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Posts tagged ‘the author’s life’

Camilla Downs, soul writer, on giving and receiving

Camilla Downs is a writer, a poet, and nature lover  on a journey full of new learning. Camilla has fresh eyes, an open heart, and a thirst for discovery , and she shares all this through her writing. A single mother of two amazing children, she and her kids are into their fourth year of living-in-a-tiny-home adventureCamilla recently published her 4th book, Words of Alchemy. In speaking with Camilla, I sense that she finds writing both a gift to others and a source of peace for herself. What a great find in these days of uncertainty.
Welcome, Camilla, and thanks for speaking with me on Last Word of the Week. Why is writing important to you?
Writing has been a sanity saving bridge, in processing life experiences, in being a single parent, in being a parent to a special needs child, in making decisions. Writing has been my way of sharing what I’m experiencing, getting it out of my head, being comforted, assured, cheered on, and, at times, receiving direction.
Author Camilla Downs and family

Author Camilla Downs and family

It’s definitely a two-way street. What’s the best response you’ve ever had to your writing?
The best response is a compilation of the responses in which others share how my writings have inspired or helped them in some way. There’s nothing better than receiving a message or review that lets me know that my writing was useful to someone.
What five words would best describe your style?
Wild, unfiltered, from the heart.
Delightful! Do you write for yourself or for a particular audience?
To date, I have always written for myself. Writing is how I process and experience life. The feedback received when sharing what I write is what encouraged me to pursue publishing the content.
What’s the scariest thing you’ve ever done?
Making the decision fourteen years ago to leave my marriage, becoming a single parent to two children; 1 year old and 5 years old at the time. I had no idea how I would manage, how I would survive. They are 14 years old and 18 years old now. It is through sheer grit, determination, letting go of the fear of asking for help, and not feeling shame for accepting and receiving help, that we’ve made it successfully to this point.
What a huge moment that must have been. What’s your favourite genre to read?
I have made shifts throughout my reading years. As a child and teenager I was all about fiction and horror. As an adult I shifted to mysteries, reading every book Agatha Christie had written, ending with her autobiography. Then I shifted to only business books, autobiographies and biographies of successful people. Reading then shifted to non-fiction books in the self-help, mind, body, spirituality type books. With  the latest shift being opening back up to the fiction genre, along with memoirs and books about writing.
That’s pretty comprehensive, indeed. Where do you get inspiration or ideas from?
My latest book, Words of Alchemy, was largely inspired by Nature, and the many walks I took during the time it was written.
Words of Alchemy by Camilla Downs

