Category Archives: Cold Play

The Delicate Art of Book Promotion…A new audio interview!

Just a quick little blog today… mentioning an interview I did yesterday with Jim Goddard from The Goddard Report. This is a podcast that’s distributed online at talkdigitalnetwork.com and also on youtube.

Our chat on September 2 was combined with an interview Jim did with Mary Cummings, from my publisher, Diversion Books.

Please give it a listen. Mary talks about what makes Diversion different from the traditional publishers. And I talk about… well… my books. And me. 🙂

The interview on youtube…Click here

The interview on talkdigitalnetwork.com…Click here

Thank you!

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How Cold Play came to be…

The last time you heard from me, I was getting ready for a book release. A rather big book release, involving all four of my novels, which were being re-published by Diversion Books in New York.

So on July 7, the e-books were released. And this weekend, the paperback editions appeared.

Before I follow up The Delicate Art of Book Promotion with a blog about how successful my efforts have been, I thought you might like to read a little story about the genesis of one of the novels, Cold Play.

Cold Play is a novel with a very long history. Some books are written in no time at all. Some take a while to simmer and stew…and Cold Play is one of those.

As a child and a teenager, in the 1960s and 70s, I traveled to and from England by sea. It was the very end of the golden era of ocean liners, and the beginning of the jet age. My dad was a travel agent and he was able to get wonderful discounts for us on various ships, including the original Queen Mary – the one which is now a landlocked tourist attraction in Long Beach, California. I sailed on five different liners, but my favorite of them all was the Empress of Canada.

It was 1971, and we didn’t know it at the time, but that summer was to be her last on the transatlantic run from Montreal to Liverpool. Perhaps I picked up a feeling, seeing the dwindling numbers of passengers sharing her public rooms and decks. Perhaps it was because I was nearly 17, and I was already writing stories and making up adventures for characters who lived with me nonstop, day and night. My imagination was primed. I fell in love with the Empress of Canada. And the summer of 1971 is where the story of Cold Play really began.

Years later I briefly became a travel agent myself, and when Carnival Cruise Lines began to market their first ship, the Mardi Gras, I looked at the pictures in the brochure and thought, this lady seems very familiar! And she was… my Empress of Canada had taken on a new life and was proudly cruising the Caribbean. She was the first of many ships for tiny Carnival, which eventually grew into a massive corporation which now also owns Princess, Costa and Cunard, among others!

My lovely Empress stayed in service for decades, but changing laws about safety at sea and the demand for newer and larger ships meant her days were numbered. Her last incarnation was as Direct Cruise’s Apollon, but in 2003 she was finally retired, and sold for breaking up as scrap. It was a very sad end for my lady, beached in Alang, India, her entire hull exposed and her beautiful white and blue livery rusting in the blazing sun. I saw photos of her as she was demolished, section by section. It made me cry.

I knew I wanted to write about an aging ocean liner the minute I stepped off the Empress of Canada in Liverpool in 1971. But I didn’t have a story, and at age 16, I didn’t yet have the skills to be able to pull it off. I devoured movies like The Poseidon Adventure, parts of which were filmed aboard the Queen Mary; and The Last Voyage, from 1960, filmed aboard the old luxury liner, Ile de France.

Fast forward now to the late 1990s. My career as a travel agent was long in the past, but my sister had taken up the banner, and was working as a Captain’s Secretary for a popular cruise line that sailed weekly from Vancouver to Alaska. She served on a number of different ships, but one of them happened to be a former ocean liner, a tiny jewel that had once been owned by Cunard. She was dwarfed by her newer and larger colleagues when she was docked at her ports of call, and she wasn’t quite as beautiful as my Empress, but she was gracious and proud, and when I was given the opportunity to sail on her, as a guest of my sister, I leaped at the chance.

