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Mini Habits (They’ll change your writing life!)

March 1, 2019– I was boarding a flight in Toronto recently, and while we were getting on the plane, I overheard a woman and her son talking about a book. Of course, I’m always interested in book recommendations, so I continued to eavesdrop. The young man said quietly to his mother, “This book is amazing, it’s easy, straightforward, and I think this will work for what I’m trying to accomplish!” The book that he had in hand was titled, Mini Habits: Smaller Habits, Bigger Results. I headed to my seat and took out my phone because the boy had piqued my curiosity. Of course, I had no idea what he was trying to accomplish in his life, but I thought the book sounded intriguing and he sure seemed to believe in it!

I looked up the book jacket info on Amazon and read some of the reviews; they were pretty impressive. I downloaded the audio version and plugged in while we waited on the tarmac. The book, in a nutshell, is about how most of our behaviour happens on autopilot and if we set small goals such as a single push up, once we’re in position, we’ll always do more. Eventually, these small goals will become habits, and we will operate from a place of automation instead of force. So, how can mini habits change your writing life? I’m so glad you asked!

  1. You’ll exceed your goals if you start small. When I first became an author, I created mini habits unbeknownst to myself; I would write every day for only fifteen minutes. Soon those fifteen minutes each day became a habit and the fifteen minutes turned into an hour or more. I have an author friend who started writing only fifty words per day. Soon, his fifty words per day multiplied into fifteen pages per day. The point is, if you set a small goal and stick to it, you’ll reach your goal, and you’ll be motivated to do more.
  2. You’ll create discipline without out even realizing. If you create a mini habit of listening to a business audio book every time you get in the car, or a mini habit of reading one page of a book per day, you’re creating discipline in your life and discipline equals freedom. You would have a massive amount of knowledge in one year if you read one page per day or listened to something while traveling! These mini habits will translate into big results because they will become as automatic and as disciplined as brushing our teeth before bed. Why do we brush our teeth before bed? I don’t know, because it’s a habit that we’ve had since childhood and we just do it. See what I mean?
  3. You’ll get out of your comfort zone. I make it a mini habit of handing out one business card per day. It doesn’t seem like a lot, but over the course of a year it sure adds up! You can cover a lot of ground and grow your writing business if you just implement this one small thing. You could use this approach for sending out queries, submitting manuscripts, connecting with a stranger, or meeting new people. Having a mini habit is an excellent way to get you out of your comfort zone and into a better writing life. Imagine sending 300+ queries out to publishers or agents in a year? That’s a lot of action, and statistically, something is bound to happen!

Start with small mini habits and watch them grow into something amazing! In a later post, perhaps we’ll talk about taking this concept one step further with habit stacking. Stay tuned!

 

 

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How to Write a Book Review

February 18, 2019– Today we’re talking about book reviews; wait a second, there is a format for writing a book review? Let’s get real, there are formats for every piece of writing that you could ever think of!

Book reviews offer you a chance to share your perception of a book’s good and bad parts and to share info with other readers that they may find useful. Of course, book reviews also allow others to decide whether they should read the book themselves.

Here are the do’s and don’ts of writing a book review:

  1. Do provide a general overview of the book. Include the author, title, publication info such as the publisher and year of publication, and genre. In a few sentences us a taste of the book and your overall opinion of it.
  2. Do say WHY you liked or disliked the book. Be specific! What did you love about it? What did you hate about it? What could have made it better?
  3. Do take a stand. The whole point of a book review is to make a recommendation to your reader. Remember that it is possible to like and dislike parts of the same book! Don’t be afraid to share your opinion!
  4. Don’t give too much away. If you’re reviewing fiction don’t give away key points of plot or the ending or twists that could ruin it for other readers.
  5. Don’t make your review too long. A paragraph or two will do. Pick the thing that interests you most and the thing that you think will most interest your readers.
  6. Don’t be a jerk. If you didn’t enjoy the book, that’s fine, but don’t be insulting. Let your reader know why you were disappointed in the book while still being calm and unemotional.

So there you have it! I look forward to reading your reviews online for some books I’m thinking of reading!

