Finally got a win!

In horse-racing, that is. I’ve delayed posting much since our horses weren’t doing so well. My husband switched trainers after a dispute over race selection, including one for our two-year-old filly who was about to run for the first time. A healthy, untested horse in a twenty-five thousand claiming race? No way. That is practically giving a horse away, once you factor in all the expenses, and the potential she may have. The new trainer, Reade Baker, entered her this past Friday in a much more prestigious Maiden Special Weight, with a purse of sixty thousand.

My husband wanted to name her Secretariat’s Honor, since Triple Crown winner Secretariat appears in her ancestry a few times. Depending on how she ran, this was either an apt name, or the height of hubris.

At Woodbine, two-year-olds only run against other two year olds. In this instant, ours was going against horses under other top trainers such as Mark Casse and Josie Carroll. One horse we were up against had sold for $250K as a yearling. On the plus side, Louis Contreras, one of the top jockeys, would be riding her. Then my husband contacted the breeder for the horse, and it turned out to be the first one she’d ever foaled. When she heard the filly was going to be racing for the first time, she flew up to Toronto from Kentucky. The pressure was on!

Anyway, the race went perfectly. She was first out of the gate, slipped into second place for only an instant, and then took the lead right to the end. Couldn’t have asked for better. Being superstitious, I chickened out of placing any bets on the race, but I’m just happy to finally have a win. A very exciting day.

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Pitching and fall baking

I have a new novel I’ve been querying, with the working title Destination Wedding. So far, no bites, but no dreaded ‘R’s either. Query purgatory and I’m getting ready to do another batch soon. This is what I’ve been sending out so far:

After an undisclosed tragedy, Marissa McLaughty finds herself back in the Western New York town she’d hoped to leave behind more than a decade ago. Single, thirty-five, and stuck in a floundering career, she tries to make the most of her pathetic love life by turning her date-from-hell stories into a blog.

One night, Marissa meets a gorgeous advertising executive named Alex. They hit it off straight away. Even better, traffic to her site starts taking off. Using fake names, vague descriptions and altered timelines in every post, she brags about how amazing he is. She dreams of marrying Alex while turning her blog into a profession.

Succeeding in both may be impossible, however, thanks to Alex’s ex-girlfriend Christine. She comes across Marissa’s blog and quickly identifies the “gorgeous hedge fund manager” as her ex. Obsessed with winning him back, she begins stalking both of them. She also digs up a past Marissa would rather stay buried, one that could cause both her budding writing career and her relationship to blow up on her.

Marissa figures eloping to the tropics will fix everything. By luring Christine to a nice, remote spot she’ ll get the ex out of Alex’s life for good.

I’ll probably run it through a critique forum before sending more as well.

In the meantime, I’ve been tweaking my mother’s banana bread recipe. Neither my husband nor I like bananas once they get a little speckled, so once they’re past a certain point, I let them get fully brown, then cram them into the freezer until I have enough for a fresh batch. With the last one, I finally got it just the way I like it – moist, not too sweet, with lots of flavor.

In a large bowl, blend the following:

4 very ripe bananas
1 egg
1/2 cup white sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 T molasses
4 T butter or oil
1/4 cup applesauce
1 t salt
1 t baking powder
1 t baking soda
2 c flour
1 c walnuts
1/4 t allspice
1/4 t nutmeg
1/2 t cinnamon
1/4 t cloves

Bake at 325 for one hour. Let cool on rack.

 

 

A Fortune Teller’s Luck Available on Amazon/Kindle

I uploaded this months ago, but I have done pretty much zero marketing (stupid, I know). Writing is a vastly different skill set than publicity and social-media savvy, but I do have to face that it’s the latter that will sell more books.

So here is the link for the Kindle edition. I looked into one promotional option and because I’m in Canada it wasn’t available, but I’ll keep looking.

Kindle version of A Fortune Teller’s Luck

 

 

When to write down ideas

When I first started writing, I tried to jot down pretty much every idea that came to mind – characters, bits of dialogue, a story idea, rhyme, you name it. Unfortunately, although I was in the habit of carrying a pen at nearly all times, I rarely kept a notebook handy. So I wound up with piles of receipts or gum wrappers or whatever was available when inspiration struck. Also, my handwriting is nearly unreadable (one of my professors said it resembled Hittite. AFAIK, Hittite has never been deciphered).

So I got more disciplined. I invested in a notebook (small, with a durable plastic cover) that I carried in my purse. However I’d frequently misplace said notebook (often under a pile of papers or books) and so I bought a few more so I’d always have one close by.

You can see where this is going, right?

I’d write down random snippets and then forget which notebook I’d put it in (and as the pages filled up, where in the notebook I’d written it). Worse, half the time I’d nix the idea altogether, delete the scene a particular line had been written for, or decide that no, I was never going to get around to that novel about an alien landing on Earth during the Viking era or that semi-autobiographical story of a person landing in Guyana in the aftermath of the Jonestown massacre. Of the ones that remained, for about half of them I’d waste half an hour puzzling wtf was I thinking at the handful of words that, at the time, I’d been convinced was a stroke of genius. Provided I went back and read any notes at all while I revising any particular story.

