A Story Within A Story

EDIT: I get asked for this story – a lot. So I’ve presented it here, by itself, for posterity. (I will now go look up the word ‘posterity.’ In case it doesn’t mean what I think it means. I only used it here because it sounds good…)

A year after my husband died, my family was falling apart. Myself, my five kids, we were each drifting along on our separate paths, disconnected, aloof, and wandering aimlessly. I could see it happening, but couldn’t figure out how to fix it.

It was January, and my Number 2 of 5 started talking about taking the road trip west that he’d started talking about when he was about four years old. He was mulling around the kind of trip he wanted: to take the friend or the girlfriend or the dog, to drive or fly and drive, camp or hotel. Each of the variables would mean a completely different trip. I was familiar with his sense of adventure and recognized his need to reach for something beyond his present world, so I encouraged the conversation with more envy than I’d expected.

Until an idea struck. And anyone who knows me knows how that turns out.

I texted him.

“What do you think about a family road trip, PEI style, out west, this summer?”

We’d thrown the kids and the dog in the van with an hour’s notice a few years before and just drove east through the Atlantic provinces. A whirlwind week with no plan or expectation turned into memories to last a lifetime.

Within a single minute, he replied, “I’m in!”

We spent the next few months deciding on the type of trip, opting for an RV road trip from Hamilton to BC. Maybe a month. All five kids and Nana were on board. Ben and I shopped for an RV, being forced to buy one so he, at age 20, could drive it with insurance, and the trip was begun.

We drove and explored and laughed and cried and fought and learned and made up and connected over the month-long confinement in a 240 square foot tin can. 13,000km. Without actually succeeding in killing each other. (Though there were moments…)

We made it to Watson Lake, Yukon, south to Vancouver, north to Jasper, south to Banff, and west back home. With memories to ignite the light in our new family of six.

In buying the RV, I’d opted to put my husband’s last license plates on it: 7BROWNS. In my mind, taking his Bucket List Trip, we were able to take 7 Browns to Yukon. Watson Lake has this place called the Sign Post Forest. Tourists from all over the world have been leaving signs there for decades, and strolling through the maze of signs and posts is a most interesting way to pass a few hours. But we were heading back home through Saskatchewan when it dawned on me quite suddenly and loudly that I should have left the front plate there. The instant regret was crushing.

Ben was driving at the time. He just looked at me and said, “Well, Mom, you’ll just have to go back…”

Yeah, right.

Fast forward five years, and I’m writing a book. I created a character, gave her my circumstance – made her a widowed mother of five – and hung her out at the end of her rope. She woke up one day with a nasty case of “Fuck It!” and ran away from home.

I hung the map of our trip on the wall and sent her on her way.

As she tells her story, I have no idea where she’s taking it. I am the scribe while she steals emotions and adventures from my memory, while she makes up her own anecdotes. I simply type and watch.

And then she gets to Watson Lake.

She sees a licence plate there. 7BROWNS. And the story takes a turn.

I join my Cracked Pots the next day, exhausted, eyes burning from crying through tears all day the day before. And I tell them, “I think I have a problem.”

“She’s gone to Watson Lake,” I explained. “And she saw my license plate. Except that my license plate’s not there.”

My Cracked Pots eyed me suspiciously.

A week later, and the story has passed the point of no return. It will be a book. And people around the world will read the book. And they will go to Watson Lake and look for 7BROWNS. But it won’t be there.

“I think I have to go to Yukon this summer,” I told them.

They listened skeptically.

A month later I finished the story. The first draft was done, and I was beside myself.

“Okay,” I warned them. “I’m going. I have to take my plate to Watson Lake.”

And what do they do? These amazingly incredibly supportive and loving friends of mine?

“Okay! We’re in!”

Shit! This just got real!

Seriously. If you say you’re going to the ends of the earth, and your friends all jump in and unanimously agree to go with you, like it’s some kind of good idea, you dedicate the book to them.

Alex with 7BROWNS plate
Heading to Watson Lake with a mission!

Then comes the scramble to find a rental RV in Edmonton, put together some kind of loose plan, figure out how to pack and fly these days, figure out an Instagram account, and pray beyond any real hope that we’re still friends when we get back.

7BROWNS plate at Watson Lake
Success!!

So in the end, people are asking me what’s real and what’s not in the book. That’s my business, and something I’ll mostly keep to myself. But I wanted to share the story of how 7BROWNS and five Cracked Pots made it to the Yukon. Because in my world of Overwhelming Gratitude, that’s a big one.

Here’s Why Those Reviews Matter

If you go to Amazon.com to buy my book, the first thing you do is type the title into the Search bar.

“A Road To Joy”

One would expect to see my book. But here’s a screenshot of what you get:

Yeah. There are 6 (!!!) books (okay, one’s not even a book…) that come up in the search before mine does. And of the six of them, not one is an exact match for the search parameters. (That’s me, second row, third one from the left. Seventh, and the first exact match…)

You see, Amazon, and any other sales site for that matter, rank their products based on a number of factors. But when it comes to books, reviews are the key. And it doesn’t take many reviews for a book to get bumped up a few notches.

But here’s the real kicker. I’ve entered A Road To Joy into the 2019 Kindle Storyteller Contest. As contests go, there’s a huge popularity component to being recognized, or even considered for that matter. But with books, popularity is pretty much the point.

