Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Writing Goals for 2012

A lot of people wait until New Year’s Day to set some goals. Why wait? Why not start now?
Start the new year off with this mantra: Om Gum Ganapatayei Namaha
Om Guhm Guh-nuh-puh-tuh-yea Nah-mah-hah
The mantra above is traditionally chanted to start new endeavors with positive energy and to remove obstacles.
If chanting is not your thing, then create your own mantra. Before you start writing, repeat a positive thought a few times. This will inspire you and empower you on your creative journey.
For instance, I created my own: “I am patient with myself so that my writing can manifest effortlessly.”
I found some wonderful affirmations that you can apply to yourself or your writing.
'I am truly a gifted artist'
'Through the use of a few simple tools, my creativity will flourish'
'My creativity always leads me to success'
Remember to set attainable goals in order to avoid disappointments. Be kind to yourself and use your creativity for the greatest good of all concerned.
Do you have any affirmations or mantras you repeat daily? Is writing a continuing goal?

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Let the holidays inspire your writing

Most of us agree that finding time to write during the holidays is almost impossible. We’re either traveling or entertaining so writing takes a back seat. So I say to you, why not combine both?
Here are four problems and possible solutions:
1)      No quiet time – Why not give Christmas carols a chance. Use them to your advantage as background music while typing a few lines. Who knows? You may write a poem or a story with a holiday theme.
2)      No energy to write – Treat yourself to something sweet. Why not bake some cookies? Spicy gingerbread man cookies are fun! A little sugar indulgence should energize you to write at least half a page.
3)       Not feeling the holiday spirit – Read Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. If his famous character, Ebenezer Scrooge doesn’t inspire you, perhaps Dickens’s poetic and humorous style will.
4)      Writing has gone out the chimney – Don’t expect Santa to push it back down the same way. Ask a family member or a fellow writer to brainstorm ideas with you. It could help if you have a glass of eggnog, sparkling wine, or sangria while discussing your story. With technology being so accessible nowadays, you could even do it via Skype, webcam, Facebook chat, or the good-old telephone. (Note: Don’t write, drink and drive)
Do the holidays inspire your writing? Are you productive over this festive time? What other solutions would you suggest? 

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The countdown begins!

In the spirit of Christmas and with only twelve days left to this celebration, I wanted to write a checklist that we can use when revising our work (hopefully before we open our gifts). 
1)      Read, read, read! You can get inspired, emulate style, and learn more about your genre by reading someone else’s work.
2)      Read your story aloud.
3)      Have a fellow writer read it.
4)      Strengthen your scenes by being an actor and playing the main character (or any character you may think is weak). Relive the action in your head.
5)      Polish your dialogue; make sure it flows and it’s not contrived.
6)      Check the tone. This means the author’s attitude toward his subject: grave, amused, scientific, intimate, aggrieved, authoritative, whatever.
7)      Make every word count; that means use strong verbs and adjectives.
8)      Keep in mind the story arc. The purpose of a story arc is to move a character or a situation from one state to another.
9)      Let the plot guide the story. A short story must immediately pull the reader out of her world and drop her into the world of the story.
10)  Put your work away for a few days and then come back to it. Tired eyes never see mistakes.
11)  Punctuation is everything, period! Be mindful of your commas, semicolon, and especially those exclamation marks; they’re not Christmas tree ornaments.
12)  Edit, edit, edit! You can never do enough editing. Any good writer knows that editing is at the top of the list, like the star at the top of the tree. 
Do you use a checklist? Are you counting your days to Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day, or getting published in 2012?

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

From Holiday Blues to Holiday Muse

Inspiration is all around us during the holiday season. As writers, we encounter a plethora of subjects to write about, from something as trivial as grocery shopping to something more complex as family reunions. However, that has not been my case. I have not produced anything new in months. Just editing! (sigh). I need to find my holiday muse, pronto! I wonder if writing a letter to Santa Claus would count. “Dear Santa, I’ve been a bad writer…I don’t need anything this Christmas. Just bring my muse back, or some egg nog.”
How’s your writing coming along? Do you get the blues during this festive time?

Wednesday, November 30, 2011


Hi Bloggie friends,

Do you love freebies? I know a lot of you enter contests. Christmas is around the corner and you could give yourself or someone else the gift of reading.

Author Mary E. Martin will be launching her new book this month and to celebrate she’ll be giving away kindles and free copies of her book and e-books.
All you have to do is join her Twitter party on December 3rd and her Facebook event on December 12th

For more information you can visit her site at or click on the promo on the right-hand sidebar, here on my blog.
Congratulations to Mary on her new book!
Good luck to all participants!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Substance Books

Today I am interviewing Hajni Blasko, Online Book Publicist, Search Engine Marketing Specialist and the creator of Substance Books.

CDB: How did you come up with the idea of Substance Books? HB: I've had book fetish all my life. While working in corporate marketing in the late nineties I began to monitor traffic flow on the internet and I realized that it could be directed in certain ways. When I left the corporate sphere, I knew I wanted to work in publishing and Substance Books came about as a way to tie together my love of books, my strong belief in networking and my knowledge of computers. The idea of an online search engine marketing network grew organically from these three components.

