September 23, 2010

My 3 titles headed for Okanagan Regional Library

The Okanagan Regional Library will include my three books Running Shoes Are a Girl's Best Friend, Powered From Within: Stories About Running & Triathlon and A Work in Progress: Exercises in Writing in its collections.

Not only is that superb news, but in the process I also found out about a system called BookManager

According to the website, TBM BookManager Ltd. was created in 1986 in Vancouver, BC by Michael Neill, then co-owner of a family run chain of bookstores. Today, BookManager is located in Kelowna... We have well over 400 stores that consider BookManager to be an important asset to their business. There are also about 50 stores who simply subscribe to our bibliographic services, TitleLink and PubStock.

A great resource by the looks of it and I was very pleased to see my three books included in the system.

September 22, 2010

Tips on easing into a walking / running routine

Two months ago I was part of a relay team in the Squamish triathlon. Our team was sponsored by the woman who happens to be my dentist. A busy woman with a full-time career and young children, she had decided a few months ago she needed a little time for herself and had begun swimming. A friend of hers who has done the bike leg in this triathlon in previous years suggested that they team up, and find a runner.

My dentist did the swim and did fantastic in her first triathlon, as did our team. Not that it is about results, but it was nice to walk away with second place among the all-female teams. When it was time for my six-month check-up last week I asked my dentist about her swimming. She said she wasn't able to do any as our local pool is closed the entire month for maintenance.

She said she'd like to try some running, as it would save her the time required to drive back and forth to the pool and would be easier  to fit into her schedule. Yet she was worried about her knees. I told her that the best way to start running is to begin walking and that I'd be happy to send her some ideas, if she wanted. She said she'd love that.

I thought I'd share the email I sent her. Of course always check with your GP first before embarking on any exercise program.

A general truth is that you start running by walking. You want to ease into a running routine so that it is enjoyable, mentally and physically.

If you like, you can do daily walks. However, do not do daily runs. So if you were to do daily walks, mix in stretches of running on three or four of those per week.

Make sure you're comfortable, i.e. invest in a proper pair of running shoes that are suited for you sooner than later. For example, I have high arches and a `neutral gait', so I always look for `neutral shoes' with plenty of forefront cushioning. It's a good idea to go to a reputable running store where someone can advise you on the type of shoes that are right for you.

Make sure your walks/runs are fun! Choose a nice route, always be proud of yourself for having made the effort to get out the door, even if only for 15-20 minutes. If possible bring your kids, spouse, friends along on some of your outings. On others, enjoy the peace and quiet, and let your mind wander.

If time is an issue, and that is the case for most of us, a great way to guarantee that you create the time for your walk/run is by getting up 30 minutes earlier than normal and heading straight out the door. It's helpful to get your clothing, socks and shoes ready the night before, and have a banana (or something else light and easily digestible) to eat if you feel you need a little something to get going.

A morning walk/run guarantees a great and energetic start to the day, and avoids frustration if something else comes up during the day that prevents you from going later.

While I've learned a lot from my own experience as a runner, I am not a coach (though I am considering getting formal training in that area). Therefore here are three links to online suggestions on how to get started, and ideas on how to mix up walking and running.

Last but not least, I recommend you check out my book Running Shoes Are a Girl's Best Friend. In this book, 53 women (aged 26 to 59) talk about the reasons they run, and the ways they have made it part of their busy lives. Two coaches provide guidance and encouragement in two separate chapters.

I love running, and am very excited when someone else is thinking of taking it up, so I am always happy to chat about it.

Guest post by writer Margaret Miller on Mystery

I met Margaret, a fellow writer who has taught writing and literature, a month ago when I approached her at the entrance of a bookstore in Penticton, BC, with my books. We were soon chatting, ran into each other again the next day as our spouses were checking in for Ironman Canada and have kept in touch since. Please enjoy her guest post about the universal pull of Mystery.

There is something about a mystery that draws us in. Several months ago, I began reading a mystery novel recommended by a friend. The first night, I sat down with the book after dinner and stayed up much later than I meant to, completely engaged by the story's intrigue and realistic world of characters that had been created by the writer. The following day, I picked up the mystery more than once for a brief escape, following the fictional lawyer to Florida as he arranged to trap his colleagues in a complicated scheme.

Books provide a way for many of us to temporarily leave behind the problems and questions posed by our own lives and family. Interestingly, though, the books we often choose to read are mysteries, filled with as much conflict as the very lives we are attempting to momentarily escape. Somehow searching for solutions to fictional situations and piecing together the relationships between imaginary characters entertains us in a way that working out our own reality does not.

The men and women invented by creative writers often live more daring and exotic lives than any of us ever will. We can experience the thrill of such an existence without having to suffer the consequences of their errors.

