Author Archives: eliseabram

Exposing yet another Canadian tragedy

THE HOME FOR UNWANTED GIRLS by Joanna Goodman

At this point in history, most of us know about the Native residential schools. Some of us might be aware that there were, in fact, slaves in Canada. Let’s not forget the boatloads of Jews who were sent back to Europe during the Holocaust to meet their fate in the concentration camps. There was also the appropriation of the Dionne Quintuplets who were taken from their parents and made into tourist attractions. I would, however, be willing to bet that few Canadians are aware of the travesty orphans in Quebec orphanages suffered in the 1940s and 50s, something The Home for Unwanted Girls by Joanna Goodman strives to bring to the fore.

In The Home for Unwanted Girls, fifteen-year-old half-English/half-French Maggie gets pregnant by her French boyfriend. When the girl, named Elodie, is born, her parents whisk the baby off to be adopted by a Jewish couple who cannot adopt through the system, but Elodie is sickly at birth, and the couple backs out. The only thing left to do is to give the baby to an orphanage. When Elodie is 11, she meets with a doctor who declares her mentally insane so she can be admitted to the insane asylum to which the facility is about to be converted. Told the other is dead, Elodie and Maggie stumble through life, unable to rise above the circumstance of Elodie’s birth which, in Catholic rural Quebec, is a horrific sin.

Search for the “Duplessis Orphans” to learn the whole story. In a nutshell, the Catholic-run institution found it could make more money housing the mentally ill than orphans, so they had the residents in their orphanages declared mentally insane so they could keep living in their institutions and collecting money for their incarceration. The Duplessis orphans were treated no differently than the other inmates, receiving the same, harsh punishments and no education. The orphans were not removed from the institutions until after 1962. They were eventually issued an apology in 1999 and paid damages in 2006, but the damage for “an estimated two to four thousand children [who] were physically, mentally, and sexually abused” had already been done.” As would be imagined, the orphans found it difficult to integrate back into society after their experiences. The character of Maggie is inspired by Goodman’s mother, who was the daughter of a French Catholic married to an English “seed” man (one who makes a living selling seeds like Maggie’s father in the novel), but the rest of the book is based on Goodman’s research into the Duplessis orphans while giving a “deeper historical context into some of the long-running tensions that still exist between the province’s French and English communities.”

The Home for Unwanted Girls was an incredible read which I was unable to put down and finished in less than a week. Some of the attraction is akin to slowing down to catch a glimpse of the aftermath of an accident—we are so enticed by the devastation that we can’t look away. Elodie’s story while incarcerated, based on an actual, first-person exposition by a Duplessis orphan, propels the story forward, as do Maggie and Gabriel’s will-they-won’t-they relationship. Will Maggie and Gabriel get back together? Will Gabriel ever find out about Elodie’s existence? Will Maggie and Elodie ever be reunited? Read Joanna Goodman’s The Home for Unwanted Girls to find out.

“The OA” Season Two — WTF?

Warning: this is about “The OA”; spoilers abound.

Brit Marling as Prarie/Nina from “The OA” season two

 In season one of Netflix’s “The OA”, Prairie, a blind girl, is kidnapped by Hap and kept in an underground glass prison cell for seven years. Hap is obsessed with people who have had near death experiences (NDE), and he wants to find out what happens after death. This is no “Flatliners”. Hap regularly kills Prairie and his four other charges—NDE survivors all—by drowning them in a helmet he’s devised before bringing them back to hear about their experiences. When Prairie tries to escape, she regains her sight after Hap hits her over the head in an attempt to kill her.

What the prisoners see after death is a series of “movements” they must do together in order to escape their subterranean prison. I should clarify that the way they escape is by sending their consciousnesses to another dimension.

Weird? You bet. And it only gets weirder.

“The OA” is a story within a story in which Prairie recounts what has happened to five select people in the present, including one of the teachers at Prairie’s school. When an active shooter goes on a rampage at the school, the five repeat the prisoners’ movements to distract the shooter. Season one ends with Prairie being shot in the chest.

Season two opens with Hap killing the prisoners and all of them, including Prairie, waking up in their bodies in an alternate reality. Hap is still keeping them prisoners in a psychiatric institution, Prairie finds out what her life would have been like without her NDE as a child, and Prairie’s love interest, Homer, is a doctor working under Hap. Prairie’s audience of five go on a quest to find out what happened to her and to send the teacher to Prairie’s new dimension.