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Your Next Novel Could Already Be On Your Bookshelf…

February 13, 2019– First, let me say a very happy birthday to my momma. I love you and thanks for supporting me in everything. You are the best, and I’m so glad you’re my mom.

You read the title of this post correctly in that your next novel or storybook could very well be sitting on your bookshelf right now! I’m not talking about plagiarizing or copying other artists work, I’m talking about inspiration. As authors, we own a ton of different books that range from fiction to non-fiction, to romance, thrillers, biographies, magazines, historical fiction, and everything in between because we read as much as we write.

A few months back when I decided it was time to pitch a children’s story to some agents in New York, I knew I needed some fresh material. I also knew that I made a promise to myself that in 2019 I would use what I have. Now, normally, I would have gone to the bookstore and bought a bunch of books for inspiration, but this time, I went to my well-stocked library and pulled a book off the shelf. I was determined to take an idea and make it into a story, and that’s precisely what I did. I can’t give you any more details on this until it’s the right time, but I’ll update this post with news from what transpired with the agents:)

So, how can you use what you have on your shelf to write a great story that’s your own? Here’s how:

  1. Start with non-fiction. You’ve heard the old adage that truth is stranger than fiction and if you’ve ever thumbed through a newspaper you’ll know that it’s true! Use headlines from your daily delivery that catch your attention. Here are few that I’ve put in my back pocket for later use: Woman searched for 24 years for the daughter she was forced to give up, Kitty hitches 40 km ride to Grimsby in a garbage truck, and Spiders Alive-The eight-legged exhibition. Also, think about using some headlines from around the world, a quick Google search will help you find inspiration.
  2. Page 47, paragraph 2, sentence 3– This is a fun way to start a story! Quick, go to your bookshelf and choose a book. Turn to page 47, paragraph 2, sentence 3. Here’s what I found from the book that I chose by following the above directions: Toe wrestling began in the town of Wetton in 1970. How awesome is that for a starter? You can do this with any book and with any numbers you choose.
  3. Turn to professional publications– I subscribe to a bunch of publications that are relevant to writing and publishing and one of my favourites is Writer’s Digest. It’s always packed full of information and good advice and sometimes even an idea or two. Pick up your trusted magazines either digitally or the ones that are covering the sofa and flip through them for ideas. Here’s one that I picked up from the most recent issue of Writer’s Digest: Investigative reporting often involves tracking down reluctant sources… Are you thinking what I’m thinking? What about a story about a reporter who goes to get answers from a source and they end up running for their life? What if they’ve uncovered a secret that’s too big to keep hidden? What if the reporter finds out that the reluctant source is their spouse? And the list of ideas go on and on.

There you have it; inspiration for your next book is almost certainly lurking in the corners of your bookshelf! It’s up to you to find it:) Happy Writing! X LLB

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Fun Facts about Our Books!

December 10, 2018- This is super fun! Each one of our books is very special in their own right. Check out the details below on what’s hiding in our books!

Picture books: 

  • Did you know that in Miranda the Very LOUD Mouse, there is a hidden piece of cheese on almost every page? Can you find them? Also, on the page where Miranda is at the museum, there are some pretty famous art pieces that include Michelangelo’s David statue, Starry Night painting by Van Gogh, The Scream painting by Edvard Munch, and of course, The Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci.
  • The book Pants, by Tamara Botting, has different pieces of fabric that were digitally scanned in to get the colours and textures on the page. This book also contains colouring pages at the back for kids to design their very own pair of pants!
  • Martin the Tap-Dancing Frog and Spiders Wearing Sweaters are both hand painted and then scanned in digitally to an illustration program! That’s why both books have such a unique look. Also, Spiders Wearing Sweaters can be ordered with or without the adorable plush spider that came in your kit!
  • Sammy, the Singing Cat, features some very famous Jazz artists on the wall of one of the music schools; Miles Davis, Ella Fitzgerald, and Frank Sinatra make a cameo, but this time in animal form!
  • The Adventures of Milan and Friends; Trouble with Trolls (A Halloween Tail) has the titles of our books on the spine of the books that are featured in the treehouse! Plus, there’s a tribute to all of our animal friends that we have lost, on the wall of the same page. Also, Milan is a real golden retriever in the author’s life!
  • Phillip Star has the best ending! You’ll have to read it😊
  • Panda, the Very Bad Cat, is based on the author’s real cat named Panda and a smug shot of said cat is featured in the back of the book. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of this title is donated to animal shelters to help animals in need.
  • Deer Diary features a sneak peek on an overlapping character! There is a poster on the wall of the last page that features the character Frog from Martin the Tap-Dancing Frog.