So in the end, those reviews matter. Telling friends about the book matters. Lending them your copy is a great way to share it – just remind them to leave a review. On Amazon if the book is purchased there. On A Road To Joy’s website if not.

The bottom line is, I’ve written lots of other stuff. But A Road To Joy is something that I honestly think is worthy of the recognition a contest of this magnitude would bring. So I’m pestering big time for your help. And it’s a good story. So I’m promising a great entertainment value in return.

With Overwhelming Gratitude,
Alex.

2 Easy Steps To Write A Great Review

So much of avoiding writing a review for someone’s book is the idea that you can’t write.

P-shaw…

It’s easy. It takes five minutes. And it is the single most effective way to support the author of a book you took the time to read. (Or maybe even didn’t finish…) Here’s the 2 – Yes, 2! – Steps to Writing a Review

First,

Find a link to the book/author’s review page. Chances are they’ve sent you an email. Or it’s right at the top of their website. Or it’s printed on the book itself. Reviews are gold. The publisher and author are going to make it as easy as possible for you to share your comments. This whole paragraph links to mine.

And Second,

Write a review. Not a report. Not an essay. Just tell them what you think about their book.

Use the 3-Word-Rule.

I loved it.” Or, “I hated it.” Or just the first three words that come to mind: “funny, sad, wow.

If you’re game, you could elaborate by answering why?
Why you loved it – I felt every word of this book, I’ve been there myself.
Why you hated it – I cried the whole time. Ugh.
Why someone else should read it – I want my mother/brother/husband/daughter to read it because they’ll understand me better.

That’s it! Quick, easy, painless, and a boon for an author who’s trying to change the world!

With Overwhelming Gratitude,
Alex.

It’s All About The Reviews!

Let’s put aside for a moment the fact that it’s unbelievably cool to hear what people think about something you think you aced.

Like this message from Dianne yesterday:

"I just finished your wonderful book for the 2nd time.  

"I loved it both times but the 2nd time I took longer to read it and it touched me in ways I missed during the first time. Thanks for sharing. Overwhelming Gratitude."
~ Dianne

I’ve discovered the Joy in hugging myself!

Anyway, to get a book out into the masses, an author and her publishing company have to spend gobs of money on advertising and marketing, tons of time travelling and planning, and every ounce of energy they have trying to get people who read the book to tell others what they thought about it.

No matter how you release a book, the end game is the same. Word of mouth is what makes or breaks a book. And because I am both tremendously proud of this work and I truly believe it’s meant to help people, I’m pushing for those reviews.

If you purchase your copy from Amazon, they’ll send you an email asking you for a review. Please save it for when you’ve finished reading A Road To Joy, and then use the link to share your thoughts.

If you get a copy from me, however, you can leave your review here on the website at REVIEWS. The website’s listed on the back cover of the book as well. (You can also copy your Amazon comments into the REVIEWS page here to really get your comments out there!)

And rest assured that the Gratitude I feel when someone takes the time to respond to my words is, to say the least, Overwhelming!

Alex.

People Are Talking!

Well. I’m a few weeks into Book Launch mode and the comments and reviews are now coming in. And I couldn’t be more thrilled.

Here’s a few examples:

“Alex, I had to read the first chapter to motivate me to finish the book I’m currently reading. I LOVE IT! You had me at ‘blasé what-the-fuckedness.’ I enjoyed meeting “her” and look forward to what she has in store for me! ~Norma

“Hi Alex. I can’t put A Road To Joy down. I am almost finished it. I have smiled, cried and laughed with almost every page.”
~Dianne

“I felt your pain, your anguish and your fear in your words (because it perfectly described how I too would feel if our roles were reversed) and although you’ve had to carry on without him for a few years now, I wanted to tell you how brave and strong I think you are… Writing this book was the most admirable thing you could do to honour him [Alex’s husband, Paul], and I feel incredibly privileged to have been able to learn of your journey.”
~Dana

“It has taken me a couple of days to speak to you after reading “A Road to Joy.” …Wow. Double wow!  I have always respected your ability to speak and write with clarity and emotion from the heart, but this novel spoke to my heart completely.  I felt like I was your shadow, experiencing all the heartbreak, angst, grief, questioning, anger, relief, calm, acceptance, joy – the kaleidoscope of feelings was almost overwhelming.   Thank you for being able to so eloquently express your “head space” these past few years.”
~Cathy

It’s getting pretty darned exciting!!

But marketing a book these days is a process, and I’d like to ask for your help….

Bottom line: A writer’s bread and butter is in the reviews.

Ideally, Amazon reviews. (You have to purchase a copy through Amazon to be able to leave a review there.) But also here, at http://ARoadToJoy.com/Reviews

Because word of mouth is everything. For the book to rank at all in the search engines, and within Amazon’s website, it all comes down to the number of reviews. So whether you liked the story a little or a lot, or hated it completely, please take a few minutes to just post a quick comment. As long or short as you want. As kind or ripping as you feel.

But so you know, when it actually comes right down to it, I really just want to know what you thought. And so does everybody else!

Thanks for this! And for telling others about it! And for lending your copy to someone else! And for connecting with me! It’s turning into an amazing journey – I thought The End was the end. Turns out it’s just the beginning!

With Overwhelming Gratitude,
Alex.