Book Club Request: Discussion Questions for “Castles in the Sand”

by @AnnieDaylon


Just a few days ago, a Book Club contacted me saying that they have chosen my novel Castles in the Sand as their April’s read.(Pause here for dance of joy!) The group requested discussion questions and I was delighted to comply. I had not prepared such questions before but knew that character, plot, viewpoint etc., should be incorporated. I chose to share the resulting questions here (minus the spoilers) on the chance that my efforts might be of use to other authors.



1. Castles in the Sand is written in the first person from a single viewpoint, that of Justin, a homeless alcoholic. Why might the author have chosen to tell the story this way? Why is Justin’s voice so truncated?

2. The author tells the story by slipping between present and past. Why do you think the author chose to do this instead of telling the story chronologically?

3. Were you aware of the author’s subtle use of foreshadowing? (Example: At what point in Justin’s life did he learn of the existence of Steve?)

4.  In his review of Castles in the Sand, author Michael Hiebert states that “the plot hits the ground running and never lets up.” Do you agree with this? Why or why not?

5. Castles in the Sand is a cautionary tale, one of love and family, ruin and rise. The author incorporates symbols, such as the aquarium castle, to reinforce the main themes. What other symbols are prominent in the book and what do they represent?

6. Do the main characters, Justin and Steve, change by the end of the story? If so, is one arc more prominent than the other?

7. Steve is a shape shifter; both Justin and reader are kept in suspense about his motives. Eventually, Steve’s secrets are revealed. Should he have kept this secret for so long?

8. Justin feels betrayed and acts out violently. Have you dealt with someone who betrayed you? How did you respond?

9. Justin is stuck in a time warp and cannot progress until he deals with the past. There is a Buddhist proverb: “When the student is ready, the teacher appears.” What was the readiness factor for Justin?

10. Is the ending satisfying? If so, why? If not, how would you change it?


If writing discussion questions, you can find help  by: talking with other authors, scanning the back pages of current novels, many of which now include such questions, and by searching on line. (Try Lit Lovers for the basics; you may even use their questions verbatim, with attribution.) 

Another suggestion: If requested to write discussion questions, jump at the chance. This activity will give you an injection of  joy and enthusiasm. You’re a writer and readers are interested in discussing your work. Celebrate!

A FREE short story is yours when you subscribe to my newsletter! Simply place your first name and email address in the box provided on the right.  Many thanks!

My best to you,

Annie Signature Light Blue



Writing Goals for 2014

by @AnnieDaylon


Today, as the tide slips over the release date of my novel, Castles in the Sand, I am setting goals for 2014.


I started by listing accomplishments of 2013, an activity I recommend. I discovered that, despite bouts of doubt (do you have those ‘am I doing enough’ moments??) I accomplished a lot. Included on my list:

  • publishing a novel;

  • working with a partner (accomplished author, Michael Hiebert) to organize a book launch party;

  • attending conferences;

  • blogging and tweeting on a regular basis;

  • facilitating workshops;

  • attending Federation of BC Writers three-day writers’ retreat;

  • diving into technology (almost drowned… still here!),

  • learning that I must pick and choose my path because there are so many options and there is no way can I do everything. (Must keep it simple.)


With that last point in mind, I am listing just three goal categories. In order of importance, they are:


  • Write first!  Write regularly. (Novel first, always! I intend to finish, and market, my historical suspense novel.)

  • Write short stories for contests. (Love the contest concept; it is a vehicle for honing writing craft.)

  • Write a non-fiction book about writing. (Have learned a lot; intend to share.)


  • Read, Read, Read!  Read up. Read down.  (I laughed recently when I received an email from Goodreads congratulating me on having read two books in 2013.  The reality is that I read a minimum of two books a week. 🙂 Since I already keep an alphabetical list of everything I read, I will transfer more of that info to Goodreads in 2014.)

  • Read more Indie Authors (I am one; should support same. Mea culpa.)

  • Write a few short reviews.


  • Continue to share info via Twitter and Blog. Am focusing on these two because, like I said, I can’t do everything. However, I will also use other media, such as Linked In & Pinterest, and, of course, Goodreads.

  • Hire for Tech issues. (In many cases, time trumps money; I cannot spend hours trolling tech forums when I can spend a few dollars employing tech wizards.)

  • Learn to do Webinars.

  • Get help with marketing. (Not sure what this looks like yet but am putting it out there.)

So, there it is. A list of goals. Seems simple enough. And that’s the point: to keep it simple. Simplicity allows for success, for change, and for adaptation to whatever rolls in with the tides of 2014.

What are your writing goals for 2014?


My best to you for 2014 and always,

Annie Signature Light Blue







Which Point of View?

by @AnnieDaylon


Recently, after I had presented a workshop, a participant approached me with a question about Point of View. He was writing a memoir about himself and his father, and was struggling with the fairness of writing from only his own perspective. My suggestion? Something I learned from an online course: Pick a scene and write it twice, the first time from his POV, the second from his father’s.

