Cupcakes & Cover Art

Getting ready to self-publish your first book can be overwhelming. For me, it is very exciting and scary wrapped up in a sparkly package of emotions. I am on my indie-publishing path and I am so grateful for my friend and award-winning author, Jacqui Nelson for helping me get prepared for my book launch on Saturday, September 15, 2018 – that’s like right around the corner. (A lot of deep breathing is going on)

 

I have a few things to cross of my check-list but the big one, like getting my cover completed, was done a month ago and then I went back and changed it again. The cover is so important. It is going to tell its own story, it’s going to help sell my book. The saying, ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ I know we all do it – we can’t help ourselves. Working with a cover designer is interesting. You think as a writer I could articulate exactly what I wanted for my cover. I learned I had to be as blunt as possible. No need for, I would like… I think this would work… Could you do… No, what needs to be said: Please do a,b,c. Put the title here in this color, this font… there is no time for fluffy words when it comes to your business. I learned I had to be as clear in my writing career as I am in the hospitality world.

 

I just returned from a workshop hosted by award-winning author, Shannon Meyer. She shared her journey of not only her writing career but of her cover art adventures. Her analogy of cupcakes to cover art was inspirational. The cupcake in front of us should be intriguing and inviting. And the description of the cupcake just as provocative. Much like a cupcake, our book covers should be as intriguing for people to pick up and read the blurb that should entice us to read the book. If the cupcake looks great and the description of the desert is bland, there is something wrong. We put the cupcake back down and walk away. (Even if we really like cupcakes.)

I wish I wrote down the description of Shannon’s cupcake that I chose. It was striking. What I remember went something like, this delicious summer cupcake has a hint of watermelon icing… As you can see the cupcake had sparkly candy and mermaid tails toothpicks – why wouldn’t you want this treat? Great way to wake us up about our cover art.

Where did my cover design come from? It started off with a few vintage posters I loved when working in Lake Louise. They are fun and intriguing. Who wouldn’t want to be standing at the window looking out at the beautiful Lake Louise?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My memoir is about working at the luxury hotel, The Chateau Lake Louise in the mid-1990’s. I worked in the F&B (food and beverage) world for over ten years in the heart of the Canadian Rockies. I was provided with great experiences and stories.

How my cover turned out

If you liked, Kitchen Confidential and the Grand Budapest Hotel, you will enjoy this eye-opening life experience of one employee’s journey of working for a luxury hotel in the heart of the Canadian Rockies.

To find out more about my book, please sign up for my Newsletter ~ Thank you for being here with me during this great adventure of writing.

Until Next Time, Keep on Typing…

A Few Things I am Learning

The life of a writer is an interesting one. It is a lot of work to write a book, but it’s the kind of work that we love. Spinning words together to create a great story. That is fun work and solitude work. Some non-writers question the amount of time writers spend alone. We need this time to be with the words that may or may not be read. We write because we have a story we would like to share.

Now that I have finished my book, I’m now on the self-publishing journey. I honestly have no-idea what I am doing except for following steps from good friends who are self-publishing. Then just when they share they may have cracked the Algorithm code on how to successful make it to top ten list on Amazon, the rules change within a blink of an eye. I’m looking forward to being part of this adventurous journey.

A few things I’ve been doing as I venture into the self-publishing world:
  • The last few weeks I have been working with my editor. It has been a good experience. I had to sit my butt down and really work. The book is not going to write it self and for that matter of fact, it is not going to edit itself either.
  • I have been stingy with my time lately. Any free time I have after I am done working eight or sometimes longer at the hotel life, I am in my writing room. I knew my editor had questions for me and I’m paying her to help me shape my book. She has a time-line and so do I. Why would I not be stingy with my time? If you want something to work, you have to work for it.
  • Self-care. I’ve spent hours in my writing room and sitting for most of the time. The body needs to stretch and move. I have to make sure I’m getting up from the chair every hour, or at least shift my body in my chair (which is one of the oldest office chairs that has a cracked seat and squeaks when I roll around – and I love it!) I go for walks and I spend about an hour in the gym six days a week. I sit on the sofa and talk with my husband while drinking beer. These things may seem small, but they help me relax and help me with not getting to antsy in my writing chair.
Things I am learning:
  • Last week I made a change to my book cover and I wanted to make sure I was very focused and clear on the changes. It cost money to have a book cover created. I paid for the final design, then I shared the cover with a group of people and the feedback I got was heartbreaking. Okay it wasn’t that bad, the comments were truthful and made sense to me. I asked my book designer if she could make the changes and what the cost would be. She didn’t charge me full price which I am very grateful for. I learned I need to lean on my writing support groups before I submit the payment. Check out my cover here ~ Thank you.

