Saturday, December 3, 2016

First Review A Good One!

Happy Saturday, everyone. I must confess that I've been editing a manuscript but not as doggedly as I should have because I've been watching Canada Cup curling on TSN since Wednesday. For those of you who don't know, my daughter Lisa plays lead on the Homan team and they're in a semi-final this afternoon. My daily editing quota might be even lower this weekend :-)

The very first reviewer posted her review for Shallow End on Goodreads yesterday and gave it five out of five stars. I find that waiting for the first few reviews is always nail-biting time, so very pleased for this one. I know I speak for all authors when I say that reader reviews in addition to reviews from those who write book reviews as a profession, are important. Amazon will give books with over ten reviews more visibility in their search engine, for example. There are lots of places to post your comments, such as your public library site, Chapters, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Facebook, Twitter ... the more the better really!

I have always found self-promotion and publicity uncomfortable, having grown up in the generation before selfies when we were told not to brag or hog the limelight. While this remains true for me, I look at the promotion part of this business as promoting my books rather than myself ... if people don't know about the series, they will never buy or read any of the books after all. I also realize that readers genuinely like to know more about the authors whose work they like, and this part of the business I enjoy. I've visited three book clubs this year and find these to be a treat - a chance to relax and talk about the books and meet some really interesting people.

I've been asked several times recently about the audio books for Cold Mourning and Butterfly Kills and when they'll be for sale. I haven't heard anything recently, but expect that the recordings are finished and in the editing process. I should be receiving the tapes for my review soon (so exciting) and will let you know when I find out more about their release dates. I've also been asked a lot about when the next book in the Stonechild series will be coming out, and that will be Shallow End in early March 2017 although advance reading copies are being reviewed as I type.

So, I have an hour now to get some editing done before the curling starts. No time to waste ....

(Only three weeks until Christmas Eve. I finished my Christmas cards and nearly done my gift shopping. I think I'm on track!)

Saturday, November 26, 2016

The Girl with the Widow Gone on the Train

This week was a bit of a vacation from writing. I set aside my latest manuscript to give myself a chance to get some distance from it and hopefully a clearer last look, which I started yesterday afternoon. No matter how many times or how carefully you review a manuscript, little mistakes or plot discrepancies arise on every read through. I suppose when you're dealing with 90,000 words, a few of them are not going to behave as they should.

I also had a few tasks to take care of for Dundurn. My publicist Michelle and I are collaborating on a few publicity ideas for the Shallow End release in March. This included updating an author grid that the publisher keeps for each author to pin down reviewers and media. The editing team also asked me for a working title and cover synopsis for the fifth Stonechild book, which is the manuscript that I'm now giving a last going over. I hope to submit this one next week, which would put me a few months ahead of deadline.

So, next on the horizon? I'll be writing the sixth Anna Sweet and have already begun rolling plot ideas around in my head. I plan to quickly reread the five novellas in the series, likely over Christmas holidays, before pinning down my ideas.

I read The Widow by Fiona Barton this past week, a novel compared to Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train. Very dark material written by women about everyday people caught in a mess of deception and betrayal, all focusing on marriage relationships that are breaking down. They are page-turners but in an unsettling way. Interesting to note that they are compared to each other for marketing purposes, each attempting to build on the other books' success with readers.

You may have noticed the word 'girl' recently used in a lot of book titles, two of the above mentioned books as examples or another crime series that begins with The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. Goodreads currently lists 749 books with girl in the title and some authors report having been asked to use girl in their titles. To me, girl connotes youth and innocence and less worldly than the word 'woman'. Girl also sounds better in titles than woman in most cases. What do you think about this trend? Would you be more likely to pick up a crime novel or any book for that matter with 'girl' in the title?

So, we're at the end of November. We've had a snowy week in the Ottawa Valley interspersed with rain and mist. Crime-writing weather if I ever saw it. I have a busy weekend ahead beginning with a trip to the spa with my daughter Lisa, a couple of wine and cheese parties and supper out tomorrow. I'll be editing in my downtime, but realistically can't see getting much done until Monday. I think I need my writing buddy to get me back on track.

Four weeks until Christmas.....

Saturday, November 19, 2016

November Progress

Well, I've made it through the first round of editing for my latest manuscript (Stonechild and Rouleau book five) and the story appears to be hanging together nicely. I'm setting the manuscript aside for a bit and then will give it one more careful read before sending it to Dundurn. I'm still toying around with a title, which has to be two words to go along with the other books in the series. Tougher than one might think.

I've also been going through the Shallow End advance reading copy and sent two changes in to the editor and have about eighty pages to read. I'm at the point with this one that I've lost all perspective and begin to doubt if I can even write well - this happens with every book. I was at Bouchercon in Baltimore some years back and Harlan Coben talked about going from thinking whatever book he was writing was genius to complete crap by the time he was two-thirds of the way through. Other authors report this happening to them as well so I'm thinking self-doubt is part of the creative process.

