10 Tips to Improve your Book Reading


Photo credit I.Gay-Elgueta

Another Denman Island Readers’ and Writers’ Festival has come and gone. This was the third year I braved the stage to do a book reading. Why this particular feat should unnerve me, when in my working life I had no trouble rattling on in front of an auditorium full of people, I have no idea.

Well, I suppose I have one idea. These readings are timed. I have twelve precious minutes in which to hook my audience; twelve minutes to make a positive impression; twelve short minutes to turn listeners into readers, and I’m loath to waste a single moment of my allotted time.

As a result, I trim my reading to come in just shy of the twelve-minute mark. Trouble is, it’s only shy of twelve minutes if I read on stage at the same pace at which I’ve practiced.

I know what you’re thinking. Why not choose something shorter? Something that runs, say…ten minutes? Save myself a boatload of stress. Yeah, I should do that, but did I mention I’m loath to waste a single moment?

I may never get over my jitters, but regardless of whether the readings are timed, I have learned a few things that you might find helpful if you find yourself on stage with your book in your hands.

  1. Choose a selection that not only represents your work, but ends on a note that leaves your audience curious to know more.
  2. Avoid or remove spoilers.
  3. Replace the names of minor characters who aren’t pivotal. E.g. “Dr. Emery Coulter,” becomes “my doctor.”
  4. Delete references to events that occur either before or following the selection, but which aren’t explained or relevant within the passage. They will only add confusion to a short piece.
  5. Practice your reading standing up and speaking out loud. It makes a difference to the timbre of your voice and the timing, trust me.
  6. Give a brief introduction to the book and, if necessary, its genre. It will give your audience a basis from which to listen.
  7. Set up the scene and introduce the characters who are in the selection you’ve chosen. It will help your audience come out of the gate with you instead of struggling to keep up.
  8. Pause at the end of quotes. “My name is Emelynn,” (pause) she said.
  9. Use your voice to colour the words. Cold should be a short, hard slap. Warm should be a soft caress, drawn out to melt on your tongue.
  10. Know the passage well enough to be able to glance away for a moment and engage the audience.

Listening to other authors read at festivals is a great way to pick up tips on what works and what doesn’t. My favourite readings are from those authors who are able to step into an actor’s role and animate their reading. I’m not there yet with my own readings, but I’m working on it.

Have you read your work in public? What tips would you add to the list?

If twelve minutes isn’t enough for you either, you can download The Gift: Awakening in its entirety with one click here.
Posted in Book Reading, Marketing Your Book, Writer Festivals | Tagged , , , , , | 8 Comments

Writing Process Blog Hop

If you’re curious about what goes on in the mind of a writer, and how they get those thoughts down on paper, you’ve come to the right Blog Hop. Writing processes are as varied and interesting as the authors themselves.

The blog hop is much like a relay race, and Diana Stevan has just passed me the baton. (Ooh, maybe not such a good analogy – now I have visions of tripping, or … horrors … dropping it.) At the end of this post, I’ll introduce Mike Grant and George Henry, two fabulous authors who’ve agreed to carry the baton onward.

I met Diana and her writing critique group over lunch in Campbell River, British Columbia, a year ago. What a treat to meet this lively group of writers who so generously shared their collective experiences of writing and publishing in Canada. And the generosity continues today. Thank you, Diana, for inviting me to the Writing Process Blog Hop. You can read about Diana’s writing process here.

Diana’s support and enthusiasm have been infectious. As a writer, she has a wealth of experience to draw on. She’s been a clinical social worker, a freelance writer/broadcaster, an actress and an online TV host. Diana has written three screen plays and is now on the verge of publishing her debut novel, A Cry From The Deep. It comes out in October 2014 and I can’t wait to read it.

And without further ado…

What am I working on?

I’m working on an as-yet untitled book featuring some of the characters introduced in The Gift Trilogy. It’s another contemporary thriller with a twist of fantasy. This one is set on and around Granville Island in Vancouver, British Columbia.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

My work falls into both the thriller and the fantasy genres. Most people know what a thriller is, but the fantasy label means different things to different people.

