Friday, June 29, 2007

Catch a little genius this summer...

There are many good authors out
there, but if you're interested in grabbing a compelling novel to read this summer, consider Catching Genius by Kristy Kiernan. This is a beautifully crafted debut novel about two sisters (one a math prodigy, one average) that will draw you in with confident and evocative prose. I can't wait
to read Kristy's next one!

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

My office now has permanent summer guests...

Today is the last day of school and when my boys come through the door at 3:30 everything's going to change around here. I have
a great office. It's roomy, inviting, etc., but it has no door. It's just.... part of the basement, and every sound in the house (even one of my cats horking up hairballs on the main floor) travels down here.

My editor already sent me her editorial revisions letter for The Silver Compass (isn't she fast?!) and now I'm back at work again, adding chapters, fully dramatizing those that are weak, nuking unnecessary backstory, etc. Of course, this is a big part of the process, so I knew it was coming, but something else is coming, too -- permanent summer house guests who have the worst time wrapping their brains around the word "quiet".

Yesterday, while acting as a parent volunteer for my son's year-end field trip to a mini-theme park (a commitment I'd made weeks ago) I watched four 8 year olds run from ride to ride, getting sugared up on cotton candy, and as they did, I scribbled notes every chance I got. At one point, beaming, my son gave me kiss to thank me for coming (melt) and then he whispered, "Know what, Mom? I'm counting the hours until school's out."

"Me, too," I whispered back.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

New York all wrapped up...

What a great trip! For five days, we had good food & entertaintainment (two, count 'em, two broadway plays), lots of laughs, and the company of other like-minded writers. What more can a reclusive author who works in cave-like conditions ask for for every now and then, huh? I feel re-energized! The shot above is Pat Wood (mid-search for the 'perfect' cheese cake) and John Elder Robison, author of Look Me In The Eye. John met us at Strand Book store one day and for the lunch with
Kim Stagliano the next.

Here's a shot of Kim with Pat.
Kim's agent will be shopping her debut novel soon and I've no doubt it'll get picked up fast. Kim is this little dynamo of a woman, a writer who's also a mom extraordinaire to three beautiful autistic daughters.
I was left humbled by all that she manages to juggle.

John Elder Robison was warm, charming, and instantly likeable without an ounce of arrogance. He took a group shot of us in Central Park (don't forget to email it to us, John) and I not only got my own ARC of Look Me In The Eye, *big smile* but he gave us each autographed 11 x 14 copies of photos he personally took. Talk about multi-talented. This man has an amazing eye with the camera.

Wicked was just that; a great play, delivered with the sort of talent that leaves you shaking your head. I'm so glad Pat talked me into seeing two Broadway plays while I was there. Now I can't imagine returning to New York and not taking one in. And that, folks, pretty much wraps it up until we head back next spring in April or May 2008. See
yah then New York!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Strand Book Store (a little slice of heaven)

I've always wanted to see the infamous Strand Book Store in New York, founded in 1927, and filled with (as they love to promote) 18 miles of books. So today, after lunch with my editor (who is such a doll), Pat and I took a cab over and the moment we walked through the door, all was lost.

Books, books, books! Old books, new books, review copies, ARCs, Strand book bags, and tons of promotional trinkets. Until then, I'd been acting like a grown-up, but *sigh* it somehow felt criminal (and pointless) to hold back my enthusiasm once I was there.

John Elder Robison, charming author of future best seller Look Me In The Eye (due out Sept 25th) met us and we visited in the middle of an aisle until a sour-faced customer walked past and suggested (with a loud cough) that we move to a coffee shop. Always quick with a comeback, Pat snarked, "I thought this was a book store, not a library."

Anyhow, we did manage to avoid a scuffle *lol* and left with lots of good stuff. Pat hopped in a cab to go meet her UK publisher for dinner (which, yes, followed her hours-long 'gush lunch' at William Morrow earlier where they SENT A CAR FOR HER), and John and I headed for Starbucks and had a great visit.

