Archives for category: advice


Authors often bemoan their lack of marketing ability. If you do go out to sell your books, just don’t act like a bumbling disoriented fool like me in this pic. I had a bad first hour at the Byward Market in Ottawa. Once I sat down behind the bright red tablecloth, arranged my most attractive wares, smiled and pivoted my head so I was ready for all comers, I had five hours of fun, sociability and sales. Here’s my advice to help  you get off to a faster start than I did:

  • Don’t be shy.
  • Don’t climb out of your booth.
  • Don’t look at your feet.
  • Don’t put your hand in your pocket
  • Don’t let your hat slide down over your eyes.
  • Don’t pose like a peddler of religious propaganda.
  • Don’t look in the other direction if someone is approaching.
  • Don’t just sit, making phone calls and looking as if you didn’t care if nothing happened either.

I’ll be back selling my three books A Book of Kells, Kathleen’s Cariole Ride and Eating at Church at the Byward Market Tuesday, Aug. 2 and Wednesday, Aug.3 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and would be delighted to see you if you can drop by!

Happy Reading, Writing & Selling from Cozybookbasics



Yesterday I nailed paragraphs one and two of chapter four of my novel by tidying up and inviting camels. It was the climax to days of hard work on my book about lovers whose marriage just keeps on going and going. I kept reading from the beginning of the book to pace myself and find the most exciting direction to take.
Here’s how I proceeded:

  • For the umpteenth time I tidied up, tossing out all the unnecessary or awkward words in the way.
  • It’s so important to grab my reader’s interest in the contents and characters at this point.
  • What is the crux of it all? Who are they? Can they really do this? Where are they heading?
  • In this chapter they write to each other for four months before making a public splash out of the most private event in their lives.
    I knew I had it right when I noticed:
  • The first paragraph is only 40 words long but sums up everything that happens in the letters.
  • It exaggerates a little to make it light, subtly humorous and satirical.
  • With a nod to pyramid-style journalism, it gives answers to ‘who, what, when, where and why’.
  • Paragraph two, made up of 162 words to fill in the heroine’s personality, came easily. I was on a roll from paragraph one.
  • It not only gives details about what makes Eve unique. It also relates her to the clichés of ‘almighty housewife’, ‘feminine mystique’ and ‘stay-at-home mom.’
  • What really thrills me is that, when I read it over, I found I had unintentionally written three sentences that bring camels to mind without using the word. I wonder how many readers will pick up on that?
  • I’m sure you are familiar with them. There’s the straw that broke the camel’s back, a quarrel over a trifle. Then the warning not to love money too much, because it’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get into the kingdom of heaven. Thirdly I used the word ‘hump’ for an obstacle (and you know who has one on his back.)
  • And did I say something about pyramid-style journalism?
  • Creative writing takes on a life of its own. This is why the Lady of Shalott has to be a recluse. I’ll be able to repeat the motif later in my book to add to its strength and unity.

Tip: If you can make your story universal it will be well loved and read. You will have crossed over the bar between ordinary prose and literature.

Following special days in the calendar and finding activities to match the temperature can make for a happy, peaceful rhythm  for a whole wonderful year. One way or another, we focus on coping with the climate. These tips salvaged from our Xmas letter might be helpful to you too:

LesFebparkingValentine’s Day One of our few outings this past, cold winter was to meet Son half way between Pittsburgh and Ottawa because the trip is so long and hazardous. We parked side by side in our Priuses and transferred packages. Then we ate Chinese food together in a restaurant in Mattydale, near the Syracuse, NY airport .


 Mother’s Day Copy of Marg's new chairAnother winter activity for Hubby was to finish making furniture for our house, which he began doing 59 years ago when we got married. By the time Mother’s Day arrived in mid-May, Mom was sitting in her brand new chair and the frosty  mornings and cold nights we’d spent reminiscing and sipping hot drinks in front of the wood-burning stove in the foyer were far-off memories.

christmasboatThe Solstice When the weather finally broke and the ice thawed, we put  our modest sailboat into her berth at the  marina on Lake Deschenes (three minutes from home). By the night of the Summer Solstice, we were going out in the calm hours around sundown, to soak up its last warming rays.

