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For the first time in a long time, here’s an author interview where I’m the author, not the interviewer!
Thank you, Fiona McVie, for making this happen.
Hello and welcome to my blog, Author Interviews. My name is Fiona Mcvie.
Let’s get you introduced to everyone, shall we? Tell us your name.
Hi Everyone! I’m Joanne Van Leerdam. I’m old enough for my spine to think it’s 90, and young enough for my brain to think it’s still 25.
Fiona: Where are you from?
I live in a country town in south-western Victoria, Australia. It’s not too far from the beach, and close enough to the city to visit if I want to, so it’s a perfect spot for me.
Fiona: A little about your self (ie, your education, family life, etc.).
I’m married with two furkids. I teach senior high school English and History part time, and am also involved in my local theatre company.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news.
I just spent a week camping by a river, where I spent my time…
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I’m starting the year well: with great books and reviews behind me, and my pen in hand.
At the end of last year, two of my books were included in the ‘Top 20 Books of 2017’ on Amy Shannon’s Book Blog. This was something that readers voted for, so to have two books make it to #7 and #8 respectively was a huge shock to me.
This has led to each book being featured this month, having received a fantastic 5 star review from Amy Shannon, who states on her book blog that “ratings of 5 stars have to be earned to impress me, and I just don’t give 5 stars to anyone’s work. ” That makes it even more exciting!
Her review of ‘Nova’ calls it “masterpiece poetry”.
Her review of The Passing Of The Night is equally enthusiastic.
What a great way to start the year! It’s rewarding to read reviews like this, but it’s also highly motivating.
So, I’m starting the year well: with great books and reviews behind me, and my pen in hand.
It’s time to focus my time and energy on what really matters: writing.
A week of camping by the river has given me opportunity for reflection about the past year, particularly in terms of my writing. I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished – two new books of poetry, two deliciously macabre horror titles, and two reinvented fairy tale novellas in a completely unique and absolutely gorgeous anthology collection. I’ve also had poems included in a couple of themed anthologies and a number of magazines. I have received emails and messages when something I’ve written has moved or helped someone else in a powerful way, which gives me confidence that what I write is actually pretty good. At this point, I’m highly motivated to move on and write more.
There is, however, a cloud in my silver lining. In my experience, the biggest downside of being an Indie author is that the demands of social media can be a whirlwind – marketing, promotion, teasers, creating new material to keep up momentum, engaging so that others don’t think you’re only there to push your own stuff… It’s easy to get sucked into that vortex and start to believe that marketing is the be-all and end-all of your writing career.
Yes, marketing and promotion matters. I want to find readers who will be interested in my books. But it’s not the most important thing. The most important thing for me to invest my time and energy into is writing.
The time has come to redirect my focus. Of course, I will still engage in social media and promote my work there, but I need to do it differently so that I spend more time each day writing than I do trying to leap across people’s screens to get noticed. I’m going to work out how to use Facebook‘s mysterious algorithms, which are set to change yet again, to my advantage instead of the other way around. Furthermore, I’m not going to give them one cent to achieve that. I’ll keep doing what I’m doing on Twitter, as that’s working well for me thus far. My blogs will see some revision, and hopefully some renewed focus there will have good results.
There are so many stories and poems I want to write. Some of the stories are planned and outlined. Some are just ideas at this point in time. The poems happen when the muse overtakes me, but I have quite a few ideas written down so that they can simmer away on the back burner of my mind, developing slowly until they’re ready to go. A renewed focus on bringing my ideas to life on the page for others to read will serve me well: writing is the most satisfying and therapeutic thing I do.
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My goals for 2018 are realistic and achievable… so here goes!
I’m not the world’s biggest believer in New Year’s Resolutions, because I’ve seen plenty of people make ridiculous decisions that fall over before January 5th.
Even so, I decided at this time last year to write down a few things I needed to do, and I did fairly well at achieving them.
