Canned Wisdom #7

Monday again. Time for another little commentary on writing:

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For last week’s Canned Wisdom, click here.

This is about expectations and about how they affect our impressions.

The picture above is of a cup of coffee. Except, it’s in a mug made of glass, and there’s a candle behind the mug, so the light plays around in the shapes in the bottom of the mug.

It’s a black coffee, because there’s no milk and no sugar in it. But it’s also not super strong, so the light from the candle comes through on the sides and tints the coffee red. It could also be the coffee isn’t actually black, but really a very dark red.

2018-03-18 17.53.41When you read the phrase a cup of black coffee, you probably won’t picture anything like what you see in the image above. Right? You already have an expectation of what a cup of black coffee looks like.

Black coffee comes in white porcelain cups, and it’s proper black – perhaps with a few bubbles from the pour on top. Put the term into a google image search. You know what you’ll see – or, well, you won’t be surprised at least.

What does this mean for us as writers?

I get two things.

The first is that readers already know what a lot of things look like, so there’s no need to describe them. It’s enough just to mention what they are.

Time for examples. Picture the following:

  • A woman hurrying to work on Monday morning with a cup of coffee in her hand.
  • A woman looking out her window on a Sunday morning with a cup of coffee in her hand.
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A rubbish bin with two umbrellas sticking out of it. That’s also a story.

The two sentences are quite similar, but they paint very different pictures. There’s no information at all about what the woman looks like, and nothing at all about her cup of coffee, or how she’s dressed, but still we get an image.

Sure, the image might be vague and indistinct, but there’s something there, and there’s a vibe to it too.

We all have expectations of what things look like, and if you play to that, you can use it to great effect in your writing.

The second thing I’m getting is that things aren’t always what they seem. We all know that coffee is black, and we all know that snow is white and the sky is blue and the good guys always win in the end – right?

Except maybe that’s not always how it is. Sometimes black coffee is red, and sometimes white snow is blue, and sometimes the sky is all kinds of weird colours when the sun is setting and the clouds are on fire.

As for the good guys, well, life’s tough sometimes.

Keep this in mind when you’re creating your stories. Your readers will have expectations, and you can choose to live up to them, or to try and circumvent them. Either is fine, just try and make sure to pay attention to what expectations you’re setting for your reader.

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Canned Wisdom #7

New Releases – A Pleasant Surprise

TLDR: My book Emma’s Story is included in P.D. Workman’s list of new releases – here. Please check it out. :)


Up until about an hour ago I’d had a pretty bad day.

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The sky this morning was a lot nicer than most of the rest of the day would turn out to be – most…

I’ve been feeling a bit under the weather lately, and this morning was no different – gloomy and miserable. Not a good start, but I was well enough to work so off I went.

Then, once I got to the office, the left side of my neck and the shoulder began acting up – aching real bad, and stabbing pains as soon as I moved carelessly. I managed to get hold of my physiotherapist, and I got an appointment for  lunch. I would have made it back in time for work after, but I decided to take the rest of the day off to recover.

I got myself squeezed and pinched and needled, and I might have been hurting worse after the therapist was done with me. They’ve done good work in the past though, and I trust them. I’ll be fine.

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Sometimes, it’s a dull grey world out there.

Then, I opened my e-mail…That doesn’t mean I wasn’t grumpy and annoyed to having to go through the pain and not being able to write, or work, or anything really. I went home and watched a movie.

An acquaintance of mine, author P.D. Workman, had included my book Emma’s Story in her list of interesting new releases – here. I’d asked her about it months ago, before my book was even released, and in all the excitement of the release it had slipped my mind and I’d completely forgotten about it.

This was not a paid promotion. I’m on the list because I asked, and because P.D. was kind enough to include me. That kind of thing means a lot to me, so please do check her page out.

The mail, and my book’s appearance on the list, completely turned my miserable day around. Sure, my shoulder still aches, but I’m smiling as I’m typing this.

Front Cover - OnlineWhat’s more, I feel like my book is in good company. I went through the list, and I got the impression the majority of the books are pretty “serious” in nature – stories that deal with difficult questions about the hows and whys of life and of growing up.

I’m happy to be a part of it.

