-speaking, romantic, and I’d been to Mexico–twice! On top of that, it lent itself to an interesting addition to my main character’s backstory … she doesn`t fly.

Ever since she’d written a report on the Mediterranean in junior high, Sandra had wanted to visit Spain, but when she swore off flying in her early twenties, she gave up the idea of travel to Europe, unless she wanted to drive across North America and take a boat over the Atlantic.

minstrels
The romance of Mexico!

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Home

Merriam-Webster says that home is, quite simply, “one’s place of residence”. But, it also says that it is “a place of origin” or “a familiar or usual setting”. By these definitions, we each have more than one home. For me, there’s the place I reside, 20 acres on the Alberta prairie, and there’s the place I come from, the Peace Country of northeastern British Columbia. The third definition, “a familiar or usual setting” opens the door pretty wide.

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Home on the prairie.

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What the Smashwords Style Guide Didn’t Mention

House of the Blue Sea CoverHave you experienced the “pleasure” of trying to create an ebook file for Smashwords? I had already created a nice, clean Word doc and uploaded successfully to Amazon, Draft2Digital, and Kobo with relatively few repeat performances required. But then (da, da, da) I met the Smashwords Style Guide.

When I read the instruction: “open your file in Word, copy and paste it into Windows Notepad (or some other simple text editor that strips out all formatting), close Microsoft Word, then reopen Word to a fresh new Word document, then copy and paste the book from Notepad back into Word, and then carefully re-apply the minimal necessary formatting…” I nearly cried. Minimal necessary formatting? I use italics throughout my novel for foreign words and characters’ thoughts, and I did not want to go through my 300-page book and reapply all of the italics in the right places once Notepad had stripped them out. Nope. No way. Not happening.

epub-fileWhen I read that I could upload an ePub file directly, I was thrilled! I already had an ePub file created through Draft2Digital. I uploaded it to Smashwords and it was perfect! What I didn’t realize, at first, was that this ePub file wouldn’t be converted to the other Smashwords file types and I would still have to upload a Smashwords-friendly Word document if I wanted Mobi or other formats.

Before making any changes to the Word file I’d used for every other ebook generator, I uploaded it to Smashwords and waited for the conversion process. Not surprisingly, the result was ghastly. The Smashwords output of the Mobi file had the font shifting style and the line spacing changing from paragraph to paragraph creating a very messy looking book. With a bit of sleuthing, I discovered that the font was changing whenever the paragraph contained italics or started with a quotation mark. The Smashwords style guide says that hitting the italics button should work just fine but…not so much in this case. And why the quotation mark was causing the font type to change … no idea.

Wordpad-iconI almost gave in to the lengthy and tedious strip everything out and reformat process, but then I decided to try Wordpad instead of Notepad. I copied the text from my Word file and pasted it into a Wordpad file. The Wordpad file looked identical to my original, italics right where they were supposed to be. I copied and pasted the Wordpad text into a new Word document, uploaded it, and voila!, the pesky problems were gone, no more fluctuating font style and spacing, and the rest of my formatting was intact.

Happy publishing!

Frieda’s Place

frieda with baby sa dcAs far back as I can remember, I’ve been going to Frieda’s place. Frieda is my aunt, my mother’s older sister by eight years, and Frieda has always been a part of my life.

When I was a child, many summers we travelled to Frieda’s in Kamloops, BC from our home in Charlie Lake in the northeast corner of the province. My mother at the wheel, we’d make the trek in two days, stopping to camp somewhere along the way in whatever unit we had that year, a tent (or two), a small trailer, and there were varying configurations of the family unit depending on which of my older brothers were not yet old enough to avoid family holidays like the plague. Continue reading

Exploring Place – Part V

In November of 2014, I flew to Los Cabos and spent nine days exploring the southeast corner of the Baja Peninsula researching the location for my novel House of the Blue Sea. Below is the fifth and final segment of the what I learned list:


Take time to smell the flowers! And any other aromatic items in your setting.P1040739


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