Saturday, December 9, 2017

Into December

Good Saturday morning. I didn't spend many hours at my computer this week although I managed to complete the second edit of Turning Secrets and submitted it to Dundurn last weekend. Since then, I've spent most of my time at the Canadian Tire Centre watching the Olympic curling trials or at home watching on television. I'm happy to report that my daughter Lisa's team (Rachel Homan) is having a great week and plays in the semi-final this afternoon. We'll be there to cheer them on. My youngest daughter Julia (skip Chrissie Cadorin) is also playing in a tournament this week called the Trophy with the winner securing a spot in the Ontario provincials in January. They've won five games in a row with two left to go. We're cheering them from afar. You can see my preoccupation this week:-)

I've firmed up plans to attend the Ontario Library Association (OAL) Super Conference on February 1st in Toronto. I'll be signing advance copies of Bleeding Darkness at the Dundurn booth after a breakfast for the Golden Oak nominees and volunteers. The librarians voted on the short list and now adult learners are voting on the winning book, which will be announced in April. No Trace made the list this year. The OLA Super Conference goes on for a few days and brings together librarians from across the province.

While I've taken a bit of a writing break this week, I've been working on the seventh Anna Sweet novella, now on chapter three. The plot idea seems sound and I'm having fun working through the storyline. I even have a working title "Killer Heat" so hopefully this will be one of those manuscripts that almost writes itself. Did you know that some writers believe a Divine hand is guiding their words, making them 'a vessel' for the story? I'm not so sure about that but it is hard to explain where the ideas come from sometimes.

Then there were those authors who took drugs to heighten their writing experience. The story goes that Samuel Taylor Coleridge was high when he was writing the poem Kubla Khan and someone came into the room and interrupted him. He lost track of his 'vision' and the poem remains unfinished. The opening lines ...

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan 
A stately pleasure-dome decree: 
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran 
Through caverns measureless to man 
   Down to a sunless sea. 

Two weeks until Christmas, people. Time to break open the egg nog. I'm almost done shopping and will have to start thinking about the food soon. Hard to believe we're coming down to the wire. The party season is upon us ...




Saturday, December 2, 2017

When It All Comes Together

Good morning everyone! Today is the first day of Roar of the Rings, the Olympic curling trials, being held in Ottawa at the Canadian Tire Centre so this is an exciting time. The games will be shown on the sports channel if you can't be here in person. Of course, I have a favourite player and team :-)

Rachel, Emma, Joanne, Lisa and Cheryl

The audio versions of Cold Mourning and Butterfly Kills are now available on Audiobooks and I see that you can download one as your free introductory book - they're posted on Amazon. They'll be available through other sites but apparently Audiobooks is the biggest distributor. Michelle St. John reads the books - she's a two-time Gemini award-winning actress!

This was an editing week. I made it through a second review of Turning Secrets and tightened up more of the plot as well as fixed wording issues. I'm still mulling over some of the plot connections and think I need to add a few more details. I have about a month left to work on it so no rush ... yet. I also managed to write chapter two in the Anna Sweet manuscript but set it aside for most of the week while I edited.

I watched a series on Netflix this past week called MindHunters - it tells the story of a couple of FBI agents who start interviewing serial killers in prison and how they used psychology to start figuring out who might become one and what factors led to their creation. Very fascinating, especially seeing the impact of this work on their own lives.

Hard to believe Christmas is about three weeks away! Are you deep into shopping and putting up decorations? I've started but have a ways to go. The magic of the season is how it all comes together. I've given up worrying.



Saturday, November 25, 2017

November Books and Wine Part Two

This past week, I was guest author of the Brittania Book Club. The event took place in a condo party room and included a few other invited book clubs and people from the building - a poster had been put up to let condo residents know about the evening. Led by Eileen Wilson, her team of volunteers set up tables with lighted centerpieces and served wine and cheese plates. About sixty people joined us. Eileen introduced me and led the questioning with lots of terrific questions from the audience. The evening flew by and I had a great time with this friendly, most receptive group of readers. Thank you to Eileen, the volunteers and everyone who came out - I feel truly blessed. Here are a few photos.

 Eileen Wilson makes the introduction
A snippet of the crowd



Also this week, I finished my first edit of the Stonechild manuscript entitled Turning Secrets and set it aside for the week before I go through it again. The urge to complete the second edit right away had to be squelched. Instead, I went Christmas shopping and worked on Christmas cards to keep myself occupied and my fingers away from the computer. I also came up with an idea for the next Anna Sweet book and wrote the first chapter. I was planning to write a short story but the novellas take precedence ... and my next edit of the finished manuscript.

So starting next weekend, the Olympic curling trials will be underway in Ottawa, and Ted and I will be spending many hours watching and cheering on Team Homan as they battle hard to represent Canada in Korea in February. We're extremely proud of the girls and all they've accomplished. They show how far hard work and good hearts can take you. And they're not done amazing us yet ...

 Emma, Lisa, Joanne and Rachel receiving their World Curling banner
With Rachel Homan

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Books and Wine

Tuesday evening this week, I spent a most delightful evening with a local book club. I was treated to supper and conversation at Flipper's seafood restaurant in the Glebe - such an interesting and warm group of people and their club has been going for fourteen years. A few of their members are absent so we drank their share of wine :-) Thank you Estella and gang for inviting me. They read Cold Mourning beforehand and told me that they all  enjoyed the book or they wouldn't have invited me to dinner! They're on the hunt for the rest of the series so I look forward to more feedback.


