Sunday, April 29, 2007

Making a quick trip to Winnipeg ...

This Wednesday, I'm flying to Winnipeg to do a reading for The Penny Tree. On one hand, it'll be great, because I'll get to see a lot of people I haven't seen for ages. On the other, it's a short trip, which means I won't get to spend a lot of time with anyone.

My husband will watch our boys while I'm gone, and then when my plane lands back home the morning of the 4th, his will be simultaneously lifting off to take him to California, where he's running his 2nd marathon called the Avenue of the Giants.

As I got this post ready, I looked at some pictures of Winnipeg and got choked up. It's hard not to. I lived there for 15 years. I was married there. My boys were born there. And, hands-down, Assiniboine Park is my favorite park in the world, even compared to central park in New York. Also, interestingly enough, the duck pond (a landmark for those who live there) proved to be the inspiration for one of my future novels, which will be titled The Keeper of the Pond. I could go on and on about The Forks, Fort Whyte, the Leo Mol garden, the Zoo, Winnipeg's unbelievable community spirit... but to keep this brief, if you live there, and you're able to join us for the reading, please do.
I'd love to see you.

Location: McNally Robinson
Grant Park location (Travel Alcove)

Date: Thursday, May 3rd

Time: 7:00 pm

Okay, so who won the "comment to win" copies of The Penny Tree?!

Last week, I announced a blog contest to give away 3 copies of The Penny Tree and was I ever impressed with how many people entered -- there were 51 comments and 56 entries, including a few who normally lurk. Thanks for participating everyone. Yesterday, my sons drew these winners:

1. Heidi the Hick
2. Larramie (Seize a Daisy)
3. Doris Boychuk

Congratulations you guys.
If you haven't sent me your snail mail address, could you do so and I'll make sure to autograph them for you and get them in the mail sometime this week?

Thursday, April 26, 2007

The evolution of a book's cover...

The publication date for The Silver Compass has been set for April 2008, and already marketing and sales are talking 'cover art', which I love because it makes the book seem more... real.

When it came to The Tin Box and The Penny Tree, marketing, sales, myself, my editor, and my agent often had similar and hugely differing opinions when it came to covers. Everyone aspires for the 'perfect cover', with a tone and style that most accurately reflects the true nature of the story, and in the end, somehow, it all seems to works out.

Anyhow, I've decided to share the evolution of the cover for The Silver Compass with my blog readers from start to finish, a process I think you'll find interesting. Here's the first attempt, which I feel is a good starting point, other than that it's a bit too... white.

Mia and Trish, thanks for your comments, which reminded me that it might help if you have the flap copy to reference what the story is about. Here it is:

Ellis Williams was 17, pregnant, abandoned by her own father, and scared to death when she jumped off a bridge in Barrow, Montana, one rainy Sunday morning. Then along came Louie Johnson, who pulled her from the river and saved her from shame with a beautiful lie. His selfless act changed several lives that day…and led Ellis to rediscover her treasured silver compass that has been her touchstone and inspiration ever since.

That was fifteen years ago. And a lot has changed.

Recently widowed, with a troubled teenage daughter of her own, Ellis returns to Barrow where life still catches her by surprise. First, the town eccentric is none other than Louie Johnson, estranged from his own grown daughter and keeping things hopping down at the nursing home where Ellis gets a job. Then Ellis’s father suddenly reappears after almost two decades and Ellis is torn between bitter resentment and a profound yearning to reconnect with her past. Amidst the confusion of these tangled lives, Ellis begins to learn that forgiveness and second chances often go hand-in-hand, and that life’s most wonderful gifts can come in an instant, pointing us in bright new directions…

Comments anyone? (Lurkers, I'd love to hear from you, too :)

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Thanks Chicago! See you next year...

I love Chicago. Always have. It's a city I could spend weeks exploring. While I was there, I stayed with my pal Sally and her husband Steve, who spoiled me -- wonderful food, shopping, sightseeing, and we took in a comedy show at Second City, one of my favorite things to do!

I had an almost 'spa-like' stay while I was there, which means (although Sally probably doesn't realize it yet) I'll be knocking on their door next year when The Silver Compass comes out, wanting my old room back!

Yesterday's reading was great. It was held at Borders Books at 150 North State Street in Chicago and we had a nice crowd show up (whew). Thanks to all of the DDB Chicago staff who came out to join us, and a very special thank you to Katie and the rest of Border's staff, who made me feel so welcome and did such a wonderful job.

We arrived early and there were displays everywhere promoting The Penny Tree and (bonus) The Tin Box.

Sally did take a few pictures of me, but they were so bad (certainly not her fault) that I refuse to post them here. Instead, all you get is a cropped version of my eyes, looking happy, because I was. In fact, things went so well I've decided to beg my publicist to let me return to the same Chicago Borders next year when The Silver Compass comes out. Thanks again everyone!

Reminder: We're drawing names Saturday to give away three copies of The Penny Tree, so if you haven't added yours to the blog post below, better do it now.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

More copies of The Penny Tree to give away!

I've got a few things to cover today and then I won't be posting again until next week. First of all, we're giving away three more autographed copies of The Penny Tree, but here's the fun part: Only those who comment on this post will be entered to win!