Season two introduces a house that’s actually a puzzle that people solve using a phone app, a psychic octopus, ghosts from another dimension, the revelation that Nina, Prairie’s alter-ego, is a medium for nature, and that teacher BAA is a medium who can sense what’s happening in the other dimension. Remember how I said that it only gets weirder? Cue brain seeds that grow gardens forming an interdimensional map, and that Hap is Jason Isaacs (the actor that plays him) in another reality who is married to Brit Marling, the actor that plays Prairie (shades of “Being John Malkovich”). The object of the game is to find the rose window that looks into this alternate reality in order to win the game. Oh, and there are dreams. Lots of them, in which many people dream of a tunnel the size of a coffin, two round staircases, a rose window, and Karim, a private investigator hired to find Michelle who is Buck, a transgender teenager that is one of Prairie’s five select people.

I watched all eight episodes over two days and needless to say, I’m still processing. I have a lot of thinking to do and a lot of reading to figure out what I’ve just watched. Just like season one, this season takes a long time building up to the final two episodes which feel rushed. In fact, the whole season feels rushed, like there’s SO much jammed into those eight hours that it will take a lot of unpacking to understand the symbolism behind the giant octopus or how BAA suddenly has psychic powers. There’s no guessing needed to figure out the symbolism of the eyes (Prairie was blind; Nina was not), near drownings (reminiscent of Hap’s torture device) or that the puzzle floor is a huge cross-section of a tree (symbolic of the tree of life).

Regardless, both seasons of “The OA” are worth the watch for literary nerds like me who can’t help but ponder the overall meaning of the story. This is going to take a while. Discuss amongst yourselves until I figure it out.

Any thoughts? Please leave them in the comments below.  

An Iconic Dystopia for iconically dystopic times

The Handmaid’s cover I remember.

The Handmaid’s Tale is Margaret Atwood’s iconic dystopic novel from 1985. Though it was published more than three decades ago, it nevertheless functions as a contemporary cautionary tale, warning society of the path it will take if it does not check its values. It remains extremely relevant in the first quarter of the new millennia, with themes surrounding basic civil and human rights regarding freedom of speech, religion, and marginalized populations, including women.

The novel follows the story of Offred, a handmaid assigned to the Commander and his wife. In the Republic of Gilead, fertile women are forced to become handmaids to bear children for sterile upper-class women via monthly, ceremonial copulation. Offred (a name derived from the words “of Fred”, forever branding her the Commander, Fred’s, property) fails to become pregnant and the Commander’s wife, Serena Joy, suggests she allow herself to be impregnated by Nick, the Commander’s chauffeur, ostensibly to protect her station as their handmaid. When, on a shopping trip, her companion, Ofglen, introduces Offred to Mayday—an underground organization devoted to overthrowing Giliad—the otherwise unnamed Offred suddenly sees the hope of a better life, and she dreams of being reunited with her husband, Luke, their daughter, and her friend, Moira.

Given the current state of world politics, Atwood’s vision of the future couldn’t be more prescient. Women have lost reproductive rights and self-determination when it comes to their own bodies. Gilead is surrounded by a wall from which the bodies of dissidents are hanged and left on display to serve as warnings. The lines between Church and state are blurred. Secret police (aptly named “eyes”) are everywhere. Gilead is ruled by martial law. Rather than “speculative fiction”, Atwood’s novel reads like a tome sent to warn us against the not to distant future. In spite of Offred’s suffering, the underlying theme of the novel is that no matter how dystopic a person’s situation may seem, people will always move forward by clinging to whatever ray of hope they can find, be it family, personal freedom, or striving for change. Is that not ultimately the definition of human nature?      

Atwood’s writing style—though disjointed at times—sets the tone for Offred’s lamentation of the loss of the world in which she was raised. It is also reflective of Offred’s thoughts as she tries to adapt to her “new normal” way of living. The novel is information-heavy, at least in the beginning, which can be overwhelming, but this soon changes and becomes more compelling as Atwood slowly enlightens the reader to its significance.

While The Handmaid’s Tale may not be considered groundbreaking literature—consider dystopic staples like 1984, Children of Men, and Fahrenheit 451—it is visionary in its scope. Having spawned versions in a gamut of media including film, ballet, theatre, radio, the Hulu television production, and The Testaments, the upcoming sequel novel, Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale has permeated our popular culture as more than simple speculation. Rather, it should be viewed as a warning for the trajectory of society should those in control in the new millennium continue to trample on the civic and social rights of its citizens.      

