Saturday, 24 November 2012

Blog Entry Five

Twenty years ago, the world of publication has such a different look and feel.  It was a time in which a writer sent his/her manuscript through the mail and waited for months in hopes of being published.  It was a time when being published meant that you had perhaps an agent and an editor, and promotion of your book was largely done by your publisher.  It was a world in which fans sent letters by mail and stayed connected only through books, the occasional interview published in a magazine or perhaps a little television exposure. 

Nowadays publication is vastly different.  Technology has created an opportunity for writers to self- publish cheaply, publish fast, and reach a worldwide audience like never before.  The opportunities are endless, the choices boundless and the possible outcomes exciting.  It is ever present and ever changing. 

Becoming a self-published author has been a learning experience for me.  I had only a general knowledge base with regards to the entire process.  Now I would admit I have learned a great deal, and I still have many mountains to climb, rivers to cross and miles to go before I arrive at my destination, my cabin of knowledge in the woods, and it is both warm with a strong fire burning in the fire place, and inviting, with its well- worn couch and chair positioned to face each other just so.  This is the place where I will curl up with friends and enjoy a mug of hot knowledge.  We will share our experiences and our insights as we revel in the satisfaction of knowing that we have found some measure of success after a long and worthwhile journey. 

My journey started with just an idea that I turned over and examined every which way for weeks.  Once I was convinced I had something worthy of my time, I decided to get to work.  I researched for months and became a babbling idiot at times, randomly spewing facts to anyone who would listen.  It was actually kind of fun.

Once I had completed my research and began the writing process, I must admit, there was a great flow involved as I only had to stop writing once in a great while to check my facts.  The entire writing process was perhaps five months. 

And here is where the real work began.  I edited the manuscript in every place imaginable, at work, at my doctor’s office, in the park, on the bus.  And guess what?  After that I edited it some more!  I edited it in my sleep I am sure.  I would guess that I edited it six or seven times. 

Then I handed it off to my editor.  She made some great suggestions and sent it back to me with so much red; I actually tripped over my bottom lip, which was extended towards the ground in an expression of great awe.  I asked her if it was normal to see so much red.  She assured me it was.

I took my time and went through the manuscript, applying her changes as I saw fit, which was if I could put a percentage on the changes I accepted, was perhaps about 90%.  (Now is the time to be quite startled.  It really was a manuscript worthy of much change.)  At this point I sent it back to my editor who made the changes and sent it back to me.

Of course I had to read through the entire book again, after all, in self-publication; with regards to your mistakes…well you wear them.  You have to decide how much work you are willing to put into the project.  It is an intimidating prospect, to think that if you miss enough mistakes, you end up with a book that is so full of mistakes that it is distracting and embarrassing.  Yet you accept this as a consequence and carry on. That is exactly what I did, and edited the manuscript another 6 times.

If you think that is the end of the editing journey you are mistaken.  Of course I did not fool myself into thinking it was, I was fully aware of the two rounds of editing my independent publisher allowed for.  I sent them my book and crossed my fingers.

Then I rolled up my sleeves because when they sent the book back to me, I discovered about 107 mistakes in the first round of editing, or on average one per page.  This sounds fairly good, but it actually was quite frustrating to me.  Not only was it an indication of all that I had missed, it was a delay in my journey.  I corrected the mistakes and sent it back, with a great deal of hope that it was the end.

When I received the document back, with my changes made, I was so hopeful that it would be mistake- free.  Frustratingly it was not.  The document came back and I found perhaps 50 mistakes.  Wow, after all that editing and still I found on average nearly a mistake every other page.  I was discouraged.  I made the changes and sent it back, hoping for perfection and knowing that the editing was done as I had used both editing rounds.   Now all I could do was sit back and wait.

This is where the journey became a real challenge.  I was trying to pace myself through the dark, bumping into the unknown along the way.  It is such a learning curve, to self -publish and take responsibility for promotion. 

Of course I started with what I knew.  I knew a Facebook fan page was essential-and free.  I started one up and used it to promote my book, and I also filled it with images of the Halifax Explosion.  I then decided that a website was a relatively cost effective tool to try to gain a following.  So I had one created.  This is where a deeper understanding of website creation and design would have served me well.  I had little to do with the creation and I don’t actually manage it.  The thing is, I wish I would have known that my website cannot allow for a discussion board.  I think that some sort of way of interacting with people is essential for any website.  Then I turned to my twitter account, which I had created a few years back and begun tweeting about my book.  Finally I created several blogs in the hopes of gaining a following, which I am sure, will happen over time.