Copy of P's gardenSummer What a joy it was to go and visit Daughter in her beautiful home, with its patio and garden, in July! You would hardly know this oasis is in the studio district on the edge of Leslieville right in the heart of downtown Toronto.Then came August, when all the grandchildren visited our home to celebrate birthdays.

fjordAutumn  In Labour Day week we went on a vacation to the Saguenay Fjord at Tadoussac on the Saint Lawrence River. We went on a cruise and basked in Quebec’s local cuisine and hospitality. The scenery was out of this world and we encountered lots of sea lions and whales up close.

We wish you good ways of coping with the climate and taking advantage of whatever delights are within your reach in 2015. We used to wish people all sorts of wonderful values but this year we’re just promising all those we really care about, and that includes you, that we’ll keep our fingers crossed.

Thank you for dropping by. This blog for all lovers of life and language aims to be useful and entertain. Topics vary from how to build a canoe to how my mom moved from “fog to bog” as a war bride after world war one. Writing advice is passed on by word and example. Find out more about A Book of Kells: Growing Up in an Ego Void, Kathleen’s Cariole Ride and Eating at Church  by clicking here.

Happy Reading from Cozy Book Basics!

book signing cartoonLike many authors, I used to hate selling but a few easy techniques have made me love it and have fun. This can happen to you too, once you’ve mastered the moves that clinch a sale when your real book meets a live customer. Last Sunday copies of my new paperback flew out the door with almost one-third of the traffic that shopped at Ottawa’s Perfect Books bookstore between 1 and 3 p.m. (20 loners or couples, six books sold.) Here’s my advice; I hope it works just as well for you:

  1. Prepare for your event with a phone call, follow-up visit to the store and a query  just before you come. By the time you get there, you will know the easiest way to drop off your books and the best place to park your car. The owner will have consignment copies of your book on the shelves, posters in the window and a table and chair for you to use. Get there early enough to hang up your coat in the back room and set up your display before you start work.
  2. Begin by making eye contact with the first customer you see. A man held the door open for me and my big box, I thanked him and had sold a copy of my book even before my coat was off! More often, I watched a customer enter the store from a few feet away, while I stood (not sat) at my table in the line of view in a conspicuous spot.
  3. Greet the customer or nod immediately with a friendly smile, before they turn away to browse among the shelves or address the cashier. If they come closer to you —
  4. In an inviting, confident manner hold out your book towards them slightly and say, “This is my new book I am introducing today. Will you take a moment to find out about it?” Most say they will. Your next steps depend on your unique book. I plunge in and tell them the subtitle is ‘A true love story from over the ocean and in the bush after WW1’. I point to my name and say “I’m Margaret”, point to the title word ‘Kathleen’ and say “This is my mother” and let them look at the picture, which explains the title word ‘cariole’ (a fancy toboggan).
  5. Pause. By now, the customer is probably ready to talk to you or ask a question. Be prepared to carry the conversation wherever it may go in order to find common ground in fact or feeling between you two and your book.
  6. Remember the time-honored way of buying books is by browsing and taking time to decide. If the customer says nothing, hand them the book with the back cover turned up and say, “Here”, so they can take their time reading the blurb and quotes from reviews. (My new paperback had already been reviewed in its parallel life as an e-book).
  7. Have a sample copy you don’t mind having fingerprinted by people who’ve been eating a hot dog. Make a written note if it is taken off wandering around the store so you don’t lose count.
  8. Be aware of any other customers who have been eavesdropping on your conversation while they are browsing and make eye contact with them too.
  9. Have an attractive display on your table so it can engage customers on its own. When you are busy talking to someone, stand free of your table so others can look at it. Ingredients of my theme and information display are (1) Tablecloth and decorations in seasonal colors (2) Framed rave review (3) Framed announcement of the day’s event and price (4) Paper scroll of key words (5) Copies of book (6) Signing pen (7) Book marks and (8) Business cards.Authors and independent book stores help each other thrive with events like this book signing at Perfect Books in Ottawa, Canada
  10. Get to know the cashier and establish a relationship that will make you a recurring fixture in the store If, like me, you are not yet a celebrity, the person on duty may be a part-time worker. Signings are held on weekends and your appearance gives the owner and regular employees relief from their duties of informing, entertaining and chatting with customers.
  11. You may or may not have signed a contract and find the cashier is not authorized to pay you. In this case, give the owner a call Monday morning to report how it went and find out when your check will come. Usually the store keeps 40% of receipts. You may have written other books, and want to arrange to put some copies of them in the store too. If you can’t sell one, you may be able to sell another.
  12. Give the store information on how they can order more copies of  your book. My books are printed on demand by CreateSpace, which also provides distribution channels to all major outfits. The bookstore owner looks at a website such as The Book Manager to see if your book is available from a distributor they use, likely Ingram. Since my paperback is new, it will not be listed for six or eight weeks. In the meantime, I will order an inventory of 50 books at a time and retailers can buy them from me. However, CreateSpace will not pay me any royalties until I have accumulated $100 in their account. They do not pay me royalties on the copies I buy, so I am anxious to have the stores enabled to buy them directly.