And perhaps we even learn something from having traveled to places--even imaginary ones--where we had not traveled before.

Books provide an exciting and memorable flight from the routine and uncertainty of our daily lives. But mystery and uncertainty in real life are not all bad. In fact, it's easy to underestimate the important part they play in making our days interesting and challenging and even worth getting up for in the morning.

We may strive to order and structure the days of our lives. We may try in various ways to know and predict our futures. But without the surprise of tomorrow and the hope of discovering those parts of ourselves which are yet unexplored, the portion of reality we do know promises little excitement.

There is something about a mystery that draws us in and moves us to figure it out. Perhaps that is why God, in His unfathomable wisdom, reveals our lives to us like pieces of a mystery to work through and solve one day at a time.

Margaret Miller is a writer with more than 20 years of experience in corporate communications. She earned a Master of Fine Arts degree from Bowling Green State University and has taught writing and literature at the college and high school levels. Widely published, her work has been featured in Texas Monthly, Ms. Magazine, and dozens of other publications here and abroad. She and her former husband are collaborating on a book about co-parenting after divorce. She lives in El Paso, Texas. You can email her at MM28 (AT)

Margaret is a big fan of my book A Work in Progress: Exercises in Writing - please read her review.

September 21, 2010

Guest post by pro triathlete Lisa Marangon

Lisa Marangon is set for her pro debut on Kona next month
Lisa Marangon (30) became a professional triathlete six years ago. The single mum had only just discovered the sport and the fact that she was very good at it: she won the 18-24 age group at the 2003 Ironman Australia in Forster-Tuncurry, and repeated that feat the following year.

Both years she qualified for the Ironman World Championships in Kailua-Kona, where she finished second and third in her division respectively.

It took three years after she turned pro before she had her first big professional victory. In 2007 she won the Western Australia half Ironman in Busselton.

And next month, she is making her professional debut at the Ironman World Championships in Kailua-Kona after she earned her first qualification as a pro at Ironman Lake Placid in July with a solid third place.

I met Lisa some time in 2002 when she joined John Hill's triathlon squad. A super-strong swimmer and cyclist, who has often found herself at the front of the race during the bike leg, Lisa has worked incredibly hard at her running and has brought her speed in that department in line with her performance at the other two disciplines. In May she ran a blistering 83:22 half marathon, smashing her previous PB by some five minutes.

What I admire most about Lisa is her infectious enthusiasm, determination and never-give-up attitude. She discovered a talent for triathlon eight years ago, and has sustained the hard work, sacrifices and disappointments because she loves the sport and is determined to fight as hard as she can to make her dreams as a pro triathlete come true.

She has been on a roll this year, reaping the rewards of consistent hard work. I asked her about the importance of focusing on your dreams, and here's what she said:

"There are always risks in taking steps to reaching your dreams. Sometimes you need to fail to succeed! If you believe in yourself and give everything you have, knowing that it was everything, then you have succeeded. Dedication, determination and belief are the first steps in achieving anything you want to. Always know that anything is possible!"

Check out Lisa Marangon's website here
Follow her on Twitter here

September 20, 2010

The Marathon: Taking care of your runner's body

The final chapter in my book Powered From Within: Stories About Running & Triathlon is about marathon training, originally a feature I wrote for the September/October 2008 issue of Canadian Running magazine.
One of the two coaches I interviewed about marathon training was Dave Scott-Thomas, head coach for the University of Guelph. He highly recommended that runners, from novices to elites, get regular massages. Here is how he explains a massage therapist what a distance runner looking for:

“I say, look I am a runner and I respond pretty well to what most people would consider a deep massage. When they start working on me, and ask me how is that, I often find myself saying, No you can work a little harder. You’re going in there not usually for a gentle relaxing massage.
"But during the heavy phase of training for our guys they are going in there to get scar tissue broken up and getting all the points shoved out of their legs. Be direct. 

"'This is what I need it for, to get ready for marathon. I don’t need a relaxation-type massage right now. This is supposed to help me feel better so that for my next run I am better able to perform',” according to Scott-Thomas.

When I began increasing my training volume as an Ironman triathlete in 2001, I had regular (once a month) deep tissue massages from a remedial massage therapist in Sydney. Those treatments were superb and very helpful.

I later found Active Release Techniques very beneficial when I had an ITB injury, a common problem among endurance athletes. After a great experience with two ART providers in Sydney, I found two other superb ones in the Vancouver area.

For the past two years
Dr Jenn Turner (a four-time Ironman finisher) has kept me healthy, through three marathons and a 50 miler. Needless to say, I highly recommend her.

