Thursday, January 31, 2008

And January's contest winner is...

I'm not sure if this is even close to what she looks like, but I'm hoping this is how our monthly contest winner reacts when she finds out she just won a jazzy little silver compass and a copy of my upcoming novel.

Congratulations and have fun reading Nadine Lavolie from Halifax, Nova Scotia. Your package will be mailed out to you as soon as I receive early copies of the book in mid-March.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Blog day for author Patry Francis

I often complain (in a half-hearted way) about how hard it is to write and promote my work while juggling kids and a husband who's forever in another city on business, but I know how lucky I am. And I cannot imagine trying to do so while fighting cancer.

Author Patry Francis is doing exactly that, so over 300 bloggers, including bestsellers, Emmy winners, movie makers, publishing houses, etc., have come together today to give her debut novel, THE LIAR'S DIARY by Patry Francis all the attention it deserves.

The Liar's Diary is a novel about two women who couldn’t be more different. They form a friendship that will alter both their fates and their story shows just how far one woman will go to protect another. This novel signals the launch of a talented novelist who knows how to grab you by the throat and keep you guessing. Buy a copy, settle down in a big old chair, and get sucked into a page-turner you won't soon forget.

Monday, January 28, 2008

How to capitalize on a major cold snap

Unreal. Including the windchill, today it was minus forty-six below. Schools were closed, buses weren't running, and my office quickly became a daycare. Tomorrow they're predicting a repeat, only possibly even colder.

Hmmmmm... One day I can live with, but two? I think someone should strap Rambo-style winter tires on those school buses, throw in a few space heaters, get creative, and turn this into a learning experience!

Give our kids each a thermos of hot soup, zip them into ski-doo suits, and take them on a field trip to pass out blankets to the homeless. That way they'd learn an important lesson about empathy and maybe I'd get some writing done. *smile*
Here's hoping it's warmer where you are!

January Contest Reminder

This month's contest to win your own jazzy little silver compass plus an autographed copy of the book (due out April 1/08) will close on Thursday, January 31st.

If you haven't already, you can enter by sending an email to including your name & an email address where you can be contacted. Good luck everyone!

Friday, January 25, 2008

Eye doctor misconception

I barely slept last night. You wouldn't either if you had a 165 pound dog snoring on one side (when my husband's away our dog WILL NOT sleep on the floor) and a nine year old on the other, tossing and turning like he's possessed.

That said, today is eye exam day and I'm taking both of my boys in later this afternoon (they've never had them checked before.)

This morning, my youngest came downstairs dragging a knapsack filled with clothes. He was pale and when he sat down, he said, "What time will I get out tomorrow?"

I had no clue what he was talking about so I asked what he meant. He explained that some kid at school told him when you get your eyes checked you have to stay overnight and you're only allowed soup broth and gingerale.

"That's for tonsils," I clarified. "This test only takes ten minutes. We'll be in and out before you know it."

"Really?!" he said, looking relieved.

Believing I'd now pegged why neither of us had slept well, I went back to making breakfast. On his way out the door to catch the bus ten minutes later he whispered, "Mom? Can I ask one more thing? How big is the needle?"

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Oooh! Ever have one of these days?

I'm posting this video clip as a mid-week picker-upper. It makes me smile cause it reminds me of writing for days on end and then having to toss everything I've written into the garbage before starting from scratch all over again.

Monday, January 21, 2008

The fun behind building a compelling story

There are a few things I have to do before I begin writing a new novel. First (and most important to me) I need to shake off the characters I worked with on my last novel by creating a whole new set I can't wait to play with in a new one.

That's now been done.

I have two brothers who haven't seen each other in forty years, a blind girl, a character who made his living as a magician in the 1940s, a middle-aged, unemployed construction worker with a secret, one woman who sacrificed much of her life for her children, another who was never able to have any, an old man, a pond, a bench, and a random act of violence that changed everything.

Some people think I shouldn't share this kind of information on my blog, but I see no reason not to. Trust me, I have enough trouble following my own train of thought when it comes to piecing together each story, so if anyone believes they can steal something useful, have fun with that.