The few remaining book stores in my city are using authors as a strategy to keep their stores lively. Several ‘Book Events’ are allotted two-hour time slots on Saturdays and Sundays. Readings work well in some locations but only if there is a good group of bodies. More elaborate parties, complete with martinis, may also be held in stores after closing hours to launch books.

I used to waste countless, frustrating hours trying to sell my books to listless shoppers at book fairs or bookstores. Meanwhile, bookstore proprietors stared out their windows, praying for somebody to come in. But when the store-owner and the author get together to have live events like signings and readings, it can be a different story.

Thank you for dropping by. To order a copy of Kathleen’s Cariole Ride  for Christmas or Valentines giving, please contact V&V Publishing, To find out more about all e-book and paperback versions of A Book of Kells: Growing Up in an Ego Void, Kathleen’s Cariole Ride or Eating at Church, click on these links to Amazon, CreateSpace or my website. Bookstores selling my books in the Ottawa area are Black Squirrel, Books on Beechwood, Brittons, Michabou, Octopus and Perfect Books.

Happy Reading from Cozy Book Basics!

Our house on Aug. 4, 2014 after an F3 tornado hit Aylmer

Our house on Aug. 4, 1994 after an F3 tornado hit Aylmer, QC

Leaving one’s windows halfway open whenever uncertain weather is predicted may just help you save yourself and your house in a strong tornado, eminent Canadian meteorologists said back in 1963. The key is not to wait until you are panicked by a tornado alert or, worst still, its arrival. Anyway, we believed them and this may have saved us and our house twenty years ago.

Here’s our story:
On the sunny morning of Aug. 4, 1994 in Aylmer, QC we took our cousin Ann (who was visiting from Switzerland) sailing on Lac Deschenes in our 23-foot sloop.

At 11 a.m. our boat radio predicted rain and possible thunderstorms in the afternoon. When we saw clouds gathering around 2 p.m. we went home and checked to make sure we had left all our double windows open part way. Outside panes to the right, inside ones to the left. All of them were set like that except the big French window in the dining room. We’d been doing this when “possible thunderstorms” were forecast ever since my husband,

Tom, a mechanical engineer/freelance journalist, wrote a half-hour documentary in 1963 for CBC-TV’s program, The Nature of Things. The pioneering TV weatherman, Percy Saltzman, and a government meteorologist, S.J. Butler, were ‘on camera’. They built a little apparatus to show how a tornado worked and re-ran all the available film footage of actual tornadoes. Then the two weathermen and Tom discussed what could be done to protect oneself against tornadoes. They came to the conclusion that it was best to leave windows part-way open to relieve the pressure difference between inside and outside.

Aylmer had never had a tornado, but it is in the tornado-prone belt the government defines as stretching from Manitoba to New Brunswick. Two or three tornadoes occur within a 124-mi. radius of the Canadian capital each year, mostly in isolated rural areas. Out of precaution, Tom made a house rule: “When a possible storm is forecast, the windows should be opened half-way.” This prevents water from coming in while venting the house. And so, that’s what we’d been doing ever since and that’s what we did on that day, twenty years ago.