 All of the books by Lacey L. Bakker, feature a PANDA in one form or another as a hat’s off to the book that started this entire company and adventure which was Panda, the Very Bad Cat!

Mid-Grade Books:

  • Unfrogged, by Tamara Botting, features a princess named Meredith who is based entirely on the author and how clumsy she is. Tamara let this book sit for ten years before getting it published!
  • The Old Farmer’s Treasure– is based on the author’s husband’s childhood in Northern Ontario. There is also a sequel to this book coming in 2019 where the boys are all grown up!

 Adults Only:

  • Obsessed with Her– Was consulted on by the head of the Toronto Homicide Unit for not only credibility in some scenes, but also accuracy! This book is rated R and had to have a sticker put on the front of it because of the complaints that we were receiving. It has mature themes, language, and violence, and is not for the easily offended or squeamish. Also, the PREQUEL to Obsessed with Her, titled, Becoming James Cass, will be available for pre-order on our site in January 2019 and will be released in February 2019. This book currently has a 4.5-star rating on Good Reads. While the author was writing this book, her husband was away for five weeks, and she had to stop writing because she was scared to be alone! A lot of people think the author of this book is a man, but they are mistaken. And one more thing? The front cover gives away the ending:)

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Surprise; You’ll Want In On This!

November 21, 2018– This was a really fun idea for us to come up with and I’m so excited to share it with you guys! Pandamonium Publishing House is offering you a chance to read what we’re reading each month with a surprise book, mailed right to your home. Currently, this option is for adults only, but I’m sure we’ll have something for kids in the works, soon!

We read a ton of books around here, last year the total was sixty! We read everything from non-fiction, self-help, business development, mystery, romance, thrillers, all types of fiction, and basically anything that we can get our hands on.

Our surprise book is shipped out every month on the 5th. Your book comes gift wrapped for an extra element of fun! Here’s how the program works:

  1. Go to SHOP at the top of this page
  2. Click on the MYSTERY BOOK OF THE MONTH option
  3. Enter your payment and shipping info
  4. Wait for your surprise book to come in the mail

That’s it! Pretty simple and there are no subscriptions required if you want to join one month but not the next, no problem, the choice is yours!

As an added bonus, there will be a list of questions emailed to you for discussion with us or your book club. We’ll review each book on our site as well. This makes a fabulous and unique gift for the hard to buy for person in your life…we all have one;)

Here’s to making reading exciting,

X LLB

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November 18th is High-Five a Librarian Day!

November 16, 2018– This year, November 18 falls on a Sunday where most libraries are closed, but that’s no reason not to celebrate this super cool day a couple of days early.

Let’s face it, librarians are akin to superheroes…in my book anyway, no pun intended. The amount of help that they have provided me over the years is staggering; from finding reference books for research purposes, or recommending the next best thriller, to having me as a guest speaker at an event that they’ve organized, I take my hat off to them for all of their excellent service and knowledge. Thank you for everything.

It saddens me that where we are, librarians are being phased out in schools and there’s no such thing as a library anymore, it’s been replaced with something called a learning commons. I remember as a student relishing in the days that we got to go to the library to pick our books and the magic that the choosing entailed. Our librarian would read us a story before we chose our books and that was the best part of the day. It’s terrible that kids won’t experience this anymore as cutbacks and the bottom line seem to be the topic of conversation in the school system these days.

My elementary school librarian fostered my love of reading and perhaps subconsciously, she added to my desire to be an author and to be surrounded by books at all times.