CDB: I know you just celebrated your tenth anniversary in the business; did you ever imagine such a milestone? HB: I always had high expectations for the company's success. However, I never would have foreseen that search engines and social networking would eventually have the overwhelming influence on web traffic that they possess today. Nor would I have guessed that after ten years Substance Books would be the only book marketing network focused on search engine optimization. So far as I know, no one else has explored these avenues.

CDB: Looking back through the last decade, what insights do you have about authors and entrepreneurs in the publishing industry?
HB: Often when I ask successful female entrepreneurs about their achievements, they say something like, “I was just lucky,” or “It's because I work with a great team,” or in the worst case, “I was just lucky to work with a great team.” Men don't say this. It's important for women, just as much as men, to recognize their own hard work, drive, skill and talent which go into their successes. I think it's very important for all authors to recognize the amount of effort they put into their books, especially in an industry where success is so difficult to quantify. It's essential for authors, as entrepreneurs, to have complete confidence in themselves and their work if they are to effectively promote their titles.

CDB: Hajni, could you elaborate on the term “Online Book Publicity”? HB: Online book publicity is an umbrella term for various forms of book publicity that take place over the Internet, including social networking, search engine pay-per-click advertising, organic search engine optimization and branded web promotion. I do a little bit of all these things, but what I am mostly about these days is marketing through organic search engine optimization to increase online exposure. I believe it's the most cost-productive publicity technique when it comes to generating book sales.

CDB: When you say “Search Engine Optimization”, what do you mean? What should authors optimize their online presence for? HB: Online content, whether websites, facebook pages, twitter feeds or any other platform, should be optimized to the audience first and search engines second. The main objective is not just to be number one on Google's results page, but to make the site visible to people who are looking for titles like yours. Readers are most likely to consider genre when searching for books. When a book appears at the top of search results for its title or the author's name, it's dependent on people already being familiar with the book or author, which doesn't promote the book to a new audience. We aim to expose titles to people who have never heard of them before but are interested in buying that particular sort of book, thus increasing the book's visibility a new potential readership.

CDB: Who are your ideal clients? HB: The best characteristic in our clients is motivation. Ideally they make the effort to produce the best possible publications and then actively follow them up with consistent efforts to promote their books. I take great satisfaction in representing clients who are enthusiastic about collaboration with other authors and industry professionals. Communication with audience and others in the industry is key; this means more than just posting cute cat photos on facebook. Our authors can write in any genre and come from anywhere in the world; what matters is that they have strong titles with high marketability.

CDB: What can authors expect from Substance Books? HB: We provide authors with international exposure to potential book buyers. Authors can expect the support of a publicity team who will guarantee their titles' exposure on the global online book market. We also supply our authors with helpful advice and information on the latest developments in web and book publicity. Representation with Substance Books gives writers the opportunity to network with hundreds of other authors and take part in free organized marketing projects, such as our review exchange initiative and free gadgetized facebook pages.

CDB: Where can my fellow bloggers and authors find you? HB: Naturally, we have a number of online locations:
Our website:
Our facebook page:
My own facebook page:
My email:

And if ever in doubt, you can enter “online book publicity” into any search engine. We'll show up among the top five players.

CDB: Hajni it’s been a pleasure talking with you. Thank you for answering my questions. Congratulations on your tenth anniversary and much continued success. HB: Thank you Claudia.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Million Dollar Question

Finishing your first novel is quite a feat. You announce it to your family, friends, and fellow writers. However, you're so excited you've forgotten the million dollar question: Will my book get published?
A lot of my bloggie friends are writing or just finishing up their first novel, and I applaud them for their diligence and dedication. So, I want to share what an anonymous writer asked the experts  at theWriter's Digest about publishing his/her book.

Q: I have the first five chapters of a novel written, and I think they’re reasonably good. It would be nice, however, to know if I even have a chance at getting the book published once it’s completed. Is there any place I can submit what I’ve written to have it looked over, or should I go ahead and find an agent?—Anonymous

A: Hold off on looking for an agent just yet. Many people begin writing a manuscript and, after they’re a few chapters into it, get excited about what they’ve written so far and feel overjoyed about the healthy direction of the plot. But the challenge of writing a manuscript doesn’t fall in the first 10,000 words, where ideas are easier to find than a Starbucks. The challenge resides in the middle and end of the book. That’s the tough part. That’s where you prove you haven’t lost focus or the excitement you developed in the first five chapters. Dedication is what can separate you from the rest, so finish the manuscript and prove you have something of quality. Then an agent is more likely to listen.

If you want expert advice on the prose you’ve already compiled, you can find critique services on the Internet and listed in the classified ads of your favorite writing resources (I'm sure that plug will garner some "thank yous" from our ad folks). But carefully research the services and people you’re considering—check credentials and references to make sure they’re legitimate. And make sure you know what you're getting for your money. You don't want to have unrealistic expectations, but you also don't you want to set the bar too low. The more information you have going in, the more likely you are to be satisfied with the results.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Virtual Book Tour

Today I’m speaking with author Jo Linsdell who is touring the web over November and December 2011, in a promotional tour for her book Italian for Tourists.