The Wattpad Experiment: Week 2

Last week’s stats: 15 reading, 2 stars, 9 comments, 0 sales

I have to admit: I feel kind of guilty. Due to the constraints of my day job and the editing I do in the evening, I’ve had very little time to do Wattpad justice.

As of today, I have 3 people who are either following me and/or reading my novel, The Revenant: A YA Paranormal Thriller with Zombies. I have been reading and commenting whenever I have the chance. I have seen some really good manuscripts that I am eager to continue reading, and some not so good. I am amazed at some of the professional-quality covers I’m seeing, too. I’m also blown away by the plucky initiative of Wattpad’s clientele. Kudos to each and every one of them for putting themselves out there and writing whatever strikes their fancy.

I finally managed to port the book over to Draft2Digital (still not done and Pronoun’s gone, so most of my books are no longer available as eBooks–did I mention I was suffering serious time crunches?) and upload the new cover to Amazon, but still can’t see the most recent paperback online. I’m Looking forward to the break between semesters to get this on Ingram-Spark, too.

Here’s what I’ve learned so far:

One is never enough

Given the rate at which others are posting, one chapter a week seems skimpy. I’ve been reading around about Wattpad. According to TechCrunch, Wattpad has over 60,000 monthly users, most of them teens (though the average age is 20) and female, which is the perfect demographic for my writing. Moving forward, I will upload two chapters week. I plan to do one on Saturday and one on Wednesday.

Wattpad is a form of social media

It took some work to build my followers on social media. Even now, some 3 years after I opened my Twitter and Facebook accounts, I only have a few hundred following me on Twitter and maybe about 100 Facebook likes on my author page, and only 80 people who receive my newsletter. To reiterate: it took 3 years to achieve that. Three years of advertising, liking, following, posting, experimenting, giving books away, and the like. Moving forward I need to engage on social media more frequently (maybe instead of religiously reading Flipboard every evening?).

Too much of a good thing

In addition to voting, reading, and following, authors can access discussion forums. The different forums are myriad, as are the threads. There are so many places to visit, it’s hard to know where to start. I’ve already begun to dabble, sticking my toe in to test the waters. I suppose, moving forward, I have to slowly move deeper in until I have established a foothold on the site. So far it seems as if there is a whole lot of random posts and not a lot of interaction

Moving forward

I am interested to see if uploading twice a week will make a difference. I will also continue with my experiment until the whole book has been uploaded and report back to you. If you use Wattpad, I want to hear your first impressions. What was the first thing you did on the site? How did you work your way into this massively incredible society?

Read The Revenant: A YA Thriller with Zombies on Wattpad at https://www.wattpad.com/story/134197850-the-revenant

The Wattpad Experiment

For years, my friend, Mia Meade, has been encouraging me to try WattPad out. I’ll be honest–I tried it before I met her and had no success. But after talking to Mia and reading “How Authors Can Use Wattpad to Sell Books and Earn Money” by Linda Poitevin, I’ve decided to give it a go and blog about my experience.

 

The challenge was to figure out which story to use as a tester. I currently have three books in the works (The Carrington Pulitzer Revelation Chronicles Online Extended PlayPack–science fiction, young adult; Indoctrination–Book Two of The New Recruit; and Re-vamped (paranormal/supernatural), but they are in various stages of editing and won’t be ready to publish for a while yet.

In the end, I decided to re-issue The Revenant: A YA Paranormal Thriller with Zombies. The plan is to post a chapter a week as Poitevin suggests and to blog as I do. In the meantime, I will be reading other authors in my genre, add to my library, vote, and comment. I will also be posting to social media as I go. In addition, I will be reading a number of resources on how to use Wattpad for fun and profit and share what I learn with you.

The Revenant: A YA Paranormal Thriller with Zombies can be found on Wattpad at https://www.wattpad.com/story/134197850-the-revenant. This is a completed novel that can be purchased on Amazon, B & N, iBooks, and Kobo.

If you Wattpad, please look me up, vote for my book and follow me. I’m interested to connect with you, both here and on Wattpad. After you’ve read a chapter or two, come back and let me know what you think.

ALICE wins 2017 Kindle Book Review Award for YA

The title says it all.

I Was, Am, Will Be Alice has won the 2017 Kindle Book Review Award for YA!

Thank you so much to Jeff Bennington from the Kindle Book Review and all of the panelists and prize-givers for this much-gilded feather in my writing cap.