So, today, tomorrow, and on Monday, be sure to high-five your favourite librarian! They deserve to be appreciated each day of the year, but especially today.

X LLB

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E-Books Vs. Print (Are Print Books a Dying Breed?)…

November 5, 2018- It really depends on the generation that you grew up in as to how you answer the question above! I personally think that e-books have their place in the world, but nothing beats a paperback.

I love e-books for specific things, especially non-fiction because quite rarely do I ever read a non-fiction book from cover to cover. I end up skimming the pages for the information I need, highlighting it, and then leaving with the info that I came for. It’s easy and free when you subscribe to something like Kindle unlimited.

That being said, nothing beats the smell of a paper book. The feeling of turning the pages, the sound of the pages turning, folding down the corner of the page to mark where you left off (I know, I’m a monster!), and the kinesthetic involvement of the entire experience is the absolute best. E-books don’t hold a candle to traditional paper in my opinion.

Now, I know what some of you are going to say, “But I love my Kindle for the portability of the books when I go on vacation!” Yes, I do too, but if I could bring along seven or eight of my favourite paperbacks without taking up too much room in my suitcase, I would.

Let’s look at some reasons why paperbacks are making a come back.

  1. Physical books make a better gift. When was the last time that you gifted someone an e-book? That’s what I thought, probably never. There’s something about the process of wading through a bookstore to find the perfect book for someone you love. They open the gift bag or tear off the wrapping paper and immediately flip the book over to read the back cover, then they thumb through the pages and tell you that they can’t wait to snuggle up and read it tonight!
  2. Physical books are easier to share. Yes, you can share e-books and lots of people do, but paperbacks are easily shared from reader to reader. Do you know how many times I’ve lent friends books never to see them again…the books not the friends. Yep, it’s true, paperbacks make their way into the hands of many people. My suggestion is that if you love a particular title, buy two of them because the one you lend will never return.
  3. Reading a print book sets a good example for your kids. We want kids to read, we want them to experience the magic of books, and we want them to use their imagination. What better way to get kids to read than to be caught reading, ourselves? Monkey see monkey do.
  4. Paper books are easy to scribble on. I know that some people are gasping in horror while reading this sentence. Yes, I mark important passages in books and I even scribble down thoughts in the margins. As an author, there are a lot of ideas that pop into my head while reading and sometimes a certain passage will speak to me. I highlight the words, underline sentences, and box off really important points.

So, which camp are you in? E-books or paperback? Sound off in the comments below!

X LLB

 

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Happy Halloween, Friends!

October 31, 2018– Halloween is officially my favourite holiday. Ok, so it’s not really a holiday, but I think of it as one. The decorating with skulls, black cats, and spiders inside and outdoors, candy, and of course, costumes! What is there NOT to like? I admit we go all out for Halloween because it’s the most wonderful time of the year. So, in celebration of this beautiful day, I’m going to share some interesting facts with you about one of the greatest spooky books of all time, Frankenstein by Mary Shelley.

  1. Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein when she was only 18 years old and by this time, had two children. Frankenstein was published by the time she was 20!
  2. Frankenstein was born out of an unusual climate. It was when Lord Byron suggested a ghost story competition while the Shelley’s visited Switzerland during the year without summer. The group of friends was forced to stay inside most of the time because of the immense amount of rain and they read ghost stories to beat the boredom. Of course, Mary was the winner!
  3. Mary got the idea for Frankenstein from a dream. She began working on her story the next day, and said, “What terrified me will terrify others.”
  4. Frankenstein is the name of the doctor, not the monster! Victor Frankenstein is the scientist. The monster remains unnamed and is referred to throughout the book as monster, creature, demon, and it.
  5. The book was slammed by critics. Of course it was, insert eye roll here, because people didn’t understand it. In 1818 when the book came out, critics bashed it and said about the work, “What a tissue of horrible and disgusting absurdity this work presents.” Sigh, I hope one day someone will say that about my works.

I hope you learned some things you didn’t already know about this amazing novel, written by an equally fantastic woman. If you haven’t read Frankenstein, I highly recommend it. Have a safe and happy Halloween from all of us at Pandamonium Publishing House!