CDB: Jo, what inspired you to write this book? Have you written one about England?

JL: So many people told me I should write it that I decided maybe it was a good idea.... and it was. The Italian for Tourists project started out as a simple e-book and through public demand became available in print, kindle, nook and most other electronic formats.  
Inglese per Turisti (English for Tourists) will be released in spring 2012. Again, lots of people asked for it.  

CDB: What results do you expect from the virtual tour?

JL: This tour is to keep Italian for Tourists 'fresh'. It's been around for a while now and I often do tours to promote it in order to keep sales constant. A tactic that so far has worked well over the years. It's also an opportunity to let people know that the book is now available in various formats. It can even be purchased from the ibookstore on and downloaded to iphones and ipads now.  
Timing is perfect for Christmas shoppers too ;) 

CDB: Do you know statistically what region or age group is the largest fan base?

JL: The book appeals to all ages (probably because it's simple and easy to use) and as for regions, I'm quite international. A lot of my fans are in India and Japan but the book is selling well all round.

CDB: Although your book is “tourist friendly”, can students and professionals benefit from it?

JL: Definitely! I've even made a homeschoolers kit to be used with it which can be downloaded for free from my website It's a short ebook containing exercises to practice the Italian learnt and all answers can be found within Italian for Tourists.

The book contains a pronunciation guide and takes the language back to the basics making it ideal for beginners learning the language.

CDB: Do you think you’re helping the tourist industry in some small way by promoting Italy in your book?

JL: Italy is one of the worlds top tourist destinations and so doesn't require any help from me ;) That being said, I love Italy (I came here for 3 days and ended up staying... but that's another story) . I try to share my enthusiasm for the Country, culture, people and language in any way I can.
By creating a book that makes it possible for anyone to learn the basics of the Italian language and therefore help them get more from their visit to Italy, I might be helping convince more tourists to come here.

Thank you for stopping by and all the best with the virtual tour and your book.
For more information about Jo Linsdell and her book, please visit her website at or write to her at

Purchasing Links:

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Writing in Fall Mode

Fall is finally here and while I should be inspired by the crisp air, carved pumpkins, and sunset-kissed foliage, work has once again robbed my inspiration. November is a chaotic period for me. Somehow my writing is “falling” faster than the yellow leaves and my stories are not ready to be gathered. What can I do to get in full writing mode?
For instance, NaNoWriMo started this month and a lot of you are busy typing away, trying to meet the deadline. Participating this year would have been impossible for me, so I applaud those of you who are partaking in such demanding project.
Do you find autumn to be the perfect time to finish or start your writing projects?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Getting your manuscript in bed with an agent

When I started writing, I thought agents were a thing of the past with the booming of self-publishing. Last year, however, a friend and fellow writer asked me to help her get an agent for her latest manuscript. I put her in contact with one but, unfortunately, their phone conversation led nowhere. She never told me what they discussed or why her manuscript was not considered. Do we have to do back flips in order for an agent to love our MS the way we do? According to Agent Tina Wexler there are some things you can do to help yourself get noticed. In an article I found, Ms. Wexler provides these great tips:
1.      Write a really amazing query. Take your time, try describing your work multiple ways until you find the best approach, read successful queries online and have as many people as possible read yours so that you’re certain it makes sense and is a shiny apple.
2.      Demonstrate knowledge of an agent's list. This doesn’t mean you have to read every book they’ve ever sold, but by showing them you know a bit about who they represent, you’re telling agents you’ve done your research on who to query.
3.      Do your research on who to query. Period.
4.      Write a really amazing manuscript. Take your time, put your work through multiple revisions, read published works in your genre, and consider joining a critique group or finding a writing partner whom you trust who can help make your manuscript a shiny apple.
5.      Be nice. Agents, like most everyone, want to work with people who are personable. This does not, however, mean “Fawn over the agent” or “Send a bushel of apples to the agent.”
6.      Ask questions. Be a part of the conversation. Agents want critical thinkers who take this getting-published thing seriously. There’s plenty of fun to be had, but remember, this is a business, not a hobby or a get-rich-quick scheme. Agents want hard workers, writers dedicated to their craft who view getting published as the first step of a long journey, writers whom they will want to be with on that journey.
Do you have an agent? How hard/easy was for you to get one? Any tips for my readers?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Phenomenal Woman

Some of my fellow bloggers are poets, many of them are women, a lot of them are courageous, and some of them are cancer survivors. October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month so I want to share a beautiful poem by Maya Angelou.

Phenomenal Woman
Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I'm not cute or built to suit a fashion model's size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I'm telling lies.
I say,
It's in the reach of my arms
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
I say,
It's the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can't touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them
They say they still can't see.
I say,
It's in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I'm a woman

Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

Now you understand
Just why my head's not bowed.
I don't shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It's in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need of my care,
'Cause I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.
Maya Angelou

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Did Your Manuscript Pass with Flying Colors?

