Happy New Year!

Photo credit: Todd Petrie.

Photo credit: Todd Petrie.

I’m staring at a wall in my office, trying to figure out what I want to write today, but my creative mind is far away, frolicking in the fictional world of River’s Sigh B & B—a romance series I’m working on (Book 1, Wedding Bands).

It’s not that I don’t have things to say; I just can’t access them. I’m preoccupied with Jo and Callum and what will become of them. They live in a made up northern BC town called Greenridge that’s loosely based on Terrace, and right now their time of year mimics ours. But unlike me, they don’t just want to crawl back to bed and—well, maybe they do. Heh. I told you. I’m preoccupied.

The smell of fresh ground, just brewed coffee is doing its trick though. I mean I have a word document open and everything. The house is warm and cozy, still holding heat, I think, from recent sun but I can’t fool myself. Summer is officially done.

Outside the rain is falling so hard that it looks (and sounds!) like it’s not raining at all—more like some prankster’s throwing buckets of water at my window (but my husband’s at work).

It’s not just the pull of a new novel that’s distracting me, though. It used to be that school, for myself, then for my children, lent focus and structure to the burst of energy and angst that seems to accompany fall weather. September always felt like the true start of a new year. December 31st and January 1st were just great excuses to eat rich foods and have a lot of fun. Autumn was the time for making decisions and plans, starting new habits, revisiting goals.

Yet here I am, as I already fessed up, staring at my wall . . . in September. In my defense, at least it’s an interesting wall, with more than one inspirational quote in big bright-colored circles, posters, and a speech bubble. My business licence perches there, along with several sticky notes that say encouraging things like “Take every opportunity!” as well as cryptic things like “Next #MSWL day is September 24.” There’s a postcard from my sister (“Sometimes your only available transportation is a leap of faith” ~ Margaret Shepherd), a piece of a calendar that I pulled off and taped up (“Be not afraid of moving slowly. Be afraid of standing still.”), a year-at-a-glance calendar, a list of “official” writing and work goals for 2014 (some of which I’m actually achieving, ha ha), and a bunch of other random bits of this and that.

And I’m wondering about the relevance of my wall to my disjointed thoughts and uneasiness regarding a September that’s not full of plans and changes—and suddenly I know what it is. My wall says it all; I crave written out schedules, designated times for assigned tasks, and the fresh start and renewed perspective you get looking ahead from one month, considering the next ten.

My association with September as being the start of the year hasn’t been broken, despite how long it’s been since I was a student or teacher, and regardless of the fact that my children have graduated. And now I know the remedy for the meh and indecision that ails me. New school supplies. Yes, seriously. How can a year commence or continue without fresh pencils and a new Mead 5-Star? Answer: it cannot. And modifications to my year-at-a-glance calendar. I need to revisit my goals and plans for the next ten months now; I can’t wait until January. Happy New Year!

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“Happy New Year!” by me, Ev Bishop, was originally published in the Terrace Standard, September 24, 2014 as my monthly column “Just a Thought.”

How BIGGER THINGS came to be

Image credit: Margaret Speirs

Image credit: Margaret Speirs

I’ve had a few people ask me about the writing and birthing of BIGGER THINGS, so for your reading pleasure (or not, lol) I’m sharing a blip that I originally posted on the Compuserve Readers and Writers forum. :)  E.

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The beginning: Once upon a time, quite a few years ago, I was walking my dog along a quiet, totally deserted street. Suddenly a woman spoke so clearly that I actually paused and looked around. “Everyone gets a happily ever after, yeah right,” she said. There was, of course, no one there, but I had this person, fully-formed in my head, blathering away at me like we were good friends and I knew I needed to write her story–and then the story of her two lifelong friends as well.

The Middle: BIGGER THINGS wasn’t my first novel, but it was an early one. It took a while to finish it because I was learning as I went (which is still true for every book), and I struggled with how to organize it. Once I realized it was written in seasons that worked as a metaphor for the changes in the friends’ lives over one pivotal year, and that it was interspersed with letters to a columnist called “Fat Girl,” everything took off and came together.

The Climax (which was, like so many early publishing attempts, actually an anti-climax): I had a finished, polished, “long enough” novel, the first I’d written that I wanted to publish. I believed in the story and was super excited about it. I had worked it over a lot–and had it worked over by other people (which was sometimes super helpful and other times . . . the opposite of that). I wanted an agent. I sent it out and sent it out. And sent it out. I had quite a few requests for full manuscripts from “big” agents. It was horrible. Almost without exception they all said really, really, really positive things–then went on to say they didn’t know where it would go on the shelf, how it would be marketed, or who it would sell to. I probably quit too soon but I was a bit disheartened–and more and more involved with/excited about other writing projects.