Here’s my badge:

To celebrate, I Was, Am, Will Be Alice will remain on sale (for a limited time) for only $0.99! Here’s what the book looks like (beside the other winners):

Here it is in the list that follows, marking it as the winner:

My Target Audience Epiphany

Check out any writing site and it will tell you how important it is for an author to build her mailing list. Mailing lists help you to get noticed and build a relationship with your readers which, in turn, helps sell books.

I’ve been trying to build my mailing list for my publishing company for a while now, without much luck. It wasn’t until I was organizing yet another Facebook ad that I had an epiphany–I was targeting the wrong people.

Knowing Your Audience

As a publisher, I mistakenly thought I wanted to market to authors. If I could get their attention, they’d see the books I was selling, read about my authors’ successes, visit them when they did their book signings, etc., and want to publish with me. The problem was that most authors I was targeting were self-published and had no need for a publisher.

I had to ask myself: as a publisher, what is my main goal? Signing authors was great, but no matter how many authors I signed, if no one bought my books, my company wouldn’t be very successful.

My ideal audience was composed of people who read English, fiction readers living in North America and maybe the UK. Their sex wasn’t an issue, but since Facebook tends toward an older audience, I needed to target adults, 18 years of age and older.

Offering Incentive

Many sources will tell you to offer people an incentive for subscribing to your email list. Plenty of authors offer free books as an incentive, so I put together a book documenting how I’d planned and executed my last blog tour, complete with links to actual sites I used and statistics for click-throughs vs. impressions vs. sales. It was the perfect incentive for authors.

After my epiphany, I decided to offer a free eBook, any eBook in my catalogue. To do this, I created a Google form on which subscribers could request a specific book or choose a genre and let me choose the book for them.

Results

I generally run my Facebook ads for a week with a budget of $5.00 per day. When targeting authors with my ads, I was lucky to have 10 leads per ad campaign. With the same run of $5.00 per day for a week when targeting readers, I found 62 leads!

The day after my campaign closed, I emailed everyone on my list of new leads with a link to the Google form. Only 5 people replied to ask for books, which was disappointing–eBooks cost nothing to give away, and once my audience had gotten a taste of the quality of my authors, I had hoped to sell more books.

My Newsletter

This month I sent my newsletter out to 62 more people than usual. Two people unsubscribed the next day, which was to be expected. Now, in addition to new books for sale, my newsletter includes a list of advance reader copies (ARCs) which readers can order for free, with the hope they’ll post a (hopefully positive) review when they’re done.  Out of the 82 people on my list (I had 20 people on my list before), 2 people requested ARCs.

A 2% response rate might not seem like a lot, but it’s a start. It’s more engagement than I had before, at any rate.

I’m building it and they are slowly coming.

Sign up for my mailing list to request one of this month’s ARC eBooks for free!

2017 Kindle Book Review Award Semi-Finalist

I Was, Am, Will Be Alice has made it through to the 2017 Kindle Book Review Award Semi-Finals.  Keep reading for a very special offer at the bottom of this post.

2017 Kindle Book Review Award Semi-Finalist

Winner of the 2015 A Woman’s Write Competition

When Alice Carroll is in grade three she narrowly escapes losing her life in a school shooting. All she remembers is the woman comforting her in the moments before the gunshot, and that one second she was there, the next she wasn’t.

It’s bad enough coming to terms with surviving while others, including her favourite teacher, didn’t, let alone dealing with the fact that she might wink out of existence at any time.

Alice spends the next few years seeing specialists about her Post Traumatic Stress as a result of VD–Voldemort Day–but it’s not until she has a nightmare about The Day That Shall Not Be Mentioned, disappears from her bed, is found by police,  and taken home to meet her four-year-old self that she realizes she’s been time travelling.

Alice is unsure if her getting unstuck in time should be considered an ability or a liability, until she disappears right in front of her high school at dismissal time, the busiest time of day. Worried that someone may find out about her problem before long, Alice enlists her best friend (and maybe boyfriend), Pete, to help her try to control her shifting through time with limited success. She’s just about ready to give up when the shooter is caught. Alice resolves to take control of her time travelling in order to go back to That Day, stop the shooting, and figure out the identity of the stranger who’d shielded Alice’s body with her own.

