Friday, January 31, 2014

Interesting Times

So another week under the weather combined with a busy week at work left me without much energy to write in the evenings. But I am on the mend . . . thanks to a round of antibiotics.

Today, I received the formatted final of To Keep A Secret and was asked to give it a final going over. I just finished my review and found a couple of minor errors, but nothing too serious. For instance, a sentence on rereading was not a sentence - just a floating half-thought. So, a few last tweaks and this one is pretty much a wrap.

Walking home from the transitway after work today I came up with the germ of an idea for book four in the Anna Sweet series. It flows out of To Keep A Secret and should take me to some interesting places. I also have the germ of an idea for the fourth Stonechild and Rouleau book - this came from a news event that I've been following. It's gotten me to ask, "What if . . .?" Both ideas need a lot of mulling over and fleshing out, but this is how I begin all the stories: with an idea to hang a plot around.

I'm getting ready to start sending out the invitation for the Cold Mourning launch on March 9. There appears to be a fine line between sending the invitation out too early (people forget) or too late (people have other plans). Already, I know of several who will be out of town, but many more have said that they will be there, including my daughters Lisa and Julia (both my curling stars) and my city councillor Katherine Hobbs. Ted will also be present to discuss his backyard project and ways to dispose of bodies . . . fictionally speaking of course.

I have a few other publicity tasks to do, such as writing a piece for Open Book Ontario that will be posted in May. I'm to write about how I select book titles - should be a glimpse into how my mind works, which is largely unfathomable, but I'll try to shed light.

And the Scotties start tomorrow in Montreal! Lots of good curling ahead and word is that TSN will be featuring Lisa's team Homan in three games this weekend. Also, an interesting tidbit. I curl with Wendy Sinclair on Thursday evenings and her daughter Andrea is curling for the Yukon at the Scotties. It might be the only time in history that two moms are curling together who have daughters curling in the Scotties for two different provinces. I think this should make that Guinness world records list. And I didn't even have to eat two thousand hotdogs or stand on my head for twelve hours to qualify.

Let me also wish my daughter Julia bonne chance this weekend in curling mixed zones in Winchester. She's coming off a win at the Navan spiel last weekend so gearing up for more victories.

I suspect this will not be the most productive writing week ahead with a few trips to Montreal in my future, but c'est la vie. On doit saisir le moment!

Good week everyone.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

You Don't Want to Know

I have one question: Will January never end?

Back in the deep freeze with snow in the forecast for today. Ted talking about moving to Ecquador. My arguments against are getting weaker.

We're getting organized to go to Montreal for some of the Scotties - our national ladies curling tournament - to watch our daughter Lisa curl with Team Homan. I was talking with my second daughter Julia on the phone about Montreal a few days ago and tossed in a final question: "Do you know where the biker bars are in Montreal?"

"What the . . . ?!" pause "What? What are you up to, Mom?"

"Research. It's for the book I'm working on now. I'm just looking at a Web page called 'The rough sections of Montreal . . ." I let my voice trail away and we both start laughing.

The next day, Ted says to me, "That phone number on your desk with the Montreal area code, is that your cousin's? The one we're meeting at the first game?"

"Uh, no. That would be the number of a swingers' bar in Montreal."

Silence. His eyes widen.

 "I'm doing some research."

He doesn't ask any more questions.

Ted's been all around Eastern Ontario with me, looking for places to dump bodies or taking photos of towns where my cops will be tracking down a killer or two . . . he's gamely discussed how to poison someone or what happens to a body when a person freezes to death. Nothing much surprises him anymore.

I guess this is a good thing.

Writing is going very well this week. A couple of my cops are in Montreal interviewing witnesses at a fictional biker bar, which happens to be located near the site of an actual swingers' bar (it all comes together). They'll be heading back to Kingston by the end of the day today although I see a return trip later in the manuscript.

This feels like a bit of a limbo time - I'm starting to invite friends to the March 9 Cold Mourning book launch, using the lovely electronic invitation created by Dundurn. I happened to meet Stacy, the manager of Whispers at a pharmacy yesterday afternoon - turns out we both have the same sinus infection - and we'll get together to discuss appetizers before the event. Food, beer and books. You really should put the afternoon on your calendar. It should be a fine party.

I'm sure we'll come up with lots of interesting things to talk about.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Purplish Haze

I dreamt last night that Whitney Houston gave me tickets to her concert, which is at 4 a.m. as part of Bluesfest.

I'm thinking I might have to lay off the cold medication today.

So, what do you think of the next Anna Sweet cover?

This was my first pick out of the images sent by the designer. I'm happy with how it turned out. I wrote the back cover blurb, which I can share with you:

Anna is about to discover how far people will go to keep a secret . . . and who they will betray. She must work quickly to uncover the answers before a second victim dies. Will this case prove too difficult for Anna Sweet? Or will she put the clues together in time to outsmart a killer who has everything to lose?

To Keep a Secret will be released from Grass Roots Press in September. I have a contract to write a fourth, which will be released in autumn 2015. Even though this is primarily an adult literacy series, I've gotten great feedback from everyone who has read the books.

I also got word from Dundurn that the editing on Butterfly Kills (2nd in the Stonechild and Rouleau police procedurals) begins early April with its release scheduled for January 31, 2015. I'll be working with Karen, the same editor as I had for Cold Mourning.

I'm often asked what it is like to have someone else make changes to my manuscript and if it leads to conflict. I've worked with four different editors now and have to say that I've never had any problem. Perhaps, it is because I work in the government where having your work revised and changed by several levels of approval is the norm. You learn to lose your ego pretty quickly in the process. Plus, I'm very aware that the book editors are working to improve my product, and they have a lot more experience in the word-smithing business than I do. So while I might disagree about a revision, I'm open to being persuaded. This has led to zero conflict over the course of the eleven books I've collaborated on so far.