So, I’m doing the same thing for 2018. Here are my goals for this year, in no particular order:
1. Beat the TBR Backlist – read and review the books in my kindle that I have not yet read. I haven’t counted how many books are on it… but I know it’s a lot.
2. Write and publish three more books.
3. Be kinder to myself. I am probably my own harshest critic and most demanding taskmaster. That needs to change.
4. Unleash the Squirrel! Grow his profile with Twitter, Facebook and the Book Squirrel blog with continued reviews, featured author interviews and a regular mailing list.
5. Build my Twitter list to 5000.
6. Be more consistent in posting to Instagram.
They’re certainly achievable, so here goes!
An honest response to the list of resolutions I wrote for myself a year ago.
Lots of people are talking today about New Year’s Resolutions. I haven’t always set a lot of importance upon them, but at the beginning of this year I did make some resolutions.
Today, I thought I should revisit them and evaluate my “performance”.
#1. Get 500 followers on Twitter.
Check! I started the year on about 317. Today, I have just over 3100.
#2. Write a review for every book I read.
So, there were two books for which I did not leave a review. They were… how do I say this nicely? The reviews would not have been positive, nor would they have helped to sell any further books.
I did, however, email both authors with my responses and comments. Hopefully they made some changes, hired an editor, and improved the quality of their book.
Goodreads tells me that I read and reviewed 68 books, so that’s a fair effort!
I’m checking that one off, too.
#3. Develop my book blog.
This is something of which I am very proud. Book Squirrel has spent the year featuring books, authors, new releases, and book reviews. On December 15th, Book Squirrel announced the inaugural Golden Squirrel Awards for Indie books of excellence.
This is a definite check!
#4. Publish two more books.
Done! In fact, I added five (Five! How the heck did I manage that?) more books to my author’s shelf, two in a new genre for me, and two novellas in a wonderful collection of reinvented fairy tales. I also have two poems published in two different anthologies, one on forgiveness and one on fairy tales and folklore. Whew!
#5. Be nicer to people.
In all honesty, I’ve tried. I haven’t always succeeded. But when I wrote this on my note almost a year ago, I had no idea just how much grace or forbearance I was going to need in order to survive some of the treatment I’ve received this year, either.
I want to give this a check, but with a “work in progress” disclaimer.
All in all, I think I’ve done okay. Some of these will feed into my resolutions for 2018. I’ll be posting about those tomorrow!
If you have suggestions, or reflections on your own resolutions, I’d love for you to leave a comment below.
There are a number of things I quite like about Goodreads.
So, I enjoyed looking over the page of stats they collated for me about what I’ve read in 2017.
As a reader, I enjoy Goodreads as book-nerdy social media.
I like being able to organise and “shelve” my books so that others interested in those sorts of books can find them easily.
I like being able to leave a review and a rating for those books so that people who find them can know more about them and hopefully choose to read them.
I like the goalsetting element of the “Reading Challenge” where you set a number of books that you plan to read in a year, and then the website keeps track of them for you.
I like it that my connections there can see what I’m reading and when I’ve left a review.
And I like being able to recommend a book I’ve read and enjoyed to friends with similar interests and tastes.
I have read a wide variety of books this year – short and long, popular and… less well known, from a wide range of genres. Historical fiction, adventure, horror, romance, mystery, thriller, contemporary, fantasy, sword and sorcery, magical realism, urban fantasy, kids’ books, Christmas stories and humour… they’re all represented. I’ve found some new all-time favourites and broadened the horizons of my knowledge and imagination.
Reading through the highlights and looking at the great cover art of the books I’ve read gave me a lovely sense of achievement and brought back some great memories of books I really enjoyed.
They say you should keep on learning until you die. Measuring by this list, I’m not dead yet.
These are the important lessons I’ve learned in 2017:
There are many authors whose work I love reading. My to-be-read list is populated with dozens of books by fine writers, many of them Indies who write every bit as well as traditionally published authors.
Some, though, are on a special list. These are the writers whose book I will buy with the “Buy with 1 click” button on Amazon without needing to read a blurb, check out the cover, or read reviews to see what others have to say.