I think it’s because the fantasy genre casts a wide net. It includes the high fantasy of JRR Tolkien’s the Lord of the Rings, the urban fantasy of Charlaine Harris’s Sookie Stackhouse Series and the low fantasy of JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series. The genre can include trolls, fairies, werewolves and wizards or none of them. In fact, any genre can become fantasy with a dash of magic.

And it’s my particular dash of magic that makes my work different. There are no vampires, witches or dragons, just people like you and me. My characters could be your colleagues or neighbours. They teach your children and take your order at the lunch counter. You’ll never know they’re different, because even if you catch them in action, you won’t believe your eyes.

Why do I write what I do?

Because I love the genre. I read a wide variety of work, from the classics to humour and everything in between, but it’s the fantasy genre that grabs and holds my attention. I take refuge in the idea that phenomena exist in this world that science hasn’t figured out yet. I like the mystery and the thrill of not knowing. It keeps the possibility alive, like holding on to unchecked lottery tickets.

How does my writing process work?

Most days, I simply sit down and write. Mornings are best and coffee is a must. I have a comfy chair, a laptop computer and a beautiful view. I use MS Word and keep three documents open when I’m writing: the manuscript, a detailed description of characters and places, and a timeline of events. I don’t have an agent and I indie publish, so my deadlines are my own.

With my first book, I started with one scene then built the story around it. Now I do a lot more planning when I write. I have a general outline of the story and my goal each day is to write a scene. I don’t worry about word counts or days that I spend researching and planning instead of writing. It’s all part of the process and some of those planning days are gold mines in terms of plot twists and sequencing. I carry a notebook around everywhere I go and jot down ideas, descriptions, phrases and any other interesting tidbits that come my way. The other day I wrote, “Where dreams take flight.” I think I’ll use that as a tag line.

And now I’d like to introduce you to Mike Grant and George Henry . They will be answering the Writing Process Blog Hop questions on their respective blogs on July 21, 2014. Please do check them out.


White_Wolf_Moon_by_Mike_GrantI met Mike Grant in 2012 when we were both in the process of learning the indie partner-publisher ropes. I’ve followed his career and his blog with interest ever since. The video trailer for his debut novel, White Wolf Moon, remains one of my favourites. You can find him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/mikegrantwwm

Here’s a little more about Mike in his own words:

I was born at Fort George, Scotland, in 1947, moving to Canada with my family in 1955. As an army brat I spent a decade in various locations across the country finally settling in Edmonton, Alberta, in 1964. With careers in radio broadcasting, advertising, and photography under my belt I moved to Kamloops, British Columbia, in 1994.

I’m an organized hoarder with a roomful of toys/collectibles, music/movies, and books…lots of books. I watch, read, and listen to most genres, depending on my mood.

I’m married with three children, six grandchildren, two cats, and a rabbit.

Visit Mike’s blog at http://grafixpblog.wordpress.com/


Love_&_Death_in_Trieste_by_George_HenryAnother author you’re sure to want to connect with is George Henry. George was one of the first authors I met on Twitter and his witty sense of humour brightens my day. For a self-professed Luddite, he does pretty well in the Twitterverse (Follow him ) and on his blog. He also has not one, but two video trailers for his debut novel, Love and Death in Trieste. This is the first, and this is the second.

George is a well-travelled educator who loves the thrill of visiting foreign countries (about forty so far) and experiencing their cultures. Besides history, cuisine and architecture, he is particularly fascinated by language and religion. (Nowhere will he not try to speak the language with the locals, whether they like it or not.) These are facets of human civilisation he likes to bring to his fast-paced thrillers, with a dash of the romance that is at the core of our existence thrown in.

George was born in England and after university moved to Los Angeles, California, USA, and to Toronto, Canada. He ended up living and working for almost thirty years as a college instructor in the biological sciences on Vancouver Island, British Columbia before he was put out to pasture—and had the freedom to travel.