Words of Alchemy by Camilla Downs

Is it easy for readers to find your book/s?
Yes, I believe so. My books can be found on my website or on Amazon.
If you could write a note to someone about to read your book, what would
you say?
This is such an interesting thought and question. When readers buy a book directly from me, I actually do include a personalized note when signing the book, in addition to a creative message hidden within the book. I have incredible fun doing this!
I would say, “May the perfect words within this book, touch your heart, at the perfect moment. Love, Camilla”
That’s lovely. Do you write in more than one genre?
My first book is a memoir of my journey to acceptance of myself, and acceptance of becoming a single parent to two children, one with special needs, one a genius (who is most likely on the spectrum).
The second book, for which I am simply a contributor, is my daughter’s book. I collected her writings, organized them, wrote the introduction, edited, proofed, and published the book. Her book was intentionally not professionally edited so as to share her unique view with the reading world. A photo I took of her was used for the cover of the book. It is in the fiction genre as it is a collection of her short stories and poetry from 5 years old to 15 years old.
The third book, I am also simply a contributor, as it is a photography book of photos my then 8 year old son took. I organized the book, wrote the introduction, and he and I chose quotes to pair with the sections of the book.
My latest book to publish is a poetry memoir of the last 6 years of my life.
What an amazing collection! Truly inspirational, Camilla.
Thank you once again, Clare, for having me be a part of your wonderful blog! All the best to you.
My pleasure! Here’s more about Camilla’s latest book of nature-inspired poems:
The poetry of nature, the poetry of healing, the poetry of appreciation, the poetry of love … in one beautiful book.
In Words of Alchemy, Camilla Downs invites you to walk with her to share her love of Nature and Life through a heartfelt free-verse poetry memoir.
During her daily strolls she is mindfully present as she delves into life in the raw and experiences her heart’s observations.
Camilla embraces what happens when she opens her heart and invites the written words to flow. The Alchemy of Love and Healing is what happens.
Praise for Words of Alchemy
“Words of Alchemy, a heartfelt new collection by Camilla Downs, lives up to its namesake in numerous ways. Downs spans the broad range of nature, healing, love, and parenting, while making sure we have a little fun along the way. And the bridge she creates from the mindfulness of how we see the world at large to the poetry of everyday life is certainly worth a stroll or two across its borders.” – Thomas Lloyd Qualls, Award-winning author of Painted Oxen
“This poetry collection offers contemplative words, soothing thoughts and peace to the reader.” – Sue Bentley, Bestselling author of Second Skin
“Camilla Downs shares truth, vulnerability and wisdom in her Words of Alchemy collection, inviting readers to be inspired, contemplate and dive into her world of self-awareness and growth.” – G. Brian Benson – Award-winning author, actor and spoken word artist
“These poems take you on a calm and loving walk through the verses of the author’s thoughts. Alchemy is a perfect word for the title as Camilla Downs understands nature; connecting with its magical, medicinal qualities and beauty which she conveys throughout her poetry.” – Ailsa Craig, Author of The Sand Between My Toes
“Words of Alchemy is a chronicle of hope. These poems are an encouragement, especially when we are feeling at our lowest, to keep seeking the light that is our way forward, and focus on the real. This collection is a walk through the positive nature of life. Camilla Downs is to be commended.” – Frank Prem, Author of free-verse memoir Small Town Kid
About Camilla:
Camilla Downs is a bestselling author, indie publisher, mentor, and mom. Nature and life experiences are a constant source of inspiration for her writing. She enjoys living a minimalist lifestyle, practicing meditation and mindfulness, reading, going for walks, and capturing nature’s essence with photographs. Camilla is the founder of MeetingtheAuthors.com and lives in Northern Nevada with her two kids.
Camilla’s Links:
Website: http://camilladowns.com/
Family Website: http://theteamtlc.com/
facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CamillaDownsAuthor/
twitter: https://twitter.com/camilladowns
instagram: https://www.instagram.com/CamillaDowns/
pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/camilladowns/
Where to Buy:
If you’re in the U.S. and would like a personalised, signed book – free shipping! (Camilla will ship internationally at buyer’s cost): http://camilladowns.com/books/words-of-alchemy/
Or go to
Amazon: mybook.to/WordsofAlchemy
Amazon Link to All Books:  amazon.com/author/camilladowns

Crisis Interruptis

I interrupt the regular run of Last Word of the Week with an explanatory story about Australian dystopian fiction and bushfires.

Apologies to anyone looking for my Middle Child post – that’s been rescheduled to next week. The national bushfire emergency is too high a priority.

I wish I’d never written that book

As the climate emergency continues, I’m forced to reflect on my writing. One social media post I saw described a bookshop as moving its post-apocalyptic fiction books to the current affairs section.

I feel the same.

The Chronicles of the Pale started with a dream – or nightmare – in which desperate refugees were shut out of a fenced compound, and those of us inside were prevented from bringing them in to safety. This dream arose from Australia’s harsh treatment of refugees, a policy condemned by the UN. Scott Morrison as the Minister for Immigration at the time introduced Operation Sovereign Borders, and his lack of empathy, his inhumanity, his stubborn conviction that he and only he was right, inspired the cruel characters who rule inside my fictional policosmos, the Pale. Jason the Senior Forecaster and Élin the Regent care only for themselves.