Speaking of Bouchercon, it will be taking place in Toronto next fall and is well worth attending if you're a crime fiction fan. I've been to two of them in Baltimore and Cleveland respectively and I think this will be only the second time that the conference will be in Canada. They usually have about 1,500 people attending and attract some of the best-selling authors so you should check out the site if you're interested. The Sheraton Hotel has blocked off some rooms at a discounted price.

With Linda Wiken, R.J. Harlick and Mary Jane Maffini at Bouchercon in Cleveland 2012

I visited the Sunnyside Mystery Book Club yesterday afternoon at the Sunnyside Branch of the Ottawa Public Library. The room was full - about twenty of us sitting around a square grouping of tables - and over cups of tea, we chatted about the Stonechild series, my writing process and crime fiction. I had a lovely time and only realized I hadn't taken a photo to share as I was walking back to my car. Thank you to Mary Frances Taylor for inviting me and to everyone who came out and made the hour so enjoyable. Mystery readers are the best :-)

The mornings are fog-laden these days and our first big snow is on its way into the Ottawa Valley tomorrow. I'm off to buy food for the week before the weather turns, and will cook up a beef stew in red wine for tomorrow. Might even put on a fire and cozy up with a good book while the storm settles in.

Five weeks until Christmas.....

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Before the Snow

This week's work can be summarized in one word: Editing. I'm slowly and carefully making my way through the text in the fifth Stonechild and Rouleau manuscript and still have about fifteen chapters left to go. So, for the upcoming week, I'll be back at it.

I spoke about writing a series at the Canadian Authors Association November meeting on Tuesday evening and enjoyed sharing what I'd learned with the other authors. They were welcoming and asked lots of questions about publishing and my experiences.

This week, I visit the Sunnyside Mystery Book Club at the Sunnyside Branch of the Ottawa Public Library to discuss the Stonechild series. I have an advance reading copy of book four entitled Shallow End and will read a passage as well as discuss how the series came about. The hour is open to the public and I've given the link above for more information.

So for the foreseeable future, I'll be finishing this go-around on the fifth manuscript, taking a little break and then starting the sixth Anna Sweet novella. I have an idea for a crime to kick off the plotline and will have to wrap my head around fleshing that out and deciding what happens to my continuing characters.

November has been an interesting month so far with a new President entering the White House and many questions about the direction the U.S. will take both domestically and internationally. It is surreal to see the demonstrations going on, unprecedented after a U.S. election. We've also lost one of our greatest poets with Leonard Cohen's death this week. Cohen was a wordsmith and genius, truly. "Suzanne" was one of my favorite songs in university - such beautiful lyrics.  And news yesterday of Robett Vaughn's passing - I remember being in love with him in "The Man From Uncle" (although I wasn't old enough to date) and the life of a spy seemed rather inviting.

Ah, times they are a-changing...

Until next week, my friends.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

My Toronto Adventure

I took the train to Toronto on Sunday and was met by my daughter Julia and Dawn, my good friend from university days. We visited a pub in St. Lawrence Market (Julia taking a photo of me taking a photo of her - she had just had her hair cut off that morning to donate to cancer patients so shout out to ma belle fille)...

...before continuing on to El Catrin, a Mexican restaurant in the Distillery District, which I highly recommend - I see it was also voted best 'first date' restaurant for those of you in the market - some terrific tapas dishes and sangria. All in all, a great way to celebrate my birthday!

Monday morning, Dawn and I made our way to the recording studio on Dufferin to listen in on a taping of Butterfly Kills. Michelle Melski, my Dundurn publicist, met us there, and took us for lunch after the taping at the Drake and then on to the Eaton Centre by street car where I signed copies of my books that they had on hand in Indigo Chapters. Michelle also gave me an advance reading copy of Shallow End, which will be out in March - gratifying to hold the book for the first time.

For the book taping, Michelle St John is the voice actress for the books and Dan Harden is the recording engineer. Michelle had been ill with a cold the week before and was still suffering some of its effects, but her voice was clear and rich. Dan kept her from getting overtired and we stopped early for the day so that she could rest her voice for the next day's session. She sat in the makeshift studio in the next room where she read the book from an iPad and we were in the sound room watching Dan work the controls. Much like an actual audio book, we couldn't see Michelle but heard her voice loud and clear through the sound system. She does a terrific job and half the time I couldn't believe I'd written the words she was reading. She brought the pages and characters to life. I could see that Dan is very experienced at his work and knows how to get the best out of a reader. We learned that he was recently in a rock band named Malibu Knights (give a listen)  out West that once opened for Bon Jovi and works with a lot of musicians in his studio. Dan was the lead singer - great voice!

