Saturday, March 17, 2018

In the Dregs of Winter

Is it just me or do these weeks seem to be zipping by? It feels as if Saturday mornings - when I write my weekly blog - are arriving more often than they used to :-)

I spent this week working on my latest Stonechild manuscript. As I wrote last week, I was having difficulty settling into this one and thought about chucking the first 5000 words and starting over. I'm now approaching 8000 words and have rewritten the opening chapter. The plot line is starting to shape up, hopefully with enough interesting characters to carry the story. I'm thinking about a field trip for this one as I've moved the setting north although the internet is a great resource for getting the geography right.

I thought that I'd be working on the Anna Sweet manuscript but received word last weekend that my editor Pam had to go out of town on a family matter so her edits are postponed until things are sorted. It's not a bad idea to take breaks from editing anyhow - gives perspective and a fresher set of eyes. I know I'm happy for the break.

Bleeding Darkness received some terrific advance reviews from bloggers this week. Breakaway Reviews in the United Kingdom says: "Bleeding Darkness is one of the best murder mysteries I have ever read..."  and  Joanne Hurley writes: "Recommended for anyone looking for a well-written and well-crafted mystery." My publisher wants me to let you know that the book is available for pre-order from all the book chains and independents so please help spread the word. It is due out early May and apparently advance sales help to make a bestseller with even more profile on the book sites. Kind of chicken and egg scenario ... to get higher profile and more sales, the book first has to sell ...

February was deceptive, making us feel like spring was around the corner. We've been back to snow and cold and depressing winter-like weather. So today I'll stay indoors and will keep working away at the computer. Happily, I got my taxes organized and in to my accountant and have checked that off my to-do list. I still have the office cupboards to clean out but they've been stuffed to the rafters for ten years so no rush. We're still waiting for spring after all.

Finally this week I'd like to send a shout out to Elfrieda Bock, a fellow curler at the Granite. She told me this week that she'd recommended Cold Mourning to her book club and they'd discussed it at this month's meeting. How nice is that?

Saturday, March 10, 2018

All Good Things

This feels like a waiting time. Bleeding Darkness comes out in a few months and it's time to get some publicity lined up. It's also a period of waiting for the first reviews, particularly from media. It's still a bit early to do much promoting of the Ottawa book launch, happening June 3rd although I've been getting enquiries. Here is the invitation - yes, everyone is welcome!

I spent this week going through the edits for Killer Heat, the next Anna Sweet novella. My editor Pam is incredibly thorough and combs the text from an adult literacy - student viewpoint. Not only does the language have to be concrete without too many syllables, but every action has to be logical without some of the inferences that more advanced readers make. Add to this, the fact that this is book seven in a series, but a reader should be able to pick it up and understand everything about the characters without having read any of the other books. No small challenge. So, I returned the manuscript with my revisions to Pam on Thursday and await its return for the next round of edits.

After the editing, I got back to working on my income taxes. Man, I hate paperwork but it always feels good to get it done. Writers can claim expenses for anything writing-related, such as trips to conferences or events not paid for by publishers and membership fees to writing organizations. This means keeping and organizing receipts - not unlike the paperwork required for any small business. Every year, I promise myself I'll stay on top of recording my expenses, but it's always easy to set it aside for that rainy day that never seems to come. I was a bit better this past year, but still had a few days' work left to do. Almost there ...

Which leaves me free to get back to the Stonechild manuscript this weekend. I was almost ready to scrap what I've written so far and start over, but I'm going to give it a bit more rope. It still feels as if the plot isn't nailed down - this one is coming more slowly than any of the others and maybe it's because this is the last book in the series. I've also moved the setting and have to do more research. Anyhow, the key is keeping at it and hoping that things start coming together ... soon.

And back to the waiting. No Trace is shortlisted for the Golden Oak and the winner is announced next month. This year's Arthur Ellis award shortlists will be announced in April and I have a novel (Shallow End) and novella (Missing Her) both in the running. One last big waiting, potentially good thing - the Stonechild books have been optioned for a possible tv series by an L.A. screenwriter and he says he'll be pitching them soon to networks. While I know this is a long shot, still exciting to even consider the possibility.

