Stephen Harlow

The Travelling Book Café

The Travelling Book Café heads out for the first time this week, stopping in Gibsons (Windows on the Water, April 12) and Vancouver (Heartwood Café, April 15).

The challenge for authors required to do their own book promotion, which is most of us, is to find a way  to reach readers directly. But at this point in life, I can't pretend to be someone I'm not, and so I came up with the idea of meeting small groups, in neighbourhood cafés or independent bookstores, presenting the book, You Again, and then inviting people to relate to my novel's themes by telling their own stories. I don't know how this will work. One person I invited said she didn't think people would want to publicly reveal their thoughts about mother/daughter relationships; another invitee confessed that she might be too shy to speak in a crowd, even a small crowd. It could be a very small crowd, a handful of people. That would be fine, and if people would prefer to listen rather than talk, that's fine too. But I want to say how writing for me is a way of thinking about things. In fiction the thought process develops, usually unconsciously, through stories employing scenes that show, in this case, the complexity of the relationships between mothers and daughters, sisters and sisters.

Beyond that, I deal with identity. At the beginning, when I first conceived the character and her life for Shinny's Girls, I wondered, what do Shinny's daughters, each from a different father, have in common as sisters? Well of course they have Shinny, and the shared experience of growing up with a single mother, and all that implied in the 70s and 80s, including a judgemental society and, almost always, very low incomes. It was a different world, but we were further along than when my grandmother lived as a single mother, with all the shame I fear she may have felt in the early 1900's.

I hope people will engage with me in a dialogue about these things, and others that come up in the book, including the sub-plot concerning Shinny's grandson Mattie and his escape from a ring of identity thieves.

A wonderful cover from Stephen (p0ps) Harlow; free coffee from the excellent roasters, Strait Coffee; a free book draw... how can I miss?

How it's going...

If I were to start a new blog, with advice either on writing, or on how to market one's book, self-published book, ebook, I would have to call it, Something you REALLY have never heard before... REALLY! Though I doubt I could actually think of something that has not already been written, posted, blogged, tweeted, shared. The web is more like a hive.

In my explorations, I have encountered people such as the Passionate Bibliophile, who confessed that yes he is a real person, if also an Amazon affiliate book store. I had to ask, because all the titles he posts on G + made me think he was either a speed reader or a computer program. But no, he is real and he likes books that affirm triumphs of the human spirit. Well who can argue with that? We all like to hear that people CAN overcome hardship, physical, psychological, situational, unanticipated, long standing. Even when we know that, perhaps, most often we accustom ourselves to living with whatever it is, since there may be no other choice, so many things cannot be overcome. At least not with un triomphe étincelante, or a sparkling triumph (though I like the French word for sparkling, which is kind of a visual onomatopoeia). Me, I like mixed motives, unresolved endings.

I persist in feeling most comfortable on sites for readers, such as Goodreads, though that site has come under fire from writers' sites, which now recommend Library Thing and, in Canada, the 49th shelf. Should I join everything, I wonder, just to keep up with the blazing changes in taste? One of the first sites I signed onto belongs to a librarian, Melissa, whose enthusiasm makes me feel as though I am part of an actual discussion, I mean a face to face discussion.

Many sites/blogs, whatever, collect other sites/blogs, just as I am doing here. Yet I find them hard to read. They are like textbooks with too many footnotes. Brian Fawcett, in his book Cambodia: A Book for People who Find Television Watching Too Slow, made literary use of the kind of attention splitting that happens when a reader is following one text and, at the same time, trying to keep track of the supporting information from another, or many other texts. I appreciate all the information people provide, while suffering mentally and ocularly.

Like a novice mariner lost at sea, I keep my eye peeled  for literary fiction writers who are in the same boat I hopped into a few months ago. A life boat of sorts. A literary lifeboat. For when conventional publishers do not share one's vision for presenting her work, there is now the option of e publishing. I thought I snagged a kindred spirit the other day, someone whose sense of humour and publishing experience led me to believe we might develop an on-line friendship. I was about to order one of her books when I saw that her novels are for young adults. No reason why I can't befriend a writer of young adult novels, and yet... Most of the writers whose posts I have read so far produce books that fit on easily labelled shelves.

I am still a baby in this new world, even if a veteran writer. The good news is that You Again, the third in the Shinny's Girls Trilogy, is now available as a separate ebook and will soon be available in print, with another great cover by Stephen (p0ps) Harlow.