The key is finding a therapist and treatment that works for your body and budget. I no longer have monthly treatments and, aside from a good training routine, use the following to ward off injury:

- regular hot baths with Epsom salts, followed by gentle stretching and/or the next point:

trigger point therapy: several products are available, I use the link's brand. A cheap DIY-kit is a tennis ball and a rolling pin. Simply roll the ball, or rolling pin, along tight muscles to help release tension.

- immediately after finishing a run of two hours, or longer, I grab a towel and lie on my back in a place that allows me to put my legs up against a wall and stay in that position for at least five minutes. It truly speeds up recovery (if you want to know why, check out Tim Noakes' Lore of Running).

Voltaren Gel is a great product to use on tight muscles (a superb suggestiong by my ART provider in Sydney about five years ago). After a long run or race (either immediately after the post-run shower or that night before going to sleep) I apply a healthy layer on my calves, which are for me the typical areas of tightness, and then wrap my calves in GladWrap as long as possible.

Being active is a good habit

Luka takes me on daily walks.
Being active promotes physical and mental wellbeing and the younger we learn this, the better. It's about forming good habits early in life. 

Habit is defined as a recurrent, often unconscious pattern of behaviour that is acquired through frequent repetition. Also as an established disposition of the mind or character. 

Leading an active lifestyle is very much about creating good and enjoyable habits such as regular walks. As a competitive distance runner and dog "owner", I am biased towards exercising on foot because it is fun, empowering, an excellent social activity or the perfect time for private reflection, and provides superb health benefits.

Walking and running are natural ways to be active, with low entry barriers. Joining friends and family on a walk, particularly along a scenic local route, is a social and fun activity that takes little organization.

My dog Luka gets me out for daily walks, in all weather conditions, and I love the fresh air, time for contemplation or chatting with those I run into.Those daily walks are a great addition to my run training. 

My dog made daily walks a habit for me, and one I greatly enjoy and highly recommend. 

September 18, 2010

The Marathon: Make time for your training

The final chapter in my book Powered From Within: Stories About Running & Triathlon is about marathon training, originally a feature I wrote for the September/October 2008 issue of Canadian Running magazine.

One of the two coaches I interviewed about marathon training was Kevin Smith. He talked about the importance of making sure that you allocate time in your schedule to train for a marathon, yet at the same the time it's not as time-consuming as you may think.

“We have ways to help people realise what time commitment is to appropriately determine it. Some people overestimate it. You don’t have to change your entire existence, you don’t have to quit your job, you don’t have to swear off seeing your friends, and literature – you don’t have to give up all these things, but you do have to be very efficient about what you are doing and how you do it. 

"We’re talking about 3 to 4 runs a week. Depending on your pace and your volume, that’s going to be anywhere from 6 to 12 hours a week, including cross training.” 

September 17, 2010

The Marathon: Practising race nutrition

The final chapter in my book Powered From Within: Stories About Running & Triathlon is about marathon training, originally a feature I wrote for the September/October 2008 issue of Canadian Running magazine.

One of the two coaches I interviewed about marathon training was Dave Scott-Thomas, head coach for the University of Guelph, who said that a marathoner must practice nutrition during training: “We do a lot of practicing with nutrition. And that goes to me being on the bike when we are doing some long runs with a knapsack full of gels and water bottles and whatnot. We’ve had some sessions where I go and I stash them along the route so the athletes have access to them and I am in my car.

"We found that [one of his athletes] for example wasn’t really adept at taking in water on the run. He swallowed a ton of air. We had to move to different types of water bottles where he didn’t take less air. The fact is that you just don’t need him with a stomach full of air and feeling all gassy while he is running. It sounds simple but we don’t want him out there at 18 miles having to worry about that.

"There were certain types of gels that [another one of his athletes] liked and certain types that he didn’t like and we just learned that by practice, going out for a 22-mile run with a bunch of tempo in it.”

After running 12 marathons (as well as five Ironmans and three ultraruns), of which I've run the past eight between 3hr 07 and 3hr 15, I know my nutrition during the race is crucial. I eat two plain energy bars (I like the vanilla Powerbars) for breakfast at least two hours before the start of the race and also have my regular morning coffee with 750ml of water.

I carry at least 8, sometimes 9 or 10, gels and start taking these 45 minutes after the marathon start. Then I keep having them every 15 minutes. As for hydration, I always have a cup of water at each aid station.

September 16, 2010

The Marathon: It’s all about the attitude

The final chapter in my book Powered From Within: Stories About Running & Triathlon is about marathon training, originally a feature I wrote for the September/October 2008 issue of Canadian Running magazine. 

One of the two coaches I interviewed about marathon training was Dave Scott-Thomas, head coach for the University of Guelph, who said that a marathoner needs, most of all, the right attitude: “A lot of people look at the marathon as a pretty daunting prospect: `Well I’ve got to run 26.2 miles – it is going to be really lonely and it’s going to be all this work and it is going to be so arduous’. 