At the fateful hour of 3 p.m I (Marg) was in the kitchen, Ann was in the dining room and Tom and our son Leslie were upstairs at the McIntosh computer. All of us were facing windows on the south side. Suddenly a torrent of rain crashed down, the sky went dark and a violent wind from the west roared in on us like a freight train.

The house shook; we were scared, transfixed and dumbfounded.
“The wind! It came in!” Ann cried in awe. (Actually it probably went out.) Upstairs, rain lapped at the computer and flying debris scratched the window in front of Tom and Leslie’s noses. “We should all get down to the basement,” I yelled at the top of my lungs. I got as far as the side-door landing when the freight-train roaring stopped as abruptly as it had started. The 30-second nightmare was over. “That must have been a tornado,” Leslie said. The power was off and sirens sounded.

Tornado 3

The morning after the F3 tornado in Aylmer

We opened the front door onto a street streaming with stunned, bewildered, bewetted residents walking and looking in disbelief at what an F3 tornado (as we found out it was later) had done. Some houses were still standing and some gone. A full-size Chevrolet was wrapped around a big tree and a 20-foot Russian Olive tree was ripped out of the ground right next to our property, leaving an eight-foot deep hole in the ground. Our house was missing over half of its shingles in the back and some of the soffit was dangling from the carport roof. A block away on the other side of the boulevard we saw a brick bungalow with its side caved in and its roof missing.

A big refrigerator was sitting on a K-car, both of them smashed. The refrigerator had been sucked out of its kitchen; it flew about 200 feet. One house had its whole facade as well as its roof blown off so the bedrooms and bathroom were exposed. Miraculously, no one was killed. A dozen people were treated in hospital for cuts, bruises and abrasions; one more seriously hurt person was kept overnight. The property damage to 325 homes in our small residential neighborhood amounted to $10 million.

Fourteen houses had to be totally replaced and 62 were badly damaged. Before the storm blew itself out at Saint Pascal, Ontario, 27 mi. east of Aylmer, 1-1/3 in. of rain had fallen and 400 basements got flooded. We and all the other “sinistrés” (the French word for victims of a disaster) went out for dinner that night at the municipality’s expense. The area was evacuated so inspectors could look for gas leaks while the police protected the area from looting. The next days’ newspapers reported the weather office had been tracking a low-pressure system from the American midwest that hopscotched its way to the Calabogie Hills (46 mi. west of here) and touched down at the Aylmer marina.

Reasons officials later gave to the Ottawa Citizen and Aylmer Bulletin for not having issued an alert or warning included “it was too close, in a blind spot right in front of our instruments”, “we are not very good at detecting tornadoes,” “we thought it might be a microburst” and “we did not want to make people panic.” Since then they have changed their policies for the better. We were lucky to survive with so little damage. The worst of it, losing more than half of our roof shingles and part of the soffit from the carport, was covered by insurance. It was “one of the most intense tornadoes in history in the National Capital Region.” (Wikipedia)

The McIntosh computer could only type “iiiiiiiiiiii” for about two months but then recovered completely.With advice from a forester friend, we were able to prune our Colorado blue spruce, which had had its top four feet severed by flying debris, so that it eventually grew a new leader. As for the abstract metal sculptures our artist daughter had installed in our backyard — may they rest in piece.

Tornado 1

This house near ours had its windows closed tightly when the F3 tornado struck;

Tom did the engineering calculations that had been woefully lacking. He’s convinced, and thinks weathermen should be, that windows should be left partly open in a tornado. They should advise people to arrange their windows that way calmly in advance whenever the weather is “iffy.” Although many people, especially scientists, agree with him, the conventional wisdom in the U. S. seems to be that that is not useful. Even the CNN meteorologist, Chad Myers, recently told the public that windows should not be opened because debris might come in. The only other explanation given is that running to a safe place, like the basement or a bathtub, is more useful. We think you can do both.