A lot of you are getting ready for National Novel Writing Month better known as nanowrimo. Some of you continue to work on your manuscript. What important factors do you keep present when writing your MS?
I think everyone can agree that editing is vital no matter what part of your MS you’re writing.
Here are some of the things I keep in mind:
1)      Don’t be too obvious by explaining too much.
2)      Make sure your diction and dialogue are believable.
3)      Be sure you have a plot and an emotional arc.
4)      Arouse curiosity by keeping your reader wondering, yet engaged in the story and/or characters.
5)      Choose your verbs and adjectives wisely. They have to help the story move along. 
I know there are more elements that we can include in this list. Is there anything else you can add? 
Just pretend your MS is a student that needs to pass a test before sending it off to a publisher. 

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Are You a Tough Judge?

Not long ago someone recommended a book. She raved about the plot, originality, and theme. So, I eagerly checked it out from the local library because I trusted this avid reader. Bummer! I couldn’t finish the book and I returned it (thank goodness I didn’t buy it). I try not to be a tough critic because I know how much effort, time, and energy is dedicated to writing a book. I know literature is subjective, but who or how many people decide on what makes a bestseller?

How do critics do it? I am not sure I would like to be in their shoes, especially if the book is written by a fellow writer or blogger.

Have you critiqued any books professionally? Are you a tough judge? What do you take into account in order to consider it a great book?

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Book Publicity's Digital Decade

Today’s interview with Ms. Hajni Blasko, creator of Substance Books, was conducted by Samantha Rideout, Assistant Editor at Reader's Digest.

Hajni Blasko started the world's first online book publicity network, Substance Books, in February 2001. Ten years later, she remains a pioneer in this emerging field.

What exactly is online book publicity? What does it involve?

HB: Online book publicity is an umbrella term for various forms of book publicity that take place over the Internet, including social networking, search engine pay-per-click advertising, branded web sites, and link exchanges with other web sites and online press releases. I do a little bit of all these things, but what I am mostly about these days is marketing through search engine optimization and online exposure, because I believe it's the most cost-productive publicity technique when it comes to book sales.

For those of us who haven't heard of it, what does search engine marketing mean?

HB: It means making sure that your title appears within the top search results on Google and other major search engines. This way, your title shows up in the “organic” search results, not just the area where the paid advertising goes. After all, 93% of all web traffic passes through a search engine, so if you want people who don't already know about your book to discover it; this is the way to go. The key to good search engine marketing is finding the appropriate key phrases that allow book buyers searching for their favorite genres to find our titles.

The web and its users have evolved a lot over the past ten years. How has online book publicity changed?

HB: When I first started Substance Books, online book publicity was unheard of, so I didn't have any similar companies to model myself on. In fact, I didn't even know what professional title to give myself — I thought of “online book publicist” one day in the bath. I learned by trying different things and seeing what worked. I started off by featuring the authors together in one website, to give them more publicity power than they would each have individually. Over time, this website got a lot of visits, which made it crawl up higher on search engine results. Eventually, I figured out how to get even better search engine results using SEO techniques. There are a few more online book publicists out there now, but I think I'm the only one who offers search engine marketing along with other services.

How will you be celebrating the 10th anniversary of Substance Books?

HB: I'm offering a $20 listing fee discount to any new clients who are members of our Facebook page.

Social networking is very “in.” How can authors and publishers use it to their advantage? 

HB: Authors can use Twitter and Facebook to brand themselves, meet other authors and disseminate information about book signings and the like. But I need to emphasize that it's one tool among many for gaining online exposure for your title. It might be fun to spend 20 hours a week on Facebook, but if you want a return in the form of book sales you must spend your time intelligently. Facebook is working hard on improving its own search-engine usability and capabilities, so it is extremely important to know how to manage your Facebook collateral. For this very reason we are offering free customized Facebook pages to our authors, designed to bring the right book to the right audience.

What should a book's website or Facebook page look like?
HB: I believe that all authors and publishers should have a website which is search engine optimized and up to industry standards. Amateurish websites and bare-bones Facebook pages are no longer good enough; the online competition is too stiff. Applets, RSS feeds and iphrames are basic components of a professional Facebook page. This is why Substance Books has also been offering website design and makeover services for the past five years. If you have a mystery thriller, your website should be as good as Dan Brown's, because that's your online competition.

How does online book publicity fit in with more traditional kinds of book publicity? Do you see it replacing book fairs and so on?

HB: No; I think there will always be a place for traditional exposure to readers and the press, even though online publicity is becoming more and more important. Ideally, the two forms of publicity would create a synergy together. That's why I participate in BookExpo America every year and look forward to the London Book Fair next year.

Do you have any final advice for authors and publishers who are interested in online publicity? 

HB: Just that they should focus on their main objectives. For example, if your objective is sales, then targeting the readers who love the book's genre is probably going to sell more books than scattering ads for your book all over the Internet. And a few loyal readers are worth more than a whole lot of one-time visitors to your website or your distributor. It's not so much about the quantity of exposure you get; it's about the substance of the exposure.

