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 holly@hollykennedy.com 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.

Still...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.