The end (which is actually another beginning): I shelved BIGGER THINGS and tried to move on, but it stayed lodged in my heart (corny as that is!) and frequently muttered that it wanted to be shared. . . . 

In the years that passed I sold two short novels under a pen name, a variety of short stories in addition to my non-fiction, and wrote five other novels, two that start a mystery series I’ll be pitching to traditional publishers; one that’s Book 1 in a romance series for Winding Path Books. Yet BIGGER THINGS kept whispering. And the publishing world kept changing.

I love romance and women’s fiction–and my romance and women’s fiction author friends and clients were doing marvelous, exciting, FUN things with indie publishing, but I hung back. . . . What writer doesn’t dream of New York, right?

Then one day I was walking on my property, contemplating an old cabin and what it could become, and a woman that I recognized spoke in my ear. “Oh, for crying out loud. Just publish me yourself.” I’m obedient. I dug BIGGER THINGS back out, did yet another rewrite and a polish and another polish. I met some amazing, talented people as I hired a designer, a formatting guru, and yet another editor. . . . and I have loved every bit of the process.

I have a lot of editing experience and have done some desktop publishing (small stuff, like chapbooks, anthologies, etc.), so Winding Path Books isn’t a brand new world to me, but it is a thrilling one. I’m wowed by the resources and tools available to any writer who goes looking.

There can be a lot of negativity and fear in author circles–or, at the very least, a lot of uneasiness–about the future of publishing and making a living off of your writing, but I’m excited. Never in history has there been more avenues to share your passions or the things that keep you up at night. I only see new bridges to cross, new lands to explore, more opportunity for adventure.

I’m solidly pro both indie publishing and traditional publishing, and I don’t see an either/or attitude as beneficial to anyone, particularly to any authors. Both worlds offer unique advantages and disadvantages, but the biggest, most exciting pro of the indie world is the door it opens for great books and stories that don’t fit easily into a perfectly-defined traditional market spot, how it helps them find their home. :)

One month till Surrey International Writers’ Conference 2014!

SiWC 2014For the fall and winter months (Yes, they’re here, wail!), I’ve decided to resurrect Déjà vu Thursdays. Exciting, right? I knew you’d think so. To kick it off, and because I just realized that it’s exactly a month until I leave for the 2014 Surrey International Writers’ Conference, I give you a happy pre-conference blurt that I wrote way back on June 10th, 2009 just after I paid my registration fee and booked my hotel and flights for SiWC 2009.

I didn’t attend last year’s conference because I was (Oh, poor me!) in London. The year before that (so 2013) my father had just passed away, and the conference was a blur. To say I’m excited about this year, but also a bit unsettled, worried that it will trigger unhappy memories, is an understatement. I know he’d want me to attend, however, to have a great time, to share BIGGER THINGS, to refill my creative well, to encourage and be encouraged, etc. After all, in the hospital he told me, “You make sure you go to that conference, Ev, even if I’m not dead yet. You paid good money for it.” Which made me laugh because it was so typically pragmatic. And cry. And, of course, tell him absolutely no way was I going if he was still there to visit with. Anyway, I’ve kind of gotten off track. Back to my old but still relevant pre-conference thoughts. I’d love to hear yours on the subject!

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So I just did something very exciting—booked a four-night stay at the gorgeous Sheraton Guildford in Surrey, BC. It seems unbelievable, but it’s already time—really time!—to start planning my favourite annual indulgence: The Surrey International Writers’ Conference.

I normally try to rein in my freakish enthusiasm and exuberance while blogging, so I don’t scare readers away, but allow me one, YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY!

I know some writers are sceptical of the advantages of writing conferences. They think they’re nothing but a money grab. They feel you don’t learn anything that you couldn’t from a book or a bit of research. They’re sure everyone’s just there for their egos—I’m a writer, look at me. They’re convinced you’d be better off spending the time writing, not talking about writing.

I confess I don’t understand conference bashers.

1. Yes, attending a conference is a financial commitment. That it costs you something is part of its value. Say what? Just that: Putting money into your craft, saying in essence, “I’m serious about my writing, and it’s worth not just my time, but also my material resources to pursue,” is like giving yourself a big ol’ permission slip to take your goals more seriously. It’s also a big cue to family and friends—Oh, she’s serious about this little writing thing.