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Let’s Talk About Book Clubs…

October 3, 2018- Ahhh, book clubs! I will say that I’m a huge fan of them and the discussions that take place over wine or coffee with friends. A couple of years ago, I started a book club, and our first meeting was in the summer in my backyard; it was also our last meeting. We read The Little Old Lady Who Broke All The Rules. To be honest, I wasn’t a fan of the book, and I hoped for a lot more from it from what I had read on the back. Sometimes that’s a problem, isn’t it? We expect the inside of the book to be as good as, the back cover. But, now I’m rambling. Here are four tips for hosting a book club:

  1. Get some friends together and figure out what you’re going to read. What we did in our group when it came to choosing a book, it was the hostess picks first, then we take turns by birth month. If you have two people who are both born in the same month, the person with the earlier date goes first. It’s pretty diplomatic this way, and it also allows you to read outside of your genre which I’m always harping on!
  2. Set a time, date, and timeline. You need to decide how long the book will take to read, how long the book club meeting should be, and when the book club meeting will take place. For example, your book club could take place every third Tuesday of the month, the discussion is an hour long, and the book needs to be read in a month. It’s easy when you have a schedule to abide by.
  3. Choose a location. Again, what we did, was give each person a turn to host the book club in their home. If we were reading your book choice for the month, you were also the host of the book club meeting. Don’t feel any pressure to use this method though, you can comfortably host a book club at your local library or even a park, restaurant, or public place.
  4. Get your thoughts together. At our book club, w decided that we were just going to have an open discussion about the book and the characters with really no end game in mind. Sometimes the questions got off topic, and sometimes we were able to really stay in the moment. What I would recommend this time is to have a list of questions prepared. Perhaps every member could bring three questions or subjects to discuss that have to deal with the theme, characters, or even the style of writing. You could also talk about the ending, the parts you didn’t like, and why.

Unfortunately, life got in the way of us carrying on our book club, and we kind of let it dissolve on its own. I’d love to start one up again one day soon, and in this day and age, there are so many ways to stay connected! Think outside of the box and maybe think about hosting a Skype-based book club or a chat room book club, but most of all, have fun!

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What is Stormwriting? Do You Know?

September 5, 2018- We’ve all heard of brainstorming and I’m confident that as writer’s, we tend to do this to a fault. I say to a fault because of how much time we spend brainstorming instead of writing, which is really what we should be doing instead.

Brainstorming, as we know, is where you start with a blank piece of paper in front of you and you’re supposed to come up with new ideas. There’s a problem with the rigidity of this. We think that we’re just supposed to write down ideas, single words, and we are encouraged to think laterally.

What if I told you there was a better way? Enter Stormwriting! Here’s how to do it:

  1. Gather writing materials
  2. Find a cozy place
  3. Write down your idea at the top of the page
  4. Write down EVERYTHING that has to do with your idea.
  5. Use Yes and What if as your guiding questions.
  6. Keep writing, don’t edit! Just get it on paper.

Let’s do an example from one of my own novels set to launch next year:

My Name is Jessica Westlake (is the title so I put this at the top of the page)

  • Her name is Jessica Westlake, why is her name Jessica Westlake? Has this always been her name?
  • She is blonde with blue eyes, tall, trim, married, no children, having an affair with her neighbour
  • Her husband is a high profile lawyer, he cheats on Jessica with the mistress that works for him
  • They are rich in money but poor in morals
  • They have a big house, a maid, and nice cars
  • Jessica grew up poor, her parents were horrible and they did things to her that are inexplicable
  • They live in Boston in a very expensive neighbourhood
  • Her husband is abusive and treats her like garbage
  • What if the husband catches Jessica and the neighbour? What if he seeks vengeance for what they’ve done?
  • What if things were more complicated? What if the neighbour was also cheating with the husband?

See what I mean? It’s pretty easy to go down the rabbit hole on this exercise, isn’t it?

Also, this contains ZERO  spoilers for my next novel:) I wouldn’t ruin it for you! Now get stormwriting!

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