For more information contact: Hajni Blasko at:

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Do You End With A Bang?

Whether you’re writing the end of a chapter or the end of a novel, you must take into account what the reader will take from that ending. Will it make an impact on him/her?

So let’s talk about chapters.

When you’re writing chapters, don’t lose focus of your writing. Some writers focus on where to insert the next break. Once you’ve written your first draft, you can come back and decide on a suspenseful scene or interesting point that’ll keep your reader wanting for more, a cliffhanger if you will.

You may start a new chapter when the story needs a shift in time, place, point of view, etc. By doing this, you’ll stimulate your reader’s mind. It can also refresh your reader’s eye after a long interval in one setting or situation. When you end a chapter, you’re also adding continuum and pacing; both of which are essential for balancing suspense to your story.

Be brave! Break your chapters in the heart of the action. I know, it’s a tease but it works. This will keep readers interested in the saga. Just remember one important aspect of this technique: don’t do it at the end of every chapter as this will definitely bore your readers. Do it for effect.

Now that you have these pointers, get going and finish/edit your chapters!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Writing for Children in Mother Language Competition

Dear Bloggie Friends,

Calling all children’s authors! I am happy to share with you an interesting, challenging, and colorful competition. I spoke with Happie Testa, co-owner of Rainbow Caterpillar Bookstore and she is proud to launch the Rainbow Caterpillar Award for Writing for Children. The prize will be awarded to the best story written by a Canadian citizen or resident in a language other than French or English. She said, “By encouraging writers to write in their mother language, we want to help create a vibrant literary production for children in foreign languages, but with a uniquely Canadian perspective.”

Submissions are due on October 6th and the guidelines are available online at The winning story will receive $750.00 (CDN) and publication in a collection of all winning submissions. There will also be 10 honorable mentions in different languages with publication in a collection of all winning submissions.

The award will be presented in conjunction with the Canadian Ethnic Media Association (CEMA) at the Association’s own 33rd Annual Awards Gala. CEMA is an organization dedicated to the promotion and preservation of the value to Canada of the ethnic media in creating an understanding of Canada and Canadian citizenship, and the retention of cultural links with countries of origin;

About Rainbow Caterpillar Bookstore
Rainbow Caterpillar Bookstore sells children’s books in a number of languages from around the world to meet the needs of Canadian parents who want to teach their children their own mother tongues and raise them in a home language other than English and French.

It is to support them that Rainbow Caterpillar already offers nearly 100 titles in Italian, Spanish, Gujarati, Farsi, Arabic and Chinese and more languages are added on request of parents. The products range from old-fashioned fairy tale books to interactive talking books, books with CDs, DVDs and even games that make it fun and easy to keep home languages alive without focusing on direct teaching, but on learning by living.

For more information call: Happie Testa at 647-975-8800 or visit

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Call for Submissions: An Anthology of Dating Stories

Photo courtesy of Dr. Erin Vollick (Book cover of anthology)
Interview with Dr. Erin Vollick

Erin, first of all, I want to thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to be interviewed for my blog.

CDB: As you can imagine, a lot of my fellow bloggers wear different hats like you. I’m curious, how do you manage your time between being a busy Director of Communications, a writer, and a new mommy? Is there any time left for Erin?

EV: Ha! Very little! Being a new mother is quite literally the most transfiguring experience of my life. But, like a day job (that constantly runs waaaaay overtime) it’s very difficult to find time to write, let alone put my laundry away, clean my house, etc. But things that are important always have a way of getting done…. And somehow, I still manage to read a ton of books!

CDB: You now work for Inbox Communications; did your writing skills help you land this job? What type of writing do you do for them?

EV: I met the President and CEO of Inbox Communications during my Masters degree in Creative Writing at Concordia University. We were in the same small cohort of writers, so you could definitely say my writing skills got me the job! I do all sorts of writing for Inbox: reports, blog entries, proposals, you name it, although my job is about a lot more than just writing. The writing project I’m most proud of for Inbox is the monthly astrology column I’ve started for the company, geared towards communications professionals—it’s so much fun!

CDB: In your first novel, The Originals, you talked about nuclear warfare, politics, survival of humankind and friendship. Do you think being a new mom has affected your writing style? Do you write about lighter subjects nowadays?

EV: Funny you should ask me that… A friend of mine just sent me a children’s book called “Night Cars” as a present for my son. The book was written by Teddy Jam—A.K.A Matt Cohen—winner of the Governor General’s award for fiction. Matt just happened to be my mentor in undergrad, and the reason I’m a published author today… And I had no idea he even wrote children’s books. I understand why Matt would want to be a children’s author as well as an adult fiction writer, though. When you have a child you begin to filter the world through two consciousnesses—your own and the children around you. My first novel skirted (okay, landed on) the YA genre. It was important to me that I write something that would speak to the generations coming into their own, taking their places in the world, and it’s a genre I think I’ll be revisiting shortly.

CDB: I learned through the Quebec Writers’ Federation that your latest project is an anthology of dating stories. How did you come up with this idea?