Finally, I decided, keeping notes was largely a waste of time. The best ideas seemed to stick in my memory regardless. Only on one single occasion among the dozens of stories I’ve worked on do I regret forgetting to jot down something. It was a Terry Pratchett-type pun for a YA Fantasy I’ve been working on. Oh, well.

That isn’t to say the habit is entirely useless. Nowadays, I try to limit what I bother jotting down to either premises that I could hang an entire story and characters onto (and wouldn’t involve a solid year of research), or plot points I’ve been struggling over on nearly-completed works.

There are also times when I am bombarded with so many ideas I cannot concentrate on the task in front of me, whether it’s a writing project or making sure the bills get paid. On those days I feel like Hwel from Terry Pratchett’s Wyrd Sisters:

Particles of raw inspiration sleet through the universe all the time. Every once in a while one of them hits a receptive mind, which then invents DNA or the flute sonata form or a way of making light bulbs wear out in half the time. But most of them miss. Most people go through their lives without being hit by even one.
Some people are even more unfortunate. They get them all.

Writing the lot of them down (even if it never goes further than a notepad document) clears the proverbial clutter in my mind so I can get on with whatever project at hand.

And eventually one of them becomes a blog post on WordPress.

A Fortune Teller’s Luck now available

The hard copy is now available on createspace here: A Fortune Teller’s Luck for $10.99. It wound up being pricier than I wanted, as most of that is eaten up by printing costs. The e-book will be $4.99.

Here is the preview, where the first chapter is available for download: https://www.createspace.com/Preview/1218176

It’s currently under review on Amazon where the e-book will be $2.99. Once that is up, I will provide a link and also look into paperback versions on there.

Business at Madame Lucy Zharakova’s psychic shop has been struggling all summer, and her love life is non-existent. Despairing and hoping to foresee an end to this streak of bad fortune, she does a Tarot Card reading. She draws the dreaded Tower card, portending disruption and chaos.

Her luck appears to turn around when a distressed, but gorgeous, man arrives in her store. He claims his house is haunted and he desperately needs her help. Though contacting the spirit world can be tricky, it would help cover her mounting bills. She crosses her fingers, hoping this gig will turn into something more.

Unfortunately for her, she’s right …

As co-host to The Debunkers, former magician Thomas Janssen has been sent to expose Lucy’s sleight-of-hand tricks by getting her to conduct a séance in front of hidden cameras. He quickly becomes enchanted with her but cannot risk losing his job. When she learns the truth about him, she inadvertently conjures the very destructive force the Tower Card had warned her about.

Each participant becomes lost in a world where they’re forced to contend with their most deeply-rooted fears. It’s up to Lucy to vanquish it, or face the possibility she is a fraud after all.

Page Count: 246

Binding Type: US Trade Paper
Trim Size: 6″ x 9″
Language: English
Color: Black and White
Related Categories: Fiction / Fantasy / Paranormal

Cover for A Fortune Teller’s Luck finally complete

I originally designed a cover that I was never quite satisfied with. While I liked the overall concept, which was based on a flower of life pattern, I was never happy with either the colours or the font. Time for a redesign, I figured, so I re-started from scratch.

I downloaded and modified Tarot card images in the public domain via Wikimedia commons. For the border, I tweaked my own version of one I’d found on Freepik.com.

Since a Tarot card reading was what launched the overall story, I used that as the focal point for the cover. The cards I chose correspond loosely with the progress of the story as well. Originally, I picked the planetary spread more for design purposes than anything else. However as I went through myriad interpretations, the eventual layout fit closely with how the story played out.

Getting the shade of blue I wanted was the biggest challenge, since computer screens rely on RBG for colors and printing of course, is in CYMK. This online conversion tool is handy giving you a preview before wasting paper and ink each time: http://www.rgb2cmyk.org/

I used Gimp, an open source design tool similar to Photoshop. On my YouTube channel, I have saved several instructional videos I found useful.  For vector graphics, I recommend another open source graphics tool called Inkscape. I’m only just learning to use it by fiddling around for now, have had fun making spirograph-type patterns with it.

For various reasons I have chosen to go the self-publishing route for this one. Oddly, according to a post I saw on Twitter, someone was commenting about a ‘mini trend’ in fake psychics, so I shall see if this novel, A Fortune Teller’s Luck, becomes part of it when I send it off into the aether later this week.

front med

Fingers crossed…

My ‘brother’ site

Currently I’m querying this project and while one top agency said it stood out from the rest, I still got the old ‘not right for their list’. The story is the first in a series I’d like to do, though only the first one has been written so far, but I envision as sort of Harry Potter meets Game of Thrones by way of Terry Pratchett. For now the protagonist and his two sidekicks are teenage neophyte wizards at Archon Castle which, as they soon discover, has its share of worldly corruption.

Ivan McRae Writes