He is currently completing a second thriller-romance novel, tentatively titled Recycled Love, based upon a trip with his wife and fellow author, Serena Janes, across the fabulous mayhem of India to the calm of the sherpas in Nepal. Love and Death in Trieste is his first novel and was written after an exciting trip through Slovenia, Croatia, Italy and Bosnia.

Visit the author at http://georgehenryauthor.com/

Posted in About Writing, Author Interview, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Meet Guest Author J.P. McLean

JP McLean:

Chris Graham is a tremendous supporter of authors, and today I’m thrilled to be featured in his guest author spotlight. Thank you, Chris.

Originally posted on Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog..... An Author Promotions Enterprise!:

Thank you, Chris for the work you do to support authors and help our work find new readers. It’s greatly appreciated.

Author Photo1 for ChrisMy name is JP (Jo-Anne) McLean. I used to like having a hyphen in my name, but that was before I wrote a book. I’ve come to realize that the hyphen just confuses search engines and readers alike. JP is much easier to spell and remember.

I’ll tell you more about me in just a moment. First, if you’ll indulge me, I’d like to introduce you to The Gift Trilogy. The books are far more exciting than me anyway. All three of the books are thrillers with a twist of fantasy. So, what are they about?

When you were a child, did you ever make a mistake? One that haunted you for years?

Emelynn Taylor did. Her mistake was accepting a gift from a stranger. She knew she shouldn’t…

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The Cumberland Connection

The small town of Cumberland on Vancouver Island knows how to do libraries right. Their new library is a bright, airy space that invites readers in to browse and stay a while. It’s located in a brand new building on Dunsmuir Street in the heart of Cumberland. When you stop by, you might want to cozy up to the beautiful fireplace, make yourself comfortable in one of the armchairs and lose yourself between the pages of a book.

Arlene Whetter, the Customer Services Librarian, invited me to the Cumberland library to read from The Gift Trilogy. What a surprise to arrive and see the warm reception prepared by Arlene, Adam Robinson and Tracy Dojack. Thank you for making me feel so welcome.

Inside-the-Cumberland-LibraryThe area in front of the fireplace resembled an intimate coffee shop setting, which is perfect for a reading. Donuts, brownies and a fresh pot of coffee awaited guests, some who’d planned to be there and others who just happened by.

No matter the size of the audience, it’s always a pleasure for me to read from the Gift books and reading at Cumberland’s beautiful, new library was no exception. It’s fun to hear the comments and field the questions that arise. As an author, you learn a lot from those questions, so thank you for that and thanks to those of you who stopped to listen. I hope you enjoyed the reading as much as I did.

J.P.-McLean-reading-at-the-Cumberland-LibraryThe Gift Trilogy books, Awakening, Revelation and Redemption are available to borrow from any branch of the Vancouver Island Regional Library. Enjoy the read, visit my website and stay in touch. Feedback is always welcome.

And if you’d rather own a copy, you can order The Gift: Awakening with one simple click here. Your adventure awaits…
Posted in Book Reading, Books, Library, Writing | Tagged , , , , | 9 Comments

Guest author J. P. McLean. The Gift Trilogy and when a gift is not a gift….

JP McLean:

I’m thrilled to be a guest author on Olga’s blog. She not only writes, she translates Spanish/English and is a terrific supporter of indie authors. Please look around her blog. You’ll find lots of interesting tid bits there.

Originally posted on Just Olga:

Hi all:

As always on a Friday I bring you a guest author. J. P. McLean (and she’ll tell us about the name herself) is an author of one of the groups I belong too and she is brand new to my blog, so I could not miss the chance of introducing her to all of you. You’ll soon see why.

First, let her tell you about herself:

Author J.P. McLean

Author J.P. McLean

First of all, thank you, Olga, for inviting me here. Your blog posts are always a treat and I’m thrilled to be included.

