Pushing Forward on All Fronts

After three months of being a writer in Paris (oh, it was fun to just write that phrase!), I am back in the Rocky Mountains with a list of To-Do lists! Part of the problem with being a full-time working writer is that there are always projects in need of my attention. Here’s a quick snapshot of what’s on my desk at the moment…

  1. Final revisions are due for Christmas: From Solstice to Santa (a new title in the Orca Origins series, co-authored with Dani). Because I now live here:

    IMG_7194 Three sisters.jpgand Dani lives here:
    IMG_7543 vancouver island… it’s a little tricky to get together to work on projects. While there are plenty of things we can do at a distance (we have been collaborating for years on all sorts of projects), there are certain tasks that require a large table and spreading out of multiple drafts and sets of editorial comments. I’ll be on the coast at the end of July and we have marathon editing plans. If I sound less than thrilled at the prospect of going through this manuscript one more time, it’s because sometimes these late-in-the-game rewrites aren’t exactly a ton of fun. On the up side, we are writing about Christmas, so how un-jolly could we possibly be about that? Actually, now that I think about it, one of the things we need to do is some final recipe testing. At least we will be well fed during our labours.

  2. Board books for babies! That’s all I will say for now. Except for this… if you ever imagined that writing a book containing very few words for an audience that is more likely to chew on your book than read it is easy… think again. Dani and I have been sending draft manuscripts back and forth and back and forth and back and forth a shocking number of times in order to come up with something reasonable that we can send off to our editor. Stay tuned… more details to come as these titles get further along in their development.
  3. The Camino project! Oh, we are so excited about this one! We’ve been working on writing samples and putting together examples of Dad’s work and fleshing out a proposal as we get closer to setting off on the trip and as the book project becomes clearer in our minds. I think we are booking our airline tickets this week! I’ll be writing a blog post (probably over on the more general blog, but I’ll post a link here, too) about my first experience at an actual Camino site in France. Here’s a teaser image from that experience:

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    Any ideas where this was taken? Leave a comment below… 
  4. Final revisions and captions for Better Together: Creating Community in an Uncertain World are due this month. I’ve had a sneak peek at some early page layouts and this book is going to be GORGEOUS!!!!!!! I can’t wait to post a sample so you can see it, too. This was a really cool book to research as the scope was broad and the subject fascinating. From babies in prisons to leper colonies to the Red Cross and the International Space Station, it was a bit mind-boggling to look at the myriad ways in which people come together for good and how sometimes strong bonding within groups also lies at the heart of some of our most awful conflicts.

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    Doing a bit of research in Paris at Shakespeare and Co., a bookshop that has played a central role in the community of writers for decades… 
  5. Promoting the recent releases… This year has been a busy one with two new titles so far that and another one to come. Café Books here in Canmore hosted an author signing on the weekend. It was HOT but lots of fun to chat with passersby, tourists and locals alike.

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    Trying to stay in the shade during a roasty, toasty book signing event at Café Books in Canmore. My trusty helper, Allegra, did a great job handing out bookmarks and smiles. 
  6. Promoting new titles Part Two: I’m setting up a book giveaway on Goodreads. I’m having trouble posting the widget link… stay tuned as I figure that out (or, navigate over the Goodreads and search for Deadpoint). I don’t think this is live quite yet, but I’ll post an update here on the writing blog when you can go and put your name down for a copy.
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  7. General promo and doing things like looking after my patrons over on Patreon. You, too, could become a patron (if you aren’t already). I had just set this Patreon page up before we had our unexpected trip to Paris, so I haven’t been promoting the concept as much as I should have been. If you are interested in supporting the work of a writer (me) and earning some nifty rewards, click on the link and check it out. It’s easy and as cheap as you’d like to make it and makes a big difference to me.patreon-logoEnjoy the blog? Consider becoming a patron to support the creation of these blog posts, photo essays, and short videos. In return, you’ll have my undying appreciation, but you’ll also get access to Patron-only content, advance peeks at works in progress, and more – all for as little as a buck a month! It’s easy – head on over to Patreon to have a look at how it all works.
  8. Freelancing… Keep an eye out for Gripped Magazine – there just may be an article in there by me in an issue coming your way soon.
  9. Writing new stuff… I’m busy polishing some essays and articles on subjects like fear of falling, dementia, and being a writer in Paris in the teens (almost a hundred years after Hemingway was writing about being a writer in Paris in the twenties – it’s kind of a thing). Some of those pieces (mine, not Hemingway’s) were workshopped at the quite wonderful Lunchtime Writing Salons hosted by Hazel Manuel. Search for them at meetup.com if you happen to be in Paris and looking for feedback on a bit of writing. I attended several sessions and they were well worth it!