Professional development (Yes, a little FYI, conferences are P-D, not just wonderfully social times where everyone sips wine, talks about their favourite things—books and storytelling, of course—and comes away absolutely inspired) betters the quality of your work and boosts your word counts. Being with other people who are excited about the same things you are is motivating.

2. Books on craft are great, and yep, you learn a lot reading them, but—and gasp, I can’t quite believe I’m saying this—there are some things being alone with a book can’t do. Reading alone in your study doesn’t give you the experience of being with 1000 other souls who love what you love—ideas, words, stories. It doesn’t give you the chance to laugh along with one of your favourite authors. It doesn’t provide the opportunity to stick up your hand in the middle of the information to say, “Gah—I don’t get it!” or “Yay—I love how you put that!”

Hearing authors talk about their personal experiences, reassure you that it’s an achievable dream (they’re living proof, after all), and answer every-question-you-can-imagine is invaluable. As is getting to learn face-to-face from agents and editors who accept books (maybe even one like yours!) for their livings.

3. As for the complaints about “egos” . . . I don’t see it. I’ve met people I don’t click with, sure. I may have (it’s terrible) even cringed or grimaced inwardly a time or two on behalf of a cornered agent or author, yep. But people are people wherever you go. The great, the bad, the meh—they’re everywhere. And for what it’s worth, I think writing conferences having a higher per ratio capacity of hilarious, generous, kind, and witty people than most public groupings. The feeling of community and camaraderie is almost the whole reason I go. I work alone day after day all year (Yay for the Internet, but that’s an aside). Even the most reclusive of us benefit from and need human company sometimes.

4. Four days of conferencing and sushilizing does not, in anyway, take away from my productivity. I write almost every day—and that’s in addition to my business writing, editing, and workshops. Surrey energizes me for a whole year. If I have a day where I feel kind of unmotivated, I look at the calendar and recall the goals I’ve set for the next conference . . . Speaking of which, I’m on track, but not ahead of where I wanted to be by this month, so I should go.

Happy writing, everyone—and if you’re heading out to Surrey this October for SiWC, let me know.

I’m also interested in any comments about why you love writing workshops or conferences—or really mix things up and tell me why I’m out to lunch and they suck!

~ Ev

Interviewed by author Liz Schulte

Liz Schulte's Bat CountryIn our modern magic-Internet world, sometimes you meet people you click with immediately, though you’ve never met them face-to-face. Hilarious zany-sexy-urban-fantasy author Liz Schulte is one of those people for me. Not only is she a long-time editing client, an author whose books I eat up like candy, like they’re treats or something instead of work (Shhh, don’t tell her in case she wants me to start paying her instead of the other way around!), I’m continually inspired and motivated by her work ethic, productivity, and generosity with advice and kind words. I’m fortunate to count her as a cohort and ally, and had a really fun, thought-provoking time being interviewed by her recently. (Thanks so much, Liz!)

You can read the interview here (I hope you enjoy it!), and if you’re in the mood for some sexy, romping other worldly adventure, I can’t recommend Liz’s books enough. Just be careful that you don’t lose yourself in the Abyss. . . . :)  And if you devour that series but need more Liz Schulte, or if for some reason lighter urban fantasy isn’t your genre, definitely read her dark paranormal mysteries, Dark Corners and Dark Passing, featuring Ella Reynolds. I loved them!

Northwords Writing Retreat, Sept. 20, 2014, Terrace, BC

downloadYay, it’s NorthWords Writers Retreat time again! Let me pass on the note from one of the organizers, Terrace Public Library’s fantastic Jess Dafoe:

Hello Northern Writers,

Registration has begun for this year’s NorthWords Retreat. We are very excited to welcome author and presenter Tawny Stokes.

Join us for what is sure to be a fantastic day of discussion and writing (…and free lunch and dinner).

There is a $20 refundable deposit to hold your seat. Register early, as participant numbers are limited, at Misty River Books or the Terrace Public Library.

Please feel free to contact me if you need more information: 250.638.8177 or by e-mail jdafoeATSIGNterracelibraryDOTca

Hope to see you soon!

Jess

I’ve taken part in NorthWords writing events, writing retreats or mini writers’conferences in Terrace, BC for years, as both an attendee and as a presenter, so I say with great confidence and a lot of noisy cheering that it’s always an amazing event, so motivating, so encouraging and so useful for writers at any stage of their writing life, from newbie to pro.