Emma’s Story may be fantasy with a bit of a fairy tale feel to it, but it’s also a story about expectations, trust, and the difficult decisions we all have to make now and then.

P.D.’s new release Two Teardrops is about a young woman dealing with some pretty serious issues in her life. I haven’t read it, but I’m inclined to give it a try. The book seems harder and darker than mine, but I get the feeling the themes run along similar lines. If you already read and enjoyed Emma’s Story, I have a hunch you may enjoy Two Teardrops too.

Well, start with the first part in the series: Tattooed Teardrops.

I added it to my reading list on Goodreads (here), and hopefully I’ll get to it before too long. I’ve got the feeling it might give me some good insights for my character Alene in the Lost Dogs series.

New Releases – A Pleasant Surprise

How I Published My Book

My latest article for Mythic Scribes is now live. It’s about what I did to launch and promote my book Emma’s Story, and you can read it here.

IMAG1396.jpgIt’s a fairly long piece that touches upon most of the various aspects of launching the book: selecting a date and setting up preorders, advertising and promotion, formatting for ebook and paperback. The article doesn’t go into great detail on any of it, but rather tries to give an overview of all the different things involved in self-publishing a book – and even then I had to leave some things out.

I’m always a little bit nervous when a new article is going to go live. There are expectations. Mythic Scribes isn’t some little personal blog for just me and my closest friends and family (hi mom). It’s a big site with an active community and tons of daily visitors. I don’t have any exact numbers to share, but the numbers are sky high compared to what I’m getting on this page. On a good day I get double-digit number visitors on this blog.

Front Cover - OnlineRegardless of the actual numbers, the point is that a lot of people will see my articles and read them. Hopefully they will find them useful, and usually I get good feedback, but I still worry. Mostly, my main concern is that I’ll get something significantly wrong, or that I’ll unknowingly express some really controversial viewpoint and cause an uproar.

So far that’s not happened, and it probably won’t. I’m a lot less nervous about it than I used to be, but that little nagging worry is still there. Ideally it won’t ever go away completely. If it does, it’ll mean I’ve lost the respect for what I’m doing, and then I shouldn’t be doing it anymore.

What I’m really going for here is that on Sundays when the articles go live I keep refreshing the site to see if it’s there yet or not. So too this time around, and when it finally happened I was met by a really nice and heartwarming surprise. Our site admin, BD, had found my Instagram account, dug out some of the pictures I’d taken of my book, and added them to the article.

Discovering this made me really happy. It’s that warm feeling of when someone goes that extra mile to do something nice for you even though they don’t have to and you don’t expect it. It’s amazing, and it was great way to start my weekend (I’m off Monday’s and Tuesdays).

Also, price hike

One comment I got on the article was that the price on the paperback version is too low. It’s cheap enough people might think there’s something wrong with the story. This obviously isn’t what I want, so I’ll be increasing the price to 6.99 in about a week.

How I Published My Book

A Village Is Blind Under The Stars

My father, who enjoys messing around with brushes and colours, made this painting of a scene from my book Emma’s Story:

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A single light burns at the top of the hill.
A village is blind under the stars.

The cover image of Emma’s Story was painted by a friend of mine. You can read more about it here.

After I got the cover and showed it off, it struck me that it would be fun to have some more images from the story to share. It’d also be really fascinating to see how others imagined it.

I’m not sure how many of my friends who read the book are into painting, but I know my dad is (he counts as a friend too), so I asked him. Turns out he was more than happy to help out, and you can see the result above.

What amazed me was that I was able to tell right away which scene it was he’d painted. All of the details add up, and it’s actually really close to how I imagined it myself. Most likely this is what I’ll see next time I read that part.

I hope those of you who’ve already read it will be able to recognize the scene though, but perhaps the caption gave it away?

The scene is from very near the end of the book, so to avoid giving away any spoilers I won’t be going into details about it – other than what you can see for yourself.


In other news, I’ve brought the price of the ebook version of Emma’s Story up to the full retail price ($2.99, £2.49, €2.99)  instead of the cheaper launch price. Sales dropped off after the first week, and I figured everyone I know who wanted the book would have gotten it by now.

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It’s cheaper than a coffee and a brownie too.