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    The view from Hazel’s place… Fine conversation, interesting writers, good food, occasionally wine… who could ask for more in a writing salon?
  10. The Writing School. Yes, I am still working on this project. If you are interested in signing up for an online writing course, take a minute to put your email address in the box and I’ll let you know when the first courses are available.

    That’s it for now, not because that’s actually all I have on the go but because the number 10 seems like such a logical place to stop. Happy reading and writing, everyone! Until next time…

 

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Speed Dating With My Daughter

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Who can resist gourmet cupcakes? Yummy!

Book promotion comes in all shapes and sizes. Signing books at a bookstore or doing a presentation at a school, library, or literary festival are all par for the course when it comes to getting the word out about a new book. This week, though, Dani and I took part in a less common book promotion, a speed dating event at a gathering of book reps and booksellers.

Imagine a room (actually, a quasi room, more like a space partitioned off from a rather raucous party behind a not-exactly-soundproof folding divider) in which are placed half a dozen large, round tables. At each table, there are five or six booksellers from various places in British Columbia. The booksellers look a little weary – they have been looking at catalogues, ordering books, and talking to book reps since 9 am. By the time our event starts, it’s almost 6pm. Half a dozen piles of books are stacked on the tables and half a dozen anxious authors stand, one in front of each table. Don’t think about that too hard. It isn’t all that easy to stand in front of a round table.

The format works like this. When the coordinator says ‘Go!’ all the authors begin to talk about their books. Because the room is small and there is a party going on beside us on the other side of the partition, we need to yell at the top of our lungs to be heard. Even so, the booksellers need to lean forward to hear what we are saying.

Dani and I are presenting together as we are co-authors of Birthdays: Beyond Cake and Ice Cream. To make things a little more festive (and because we are not beneath bribery to get the attention of the booksellers), we also deliver a plate of gourmet miniature cupcakes to the table as we begin, one cupcake earmarked for each member of our tiny audience. Because we have very little time to move between tables, we’ve pre-stacked napkins and bookmarks to hand out along with the cupcakes. Because Dani is the goddess of themed activities, the cupcakes are beautifully displayed on paper party plates and she and I are wearing matching party hats.

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Once the timer starts, we have exactly five minutes to do our spiel (including time to pass around those cupcakes). We introduce ourselves (people regularly call me Dani and Dani Nikki. Fortunately, we both answer to both names). We explain how the idea of the book came to be (Dani earns full credit for this one. Birthdays all dates back to an amazing birthday she had in Japan). We then take turns highlighting what’s in each chapter. We’ve picked some nifty factoids to share (about bullet ants in Brazil, coating birthday celebrants in flour, water, and eggs in Indonesia, and what happens on Adults’ Day in Japan).

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Dani in Japan the year she turned 20.

To make things extra challenging, we leave 45 seconds for me to smoothly segue from birthday parties to traumatic climbing experiences, which then leads to the fastest-ever description of Deadpoint, my new climbing memoir. Just because I have two books out this season doesn’t mean I get twice the time to talk about them.

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At precisely five minutes, the coordinator stops the clock and all the authors must move to the next table and do it all again. We repeated this until all the authors had spoken to all the booksellers.

You could say it was all a tad stressful. Dani and I both left feeling a bit hoarse and nursing splitting headaches. I can’t even imagine how the poor booksellers were feeling! That said, it was a fantastic way to introduce ourselves and the new books to a whole lot of amazing, hard working, what-would-we-do-without-them booksellers.

Luckily for the rest of you, there’s no reason to have to listen to me and Dani shout about the new books. All you have to do is visit your local bookseller and ask nicely and they will happily order copies in for you. If you don’t have a bookstore in your town, that is a bit sad, but not the end of the world. You can always order online or head into your local public library.