If Australia had been a more compassionate country, I would never have written The Pale. I truly wish that was the case – better a world with care for refugees than a world with one more dystopian novel in it. I wish I had never had to write that book.

ruins pale

And I wish I’d never written the next one

In Book 2, Broad Plain Darkening, it’s the discriminatory practices of the Settlement that come under the most scrutiny. It is no surprise to me, now, to reflect that this novel was written during the bitter gay marriage referendum debate that occupied Australians at the time. I was also extremely distressed by the live export controversy, and got nowhere with my communication to the then Minister for Agriculture Barnaby Joyce. Profit above all, no matter who or what suffers.

I can see my rejection of this every time one of my favourite characters acts in a compassionate way, every time they work against discrimination and cruelty. It’s sad to think that my fictional folk – humans and animals – have more heart than many of my fellow Australians. Brettin, the outrageously upright Lady of the Temple, represents all that distresses me about religion and prejudice. And that’s saying something.

Now that the current Federal Government is pushing through its religious ‘tolerance’ bill, allowing many acts of bigotry to flourish unchecked in the spurious name of religious freedom (ie freedom to discriminate against the LGBTI+ community), I’m sad that Book 2 also had to be written. A better world would never have the need for such a story.

BPD horses

If only I hadn’t written the third book!

And so we get to the climate.

The Chronicles of the Pale 3, The Ruined Land, is about my fictional world falling apart under the feet of all the communities that depend on it. Here’s what happens:

Volcanoes destroy the Shaking Land – and yes I did write that before White Island erupted just off the New Zealand coast.

Unchecked fires rage through the Broken Ranges and send smoke across the entire continent, with displaced and starving ursini (bear creatures) invading Broad Plain because their habitat is gone – yes I did write that before Australia burst into unprecedented flame.

Water floods the land as the temperature rises and the ice caps melt back into the sea … and I wrote that before Australia patted the Pacific islands on the head and told them not to panic. Does any of this sound familiar?

In my story, there is even a child – Jasper Valkirrasson – who does his best, at great personal cost, to warn the crusty old misanthropes at the old Settlement about the coming danger. I wrote Jasper’s courage and his big heart before I had even heard of Greta Thunberg, but if I hadn’t , she would certainly have been my model.

The Ruined Land was written at a time when – again and again – Australia turned its back on environmental reform in the name of money, and held the position that Australia had no desire or mandate to be a world leader in this field. True, our overall effect may be comparatively small, but we are also one of the countries most vulnerable to climate change. We should care more. Many of us do, and we take the small steps we can, because we can’t keep on pretending that how we live has no effect on the planet.

TRL fire

I hope to never write dystopia again

I would like to live in an Australia that was compassionate, ethical, and environmentally responsible. I would like us to spend our money on resettlement of refugees, on bushfire mitigation strategies and equipment, on sensible use of water, on transitioning away from live export, on responsible waste treatment, on public transport, on the preservation of wildlife habitat, and so much more. People will shout about the cost, but our current policies are just as costly in dollars, and much more costly in long-term damage to the Earth and its inhabitants, of all species.

I have to say that unfortunately I’m planning to have The Chronicles of the Pale #4 ready for late 2021.

This post is, and isn’t, about writing. Writing, for me, can’t be divorced from who I am and what I believe. All the same, the books can simply be read as a story. I’m just so sad that so much of it has come true.

Next week, current affairs permitting, I’ll be back to plain old talk about books!

 

#WeLoveOurAuthors

Really, who in their right mind doesn’t love books?

And books are created by AUTHORS!

#WeLoveOurAuthors

*Do you have favourites? See my classic list below – do we overlap at all? Did I forget something wonderful???

#WeLoveOurAuthors

But there’s always time to meet new authors and new fave books. I’m delighted to alert you to a fab share-fest from (my wonderful publisher) Odyssey Books. Throughout October, they’ll be featuring one author a day from their amazing list. I just love their ‘mission statement’: Odyssey Books : where books are an adventure.