Back to the point: I've sketched out the main story line for my new novel, and now I have all the characters impatiently waiting to drag their sub-plots into the mix. They are an interesting group and each one will contribute an essential piece of the puzzle that completes this story.

My old characters from The Silver Compass are fading fast and these new ones have begun to dominate my thoughts. And am I having fun? Yup! My day job rocks.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

ARCs for The Silver Compass are here

I received a box of ARCs from New York yesterday and when I sliced it open, I felt the same surge of excitement I did with my first two novels. Then I sat back and realized if I write one each year and I live into my 80s, I'll be able to slice open at least forty more boxes of ARCs, and that'd be a really good thing!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Wouldn't a duck race for writers be great?

Where I used to live, there was an annual duck race every summer to raise funds for a local charity. You'd buy a duck with a number on it, and on race day thousands upon thousands of ducks would be released into the river, drawing a massive crowd that followed their progress downstream to the finish line. The first duck to cross the line won.

Everyone had an equal shot. There were no special hurdles that had to be cleared. Just pay $25, get yourself a duck, and off you'd go.

Wouldn't it be nice if there was a duck race for writers? Conceptually, there would be one race for each genre (science fiction ducks over here, romance ducks over there, thrillers in the corner, etc.) You'd have the opportunity to buy one duck for every completed novel you want to enter (no WIPs or premises for novels that haven't yet been written).

The ducks for each genre would then get tossed into a river and everyone would elbow their way to the finish line to see which book had won.

Those books, in turn, would be given the full backing of a publishing house for a minimum of sixty days. No profit/loss statement required. For two months, your novel would be given full co-op placement in all book stores, receive ad placement in the best magazines for your genre's intended target audience. You'd gear up and do an exhaustive list of radio spots, morning talk shows, etc.

Would any of them become bestsellers? Who knows, but I'm guessing it'd be as entertaining as any of the reality shows you see on television.

And the best part? The money raised could go towards supporting writers with talent who can't afford to attend writers conferences, retreats, university, etc., fostering good literature for the future.

Yup, I like the duck race idea. Move over American Idol!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Super-organized book club

On Friday, I talked with a book club from Minneapolis for over an hour. This group was organized! (ie., before we got down to business, they set up another call for early May to discuss The Silver Compass.) Then, after talking about both of my novels, I answered a list of questions they'd faxed me days before. Here are a few for fun:

A bad habit you'd like to fix?
Interrupting when someone else is talking.

One-hour massage or one-hour shopping excursion?
The massage. Hate, hate, hate shopping.

What you have no patience for...
People with a sense of self-entitlement. Nothing bugs me more.

What are your favorite writing tools?
1) Writers Digest Flip Dictionary
2) Target "Biggie Notepads"
3) Montblanc pen
4) Espresso

Favorite indulgence?
Barefoot Venus Mustard Bath, hands down. If you've never tried this stuff, you must!

Best movie you saw last year?
Little Miss Sunshine.

Most watched DVD by your family?
I would have to say it's a tie between Bye-Bye Love with Paul Reiser & Randy Quaid or Jumanji with Robin Williams.

Read any books twice over the past 12 months?
Yes. The Girls by Lori Lansens.

Thank you Alana, Debbie, Rita, Dora, Florence, James, Sharon, Maria and Tammy. Oh, and congrats to Willa who won her own silver compass as well as a copy of my upcoming novel. It was great fun talking with you guys!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Trouble reading regular print? No worries

Quick update before the weekend: Earlier this week, I learned sub-rights for The Silver Compass have been sold to Doubleday Book Club and the Literary Guild, and both plan to promote it as a Featured Alternate in their April & May issues.

They also bought sub-rights to my first two novels, so I'm thrilled they picked this one up as well.

