Saturday, December 29, 2007

Happy New Year from the Rocky Mountains

I'm itchy with anticipation about what lies ahead in 2008, more so than I've been in years, but I'm also grateful for all I have at this moment: a healthy family, happy kids, a novel out in 90 days, another underway. Life is good. From my family to yours, we wish you nothing but the best in the year ahead.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

December Contest Reminder...

This month's contest to win your own silver compass and an autographed copy of the book (due out April 1, 2008) closes December 31st. If you haven't already entered, you have five days left to do so. Good luck everyone!

Enter by sending an email to including your name and an email address where you can be contacted. One entry per person per month.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

A blogging milestone & Merry Christmas

Wow! As of last week, I've been blogging for one year. Thanks to everyone who's stopped by to read, quietly lurk, or comment. Having you around makes me feel as though I'm sharing my office with a group of incredibly well behaved co-workers!

At the moment, though, work must wait. I have company and I'm reverting from "author" to "hostess" although I did spike the punch bowl in an effort to stir up my guests and stimulate some dialogue I can borrow for a future novel. Oh, and I also cornered my 85 year old father-in-law this afternoon to grill him about life in the 50s so I have the most authentic POV possible for my next protagonist. Hmmm... Maybe work doesn't have to wait. Maybe it can be incorporated right into the holidays.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Going bug-eyed from writing withdrawal

I love Christmas. The tree, the gifts, the guests. Usually, this is when all my restlessness disappears for a few weeks, but not this year. This year, I'm distracted.

I'm jotting notes on everything in sight. I'm huddled under the blankets well after midnight with a reading light (so I don't wake my husband) writing dialogue I'm worried I'll forget. There's nothing I'd rather do than hunker down at my computer and write, but I can't...

You'd think I'd be frustrated, but I'm not. Instead, I'm smiling all goofy like I've got this huge scecret or something, because I feel so fortunate to have a job I love this much, and doubly so that my creative muse is tap-tap-tapping on my brain, impatiently wanting to get back to work on a novel I'm excited about.

If you're a writer, you know what I mean. There's no feeling like it, is there? That tug and pull that makes you want to slink away from your own dinner party, not to sip wine by yourself in the kitchen, but to write!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Cucumber slices to the rescue

I have two kids home sick today (cough, fever, sore throat). It started yesterday & after a long night where I doled out cough syrup, Tylenol, and smeared Vick's Vapo-rub on their feet, they were even worse this morning.

After listening to them moan and groan for an hour (where I got no work done) I set them up on the couch with blankets and pillows and asked them to stretch out and close their eyes. Then I put on a Spongebob DVD and grabbed a jar of cucumber eye-pads someone had given me. I placed the pads on their eyes and asked them to breathe deeply as they listened to Spongebob, that the eye-pads would extract impurities, clear their sinuses and soak through their pores to help kill their headaches.

For almost two hours now they've been silent as mice, other than asking for a fresh set of eye-pads before lunch, followed by these whispered comments from one kid to the other as I stood listening in the doorway.

"What are impurities?"

Pause. "I think they're some kinda germ."

"You know what? I think maybe Mom shoulda been a nurse."

Insert chuckle here from my eleven-year-old. "Nah. She'd miss making up her stories!"

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Remember your trash man at Christmas!

Every year at Christmas I buy something for the trash guys who pick up our garbage. Then, on the last garbage day before the holidays, my boys run a brightly wrapped package out to the road in the morning and set it on top the garbage can with a card that says, Merry Christmas!

When the truck pulls up, we peek outside to watch their reaction. Because different companies win the contract each year it's never the same crew, although there are some things that never change.

For instance, the look on my kids' faces as they recognize (without being told) that they are showing respect where respect is due. And then there's the trash man when he grabs the parcel and turns it this way and that, frowning a little before a smile slowly begins to creep across his face.

Yesterday, I left a list on my desk of gifts I had yet to buy and when my kids got home from school one of them must have read it, because last night I noticed someone had scribbled, Mom, don't forget the trash man! at the bottom of the list.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

A Christmas solution for grandma

My boys never know what to buy their grandma for Christmas, but this year I found a fun gift to solve the problem. They're called "racing grannies", they're only $12.99 Canadian per set, and can be ordered online through Grand River Toys.

