Thursday, March 29, 2007

I'm a cat lover? What makes you think that?!

I had a conversation with my editor earlier this week that had us both laughing our heads off even though it wasn't meant to be funny.
It was about how others perceive us, and the factors that mold us into who we are -- comparative to the underlying backstory of fictional characters and why they behave the way they do on the page.

I was telling her how my mom once came for a visit and handed me a little care package. Inside, along with a bunch of fresh baking, I found a beautiful ceramic plaque that said Cat Lover.

Confused, I asked who it was for.

"You," she said.

I studied it, worried this slip of hers might be an early sign of Alzheimers.

"Mom, it's gorgeous," I said gently. "But I'm not really a big cat lover."

She crossed her arms. "You love cats."

"No, not really."

"Then why do you have four?"

I opened my mouth and then shut it again. She had me on that one. I did have four cats, and yet until she gave me that little plaque, I'd never considered myself a big 'cat lover'.

The first one was found at a landfill site inside a box of dead kittens someone had drowned. Somehow she'd survived. Her name is Brady and she's now twelve. Two years later, our Newfoundland dog brought home a kitten she'd found in the bush. The mother had been killed by a lynx, so we kept her and called her Java.

The next one was going to be put down in three days (the sign on his cage said so) and after walking past it half a dozen times, I finally caved and took him home, complaining the entire way. My boys named him Buzz (after Buzz Lightyear) and it took my husband almost three weeks to notice we'd gotten another one (keep in mind, he travels a lot).

Then there's the fourth cat, who has an interesting story.
My stepdaughter (I hate calling her this, but saying 'daughter' implies her mom doesn't exist and that's not right -- it's a dilemna I'll have to address in a separate post). Anyhow, my stepdaughter wanted to get a cat for her mom as a surprise, so I went with her to pick one out. We bought the cat, the cage, the food and then her mom broke the news to both of us that she didn't want a cat. Her name became Roo; she's currently asleep on top my manuscript.

Today, I'm down to two. Java had diabetes and had to be put to sleep and a few years after we got Buzz, he began adopting every bed in the house as his own personal litter box, so he went the same route.

So... am I a cat lover? I guess the evidence points that way, doesn't it? And yet, if you asked me, I'd probably say it's more of a 'heart issue' than anything else. Either that or I have no back bone. You decide.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Do you have red phone buddies?

It's a given that most writers have one or more 'readers' who read their work pre-publication, but do you have any red phone buddies?

Here's what happens if you're a 'red-phone buddy'. Your phone rings (early morning while you're in the shower, mid-day when you're in a meeting, late at night when you're asleep; it doesn't matter - the person on the other end is a writer on a deadline so to them it's "all about the book" and he/she assumes you're 100% accessible). You answer and your writer friend immediately asks one or more urgent questions. Questions like these:

-- What type of animals eat their young?
-- If I opened my car door and you drove by and hit it at 50 km
an hour, would it really rip off like in the movies?
-- Do you think EGGOS is an internationally recognizable product?
-- How many people are allowed in a small hot air balloon?
-- What's the name of the mint you drop into a Coke bottle to blow the lid off?

If you're a writer, you know the drill. You're working on a chapter and then suddenly - BAM - you need to know if a car door really would rip off its hinges if another vehicle hit it at 50 km an hour. It's midnight and your husband's asleep, but that's okay, because you've got a red phone buddy in an earlier time zone who probably knows the answer.

I'm lucky. I have one on the west coast, one on the east coast, one in the mid-west, and even ORION in Hawaii. I have an elderly guy who knows the most incredible things, a belly dancer, a guy who lived on the dark side of the law in the 70s and 80s and sometimes - when no one answers their phone - I call my agent, who becomes a back-up red phone buddy.

Yes, I know GOOGLE is a great tool, but my red phone buddies are perfect for those "obscure questions" that often require clarification when I'm writing. To thank them (along with two of my core readers) I slid a few of their names into my latest novel, The Penny Tree, as walk-on characters. I figure it's the least I can do. And based on the number of calls I've been making lately, today's post is dedicated to my red phone buddies.

P.S. By the way, the name of mint you drop into a Coke bottle to blow the lid off is a MENTO!

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Friends in high places...

A few years ago, I met and became friends with Jacquelyn Mitchard, an Oprah author and accomplished New York Times bestseller. (By the way, check out her latest novel, a YA hit released earlier this month titled Now You See Her; a story about a teenage girl who fakes her own abduction -- or does she?)

This is what Kirkus Reviews had to say about it: "With plenty of kid speak and pop-culture references, this melodrama steeped in our celebrity culture should fly off the shelves."

Since meeting Jackie, she's been a big supporter of my work, kindly offering a hand where she can as I build my career. Pasted below is her latest Amazon blog post promoting The Penny Tree:

COMING SOON, 'The Penny Tree'

It's not often that I hear a genuine, strong assured voice at a writer's conference. But that happened two years ago, when Holly Kennedy, already a published writer, was a student of mine. There was little, however, I could teach her. But her humility, despite having had a starred review just that week in Publisher's Weekly, is part of what makes Holly who she is.

Holly's work plays the heartstrings like a mandolin. She's been called the new Nicholas Sparks and been compared with Sue Monk Kidd, among others. Her stories are deceptively simple. They touch something deep. Holly's writing is absolutely honest and absolutely true to her view of life, which is tender, filled with sentiment but not sentimentality and utterly hopeful.