Not to mention, we're all waiting for spring to arrive. I'm not going to miss that layer of snow and ice on the car every morning or the snow/slush on the roads. Soon, we'll be back in the garden and sitting in the backyard with a cup of tea and a book.

Just a bit more waiting ...

Saturday, March 3, 2018

The Big Sleepless

So apparently it takes two weeks to get over jet lag when you've travelled a twelve-hour time change. I'm still not sleeping properly but feel less exhausted than even a few days ago when we returned from South Korea. I've managed to get back at my manuscript and am approaching the 5000-word mark. Still, it's been hard to concentrate for long.

I'd written a few scenes before we went to the Olympics that were limiting my plot lines. I gave these first draft chapters a lot of thought while away and made revisions before tackling a new chapter. I feel like I've gotten the train back on track, but I'm still working through the crime details - the who,  how, where and why. Sort of fumbling my way at this point and hoping I have enough fodder for a solid plot.

Yesterday, I received the latest Anna Sweet manuscript with the first edits from my Grass Roots Press editor Pam. She has some suggestions for plot changes that I have to review and decide whether they make the story stronger or not. I'm letting it sit until Monday and see a few dedicated days of work ahead. It's difficult to reengage with a manuscript once I've moved on to a new project, but part of the process. I submitted the sixth Stonechild manuscript in December and have yet to start editing that one. More fun and eye strain to come.

I read an interesting psychological thriller this week entitled The Woman in the Window. It follows in the footsteps of The Girl on the Train and Gone Girl. A. J. Finn has a wonderful writing style and brings the Hitchcock suspense from Rear Window into a new story with an alcoholic flawed protagonist named Anna Fox. A good read if you're looking for a suspenseful recommendation. Finn's story on his road to becoming published is interesting in its own right.

The first reviews are coming in from blog book reviewers who received an advance copy of Bleeding Darkness through Netgalley and they've been overwhelmingly positive. You can find them on Good Reads, but some give away a bit of the plot so beware :-)

Time for coffee and another day of trying to stay awake past suppertime. Hopefully, next time you hear from me, I'll have managed to sleep past four a.m.

Good week ahead, everyone.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Two Weeks in South Korea!

Writing was on the back burner the last few weeks while we travelled to South Korea for an Olympic adventure. We've been blessed to follow our daughter Lisa's and Team Homan's curling journey these past years capped off by earning the right to represent Canada in the Olympics. The girls didn't come home with a medal but I'm proud of them all the same. They worked hard and sacrificed a lot and now are Olympians!

We stayed in Gangneung, a two and a half hour, high speed train ride from Seoul. The hotel was across the road from a forest of pine trees leading down to the beach and the Sea of Japan. Hills/mountains surrounded the city and a dry rice field backed onto hotel property. There wasn't a speck of snow on the ground although the air turned frigid once the sun went down and it certainly felt cold enough for snow. A cold wind blew periodically during the day but most days were above zero -- we learned to dress in layers.
Gangneung is named Pine City

 Sea of Japan
Sunset over a lake in Gangneung

In contrast to the beauty of the landscape, the city architecture was boxy and not all that attractive. Coffee shops were plentiful - South Koreans take their java very seriously. They also have a sweet tooth. We were warned about sugar in foods  that one would not expect, but I still got fooled. I ordered an onion bagel with garlic and herb cream cheese that tasted as sweet as marshmallow. We had more success with a few Korean meals, including a barbecue at our table, and a few plates of dumplings. I'd never eaten Korean food before and think we'll have to visit a Korean restaurant in Ottawa. Some most interesting flavours and I'm kind of partial to those dumplings. I was also taken by the friendliness of the Korean people. They were always gracious and eager to help and so genuine.