Since my mom never goes online (as far as I know she's never even been to my blog)
I think I'm pretty safe sharing this post with everyone.

I wonder how fast they'd go
if we pumped 'em full of Red Bull?! Go grannies!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Pondering the 'uncatchable' mouse

One of my neighbors phoned yesterday. He's having mouse trouble and he wanted to know if he could borrow one of my cats for a few days. He'd already tried trapping the mouse, with no luck. I said no, I couldn't help, even though, yes, I do have two cats. Let me explain...

Years ago, I had four cats.
At the time, my daughter was in univeristy, living with her mom, and they were having mouse trouble. (I hate calling her my step-daughter, by the way. I have been in her life since she was seven so the word step-daughter always catches in my throat and sounds wrong).

Anyhow, she phoned and asked if they could borrow a few of the cats. Thinking this would give the cats some adrenaline racing excitement in their otherwise sadly sedentary lives, I packed two up and drove them over.

I checked in often to see how it was going.

Apparently, not well.

Both cats seemed drop-dead exhausted at the end of each day, but the mouse was still alive and well, scurrying all over. As each day passed, I became increasingly disgusted with my "citified" cats. Maybe I should switch them around and test out the other two. How hard could it be to catch a mouse!?

Then, on the 4th night, I sat up in bed and burst out laughing, having a forehead slapping blond moment. I had had all my cats declawed years ago (a necessity given the repetitive attacks on our furniture) which explained why they were failing so miserably at their assignment!

Monday, December 3, 2007

Telling off the tooth fairy

Last week, my youngest lost yet another tooth and because he still believes, he slipped it under his pillow and went to sleep, but the tooth fairy forgot to leave him anything so the next morning we
had a grouchy kid at breakfast, mumbling and grumbling under his breath about how "she sure isn't
very good at her job."

My oldest reassured him, telling him when she forgets, she pays double the second night. This seemed to appease him, but then the tooth fairy forget YET AGAIN that night (she was tired, okay?!) and he was even less impressed the next day.

On the third night, when the tooth fairy finally got her act together and reached under his pillow with a five dollar bill,
she found this pleasant little note...

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Win your own silver compass plus an autographed copy of the book

Four contests will be held between now and April 1st of 2008 when my third novel, The Silver Compass, is published.

Monthly contests will be posted on my blog in Dec, Jan, Feb, and March, with draws held at the end of
each month.

Here's a snapshot of the compass, the book, and below are the rules:

1. Anyone can enter.

2. One entry will be allowed per
person per month.

3. Enter by sending an email to including your full name and an email address where you can be contacted.

Because we lose a week at Christmas, this blog post is the announcement for December's contest. Entries can be made between now and Dec 30th and the draw will be held on Dec 31st. Good luck everyone!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Crazy signs good for a smile

Earlier today, my sons were sitting on the couch, laughing. I asked what was so funny and they showed me the book they were looking at, filled with pictures of crazy signs from all
around the world.

Down the left are snapshots
of some and below are a few others we liked:

You are invited to take advantage of the chambermaid.

Alligator feeding Sunday at three pm. Don't forget to bring the kids!

A sign in a maternity ward
in Florida read, No children allowed.

In a hotel elevator in Paris a sign read, Please leave your values at the front desk.

A sign in Branxton, USA read, Drive Carefully! We have two cemeteries and no hospital.

Elephants please stay
in your car

And finally, on a blanket made in Taiwan, was a sticker that read, Not to be used as protection from a tornado!.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

A good book is a good book...

While talking to a newly formed book club in Nebraska last
night (my first chat with a group in that State; thanks, guys) three people asked if I could describe the difference between literary versus commercial fiction, and another asked what I personally preferred to read?

Simply put, literary fiction draws you in with language, imagery, character insight and sense of place whereas commercial fiction focuses more on narrative and plot. Literary fiction is also more tolerant of digression. If the story reveals something about the character, the pages are worth it. Also, the likability of characters isn't as required as commercial pieces.