 

 

Deadpoint is Alive!

deadpoint-covers-img_7569It never gets old, the arrival of a new book! Deadpoint was officially released into the wilds today (and, by wilds, I mean your local bookstore, library, or online bookseller…)! I love the quote on the bookmarks, “Fear is not an option.” I even like the punctuation – that period at the end of the statement is just so final. In fact, I think that statement deserves a whole blog post all its own because these days I’m living in a strange state of simultaneous excitement and near panic (kind of like how I feel when I’m climbing, in fact).

Even though the appearance of the book marks the end of one phase of the creative process (I really, truly can’t make any more changes at this point), having the book in hand is also the beginning of a new phase. With any luck, someone will now read it and then, maybe there will be some reviews. Even better, the reviews won’t be awful. There is nothing quite so demoralizing as reading uncharitable words about your baby. I say that even though I try not to take reviews (good, or bad) too seriously. Even though I try to keep them in perspective, it is still MUCH nicer to read a good review than a bad one. That said, write enough books and both good and bad are bound to happen eventually.

The reviews, though, are actually kind of important when it comes to selling books, particularly those like Deadpoint which have the potential to reach an educational market. Schools and libraries prefer not to buy books that are roundly panned. Fair enough. With limited budgets and shelf space, it’s impossible to just have a standing order for every new book that comes out. Teachers and librarians tend to read trade journals when looking for feedback on new titles. The rest of us tend to look at what people are saying on Amazon or Goodreads or Facebook (note: if you are a reader, it actually does make a difference to sales if you take the time to share your thoughts on a book. And, be honest – there’s actually not much benefit to saying you love a book when you don’t. If you hate this one, though, perhaps don’t send me the link… what I don’t read can’t break my heart.)

After a book comes out there’s also an expectation that an author will get out there and talk about it. If the book is for kids or teenagers, school visits and library presentations are the order of the day. I’ll try to do my share of those over the coming months. For non-kid audiences, bookstores are the most likely place for an event. For example, for Victoria-area folks, I’ll be at Russell Books on February 23 along with Miji Cambell and Trisha Cull. Here’s the poster – it would be great to see you there if you are in the neighbourhood! (We will be talking about writing memoirs – and I will touch on how real life had a huge impact on the writing of Deadpoint).

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Deadpoint also got a little early publicity when a few precious copies were given out as prizes at the Night of Lies event in Canmore in November. That was quite the memorable evening, not just because people got a sneak preview of the book, but because that’s where I did a presentation about climbing as a metaphor for relationships in general and, more specifically, climbing partnerships. That in itself wasn’t terribly noteworthy (I do lots of presentations each year), but at the end of this one, I proposed to my now-fiancé, Fabio. It was a good thing he said ‘yes’ as we had several hundred witnesses and a negative response would have been… well, way worse than a less-than-flattering book review.

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These days, there’s also an expectation that an author will do some social media promotion for a new title. I guess this could count as my obligatory ‘the book is out!!’ blog post and if you follow me on Twitter (@writergrrrl) or Instagram (writergrrrl) or Facebook you’ll know I’ve started to let the world know on those other platforms as well.

In fact, the work of promoting a book doesn’t really stop until the book goes out of print. It can be hard to support every title when one has quite a few out, but at the same time, it’s shocking how fast a book can just disappear if you don’t give it a little love and attention.

With all that in mind, may I present to you:

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(If you’d like to purchase a copy, please try to buy this first at your local, preferably independent bookstore, but if you don’t have one in your town, then here’s the link on Amazon. Thanks for supporting your local indies!)

 

 

A Shout Out to My Agent! Thanks, Amy!

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For years I didn’t have an agent. Then I had one for a while and we didn’t really click. So then I didn’t have an agent again. After a few more years, I decided to try again and have been with Transatlantic Agency ever since (though, as people have retired and moved on I’ve been with three different agents within the agency since I signed up). Amy Tompkins is my agent at the moment and one of my favourite people on the planet. I am generally terrible about keeping up with my correspondence, but I tell you, when Amy drops me a line, all else stops until I’ve looked at (and dealt with) her email.

