Saturday, August 31, 2013

The September Start-Over

The last day of August, but not the last day of heat. I'm getting awfully sick of my summer wardrobe I have to say. Ted says to get rid of my old clothes and go buy new . . . just one more reason to love this guy.

The article with my book choices came out in the Ottawa Citizen yesterday. Kind of nice that they posted my photo since it makes for good publicity. I had so many fall books that I wanted to choose, but was limited to just the two.

Writing has slowed a bit, but I'm nearing the end of the manuscript. I figure I might be able to wrap it up this three-day weekend. I'm at the point where the clues and ending have to work together. I was going great guns until I had to figure out how to reveal the killer. I'd plotted the storyline - who did the killing and why - but how does Anna Sweet put everything together? It has to be plausible. Like a giant puzzle where you shouldn't ram the pieces into place if they don't fit. Luckily for me, I have a wonderful editor Pam Robertson at Grass Roots Press who is adept at pointing out plot weaknesses. She kind of rides shotgun. I might need her to fire off a few rounds.

Do you get that feeling in the pit of your stomach like I do every September? School is back in, fall activities are starting up, new television shows begin airing . . . feels like a fresh start. Exciting even. A fellow named Dave Scharf has used social media to capture the journey of his new enterprise called the Flying Banzini. This is a new restaurant, which happens to be in the same location as the now-closed Collected Works bookstore.

 I rode the bus to work one day a few months back and saw the Flying Banzini sign go up. I did a Google search that evening. I found that Dave was blogging, tweeting and Facebooking about the steps involved in getting a restaurant off the ground. Every day, he posted a 'song of the day', showcasing some of the music he'll be playing in the restaurant. Brilliant really. Dave held three trial runs this week and invited people following him on social media to a free supper. Ted and I went on Thursday and met up with Katherine Hobbs and a few others. We had such a great evening - loved the food, wine and ambiance, not to mention the friendly atmosphere. Dave was a radio disc jockey in Saskatoon but moved here two years ago. He had trouble finding work in his field and so decided to take a stab at this dream he'd always had to open a restaurant. The grand opening is today! Katherine took the photo below - I'm holding up some of the signature mini-cheesecakes.

So, what I take from Dave's experience is that it's never too late to take a chance, follow your passion, make a fresh start. Let's all raise a glass to Dave, to September and to all of life's possibilities, large and small.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

A Little Interlude and a Dose of Procrastination

Off to a lazy start today. My new assignment at work has me tired. They call it the learning curve.

A knock at the door last night around nine o'clock and a gorgeous bouquet of flowers from Bill and Jane Guy. A lovely surprise I thought I'd share:

So, Grass Roots Press has posted My Sister's Keeper and The Hard Fall for order although they do not arrive back from the printer until September 3rd. While they are publicized for adult literacy, they make for good, quick reads for anyone. I'm kind of hooked on the characters myself. I've been working away on book three and am getting close to the climax of the story. I was going great guns all last weekend until about Wednesday evening. Then, the work week caught up with my energy level . . . and, I got my nose into a good thriller that I had trouble putting down - Indelible by Karin Slaughter. I saw Karin on a few panels at Cleveland Bouchercon. Read her bio from the link and you'll see why I started going to the panels that she was on. Great sense of humour and not bad at spinning an up-half-the-night-reading-when-you-should-be-sleeping tale as evidenced by my nose in her book all week.

I received an e-mail from a reporter in Toronto who wanted me to write a few lines about fall books that I plan to read. She's writing an article for the Ottawa Citizen. It was very hard to limit my choices, I have to tell you. It's been fun looking at the lists of new publications - Publisher's Weekly lists over 2000 new fiction releases alone.

Big news on the backyard construction site - the rubble is off to the dump today. One load is gone and another waiting to be loaded. Then, a load of asphalt will join its brothers at the landfill site and we'll be ready to start building. We could conceivably be buying deck furniture before the snow flies. Do they have November sales I wonder?

Well, enough procrastination. Back to my writing. I'll just tuck the two new Karin Slaughter books that I bought yesterday away of sight . . . . time to get this writing party started.

Somebody pass me a Red Bull and they'll be no slowing me down.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Picking Up Speed

A good-looking week ahead as we head into the last two weeks of August. Even a thirty-seven degree day predicted. Not time to put away the bikini yet.

This has been a productive week on a few fronts. I took on a new work assignment . . . at work, and am enjoying the challenges. I also managed to write about three thousand words on the latest manuscript, typing all last weekend and evenings all week. I'm aiming for two thousand more this weekend. The plot is coming together and at this point, I feel like my go-cart is picking up speed on the downhill stretch toward the finish line.

And only two weeks until My Sister's Keeper and The Hard Fall leave the printer's. Oddly, The Hard Fall is posted on the publisher's site for sale but not My Sister's Keeper, which is the first in the series. I'm sure that will be fixed soon.

The publisher contacted the Toronto Public Library and they are organizing a launch at one of their branches, tentatively the evening of October 1st. I spoke at length with the librarian who is organizing the event, and she told me that they had a group of readers at Frontier College read The Second Wife, a novella that I wrote a few years ago for Orca and the Rapid Reads series. She said that they really enjoyed it and she sent me some of their reviews of the book. Most heartening.

Cold Mourning from Dundurn, the first in a police procedural full-length series is also being sent out to reviewers in advance of a spring launch. Spring seems like a long time to wait. That means getting through another winter first. But winter means curling.