Recently I have created a book giveaway through Goodreads.   Here is the link.

I am still learning, still putting the pieces of promotion together.  I know that consistently participating in online interaction is part of the journey.  It is a lot of work, but it also gives me a great deal of satisfaction to know that I am working towards my goals, and I am journeying to my cabin in the woods.  I will get there someday, that much I know for certain.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Why Halifax? Why during the explosion?
Recently I have been asked by numerous folks why I set my debut novel, “Through Cast Iron Gates” in Halifax and during the explosion. There are a multitude of reasons why and they continue to grow. Not one reason is more important than the other.
The truth is, I love Halifax and think it is the greatest city in the world, truly I do. Perhaps I will sound sappy when I say that the only fault I can find with the city is that the crime rate is too high and I wish it were lower, perhaps zero percent. Can’t we all just get along, love and respect each other? Okay, that sounds terribly sappy and grossly wishy-washy.
When I started to write the novel, I decided I wanted to make it relevant to the citizens of Halifax because of my deep love for the city. I only had to pick a time when I thought it would suit the tone of the book, which was to be highly tragic.
Of course it was an easy decision to make, writing a book set during the Halifax Explosion would definitely increase the tragic tone of the book. Sure there is the risk of being accused of sensationalizing the explosion, but that was a risk I was willing to take.
History lessons in school had fallen short, I knew of the explosion and had a vague notion of what it was really all about but I did not recall being taught the particulars. In fact I sure as heck could write a detailed paper on the French Revolution or Manifest Destiny, but not the explosion that occurred in our own harbour.
So I marched down to the local library and immersed myself in all they had, and took many of the books home that day. I went to a few bookstores and bought a copy of all of their books pertaining to the Halifax Explosion. I tirelessly searched the internet for more information and images that were posted with any relevance to the explosion.
For nearly two years I studied the topic. It became clear that it was time to really start writing when I was starting to pick up on the historical inaccuracies from one book to the next. I have heard it is easy to get caught up in the research, and I now know exactly what that means. No, I don’t consider myself an expert on the subject of all things related to the Halifax Explosion but what I can tell you is that my book is extremely historically accurate. There are only three points that deviate from actual events and two of them are insignificant. Only one point, which would be glaringly obvious to anyone who is well versed in all things related to the Halifax Explosion, is a significant departure from actual events.
It was not my intent to write a book that reads like a factual account, rather than a fictional account, so I am hoping my readership can look past the inaccuracies and enjoy the novel as for what it is. I can say that I left out many facts that just didn’t work with the plot-not to worry, I am sure some of them will make an appearance in the sequel, tentatively entitled (for the first time ever revealed to the public) “Janet-17”. I cannot give any other details, for now I will be keeping this project close to my breast.
I can say that I will continue to work hard to bring the best of me to the forefront. Please come back to my website from time to time for updates. I am working on numerous exciting things that I cannot wait to share.

Monday, 15 October 2012

Betty McEachern: Interview With The Weekly News

Betty McEachern: Interview With The Weekly News: Recently I was interviewed by Lori McKay of the Weekly News-a publication that is delivered to Dartmouth-Cole Harbour. It was a lot of fun...