Some well known commercial fiction authors would be John Grisham, Dan Brown, Nora Roberts. They rarely win prizes and aren't often reviewed, yet these authors do well financially as millions of readers regularly snatch up their books.

When it comes to personal preference, I'll read anything. Essentially, here's my strategy: If a book draws me in, I’ll keep reading. If it has a good story, I’ll finish it. If my mind wanders, I’ll put it down and find something better to do, and I usually won't pick it up again.

Of course, this is said from the reading side of my brain (a good book is a good book & all that jazz) while the writing side, fresh off months of hard work trying to create an unputdownable commercial piece, elbows me with a terse, Easier said than done, hotshot!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Dangerously distracted...

Like many homes these days, ours is a busy place. There are times (yesterday being one of them) when I'm tempted to pack a bag, climb out a window, and go to a hotel for a few nights.
(I figure I'd have to use a window cause both doors are so busy with people coming and going, I'd never get to my car without someone seeing me and catching on.) Once there, I'd order room service, watch a movie that isn't animated, and get completely blissed out from all the silence...

Getting to the point, I've been working crazy hours for the last two months, as has my husband (when he isn't traveling), and to top it off, everyone in the family (other than me) has a birthday in Oct or Nov. Envision Halloween three weeks ago (yes, we truly did get 249 kids) followed by balloons, screaming kids, and migraines from birthday parties.

Taking all that into consideration, I had a blond moment last night. I decided to make dinner and pulled out our fancy-dancy electric wok. Yawning, I set it on the stove. I dumped some oil in, cut up chicken and veggies, turned on the burner... and walked away to answer the doorbell.

Moments later, while fishing through my wallet for money to buy chocolate covered almonds none of us will ever eat from a cute six-year-old, my son tugged on my arm and asked if the wok was supposed to be smoking like that.

Note to self: an electric wok probably won't be covered under warranty when melted on a gas stove.

I hope all you folks in the U.S. have a great Thanksgiving weekend!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Reviewing my copy edited manuscript

It's late Saturday night (or is it Sunday morning?) and I'm feeling a little punch drunk. Not from drinking, from working through my copy edited manuscript for the last twelve hours.

At this stage, an author has read and re-read his/her novel enough times that he/she can recite entire pages the way an actor can recite his lines without referring to a screenplay. You know all of your character's ages, who has a hooked nose, a drinking problem, a phobia for mice. It's eerie how easily you recall dialogue pieces, the weather in a specific scene, and that the door must open inward or else you'll flatten your protagonist's cat who always sleeps outside next to it.'s tiring, going through page after page of what was once neatly typewritten text now all mucked up with what must look like hand-written martian-code to the average layman. (For your interest, above is a list
of the basic editing marks you begin seeing in your sleep after spending entirely too much time staring at them).

My manuscript arrived Wednesday and I need to courier it back to New York on Monday. This is a faster turnaround than usual, but I was late getting the book delivered to my editor, so it only seems fair that I suck it up and get this done on time now.

Back to how late it is...
I've decided to finish the rest tomorrow because those little editing marks have started to blur and blend and morph into a snarkier version you see here on the left.

Isn't this hilarious!?!

I hope you realize I'm not complaining, because I'm actually happy to be at this stage with Silver Compass
and now I can't wait for the ARCs to arrive.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Special meaning behind book cover

During a book club chat with a group from Indiana last week, someone asked if I had a favorite book cover. I said no, I like them all for different reasons (answering the way a mother does when asked if she has a favorite child) and now that The Tin Box and The Penny Tree have gone into 2nd and 3rd printings in some foreign countries, the covers have changed again and I've got more new ones for my scrapbook. I thought, When you're that fortunate, how can you choose one over the other?

Yesterday, I changed my mind.

There is one that means more. It's the first published novel I ever held with my name on it. As foreign countries often do, Germany retitled it from The Tin Box to something like Only in a Single Moment, but that certainly didn't matter to me.