Without an exception, these authors are brilliant writers who deliver original, interesting and entertaining books every single time. I love the way they use words and the ways in which they stretch and stimulate my mind.
These are my “One Click” authors – in no particular order of preference. They’re all at the top of the list.
In the past, I’ve nominated my favourite podcasts in various genres.
Today, I give you my top three podcasts of 2017.
Now that the year is almost over, I’m willing to narrow it down to my favourite three podcasts of 2017.
My criteria for these choices are simple: they’re enjoyable, entertaining and interesting. I never scroll past them to see what else is on offer in the 20+ various podcasts I subscribe to. Truth be told, I probably should unsubscribe from some of them – perhaps that’s an idea for a New Year’s Eve cleansing ritual or something.
So, without further ado, here are my top three podcasts of 2017:
1. Rex Factor In this absolutely brilliant podcast, the kings and queens of England followed by the kings and queens of Scotland are reviewed, ranked, and rated according to the qualities an ideal ruler should have. It’s both historical and hysterical. Don’t try to listen to this in the hope that it will lull you to sleep. It won’t. https://rexfactor.podbean.com/p/about/
2. Lingthusiasm This podcast explores different aspects of the English language in just over 30 minutes for each episode. It’s interesting, word-nerdy, and fun.
3. The British History Podcast A chronological history of Britain with a focus on the people and how they lived and died. It’s well told by a knowledgeable host with a very nice voice. Hey… it all helps.
If you have a podcast you really enjoy, I’d love to hear about it in the comments.
Today, I took the opportunity to ask Dad what Christmas was like for him when he was young.
I spent some time in the car with my father today, and as we travelled the presenter on the radio was asking people to call in and talk about family memories and traditions at Christmas time. This was a great opportunity to ask Dad what Christmas was like for him when he was young, so that’s exactly what I did!
My father grew up in Holland during the Depression and World War II. His family were not really poor, but neither were they rich. My grandfather worked very hard to provide for his family, and both he and my grandmother managed their resources carefully.
The house was usually not decorated much for Christmas, but they did have a Christmas tree lit with candles. Dad also remembers the large fir trees that were put up in the churches, almost as tall as the roof. Some were lit with electric lights, but most were lit with candles. As many churches were built of wood, this was a cause of many fires. I can understand how the sight of such a big tree, lit and decorated, in a church would imprint itself on the memory of a young lad.
Christmas was a time when family would visit and often put on Christmas plays for one another. It was usually the children, but sometimes grownups too, who would act out the story of the first Christmas or plays about Sinterklaas and his companion, Swarte Piet. A play like this was usually the only observance of the St Nicholas tradition in my father’s family, although for some Dutch families, Sinterklaas is almost as big a celebration as Christmas itself. By the time Dad was a teenager, it was more common for people to listen to stories or plays on the radio than to perform them at home for their relatives.
Gifts were generally not exchanged by adults, but the children received a book as a gift. Dad also remembers that this was the time of year when children of a certain age – probably 11 or 12 years old – were presented with a Bible of their own by the Sunday School of their church.
I can’t imagine how strange their first Christmas in Australia must have seemed to them in 1951. Even then, it would have been such a world away from how we celebrate Christmas now. Commercialism and materialism have seen to that.
Having just turned 86, Dad celebrates Christmas on the other side of the world in the heat of summer, with trees illuminated by LED lights, a plethora of Christmas movies and ‘Carols by Candlelight’ concerts on TV . Family is still a focal point for all of us – my grandparents’ values have been firmly imprinted on us in that way, even if we do indulge in giving and receiving gifts that are generally luxuries. Dad, his sisters, and their families are spread across this enormous continent, so visiting happens via Skype and phone calls, while photos and news are shared on social media.
I do like to think, though, that there is still a sense of wonder at a pretty Christmas tree being lit up at night, and I hope that people stop to hear and reflect on the story of Christmas that goes beyond reindeer, presents and “being good”.