This Monday, I'm visiting another book club but this one takes place in a condo in the west end of the city with wine and cheese on the menu. The book club has invited people in the building and other friends and I'm told we'll be thirty to forty people. They've been reading Cold Mourning ahead of the evening, so I'll do a short reading and will answer questions about the book, my writing and the series. I'm looking forward to meeting everyone.

Well, I'm happy to report that I finished the latest manuscript Monday evening. Since then, I've been editing and am now about half-way through my first review. I'm having to tweak bits and rewrite paragraphs to make all the facts align now that I have the ending written. I must confess that I wasn't certain of every twist and turn until the very end and am rereading with an eye to making sure I've tied up all the details and that all the plot lines make sense.  I'll finish the edits early next week and will set it aside for a few days before going through it a second time. Hopefully, the text will be in good enough shape to submit to Dundurn a month early.

We're getting the first winter warning/snowstorm later today according to the weather reports. This is a good weekend to hang out at home with a fire in the grate and a pot of tea. I'll be doing more editing as well as watching curling on television. My daughter Lisa's team is in the quarterfinals of a bonspiel (to be shown on Sportsnet) at 1:00 EDT if you're also looking for an indoor pastime.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

November Morning

The frost is on the pumpkin this morning as our lovely autumn turns wintery. One benefit from the cold weather is that it keeps me stay inside at my desk writing although I lamented yesterday that the days sitting on the back deck are over for the year. I know I'll have cabin fever by January.

So, I'd hoped to have the first draft of my latest manuscript finished by today ... well by last weekend really ... but I'm still writing, now past the 90,000 word mark. The story just keeps going as I work my way to the finish. I'm going to have to cut it down if I go on much longer but my plan is to tie up all the loose ends and then have a look. I've done some editing earlier on but I've been working on this story for almost a year and there will be bits that could use a tidy. 

This week, I'm a guest at a book club on Tuesday - we're going to a local seafood restaurant and will talk about mysteries and writing over plates of shrimp and scallops. The following week, I visit another book club and that one will be a wine and cheese in a condo building with the focus on Cold Mourning. Two lovely evenings meeting mystery readers in relaxed settings. Book clubs are the best!

This time of year, I love rereading poems from my years studying Canadian poetry at university. Here's a snippet from one called "In November" by Archibald Lampman that captures the beauty of this dying season.

The sun shone out a little space
Across the silent sober place,
Over the sand heaps and brown sod,
The mulleins and dead goldenrod,
And passed beyond the thickets gray,
And lit the fallen leaves that lay,
Level and deep within the wood,
A rustling yellow multitude.



Saturday, November 4, 2017

Into November

Some good news this week. Pat Campbell, Grass Roots Press publisher, was in touch and asked me to write two more Anna Sweet novellas. She will publish both at the same time in fall 2019 with a campaign to promote the entire series. The eighth book will be the final in the series so I'll have to gear the last two stories to this end point. She mentioned that so many people have told her how much the love these books - music to my ears.

In the meantime, I'm working away on the sixth Stonechild book entitled Turning Secrets and am currently into the climax of the book and a few thousand words away from finishing the first draft. My process seems to be: write a few paragraphs, pause, think, write a few more hundred words, pause, think, go back and rewrite, pause and think. I'm not certain why I'm so hesitant with this ending, but give me one more week and I'll definitely be done. This leaves me a few months to edit and pull all the strands together more tightly. I also would like to make a trip to Kingston to check out a location, oddly enough that does not include a bar :-)

If you had a chance to watch the tv mini-series Alias Grace based on Margaret Atwood's book, what a treat. The acting was superb and the sets were extremely well done. I read the book some time ago and would like to reread it after seeing the series. My recommendation for the week!

A nice bit of publicity in my mailbox on Wednesday. My good friend and neighbour Kathryn Anthonisen sent in a recommendation for my series to a local magazine called "Neighbours of Westboro" and they published her words in their entirety along with a photo of the series. The magazine is free and goes to several west-end Ottawa neighbourhoods so I'm hoping to attract a few new readers. Thank you Kathryn!


Don't forget to set your clocks back tonight my Canadian friends (with the exception of Saskatchewan). An extra hour of sleep is never a bad thing.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Finding Focus

The last Saturday in October and all quiet this week on the writing front. I'm working on the last few thousand pages of my latest manuscript entitled Turning Secrets - the first draft and it will need some revising and tweaking to make all the plot points work.

Authors are often asked what motivates them to keep writing and do they have periods where they have trouble getting down to it. I'd have to say that there are days and sometimes weeks when I'm not settled enough to work on a project. I might be preoccupied with something else going on in my life. I could be unsure about the plot and need to give myself some time to think it through. The weather might be so perfect that I can't make myself stay inside at my desk. A day of this is okay but what happens when the desire to write is gone for an extended period?

Many say to just sit at your desk and force yourself to write. A hundred words, two hundred ... no matter the number, get something down. It might end up being cut, but the idea is to make writing a habit. I try to write every day and aim for between 500 and 1000 words. Sometimes I write less and sometimes more. More and more, I write late mornings into the afternoon. If writing isn't going well, I'll go for a walk or read for a bit.  Call a friend.

It can be frightening to reach the home stretch on a manuscript because this means you have to come up with a new idea for another book and start all over again. What if a good idea doesn't come? What if the elusive muse has been all used up? I imagine this worry is the same for everyone working in the creative arts. I think what is important is to step back and stay in the moment, to enjoy the process and not worry about outcomes. Like all good intentions in life, sometimes easier said than done :-)

So this week, more writing on my agenda and hopefully this time next week, I'll be able to report that the first draft is complete ... or close to complete. The work won't end there, however, as then I'll be into a few rounds of editing the entire manuscript with a January 1st deadline looming.

Time to get this day underway!