Interview With The Weekly News

Recently I was interviewed by Lori McKay of the Weekly News-a publication that is delivered to Dartmouth-Cole Harbour. It was a lot of fun. I found Lori to be genuinely interested in what I had to say and she put me at ease straight away. She asked relevant questions. By the conclusion of the interview, I had come to realize that I like talking about myself and enjoy an interested ear. Sure it makes me feel conceited but I think it is also what drives me to write. The article, in my “humble” opinion, is tasteful. Lori hit upon all the important and noteworthy aspects of the interview. I hope to not only be interviewed many more times in the future, but to also interview others for my website. Below is the article, and I am also posting the link.
Promoting through social media:
The power of social media has given Dartmouth writer Betty McEachern a golden opportunity.
The social media concept has many companies trying to figure out how to position their services and products through platforms like Twitter and Facebook.
FriesenPress, a Canadian self-publishing company in Victoria, BC, created an online contest through Facebook in 2011 to drive traffic to their page and website. To enter, people had to submit a creative and original photograph that included a sign with the caption, "I Want To Publish With FriesenPress."
People who entered had one week to get as many votes as possible.
McEachern was the winner and publishing her debut novel, Through Cast Iron Gates, was the prize.
McEachern said she let all of her Facebook friends know about the contest, but it was her 20-year-old daughter’s help that did it.
“My daughter joined forces and helped propel me over the edge. All I wanted was to make it to the top five,” said McEachern, 38.
The story is set in Halifax during the Halifax Explosion and is considered historical romance, but McEachern says it also contains elements of horror.
She said so far the response from family, friends and co-workers who have read the book has been very positive. And Through Cast Iron Gates has recently been one of the No. 1 selling books on the FriesenPress website.
McEachern said she had always planned to self-publish her novel, so winning the contest was perfect.
She received the first copies of her book just last month.
The value of her contest win was approximately $1,500.
McEachern, who used to work at the Coles bookstore in Penhorn Mall, is currently working on a sequel.
To purchase a copy of Through Cast Iron Gates, visit the FriesenPress website at
. Copies of McEachern's book are also available online through Amazon, Chapters Indigo, and some other book retailers.
(End of article)

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Betty McEachern: How It All Began

Betty McEachern: How It All Began: I could see her face; I could hear her occasionally whisper my name. But she had to convince me she was worthy, that she was interesti...