When it was delivered by FedEx, I ripped open the package and cried. How apt, I thought. My mom's German, my grandfather, who died right before I was born, was German, and here I was holding my debut novel, in German.

That Christmas, to surprise me, my husband and kids signed a tin strip underneath it and had the cover framed. It hangs behind my desk today. So I was wrong, my first German book cover will always be a favorite when comparing it to every cover that has followed since.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

A gift from a goof in Chicago

My pal, Sally, sent me this "life-transforming" breath spray. She's always bugging me about being Canadian and this proves a point I've been trying to make with her for years... that there are clearly enough Americans who wanna be like us Canadians that there's now
a whole market of products to appease them. *smile*

Oh, and you know that stereotype that we have a definitive accent of some kind that makes us sound Canadian? Not true. Not at all. Ask anyone who was in Maui with me this past summer. I blended right in and I'll betcha no one could tell where I was from!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Dusting off The Keeper of the Pond

I've got a problem, but in the grand scheme of things, I've come to realize it's not a bad one to have.

The Tin Box, my debut novel, was my first attempt at writing a novel and now I look at it with pride, realizing how fortunate I was to get my foot in the door early. The Penny Tree followed and it was hard, because I ran face first into 'second novel syndrome', which can be debilitating. This is where you feel you're under a spotlight and your confidence gets shaken as you second guess what you did so naturally with the first one. Still, after writing and rewriting The Penny Tree too many times to count, I was pleased with the end result.

Then along came The Silver Compass , which offered up a whole other set of difficulties I won't get into here. I knew the main gist of the story, but much of the magic happened during the writing of it and now that it's in production, I'm excited about holding the finished product and seeing how readers react.

Up next is novel four and herein lies the dilemna...
For the better part of a year, I was sure it would be Penguin Hill. However, last week my agent pointed something out that pulled me up short.

You see, there's this other novel I've been talking about for years called The Keeper of the Pond and when I initially pitched it to her, she got tears in her eyes (a good sign). Until Penguin Hill elbowed its way into my mind, The Keeper of the Pond was always going to be novel number four.

Both novels will be told in 1st person, from a man's point of view. These men aren't alike (one is old, one is young) but what they do have in common is that their stories won't let me go and they feel magical before I begin writing them (another good sign, as this has never happened to me before -- not like this).

Both also tackle serious issues with broad appeal for women and men, although these issues are also very different. I've written 5-6 chapters for both novels, which I carefully revisited last week, and when I was done, I realized my agent was right.

I need to write The Keeper of the Pond first.

It's a strategic choice from a career standpoint because the story is stylistically closer to the other novels I've written so far, and therefore less of a jump for readers to take with me as I grow as an author. And the good thing? Novel number five isn't going anywhere. I just need to dig deep for patience and write them in the order they should be written.

P.S. Yes, the main character is the old guy noted in the post below, so I'll use John's recommendation of Legal Seafoods
as his favorite restaurant!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Calling east coast bloggers...

Here's the thing: I need to adopt a favorite restaurant for the main character in my next novel and it must be within walking distance of the Boston Common.

This guy's old, though, so I'm not saying ten blocks away, more like two to three at most. I'm not looking for a coffee shop. I'd prefer a quaint little restaurant (it doesn't have to be high end). I'd love if it were a real restaurant that's been around 10-20 years (or more, if possible).

I'll be visiting Boston in mid-April and plan to spend a few days wandering around the Common, but it'd be great if someone could recommend a restaurant for my character as I don't know Boston well enough to choose one on my own.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Up next, Penguin Hill

As a kid, I used to love buying new pens, pencils & fresh notebooks every summer before school started. Keep in mind, I'm not saying I was a stellar student, it was the idea of a 'fresh start' that most appealed to me, and this hasn't changed. I finish one novel, and I'm dying to move on to the next.

Next week, I'm working on copy edits for The Silver Compass. In the meantime, I'm rubbing my hands together as I get ready to write my next novel, which will be titled Penguin Hill.

The story came to me fully formed a year ago, told from
a male protagonist's point of view, but other than working on it this past summer at the Maui Writers Retreat, I put off writing it until now. I know I won't get much done before Christmas, but I'm still excited about the whole 'fresh start' thing.

