Saturday, September 28, 2013

Last Days of September

A good week.

Beautiful, warm weather for late September so still pleasant to sit on the front verandah before supper.

I've been writing in the evenings, heading up to 5000 words on the new manuscript. I'm still tinkering with the opening two chapters, getting the engine started up and going in the right direction. This one is the third Stonechild and Rouleau police procedural and set in Kingston, Ontario.

As I posted on my author Facebook page, Cold Mourning (1st Stonechild and Rouleau) received a couple of nice reviews from advance reading copies. I also received an e-mail yesterday from the VP of Dundurn, who just read the book and said that she 'loved it'.  She'd phoned me earlier in the week to let me know that she's taking Cold Mourning to the Frankfurt book fair in early October and has had a poster made of the cover to put up at the booth. Publishers work to sell foreign rights at these fairs, which is a big deal - your book gets printed in another language and distributed in another country.

An unexpected cheque arrived in the mail this week from Orca publishers for The Second Wife. From what I can gather, a whole whack of them sold in the U.S., so that was an uplifting little jolt.

I have a couple of events coming up this week. Tuesday morning, I'll take the train to Toronto for a little book launch for My Sister's Keeper and The Hard Fall at the Downsview Public Library at 7 p.m. If you're in Toronto and have time, it would be great to see you. The librarian is going to interview me and I'll do a brief reading. Refreshments will be served. The train ride to Toronto and back  through the countryside with the brilliant fall colours should be rejuvenating.

Next Saturday, I'll be at Brittons in the Ottawa Glebe, signing the same two books from 1-3 pm. They also stock In Winter's Grip, so it will be available too. Linda Wiken and the store owner Ted are two of the nicest people you'd ever want to meet so it should be a lovely afternoon. I hope my Ottawa friends can pop by:-)

Well, two days ahead with fine autumn weather. I'll be off to the market shortly and will plan a few meals with the fall produce. The garden needs to be tidied up and readied for winter and this will be a good time to get started. Some progress on the new manuscript, time on the verandah in the evening talking to neighbours . . . . the last weekend of September promises to be a relaxing one before a hectic week ahead. Let's hope this gorgeous weather holds well into October.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

What's in a Name

My copies of My Sister's Keeper and The Hard Fall arrived this week. So odd to finally hold copies in my hands after all this time working on them. The feeling of opening the box and actually seeing the new book never gets old.

The opening scene in My Sister's Keeper finds my protagonist Anna Sweet in the oil town Kermit, Texas. Now, you might wonder how I came up with this location - a glimpse into my thinking process, perhaps. This can be a scary journey, but here goes the geography lesson:

I decided to have Anna, a thirty-two year old retired cop, on the run from her life in Ottawa after a few traumatic events. She would be waitressing her way across the U.S., living the bohemian lifestyle with no ties. My first thought was to have her in a Florida town, but after studying the map, I decided she should be further west in an industry town. My other stipulation was that the town have a two-syllable name since the books are for adult literacy. I pulled up a map of Texas on my screen and read out names until I found Kermit in the north west corner of the state. Of course, I thought of that famous frog and so was intrigued. I did a search on Wikepedia and discovered that Kermit is an oil town with a population of just over 5,000. Perfect!

I invented the Dude Bar, and gave Anna a room to rent upstairs and a job waiting tables downstairs. Anna is called back to Ottawa to save her sister from a killer, but Kermit becomes a symbol of freedom and her life on the road. She longs to return whenever life back home gets too complicated.

Amateur psychologists might see links between the freedom of my own childhood growing up in a one-industry mill town and my life in Ottawa with all of my adult commitments and responsibilities. Well, I guess we all have a place in our minds of a simpler time and place. My first paid contract for a story was about my home town vs. life in the city. Canadian Living published "True North" in 2001. No matter where we come from, our home town always holds a special place.

Of note this week, my daughter Lisa's curling team is playing in their first bonspiel in Brockville and they are now three wins and zero losses, playing again this morning. This promises to be an exciting year as they gear up for the Olympic trials in December. You can watch their afternoon game live on Youtube although the 3:45 start might get pushed back if games back up during the day. An interesting coincidence - Lisa happens to look a lot like Anna Sweet . . . .

I've got a little jump on my next full-length manuscript for Dundurn and hope to get more written this weekend. I'm kind of happy to see the rain, which will keep me indoors. It feels like a day to brew an extra pot of coffee, put the feet up and listen to some music on the stereo. Time to slow down and kick back for a few hours.