By the way, if you're ever in New York and want to check it out, Strand is located 2 blocks south of Union Square on 12th Street. It really is something to see!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Such fun in New York -- Mamma Mia!

Until today, I'd never been to a broadway play, although I've always wanted to experience one. Pat talked me into going to Mamma Mia tonight. What an amazing show! Did you know (appropriately enough) that they hold a 'lottery' every night, drawing a handful of names from a hat and giving a dozen people FRONT ROW tickets for $25 each?!

I didn't take Kleenex. Why bother, right? Mamma Mia, 'a feel good happy hit' doesn't imply the need. Oh my, how wrong I was. I'm such a sap. I laughed and I cried and I loved the entire production, and now Pat has talked me into going with her to see yet another one -- Wicked -- on Friday night before we both fly home. I can't wait!

Pat's waaaaaay more on the ball with her blog than I've been, have you noticed?! I loved Central Park and am almost certain this is a photo of the bridge from the movie Stuart Little, which my boys loved when they were younger. Pat keeps looking for horses and the M&M billboard in Times Square is soooo cool I had to include a shot for my boys.

I never get out of the house, so this trip has been great. I met my agent for lunch today and it was so good to see her. Liza's such a sweetheart! Over the years, what began as a nice working relationship has evolved into a friendship I wouldn't trade. After lunch, Pat joined us at Liza's office, so she got to meet her, too, and Liza loaded us down with books. Eeeek! How are we going to fit them all in our luggage?!

Tomorrow, I'm meeting my editor, Ellen, for the first time and I'm really looking forward to it. Ellen has been so enjoyable to work with and now that she's got The Silver Compass (gulp!! who wouldn't be nervous about handing over their manuscript, right?!) I'm rolling up my sleeves to learn even more....

P.S. At noon tomorrow, when I grab a cab to Penguin Group (something I'm really not good at here in New York -- polite Canadian and all) Pat will be *ahem* waiting in front of our hotel for THE CAR William Morris is 'sending for her'! They're having what I call a 'gush luncheon' where Pat will meet a bunch of wonderful agents, read from Lottery, and get to wear her best clothes.

Too fun! Check back with us tomorrow....

Monday, June 18, 2007

First night in New York

I landed at JFK airport half an hour before Pat landed in Newark. I got here first. They gave me a nice room with a great view. They gave her the room next to mine. My internet access works, hers doesn't. Take a look at where Pat is now sitting an hour after her arrival - in my room - as I trudge around in pajamas working (yes, STILL) on The Silver Compass.

For the last half hour, she's been playing the broadway WICKED soundtrack from her system - loud. Loud enough to make the couple in the room on the other side of me thump the wall. Slow, deep breaths... Anyone out there know whatever happened to Oscar and Felix? Did they cancel the sitcom or did one of them murder the other one? Just curious...

Sunday, June 17, 2007

New York bound...

I love New York! I could never live there, but it's one of my all-time favorite places to visit. This trip, I'm meeting with my agent (who is a sweetheart) and my editor (who I haven't met yet, but who was a joy
to work with on The Penny Tree).

Because of all the buzz surrounding her debut novel, Lottery, Patricia Wood will also be there at the same time, so we decided to stay at the same hotel. I'm not even on the plane yet and she has me exhausted! Between meetings, I plan to drag her over to Ellis Island (which has a walk-on part in The Silver Compass). She wants to explore Central Park (I'm so there for her) and we'll also be meeting a few other authors for lunch (looking forward to it you guys), but more importantly, I can't wait for the break away from my daily grind.

Watch for more posts later this week.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Right now, it's all about the book...

The Silver Compass is on, and has been scheduled for publication 9 months from now on April 1, 2008. I'm flying to New York on Monday to see my agent, editor and publisher, and while I'm there, I'll be delivering the manuscript, and that means it's all about the book right now.