EV: My friend and former colleague at McGill University, where I completed my PhD, had an idea with another friend of hers for writing down a bunch of their funniest and most awful dating adventures. These two hilarious women brought me on board, as, at the time, we were all dating quite widely. The idea simmered between us for years until recently, when it just seemed like the right time.

CDB: Is this a joint project? What prompted you to co-author this book?

EV: My fabulous co-conspirator, co-editor and dear friend is Dr. Stephanie King. She has some of the funniest dating stories I’ve ever heard. She has dated a lot, and dated in interesting ways—unlike me, she’s part of a community that promotes and accepts matchmaking and blind dates as par for the course. With her dating history and my publishing know-how, we figured we could get this very ambitious project off the ground. We also went through our PhD program together, so we know how each other thinks and works.

CDB: You are also looking for submissions from female writers. Can anyone participate or is this geographically restricted to Canadian writers?

EV: We’ve actually already accepted submissions from contributors living in the United States, and we’ve received international attention from our call for submissions—we’re definitely not limiting the anthology geographically. For now, though, we are only accepting stories by women—because thematically, we’re interested in women’s experiences for this collection (although the gender of their partners is completely up to them!). We’ve been approached by men who are interested in sharing their dating stories, however, which is absolutely amazing! To those men I’ve said that once we get this one off the ground, we might try to cobble together a collection of men’s dating stories as a companion to Naked People Behaving Badly.

CDB: In your opinion, what would make a good story?

EV: What would make a good dating story? Something honest and genuine. Something bizarre. An anecdote—an experience that stands out in your mind.

CDB: What do you want to tell women through this anthology?

EV: I don’t actually want to tell women anything. What Stephanie and I are trying to do is hold a mirror up for women to see their experiences through new eyes. Dating—especially when you’re no longer in your twenties—is hard, and sometimes scary, and very often disappointing even when it’s hilarious. What I’d personally like to do is create a book where women can learn something about what their experiences mean to them—that’s what happens when a group of women sit down and share their stories over dinner or a drink. That’s the kind of experience we’re after with this anthology.

CDB: Would you please give us more details about submission guidelines?

EV: Basically we’re looking for ‘real life’ stories. Though we’re accepting fictional submissions, we’re really just looking for honest to goodness real-life dating adventures. Like the time that guy puked all over your shoes on the first date. Or the time you went on a date with a guy you’d met at a party only to realize you didn’t recognize him, because at the party he’d worn a wig, while the guy waiting for you at the coffee shop with that expectant look on his face is b.a.l.d. We’re trying to keep the concept, and our expectations, wide open, so that our submissions are as wide-ranging as possible.

The stories can be postcard fiction—think of telling us about a date you went on in a single paragraph. They can be longer, too—up to 12 pages double-spaced. Stephanie has also started taping stories in the Montreal region. She realized she had a ton of friends with stories, but none of them were writers or felt like they could get them down on paper, so she’s been taping the stories and transcribing them. The thing is, we’re not looking for polished gems—we’re after that unbelievable story that you can’t wait to tell your best girlfriends about. And we want to hear it the way you’d tell it to her.

FYI: You can find our revised deadline and Call For Submissions on our brand spanking new website:

CDB: Erin, thank you so much for sharing this wonderful opportunity with my readers. I wish you much success in your new career and your anthology.

EV: Thank you so much, Claudia!!!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Write Place

Tonight I attended the launch of the Canadian Writers Society newspaper, The Write Place. Rosalie Avigdor, Founder and Publisher, of the quarterly newspaper welcomed writers and readers alike. She said that her vision started with the founding of The Canadian Writers Society (CWS) in 2004. The purpose of this newspaper, in addition to entertaining the reading public, is “to benefit fledgling writers, by publishing their work and giving them tips on how to improve their writing.”

In this issue there’s an interesting and inspiring article titled, The Art and Business of Mentoring, by author Steven Manners. Montreal author David Reich (who’s also a great story teller) shares his short story, The Almost Perfect Crime. Christina Manolescu, Founder of Invisible Cities Network, wrote a wonderful article on how to self-publish your book. These are only a few examples of Volume 1, Issue 1 of The Write Place.

They are now accepting submissions for their December issue:
Short stories: 500-2000 words
Postcard stories: 250-500 words
Poetry: 3-50 lines
Book Reviews: 500-525 words
Articles (by experts in the field): 500-1000 words
Letters to the Editor: 50-250 words
Advertisements: increments of 1/8 page (contact them for rates)

You may submit by:
e-mail: (Subject line: Submission)
fax: (514) 383-6683 (with a cover page)
snail mail: The Write Place, c/o 9770, boulevard Saint-Laurent, Montreal, Quebec H3L 2N3

For more information visit:

This is a great opportunity to publish your work and/or to improve your writing. Whether you’re a reader or a writer, you’ll benefit the same. Enjoy this altruistic community-oriented newspaper and be part of it.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Divine Guidance or Plain Brilliance?