"And that to me sounds so negative. I look for the runner who says, `You know what, I am going to teach myself something and it’s going to be awesome. I am going to push my comfort zone, I am going to step into some new turf where I haven’t been before, I am going to jump off the cliff to see if I have got wings, and I am really motivated to do it. 

"And yes it is going to be hard but I want to answer the question how good I can become’. And I think the marathon is really about that because it is a pretty tough journey,” according to Scott-Thomas.

September 15, 2010

Inclusion in anthology of verse

Today I received a letter from the Poetry Institute of Canada that one of my poems has been selected for an anthology of verse titled Island Mists, scheduled to be published in 2011. 

The poem is among those in my book Sunshine on a wooden floor, which I will publish later this year or early next.

September 14, 2010

How long does it take to start running?

Getting fit enough to run 20 to 30 minutes comfortable is not as hard as you may think. Susan Griffith, one of the two top running coaches I interviewed for my first book Running Shoes Are a Girl's Best Friend has been teaching a six-week Learn to Run course for years.

Susan says she has seen big transformations take place in this clinic. Many beginners can’t run 100 metres when they start the course and are amazed at their improvement in less than two months. “I see them often shocked that they are able to run 3km or 4km without stopping by the end of week six. At the start of the clinic they never believed they could do it. That’s the most powerful thing that happens,” Susan says in Chapter 2 of Running Shoes Are a Girl's Best Friend.

While I didn't seek guidance from a professional coach like Susan, my experience when I began running from scratch in 1996 was very similar. That first five minutes, which was all I could do that day, was a hard slog. Despite the fact that it was tough I felt good afterward, a sense of accomplishment even from that small outing.

That helped motivate me to keep trying to run short stretches regularly and before I knew it, I was able to run more than an hour. I don't remember whether it took weeks or a few months before I reached that goal. And that is not really the point - the key is that when I first struggled through that five minutes I never even considered the possibility that I might run longer than an hour comfortably.

If you'd like to read more of Susan's advice and her experience as a coach and a life-long runner, please go to the free document on Scribd here.

I love running and truly believe that Running Shoes Are a Girl's Best Friend!

Before you start any exercise program, of course always check with your GP first!

September 13, 2010

Gabriele Rico's Writing the Natural Way

Another book I first read five years ago was Gabriele Rico's Writing the Natural Way. This writing/reference book is aimed at "using right-brain techniques to release your expressive powers."

Gabriele Rico, a professor of English and Creative Arts at San Jose State University, promises to "release creative inhibition, end writer’s block, find an authentic voice and discover patterns of meaning."

And she delivers with her solution, developed in her doctoral dissertation at Stanford, called clustering and the central idea behind this book.

"Clustering is a nonlinear brainstorming process akin to free association. A nucleus word or short phrase acts as the stimulus for recording all the associations that spring to mind in a very brief period of time," Rico writes.

"Clustering acknowledges that it’s okay to start writing not knowing exactly what, where, who, when and how."

The technique of clustering helps us return to the time when we were all natural poets before the left part of our brain took over between the ages of nine and twelve.

After finishing this book and its exercises, you will be the author of at least two full A4-sized notepads. I guarantee that you will be surprised at the quality of your own work. This book is also a great read jam-packed with philosophical and inspiring quotes and examples of fabulous writing.

Rico tells us that Nobel Laureate "Roger Sperry noted that an actual physiological harmony – resonance – occurs as the brain’s diverse strengths work together. The reward for this cooperation is a psychological sense of wholeness. Our yearning for such wholeness can be satisfied through creative arts."

Rico certainly gives the reader the tools to fulfil this yearning.

Stephen King's On Writing

It's been five years since I read this book, and it might be time to read it again. As I went through some of my files on the laptop I have had since late 2004, I came across this note I wrote about King's book on Sept. 29, 2005:

Stephen King books never attracted my attention —until two teachers (at a writing course and publishing/editing course respectively) highly recommended his book On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft.

 It is part autobiography, part writing manual. It is certainly funny. Wondering whether I should sign up for another writing course, I read his advice on this with particular interest.

King describes a writing retreat in the woods. During the day writers write by themselves. At night, those writers meet around a camp fire, toast marshmallows and critique the stories written during the day. While King likes the sound of the retreat, he isn’t so convinced of the value of the critiques.

As King writes, without mincing his words, in On Writing:

“And what about those critiques, by the way? How valuable are they? Not very, in my experience, sorry. A lot of them are vague. I love the feeling of Peter’s story, someone may say. It had something . . . a sense of I don’t know . . . there’s a loving kind of you know . . . I can’t exactly describe it . . .

“Other writing-seminar gemmies include I felt like the tone thing was just kind of you know; The character of Polly seemed pretty much stereotypical; I loved the imagery because I could see what he was talking about more or less perfectly.

