My May Newsletter is Out

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Here is a link to my May newsletter:

https://preview.mailerlite.com/u5n5n5

Title Troubles

I seem to have lost this post. I wrote and published it, but all I have now is a lonely title, which ironically is about title troubles. Are there cyber title gremlins out there? Is there such a thing? My apologies to any readers who opened the post and got a whole lot of nothing.

And a title:)

So here I go again, without the pretty picture of a Japanese pear tree in bloom that was in the first post.

My “Trouble”

I’m working on a trilogy that crosses the cozy mystery and urban fantasy genres. The first book is called, The Perfect Brew, the third, A Triple Shot of Trouble. I had planned to call the second one, Deja Brew, but I’m already tired of putting in the accent marks and I haven’t started the first chapter.

As I wandered along the sun-drenched harbourfront this morning listening to ocean waves gently lapping the shore, I considered new titles.

Here’s my List:

  • A Second Cup of Warlock
  • A Second Cup of Wicked
  • A Double Shot of Dead

I’m favoring the third, A Double Shot of Dead. Any comments? You can reach me in all the usual ways.

I hope you’re having a spectacular Monday.

See you between the lines,

Jo-Ann

 

J

 

 

One Week Into Journal Writing #MondayBlogs

Last Monday I talked about my new adventure into on-line journal writing, and after one week of playing around with it, I have to say I love it. I’m using the One Day app.

Today’s entry in what I call my Nothing Special journal, the place where I just dump stuff.

It’s a gorgeous day in paradise. The sun is beating on my back as I write my journal on the balcony, and my hair, soggy from my morning swim, is drying. The birds are singing. It’s a wonderful Monday.

I listened to Kevin Tumlinson’s Wordslinger podcast this morning with James Rollins about thriller writing. They talked about AI which is a topic that fascinates me. I’m listening to Kai-Fu Lee’s audiobook, AI Super-Powers China, Silicon Valley, and the New World Order.

Tumlinson quoted my review of his show which was kind of neat. At the end of the podcast, he talked about using the resources we have to get things done; about thinking about what we can use rather than focusing on what we don’t have. Then I listened to some of Joanna Penn’s podcast with Alastair Humphreys about memoir writing. Before the interview, she talked about how no one gets on the best seller list of a store or on their best selling tables without paying for it, and how we need to expect to pay to get noticed. It’s just the way retail works, she said. We can no longer count on organic reach. I found Kevin’s podcast inspiring and Joanna’s equally depressing.  What can I say? Writing is a bitch. …

I went on to write about other stuff, but you get the idea. This journal is a great place for me to talk to myself about what I’m doing, thinking and feeling. It was free for the first few days and now it costs $35. Canadian/per year. If I continue to use it, it’s a steal.

What I like about the Day One app/ on-line journaling:

  1. Being able to write several journals in one place. I hate clutter, and I’m always losing things, not to mention ideas, so this should be a way to keep myself organized.
  2. Being able to use tags. This should help me track information I may want to use later.
  3. Being able to sync. I haven’t put it on my phone yet, but I do have it on two handy devices (laptop and IPad), which should make it more accessible to me.

That’s my experiment this week. I hope wherever you are is sunny and that you are enjoying yourself.

Photo source: Pixabay.com

Have you tried online​ journaling? #Monday blogs

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As the people who follow me regularly know, I’m in a creative pause at the moment and allowing myself to try anything I want. That is to say, I’m choosing to forget the fact that Amazon algorithms like to be fed regularly and readers forget the names of writer quickly and letting myself explore.

This week I’m trying online journaling. The idea is far from new, but I’ve never tried it before. I typically start paper journals and leave them scattered all over the place, losing them when I most need them.  They’re worse than sticky notes because they don’t stick.

The longest I ever journaled was when I  followed the advice of Julia Cameron (The Artist’s Way) and 51gzv263hIL._AC_UL436_engaging in a daily three-page write. I would write while I traveled to work on a ferry at six in the morning. No one bothered me.  The engines rumbled and the seagulls squawked, while I poured my heart onto my pages. I found it useful, but most of it turned out to be blog entries, so for me, it was easier to just go directly to the platform the work was going to end up on.