Saturday, 8 September 2012

How It All Began

I could see her face; I could hear her occasionally whisper my name. But she had to convince me she was worthy, that she was interesting, and that she had purpose.
For nearly two years I did not listen and I was nearly successful in supressing her face from my visions. She revealed to me in snapshots at first. And when I finally let her in, she began to reveal to me her world, with all of the joy and pain that came with it. I could identify with her in some ways and in the ways I could not, I had sympathy for her.
To suggest that she could come to me and I could deny her forever was ludicrous. And she did have a name after all, in fact she always had. Perhaps this is what finally convinced me to give in and tell her story; Aubry MacNicholl’s story.
But there had to be more than just her story. There had to be an element of relevance. As a Haligonian, the choice was easy-tell her story in the context of the Halifax Explosion. With all of the important details decided upon, I set to work.
My knowledge of the Halifax Explosion was shaky. So I headed to my local library, surfed the internet and visited relevant sites, including The Maritime Museum of The Atlantic and the Memorial Bell Tower.
Nearly two years of research finally came to an end when I realized that I had put off writing for long enough. I was not learning anything new. In fact, I was so well versed in the explosion that I was easily able to find historical inaccuracies in many of the books I was reading/cross referencing. TO be sure, the inaccuracies were for the most part trivial and inconsequential.
Speaking of historical inaccuracies, Aubry’s story has a few. For those who know about the Halifax Explosion, I am confident the inaccuracies will shout out loud and clear, “Look at me, I didn’t happen that way.” Of course I would respond by stating that it is a work of fiction, and when I deviated from the facts, it was for a purpose. I would implore anyone who reads my book “Through Cast Iron Gates” to remember-my number on goal is to entertain, and I sure hope I’ve done that. Below is an excerpt from the book, which is nearing a release date. I will post links to purchase the book when it is released. Please-Enjoy.
Aubry MacNicholl was born to parents Grace and Francis in Halifax
in the summer of 1893. She was a beautiful baby, having inherited the
best of her mother and the best of her father. From her mother, she had
inherited her crystal blue eyes and warm and inviting smile. From her
father, she had inherited her red hair and prominent nose. It was not
long before her 13th birthday that she started to flourish.
By the time she was 17, she had become the object of affection of
many smitten and foolish men. Her long red hair, which she usually
parted to one side or the other, ended at the small of her back with
a whisper of a wave. Her smile was captivating and held a hint of
playfulness and a hint of shyness, which she used to her advantage in
social situations.
She was so stunning men would take notice from across a crowded
room and be driven to try to make a connection with her. Oftentimes,
these same men would long to be in her company well after her scent
had faded. Even married men would let fantasies play out that would
bring them to their knees in their darkest hours, leaving them nothing
more than infidels. Aubry knew she was stunning; she knew she had
the ability to leave even the strongest-willed men weak and ruined.
Yet there was a part if herself she kept hidden very well, like a secret
kept between best friends, never to be revealed. She knew she was different.
Though embarrassing as she might have thought her certain
personality traits to be, and as much as she kept her heart under lock
and key, she knew that one day, in order to be loved and in order to
love as deeply as her heart desired, she would have to reveal herself.
Truth be told, sometimes her passions and desires overwhelmed and
even frightened her. For her, each day was a blessing, and she spent
much of her time day dreaming and longing to be fulfilled.
What she dreamt of most often was love that most people would
never be able to conceive of, a love so powerful and engaging; it would
be all-consuming. It would more than exist; it would flourish through
any storm life would bring. She wanted a man who was as passionate
as she was, a man who was strong, so strong that he could surrender
himself to her entirely. Many dreaming days and sleepless nights this
desire had taken hold of her and refused to let go.
Until she was 23, the fates would not allow Aubry to be loved this
way. At 23, with her future ahead of her and her teaching degree in
hand, Aubry went to work at St. Joseph’s Grade School on Kaye Street.
It was a brisk 45-minute walk from her house at 16 Inglis Street, where
she still lived with her parents.
St. Joseph’s was an all-girl Catholic school that included students
from grades 1 to 8. Aubry, being one of only three teachers not to be
a nun, had often butted heads with some of the sisters, who not only
thought Aubry did not belong, but also saw her as a temptress. Aubry
was aware of the disapproval and the scorn that followed her down dark
and empty corridors. Still, she had her pride and she enjoyed teaching.
Her first year of teaching, in 1916, was a test of her dedication. Her
7th grade class consisted of 38 girls, many showing promise and an
aptitude for literature and history. At the top of her class were three
girls, Anne, Marie and Jane, and they were always competing with each
other to see who could obtain the highest grade on the latest math
test, or who was chosen to read out loud a passage from the Bible. On
occasion, other students would share in their classroom notoriety. It
brought Aubry great joy to teach such capable and attentive students.
It seemed that the children sensed the tension between the sisters
and Aubry, and played this to their advantage. One cold autumn day
there was an incident that would call into question Aubry’s ability to
maintain control over her classroom. With her back to the class, she
looked out towards Halifax Harbour and slipped into one of her daydreams.
She imagined herself wearing the most beautiful, sinful red
dress. It exposed her bosom and ran just past her knees. Her arms were
exposed entirely from her shoulders down. Her lover and husband held
her in his arms and kissed her so deeply that she felt she would melt.
He spun her around and they began dancing. Their embrace was…
“Miss MacNicholl, Miss MacNicholl!” As suddenly as she had
found herself in the arms of her lover and husband, she was back in her
classroom, and in the garbage can next to her desk burned a small fire.
“Children, stay calm and form a line single file toward the classroom
door,” she ordered. The children obeyed. Two children at the back of
the line were giggling and pointing. “Diane and Louise, this is no time
to,” she began but just then the flames climbed the legs of her wooden
desk and assignments, books and supplies caught fire. “Children, please
move quickly to the main door and gather outside by the playground.”
“Miss MacNicholl, what’s that burning smell?” Sister Mary
inquired, running from her classroom. In seeing the flames, Sister
Mary, nearly yelling, said, “Goodness, we must get the children out of
here and notify the fire department.” Ten minutes later, all 398 children
were present and accounted for. Eight minutes after that, horses’
hooves falling heavily on the narrow road announced the arrival of the
fire department.
By the time the flames were extinguished, the classroom had been
badly damaged. It had be gutted and cleaned extensively before Aubry’s
class could return. The work took a week and a half and during that
time, Aubry had to share a classroom with Sister Mary. It became apparent
to Aubry that Sister Mary regarded her with scorn and disdain, and
the students knew that Aubry might be teaching with borrowed time,
as well as with borrowed books.
Aubry was called before the headmistress, and an explanation was
demanded. Aubry did not know for sure how the fire had started or who
had started it, so she could offer little in the way of answers. Indeed she
was told she was teaching on borrowed time. If another such incident
occurred this school year, and with such consequences, Aubry would
have to look for work elsewhere. After all, someone could have been
hurt, or worse. Teachers needed to be in control in their classrooms,
and students needed to know that teachers were to be respected and
rules were to be abided by or there would be consequences.