To celebrate, the eBook of I Was, Am, Will Be Alice is on sale for $0.99! Get your copy wherever eBooks are sold

Re-issues of Police Procedural Mystery Fiction Books

In 2012 I published my first book, Phase Shift, the adventures of Molly McBride and Palmer Richardson. Phase Shift was actually the second book I wrote with these characters, the (still) unpublished The Guardian being the first. Since then, I’ve written a number of short stories and novellas with these characters including Aliens’ Waltz–featuring Josef Schliemann; The Nexus–featuring Molly, Palmer, and Josef (both of which have now been published in The Nexus and Other Stories); The Mummy Wore Combat Boots–featuring Palmer and Michael Crestwood; and Throwaway Child-featuring Molly, Palmer, and Josef, with a nod to Clinton Johns from The Guardian.

This month, I’ve re-issued Throwaway Child and The Mummy Wore Combat Boots. Here’s what the two books are about, both of them reissues of police procedural mystery fictions involving forensic anthropology to solve the case:

Throwaway Child

A recent report written after a six-year investigation into residential schools for Canadian First Nations people stated that at least 3,201 student deaths occurred in these schools, with many more going unrecorded.

The report goes on to state that “many students who went to residential school never returned. They were lost to their families…No one took care to count how many died or to record where they were buried.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, in a 2016 speech to the Assembly of First Nations Special Chiefs Assembly said, “We know all too well how residential schools and other decisions by governments were used as a deliberate tool to eliminate Indigenous languages and cultures.”

 Throwaway Child is the story of one of these children.

The skeleton of a young girl is found beneath the cement basement floor in an abandoned Victorian in Toronto. On duty is Detective Constable Michael Crestwood who contacts forensic anthropologist Dr. Palmer Richardson to assist in the investigation. What they uncover is the story of a six-year-old Cree girl, stolen from her family, warehoused in a government run facility and then forgotten.

In a story with ties to current headlines, Throwaway Child explores the injustice experienced by two girls imprisoned in a mid-twentieth century residential school, their families, and the tragedy that results from one girl’s need to find a home.

Buy Throwaway Child on Amazon and wherever eBooks are sold. 


mummy, archaeology, police procedural, toronto, gaming

The Mummy Wore Combat Boots

The Sandy Hook School shooting, the Colorado movie theatre massacre…was online gaming to blame?

Psychologists believe that engaging in violent virtual gaming desensitizes the player and dehumanizes opponents. When the division between what is real and what is virtual becomes unclear, the results can be catastrophic.

When forensic anthropologist Palmer Richardson is called to investigate an uncatalogued sarcophagus found in storage at the Royal Ontario Museum, he has his work cut out for him. Upon investigation, he discovers the mummy inside is that of a teenage boy and involves Detective Constable Michael Crestwood of the Metropolitan Toronto Police.

Their investigation delves into the world of online gaming, where losing health points in a skirmish could have serious implications for a player’s life in the real world.

Inspired by real-life headlines, The Mummy Wore Combat Boots highlights the growing divide between children who live their lives immersed in a digital culture and the adults tasked with raising them who live in the real world.

Buy The Mummy Wore Combat Boots on Amazon and wherever eBooks are sold. 

A Science Fiction Sensation: The Nexus and Other Stories

science fiction short stories with zombies, ghosts, aliens, clonesThe Nexus and Other Stories

by Elise Abram

Aliens, ghosts, clones, zombies, vampires, nightmares come to life, teleportation…

There are more things in heaven and earth than modern man will ever know or understand.

The Nexus

They say be careful what you wish for. Meet Josef Schliemann, noted expert in pseudo-archaeology who sponsors a dig beneath a historic church in downtown Toronto. Said to have been built on a tract of land sacred to prehistoric Indigenous peoples living the in the area the secrets of the site have been lost to time. Will Josef survive when he finds the object of his desire?

 A Morgan by Any Other Name

In a future where cloning has been perfected—sort of—Rachel, a Morgan model, should have the world at her feet, but she’s not happy. What is the one thing a teenage clone desires?

At the Mere Thought Of

 What happens when your worst nightmare comes true? Businessman Crane is about to find out.

The Circle of Life

Bob wakes up the night after attending a wild rave to find he’s not himself. He wakes up, buried alive, and hungry…for flesh. 

One book, thirteen stories.

In The Nexus and Other Stories, science fiction author Elise Abram explores the myths of the modern world. When, science fiction author Elise Abram explores the myths of the modern world. When vice overcomes common sense, the results cannot be positive. Elise Abram writes from the heart, examining the beliefs and obsessions of contemporary life, speculating what might happen if the science we are toying with and/or if the creatures we glorify in our popular culture become commonplace.

Buy The Nexus and Other Stories today!