And while I am writing it, I'll have these two little guys cheering me on. My husband bought them for me. They're tiny. The big one's only an inch tall and his partner even more wee than that, but for the next six months or so, they will both be front and center on my desk. Let's hope they do their jobs well as mini-writing muses!

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Kudos to Susan Wiggs & The Winter Lodge!

I met Susan Wiggs at the Maui Writers Retreat in 2003. She was my instructor and to a person, everyone in the group adored her. (By the way, it would be hard not to enjoy Susan's company. She hasn't an ounce of pretentiousness to her and is one of the most genuine people I've met in this business.)

When I popped over to her blog this morning and saw that her novel The Winter Lodge was chosen as one of the best books of the year by Publishers Weekly, I was thrilled. It's also been listed on Amazon as #1 on the Best of Romance list. If you haven't read it already, you really should.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy happy day...

I've been spending a lot of time alone, writing and rewriting
and fine tuning the novel I'm currently working on.

However, there are days that make it all worthwhile. For me, this is one of them.

The Silver Compass has been delivered and accepted and put into production with copy editing. For about an hour, I felt like this...

But that quickly changed,
and then I found myself feeling like this...

... taking a few minutes to daydream about holding the book itself (voila!) which will be out April 1, 2008.

Now I'm off to prepare (picture me bracing here) for upwards of 250 kids tonight as Halloween descends on my neighborhood. No joke, last year we got 287 kids!

Saturday, October 27, 2007

A little healthy competition can't hurt

My husband and I are competitive with each other, in a good way. The first marathon he ever ran was in January 2007 in Florida. He ran a second one in April 2007 in California, and a few weeks ago he ran his third in Victoria, BC.

See the connection? Three novels, three marathons.

With two of the marathons he ran this year, he qualified for Boston which he plans to run in April '08 weeks after my 3rd novel, The Silver Compass, comes out. And as he so nicely pointed out to me yesterday, that will be his 4th marathon so he'll be ahead of me.

In no way did I want him to think this bothered me, so I gave him a bored stare and went back to work. However, as soon as he left the room, I did grab a calendar to plot and plan my 4th novel a bit more aggressively than usual. Afterall, I know the story, I'm excited about writing it, and if I can get the first draft completed by the time he runs his fourth little marathon in Boston (yawn) then I guess technically we'd be tied again, right?

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Meet my 165 pound writing muse

For the next week or so I won't have time to post so as I head into the final stretch of revisions on my novel, let me leave you with two snapshots of Sullivan (aka Sully), my writing muse.
You know how some dogs howl when you sing? Well, Sully doesn't do that. He does, however, cover his head with his paws and whine when I read out loud, something I've been doing a lot lately as I test dialogue pieces to make sure they sound alright. Clearly he has no taste, huh?

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Spin baby spin

I can't remember exactly who sent me this Nokia video clip
(probably my pal Sally with DDB Advertising in Chicago) but
I've had it for a while and it always makes me laugh. I have two cats and I can definitely imagine one of them getting into this sort of trouble:

Monday, October 15, 2007

A garbage can filled with story ideas

Elsa from Boulder, Colorado (an aspiring author herself) emailed last week to ask how I come up with my my story ideas. Do I find it difficult thinking them up or do scenes just suddenly jump into my head while I'm writing?

Hmmmm... I have to admit the latter does sometimes happen, usually late at night when I'm writing and my mind takes
off on me. I'll start laughing
(or get emotional) thinking of something a specific character would do that I hadn't even
considered before then.

However, even when I'm not writing, I'm always working. I go to sleep thinking about my novel, I wake up in the middle of the night to jot down notes, and I carry blank index cards with me wherever I go.

I'm always writing something down I've seen or overheard or thought of that's relavent to the book I'm working on at the time. Then, at the end of each day, I stuff everything into
a twelve inch-high aluminum garbage can labelled 'story ideas' (index cards, photos, articles I've cut out of magazines or newspapers) and every few weeks I'll dump it out and go through it, taking what I want and putting back what I've decided to reserve for another novel.