"And, instead of pelting those babbling idiots with their own freshly toasted marshmallows, everyone else sitting around the fire is often nodding and smiling and looking solemnly thoughtful. In too many cases the teachers and writers in residence are nodding, smiling, and looking solemnly thoughtful right along with them. 

"It seems to occur to few of the attendees that if you have a feeling you just can’t describe, you might just be, I don’t know, kind of, my sense of it is, maybe in the wrong f*****g class.”

Even if you aren’t interested in his take on the craft of writing, you’d probably enjoy reading his autobiography in the first part of the book.

September 11, 2010

Training for 100km road race

How do you prepare for a 100km run on the road? There are plenty of programs and ideas on the web, such as this link with a ton of other suggestions. I have decided to stick to one key point of advice from the coach who guided my running for five years, until April this year.

One of his key points of advice was that any runs longer than three hours do more damage, increasing the risk of injury, than provide benefit. With two months to go until my 100km road race, the Haney to Harrison, and after a recent break from training to recovery from the 50-mile STORM trail run I did exactly a month ago, I am keen to follow that advice.

However, to increase my mileage I will aim to run twice a day and/or do back to back long-ish runs on the weekend. After having discovered so many great trails to run on in Squamish, preparing for the STORMY, I now need to return to road so that my body gets used to pounding on the pavement for the Haney to Harrison.

Last night, at 6pm, I went for an easy training run with Tim and our dog, so we stuck mostly to a gravel road without traffic where the dog can run off leash. We ran for about 90 minutes. Then this morning I went for my long run, which I did mostly on the road.

As a bonus, the GranFondo between Vancouver and Whistler was held today so not only did I run for about 2 hours and 20 minutes, I also managed to cheer on some of the 4000 cyclists in this ride as I followed as much of that course as was safely possible.

I got so much great energy from all these cyclists that I didn't realize how tired, thirsty and hungry I was until the last 10 minutes when I ran the final steep uphill along the popular rock-climbing area of the Smoke Bluffs. As soon as I came home I put my legs up against the wall, while lying on my back, for a few minutes to help my recovery.

Tomorrow I'll run for another hour to 90 minutes, before doing a short speed session on Monday.

September 10, 2010

Formatting your ebook for Amazon's Kindle

My book Running Shoes Are a Girl's Best Friend is soon ready in Kindle format through Amazon, just like Powered From Within: Stories About Running & Triathlon and A Work in Progress: Exercises in Writing.

Once you know how to format your ebook properly for Amazon's Digital Text Platform, which is where you submit your ebook data and files so it can be sold and/or read on the Kindle, it is a very easy process. 

Once you have signed up for to Amazon's DTP program, you can do so here. You add a new title, and fill out all the required details. This is very straightforward (if you have any questions, don't hesitate to email me). You upload the cover photo of your book.

Then it is time to upload your book's content file. This is simple - once you know how to do it. It took me a while to figure it out and, as described in an earlier post, a website called CJ's Easy as Pie, helped a lot.

I used first Microsoft Word and then Mobipocket to convert my book's content file. (Do I need to remind you to back up those files before we get started?)

Your book's file in MS Word needs to be cleared of all formatting. (To do this select the entire file with CTRL A, then go to Formatting, then Styles and Formatting, and then Clear Formatting.)

Once that's done, there are two things that you can/must do to format your book for the Kindle: add page breaks and apply styles to the book's title, and all chapters - this process also allows you to create a clickable contents table.

As you know, page breaks are inserted via Insert, then Break, then Page Break, or CTRL Enter.

To apply styles to your book's chapters, select the text that you want, then go to Format, then Styles and Formatting, and choose a style from the right-hand page that opens up (or scroll up and down until you see Heading 1 etc.

For example, this is what I did with the 54 chapters of Running Shoes Are a Girl's Best Friend:
That great sense of accomplishment is available to anyone
"It's really important to enjoy the journey rather than feel like it is something you have to do."

CHAPTER 1 - I applied Heading 1 to that.

That great sense of accomplishment is available to anyone - I applied Heading 3 to that line

"It's really important to enjoy the journey rather than feel like it is something you have to do." I applied Heading 8 to this line because it allowed me to have italics in the layout at the start of each chapter - I didn't want each pull-out quote of the beginning of each chapter to show up in the Table of Contents because it would too unruly.

If you like, you change the set-up of each Heading style by right-clicking on it and then choose Modify in the drop-down menu.

You need to go through your entire document, and apply the Heading styles, and insert Page Breaks between each chapter.

You can use the View, Reading layout to check it looks OK.

I applied the heading Title to the book's title and my name, though I later remove it from the table of Contents (see below).

