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!

Friday, October 20, 2017

Book Clubs and Deadlines

Some lovely news this week. No Trace has been shortlisted for an Ontario Library Association Golden Oak award. The shortlist is decided by a panel of librarians and it is for writing aimed at adult learners. Now, adult students across the province have a chance to read and vote for the book they like best with an awards event in Toronto in the spring.


I've recovered from Bouchercon last weekend and am back working at my desk. I received a deadline and pub date for the sixth Stonechild book, Turning Secrets - it's due January 1st and the publication date is May 11, 2019. They do plan ahead in this publishing business! I've hit 80,000 words in the first draft and am working to connect all the pieces and land the ending. It's rather like rounding up a bunch of cats that have been following me around, waiting for their turn at the food bowl. They're all converging at once and I've got to exert some control and manage the chaos.

So, next on the agenda in November, I'll be visiting two local book clubs to talk about writing and my series. They will be two very different outings - the first is dinner at a seafood restaurant and the second is a drop in wine and cheese in a condo building. I've visited several book clubs and have enjoyed every one. What better way to spend an evening or afternoon than talking books and crime fiction with people who have the same passion for the written word? If you belong to a book club and would like me to visit, send along an email and we can see about setting something up.

Below are a few pics from last week's travels. Have a good week ahead everyone :-)

 The Dundurn publicity team Michelle, Jaclyn and Kendra
Some of the Dundurn authors - Barbara Fradkin, Dave Butler, Rachel Greenaway and David Paulson. (The fellow on the far left is a book translator and friend of Rachel's.)
Crime Writers of Canada quizz night - co-hosting alongside Toronto author Peter Fritze.
Louise Penny being interviewed by Ann Cleeves Sunday morning - the room was packed!




Sunday, October 15, 2017

Bouchercon - Wrapping up Days 3 and 4

I'm on the train home from Bouchercon, my first real opportunity to catch up on days three and four. The highlights of yesterday were meeting some readers in the hospitality room first thing in the morning when I hosted a table as part of the Crime Writers of Canada duties. I met an ex-journalist who was looking for a publisher for his first novel, a woman who'd been at a book club that I presented at last year in Ottawa, and a woman from Cleveland who loved all things mystery. My panel was later in the day and Caro Ramsay moderated in excellent fashion - she'd read our books and gave insightful questions and comments and incorporated a lot of humour into the session. The room was quite full and many came up afterwards to say they'd enjoyed it. Just before our panel, I sat in on one with Linwood Barclay, Kathy Reichs and a few other authors whose names escape me now, and the topic was writing standalone as well as series. Very informative from a writer perspective.

Supper last evening was a trek through the tunnels to the Cactus Club with the Ottawa crew - Mary Jane Maffini, Linda Wiken, Robin Harlick and Barbara Fradkin. After we determined that we were the oldest in the club by about thirty years, we settled in for a few hours of delicious food, loud music, and lots of laughter.

This morning, I sat in on the Louise Penny interview with Ann Cleeves asking the questions, and again, a packed room. The hour zipped past and I checked out of the hotel immediately afterwards, met up with a Toronto friend, trundled down Yonge pulling my suitcase and stopped for lunch before arriving at Union Station.

The conference was fun and overall worthwhile. I spent time chatting with many authors and made several new acquaintances. It's a chance to catch up on industry news and share stories about events and marketing. I remembered just how big Bouchercon is (about 1700 attendees) and that they come from all corners of the world, including Australia, Japan, Scandinavia, Greece, Britain, France ... and the list goes on. My favourite moments were when readers came up to me to tell me how much they are enjoying my series. In particular, a man came up to me with all my books at the signing table after the panel - his wife was ill but wanted to make sure he got my signature on each of them and she'd written a lovely note to me. They live in Nova Scotia and she said that her entire bookclub of 22 members has read all my books and the librarian in their town said that my books and one other author's are the most signed out books in their library.

Words to make attending worth the price of admission:-)

Friday, October 13, 2017

Live From Bouchercon - Friday - Day Two

This morning started with a phone call from Robin Harlick to meet for coffee at the coffeeshop downstairs. Turns out there's more than one coffeeshop and we picked different ones. I reverted to my original plan to bring a coffee back to my room, after which I got ready to meet the Dundurn authors in the lobby at 9:15 for a cab ride to the Dundurn office. We were greeted by the Dundurn team including VP Beth Bruder and President Kirk Howard and more coffee and pastries. I met David Butler from B.C. whose first book Full Curl was just released - I gave an endorsement so it was nice to meet him in person. I had good chats with Beth, the three Dundurn publicists and David Paulson (Alberta).

We walked back to the hotel in time for me to do my one-hour stint at the Crime Writers of Canada table, oddly enough, with David Paulson. We kept each other laughing in between chatting with authors who came up to the table. I guess the most famous of these was William Deverell who was the creative force behind CBC's Street Legal. I then met up with my publicist Michelle Melski and Rachel Greenaway (B.C. Dundurn author) for lunch in the hotel and we chatted about all things publicity-related.

So I was in my room for a moment around 3:20, getting ready to go see a panel with Ann Cleeves as one of the panelists, when the fire alarm went off. I went into the hallway and nobody. I walked toward the stairs/elevators when a woman from New York City came into the hall and she suggested that we take the stairs together. She said that she'd grabbed her passport from the safe so that she could get home if this turned into a disaster. Sad to think that people from the U.S., New York in particular, have this underlying fear. We made it to the ground along with several other people who'd taken the stairs as an announcement let us know that the fire was reported in the garage. As it happened, I met Rick Mofina coming out of the hotel and we decided it was safe enough to go back in to the bar where we spent the rest of the afternoon catching up (we worked next to each other at Health Canada for a few years) and talking about the book business. Kind of serendipity really! Oh, and there was no fire in the end:-)

This evening beginning at 6:00, I'm heading to the international reception for authors from other countries across the seas who've made it here. There is a cocktail/dessert party after that that I may or may not attend, but from 9:30 to 11:00, I'm part of a Crime Writers of Canada quizz game with lots of donated books as giveaways. At these conferences, publishers and groups sponsor events as a way to get their authors known. Since this is going to be a late night, I'll post now with more from Bouchercon tomorrow!

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Live From Bouchercon - Day One

Well I've made it to Toronto and four days of Bouchercon but we need to back up a few days. Tuesday evening, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ann Cleeves and Barbara Fradkin as part of the Ottawa Writers Festival. We met at Southminster Church in Old Ottawa South and were greeted by an audience of over 200 people. True confession: I'd never interviewed anyone before and was slightly nervous, but really needed have been. Ann and Barb were great and didn't pass on any of my questions. It truly was a delightful evening.

Barbara Fradkin, Ann Cleeves and me

So, not so bright and early this morning, Barbara Fradkin (pictured above) picked me up and we took the 401 to Toronto, stopping in Cobourg at the Mill Tavern for a late lunch. I actually caught an Uber from somewhere in Toronto as Barb was visiting her daughter first, and made it to the Sheraton around four o'clock.

I checked in and went exploring, meeting several people I know along the way. Mainly Canadian people. I exchanged a few words with Howard Engel in the book room - he is one of Canada's icons in the mystery-writing genre, but didn't feel up to asking for a photo ... yet. After a brief rest, I met up with nine other Canadian authors (all women) and we went for supper in the hotel. Then off to the bar. This is a massive conference with about 1700 attendees. I didn't recognize many of them pouring through the bar, but a lot are Americans and a lot look young.

Tomorrow starts bright and early with a trip to Dundurn publishers for coffee. I'll let you know what I get up to at the end of the day ....