Where was I? Oh, yeah, the online part. I listen regularly to Kevin Tumlinson’s podcasts and love his comments on writing, which follow each interview. This week at the end of episode 177, he talked about the importance of journals to writers, and two points stuck out for me. One, that I didn’t have to put everything into one journal. I could have several. That, believe it or not, was mind-opening for me. Two, that I didn’t have to write in them every day. That works for me. And three, (you know I can’t count) that there are online apps that help organize your work. I like writing longhand as it feels more intimate, but I can’t write for very long, due to a past surgery. However, I can type forever, sooooo, the online app sounded appealing.

Tumlinson uses an app called “Day One,” which was free when he started but isn’t now. I looked it over and decided to give it a try.

The first week of the Premium version is free. After that, I have to pay $31/year. I hope that’s Canadian. The cost seems reasonable if I use it, as paper journals are costly as well.

After one day of Day One, this is what I liked:

  1. It dates everything and I can put tags on each entry.
  2. Grammarly works well with it.
  3. I can journal in voice as well as text. The two-minute tape I did gave me further perspective into what I’m up to. I could hear my emotions and my solution in my voice.
  4. I can also journal with photos.
  5. It works well on my Ipad. I haven’t tried syncing yet. I’ll do that if I continue to use it.
  6. It enabled me to set up three color-coded journals: Writing Life, Ideas, Mystic Keep (i.e., the world I’m writing my trilogy in).
  7. I haven’t lost it yet.

Overall, I would rate my experience as a 9 out of 10. It wasn’t a full 10 because I’m still learning the program and getting used to the keyboard on my Ipad, so I found myself starting and stopping a lot as I figured things out.

What about you?

Do you journal? What kinds of journals do you keep? Have you tried an online app? Do you think I would be crazy to pay a fee for Day One?

 

Sylvie Grayson’s Latest Release – Banderos

Banderos_CVR_XSMLLoyal Hawker, while working as a traveling seller, has joined an elite team of undercover agents run by the Khandarken military. On a trip south, he’s approached by Angel Banderos, only daughter among the many sons of Gerwal Banderos. Gerwal is a well-known strongman who seized much of the unclaimed territory north of Adar Silva at the end of the Last War. With Emperor Carlton invading in an attempt to reclaim his Empire, danger hovers over the Banderos land, and the brothers show they’re not as united as they first appear.

During the ensuing chaos, when the Banderos compound is besieged. Loyal must work in the midst of deceit and betrayal to protect what is left of Angel’s heritage. Can he survive long enough to find out who’s targeting Angel and save her from her treacherous brothers?


Who is Sylvie Grayson?

Sylvie Grayson has lived most of her life in British Columbia, Canada in spots ranging Author moorish castlefrom Vancouver Island on the Pacific coast to the wilds of the North Peace River country and the Kootenays in the beautiful interior. She spent a one year sojourn in Tokyo, Japan.

She has been an English language instructor, a nightclub manager, an auto shop bookkeeper, and a lawyer. Now she works part-time as the owner of a small company and writes when she finds the time.

She is a wife and mother and lives on the Pacific coast with her husband on a small patch of land near the ocean that they call home. She prefers her stories to be full of tension and attraction and writes romantic suspense and fantasy. Her novels include Suspended Animation, Legal Obstruction, and The Lies He Told Me —about a woman whose husband has disappeared leaving no clues to his whereabouts.

Amazon.com Link


Want to know more about Sylvie Grayson?

You can reach Sylvie at  sylviegraysonauthor@gmail.com                                                        or go to her website at  http://www.sylviegrayson.com to follow her news.


Excerpt

In the unclaimed territory south of the Jirani plains, Loyal Hawker steered his dusty transport to the side of the track. It was early spring, and the sun was pale in the morning sky. They’d been traveling for several days, following his sales route through this thinly populated area on the journey toward Somerset, capital of Adar Silva. He scanned the irregular line of houses and shacks that made up the so-called village of Hafford. This was where he and Adoni were to meet up with Damian Stuke.

He glanced over at his assistant. Loyal hadn’t known Adoni long, but the young fellow was quick and clever, and in the past had proved surprisingly skillful in a firefight. He was from the northern regions of Legitamia, above Khandarken along the Catastrophic Ocean. His sallow skin and slanted eyes were an unusual sight here in the south.