  • Self-care, part 2, sleep: I am passionate about my writing life and when you do something you love, you’ll never “work” another day in your life. I love the little things that need to be done when you’re getting ready to self-publish, it can be stressful, especially for anyone new to the process. I know I shared my self-care tips for me, but I have to remember that if I am feeling stressed that I need to take more time for myself and that usually means the body, mind and spirit needs more rest. If I get eight hours of sleep I feel well rested and ready for the next eight hours in my writing room.
  • Trust my self. I have to trust that I am on the right path.

What tips and tricks have your learned during your writing practice or self-publishing journeys?

Until Next Time, Keep on Typing…

 

For the love of hospitality: part 1

The world of hospitality is not as simple as it may look. Serving tables, checking in people, making reservations for guests, catering a private function. They all take a lot of energy and time. The server that brings your drink and food has had training and the experiences I have had in my experience, yet it is similar to other services employees. When I started my hospitality career at McDonald’s there was an intense training program, and that helped shaped my disciplined learning of the hospitality world. The things I remember from my time at the Golden Acres:

  • Smiles are free – smile all the time.
  • If you have time to lean, you have time to clean.
  • Orders must be taken under 2 minutes (there was a little clock that started when you began a new order – talk about stressful at the age of 16)
  • The customer is always right (even when they are not).
  • Do your job right and get rewarded: aka: get promoted if you jump through the right hoops. (I didn’t have the drive to go to Mc college in Boston to learn how to grill frozen “100% beef” patties in less than three minutes)

I haven’t been inside a McDonald’s for a very long time. I do walk by a busy location in Victoria, BC and notice the employees and they are not smiling as much as I was forced to. They seem less enthusiastic about the job, it seems something has changed for the Golden Acres in the days of people moving towards more of a plant-based lifestyle. Then I recently interviewed a girl who worked at this busy location for a position at the hotel I currently work for. I asked her if McDonald’s still has a good training program and she said yes and has learned a lot about customer service. I asked her what she liked about working at McDonald’s and she shared she really likes talking to people and she likes to help people. She wants to explore hotel jobs because she has a perception that people who work in a hotel help people check into their room, housekeepers clean the room and there are people who get to talk to guests all day to help the guests have a good experience. She did her homework, and she also understands the underlying theme of being of service.

My time at McDonald’s instilled the foundation of hospitality and good work ethic, such as following policies and procedures, to multi-task, work quickly and efficiently, and how to work well with a team. This only child had to get over her shy, need-to-do-it-all on her own attitude quickly when there is a line-up of people wanting their Big-Mac combo’s, super-sized, to boot. I accepted help from shift supervisors to get not only my orders but four other cashiers. I had to communicate the end of shift duties with the rest of the team so no one did the same the job. I learned a lot and very grateful for such an opportunity. I wonder if people who currently work at McDonald’s feel the same way? My experiences lead me to a hospitality job in the Canadian Rockies at a luxury hotel that has provided me with a lifetime of friendships, career, and stories. Everything happens for a reason.

Before I started working at McDonald’s I would go to family gatherings where we would always do potlucks. Food brought us together. I would listen to my elders about how they made their entree’s or baked goods to share at any of our family events. I loved watching my aunts and mother putter around the kitchen making sure everyone was taken care of. When we visited my paternal grandmother, I loved watching her prepare meals for us. She seemed to be in a meditative state while mashing potatoes, making pie crusts, stirring whatever was on the wood stove. I could taste the love in the food. So it is no surprise my love of hospitality was no accident. I was born into hospitality. I born to be of service which is beyond serving food or checking people in. I am here to assist people to become the best version of themselves. All this from one moment, one job, one experience after the other. For this I am grateful.

I will be self-publishing my first memoir about working in a luxury hotel in the Canadain Rockies in September.

Please sign up for my Newsletter for more information and giveaways. See you there!

Until Next Time, Keep on Typing…

 

Does Your Life Serve You?

There is the risk you cannot afford to take, [and] there is the risk you cannot afford not to take ~ Peter Drucker

It’s the second week of August and there are no signs of the summer season slowing down at the hotel I work at. My job at the hotel is a double edge sword. I am so very grateful for the opportunity I am provided that helps excel my creative life. But I do question myself at times; am I working to live? I use to think I was doing okay with the whole “work-life-balance” but when you spend 8 hours a day at your full-time job that is not writing, that is 8 hours a day that I am not writing. On my days off I spend as much time in my writing room or wherever to write as much as possible. There are days I need a day to rest, but then I don’t write and I get angry with myself for wasting precious time away from creativity. I don’t mean to sound bitter or ungrateful, because I am not either of these emotions. I so very grateful for everything that has been and is being provided. That is where the double edge sword comes into play.