It might seem like an odd process, but it works well for me!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

For the Grand Rapids book club

Today's post is a lazy one (killing two birds with one stone,
so to speak) because I've been so busy writing I haven't had time to answer two follow-up emails sent to me from a book club I spoke to in Grand Rapids, Michigan via speakerphone
last week. Here you go:

Q: Which one of your novels is your personal favorite?
My next one. It's always my next one. After spending a year writing a novel, you get tired of it. It's an exhausting process, the writing and rewriting, not to mention poking and prodding your characters to behave the way you need them to. It's always nicer to imagine a 'fresh start' with
a brand new story you delusionally believe will be easier to write than the last one (insert laughter here).

Q: Where do you do the bulk of your writing?
See photo above. This is where I do 95% of my writing. I don't like to move around, dragging my laptop out onto the deck or down to the river, etc. This is my office, and when I'm in it, I mean business. And on days when my mind wanders, I have a great reminder of what I'm there for tacked to the wall above my desk. If you click on the photo it'll enlarge and you can probably see it (please excuse the messy desk!)

Friday, October 5, 2007

Hats off to the 101st Airborne Division

This post is for the 101st Airborne Division, with admiration and respect. Every now and then I receive an email that makes me proud to be an author. This is one of them:

"I am writing to you today about your book, The Tin Box. I am currently in the army in Kuwait waiting my departure to Iraq. I was browsing through some books in the USO and came across The Tin Box. I will admit I was skeptical about picking it up and reading it because it sounded like a book aimed more towards women. Well, thank God I did because it was by far the best book I have ever read. Currently it is being passed around my company and being read whenever we have down time. The way you intimately described each character made me feel as if I had been friends with them for years. All in all the book moved me and was exactly the thing that I needed to read when I arrived in Kuwait. I figured since you took the time to write such an amazing book I would take the time to thank you."

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

How do you write a novel? Simple. Line up your story like this...

I received an email yesterday from an aspiring author. He said he finds the process of writing a novel overwhelming (join the club). He said it's difficult to stay focused on the same story and the same set of characters and the same sub-plots for as long as it takes to write 400 pages (I couldn't agree more). He said "it's hard" and I nodded with sympathy. It is. It's very hard.

For close to a year, I've spent countless hours writing and editing and cutting and smoothing to make The Silver Compass come together and line up like a string of slick dominoes. Current day story must be supported by back story and back story must transition smoothly back into current day story. Secondary characters must move the plot forward, walk-ons are necessary but you can't have too many. Dialogue must be realistic. Scenes should have dramatic tension. Watch you POV shifts. Make readers care about your main character and his/her story. It'd also be good if you can make them laugh and/or cry at some point. Keep in mind, the first page sells the book, the last page sells the next book and on and on...

Yes, it is hard, but don't give up, because after it gets written and it all comes together, and it's been buffed and polished to a shine, there's no better feeling in the world. When I get that feeling, before I begin obsessing over changing 'just one more thing' that's when I quickly hand it over to production, dust off my hands and say, "It's just a book. There'll be many more." It's the only way I can stay sane doing this for a living.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

What a writer's life is really like

I saw this video on M.G. Tarquini's blog who received it courtesy of Sharon Anderson Bunion. With Mindy's permission, I'm now posting it here. It's an over-the-top depiction of an editor giving a writer advice about how to write his next book.
When I saw it I couldn't stop laughing because there's an undeniable spot of reality mixed in there. Enjoy!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Bike jump goes bad under parental supervision

When I'm in 'do not disturb writing mode' my husband watches the kids in evenings and on weekends. They love it. The rules are different, as are the boundaries he allows them to cross. Often, the three of them skulk around here looking guilty about something, and they usually are.

This video clip, taken yesterday when I wasn't around, is a good example. High end cinematography it's not, but worse yet, check out the bike jump they put together with Rubbermaid containers and such, and then listen to my youngest, who immediately thinks of me when it all falls apart.

