Friday, December 16, 2011
Coming FEBRUARY, 2012 from McArthur and Company.
"In 1974, twenty-two year old Hester Warnock’s love affair with Malcolm Driver on a farm-turned-commune led to the death of a young pregnant girl named Beth Sherry. Thirty-five years later, now a successful magazine publisher, Hester is invited back to the scene of the crime to participate in a documentary The next morning, in the middle of a fierce rainstorm, she finds her ex-lover hanging from a tree. Hester holds a clue that proves Malcolm’s death wasn’t suicide but her past haunts her. A story of betrayal is revealed as Hester draws closer to the truth about herself.
Set in the wilds of Quebec, THE GREY LADY is a psychological thriller which explores the power play between men and women and asks whether crimes of passion can ever be excused."
Pre-orders are being taken at Amazon, Chapters and your independent bookstore.
Bill Douglas created the cover. I love the tension between the rope and the serene lake below. I wonder where he found the image because the scenery is very like the Gatineau Hills.
Wednesday, September 21, 2011
See, what the average author does is write and write and write and so much of it is rubbish that the writer despairs of ever being anything more than a hack. It's disgusting garbage the writer churns up in an effort to get at what the story is all about. The essential truth of the thing. The purpose, the meaning, the freaking point.
And then, eventually, it becomes clear. This is the point I reached at the beginning of September with THE RIVER BRIDE. Now that it's clear though, I realize a lot of my earlier churn contained shards of gold. In whole pages of dreck are one or two useful observations. A couple of truths. I remember writing them. Can I find them again? NO! Because I cut and deleted and said, "Oh, lord, you'll never want THAT again."
Churn. Never underestimate its power.
Thursday, September 1, 2011
I AM DONE! The edited manuscript has been sent! I'm exhausted. But the book is better. It was not very good before. I have no idea how agents and editors see diamonds in the dull, bloated rocks that come across their desks. X-ray vision, they must have.
Kudos and kisses to all the steely-eyed agents and editors who do far more than midwife books into print. All a midwife does is deliver a perfectly beautiful baby. An editor has to crawl into a writer's mind and root through the gunk and the booze and the excuses, sweetly whispering "I know you left the story in here somewhere, dear. Don't you worry, we'll find it." And then she pulls out her scalpel....
I hardly felt a thing.
Wednesday, July 20, 2011
Life, before we were plugged in.... As long as the power was restored in time for The Borgias, I was happy.
Speaking of Acts of God...
I'm meeting Diane Banks, my amazing agent, for drinks in Toronto at the beginning of September! She's travelling in from London, England on business and is making the time to see me. We're having lunch the next day with Kim McArthur of McArthur and Company, my publisher for THE GREY LADY and ICED UNDER.
When you're a writer, a lunch date with your agent and your publisher is the very definition of heaven on earth. Take a poll. You'll see I have not overstated the title of this blog entry at all.
More Acts of God...
Reading Sophie's World: A Novel about the History of Philosophy by Jostein Gaarder. Breathless.
Listening to Monkeys Under Stars by Lindsay Ferguson. Sublime.
Friday, June 24, 2011
I had a conversation with a woman at a wonderful gathering held recently at a historic stone mill in our village. She asked me about writing. Was it a huge undertaking to write a book and how did one start? I blinked back tears. How did one write a book. I wish I had asked myself this question back in 1995. Is it a huge undertaking? No, unless you consider your life an undertaking.
Books are sneak attacks. They take an unsuspecting soul by stealth. How does one write a book? By ceasing to care about anything or anyone until the story is out. At which point you throw it at an agent who will try to midwife it into the world.
Sounds glamorous. It's not. It's not showering. Teethbrushing is forgotten. Writing means you stop doing the things normal people do. When you do find yourself out somewhere where you're expected to enjoy yourself, all you can think about is the work in progress. It's putting on a smile for family and friends when the rejections are rolling in. It's finding peace only with other writers who are suffering or musicians who are always suffering. It's a blinding obsession that in our current culture you're pretty sure you need to be medicated for.
But the book demands to get out. Is it a Great Novel? Hell no. Stephenie Meyer didn't wonder if her fledgling unknown was the Great Novel either as it pulled her out of sleep and drove her to write where ever and whenever she could, with little kids and a husband in tow. She wrote. Obsessed. That is what it is. And it is lonely.
I haven't read the Twilight saga. The success of the final product isn't the point. