#4 On self publishing The Big Picture and becoming an indie author

Layout 1The Big Picture – A Camera, A Young Woman, An Uncompromising Ethic, was the first novel I knew I would publish independently.

I wanted to explore a number issues and without the constrains of genre I had no idea where they would take me. I was excited.

I wanted to examine the creative process – and how the art and the artist are influenced by the marketplace.

I wanted to delve into the intensity of family dynamics – how wonderful it is when it works and how damaging it can be when it doesn’t.

I wanted complex characters and authentic relationships.

As a journalist, I’d covered stories that couldn’t be reported. I knew what was going on but I couldn’t get someone to go on (or off) the record to admit it. It was frustrating, but what could you do?

Well, you could use it in fiction. The plot of The Big Picture is comprised of some of those unsubstantiated stories and also my investigation into the influence of drug money on our lives .

To get at my protagonist’s inner journey I went deep inside myself, rooted around, and came forth with not so much the truth about a life I’ve experienced, but one I’d hoped (still hope) to live.

Nigerian writer, Chinua Achebe said, “One of the truest tests of integrity is its blunt refusal to be compromised.” I wanted Freyja, my heroine, to be that person. I wanted to see where her blunt refusal to compromise and her intolerant attitude toward those who did would lead her.

Here’s what I came up with:

Young, talented, ambitious, Freyja Brynjarrson’s a photographer struggling to crash the art establishment, the challenges presented by her family, and still keep true to her uncompromising ethic.

Fate places her on the front line of a political demonstration where soldiers open fire on civilians. She photographs death for the first time and likes it.

Because of the sensitive nature of her pictures the current government, facing an imminent election, tries to suppress them. But someone far more unscrupulous than government spin-doctors also wants those images destroyed.

Gunnar Brynjarrson, Freyja’s eldest brother is the head of an illegal narcotics empire. He’s concerned about the opposition party’s platform to decriminalize drugs. His sister’s photographs could influence the outcome of a close election and put his business in jeopardy.

As events unfold, Freyja slowly becomes aware of the far-reaching impact the billions of narco dollars have on the government, the economy, friends, family and even herself. Something insidious has infected society and like a super bug it’s resilient, opportunistic and appears as a mutation in the most unexpected places.

Freyja refuses to compromise and is intolerant and unforgiving of those who succumb to this evil or are complicit in their acceptance of it. If she stays at home she’s afraid she’ll be infected and never attain success on her own terms.

She takes an assignment with an international agency photographing the chaos and casualties of Mexico’s drug war. Freyja soon discovers she’s shot only one frame of ‘the big picture’.

The Big Picture focuses on dramatic action, zooms in on political intrigue, and takes a candid snap shot of modern romance. The plot also reveals how narco dollars, overtly and covertly, influence every level of our lives; the wars we fight, the governments we elect, the impact on healthcare, and most importantly and tragically, our personal relationships.

When The Big Picture was finished I set about self-publishing it. I used Kindle Direct for the e-book and Createspace for the paperback, both Amazon platforms.

I know a little about publishing having been (and still am) a community newspaper publisher for nearly four decades. Mind you, with the speed technology is evolving past experience doesn’t count for much, if anything. In any case, I didn’t find the process that difficult. The most difficult part was, and still is, making sure my original manuscript is error free.

I loved this book. I did everything I could to promote it – used social media, sent out advance copies, ran giveaways, sent forth positive thoughts.

I allowed myself to hope. It was a mistake. The Big Picture was self-published without acclaim, reviews or sales. I was disappointed. I felt bad, not so much for myself as for the book. I felt I had let everyone down – meaning my characters.

I regrouped and focused on why I write – because I love to, to learn new things, and to pass my view of the world on to others. Two out of three – not too bad.

Upon reflection I realized The Big Picture had done no worse than the first three books I had published with a publisher. I enjoyed the independence of self-publishing – and the responsibility. So when it became time to renew the contracts with my publisher I said I would if they would publish all the books as paperbacks. We compromised – they published Not Wonder More – Mad Maggie and the Mystery of the Ancients and I yanked the other two books, Spirit Bear and Eagleridge Bluffs.