I'm still carving out time to work on my current manuscript, almost at the 30,000-word mark, which I'll reach this weekend. I'm coming up on a key plot point and have been mulling it over in my cold medication-hazy brain. I thought I had the plot sorted last night, but now that I review in the full light of day, Kevin Kostner as a bodyguard to a black singer seems ridiculous.

Our daughter Lisa is curling in the Continental Cup down in Vegas this weekend. This is like the Ryder Cup in golf - team North America against team (rest of the) World. Team N.A. is up by one point and the curling has been fabulous. You should check it out - the first game today is at noon EST on TSN.

Curling, writing, sneezing and hallucinating . . . I have a full weekend ahead. Hope this head cold passes you by unless you have a hankering to join me at the Whitney concert . . .

Go Team North America!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Keeping Up With Mother Nature

Waking up today to a rainy, misty Saturday. And I was just getting used to the minus 27 degree temperatures. Well, time to put away the parka and bring out the umbrella - good job we are an ambidexterous crowd up here in Canada.

Although I must say that the week in Monterey California in March is starting to look realllllly good.

Not a great deal to report in my writing world this week except that the cover for the third Anna Sweet has an image! The publisher sent along about ten stock images for me to vote on and I narrowed it to four that I thought might work. Of those four, she liked one. I also had Ted weigh in and he liked one that I'd also liked. So these two choices went to the designer and she tried both - only one worked properly, and I have to say, it looks stunning. Unfortunately, the one Ted liked best wasn't the one selected :-) No big reveal yet though - I'll share the new cover when I can.

I was going full steam ahead on the latest Stonechild and Rouleau manuscript last weekend up until Tuesday and then my energy reserve crashed. However, I did spend time going through each chapter and writing down the major plot points and descriptions of characters etc. This will help me in the long run to make sure all the facts are correct. I'm closing in on one-third completed so a good time to take stock. I remember in my first book catching the fact that I had a character driving a car at the beginning of the book and a van at the end . . . it's these little details that can trip you up. My worst habit is calling a character by the wrong name - something I'm guilty of doing in real life.

Just thought I'd alert you to a rather nasty practice going on in the reader reviewing world. People whom those in the book industry call 'trolls' post nasty, anonymous, one-star reviews on Amazon and other book-selling sites for no good reason that I can come up with. They might say things like, 'so bad I couldn't get past the first chapter' or 'this drivel isn't worth paying for' . . . or much worse. I was speaking with my publicist (by e-mail) and the only way to counter this is for readers to post good reviews when they like a book. I encourage you to praise the authors you like on the book sites - this is a tough enough business without having to deal with the nastiness of these no-good-for-nothing, mean-minded, cowardly 'trolls'. (Some day I'll tell you what I really think . . . .)

I'll be spending much of this weekend staying out of puddles and working away at my desk. I find it's at about this point in a manuscript that momentum becomes the most difficult. Once I get to the half-way point, the writing seems to pick up speed. So, nose to the grindstone and we'll see what unfolds.

I hope you stay dry and warm this week, my friends. Maybe, snuggle in with a good book or treat youself to some comfort food. We're going to make it through this January together . . . come hell or . . . high water.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Cold Hands

Man, it has been cold in the Ottawa Valley. Crazy weather across the country and U.S. to welcome in the New Year.

Bone-chilling, face-numbing, foot-tingling cold.

I have some writing work to do this weekend. First up is to write a cover blurb for the third Anna Sweet mystery. I was in touch with the publisher yesterday and this one, called To Keep a Secret, will be released this September. Pat agreed to move the release of the fourth Anna Sweet to September 2015 (instead of January 2015) to give me time to complete the Dundurn manuscript that I'm working on now. This means that I won't have to set aside what I'm working on for three or four months and takes a bit of a load from my shoulders. The designer will start work now on the To Keep a Secret cover so I'll be eager to see that.

If you are involved with adult literacy, discussion questions for books one and two are now free for download on the Grass Roots Press site. (I wrote them!)

You know, twice in the past week when I was visiting friends, there were my books on their coffee tables. Last night, a friend said she'd just finished reading The Hard Fall and really liked it. Another told me that she snuggled up in bed under the covers reading In Winter's Grip on Christmas Eve. This support is pretty satisfying, I have to say. It's actually kind of mind-blowing to know that people across the country and even world are picking up my books and giving them a read. Hard to get the brain around.

The work on the second Stonechild and Rouleau police procedural called Butterfly Kills is also about to begin. I've been asked to review my 'author grid' which keeps track of marketing ideas and contacts. I will soon have to start making a more concerted effort to publicize the launch of Cold Mourning since March 9 is not that far away. Mark your calendars, people!

And the writing . . . . I can report that it is coming along. I spend a lot of time thinking about the plot for this one. I had to rewrite a chunk because I realized after I wrote it that the logic wasn't there. My cop Kala Stonechild figured out something that she really couldn't have with the information that I'd given her. I therefore had to shift the discovery to someone else. I sometimes feel like I'm in a dark room feeling my way.

So, another cup of coffee while I read a few pages from Liza Marklund's latest The Long Shadow (love this series translated from Swedish) and then I'll settle down to write. I'll have to brave the elements later to visit the market to get something for supper, but all in good time. I have two days off and lots of time to get tasks accomplished.

Happy New Year, everyone - wishing you much happiness in 2014.