I believe some people are born with a pen in their grip, you know, those whose writing is as easy as breathing. And, there are some that have to learn the process and hone this craft through extensive practice. I fall into the latter group. When I first started writing, I wanted to be brilliant. Why couldn’t I be like Woolf, Steinbeck, or Hemingway? Thank heavens for my supportive mentors who’ve encouraged me to continue writing even when I felt like quitting. They kept pushing me (and still do so) to improve my newly acquired skill. My childhood friend and my sister are my number one fans, and I’m grateful to them. They believe in me, in my writing, even when I doubt myself.

Lately I’ve experienced something really peculiar: I feel as if someone is whispering in my ear the right words. As I stop to search for a specific word, one that will make an impact in that sentence or paragraph, it pops in my head and travels to my fingers. I don’t know if it’s something visceral, divine, or pragmatic. I’d like to think it’s divine or spiritual. Imagine! Being surrounded by the spirit of the great Masters whispering the right words in your ear.

I wish I had the answer to that, but since I don’t, I’ll just keep honing my skill. In the end what matters is that you love what you do, hence creating brilliant stories.

Has writing come easy to you?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

What Type of Blogger Are You?

Blogging is fun but being a serious blogger demands a lot of time and energy. Have you experienced low readership? How about losing followers? Well, this may be due to a lot of factors. If you want to have a successful blog then you have to follow these five key blogging tips.

1. Return the favor.
If fellow bloggers read your posts and leave comments, why not do the same for them? Acknowledge their comments by replying directly on your post or via email. Then, visit their blogs, read their latest articles and leave a comment.

2. Be consistent.
If you post once a week, choose the day of the week that provides you some extra time to do so. Otherwise, let your readers know your posting schedule so they can visit you on that/those day(s). And when you take a hiatus, a sabbatical, or vacation let your readers know. They'll appreciate it and they will resume readership on the date announced.

3. Focus on the purpose of your blog.
Try not to post topics unrelated to the central idea of your blog (unless that's your purpose). Doing so will only confuse your readers (especially new followers who are not yet familiarized with your blog).

4. Be Brief.
Articles that are too long discourage readers. Remember blogging is not a job for some of them. Therefore, they only have a time frame dedicated to this activity.

5. Be respectful.
Avoid sarcasm, scathing comments, and egocentrism. Readers want to learn, have fun, and most importantly, connect with other fellow bloggers.

Can you think of other helpful tips? How serious are you about blogging?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Perfect Equation: Reading + Reading = Developing Your Own Style

You may be questioning the title of my latest post. Well, I got inspired to write about it because I am reading Ernesto Sabato’s The Tunnel, whose controlled and factual style, I find fascinating.

One of my mentors once said that writing cannot be taught, only learned. He further explained that a writer can only learn by reading and writing. Lecturing about style was not enough, he told us. Each writer develops his/her own writing style by reading a lot of books, he then added. You can learn from the Masters but you cannot duplicate their style.

Well, it turns out he was right. I’ve noticed (and my mentors, too) that my style has evolved since I started writing and continues to do so. I owe it all to the many books I’ve read and my mentors, of course. When I write, I fuse different styles and make them my own, always keeping in mind what works better for the story.

Do you think your writing style has changed over time? Whose style do you emulate?

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

It’s my character!

Writers usually get inspired by real people in order to create their characters. But how about finding inspiration in another author’s characters? Have you ever found inspiration in a literary character that you thought was either lovable or despicable?

Did you know that characters are protected by copyright? If a character has a certain physique, (or any marks such as very original tattoos, scars, etc.), a unique name and/or distinct personality, especially when the character is well-known such as Frodo in Lord of the Rings or Holden Caulfield in The Catcher in the Rye, they belong to the copyright holder, and you can’t use them without permission. Character names can even become renowned to guarantee trademark protection.
This doesn’t mean you can’t be inspired by someone else’s work. Just make sure you add your own style and idiosyncrasies that will make these characters your own.

Which TV or book characters have served as your muse?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

A Handful of Writing ''Don’ts''

Jon Sternfeld, an agent with the Irene Goodman Literary Agency representing literary fiction, says that even though these are not his personal query pet peeves, he knows they’re basic red flags that all agents he knows despise.

1. Formality
—you’d be surprised to hear that simply how the query looks hugely affects the reader’s opinion of whether or not the project is worthy. Besides just basic letter formatting, even in e-mail it should be formatted properly, there’s a tone a writer must strike. Avoid the three C’s: too casual, too colloquial, too cute and anything else that tries too hard to "stand out." The material itself should be what stands out and no agent wants you be cute about it.

2. Opening lines of the MS
—Work like mad on that first paragraph of your manuscript. Sadly 98% of the queries don’t get read past that. I’m not a fan of dialogue as the opener (though my more commercial fiction colleagues say this isn’t such a no-no). Nevertheless, I tend to delete manuscripts that open with a line of dialogue (esp. one with an exclamation point) and those whose opening line “dumps” exposition. Both of these let me know that you don’t quite have the hang of en media res or of disguising exposition.

3. Clich├ęs in plot summary
—Argh. These are way more common that you’d think in query pitches: "thought she had it all," "will stop at nothing," "must risk everything"—these should be reserved forpopcorn flick trailers. When I spot them, I recognize a lazy writer at work and delete. Beware.