I feel for my family. I really do.
If I could pull a Paris Hilton and find a tiny jail cell to work from,
I would. The idea of building a treehouse-like structure in my back yard has been discussed (equipped with heat, power and a bed for when I get tired). I'm not sure the neighbors would like it, but all that peace and quiet; can you imagine?!

I went to bed at 2:00 a.m. this morning, then got up at 6:30
to make breakfast and lunches before sending my kids off to school -- other than the odd day here and there, this is the pattern I've been following for eight weeks. I'm behind on email, laundry, groceries, and I won't even try describing what my house looks like. My cats suddenly look thinner, my kids have taken to tip-toeing past my desk, and the dog has written me off given how he howls at the window when strangers stroll by walking their pets.

My husband phoned at 7 o'clock this morning to make sure I was up. "How's the writing going?" he asked. A fair enough question (and one best asked over the phone, by the way). We rarely see each other these days. ie., when I fly to New York next week, he'll be flying to Florida and my mom (thank you, God!) will be coming to watch our boys.

Off I went on a mini-rant: "My eyes are burning, my back is aching, and even our coffee pot won't cooperate, because it doesn't make it fast enough!"

Pause. "Have you turned it on?" he said.

Slow, deep breath. I'd forgotten to press the button.

"Still," I complained, pressing the button. "Nothing's going right. I have a character that needs to get nuked out of six or seven chapters because he belonged to an older version of the story, then I printed five chapters last night and - POOF - this morning they're missing! How do five chapters go missing?!

Another long pause. "I saw them in the fridge."

Ever been so stressed all you wanna do is a long slow face plant into your mattress and sleep for days?!

P.S. Yes, the iron dragonfly you see in the photo (known to bring good luck & fortune) is the same one Pat at ORION has.
I gave her one months ago and also have three on order for Jacquelyn Mitchard, Susan Wiggs and Linda Holeman (author friends who have been supportive of my career). When I'm writing like this, my dragonfly never leaves the top page of my manuscript, sort of like how I never leave the house!!

Monday, June 11, 2007

I'll serve Paris Hilton's sentence for her!

So Paris Hilton is in jail, huh?
Isolated from the general population. Spending 23 hours alone every day for the next 45 days. Nobody pestering her. No phones. No email or text messages. No one tugging on her arm demanding food, complaining about their laundry, begging her to referee an argument, asking for help with their homework,
telling her the cat just threw up.

Ahhhh, the isolation. All that quiet time. A bathroom when you need it. Three square meals a day. An hour to exercise. A clean orange jumpsuit to change into every morning. A doctor on hand to over-prescribe if you start having anxiety attacks or your PMS becomes unlivable. Hey, if you're lucky, maybe you'd even get your own pet mouse living in your cell, undetected.

Someone please call that judge and tell him I'll switch places
and serve out her sentence for her! As long as he lets me bring my laptop, I'll be on the next flight. Sigh... Honestly, though, I can't imagine what I'd be able to write if I were left utterly and completely alone for 45 days!

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Another fun 'first' to share...

I always have a few rolls of these great Autographed by the Author stickers on hand that I use at book readings & signings. They're classy and much nicer than any of the stickers book stores have offered to use on my novels in the past. By the way, if you'd like to order some, this is where I buy mine at

I carry a dozen in
my purse because I often run into people
in my home town and from the nearby area (at hockey games, soccer tournaments, etc.) who ask if I'll autograph a book for them, and now I'm armed and ready to do so!

That said, last week I went to Wal-Mart in the city to pick up a few things. When I got there, I wandered through the book section and there on the shelf were five copies of The Tin Box and eight copies of The Penny Tree. Better yet, two women were standing side-by-side reading the back flap copy of The Penny Tree when I came down the aisle.

Doing my best not to act like a stalker, I asked if they thought they were going to buy the book. They gave me a funny look and then one of them pointed up to the shelf and said, "There are lots more right there!" Clearly, they thought I wanted their copy. Not so, I said. I'm the author. I wrote the book, so if they were going to buy it, I'd be happy to autograph it for them.