I have to work to pay the bills as I am not getting paid for my writing (yet), so I must do what is needed to be done to maintain and excel this writing life. I also really like my job. I like talking to guests, meeting new people every day. I recently checked in a couple from England, they were on their honeymoon and their first visit in Canada. They were lovely. When we talked it wasn’t me giving them the same spiel I do when checking in guests. We had honest to goodness eye contact and when I provided information to the same questions I answer every day, it was as if I was giving the information for the first time. And you know what? It is the first time I’m sharing the information about the dining room hours because they don’t know the hours of operations. They don’t know where our pool is located, they don’t know the great places in town to check out. It was a great experience. A little A-ha moment. The reason why I work in hospitality was revealed to me once again. Sometimes I need this. Sometimes I need a kick in the ass to remind me that I can’t take things for granted.

I had a nudge from my artist within to pick up The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. The book is well read, dogged eared, tabbed, underlined and my notes in the margins. At first, I thought I was going to write about U-turns, where something great happens and then you take a big old U-turn because fear takes over and you end up not doing what is needed to move forward. I flipped through the book to see what was to be revealed and the quote about risk caught my eye and Julia’s question regarding the Virtue Trap: Does your life serve you or only others? Are you self-destructive? I had to sit back and think about this question for a minute. I use to be self-destructive when I was younger, but that was a long time ago. I learned that self-drama is useless, it gets in the way of the writing. My life serves me and others.

My creativity heals myself and others. ~  One of Julia Cameron’s writing mantra

When I write I know I am on the path of my true self. I am healing myself each and every time I come to the page. I share my struggles about writing because we all have little blocks that we are dealing with. I want to let you know you’re not alone in this creative journey. We are all here to support one another, we are here to lift each other up to say, ‘yes you can do this, it may be difficult at this moment, but you got this!’

Until Next Time, Keep on Typing…

Knock-Knock, Whose There?

I hear a knocking at the door. I put my hand on the doorknob to open the door to see what is on the other side. It’s me the version of me I know I am becoming. I smile because I’m happy to meet her. It’s taken a helluva long time to get here.

I have heard a knocking in my heart for a long time. I have opened the door many times and found myself in amazing places and situations that never may have happened if I was curious what was behind the door. It is also a reminder of my true-self, what I am here to do. To create. To write and that is what I have been doing and continue to do. I am not published but will be very soon and that scares the hell out of me. I will be sharing my work with you and everyone out there.

 

The self-doubt is having a field day with my fear. Will anyone read my memoir about working in a high-end resort for a few summers? Does anyone care how this only child went through a few life changes during her time away from her home in Nova Scotia? Do you want to read about what it was like to work for a luxury hotel? Does anyone want to know how I created drama for a little attention from men? How I lost myself on top of a mountain in the heart of the Canadian Rockies and was able to find my way back to my true self? Is that something anyone wants to read? This is my ego filled with fear. I have no idea what to expect and my true self-says, that’s okay, we are following our heart. Then my ego says, “hell no, what if, what if, what if?!”

Here’s to the unknown. I’m ready.

Until Next Time, Keep On Typing…

 

Do you Believe in Magic?

 

I believe in magic. Creativity is magic and I definitely believe in creativity.  Creativity is an alchemy of words, paints, clay, music, energy and any medium brought together to tell a story. If that’s not magic I don’t know what is. I also believe in muses, angels, any form that brings the story and whispers it in my ear. There are many stories from writers who share that the idea popped into their mind. Maybe their muse had been planting the seed over time and then all of a sudden something clicked and the story was clear as day.

As I refer back to Steven Pressfield’s, The War of Art, I am reminded of my muse. Steven shares how he envokes his angels of creativity. He refers to a passage from Homer’s, Odyssey, the T.E. Lawrence translation. Pressfield also shares one of Goethe’s couplets:

Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, magic, and power in it. Begin it now. ~ W.H. Murray

Like, Steven, and other writers, I welcome my muses to the table, desk, rocking chair or wherever I am sitting to write. Sometimes, it takes time to settle into the writing. I imagine my muses wandering around waiting for me to sit and say, “okay, it’s time, let’s do this.”  I always know when my muses are around. I feel a bit more light-hearted, I can see the story more clearly, there isn’t a struggle to get the words on the page. Everything is flowing and effortlessly. I have handed myself over to creativity and the muses. They are why I am here.