I subsequently self-published and released Spirit Bear as Saving Spirit Bear – What Price Success, and Eagleridge Bluffs as Loving the Terrorists – Beyond Eagleridge Bluffs. My re-released books have fared no worse than the one remaining on the publisher’s list, all have done terrible.

Next month I’ll retain the rights of my last book under contract and plan to re-release it as a self-published book as well.

The next novel I wrote, Forest – Love, Loss, Legend came out of the residuals of the previous one – war, drugs, and murder combined with my love of the wilderness – it’s splendor and it’s mystery.


For more information on all my books and plays visit my Amazon Author Page at






The Miracle of New Relationships

Daisy field

“I don’t agree.”

“Critiques are not about right or wrong, Marjorie. They’re just an opinion for you to consider or disregard.”

Marjorie is one of the members of a creative writing circle I facilitate at a seniors’ residence. She’s brought the group her next weekly post for her blog, Marjorie Remembers. Like all her writing, it’s very good. But like all writing, it isn’t perfect.

Marjorie writes about growing up on the prairies; dust storms, blizzards, snaring gophers, one room school houses, and the bonds of rural communities. The stories are filled with high drama, history, and caring.

Marjorie wants to write better and seriously considers all comments, but she is also a staunch defender of her work.

Next up is David. He reads a short story about a mercy killing in which a husband confesses to smothering his terminally ill wife. It’s a poignant story that asks more questions than it answers and all within about five hundred words. David is a retired United Church Minister.

The group has some questions about clarification and structure of his story. David listens, nods, and makes notes.

Kay reads us her Christmas poem. It’s a thoughtful witty piece about retirees celebrating the season around the pool in Florida. It’s four stanzas, of four lines – flawless meter and not a trace of forced rhyme.

Nothing but praise for Kay who smiles graciously.

Elizabeth reads the last submission. It’s a memoir of her move from Trinidad, where she and she and her husband served as a missionaries, to rural New Brunswick where he had his first parish. It’s a remarkable tale of change, adversary and the resilience of the human spirit. It’s also an accounting of the ordeals of a mother and homemaker in rural Canada fifty years ago.

Elizabeth has a gift for writing humour and her entertaining stories always have the group chuckling.

“I’d cut the first six paragraphs,” says David. “All back story that the reader doesn’t need to know.”

Elizabeth frowns. “I see your point, David.”

I’m pleased because this is an issue that we frequently address. It would be easier to help them improve if they all weren’t such accomplished writers. As it is, their stories are very good as they’re presented and the changes will only make subtle improvements. However, we all recognize that a critique that doesn’t contain criticism is an oxymoron.

I had no idea what to expect when I began facilitating the Creative Writing Circle in the library of the residence. I worried that it might be and hour and a half of listening to bad writing, insincere, vague and unproductive comments, and assuaging hurt feelings. Did I really want to do this? Would teaching really be ‘learning twice’?

What I’ve learned about writing has been overshadowed by what I’ve learned about life. My hard core group are four sophisticated, educated and successful individuals who are also accomplished writers. There stories have stimulated, entertained and educated me and I have added no more than a tweak here and a suggestion there in improving them.

They have inspired me with their continuing thirst for knowledge, the way they still embrace a world that is evolving faster everyday, their generosity of spirit and their firm grasp of what is really important in this world. They live every day with passion and intensity tempered with a pragmatic realism.

Two months ago Kay died. Sweet, petite Kay was found in her bed surrounded by her papers and books. She was determined to write something unique and significant about the evils of war. She’d seen enough of them. She was ninety-five when she died.

That brought the average age of the members (facilitator not included) down to ninety years old.

I use to think there was not one good thing about growing old. My group has taught me that physical aging is a fact, but being old is an attitude. Learning need never end and the beauty of nature can continue to inspire and with every new person we meet we can experience the miracle of unique relationship that enriches or life and our spirit.