Consider the example below, the same scene written from two points of view. In this scene, the main character of Castles in the Sand, Justin, returns to his former home, after his parents have died. He ends up visiting their long-time neighbor, Mr. Cormier.




Justin’s POV:

Out of the corner of my eye, I spot Mr. Cormier, my former neighbor, standing on his porch, leaning on his cane. An unexpected warmth surges through me and I raise my arm in a wave. But he doesn’t notice.  “Mr. Cormier!”

He veers toward me, almost losing his balance. “Mon Dieu! Justin?”

 “Yeah!” Smiling, I race to his steps and bound up. “Sorry if I startled you. It’s really good to see you. Comment ca va?”

          “Bien, merci. I am fine,” Mr. Cormier says in a trembling voice. He shifts his cane to his left side, and extends his right hand. His eyes meet mine and then plummet to the doorstep. Puzzled, I look down at the doormat. Bien­venue, it says. Huh. I don’t feel welcome.

          Regardless, I reach out and grasp his hand firmly, like my dad taught me. He flinches. I slacken my grip. Damn. I know I surprised him, but he’s shaking like a scared puppy, and sweat is sluicing off his forehead. Is he going to pass out or something? “Are you okay, Mr. Cormier?”

… “Bien. I’m fine,” he says as he exhales. Abruptly, he tilts his head to one side and glances toward my old house. “It is the memories that bring you back, oui?”

Sidetracked, disarmed, I nod. Tears flood my eyes and heat rushes my face. I blink, turn my head, and gulp. Damn it all. A man of twenty can’t cry.

          “Such a sad thing. Difficile, non?”

          I nod again.

          “Oui, oui. Très difficile. I can see that.” We linger, silent.

          On the street behind me a car zooms by, horn blaring. Mr. Cormier jumps into action like a cartoon character, vehemently shaking a fist in the direction of the vehicle. “What are they thinking, these young drivers? Stu­pide!

          “Yeah, I guess so,” I mutter, not caring at all, just grateful for the dis­traction.

Mr. Cormier turns back to me and heaves a lengthy sigh. “Two years al­ready.” He shakes his head. “You come into my house, Justin. We will have the coffee and we will talk. D’accord?”




Mr. Cormier’s POV:

I lean on my cane and stare out my window. The days, they are long.  Mes enfants, they grow up and leave. Et ma femme… I sigh and make the sign of the cross.

Suddenly, I see the young man—again. On the sidewalk, staring at the house next door. I step back, and spy through lace curtains. He looks lost, like at the funeral two years ago. Such a sad thing, losing his parents. I watched him then, too, wondered how he would survive.

He starts to walk away now. I hobble to the door, open it and stick my head out. “Justin!”

He turns around and smiles. “Mr. Cormier! Comment ca va?”

I shuffle down the steps. Bien, merci, bien. Et toi?”  Shifting shift my cane to my left side, I reach out my right hand.

Bien, aussi.” He grasps my hand firmly. Always the good manners. Always the charming smile. In these things, his parents, they teach him well.

Justin glances at his former home.

My heart is heavy for him. “You have the memories, yes?”

He nods, wipes his eyes with the back of his free hand, and I see that the young man is still a boy.

          “These things are difficile, no?”

          He nods again.

          “Yes, yes. Tres difficile.  I see that.” We stand, silent. Do I want to invite him in? Some things need to be told. Some things are better left alone.

A car zooms by, horn blaring.  I jump and shake a fist in the direction of the vehicle. “What are they thinking, these young drivers? Stu­pide!

“Yeah, I guess so,” Justin mutters. So lost. So alone.

I let out a long sigh. “Two years al­ready. You come into my house, Justin. We will have the coffee and we will talk. D’accord?”


Writing the scene from both points of view enabled me to determine that my chosen POV for the entire novel (Justin’s) was the correct one. It also supplied me with surprising insight about Mr. Cormier; I instantly knew what his role would be in the story. (Note: Due to length and spoilers, I have not included the entire scene here.)

You may be hesitant to try this activity. I was. In fact, initially, when this idea was presented by Gloria Kempton in a great online workshop called Voice and Viewpoint, I balked at it.  I had spent so much time writing it one way; did I really want to waste time doing it again? But, by this point in my writing career, I had abandoned the ‘romantic’ concept of being a writer in favor of the practical; writing is about passion, yes, but it is also about discipline and routine and practice. Writing is re-writing. So I rewrote an entire chapter from a different POV. And I discovered that this activity was no time-waster; it was an amazing time-saver. My story had ceased meandering;  its path, and mine, were clear.

Struggling with POV? Give this a shot.  Would love to hear any other POV ideas/solutions you may have!