 

This week I am reviewing the copy edits from my editor. I have a lot of fear around this process, but a good fear. It’s more like excitement. I’m giddily awaiting to get to the next step to self-publish my first memoir, Behind The Kitchen Doors. More specifically a hotel memoir about working for a luxury hotel in the heart of the Canadian Rockies. I believe everything happens for a reason. I also believe serendipity is a form of magic. I had the privilege to be hired for a summer in a hotel and in that one decision, my path of writing and working in hospitality begun. Over twenty years later I have been provided with many stories and have worked for some amazing hotels and resorts. I am very grateful for this journey and look forward to the adventures ahead.

Until Next Time, Keep on Typing…

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Smiles Are Free – My Hotel Life

When I left for a four-month summer job at The Chateau Lake Louise, I knew my life was going to change. I was looking for an adventure. Nova Scotia, at the time, didn’t seem enough for my nineteen-year-old lost soul. I was caught in a self-made love triangle over two guys and it kinda blew up in my face. I also needed to move away from under my mother’s thumb. I love my mother dearly, but when I was younger I didn’t care for her. I felt I couldn’t live under her roof for much longer. We all have a version of an estranged relationship with our mothers, fathers, siblings or/and family.

My first hospitality job was working at McDonald’s. I was fifteen years old and I wanted to stay home and write the stories that had been whispering in my ears. My father had another plan for me. I was told my allowance was cut off and I had to find a job. Ouch! At the time I didn’t see eye to eye with my father’s decision, but years later I am grateful. I am more independent for his act of tough love. My mother knew a manager at the McDonald’s that we faithfully went to each week. I met with, let’s call her Janet, and I was hired on the spot. ‘Smiles are Free’ was still on the menu board and I took that job as seriously as I could. I wanted to prove to myself that I could do anything I put my mind to.

The Golden Arches had and still has a great training program. I never forgot how to smile while taking someone’s order when working in the drive-thru. That part of the job carried into my other jobs in the hotel world. I worked as a switchboard operator and the office was located in the bottom of the hotel, no window’s, crappy fluorescent lighting, but when you called you heard my sunny bright voice, “Thank you for calling the Palliser Hotel, this is Marion Ann, how may I direct your call.” I must have said that a hundred time a day, if not more. Our General Manager would randomly call on a Sunday afternoon and after my spiel, he would say, “It’s so nice to hear your smile, Marion Ann.” Who the hell? I thought to myself, not knowing who was on the other end of the phone.                                                            “Hi, Marion Ann it Mr. X” – I thought this was a weird way to check up on your employees, but after I became a manager I started to understand why he checked in on his property. When you call an establishment, would you rather hear a happy voice on the other end or someone who just got the worst news of their life? Business is business and I am grateful for those little check-ins from our general manager. The tests kept me on my toes. I never knew who was on the other end of the phone. It could be Mr. X or Mrs. Smith calling for the first time, or Celebrity A calling because they needed my immediate attention to help them with something very important, like going to the Bay and buying their favorite nylons. I am not kidding you. And my responses, “My pleasure Mr. X, Mrs. Smith, Celebrity A.” and all with a smile.

Until Next Time, Keep on Typing…

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Funny Tourists Questions #MondayBlogs

I spent over ten years working at Luxury hotels and resorts. I was privileged to have worked at one of the most beautiful hotels in the heart of the Canadian Rockies, well actually two, but the first one is where I caught the hospitality bug. During my time at the Chateau Louise, I was asked many odd questions (that’s my way of saying, seriously you asked me that?) Because after many years of the same question it can get tiring but never got old all at the same time.                                      One of my favorite inquires was about the color of the lake.

Do you paint the bottom of the Lake? A common question I was asked nightly when working at the luxury hotel, Chateau Lake Louise in the Canadian Rockies. The first glance at the epic blue/turquoise/emerald colored lake would make you think how is that color even possible? It can’t be real. It is real. It’s the magic of nature. The emerald colour of the water comes from rock flour carried into the lake by melt-water from the glaciers that overlook the lake. When the sun shines on the water the minerals are spiraling about and reflect from the sky color. Magic!

Lake Louise is and will always be a special place for me. I was drawn by the mysteriousness of the mountains and swept about by the natural beauty. I learned a lot about hospitality and how much I loved being part of someone’s vacation. How I could make a difference in someone’s stay. I liked making people happy and bringing them good food and drink seemed to be a natural fit for me. I liked being in the kitchen at home, food and drink brought people together. The classic east coast kitchen party has always been in my blood and where I am on the west coast or east coast, I will always welcome anyone into my kitchen.

As I get closer to self-publishing my first memoir, Behind The Kitchen Doors ~ The Summers, I wanted to share a few fun facts and stories about the beautiful place I called home for over ten years.