My 10 year old wasn't hurt and not much else happened to interrupt my writing weekend other than our kitchen faucet snapping off -- think lots of shooting water here -- and our dog getting skunked, but how to deal with 165 pound skunked dog is a whole other post for another day, and I'm not even ready
to THINK about the stupid kitchen faucet now that the hole
has been duct taped over. I just couldn't pass up sharing this video with everyone!

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Hibernating to write...

It seems there's always something going on when it comes to my writing career (ie., my agent called this morning to tell me a publisher in Denmark just bought rights to The Penny Tree ). It's all good stuff, and I'm certainly not complaining. However, email stacks up, the phone constantly rings, and I've learned the only way to find the time I need to write is to draw a hard line and shut everyone out (insert sound of door closing here). For much of September I won't be blogging or accessible by email. Instead, I'll be singularly focused on final revisions for The Silver Compass. Thanks for stopping by.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Film rights optioned for The Penny Tree!

Right now, I wish blogger had a 'noise' feature that would let me add a long and enthusiastic WHOOP to this post (insert WHOOP here). I found out earlier today that film rights have been optioned for The Penny Tree and I've been asked to write the screenplay, both fantastic pieces of news I just had to share in a quick blog post.

P.S. I'm at the Maui Writers Retreat and
I don't have internet access in my hotel room, so posting is a big headache. In addition, I've been busy writing (Karen Joy Fowler is an incredible instructor, by the way). The conference starts Friday, so I'll try to post some snapshots in a few days.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

What have I gotten myself into?

Okay, I'm finally in KoOlina, Hawaii on Pat's boat after 18 hours of travelling yesterday, including two sitting on the tarmac in LA while United Airlines 'changed a tire' and
all I've heard since arriving is "When are you getting up?"

Click, Click, Click, Click.
I swear I'm gonna smash her camera!

By the way, I was a tad surprised by her "boat". I'm not a boat person in any way, shape, or form, but like many of you, I was under the impression ORION was this edgy little yacht from all the photos I'd seen. Not. Check out my photo if you want to see what it really looks like. Oh, and all those people floating around it in kayaks? Those are 'Lottery fans' and they're 100% annoying. All they do is circle the boat calling out for Pat, begging for her autograph, tossing copies of Lottery up onto the deck. I've picked up half a dozen since I got up this morning...

Friday, August 17, 2007

Maui bound in three days...

I leave for Maui in three days and I'll be gone for two weeks. (Actually, I'm flying to Honolulu first to do some research for my fourth novel, and then I'm off to Maui).

In Honolulu, I'm staying with fellow author Patricia Wood and her husband on their boat. This was planned six months ago and at the time I thought I'd be done The Silver Compass by now, but I'm not, so that means I'll be writing late each night while Pat's cats keep me company. Then, when we fly to Maui for the retreat & conference, I'll be working every night I'm there, too.

This will my 4th time attending the Maui Writers Retreat & Conference, an investment that's always been equally enjoyable and beneficial to my career. This year, I'm working with Karen Joy Fowler (NYT bestselling author of The Jane Austen Book Club) but I'll also get to reconnect with friend and fellow author Jacquelyn Mitchard who's teaching at the retreat as well.

I'm looking forward to the trip. It'll be great to be surrounded
by like-minded writers. Think 'gambler landing in Las Vegas' and you've got the idea.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Finding pockets of willpower

I quit smoking 14 years ago and I haven't had a drag on a cigarette since. It was hard. I'd smoked for years and I liked it. Anyone who knew me well thought I would never quit. Neither did I.

Sixteen years ago, I wrote an eight page letter to someone very close to me. It wasn't a nice letter. I wrote things I'd never have the courage to say out loud, things I'd only thought before, things that would flatten this person if they ever read it. I still have that letter in a sealed envelope. I never mailed it and I never will. Writing it was enough for me.

Eighteen years ago an ex-boyfriend took me for dinner right before I moved across the country to live with the man I eventually married. He tried to talk me out of leaving, and when the waitress brought us our fortune cookies, he said, "Why don't you crack yours open & make the decision to stay or go based on what it says inside?" But I'd already made my decision, so I never did crack open that fortune cookie. I still have it, inside an old tin box at the back of my closet.