There are always perks associated with being related to a uniformed officer aboard a cruise ship, and this was definitely one of them. I stayed in my sister’s cabin, which was located in the crew area. I ate in the Officers’ Mess, and I consorted with the Pursers after hours when they held parties in their cabins, spilling out into the main connecting companionway. I stood up on the Bridge in pitch blackness while the ship was navigating the waters near Ketchikan. I was taught how to open and close watertight doors below the waterline. I stayed on board after all the passengers had disembarked, and I saw first-hand what turnaround day involved, before the next lot of passengers were allowed up the gangway. I observed how a cruise ship functioned from a crew point of view, and I knew then that I had my story.

But who was going to be my main character? And what, exactly, was the story going to be about – besides an aging cruise ship that was once a grand ocean liner?

In Cold Play’s first draft, Jason Davey was a Purser. I had a notebook filled with anecdotes from my sister’s colleagues, and from my sister herself, who had worked at the Purser’s Desk before being promoted upstairs to the Bridge. Jason, an out-of-work actor, had run away to sea after the death of his wife in a fire that he believed he was responsible for: he’d accidentally dropped a smoldering cigarette end into a sofa. The novel was called Found at Sea, and the story involved an aging actress with designs on Jason who comes aboard and wreaks havoc for him and the crew; and a travel agent named Katey who is searching for meaning in her life after a messy divorce and facing burnout from her job.

I had an agent pitching Found at Sea to publishers in the UK in early 2002. But nobody seemed to be interested. We tried for about a year, and then my agent decided to pursue other occupations, and I took a buyout from my place of employment, and decided to go to film school to learn how to write scripts. Found at Sea became my major project and my first screenplay. After graduation I entered it in a contest, where it caught the attention of a local producer, who optioned it. We worked on it for a year or two, changing the name to Life Boat, and changing the location to Alaska.

Nothing ever came of the script, which is typical of 95% of screenplays – they sit in development, and then end up abandoned when the option expires.

Fast forward again, to 2009, and Twitter. I was part of a community of first-adopters of Twitter. It was fabulous fun, and the potential for plotting was enormous. There were constructed personalities operating under pseudo-names, claiming to get up to all sorts of adventures, in bursts of postings that were 140 characters long. You never knew who you were really talking to. And whether or not they were telling the truth, or were very convincing liars.

In 2009, I went on another cruise, again to Alaska, but this time I was a passenger. It was on a very large and modern ship, a different line from the one my sister had worked for, and I spent a good part of every evening in the ship’s library, where the computers were, trying to connect with my Twitterfriends. Right next door to the library, separated by a glass wall, was the ship’s biggest lounge, and every night there was a one-man band playing in that lounge, surrounded by electronic gadgets, playing his guitar and singing. Sometimes he had a full house. Sometimes he was singing to just himself and the bartender. But he captured my imagination…and I knew that I’d found Jason.

He wasn’t an actor at all and he didn’t work at the Purser’s Desk. He was a ship’s entertainer. And he was still being pursued by an aging and eccentric actress. And his love interest was still Katey, the recently-divorced-and-burned-out-travel-agent. But Jason now spent much of his spare time on Twitter, using the handle @Cold_Fingers to amuse his followers with tales of a life at sea. And because of that, he’d picked up a stalker named @SaylerGurl… who may or may not have been aboard his ship that week. And there was the added intrigue of an alcoholic musician from Jason’s past who might know a very big secret. And there was still the question of Jason’s wife’s death in that fire…and who was really responsible for it.

And then there was the story of Jason’s ship. I called her the Sapphire in the novel, but she was always the Empress of Canada in my imagination. And she was an important character, just like Jason and Katey, Rick Redding and SaylerGurl and Diana Wyndham and Jilly, Jason’s “guardian angel”. I wondered what it would be like for the Sapphire to be facing her last useful days at sea…to suddenly discover that she was going to be sold for scrap at the end of the season. And how she might react, as a result…

I was going to change the name of the novel from Found at Sea to Cold_Fingers, but I consulted a friend who suggested Cold Play would be a much better title. I thought it was brilliant. I spent much of 2011 pitching the story to agents and publishers, who couldn’t see a best-seller in it and therefore declined my offer. So in 2012 I decided to self-publish instead. I used one of my own photos from Glacier Bay for the cover. And my Empress of Canada story, born forty years earlier, was released at last.