Top photo is Michelle St John and the bottom photo is me with Dan and Michelle Meleski.

Pretending I know what's going on.

So back to reality. I finished draft one of this latest manuscript (book five in the Stonechild series) and have been going through it with that fine toothed comb, trying to catch all the errors and make the plot lines flow. I only got to chapter nine so have some ways to go. I've also been working on a presentation I'll be giving on writing a series for the Canadian Authors Association on Tuesday evening. November is starting out busy enough :-)

BTW - no snow in Toronto and still some flowers blooming. It was a wonderful few days for walking in the city!

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Writing Through October

A good week! I finished the first draft of the manuscript for my fifth Stonechild and Rouleau book and have been through the text once although in sections. I'm now starting on a complete reread, looking to tighten up the plot and clues. This is the first time that I changed the identity of a killer and only because it made more sense than the person I'd picked early on. This means I need to tinker with the details.

I had fun at the Chapters Gloucester book signing last Saturday, having a chance to chat with some interesting people while selling out of the copies of Cold Mourning that the store had on hand. Ottawa mystery authors have a terrific supporter named Nancy Reid who keeps lists of our books and buys all the new releases. She came out to say hi and took my photo. You can see me next to the Christmas candles and little fake trees, which made me think I should get started on some gift shopping. Only eight weeks away....

So this week, I'm off to Toronto to meet my publicist Michelle and to sit in on a taping of the audio tape for Butterfly Kills. I'll be meeting the actress (also named Michelle) and having a chance to chat with her about the books. Turns out that Sleuth of Baker Street bookshop is closed on Mondays so we might visit an Indigo store in the afternoon. I'll have a recap and hopefully some photos for next week's post.

My other current preoccupation is organizing my thoughts for a talk about writing a series, which I'll be giving to the Canadian Authors Association a week Tuesday. I'm also visiting the Sunnyside Library Book Club in November and I understand they're catching up on reading the series. I enjoy hearing feedback from readers about the characters and story lines and look forward to both events.

How can this be the end of October already? We had snow on the ground yesterday for the entire day but the lawns are green again this morning with a rainy day ahead. I just want to crawl back into bed and let this day take care of itself, but it's time to have one last cup of coffee and head out to the grocery store in my new used car. I bought a 2005 Honda Civic Accord with amazingly low mileage that drives like a dream. Might be time to get the winter tires on.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Signing at Chapters Gloucester Today

I'll be at Chapters Gloucester this afternoon from 1:00 until 4:00 o'clock - a good place to drop by and chat on this cold, wet Saturday. Maybe even get a jump on some Christmas shopping with some personalized books. (This is the last book store signing that I have lined up for this year.)

Here's a photo taken by mystery reader and great supporter of the local crime-writing community, Nancy Reid, from my May visit to Chapters Gloucester.

I'm going to Toronto next weekend to meet Michelle St John, the actress reading Cold Mourning and Butterfly Kills for the audio books. I'll sit in on a taping so excited for that. I'll also be meeting up with my publicist Michelle Meleski and we plan to visit Sleuth on Baker Street, a well known mystery bookshop in the city. Should be a fun trip.

Writing went well this week and I'm beginning the last scene in the last chapter! I'm just over 84,000 words now and was aiming for 85,000 on this draft since I always add more on rewrites. Stephen King wrote that he writes quite a bit over his book word count and then cuts but I tend to do the opposite. Anyhow, once that is done, I'll be rereading, editing, rewriting...the work is far from over, but I have three months to whip this manuscript into shape. My next project will be writing book six in the Anna Sweet novellas, which will give me the chance to change gears for a few months.

Today reminds me that winter will soon be swooping into the Ottawa Valley and I have to finish cleaning out my garden, empty flower pots and put away patio furniture. This will be the first winter that I don't have to get up early and stand at the bus stop in the dark to head downtown to my government job so I'm happy for this change in routine.  When the snowstorms are raging, I'll be tucked in my home office with a cup of coffee, gas fireplace on and writing away at my computer. Luxury.

I like to be reading a book off and on between periods of writing and this week, I've been making my way through Stalin's Daughter by Rosemary Sullivan. Just over 600 pages, this book has won all kinds of awards and really is a fascinating read about Svetlana Alliluyeva, Stalin's only daughter. I studied Russian history in university and reading this book has brought back my studies from that time. Living under a  Communist regime also ties in with the novel I'm writing now, which touches on the Ceausescu period in Romania. Sullivan's book humanizes the life of a woman who grew up in a system so foreign to our own and brings her history to life.

So, time to get a few tasks accomplished before I head out on the Queensway to the east end. Plan to come by Chapters for a visit if you're in the area!