Of course, there are more, but these three are sure-fire ways to get your query deleted before you’re even given a chance. With email querying now the norm, agents are more saturated than ever with pitches. Avoid these and at least you’ll get a fair shake.

Excerpt from an article posted by Chuck in the Writer’s Digest, February 2, 2011.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Metamorphosis: When the student becomes the teacher

We take writing classes/workshops to hone our craft in order to make us better writers, and perhaps, (secretly hoping) to become the next Steinbeck, Poe, or Hemingway. We trust our professors and mentors because they’re knowledgeable, but most importantly because they were students once. Who better to understand what we’ve been through but them? But what happens when the student becomes the teacher? I’ve asked myself this question, especially lately, at my writing class. Let me explain. I've taken quite a few writing workshops and at a recent writing course the material covered in class was something that I've already studied. The teacher was helpful, approachable, and made the students feel at ease. All my mentors have taught me something but the mechanics of writing are always the same but with a different spin. So I wonder, how many times can you paraphrase the basics without sounding redundant?

I shared my concern with a fellow writer and she said, “You should be teaching a writing class.” Her kind words strengthened my shaky confidence. Like most writers, I am my own worst critic. I sometimes doubt my editing skills even after I hear praises from my fellow writers. I may not feel ready to teach a writing class, but I am certain of the knowledge I’ve acquired thanks to all my mentors.

Is my friend right? Can I take a leap of faith? Have my teachers passed on the torch without me being aware? Have I metamorphosed into a teacher?

How about you? Have you ever been in a similar situation?

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Creating Powerful Content That Will Help You Sell Books

Dear Bloggie friends,
Last week was a bit crazy for me so I had no chance to write a post. I got this interesting article via e-mail.

These days it's a must that every marketer create fresh, enticing content. While not everyone uses the term "content," it still comes down to creating words, tweets, blog posts, etc. - and whatever content you create, it means extra work for you. How can you keep up with your marketing, social media, and your content creation? More importantly, how can you create compelling content that readers will not only want to read, but that will also encourage them to buy your book?
For years, I've been creating all sorts of content. Whether it's blog posts, tweets, Facebook updates, white papers, or HuffPo posts, it's all about crafting helpful information people can use and messages that will drive users back to our website. The idea isn't just to push something out there, but to push it out consistently. The best way to generate content is to stay in close touch with your industry. Keep apprised of your marketplace, industry news, and changes to your field because all of this can help to spark ideas. If you're scratching your head wondering how to do this, here are some quick tips to help turn you into a content machine.

1) Networking: You should be networking with other experts in your market. Getting to know other voices is very important not just for networking, but also for idea generation. Ideas and inspiration come from everywhere; sometimes they come from tweets you've seen, other times they might come from blog posts you subscribe to, or Facebook accounts you are a fan of.

2) RSS Feeds: Once you identify your network of experts, subscribe to their blogs. I find that staying immersed in your industry will help to percolate ideas.

3) Tweets: As I mentioned above, following experts in your market will really help not only for networking, but also as you're building your knowledge base.

4) Newsletters: Many experts have newsletters. You should be subscribing to all of them. Newsletters are also a great way to gather fresh, new content ideas.

5) Guest blog posts: Inviting other experts as guest bloggers on your website is a great way to generate content. Not only that, but it's a fantastic way to connect to new people in your industry. Guest blog posts also help to bring in fresh readers, especially when the guest blogger helps promote the blog to his or her community of readers.

6) Your book: If you've written non-fiction (and even to some degree with fiction) you should be able to excerpt pieces or portions of it and syndicate it online. In some form or fashion, Red Hot Internet Publicity has been pushed online. Whether it's in blog form, a tweet, syndicated article, or a Facebook update, I have broken this book into a million little pieces all being used as content.

Once you have a good content strategy, now it's time to plan for your content. I recommend that you take time once a week to do this. Sometimes I'll skip a week, but I always make it up. If you're new to this, treat your content strategy like your new workout routine. At first it won't be easy, but you have to keep up a regular pace until it becomes part of your marketing regimen.

Keep your content organized by collecting this valuable content in a folder, either electronically or in a paper file. If you're gathering information electronically, I would suggest using something like Evernote (which I love!) or OneNote. Evernote has a great app for both iPhones and Android so if you see something or get content inspiration while you're away from your computer, you can add it to Evernote and it will sync up to your main file. Tres cool - that way you can get to it quickly and easily. Once you have identified various ways to gather content and you've started building this content, you'll start to see your platform really growing. The more you push out there in the way of information, the more will come back to you in the way of readers and buyers.

How does content help you sell books? The more of an authority you are, the more eyes you will get to your message - and the more eyes you get, generally the more buyers you get. Also, I believe that information builds trust and these days, whether you're buying a book or something else, consumers want to buy from people they trust. Building trust is a big piece of what we do, and content creation is a part of this strategy.
Reprinted from "The Book Marketing Expert newsletter," a free ezine offering book promotion and publicity tips and techniques.