'The Penny Tree' debuts in just days.

Read and love it.

Find a new writer whose career is sure to rise like a spring moon.

Jacquelyn Mitchard

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Book seller with a hook...

I just had to blog this...
If you pop by here often, you know that The Penny Tree will be out across Canada and the U.S. in 12 days on April 3rd. Of course, to promote it, I have a list of requisite readings set up, although some aren't being held in book stores. Instead, they've been scheduled at community clubs, a seniors centre, even a coffee shop.

That said, my editor made the comment that I must have books for sale at these readings, too; that I can't depend on everyone to purchase the book in advance. But here's the dilemna: my husband will be traveling and I have no one to sell the books while I read and talk to those who've so kindly taken the time
to come out and see me.

Fast forward to last night: My ten year old comes downstairs and says, "Close your eyes." When I open them, he's standing there holding a metal cash box and a decorative sign that say Holly Kennedy's Books For Sale. Grinning, he explained that he wants to sell my books, reminding me how good he is at math before I can object and quickly pointing out how he has to
drive around to all of these readings with me anyhow.

"Please let me, Mom!"

Quizzing him, I asked how much change he'd give if someone bought one book and gave him a twenty dollar bill; how much if they bought two and gave him forty. "And when you hand them their book," I prompted, "What would you say?" I was thinking of his manners here, looking for a "Thank You" but after pausing to think about it, this is what he said: "I'd tell them to take good care of that book cause my mom's gonna be famous some day!"

So... if you come out to one of my readings that isn't hosted by a book store, please watch for the blue-eyed, charismatic ten year old at the back of the room, selling books!

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Getting lost in the story...

I laughed when a friend
sent me this snapshot because this is exactly how I feel lately. I sit down at my computer and I dig in, and then the story amps up and the characters start doing their thing so nicely, and the words begin to flow, and before I know it.... I look up and it's 2:00 o'clock in the morning, and I feel like I've grown roots in my chair!

P.S. I received my Romantic Times 4 and 1/2 star review in the mail today for The Penny Tree. In short, it reads: "Kennedy's latest is expertly written, bringing magic into the life of one seemingly ordinary woman. Annie Hillman is a winning protagonist and will appeal to women's fiction fans of all ages."

Friday, March 16, 2007

The Penny Tree gets 4 and 1/2 stars...

Okay, it's 18 days before publication, and that means it's all about the book, so I hope you'll humor me for doing a few mega-phone blog posts like this one! My editor phoned yesterday to let me know that Romantic Times Magazine just gave The Penny Tree 4.5 stars out of 5, which really is wonderful news. (They also gave my debut novel, The Tin Box, 4.5 stars).

Beyond that, I'm gearing up to do a bunch of readings, starting with two in my home town of Athabasca, Alberta on April 11th & 12th at the Seniors Center and The
Brew House.

And the best part is that I get to crawl up out of my cave (see photo above, which is what my office feels like these days versus the one on your left, which is what it really looks like!)

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Passport renewal humiliation...

If you're Canadian you now need a passport to fly to the U.S., which isn't a problem as I've had a passport forever. However, it expires this month, so I need to get it renewed. Usually, this wouldn't be a big deal, but because every Canadian who's never had a passport now needs one, you're looking at a 2-3 hour wait in line at any passport office.

To get around this, I decided to submit mine well in advance. I had a set of photos taken in late January and put them next to the kitchen phone. The following day, they were gone. Frantic, I spent a few hours searching for them, then gave up and went into the city to have another set taken. I put these ones next to our family address book in the kitchen and (you guessed it) two days later they disappeared. Frustrated, I had a third set taken and drove these directly to my lawyer to have them validated before Fedexing the package off to Quebec.

Yesterday, I found the first set of photos on my husband's desk, neatly tucked in with some bills, and as I stood there holding them, my eight-year-old walked up beside me.

"What're those?" he asked, frowning.

"Horrible pictures of mom that make me look like a criminal," I replied. To prove it, I pulled them out and showed him.

He shrugged. "They're not that bad."

"You don't think so?" I said.

Ready for his reply? "No," he said. "They're a lot better
than the other ones I took to school to glue onto my
family history board."

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Choosing the "perfect" title...

As of last week (after much discussion between myself and my editor) my third novel has been officially re-titled The Silver Compass.

Choosing a title isn't as easy as you might imagine. An author will either think of one right away, or else they will struggle to find one that works beautifully with the story. (Check out Tess Gerritsen's Feb 22nd blog post or Susan Wigg's on Feb 26th and you'll see I'm in good company). My third novel was originally titled Surviving Louie, and then it was changed to The Stone Compass, but everyone felt this was too "hard" and not evocative enough. Anyhow, now that it's officially The Silver Compass marketing is busy designing a cover. I can't wait to see what they come up with!

Friday, March 2, 2007

Penny Tree update...

The Penny Tree will be out in book stores one month from tomorrow and sub-rights were recently sold to Doubleday Book Club and the Literary Guild, who are featuring it as an alternative book club pick on the following dates:

Doubleday Book Club: April 3-16
Literary Guild: April 3-29
Large Print: April 3rd
Rhapsody as part of the "fiction favorites" flyer: April/May

For your interest, I've included a photo of the full cover (front and back). Notice how they put little pennies down the spine?