“We stop in Hafford for the night,” Loyal said. “The bar has a couple of rooms in the back that are usually available for rent.”

They both turned to stare at the shabby building—walls made of stacked poles, roof of some kind of thatch and a muddy path leading to the half-door that stood open to the elements.

“And,” Loyal added, “Stuke shouldn’t have any trouble finding us.”

“Sounds good.” Adoni shrugged his hawker’s jacket over his shoulders. “Are the supplies safe?” He pointed to the sales goods stacked on the roof of the transport and in the small trailer behind.

Loyal shrugged. “As can be. There’s not much traffic around here.” As a traveling seller, he had managed to cover a lot of territory through the new countries that had sprung up out of the remains of the Old Empire. He was used to dealing with the constant exposure and risk of theft.

But he had recently expanded his route. Since his alliance with Major Dante Regiment and the Khandarken military, his main objective as he traveled had shifted from sales to the gathering of information. To his surprise, he’d become an undercover agent, working with his uncle Governor Frank Maude of the Southern Territory of Khandarken. There were persistent rumours about this area—talk of dispossessed gathering and organizing, of unrest and possible uprising. This was one of the reasons Damian Stuke was scheduled to meet them here.

Adoni opened the door and stepped out as Loyal shut down the transport engine and closed the holograph map on the front board. Ahead of them, the village meandered in a slightly irregular pattern—shops, restaurants, and houses intermingled with service barns and sheds on either side of the makeshift street.

Approaching the tavern, Loyal walked up a couple of stone steps and through the half-door. He glanced around. A long plank against the back wall served as a counter. The floor was made of bare boards, slightly dusty, and the one plexi window looking out on the strand was smudged and blurred. The barkeep looked up from behind the counter and gave him a nod of recognition.

Loyal had been here before. His singular appearance, pale blonde hair in tight curls on his head and down the long sideburns, along with a tall, broad-shouldered lean frame made him readily recognizable. There were tables loosely scattered around the space, two of which were already occupied.

Loyal moved up to the heavy plank to tap a coin on the surface. “Two ales, my good man.”

The attendant nodded, then his gaze sharpened as he caught sight of Adoni coming through the door. He glanced nervously about the interior at the occupied tables and focussed on a thin stooped fellow in the corner who seemed to be totally fascinated by the bottom of his probably empty tankard.

The barkeep quickly poured the ales and set them on the bar, taking the coin from Loyal’s hand. “There you go, gentlemen. No roughhousing in my bar,” he warned.

Loyal raised his eyebrows. Was this a signal of some sort? What roughhousing was the man talking about? He grabbed both tankards and made for a seat against the far wall.

Adoni dropped into his chair with a long sigh. “Looks good, boss,” he said and raised the tankard. “To your health.”

Loyal nodded and returned the greeting. “To your health,” he said and took a long draught. There was a sudden roar from behind. Alarmed, he set his drink down and swiveled on the bench to find the solitary drinker no longer staring into his tankard, but on his feet, glaring openly at their table.

“What is this, a joke?” the man blustered “By the graves, there ain’t no yellow faces allowed in here!”

The barkeep stopped what he was doing and swiftly jogged the length of the bar. “Down, boy,” he gritted. “No roughhousing allowed!”

The fellow was not deterred. “Where’d you come from, you dog,” he called. “Must be a Legi from up by the Catastrophic Ocean from the looks of you. How’d they let you get this far south all in one piece?”

Loyal felt the gorge rise in his throat. Often there had been comments about Adoni’s appearance as they traveled his seller’s route. His assistant was clearly not from around here but never had there been such an outright attack. He glanced at Adoni who started to rise from his chair as he stared with hatred at the loudmouth behind them.

“Hold it, man,” Loyal muttered. “We don’t want to start anything if we can avoid it. This is where we’re meant to hook up with Damian. We need to stay calm.”

Just then the fellow shook his floppy hair out of his eyes and charged.

From the corner of his eye, Loyal saw the two other men in the bar slowly get to their feet from the bench at their table across the room, their attention pinned to the anticipated action. He didn’t know if they intended to join the fight or simply watch, but he dared not wait to find out.