Once you have done that, it's time to create your table of Contents. Put your cursor on the spot where you'd like the Contents to appear. Then choose Insert, then Reference, then Index and Tables.

Once you are here, click the Table of Contents tab and choose how many Heading levels you'd like to show. With Running Shoes Are a Girl's Best Friend I applied three Headings (1, 3 and 8) but only wanted the text of Headings 1 and 3 to show up in the Contents table. So I chose under Show Levels 2, so only the first two levels are shown.

Make sure the Show Page Numbers box is NOT ticked for your ebook. Then click OK.

Check the Contents table you've just created, and remove any headings you do not want. In my case I removed the title of my book, and my name, as well as the item Also by Margreet Dietz from my Contents.

Now you're ready for Mobipocket. Download the software.

Open Mobipocket's Creator. Then upload your book's content file, as we just created, by selecting MS Word document under the Import From Existing File.

Once the content file is uploaded you will need to do two things: add a cover photo by selecting Cover Image at the left-hand side. Use Browse to find the image, upload and click Update.

Next go to Metadata (also on the left) and fill out all the required fields, then click Update.

Now you are ready to create the file you will upload to Amazon's DTP: click Build in the top of the screen. If it doesn't work, check if you have filled out all the required Metadata of your book.

Once this done, allow through the third option that shows up on your screen to see where the file with the extension .PRC is created on your computer.

Then go to Amazon, and upload this file under your book's content file. Use the Preview option to check your book looks the way it should.

Congratulations, the hardest part of this process of the DTP process is now done!

As mentioned before, CJ's Easy as Pie is a great resource, and there are plenty of others out there, either free or for sale in book form like this one. Check out self-publishing books on Amazon.

Good luck, and if you think I might be able to help you, please feel free to email me.

September 07, 2010

Promote your book on LL Book Review

LL Book Review offers authors the opportunity to review, and promote, their own books:

"We’re always open to new ideas when it comes to self-publishing, marketing, and also reviewing.  So, we have a new idea and we need your help. We’ve decided to give authors the chance to review their own books right here on LLBR.  What are the benefits of reviewing your own book, you might ask?  Well, first and foremost, it’s free publicity!  FREE!  It’s a chance to step up on the soap box and convince readers to read your book. (Read more)

Cracking the Kindle formatting code

It has taken me a while but I finally found a way to format my books for the Amazon Kindle program. At the beginning of July, late on a Sunday evening, I stumbled upon a proper formatting for my book A Work in Progress: Exercises in Writing. I'd spent quite a few hours trying to figure out how to reformat my Word file of this book so that it looked good in Amazon's DTP preview. Suddenly it did.

Without taking notes, though even then I may not have even realized how exactly I did it, I turned my attention to preparing my books for Apple's iBookstore - it took me about a week to figure out how to reformat to the epub format and do everything else required to prepare my three titles.

Then I returned to the Kindle program with the goal to prepare my other two books for it - however, I had absolutely no clue how I had done it with my first book and no matter what I tried I couldn't get a layout in the DTP preview that looked good enough.

It took me until now to crack the code (again). In hindsight it should not have taken me this long. This site was very helpful. It reminded me how to use Word properly (something I learned in the Book Editing & Publishing course I took at Macleay College in Sydney five years ago) and pointed me toward Mobipocket to finish off the process. Thanks CJ!

Powered From Within: Stories About Running & Triathlon (Kindle edition)

September 05, 2010

Reader's review of A Work in Progress

One of the most valuable things from my signing last weekend at the Hooked on Books store in Penticton, B.C., has been the positive feedback I received on my third book, A Work in Progress: Exercises in Writing (May 2010).

One of the people I met there, a fellow writer who lives in the U.S., wrote this review:

"I met the author at a bookstore in Canada last week and bought all three of her books--this compilation of exercises appealed to me because I'm working on a non-fiction manuscript and have hit a "block." The exercises she recommends are exactly what I need to jumpstart me back into the writing life. Her stories are personal, humorous and relevant to the process. I went back to the store to purchase a copy for my co-author, who is having similar issues getting focused. Highly recommended for all writers and would-be writers from someone who has been where we all are!"

A Work in Progress: Exercises in Writing is available as paperback ($19.95) and ebook ($9.99).

Paperbacks can be ordered online through my CreateSpace store, Amazon or directly from me (please contact me via email for a shipping quote).

Ebooks are available from Amazon, Apple's iBookstore and Booklocker.

September 03, 2010

So you want to write a non-fiction book

That’s awesome. I spoke with two people in the past week who told me about their plans to write a non-fiction book. They have great ideas, and solid expertise and/or experience in their respective fields. If you are among them, here are a few ideas to help kick-start your book project.

You probably have already clearly defined your topic, by way of a working title.