Beyond that, Doubleday plans to publish it in "large print" in May 2008 (which they also did for The Penny Tree), so if you're one of those readers who can't read regular print, or you know someone who has this problem and would like to get them a copy, here's a solution for you.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Self-promotion minus the chicken suit

As an author, self-promotion naturally becomes a big part of your life. Of course, I'm referring to classy self-promotion versus the chicken suit variety where you weave your way through traffic wearing a placard that says: Read Holly Kennedy. Fall into a good story!

What we do for a living isn't of the 9 to 5 variety and at any time you may run across a situation you'd be a fool not to capitalize on. (If you haven't already, read my Wal-Mart post from June '07 as a solid example of this: By the way, for some reason when you click on the above link, blogger shows the Wal-Mart post below this one. Who knows why.)

Self-promotion aside, though, I also enjoy my privacy and for the most part I like to remain as anonymous as possible, especially when I'm having a bad hair day, or my eyes are bloodshot the way they were yesterday (sick dog the night before/long story).

That said, last night I was late as I rushed into the city for my son's basketball practice and sat next to another mom (someone I've met once, but otherwise don't know.) Within minutes, we found ourselves discussing books the way men might discuss football. We talked about titles we loved, compared authors we admired, etc., and when she told me she was an avid reader, I grabbed my bag, yanked out two autographed copies of The Tin Box and The Penny Tree, and gave them to her.

(No, I don't carry books everywhere I go. That I had them with me was purely coincidence. I was supposed to deliver them to a book club in the city, but couldn't find the address -- I'm very address challenged -- so had decided to do it later.)

Anyhow... the woman was thrilled (it's always fun seeing someone's face light up like that) and then as she examined the hard cover of The Tin Box, her face fell and her eyes slowly went wide. Growing increasingly excited, she explained that a friend had given her a paperback of this very book weeks ago, that it was one of her friend's all-time favorite books, and she had told her it would make her cry.

At that point, my face lit up. I mean, what are the chances that you'll go to your kid's basketball practice, sit next to a stranger, discuss novels, and get told that someone in a city of a million loved your debut novel?

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Having your work in the spotlight

I’m often asked if it bothers me having my novels judged & reviewed & evaluated by others. “Doesn’t it make you feel vulnerable?” Yes, but not the way it used to. With each new book, that vulnerability has thankfully shriveled to a mere speck compared to what it once was.

ie., When your debut comes out, your emotions are heightened and you go through the most unsettling time. After all, here's a story you created, stressed over, revised to death and now (gulp) it's out there, competing against thousands of others, many who have been doing this much longer than you have. (Note of interest: In 2005 there were over 172,000 titles published in the U.S. alone. Is it a competitive market? You bet.)

There's no way you can avoid bad reviews altogether if you plan to make this a long term career, because not everyone is going to like your work (ie., take me to a science fiction movie and I'll be clawing to get out within minutes; we all have different tastes). But should you lose sleep over it? Nah! You have more books to write, so get going already!

The Silver Compass is currently in production so I’m in “the safe zone” until reviews begin rolling in. It's as if I’m in an auditorium watching the spotlight flash around the crowd, focusing on others while I sit in the shadows, observing.

Still, when it comes to writing as a career choice, I'm in my element. Matter of fact, I can’t not write. I’d be miserable if I couldn’t. So if having my work judged by others comes as part of the package, I'm okay with that. The other option — not being published — would be worse than any bad review that ever comes my way.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Contest winner + Penny Tree nomination

The winner of December's contest for a copy of my upcoming novel plus a jazzy little compass was Caroline Tammets of Wisconsin. Don't forget to enter this month's contest. We're giving away the same package in Jan, Feb, Mar and April.

On another note, I just received some unexpected news that lets me swim with the big fish, at least for a little while! The Penny Tree has been nominated by Romantic Times for a Reviewers Choice Award for Best Women's Fiction.

I certainly don't expect to win (take a look at the novels and authors I'm up against below and you'll understand why) but the nomination is truly an honor and a great way to start the new year.

Loving Frank by Nancy Horan
The Year of Fog by Michelle Richmond
Family Tree by Barbara Delinsky
The Christmas Pearl by Dorothea Benton Frank