Here’s Tom’s professional pitch:

“Tell people to open their double windows (if that is what they have) so that the air can escape and equalize the pressure when a tornado hits. Even leave single windows open a crack and accept some water coming in. “Of course people should run, not walk, to the basement or other safe places in their houses in a tornado alert. But they should arrange their windows in advance if a tornado might happen, before it is announced. It may well save their house.

“An F3 tornado, such as the one that passed over our house, would cause a pressure difference of about 100 millibars, or about a pound per square inch, betweeen inside and outside. A pound per square inch would have had a lifting force of some 100,000 lbs on our roof. That could lift it and maybe a floor of a 600 square-foot area house like ours, as well. The top floor windows, especially, should be open. The roof is fairly light. “We saw the debris of a neighbor’s attic less than a block away. Had we not opened the windows, we think our roof could have been ripped off, too.

“Wind speeds reported for tornadoes have never been properly measured by competent engineers. And weathermen estimate air speeds no higher than those in hurricanes. But reports that toothpicks have been embedded by tornadoes in steel beams indicate that the real maximum speeds, rather than those reported by weathermen, can reach the speed of sound and probably higher.”

Thank you for dropping by. This blog for all lovers of life and language aims to be useful and entertain. Topics vary from how to build a canoe to how my mom moved from “prince to preacher and fog to bog” as a war bride after world war one. Writing advice is squeezed in between. Find out more about A Book of Kells: Growing Up in an Ego Void,  Kathleen’s Cariole Ride and Eating at Church on Amazon,  Goodreads or my website.

I will be at Britton’s Glebe, 846 Bank St., Ottawa on Sat., Aug. 9, 10
a.m. to 2 p.m. to honor the WWI 100th anniversary. Please drop in  if you would like to chat and pick up a signed copy of my book.

Happy Reading from Cozy Book Basics!

cherry soup pits

A Satisfied Guest’s Bowl after Eating Three Servings of  Cherry Soup

1. Get Up Your Courage                                                                          You are going to enjoy this -with pits, sour cherries, sour cream and all. Trust the traditional Hungarian cooks.

2. Get Cherries
Sour, raw ones (Nanking) are best. Preserved, pitted sweet ones (Bing) will do but can’t compete in tang, flavor, fun and freshness.

3. Cook, Cool & Whisk the Soup
Cook the cherries one day ahead to allow for cooling.

cherry soup 2Hungarian Cold Sour-Cherry Soup Recipe
1 qt of cherries
1 1/2 qt water
3/4 C sugar
4 heaping tbsp sour cream (low fat if you wish)
Clean the cherries and put in a 2-qt saucepan. Add water and sugar. Bring to boil. Cover and let simmer for five minutes. Remove from heat, let cool and refrigerate.
Transfer to soup tureen. Use a whisk to mix in the sour cream until all lumps are dissolved and a bubbly froth forms. Serves six people.
Note: adjust the amount of sugar to your taste and the amount of sour cream to the color of pink you like best.

4. Set Your Table with the Right Spoons and Bowls
Soup bowls with wide rims and large soup spoons are needed.

5. Get Rid of the Pits                                                                                Anyone who knows how to kiss can do this. With each mouthful, press your tongue against the cherries so you swallow the flesh and liquid but the pits remain at the front of your mouth. Purse your lips and transfer them to your spoon. Then decorate the rim of your bowl with them.

6. Plant Your Own for More
In my neigborhood, Nanking Cherry bushes were featured in the Sears catalog at the time of building. They are hardy enough for our northern zone, have gorgeous white blossoms in spring and produce abundant annual crops of red fruit which attract songbirds.The birds find them too sour to eat so they leave them for us humans who are smart enough to add sugar. When they are ripe they come off cleanly in handfuls if you pick carefully.

Thank you for dropping by. This blog for all lovers of life and language aims to be useful and entertain. Topics vary from how to build a canoe to how my mom moved from “prince to preacher and fog to bog” as a war bride after world war one. Writing advice is squeezed in between. Find out more about A Book of Kells: Growing Up in an Ego Void,  Kathleen’s Cariole Ride and Eating at Church on Amazon,  Goodreads or my website.

Happy Reading from Cozy Book Basics!