I imagine you have decided to write that book because you believe there is nothing like it on the market. If you haven’t already done so, create a list of comparable books available and describe how yours is going to be different.

Of course it is already unique because you are writing it, and yours is an absolutely unique perspective. The information you choose to convey and how you decide to convey that is what will set your book apart from those already published, just like style, examples used, size, price, and so on.

More than likely much your book is already written, either figuratively or literally, through your experience and/or research. So it is likely a matter of organizing all the information, and expanding on it. That’s a challenge and may change as the first draft (and the following ones) progress. And that’s OK.

In terms of the working process, writing a book is very much like training for, say, a marathon. It’s about consistency, taking one step at a time and focusing on the big picture. Never forget that it is a learning process, too.

It very much helps to always have your eyes on the goal, i.e. what are you trying to say specifically to whom. Taking the time to define your book in one sentence is extremely valuable as having that definition will keep you focused throughout the writing process (advice I read in Jeff Bollow’s Writing FAST: How to Write Anything With Lightning Speed).

For example, for my first book Running Shoes Are a Girl’s Best Friend my definition was: Running is empowering physically, mentally and socially for any woman.

Next, and this was for me the single-most difficult thing for Running Shoes, is planning the (working) table of contents for the book. I had used a clustering technique, i.e. simply sit down and write down any and every word or sentence in a stream of consciousness that comes to mind about the topic, in my case women who run.

(I first began using clustering in a creative writing course I took in Sydney in 2005 and after reading the fabulous Writing the Natural Way by Gabriele Rico. Clustering has helped me write most of the poems in Sunshine on a wooden floor, my collection of poems which I plan to publish later this year.)

For Running Shoes Are a Girl's Best Friend, I got so many great topics through my clustering exercise aimed at structuring that title but dividing it up along those topics proved the wrong format. I ended up making things far more complicated than they needed to be. I got stuck, with tons of superb information.

After months and months of frustration in the end the format of covering all these topics that came out in the clustering process through individual profiles, organized as separate chapters, was the answer. It seems simple in hindsight but it certainly wasn’t then, until I found the solution.

In other words, keep your book’s structure simple and straightforward. While structure is important, it doesn’t need to be rigid. One chapter could be half a page (as I saw in one of the bestselling books on writing).

The biggest secret to writing a book, and finishing it, is to set aside time for it regularly and take it word by word, sentence by sentence.

Writing/editing is my profession, and has been since 1996. I consider myself a professional author, even though my book sales aren’t near sufficient to cover all my bills, and I have other writing and editing jobs.

I work on my books every single day, whether it is writing and rewriting the new ones I am working on, or by working on spreading the word about those already published.

To write your book, find at least 30 minutes in your day, preferably every day, and sit down to write. Set manageable targets, such as 200 words or a page a day. Repeat the next time, or day. Keep writing until you have a first draft of your book.

First drafts can be shitty (coined by Anne Lamott in Bird by Bird) and are there to be rewritten. Whoever said writing is rewriting was right.

My third book A Work in Progress: Exercises in Writing is very much about the process of writing with abandon and without self-critique—the latter comes later in the process after you have finished your first draft.

Before that, just write—it’s amazing how much you can get done if you simply do that. A Work in Progress is a case in point, since I wrote the lion’s share in eight consecutive days.

Of course the rewriting, revisions, proofreading and publishing, all of which I chose to do myself, with (my partner) Tim - a professional writer/editor too - proofreading at least half the chapters, took another three to four months. But by then I had a crystal-clear idea of what the end result should be. Rewriting tends to be a lot easier than staring at a blank page and expecting everything to come out perfect in one go.

Trust yourself, and write! Good luck, and I am only an email away.

Crazy? It's all relative

In the last couple of days since telling friends, via Facebook, that I signed up for a 100km road race I have had a few reactions. Those responding all are good friends so I know that support lies at the heart of their comments. Even so, "Crazy" was the word that came up a few times too.

I have to admit that last night I woke up with a brick in my stomach and panicked, just like the previous night, as my thoughts turned to the fact that I have put my money down and announced that I am going to run a 100km and would like to do so in nine hours, or less. Have I done the right thing?

I've always said I wanted to focus on getting faster at the marathon distance, where my goal is to shave at least 7 minutes and 11 seconds off my best time for a 2:59:59 finish - lofty goal for sure. And now I am committed to doing my second ultra in four months? And this one is on the road? With a time goal?

Why, I wondered again last night as I worried whether the pounding of 100km on the road with an ambitious time in mind is more than my body wants to handle. But then I think about the women I have met since May.

One is 70, though you'd be very hard-pressed to guess that by looking at her, and ran the Comrades Marathon two years ago, the oldest woman to do so. She has run more than 100 marathons since she began running from scratch at the age of 37. She has also completed the Western States Endurance Run (100 miles) and competed five times at the Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii. She won her age group there too.