My best to you,

Annie Signature Light Blue

My Goodreads Giveaway Experience

by @ AnnieDaylon


CASTLES-IN-THE-SAND (2) brag medallion



Indie authors have a lot of work to do in terms of marketing. If you are considering a paperback giveaway (as I did for Castles in the Sand), consider doing it through Goodreads. Here’s my experience:



  • In July, I

    • Checked the details on Goodreads:
    • Contacted Goodreads with minor questions (got quick response)
    • Chose the dates (August 1-31).
    • Elected to give away 10 books.
    • Filled in, submitted the Form. Goodreads published the Giveaway almost immediately. (Super efficient!)
  • During August, I

    • promoted through Twitter, Linked In and Email List.
    • set aside a box labeled “Goodreads Giveaway. Into it, I put 10 books, each with a bookmark, 10 mailing envelopes, 10 handwritten notes which congratulated winners and asked if they would rate/review the book on Goodreads.
      • Note: I left space for individual name on each note.
  • On August 31st , I

    • checked Goodreads and discovered that there were 428 entries in the Giveaway.
    • checked my email. The list of winners was there, 5 in Canada, 5 in the USA. (Did I mention that Goodreads is efficient?)
    • made address labels for the winners
    • packaged the books
      • Note: If possible, keep size within post office limits. (In earlier attempts at mailing, I slipped books into corrugated covers. Mistake! Way too expensive! Use paper!)  Each of my books fit through the standard postal slots so regular mail fees applied. Fortunately, I live very close to the U.S. border, so I mailed books bound for the United States in the United States. Mailing costs? In Canada, $3.75/book. In the U.S., $2.53/book.
  • In September, I

    • Read a wonderful email from an excited winner.
    • Received (to date) three reviews on Goodreads, one of which also appears on that reviewer’s website Book Reads and Reviews. (Many thanks to all who took time to rate/review the book!)
    • Emailed Goodreads to thank them for their support and efficiency.
Goodreads: Author's Guide to Giveaways

Goodreads: Author’s Guide to Giveaways

For me the Goodreads Giveaway was an excellent marketing experience, one that I wish I had known about sooner. That’s the thing with going indie; so much to do! As I wrote to a helpful staff member at Goodreads, ‘I wish that I could assemble the minions! Alas, there is only me.’

But, then again, there is Goodreads!

My best to you,

Annie Signature Light Blue



The Business of Writing: Seeking and Finding

Post IV: Seeking and Finding

shutterstock_104551601In the last week, I sought information on the following: 1) how to open an account with Create Space; 2) how to acquire and Employer Taxation ID Number from the IRS; and 3) where to find the exact cover image I needed for my soon-to-be-released novel, CASTLES IN THE SAND. 

Seek and ye shall find, they say. I did and so can you. Some hopefully helpful information regarding my search…

1) Opening an Account on Create Space:

  • Easy-peasy.  Just go to the site and fill in the form. They email you. You confirm. Next, log in, click on Account Information and then on Royalty Payment Information. If you have a sole proprietorship and live outside the U.S., you need an Employer Identification Number (EIN).

2) Acquisition of an EIN:

  • There is easy access to info about obtaining an EIN through Create Space. You can acquire the Taxation ID number either by filling out/submitting forms or by calling the IRS. Create Space even lists the phone number which, by the way, is NOT toll free.
    The process only takes a few minutes by phone, but that does not account for the long wait time. Nonetheless,  USE THE PHONE. DO NOT HANG UP. Putter around, tidy your desk, chase dust bunnies up and down the hall with your Swiffer while you wait (my default on-hold activity.)  I was on the phone for about one hour. Almost panicked when, just as the wonderfully helpful lady at the IRS was about to give me my number, the phone beeped. I glanced at the screen: low battery! (Pause here for mild expletive.) I ran and grabbed the other phone. (Phew!)
    So,why did I not just fill out/submit the form, you ask? Because a friend of mine did that and it took two months.
Castles in the Sand Thumbnail

Release: Spring, 2013
Exact Date: TBA
Stay Tuned!

3) Locating a Cover Photo:

  • I spent hours looking through stock sites for a cover image. I searched castles, sandcastles, sandcastles + waves, but could not find exactly the right image. After a couple of days of indecision, I almost settled for one that was okay. But, instead, I walked away. That night, I wrote in my journal that the exact image I wanted would show up the next day. The very next morning, I searched sand + waves + British Columbia and came up with a photo of English Bay in Vancouver where my fictitious character, Justin, built fictitious sandcastles with his fictitious little boy, Bobby. As soon as I saw that shot, I knew my search was over.
    My advice? Do not settle. That would be like tying a tattered string around a beautifully wrapped present. Wait. The perfectly-matching bow will show.

I extend a heartfelt nod of thanks to: Create Space for their Print On Demand program; Shutterstock for their bottomless well of images;  photographer Eva Kondzialkiewicz for that perfect pic of English Bay; and, my cover designer Michael Hiebert  for his patience while I located that image.

Now it’s back to my To Do List!

My best to you,

Annie Signature Light Blue