Enjoy your weekend, everyone.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Colder Days are A-coming

Monday was a very good feedback day. I received the first advance review for Cold Mourning, which Dundurn plans to release March 1, 2014, and it was very postitive. I always like reading the word 'gripping' in relation to my stories :-) 

And, Pat Campbell, Grass Roots Press publisher, gave a big thumbs up to the third Anna Sweet mystery, saying that I've 'raised my own bar'. I got another 'gripping' for this one too. Pam, the editor, sent me a note calling the manuscript 'wonderful'.

Okay, okay. A little horn-blowing, but really, all for the books. If they aren't well received, then four months or a year of work is really for nought. I always prepare myself for the worst and celebrate any successes. Then, I tuck all comments away and carry on writing. The negative comments aren't all bad either because when valid, they help to improve my writing.

So, I've taken the week off to recharge before tackling the third in the Stonechild and Rouleau series. Although maybe not completely off - I've got a crime and character list worked out and am preparing to write the opening chapter. I feel better once I have a solid opening under my belt. It was interesting to hear thriller-writer Linwood Barclay say that he always worries that his last book will be the last good idea he ever has.

The secret is out: writers are a neurotic bunch . . . but then, isn't everybody?

The back deck is starting to take shape. Ted has done a ton of prep work to make this puppy solid and square although purchasing the laser level might have been a bad thing for a guy who is already a perfectionist. But I digress. Here is the latest pic, taken a few minutes ago:

I love watching Ted's projects take shape. Before I met him, I had no opinion on drywall or weeping tile. I had no idea the word 'stud' had a second meaning.

Well, today, our street is blocking of the road and we're having a party. We all cart our lawn chairs half-way down and haul out the barbecues. Everyone brings food and drink, the kids chalk up the street and race up and down, music plays and we have one last neighbourhood fling before settling into our homes for the colder weather ahead. Of course, September could still pump out some hot days - no need to give up hope yet.

One last note. I received an e-mail comment from a fellow in Kermit, Texas, the location of my opening scene in My Sister's Keeper. Hello to Kermit - you are now officially on Canada's friend list!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

The Power of Words

The printer has delivered My Sister's Keeper and The Hard Fall to the publisher and my copies are being mailed to me on Tuesday.They're now available for Kindle readers on Amazon, but my understanding is that hard copies of the books will need to be ordered from Grass Roots Press directly. I will be signing copies at Brittons in the Glebe from 1-3 p.m. on Saturday, October 5th. I'm also going to Toronto for a little launch at the Downsview Library on Tuesday, October 1st from 7-8 p.m. Rachelle, the librarian who is organizing the event, will be interviewing me and I'll do a short reading. There will be refreshments and books for sale.

I worked away at the third manuscript in this series and finished it up Wednesday evening. I wrote most of the long weekend and then evenings until nine or ten o'clock. I've submitted it to the publisher at Grass Roots Press and am waiting for feedback. This leaves me feeling at loose ends as I take a few days off and contemplate my next project. I'll be plotting the third in the Stonechild and Rouleau police procedural and getting a jump on that. I have one more Anna Sweet mystery contracted for the spring and will likely have to switch over to that one at some point since the Dundurn books take a year to write. If your head is spinning, mine is going like a top.

I was invited to the Power of Words breakfast yesterday - an event organized by People, Words and Change, which is an adult literacy, one-on-one tutorial service. The keynote speaker this year was Senator Don Meredith, who spoke with passion about overcoming challenges and going for your dream. He's been working with youth to keep them in school.

When I attend events such as this and hear the stories of adult learners, I'm even more satisfied to be writing books for this audience. One woman spoke of immigrating from the Sudan where she was studying business. Without being able to speak English, she became a full-time cleaner. Now, she's learning to read and write in English and cried when she said how her life is changing. Just one inspirational story among thousands.

Well, the weather changed from hot and muggy to downright cold the last few days. School's back in and curling clubs are back in action. I'm on two teams, starting in October. Throwing rocks at houses gives my life balance :-)

I passed by the Parkdale Market yesterday and saw the displays of fruits, vegetables and flowers. I'm going to head over there today to pick up some apples, fresh off the tree. This is the best time of year for eating . . . putting on an extra layer of fat for those cold mornings standing at the bus stop. The extra pounds also give some padding if you happen to slip on the ice. (Maybe, I'll pick up a pie while I'm out.)

And while I've been typing away at my desk, Ted's been in the backyard, working on the deck. He's got the roof covered in and has lots of lumber lying on the ground. I think all systems are on full steam ahead.