So if you normally read my blog, but don't comment, stop being so shy. Click on 'comments' and then choose the 'anonymous' option and leave your name (first name with last initial works fine if you don't want to give your full name). Oh, and please feel free to pass the word! Tell anyone you like to join in -- friends, co-workers, family. Then, next week, we're going to pick three winners
on Saturday, April 28th.

Secondly, a reminder that New York Times bestselling author Susan Wiggs has invited me over to her blog for a Q&A about The Penny Tree this Friday, April 20th. Here's the link. If you have a few minutes, pop by and check it out:

Last of all, I'm leaving for Chicago on Friday, where I'll be staying with my friend, Sally Weingartner, who plays a walk-on part in The Penny Tree along with the company she works for, DDB Chicago. I'll be reading at Borders Books & Music, 150 North State Street on Monday, April 23rd at 12:30pm. If you can make it out to join us, I'd love to see you!

Monday, April 9, 2007

A book tour starting in Athabasca...

Tomorrow, I'm driving 5 hours north to my home town of Athabasca, Alberta to do a few readings for The Penny Tree. A lot has changed since I lived there in the 80s -- the Athabasca University, which enjoys a great reputation, was built outside of town in '84, and Alberta Pacific Forest Industries, now one of the regions biggest employers, officially began operating in '93.

And yet much has stayed the same as well. The Burger Bar, highlighted in my debut novel, The Tin Box, is still there, as is Ken's Confectionary and the Hillside Motel and a handful of other businesses that haven't changed a lot over the years. The town itself is a little more than an hour north of Edmonton, built in the river valley. It's not big (approx 2500 people) but it's a peaceful, inviting place. Most of my family still lives there -- my dad, my sister and her husband, two of my brothers and their wives, and my mom, who lives in the hamlet of Rochester.

I'm looking forward to going. A few days later, I'll be off to Chicago, and then Winnipeg and Edmonton and a whole list of other places. But there's something special about starting my readings in Athabasca, probably because I know I'll never find the same kind of heartfelt cheerleading anywhere else -- which is why I'll always call it 'home'.

Sending you a Fairy of Joy...

Months ago a friend sent me this 'Fairy of Joy' and I just had to share her with you.

I sent her over to give Patricia Wood at ORION a gentle tap a few days ago, but obviously she smucked her pretty hard. Pat's in New York, on her first ever trip to meet her agent and editor and publicist. I know this because she phoned this morning at 6:00 a.m. squealing with delight, oblivious to the concept behind 'time zones'.

I worked late last night so I was tired when I crawled over my 8 year old to answer the phone (he'd climbed in with me at 3 a.m. after having a nightmare). I didn't actually hear the first part of Pat's conversation because I was busy wiping up the glass of water I'd knocked over -- half on my night stand, half on my Newfoundland dog, who tore off after the cat -- but obviously the Fairy of Joy must have given Pat a few solid whacks.

And because it seemed to work so well for her, I've decided to send her your way too.

Have a great week everyone!

Friday, April 6, 2007

Balancing Easter with everything else...

Today is Good Friday, but
I have been so busy that I didn't even realize this until yesterday when one of my boys said, "We're having a big family Easter dinner Sunday, aren't we?"

Are we? I thought, feeling my spirits lift.

I turned around and he and his brother were staring at me -- expectantly -- and that's when it hit me. Having Easter dinner would require a chef and that chef would be me. "We're coloring eggs, too, right?" my 8 yr old asked, shooting me a look that said, You aren't gonna say you're too busy writing, are you?!!

It's been a busy week. My 2nd novel, The Penny Tree, went
out on Tuesday, and along with that comes a whole host of other issues -- interviews, emails and phone calls from my publicists (one from the US, another from Canada), ads being placed in newspapers, last minute readings being scheduled, invitations getting mailed, the creation of promotional flyers
for mail drops, etc. Of course, it's all good stuff, but it can also be a stressful balancing act. For example, next week, I'm driving up north to do two readings in my home town. Then, when I get back, I'm off to Chicago and Winnipeg and...

And in the meantime, I'm continuing to work on my third novel, The Silver Compass, which I just found out has been scheduled for publication a year from now in April 2008.

I've had three golden ideas come to me this week when it comes to the story, all of them epiphany-like as they cross the finish line in my mind as essential; the sort of ideas that will add to the book's depth and poignancy. I'm dying to start writing these scenes, but I can't yet -- at least not until tomorrow after the eggs are colored any my kids are in bed and the Easter Bunny stops by to put out the foot-high chocolate SpongeBobs (whew) she bought at the last minute for Easter morning.

Now I just have to figure out how to fit in cooking dinner for eight on Sunday night (my brother just phoned and invited himself). Have a great Easter everyone!

Monday, April 2, 2007

The Penny Tree has arrived...

Okay, everyone! As of
today, The Penny Tree is now available at B&N, Borders, Chapters/Indigo, through Doubleday Book Club and the Literary Guild, online at Amazon, or at your local book store. Sorry Canada, you might be a few days behind the U.S. It seems this is often the case. (If you're in my home town of Athabasca, Alberta The Brew House should have them out by Thursday).

Whew! What was once the germ of
an idea evolved into a story that was tugged and smoothed and formed into a novel that got rewritten five times and retitled twice ... and now it's finally making its way into the hands of readers across Canada and the U.S.
I really hope you enjoy reading it.

Note to book clubs: Check my website April 9th to find out how you can have me join you via phone when your group hosts The Penny Tree!