Another who has run most of her life, though never more than a half marathon until she began training for a 50-mile ultra at the age of 51. She now runs five hours on hilly trails without batting an eyelid. In the process, she has found her attitude change from can-not-do, to yes-I-can, and not only with regards to her running.

A third began running 20 years ago to cope with stress. In fact she started by walking, and then slowly introduced short stretches of running. She raced a 10km, because her brother suggested she should, loved it and did another, then a half marathon, then a marathon, then an ultra. She this year found the courage and commitment to train for her first 100-mile race.

A fourth, in her early 30s, found an amazing joy in the first 7km run she did three years ago. A year ago, she saw an ad in a running magazine for a five-day stage race in Costa Rica. While she had yet to run a marathon, and didn't know how she was going to afford the $2000 entry fee, let alone the other costs such as travel, training, gear and so on, she desperately wanted to. And she did, selling her flat-screen TV and car to do so.

A fifth is still in her 20s. She's only recently taken up running but was immediately attracted to the endurance part of it. With a philosophy of "What's the worst that could possibly happen?", she has run the North Face 100(km) and last month, the 125km aptly-named Canadian Death Race.

And one, admittedly a pro adventure racer, who has done so many amazing races including the 135-mile Badwater Ultramarathon in Death Valley, U.S. I'd first read and heard about this race when I ran the Death Valley Trail Marathon there in 1999. While it was my second marathon, a sandstorm cut about 3km off the route, so I do not count this race among my marathon finishes. This, incidentally, is a spectacular run that follows the gorgeous Titus Canyon.

Ultra races have intrigued me for more than a decade, though I have not seriously considered running any of the 100 mile classics such as Western States, or Leadville or Hardrock. That might have changed since I ran STORMY last month and interviewed all (except one) of the above women for my next book.

The philosophies of, Let's see how far I can go, and, What's the worst that could possibly happen, and, One step at a time gets you a long way, I (try to) subscribe to, both in running and in life, and while part of me - especially at night - is scared, a larger part of my is curious and excited about trying to run 100km on the road.

September 01, 2010

Registered for Haney to Harrison 100km

This weekend I watched Ironman Canada in Penticton, B.C. It was (my partner) Tim's 10th Ironman start and he was supremely well prepared. He raced IMC for the first time last year, which was a hot edition of this race, one of the oldest among the Ironman series. Temperatures rose to 37 degrees C.

The forecast for this year's IMC was for a much cooler day, with highs in the low 20s. With morning temperatures between 10 and 15 in the days before Sunday race day, Tim had decided to wear armwarmers, a windvest and gloves for the first part of the ride over top of his race gear. Rain, however, wasn't in the forecast but there were two downpours in the third quarter of the 180km bike leg.

The second one hit Tim as he started the final 30km downhill ride back into town. Despite his clothing, Tim got so cold he became hypothermic and decided it wasn't safe to keep riding. He simply no longer had control over his bike. So he stopped and rode the ambulance back to the start/finish area.

Of course he is extremely disappointed, after all the hard training he had done this year. He had high hopes of besting his 10:09 PB for the distance and qualifying for the Ironman World Championships (which he raced once before in 2007). It was not to be this Sunday.

He'll look for another race to take advantage of his fitness, whether it's a triathlon, Ironman, or marathon - the jury is still out on that one.

As he considers what to do next, I've been doing so for the past three weeks since completing my first STORMY 50-mile race. Having talked to several ultrarunners in the last few months, watching Ironman and reading Ray Zahab's book the past weekend made me reconsider my decision to aim to get faster (at the marathon distance) before going longer. I'll try to do both, or at least mix things up.

I've done little running in the past three weeks, and no speedwork whatsoever in the past month. Before STORMY I had considered doing the Bellingham Marathon on September 26. But today I changed my mind and locked in the decision by registering for the 100km Haney to Harrison on November 6 with Tim's blessing and generous promise to crew for me.

"Until one is committed,
there is hesitancy,
the chance to draw back,
always ineffectiveness.

"Concerning all acts of initiative
(and creation)
there is one elementary truth,
the ignorance of which
kills countless ideas and splendid plans:
That the moment one
definitely commits oneself,
then Providence moves too.

"All sorts of things occur to help one
that would never have otherwise have occurred.
A whole stream of events issues
from the decision,
raising in one's favor all manner
of unforseen incidents
and meetings and material assistance,
which no man could have dreamed
would have come his way.

"I have learned a deep respect
for one of Goethe's couplets:
'Whatever you can do,
or dream you can, begin it.
Boldness has genius,
power and magic in it'."

-W.H. Murray
The Scottish Himalayan Expedition