I’m unlikely to do any more promotion of the book for the time being, and anyone who finds it will have heard about it through word of mouth. My thinking is that if you get a recommendation from someone you probably won’t be too fussed about whether the book is 0.99 or 2.99.

Sure, it’s three times the price, but it’s still cheaper than a pint of beer, and it’ll take you longer to read – and hopefully it’ll bring you more enjoyment too.

A Village Is Blind Under The Stars

Special Book Offer – For Locals

If you’re in Cork, Ireland, I would recommend stepping into Alchemy Coffee & Books on Barrack Street to check out this fine offer:

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Unfortunately, they’re out of brownies, but I didn’t know that when I made the sign. There’s plenty of other good stuff though.

Alchemy is the place where I wrote almost the entire first draft of Emma’s Story. I went there after work, and I went there during my weekends. I used to sit on one of the bar stools over by the window to the coal yard and write, with my laptop on the shelf and with a coffee and a brownie next to it.

It’s how the story got done.

Sure, I might have done some writing at home, and perhaps in a pub once in a while, but it’s writing in the window at Alchemy that I remember. They’ve moved the bar stools now, and put two small tables and chairs in their place. Better use of space like that. It gets crowded enough in here as it is anyway,

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I need to take more time and be less self-conscious about taking pictures in public. This one got a bit rushed and the sign is out of focus a bit.

I’m very happy to have been able to work out this deal with the staff here. I consider them friends of mine, and they always seem happy to see me. Sometimes I get a free coffee.

I don’t know that I’ll make a killing selling books at the local coffee shop, but it’s a fun little gimmick, and it’s getting me some good attention. That’s the main thing for now I think. If I’d had sequels lined up to release I’d have put more effort into promoting the book and trying a little harder to sell it.

There’s no follow-up though, and my series I’m working on won’t launch until early July. For now, this is mainly just for fun, and to try and learn a bit about self-publishing. In that regard it’s working out great, and I believe I’ll feel a lot more confident once my new stories are due for release.

That said, if you want to have a closer look at the book, you’ll find it here. Also, since sales on the book have dropped off I’ll be raising the price to 2.99 tomorrow morning. I won’t be doing any more promotion for it in a while, and as such people will mainly only find it through word of mouth.

Special Book Offer – For Locals

Book In Hand

Just a quick post to show off that the print copies of my book I ordered finally arrived:

I’ve seen pictures of the book myself, and I received a proof copy shortly after the paperback first went live, but this is the first time I hold the finished book in my hand.

It feels pretty good.

A few of these will go to my friend who painted the cover. I’ll keep one for myself, and the rest will probably be sold at the cafe where I wrote the book. I even have a special deal worked out with the owner of the cafe, but I’ll show that off on Monday when I know for sure it’s all going through as planned.

EDIT: I’m apparently crap at self-promotion. Here’s the link to the book on Amazon: Emma’s Story.

Book In Hand

Poetry As Promotion

A while back I wrote a poem to go with my book Emma’s Story. As part of promoting the book I turned the poem into a slideshow and shared it on instagram (I even paid a few Euro to promote it). I’m quite happy with how it came out so I wanted to share it here too:

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The poem tells of the events of the story from an outside perspective and from the angle we expect that kind of story to be told. Then, towards the end, it turns around and says that the story’s really told from a completely different point of view.

When I originally wrote the story, I didn’t want it to be a subversion of the traditional fairytale. I didn’t even think about it, and it wasn’t until after the second draft that I realised I had. That’s probably just as well. If I had actively tried to subvert the trope the story would have been very different. Most likely it would have been worse too.

Front Cover - OnlineNow it’s really just a story about a young woman facing a difficult decision, and not about a supporting character in someone else’s adventure.

However, from a certain point of view the story really is about the fair maiden that the hero wants to win the heart of. Only, it’s not really told as such, and if anyone tried to call Emma a fair maiden to her face she’d probably punch them…


In other news, I’m not getting rich, and I won’t be able to quit my day job anytime soon, but I have sold a few copies. It’s not enough to make back what I paid in advertising, but it’s more than enough to be encouraging.

I’m happy with how I’m doing, and I’ll do better next time.

Poetry As Promotion