I’ve recently signed with Diversion Books in New York, and as part of my contract with them, they’ve re-released all four of my previous novels. Cold Play has been given a new cover, and now has the potential to reach an entirely new audience. I’m so pleased my lovely Empress of Canada lives on, even if it’s only in my readers’ imaginations.

One final note… last October I went on a short overnight cruise from Seattle to Vancouver with my sister, who is no longer employed in the cruise industry. We traveled as passengers, on a ship sailing her former employer’s flag. We were sitting in the atrium, enjoying coffee and pastries, when a musician sat down and started to tune up. He had a guitar, and some elaborate gadgetry. He looked extremely familiar, and when I checked his name in the daily bulletin, I saw that it was the same fellow I’d watched five years earlier, playing in the lounge next to the ship’s library. My Jason.

Did I introduce myself, and tell him about Cold Play, and the inspiration he’d provided?

I’ll let you guess.

Cold Play is available from Amazon as an ebook and a paperback, along with my three other novels, Persistence of Memory, The Cilla Rose Affair, and Skywatcher.

www.winonakent.com

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Cold Play – Part 2

Well, I’ve launched The Novel.

It took a lot of advance planning, and some research, because I wanted to do it “right”. I didn’t want to be one of those writers who e-published a book and then sat back hoping my friends and family would notice it and love it and, of course, recommend it to all of their friends, and so on, until 100,000 copies were sold and I became world famous.

I’m still learning as I write this. The Launch was fabulous – I held it on Facebook and on Twitter, simultaneously – something I don’t think I’d recommend as it involves two different mind-sets and often, two sets of friends and followers – and in this case I was competing with the Eurovision Finals! Which was hilarious in itself. Everyone else was commenting on Engelbert Humperdinck… and I was serving plates of olives and caviar and hoping everyone would dance to Lady GaGa! 🙂

The Facebook Launch took place on a virtual cruise ship docked in Vancouver – which made total sense as the novel takes place on a cruise ship which sails away from Vancouver, to Alaska, on an adventure.

I served virtual Bolly and caviar and posh munchies (Google Images proved to be very helpful here), and played tunes from YouTube to keep the party mood high.

Many, many Facebook friends showed up to join in the festivities. Some brought their own food and drink … some collapsed onto the handy loungers set up all over Lido Deck… some partied on into the night as the ship sailed away from Vancouver and headed for Juneau, Alaska.

The entire party was a tribute to everyones’ imaginations and willingness to surrender to the creative moment. I thank all who attended – and who downloaded Cold Play from Kindle as well! You’re lovely and wonderful people!

And now the hard part begins – the real marketing.

So… if you’re curious… here are the links to Amazon Kindle, where you can download Cold Play very reasonably!

UK Amazon Kindle

US Amazon Kindle

And remember – you don’t need an actual Kindle Reader to read a Kindle book – Amazon has free software you can download to your Mac, PC, Smartphone, Ipad…

Free Amazon Kindle Software

And, of course, a cruise to Alaska wouldn’t be complete without all of the Stuff you get on the voyage… which is why I created the Star Sapphire Virtual Cruise site…

Star Sapphire Virtual Cruise to Alaska

Here you’ll find Deck Plans, What’s on Board Daily Bulletins, Daily Quizzes, Drinks of the Day, Dinner Menu’s, Classy Cruise Crafts (you always wanted to know how to fold a bath towel into an Elephant, didn’t you…?) and of course, a Log of the Cruise from the Captain and a Day by Day Itinerary with pictures and maps.

It’s worth it just to see the Stratomelon 🙂

(Hint: Click here and scroll to the bottom of the page)

Please do drop by if you get a chance… and thank you!