Did I mention that our daughter Lisa will be playing in the Olympic trials on the Rachel Homan curling team? No?! I'm sure I must have mentioned it before now:-) The trials are in Winnipeg the first week of December. You can imagine that we're getting pumped for the season ahead.

We ate Chinese takeout last night and my fortune cookie says, "The current year will bring you much happiness". I'm pretty sure these predictions are rock solid . . . curling rock solid, even.

So I've had several people ask me how the backyard deck is progressing. Well, let's just say that if I posted a photo this week, it would be a photo of the same pile of rubble as two weeks ago. However, I'm convinced this project is like one of those caterpiller into a butterfly miracles. Ted is working away with no outward signs of change. One day, we will all be amazed. Older, but amazed.

This weekend is starting like the last several before it. I'm about to have another cup of coffee while I read for a bit. Next, a bike ride and then, I'll get to the writing. Intersperse that with a trip to the market, time in the garden and dinner out, and the day will roll by, kind of like that go-cart speeding downhill. Next thing you know, it will be Christmas.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

First Impressions

Last week, I got in a good stretch of writing. The word count is now around 6,000 words. I think that I've got a solid, suspenseful opening and am now into the investigation part - hiding clues in plain site and keeping the plot from veering off. This part of the manuscript involves a lot of thinking. The bottom line is that the story has to be plausible. The dots have to connect. Kind of the opposite of real life. This book is due in November. I thought I had a ton of time, but November is only three months away. As a result, I'll be nose to the computer again this weekend.

Tim Wynne-Jones has said that the opening paragraph and chapter really drive the book. If the opening pages aren't spot on, exciting, suspenseful and well written, the book won't have the proper engine. I read an article this week about Stephen King and the amount of time he puts into crafting an opening sentence. I like his statement: "An opening line should invite the reader to begin the story. It should say: Listen. Come in here. You want to know about this." It's worth giving King's entire article a read (link above). The man is a brilliant writer, but you already knew that.

King got me thinking about my opening sentences. The Cold Mourning opening line in my first draft drove the entire mystery: "The girl had been crouching in the tall grass for what felt like a very long time." The opening line to My Sister's Keeper likewise set the voice of my main character Anna Sweet: "It was the middle of a steamy August night in Kermit, Texas, and my bedside phone was ringing." If you are like me, I always read the opening sentence before buying a book. I'm curious about how every author begins their tale. The art and science of writing.

As we draw closer to the release date of September 3rd for My Sister's Keeper and The Hard Fall, plans are underway for an event in Ottawa at the Ottawa Tech school on Albert Street and in Toronto at the North York Library. Neither date is confirmed, but both are in the works. Alan Cumyn will also be launching a Grass Roots Press book at the Ottawa event. His novella is part of their Goodreads series.

Alan and I were two of the authors at a Kids Lit Gala some years ago now. We each had to read a short selection from our latest book (I think it was my only book at the time) and I remember being very impressed by his writing. I'm thrilled to be sharing the stage with him as we introduce our new novels. People, Words and Change, an adult literacy organization in Ottawa is spearheading the coordination of the event. Oddly enough, I taught a class for them for a year many moons ago. I was also a speaker at their fund-raising breakfast a few years ago alongside Coach Brian Kilreay, CBC sports anchor Terry Marcotte and Mayor Jim Watson. A very worthwhile organization in our community, helping adults have better lives. Patrick Walton made up a little video of my remarks.

Man, time passes quickly. It's good to have so many good memories.

Another gorgeous weekend in the Ottawa Valley. The cross breeze was lovely this morning as I lay in bed with the skylight and windows open. The sky is a powder blue and the neighbours' kids are already racing around their yards, shrieking with laughter. The sun is filtering through the front pine outside my office window. I've had a second cup of coffee on the front verandah and it's now time to get the day underway. Wishing you all a super August weekend . . . .

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Projects in Motion

So, the two Anna Sweet mysteries have gone to the printer's. The release date is September 3rd, one month from today. The Grass Roots Press publisher and I have been discussing a few events in Ottawa and Toronto. Grass Roots does not sell the books on Amazon but sells directly to customers.

I'll be signing copies at Brittons in the Ottawa Glebe on Saturday, October 6th from one to three in the afternoon. I'm thinking that if you are not in Ottawa, or even if you are and not able to make the October signing, just send an e-mail to me through my website and  we can make arrangements for me to send signed copies. I can buy a bulk order and pass along any savings. I've done this the odd time for people wanting signed copies of other books who do not live in Ottawa or for those who want books mailed to friends as gifts. It would be my pleasure.

I'm hard at work on book three in the series and at the 3000 word mark. I'll be spending a good part of this long weekend at the keyboard and hope to make some good progress. I've signed a contract for this one and it's due in November. The fourth is due in the spring. I'm also working on a plotline for the third Dundurn mystery and have the crime taking shape. That's where I start the story. The crime and the reason why. This line reminds me of that lyric: The needle and the damage done. Neil Young if I recall rightly.

I'm back thinking about characters and plots when I ride the bus home from work or just before falling asleep. I find myself writing when I get home from work and after supper. Some might call this an addiction. All I know is that I still get a little surge of excitement thinking about writing the next chapter.

I'm sure that Ted is feeling the same excitement thinking about the backyard project (or not):-)  Last weekend, he rented a jackhammer as you might recall and pounded up the concrete. The effort put his back out for the rest of the week although he managed a round of golf and didn't miss any work. (Thank you muscle relaxants.) He's off picking up lumber this morning for this weekend's shenanigans. Here's a photo of the deck's progress. Not quite ready for the lawn chairs.