I received an email from a reader this week asking where I found the willpower to write novels. Wasn't it hard?

Yes, it is, but it's like quitting smoking, or not mailing that letter, or keeping that unopened fortune cookie all these years. I have wanted to be an author since I was ten years old, and I am stupid stubborn about remaining one now that I've got my foot in the door. However, that said, I do have a saying taped to my monitor that helps give me willpower when I feel myself losing steam: Nothing is particulary hard if you divide it into small jobs -- Henry Ford.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

The power of imagination (and memory)

My eight-year-old brought a new friend home the other day. He seemed like a nice kid. Polite, respectful, no tattoos. However, the reality remains that I work from home, and right now, I'm a bit more on edge than usual, pushing to complete some major revisions for The Silver Compass.

That said, when my son and his friend came downstairs, I swiveled in my desk chair to explain that they had to be quiet. However, this time my son put up a hand and said he would handle it. Here's the conversation that followed:

"Look, my mom's working and she's under pressure and stress and strain so we gotta be quiet if we're playing downstairs."

"What's she working on?" the new kid whispered.

"She's writing a book."

Long drawn out "W-o-w!"

A few seconds passed.
Then my son lowered his voice and said, "She's actually a retired superhero. She used to walk into big crowds and read minds and tell the police who they should arrest. She would concentrate real hard and then she would point to some plain looking guy and say, 'If you check his pockets you'll find the missing diamonds.'"

The new kid leaned past my son and stared at me. "Does she still read minds?" he whispered.

Slow sad shake of my son's head. "All the time."

Long pause, followed by a whispered, "Let's play outside, okay?"

On their way past my desk, my eight-year-old winked at me
and his friend shot me a skeptical look. It made my day. First, that my son remembered that crazy I'm-a-retired-superhero-who-used-to-read-minds-for-the-FBI story I had told him three or four years ago, and secondly that he had reiterated it to this kid to help clear the house out and give me some much needed peace and quiet.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Book Clubs add rocket fuel to my pen...

Two nights ago I had yet another 'book club chat' with a group in Ohio and, as usual, I hung up an hour later feeling completely revived. The reason? These ladies enjoyed The Penny Tree and they were kind enough to take the time to tell me so.

Better yet, they aren't friends or family or blogger buddies or fellow authors who might feel the need to do so out of obligation. Their input is 100% honest and open, which helps reaffirm that I'm on the right track, especially on days when I could use a good boost.

Thanks Chris, Heather, Lisa, Emily, Jill, Tara, Angie & Shannon. It was great talking to all of you. I look forward to chatting with you again in September after you've finished reading The Tin Box. And thanks again for choosing it as your next book club pick, by the way. I'm honored.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Patricia Wood's LOTTERY a sure bet

Thousands of debut novels are launched every year. Some shine, others don't, and many leave you shaking your head that they were published at all. Here's one you're gonna love. Patricia Wood's debut novel Lottery will be released six days from now on August 2nd. Do yourself a favor and go buy a copy. You’ll be glad you did.

Lottery is a tender, uplifting story that makes you want to stand up and applaud. There is a wonderful imagination at work here with touches of narrative magic that truly make this book ‘unputdownable’. I read my copy over lunch, in the bathtub, and when I should have been working on other things. And I finished the last page with regret.

The protagonist is Perry Crandall, a universally likeable character with
an IQ of only 76. You can’t help but
root for him, especially when his grandmother dies and he's left an orphan at the age of thirty-one.
Then he wins $12 million in the lottery and every imaginable sort of buzzard lands on his doorstep determined to screw him over.

But don’t misunderstand.

This story isn’t about the money.

It’s a compelling tale about friendship, love, greed and the resilience of the human spirit, the sort of novel I predict will seduce millions of readers around the world because, simply put, it makes you feel good inside. More importantly, Lottery speaks to all of us, not just an intellectual few, and for that reason alone, this debut novel deserves all the accolades it
will inevitably receive for years and years to come.