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Cold Play

Once upon a time – a lifetime ago (probably 1999 or 2000) I wrote a novel called Found at Sea. It was about Chris Davey, an actor, who had run away to sea after his wife had died in a fire and he’d been blamed for it. In his new life, he was a Purser on an old cruise ship, the Star Sapphire. The other characters were Diana Wyndham, an aging and eccentric actress who, through assorted edits and rewrites, turned out to be the main baddie; Katey Shawcross, a travel agent who would ultimately become Chris’s love interest; Sally Jones, the Captain’s Secretary; and Des King, a tabloid reporter who was chasing down the real story behind Chris’s wife’s death.

The setting for Found at Sea was the Caribbean. The story and most of the characters came out of my sister’s experiences as a Captain’s Secretary with a well known cruise line. I travelled with her a few times, staying in her cabin, consorting with the crew below decks, and found the whole experience incredibly interesting.

The story was largely an attempt by me to finally deal with a couple of things from my past that still haunted me… my burnout as a travel agent – I’d been one for 8 years, had followed my dad into the business, and realized, too late, that I wasn’t cut out for that kind of job (largely sales) at all; and the death, when I was 19, of my best friend, in a fire caused by someone else, which shook me to the core and made me realize how fragile human life can be.

Found at Sea was a decent novel. I got an agent in the UK who pitched it to publishers, but none turned out to be all that interested.

A few years later, in 2003, I resigned from the fulltime job I’d had for 18 years, took a massive buyout, and invested a little of it in tuition at Vancouver Film School, where I learned how to write screenplays and became a much, much better writer for it.

Found at Sea became my major project – a full length feature script. My instructors thought I was crazy, trying to adapt a novel into a screenplay as my first screenwriting attempt. But I got points for persistence and courage. The main characters were intact – Chris, Katey, Diana, Sally and Des King. The location changed. It became Alaska – mostly because my sister was doing a lot of Alaska trips and I’d been on four or five of them by then, and it seemed an intriguing sort of place to set a story. And the idea of fire and ice as dramatic thematic counterpoints was a good one.

When I graduated from film school, I entered Found at Sea in a local screenwriting contest. I didn’t win – I didn’t even place – but the script caught the attention of one of the judges, who was a producer – and he contacted me and we began a working relationship that lasted 2 years while we tried to develop the screenplay into something that could actually be produced on a Canadian budget. We failed on all counts. But Found at Sea (now renamed Life Boat) did become my first optioned screenplay, and I was paid a fair amount of money for it. So it was actually quite a worthwhile exercise.

For the next 7 years, I tried – mostly unsuccessfully – to make my way as a screenwriter. I should point out here that I’m not a novice. I’ve been writing since I was a child, writing seriously since I was 16, and I’ve had novels and short stories published in the past. I have a Masters Degree in Creative Writing. When I went to film school, it was to try and broaden my talents and skills, to try and stay relevant in a changing writers’ world.

It’s tough trying to break into an industry where there’s very little being produced, and what is produced is dependent largely upon government funding. A small pot, divided up among a small group of active participants. That’s the Canadian model.

The US model is based in Hollywood, and if you can crack that, well… you’re a better person than me.

And as for the UK… wonderful opportunities.. no shortage of possibilities… but unless you live there and are available on short notice for lunches, deals and introductions, it’s not going to happen. End of story.

I had a good run. I optioned 4 scripts, alone and with my screenwriting partner. None were produced, but that’s typical. 99% of all optioned scripts are never produced. And all of the features I worked on would make fabulous novels.

Which brings me to Cold Play. 2012. Found at Sea… revisited.

But first… some background.

Between 2009 and 2011, I had a bit of a meltdown. It blindsided me. I didn’t even know I was having it, which is usually the case with these sorts of things. I thought I was being totally normal.

The reasons for The Great Crash are numerous… age and hormones, being diagnosed as a diabetic and having major issues with medications that were playing havoc with my entire body; huge stressors at work as I dealt with management issues, moving locations, job changes; my mum nearly dying from pneumonia and COPD; my husband losing his job; it goes on and on. Consider the list of all of life’s big stressors, and I had about a dozen of them going on at the same time.