This year I’m extra stoked about the retreat’s offerings (“stoked” pun fully intended, heh heh) because although I haven’t heard Tawny Stokes speak before, her bio is fascinating and in this exciting, opportunity-filled time for authors, hearing from a hybrid author is sure to be inspiring and practical. You should definitely come, even if you have to travel a bit to do so. I know you’ll be happy that you did. Hope to see you there!

~ Ev

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Win BIGGER THINGS by Ev Bishop from Goodreads!

How can it be September already? Crazy!

Sad as I am to wave farewell to summer, there are aspects of fall’s arrival that I always get excited about. And just two things topping my personal list of autumn’s delights are: yummy, hearty, oven-roasted meals and more hours in the evening for cozy reading.

In keeping with those perks, I have a chicken roasting away in beer and garlic and a myriad of other spices making the house smell delicious, fresh baby potatoes on the stove, and exciting news reading-wise, too. Goodreads has ten paperback copies of BIGGER THINGS up for grabs! The giveaway runs for the whole month of September, entry in the draw is free and winners will be announced October 1. Go on, get your name in and share the news so maybe your friends or family can win a book too. I hope I’m mailing you a signed copy soon!

Click HERE for more details and/or to enter! Good luck!

The Sweet Dregs of Summer

“Wood nymph me” – Photo by Vello Sork © 2014

The last mouthful of a glass of iced tea is sweeter than the rest because the sugar settles to the bottom. Summer is like that too. The first weeks stretch, long and leisurely, full of lingering golden light. At the beginning of the season, eons of time seem to lie ahead.

Then August hits. Then the end of August. The light is still glorious, but it fades earlier and earlier each night. The air is still warm, even hot, in the afternoons, but a crispness beneath the heat whispers rumours of fall. The days are sweeter, more poignant because they’re the last sips of summer.

And just like I tend to slow down midway through a drink, not wanting to finish it before I absolutely have to, I find myself trying to fend off September, spending as much time as I can outside, and allowing myself more breaks to soak things in, knowing—hating—that the bright months will be over soon.

This year I had the treat of houseguests to help me squeeze extra juicy goodness from the month. They stayed a few weeks and while I worked every morning because hey, we gotta eat and pay the bills and all that, I took off big chunks of time, too. We went on more than one daytrip and stopped to look at things that I’ve always meant to, but hadn’t got around to yet. (That’s why you should always invite summer guests. It forces you to stop taking the place you live for granted and to get out and play in your home terrain with new eyes.)

As ever, I marveled at the things to see here. We drove the crazy-bumpy, jungle road down into the Kitimat River where an expanse of round white stones stretches along the brilliant blue-green river as far as the eye can see. I posed by a fallen tree whose roots alone made me look miniscule.

We went to the fish hatchery and saw a mind-boggling amount of chum—so many, so close together, that the aqua river looked black where they huddled and churned, fighting to get up a pipe so they could spawn.

I finally explored an ancient looking set of moss covered stone steps out near Alcan. Apparently they once led to some now-no-more Hudson Bay Company building. I prefer to think they mark the entrance to a long forgotten castle.

We camped at Furlong Bay and if there’s a more beautiful campground anywhere, I don’t know where it is. The light playing through the dense, mossy trees was amber and magical. I saw a massive Great Horned owl. The beach was practically empty. Best of all, however, were the huge, rotted out tree stumps we discovered. They were like doorways into other worlds.

We meandered along the highway to Prince Rupert and got lost in the varying shades of blue, blue, blue—blue water, blue sky, blue mountain vistas. Then we were dizzied by all the greens. We daydreamed about the tiny islands. We oohed and ahhed over fresh halibut and salmon being cleaned on the dock and savoured the fishy-salt scent of the ocean.

And one evening, I came across this quote from Henry David Thoreau: I think that I cannot preserve my health and spirits, unless I spend four hours a day at least, and it is commonly more than that, sauntering through the woods and over the hills and fields, absolutely free from all worldly engagements.

I don’t usually get four hours outdoors per day—I wish—but I so relate to his sentiments. Even as I type, the sun’s dipping lower. And as you read this, the days are growing shorter once more. Quick! Pour one more iced tea and head outside. Drink up every last sweet dreg of our gorgeous summer.

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“The Sweet Dregs of Summer” by me, Ev Bishop, was originally published in the Terrace Standard, June 25, 2014 as my monthly column “Just a Thought.”