Within moments, they overcame their suspicions about me and
I pulled out my stickers, slapped one on two books (they each wanted their own by then) and we began chatting like old friends. As I autographed their books, a small crowd gathered around us, curious -- and word quickly spread.

Soon a trusty Wal-Mart staffer came skidding around the corner to see what all the fuss was about. Before I could say anything, the eight or ten women gathered around me explained who I was and what I was doing. And you know what happened then? He asked for ID to prove I was the author (remember, neither book has an author photo in the back at my request) and we went through this awkward little "handing over of the drivers license" etc., before his walkie-talkie wielding I think we've got a nutcase on the premises demeanor changed.

Needless to say, by the time I'd finished signing books and left Wal-Mart, wearing my old sweatshirt, leggings and flip flops, there was only one of my books left on their shelves: a lone copy of The Tin Box, autographed, stickered, and ready to be adopted by some lucky shopper another day!

Thursday, June 7, 2007

My swiss cheese method of writing...

I often get email from fellow writers but the bulk of them come from readers. To me, there's no higher compliment than having someone read my work and then take the time to send me a note. I always reply, however, depending what I have on my plate, I'm not always speedy about it. Given this, I decided to answer two reader questions on my blog that
I haven't had time to on email.

Do you find it hard coming up with story ideas?
No, ideas are the easy part. It's the writing that's hard.
(ie., I've had three fully formed novels percolating in the back
of mind for a few years now. I just need time to write them).
So far, I haven't had trouble thinking up story ideas, probably because I have an overactive imagination. (ie., When I pull up
to a red light, I almost can't help it anymore; my mind just takes over as I make up stories about the people in the next vehicle. You know... The bald driver is a hen-pecked alcoholic; his wife, sitting next to him, is having an affair with her boss; and their teenage son slumped in the back seat just secretly robbed a grocery store six hours ago. Then -- BOOM -- the light goes green. That sort of thing).

Do you write sequentially?
Almost never, but I do work from a detailed synopsis that lays the story out in advance. My 'writing method' isn't quite so linear, though. Every writer is different, but here's what's
works best for me:

I can't do anything until the first chapter is written (which means I'm the sort of writer who needs to know exactly where the story begins before I do anything else). Then, after the 1st chapter is written, I write the last chapter, which I always know in advance. Following that, I write the turning point, where the main character makes a choice that sends the story in a new direction or something unexpected happens that forces it in a new direction. Next, I write all of the 'big scenes' including anything I wouldn't show my mother. Then I go back to the beginning and start writing the general flow of the story, including the development of sub-plots, the introduction of secondary and/or walk-on characters who help move the story to its conclusion, as well as any bridging that needs to be done between chapters.

And when I'm done, I've got my first draft, with only 3 or 4 or 5 complete rewrites to go!!

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Only in Canada...

Here's my lazy post for today before I roll up my sleeves
and glue my fingertips to a keyboard. Thanks for sending these snapshots, Roberta. You made today's blog post a breeze!

Some people build
swimming pools in their
back yards, but outdoor
pools in the town of Fort McMurray, Alberta just
won't work.

One family living on the outskirts of town built a sturdy playground for their sons with smooth stones all around it to avoid knee scrapes and other injuries.

They finished building it
Sat evening and the next morning, as mom woke the boys to let them go out and play, this is what she saw from the upstairs window.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Loved 'Water for Elephants'...

If you want a good book to read, try Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen, the story of Jacob Jankowski's life with the circus, a meticulously researched and beautifully written novel that's been cropping up on bestseller
lists everywhere.

I've had it on my TBR pile for months (along with dozens of others) and finally finished it last week. It is the sort of book a writer reads thinking, Why do I bother? Honestly, this is one of the best books I've had the pleasure of reading all year.