My escape was Twitter. I know it sounds a bit mad – and it was. I’m convinced that Twitter accesses the same area of our brains that controls creativity and probably sanity. I completely lost myself in Twitter, developing not one, but two constructed personalities. The first was a sort of delusional parody of myself, a semi-psychic entity who meant well but was usually completely wrong. (I was, at the time, in real life, involved with a group of people who were exploring their psychic abilities, and although I’m highly empathetic and intuitive, I also somehow managed to convince myself that I was highly psychic – which couldn’t have been further from the truth). My “psychic self” was totally out to lunch, and, well, just plain nuts.

The second personality I developed was a completely loopy character called Astral Traveler. Astral was convinced she could outdo Psychic Winona. The less said about her, the better.

Without going into a lot of detail, I’m going to say that I had some friends on Twitter, that I lost. Some I didn’t really care about – it’s Twitter, after all, and followers come and go. A small few, I cared about a lot. Probably much much more than they cared about me – but that’s me, really me, anyway. I form intense friendships. I always have, throughout my life. It’s why I only ever have a few friends at any given moment in time.

All of these things, together, resulted in The Great Meltdown, which I finally did something about in October 2010… I went to see a counsellor. I poured out my heart and ended with, “I just want this all to stop.”

By way of a response, he looked at me and said, “What have you done in the past to deal with your stress?”

“I’ve escaped into my writing,” I said. “I’ve written novels.”

“Then that’s what you should do now,” he replied.

And it was true. I had always made sense out of my world by putting it into a novel. Nine or ten novels, in fact. Only two of which had been published at that point.

And I realized that in the 7 years since I’d gone to film school, I hadn’t written any fiction at all. Screenplays and tv scripts, yes. But they’re not the same as long fiction. They’re action lines and dialogue, and for me, anyway, there’s little room for contemplation, inner thought, exploration of self, philosophy… the essence and inner heart and soul that I think all creative people know and recognize as they way they deal with life.

Coupled with my counsellor’s advice was the advice from one of the friends I’d lost on Twitter… as I’d descended into delusion and completely let go of any semblance of reality (and probably frightened him half to death in the process)… a creative soul himself, one of the last things he suggested to me was that I try and channel my energy into my writing.

And so, that’s what I did.

Found at Sea became Cold Play.

All of the original characters came along for the rewrite – Diana Wyndham, Des King, Sally Jones, Katey Shawcross…except that Chris Davey became Jess Davey (and then Jason Davey, to avoid gender confusion, since I decided to write the story in the first person, from the main character’s point of view). And Jason was no longer a purser – he was an entertainer on board the ship.

And I added three new characters. SaylerGurl – another baddie, someone 100% inspired by Twitter; and Jilly Snowdon – another Twitter character – a psychic “guardian angel” – you know where she came from!; and Rick Redding, an old rock n roller, who I think actually came about as the result of a discussion I was having with a friend on Facebook, something about Woolly Worms, and Shag Pile carpeting…

I changed the plot slightly, although the storyline is still, in essence, the same storyline I wrote back in 1999 or 2000… and I added Twitter as a kind of thematic thread, stitched in and out of the narrative.

You never actually meet or see SaylerGurl or Jilly. I don’t think I’m giving away any spoilers when I say that. You encounter them through their Tweets and their DM’s and their messages. Which is, really, how a lot of us conduct our friendships online these days. And if I say that much of me went into SaylerGurl and Jilly, I wouldn’t be lying. Which aspect of me is something else, though. Certainly not the me that I am now… recovered (mostly), sane (mostly), and finally unstressed (mostly).

So there you have it. Cold Play, 2012. I’ve pitched it to about 200 agents and none of them are really interested. I don’t blame them. The publishing industry’s going through the same kind of shakeup that music went through a few years ago, when everything went digital. I’ll probably end up publishing Cold Play myself, as an e-book.

And that will be a whole other adventure for me, as I’ll have to learn all about marketing and sales. Which takes me back to a few of the skills I learned many many years ago… as a travel agent.

Full circle, in a way.

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