He jumped to his feet. As the first man approached at a run, he stepped into position, the fighting arts training with his cousin Abe Farmer a decided advantage in this type of situation. But he was too late. As he swiftly threw a kick and nailed their attacker in the chest with the heel of his boot, Adoni was knocked sideways in his chair and ended up on the floor, panting for breath and face florid. The attacker went down like a rock and lay still.

The barkeep stood frozen for a moment, then waving his other customers away he knelt to see if the guy was still breathing. Apparently, he was, because he gave a nod, grabbed the body by the heels and dragged it across the grimy floor into the back room. He reappeared shortly. “It looks like he’ll live,” he said curtly, “But I told you, no roughhousing.”

“I didn’t start a thing.” Loyal grinned, heaving a breath as the adrenaline roared through his body. “Just took care of the problem for you.”

The barkeep gave a resigned shake of his head and stepped back behind the bar as Loyal turned to find Adoni struggling to his feet. Offering his hand, he yanked him up. “There you go. Luckily the ale didn’t spill.”

Adoni gave a grunt and brushed the dust off his jacket. “I wanted to give him a good whacking.”

“Yeah.” Loyal settled onto the bench and took a fortifying swallow of ale. “I know, but you’re not ready. Won’t be long though. I saw your last training session with Abe’s men. You’ve gained a lot of ground.”

His assistant gave him a crooked grin.

Just then the barkeep thumped his fist heavily on the plank in front of him as he stared at the doorway to the bar. “By the dogs of hell, what now?” he demanded hoarsely, his face a dull red.

Loyal glanced up, expecting Damian Stuke had arrived. Instead, three figures came through the door.

They stood in silhouette, the filtering sunlight falling obliquely across their forms. The first was a woman, slender, no more than twenty, with pale skin. Herdark blonde, slightly curly hair lay on her shoulders like a soft shawl. One side was pinned back with a jeweled comb, and an amethyst earring of rare abalone swung on a gold link from her delicate earlobe. Her robe was old-fashioned, of a style Loyal had often seen around Adar Silva showing the lingering influence of the Old Empire. The stand-up collar was clipped closed at the throat, and embroidery and glitters decorated the sleeves and down the front panels—a very formal and expensive garment.

Emperor Aqatain had his headquarters just south of here before the Last War sent him into retreat through the northern hills. Empire clothing was distinctive and many still clung to the old styles

But even more startling, the woman wore trousers beneath the robe. He’d seen women in trousers before, loose three-quarter length garments worn as they toiled in the fields of some farm, but never pants tailored to fit a female shape and paired with a dress robe. Certainly never in public. Loyal stared, then belatedly glanced toward the barkeep whose face had turned a strange shade of puce.

The two young men who accompanied her stopped near the door as if to stand guard. There was a rising murmur of voices as the men at the far table took in the strange sight.

The barkeep blanched. “What are you doing? You can’t come in here,” he stuttered, waving his hand at her as if to shoo a chicken back through the doorway.

Ignoring him, she raised her head and pasted an imperious, if nervous, smile on her face as she glanced around the room. “I’m looking for Loyal the Hawker,” she said.

Adoni gawked openly as Loyal rose slowly from his chair, confusion churning in his chest. Was this a trick? He’d never seen the girl before, was sure he would remember that arresting face. He had certainly never seen a woman in clothes like these. In addition, he had no contacts in the village. This place was only a waypoint, a dwelling to stay the night on his travels through the backcountry. How would she know his name?

He stalked forward. “I’m Loyal Hawker,” he said, his throat tight. “What can I do for you?”

The colour high in her cheeks, she reached into the pocket of her robe and pulled out a folded onionskin. “My father sends his regards,” she said in a low, modulated voice. “And he asks that you meet with him. I am come to take you there.”

 

What’s Your Origin Story? #Monday Blogs

I’ve paused my creative projects due to life. That is, I’m not writing daily or podcasting. I head-2147328_1280had to stop all of it.

I hit a wall. You know what it’s like. We’ve all hit a few bricks in our lifetime. Something happens and it makes us stop, and reconsider everything.

So … I’m creatively on pause, which is turning into a creative stewing period, which could be a good thing, or not. We’ll see.

After all, some stews don’t taste that good in the end, no matter how long they’ve simmered.

Anyway, during this pause, I’m giving myself license to explore anything that takes my interest.