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This might look like a crazy person’s idea of fun, but it’s also very serious work. I may be hanging off the side of a mountain, but I’m also doing research… Because when you make your living writing, at some level, you are always doing research. 

Recently, Amy let me know that an educational publisher was offering some freelance work. Although the timelines were tight, I threw my hat in the ring and snagged a project about rock-climbing.

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That’s me doing a bit of climbing at Lake Louise this summer.

What is perhaps coolest about this particular project is not just that it landed in my lap because of Amy’s excellent efforts, but that this project is an example of how important it is to follow your passions and write about the things you love best. I don’t write much about climbing on this blog (it’s supposed to be more about my writing world), but if you are curious about my climbing/travelling/sailing exploits, have a look at my other blog (www.darkcreekfarm.com). The fact that I’m going to spend a good chunk of time holed up reading about climbing and the mountains makes me pretty happy!

 

Deadpoint Advance Reading Copies!

fullsizerender-11Sometimes getting mail is SO MUCH FUN!! These four ARCs of Deadpoint arrived in the mail today. They are already spoken for, but if you are a blogger or reviewer, let me know (I’ve added a ‘Stay in Touch’ link over on the right, or find my email address on the Contact page). There are a few more ARCs available from the publisher and I will pass your details along.

With ARCs in hand, the final version of the book can’t be far behind!

If you are a real keener, Deadpoint is available for pre-order at Amazon.com (and, full disclosure, if you click on the link and pre-order your copy from them, Amazon will send a few pennies my way). Though I confess to occasionally buying stuff (though generally not books) from Amazon myself, you can also order your copy through your local (preferably independent) bookstore. The independents are always my first choice of book-shopping destination! And if you are broke or super-stingy, or just don’t have room for another book on your shelf, that’s ok, too. That’s why we have public libraries.

Missed the book trailer we made for Deadpoint this summer? Here it is again.

Deadpoint Trailer

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Well, that was fun! When Allegra came to visit this summer she and I decided to create a book trailer for Deadpoint. Allegra is a good climber, a natural director, and a fine writer. She came up with a concept, wrote the script, played the role of Ayla, and selected the music. She also helped with the editing and handled the voice over. Yep. Pretty handy to have around, I can tell you.

The result? Here you go…

Curious what happens in the book? It’s not to early to pre-order your copy from Amazon

When it Rains…

 

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Manuscript page from Deadpoint, a novel for reluctant teen readers set on the side of a mountain. 

Busy doesn’t even begin to describe what’s on the writing to-do list these days! As sometimes happens, two manuscripts have landed back on my desk for editing at the same time – both with similar deadlines. The first is Deadpoint in the Orca Sports series, a novel for reluctant tween readers. I’ve done a couple of these before (Venom and Razor’s Edge – both novels set in the world of horse racing).

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Deadpoint is about climbing (not much of a surprise there, given how much climbing I’ve been doing over the past year or so… )

The second book is a collaboration with my daughter, Dani. She and I worked on Take Shelter together (which is doing very well – we will be in Vancouver at the Red Cedar Gala on May 7th as the book was nominated for a Red Cedar Award – very exciting!!). Our next project is in the Orca Origins series and is all about birthdays – the history of birthday celebrations, how we celebrate birthdaystake shelter cover in different parts of the world as well as some personal stories about memorable birthdays in our family… We’ve been having a lot of fun doing the research and finding suitable photos that might accompany the text. We are well into the edits now, which is a good thing because next on the list for the same series is a book about Christmas.

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80 candles for Dad’s birthday – yep, he’s going to be in the new book about birthdays!

At the same time, I’m beavering away on two other books – one, an adult memoir about the nature of personality and what happens when someone develops Pick’s Disease (the type of early onset dementia my mother had) and a non-fiction book for teens and pre-teens tentatively called The Young Activists Handbook. 

In other news, Holiday House in the US has picked up a picture book manuscript which combines the two subjects of baseball and bricklaying… because those two topics fit together very naturally, don’t you think? They are currently selecting an illustrator and I’m pretty excited to see who that might be!

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There’s also another climbing-themed project being considered by another publisher – can’t say anything more about that yet as nothing has been finalized, but suffice it to say I’m thrilled that I’ve been able to find ways to write about the climbing bug which has so thoroughly infected me!