Thank you to Kim Teramoto for the wonderful picture of Lake Louise.

Until Next Time, Keep on Typing…

 

Practice Makes us Better Writers #Mondayblogs

The thing about writing is it’s in my blood. Creativity pumps vigorously through my veins. I can’t shut off my imagination and when I try to, it is not pretty. I become someone who I don’t recognize. I am not my true self. Creative.

I realize I write a lot about the struggles of being a writer. My struggles are just as important as yours. We all have the ego blocking our true selves from time to time. The trick is to be aware of what this looks like and squash it like a bug. (I’m not against bugs, but sometimes they get in the way and they get swatted.) I am here to help you with your writing hiccups, joys, fears, and celebrations. Why? I believe in the power of creativity. Words. The expression on the page. Creating a story. It’s all candy for me. Like a sweet treat, writing can be soft and gentle and it can be hard ribbon candy sitting in your grandmothers Christmas candy dish. I am no stranger to the two sides of the coin of creativity. I am ready to flip and take on whatever shows up. Are you?

I’m currently in the middle of revising my manuscript and I’ve given myself a bit of a deadline. I’m panicking I won’t make it, so I had to let something go to make room and time for what is needed to get through the edits. One was last weeks blog. I didn’t like not writing something new to share, but it was necessary and I got of work done. That made me happy. This week I am walking away from the TV again. It’s a love-hate relationship with the TV. I don’t mind taking a break and watching the news, or an interesting documentary, but on Friday night we binge watched Season 2 of Jerry Seinfeld’s, Comedies in Cars getting coffee. I love that show! My husband and I laugh out loud and end up spending quality time together. That also makes me happy, and it’s needed.

I wanted to touch base with all of you to say hi, and to share that it’s okay to take a break. Take a step back from one thing to grow in another area. Now it’ time to get back to the revisions. It’s getting easier with each time I sit down with the words I’ve chosen to use to share my story. It’s easier to let go of some words to shape the story. Practice makes us better writers.  I’m ready to keep practicing.

What are you practicing this week?

Until Next Time, Keep on Typing…

 

 

One Hot Mess #MondayBlogs

That’s one hot mess. A friend of mine said to share her displeasure of a situation at work she was venting about. I agreed with her experiences and the description of the matter at hand. That evening I thought of how my writing can be one hot mess at times. How the risk I am taking has taken on a life of its own and I’m the vessel to deliver stories. Stories that I get excited about and sometimes can’t remember writing, but I did. I sat down and the words somehow showed on the page. Just like this very moment.

Once I began, there was no stopping me. Anything could have happened, a lot did, none of it pretty. ~ Dani Shaprio

It was as if Dani was writing about me during my early twenties. Once I left home to work for a luxury hotel in the heart of the Canadian Rockies, there was nothing stopping me. Especially when I made the decision to stay beyond my last summer at the hotel. I made a choice to let go of what everyone expected me to do, and who I mean by everyone in my family because we didn’t know any other way. Or maybe it was just me who didn’t know any better. What was implied of me: come home, settle down with my boyfriend, get married (but I never wanted to get married), have babies (also no interest in having children) and do all the same family dance that my family had been dancing for decades.

Sis: No thank you.

This is Sis, my sassy pseudo guardian angel/alter ego, who is really me expressing my true thoughts. You see, my mother labeled me as a shy little girl and I carried that like a badge of honor because I didn’t know any better. But I wasn’t shy. I was more like Sis than I knew. Sis helps me tell my stories. It’s not that I’m hiding behind her, but she makes it easier to say the things that sometimes I can’t. I think we all have a Sis within us.

Sis: Damn straight.

The luxury hotel and the food and beverage world swept me away to another world. A world I didn’t know existed because I was sheltered. My mother didn’t let me watch The Goonies, because she thought it was a horror movie and I would be scared. That’s what I mean by being sheltered. I wanted to know more about the world that I knew existed but was not allowed to explore because my mother wanted to keep me to herself. I was her only child. I get it, but I had to fly away to figure out where I wanted to be. If I didn’t take a risk and experience what I knew was out there to be experienced, I would regret and resent myself. I would know what I could have done but didn’t. I didn’t want to feel any remorse, I wanted to live. I knew my experiences would bring me back right where I was needed. Here on the page.

My journey has brought me here to finish this memoir about my experiences living on top of a mountain working for a beautiful luxury resort. A resort that brought much joy and heartache to my life.

Sis: And I wouldn’t change any of it.

For a sneak peek of Behind The Kitchen Doors ~ The Summers, please sign up for my Newsletter. See you there!

Until Next Time, Keep on Typing…