I got to thinking about origin stories. First, because if I complete the trilogy I’m working on, an origin story would be a great gift to give readers for free. Second, because they say part of a strong author brand is having a compelling origin story.

What is an Origin Story?

batgirl-2442163_1920It’s the Adam & Eve tale that explains how a character or world began. For example, comic book stories all have origin stories. Think Superman and Spiderman. Knowing where a character or storyline starts helps sell the character. Typically they are stories about an underdog gaining superpowers.

Why Create a Personal Origin Story?

Readers or consumers of your product want to know where you came from and why you’re doing what you’re doing.  Consider:

Google was… two Stanford nerds in a dorm room with pizza and an algorithm. (Michael Magolis)

Interesting, eh?

In the past, when I read advice about creating my own origin story to sell myself, I blanched. My mind rattled. No one wants to know about me, not little old me. I’m really not that interesting and I don’t want to create a superwoman story to hide behind. No one likes selling themselves.

Fast forward to my stew. …  I found interesting information on origin stories. In Michael Magolis’s blog post, What Every Innovator Needs to Master: The Origin Story, he details how to find the super-hero within you.

“TAKE 10 MINUTES TO ANSWER THE FOLLOWING QUESTIONS AND YOU’LL START CRACKING THE CODE:

  • What is it in you, your family or your history that led you to create, build or master your business, product, cause or mission? What are your roots—the lineage or path—you come from?
  • What are your motivations for why you do what you do? Are your motivations genuine, and pure? How can you prove it? (Think empathy and vulnerability.)
  • What are you willing to fight for? And why is this personal to you? (The secret is you are doing this so others don’t have to struggle with the same pain.)
  • Who exactly are your doing this for? Why will they give a shit?
  • What is it about your life experience that gave you the wisdom and perspective to know you can come up with something different or better?

Despite bringing a message of transformation, you must anchor your message in the past, with something familiar, that we can all identify with and relate to.

Your origins are the foundation for any innovation story. Your roots. Your strength. Your core credibility. Make sure you’re choosing fertile soil for your story to grow and ripen.”

Do I Have a Origin Story?

Not yet, but this questionnaire intrigues me. It helps me see I could write one.

Maybe I’ll take time out of my stew to write one. I’ll let you know. Simply answering the questions above I can say:

  1. My parents were good, caring people who turned to alcohol to deal with life, but the alcohol gave them more grief. From a young age, I felt there had to be better ways to manage the ups and downs of being human. I chose a creative life. To me, that sounds like a bland start for an origin story, but it is my motivation.
  2. I hope my stories entertain my readers, and connect with them on a deep level, elevating them from the daily grind.
  3. I want to show that love (for oneself and for others) conquers all.
  4. I write for women over 50, who will care about my stories because they will see themselves in them.
  5. Like my readers, I’m a survivor.

How about you? Do you have an origin story? Do you feel you want/need one?


graphics from Pixabay.com

 

Body on the Bayou – Thursday Review

body on bayouThe Perfect Cozy

Ellen Byron’s Body on the Bayou is a masterpiece of mystery and romance set in the South. It left me with a big fat smile on my face. Not only did I not figure out the murderer, but I was also shocked by a plot twist at the end. Byron’s characters are richly drawn, the setting, pun intended, is to die for. A gentle sense of humor permeates the story keeping the tone light, but at the same time, the characters make insightful comments.

My favorite lines:

  • “That woman is the worst kind of Glossie,” Gran’ declared, using an acronym she’d invented that stood for ‘gracious ladies of the South.’ “She’s a … a … Flossie—a fake lady of the South.” (Chapter 4)
  • “Little Earlie might be as annoying as a tick on a dog, but he was still part of her community …” (Chapter 17
  • “The landscape was littered with potential emotional landmines.” (Chapter 19)
  • “I’m trying to find the words that could tell you how much this means to me. But I don’t think they exist.”

And this is my very favorite:

  • “Magnolia Marie died at age 101 in 1941, knowing that she’d helped Doucet and its employees survive three wars and the Great Depression. If Magnolia Marie could triumph over such great losses and traumas, Maggie could certainly power through the lesser obstacles that currently challenged her. “That,” Maggie told the teen, is the woman I was named after.” (Chapter 23)

I’m going to download more of Ellen Byron’s books, and I highly recommend this book to readers who love cozy mysteries.

Link