To give you an example, one afternoon, Ted and I took the city bus about half an hour north to the fishing town of Jumunjin. We walked around the seaport and through the market and ended up eating lunch at a restaurant near the waterfront. We ordered the crab, which I watched a man pull out of the tank in front of the restaurant. As we waited for it to be cooked, a tableful of food arrived that we were not expecting. None of the three servers spoke English but they guided us through the meal with a translation ap and a lot of hand gesturing. Whenever one of them saw us looking confused, they rushed over and sorted us out, making sure we dipped in the appropriate sauce. Before we left, they had us pose for photos with them and treated us if we were visiting celebrities.

Above is a photo of Canada House at Olympic Park - we spent a lot of time here with the other parents, friends and athletes. Lisa and the team met us in the family and friends lounge on three or four afternoons after their game. The figure skating and speed skating parents and families also stayed at our hotel. I met Scott Moir's parents and Tessa Virtue's mom and sister and Patrick Chan's mom!

So now we're back in Ottawa after twenty-four hours of travel and my sleep clock is topsy-turvy. I slept twelve straight hours Thursday night but about an hour last night. I'm hoping to last the day before I pass out from exhaustion. I think the writing will have to wait another day ...

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Going Places

Tuesday evening was the Olympic send off for Team Homan at the Ottawa Curling Club. CBC news broadcast live from the club and Mayor Watson and our MP, Minister Catherine McKenna both congratulated the girls and wished them well. Darren McEwan, who handles social media for Team Homan (and Team Koe in South Korea) helped organize the event and was MC. Earlier in the day, Darren and I were on CBC radio's All in a Day to talk about following the team to the Olympics.  Here is the link to the interview. I'm told Team Homan's first game at the Olympics is February 15 for those following along.

Proud parents with Lisa Weagle - off to the Olympics!

Then on Thursday morning, I caught the train to Toronto to attend the Ontario Library Association (OLA) Super Conference. I attended Tinlids Forestry of Reading breakfast early (for me) Friday morning, which was to celebrate the librarians who took part in organizing and selecting the finalists as well as the shortlisted authors. I chatted with fellow Golden Oak nominee Melodie Campbell, and Orca's Ruth Linka and Margaret Bryant (formally in marketing at Dundurn) and met Meredith Tutching, the chair of the Golden Oak nominating committee and the lead organizer of the Forestry of Reading program.
 Melodie Campbell and Margaret Bryant
Meredith Tutching

At 10:30, I joined Barbara Fradkin and Robin Harlick at the Dundurn booth on the main conference floor to sign copies of our recent books. While the advance literature said I'd be signing advance copies of Bleeding Darkness, I actually signed Shallow End but most of the librarians were new to the series so all good. Two nice interactions: a librarian from Peterborough  told me that my series was so popular, they ordered extra books to keep up with the demand! I also met up with Tamara whose parents both taught me in grade school. Tamara works as a librarian in Marathon, a town sixty miles east of my hometown Terrace Bay on the North Shore of Lake Superior. Her mom told her that I was the star in a grade three play, which believe it or not, I remember. I was the witch in Snow White and that performance marked the peak of my acting career.

 With Tamara
Barb, Robin and moi

The train ride to Toronto was a good opportunity to get some writing in. I'm still getting started on the seventh Stonechild book and am putting in some thinking time. I sense that writing won't start full on until after the Olympics in March. An exciting month ahead! 

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Catching Up ... and Cleaning Out

Dundurn posted this photo of the Bleeding Darkness advance reading copies (ARCs). So cool to see the manuscript in book form for the first time! R.M. Greenaway's third book entitled Creep in her crime fiction series is being released at the same time so congratulations Rachel. Too bad we are at opposite ends of the country or we could go on a tour together :-)

I'll be handing out copies of the ARC to librarians this coming Friday at the Ontario Library Association Super Conference in Toronto. The Tinlids breakfast that celebrates librarians and the Golden Oak shortlisted authors is also on my schedule. No Trace, fifth in the Anna Sweet novellas,  is up for the award which will be handed out in the spring. Librarians choose the finalists and adult literacy readers and librarians select the winner.