Some people question why I use J.P. McLean rather than Jo-Anne. I blame it on the hyphen. Jo-Anne is spelled many different ways so using J.P. makes me easier to find.

These days you’ll find me on Denman Island, which is one of the northern Gulf Islands off the eastern shore of Vancouver Island in British…

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Late Sunsets and Long Days

Late-Sunset-off-Denman-IslandI took this pic last night at 10:15. The sun was just setting.

Did I mention it was 10:15?

At night?

It’s not even the longest day of the year yet. That’s why I took the photo. I thought it would be good to have something to refer back to in January when the sun packs it in at 4:30 in the afternoon. A little something to remind me that summer’s coming…eventually…and it will be worth the wait.

Evening reading has never been more illuminating. If you want to light up your imagination, you can order The Gift: Awakening with one simple click here. Your adventure awaits…
Posted in Island Life, Seasons, Writing | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

The Social Media Gamble

Like most authors, I’m connecting with readers, writers and industry experts via social media on a daily basis. Some days, especially when I’m on the learning curve (or procrastinating), I spend more time on social media than I do writing.

A few days ago, in the midst of a marathon Twitter session, someone asked me what I would do if Twitter collapsed tomorrow.

It was a fair question. My heart sank as I blinked away visions of Myspace.

How would the demise of Twitter or Facebook impact me?

If I’m honest with myself, I would be devastated. I’ve spent countless hours there, learning the ropes, getting to know people, contributing as best I can. It frightens me to think how easily this social network that I’ve built could be forfeited. But it could.

Worst of all, most of the people I connect with on social media aren’t on my independent mailing list, so I’d lose touch with them entirely. That would be a tremendous loss.

It reminds me of the adage about not gambling more than you’re willing to lose. If time is my currency, then I’ve gambled plenty on Twitter and Facebook and it’s more than I’m comfortable losing.

Denman-Island-Berm-Garden-spring-2014It’s perhaps a timely reminder that the writing needs to be the priority. It’s what makes my world go round. Social media may be fun and it’s an important component of an author’s platform, but it’s the side dish, not the main course. So if I’m AWOL from social media from time to time, forgive me and rest assured that I’m spending the time writing (okay, maybe a little gardening, but mostly writing).

I’d hate to lose our connection and if you feel the same, please add your email address to my Book News list. You can unsubscribe at any time and I only send email when I’ve got a new book coming out or something big to announce.

And speaking of my book, if you haven’t yet read it, Amazon is still offering Book I for just $4.18. You can buy it with one click right here.
Posted in About Writing, Facebook, Social Media, Twitter, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

In Praise of Indie Book Stores…

Here’s a sight dear to my heart and one I never imagined I’d see:

The-Gift-Trilogy-books-in-Abraxas-BooksAll three of my books on the shelf at Abraxas Books here on Denman Island. I took this photo after the third book came out and must confess to popping into Abraxas Books far too often just to sigh and smile at the sight of them perched there.

I’m fortunate to live in a community so well served by a supportive book store and wanted to give them a well-earned shout out. Juan Barker is one of the owners and he has not only provided me with much needed guidance when I was new to the business, but he continues to go out of his way to promote local writers.

Inside-Abraxas-BooksThat’s him behind the counter in this photo taken at one of the book signings he organized. That’s me hunched over a book, way in the back.

And it’s not just Juan who makes you feel welcome. All of the partners and staff at Abraxas Books are knowledgeable and user-friendly. If you can’t find the book you’re looking for on the shelves at Abraxas, they’ll order it in for you…at a competitive price! That’s saying something in these days of mega stores and on-line retailers.

Buy local means something at Abraxas Books. They not only support local and indie authors, they also carry a selection of pottery, paintings and other crafts made by local artists. We really are quite a creative bunch here on Denman Island. (Likely has something to do with the winter rains that keep us indoors and the ferries that stymie our escape!)

So if you find yourself on Denman Island, turn left at the top of the ferry hill. You’ll find Abraxas Books at 1071 Northwest Road. Juan, Leslie, Corinne or Shaun will be happy to serve you.