#WeLoveOurAuthors

And yes, my turn will come.  So be prepared … I almost feel I should give you tips on how to tone me down for a while … Lots of tweets, posts, and links will be shared 🙂

#WeLoveOurAuthors

*(some of) Clare’s favourite authors of all time:

Mary Renault. Georgette Heyer. JRR Tolkien. Ursula Le Guin. JK Rowling. Mary Stewart. TH White. Robin Hobb. Mercedes Lackey. Katharine Kerr.

(some of) Clare’s rising favourites:

CSE Cooney. Laura E Goodin. Kathryn Gossow. Neil Gaiman. Kim Wilkins. Elizabeth Bryer. Melissa Ferguson. Charlie Jane Anders.

Confession: I meet new favourites all the time!

Five learnings from the ABA conference

ABA = Australian Booksellers’ Association – a pretty important group for authors to access.

Thanks to the good offices of my lovely publisher at Odyssey Books and our dynamic distributor Novella, I was able to join the stand at the Sunday afternoon trade exhibition. This is where booksellers meet distributors and publishers. Our task was to interest booksellers (ie the folk who sell books to the reading public) in the books we had on display, so that they would consider stocking Odyssye titles (and titles from other publishers in the Novella stable).

I had a wonderful time and learnt many things about the book trade and about book folk. Here are  five major learnings that could change the way you approach marketing and self-promotion:

1. It’s hard to give away books

Even though all the sample books were free, it is quite difficult to persuade a bookseller that they need to add any specific 500g of brilliance to their luggage for the flight home. They have to be convinced that it’s worth their while. I hadn’t expected this – I mean, put me in a room full of free books and I’ll pay excess baggage any time!

2. About giveaways and gimmicks…

Some of the stands offered all manner of freebies, including champagne, chocolates, cupcakes, pens, notepads, neck massages and canvas bags. The neck massage included a chance to sample an e-book on an iPad. My impression is that the stands with canvas bags gave away most sample books, especially at the start, because folk could put the books in the bag. I wasn’t sure that the other giveaways resulted in more books being taken – but they certainly helped to stop the traffic so that booksellers actually looked at the stand.

3. Being an author counts

I had the best success when I was able to tell the person I had waylaid that the book I was offering had been written by ME (pointing to cover and to name tag so the connection could be made…). Booksellers appeared to be impressed by the fact that I actually had written a book that was being published! Congratulations flowed (more so than the champagne). Giving away review copies of my own soon-to-be-published book was comparatively easy, and indicating that I would be (more than!) happy to visit book stores to do readings/signings created a warm glow that I will definitely follow up 🙂

Being there to sign the actual book also worked for another Novella author who was present, Harrison Craig whose book Harrison’s Song has just been published by Wombat.

4. Folk won’t wait

At other events, I have also experienced this conundrum – either there’s nobody at your stand and you look sad, or else your stand is crowded with people and other potential contacts walk away without a backward glance. This is inevitable at such an occasion, but I wished for an easy (and light-weight) take-away for such people, along the lines of those tear-off contact details you see pinned to notice boards.

5. Books ARE judged by their covers

It’s quite true. Not saying that good books might not dwell inside dodgy covers, but it was definitely the cover art that made folk look at my book. (PS I love the cover art!) Another cover that drew interest on the day was for the children’s book The Whirlpool by Emily Larkin, also published by Wombat. High quality, attractive images that clearly indicate the book’s genre seem to be the way to go.

6. Bonus learning: say YES

OK, I said five learnings, but here’s number six: whenever you are offered a chance to spruik your book, do it! You and your manuscript have already survived the seas of rejection and heartache, so what does it matter if some people think your book is not worth its weight in their suitcases? Someone else will tell you they love the look of it – and just one of those comments is worth any number of ‘no thanks’-es!