I've begun writing the seventh Stonechild book and completed the first chapter. I started the second chapter but didn't like it so deleted a day's work. The perspective didn't feel right but I've got an idea that I'll explore this week. Only 94,000 words left to go! As well, my Grass Roots editor Pam was also in touch and we begin editing the latest Anna Sweet in March.

This week, also saw the start of cleaning out my office. I found several scraps of paper with past to-do lists that all had 'clean up office' on them ... ah, the irony. I shredded a full large plastic garbage bag worth of paper with a filing cabinet and stuffed cupboard yet to go. I've also started tackling the kitchen cupboards and am thinking about my storage spaces upstairs. I hate to use the words 'pack rat' but the shoe appears to be fitting. This purge could take a while.

Several women at my curling club let me know this week that they've been reading the Stonechild and Rouleau series so it was great to hear that they're enjoying the books. I went for an appointment last week and the woman on the desk asked me to repeat my name. She said after a pause (without a word of a lie) "Are you the mystery writer?" After I nodded, a bit dumbfounded, she said, "I downloaded your latest book. The synopsis looked so interesting." -  Made my day to realize the books are reaching new readers literally out of the blue. They say that the only way a book becomes a best seller is through word of mouth so the feedback lately has been most encouraging.

The trip to Toronto is on the agenda this week and then I'll be getting my head around the trip to South Korea. Going to the Olympics in South Korea still seems like a dream but the reality of it will be sinking in soon. A busy time ahead.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Keeping On Keeping On

Good Saturday morning.

I didn't start the next writing project this week but instead took some time to clear my head and renew the creative synapses. With all the free time, I wrote a few blog posts for Team Homan's social media project when we're in South Korea.  All of the team's parents have been asked to contribute. I'll post the blog link and you can follow along when we're at the Olympics. The games begin February 9 and I believe Team Homan's first match is February 13.  About three weeks from now!

The seventh installment of the Anna Sweet novellas is entitled Killer Heat and I sent it to the publisher Pat Campbell last weekend. She read it Thursday and sent me feedback that she likes everything about it. I take that as a resounding thumbs up :-) It's now with the editor and we're thinking of cover ideas.

It's always such a relief when a manuscript gets the seal of approval from the publisher. Tim Wynne-Jones was guest speaker at the Capital Crime Writers Christmas dinner a few years ago and he presented us with his mock diary about submitting a manuscript to a publisher and the anguish of waiting for feedback. As time passed, his entries went from believing his work to be genius, to not that great, to utter crap as he tried to read meaning into the publishers' silence. Of course, the publisher loved his book in the end.

Writers really are an easily discouraged lot. However, at our cores, those of us who stay in the business for very long develop a stiff resolve as well as a self-effacing sense of humour - much like Tim's. I think we build our resilience at bookstore signings that can be humbling for writers who haven't built up a following. Most writers can tell you about signings where they've sold no books. Linwood Barclay, who has international fame and much well deserved acclaim for his mysteries, tells a story of going to a Chapters in a mall for a signing and no customers were in the store. He was supposed to do a reading but nixed it since he'd have been reading to an empty room. The road to becoming a success is usually a long and rocky one.

One last story. I was at an author event where one of the children's authors had framed a letter from a grade school boy who'd written to tell her that he hated her book and that everyone in his class hated it too. The book went on to win the Governor General's Award. Bad reviews can also build character :-) I'd say good reviews build motivation to keep writing .... so don't ever lose heart my fellow writers. Keep working on your craft and enjoy the journey.

Okay, so enough author-reflection for one morning. I've been doing a lot of thinking about my next Stonechild book and plan to sit down and work on the first chapter this week. It's an odd feeling not having a manuscript on the go, but also exciting to embark on a new project.

Time to get organized and get this day underway ... but first, another cup of coffee.