Abraxas by phone: 250.335.2731 ~~ Abraxas by Email: abraxas9@telus.net

Look who else thinks that Abraxas Books rocks! Here’s a five-star review I found on Yelp, written by a customer from Seattle!
Posted in Abraxas Books, Books, Gratitude, Indie Book Store, Island Life, Writing | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

On the Topic of Poor Planning…

When I started writing about Emelynn Taylor and her Gift, I had no idea so many people would love her as much as I do. It’s such a thrill for me to learn that readers want to know if there will be another book.

The answer is YES! I’m happy to confirm that I’m currently working on a fourth book featuring Emelynn…but it’s got me in a bit of a conundrum.

The-books-of-The-Gift-TrilogyWhat do you call the fourth book in a trilogy?

The Gift started off as a stand-alone before it grew into a trilogy and now a fourth book is emerging. Clearly my foresight in this area isn’t stellar.

And the ideas just keep coming (some of them fueled by readers!) I can see Emelynn and her covey heading for a heap of trouble, and with the upheaval in the Tribunal, and their secret exposed, there’s no end of potential fodder. That is NOT a complaint; I love writing about Emelynn and I’m quite happy that The Gift Trilogy laid the groundwork for what may follow. The conundrum is what to call it?

Talk about poor planning! Book four cannot, obviously, be part of the trilogy. I could rename it a quadrilogy, but that doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, does it? And what do I do if yet another book comes calling?

I could really use your help. So far, I’ve come up with the Covey Chronicles (yuck), and The Gift Series (yawn).

Your input would be greatly appreciated. In fact, if I use your suggestion, I’ll give you credit in the book as well as my unending gratitude! Give it a thought…

And if you’re curious about what started it all, you can download a copy of The Gift: Awakening with one simple click here. Buckle up…your adventure awaits!
Posted in About Writing, Book Series, Books, The Gift Trilogy News, Trilogy | Tagged , , , | 20 Comments

E-ink or Paper?

This discussion comes up more often now that I have books for sale in both formats. For me, it’s not an either/or dilemma. I love my paper books. I love the way they smell, the heft of them, the feel of paper. I love beautiful cover art and the way books look on a bookshelf, ready to pluck off like ripe fruit and enjoy.

I also love my e-reader, but for different reasons. I love that my e-reader is light-weight for when I’m travelling. I love that if I wake in the night, I can open my e-reader and neither its light nor the rustling of paper will wake the Cave Master. I love that if I fall asleep reading, it won’t break my nose. I love that I can touch a word and instantly get a definition. It’s lazy, I know, but you can’t deny the convenience, and with an e-reader, you never need to worry that someone is judging you by your reading choices.

There are pros and cons to both formats. You can underline passages in your paper book, but if you’re anything like me, you’d never put a mark in your beloved book, let alone dog-ear a page. E-readers make it easy to bookmark and find passages.

Stack-of-books-on-floorAs an author, I can sign a paper copy of my book, and I get a thrill each time someone asks. That’s not something I do with my ebooks, though I know the technology is out there.

The author in me also likes that readers who don’t know my work might take a chance on me and buy the less-expensive ebook format. That’s not a bad thing—I do it myself all the time. And, if you aren’t familiar with the publishing business, you might be surprised to learn that I earn more on a $5.99 ebook sale than I do on a $24.99 trade paperback.

But regardless of its conveniences, E-ink will never replace paper books, at least in my world. In fact, I just purchased a brand new hardcover of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander, a book I’ve already read twice in paperback. I don’t even have the bookshelf space for it, but when I love a book, I want to hold it, smell it, caress its cover and feel the paper beneath my fingers.

If you’d like to add to your ebook collection, you can download a copy of The Gift: Awakening with one simple click here. Amazon has it on for just $4.17! Buckle up…your adventure awaits.
Posted in About Writing, Books, Ebooks | Tagged , , , , , | 10 Comments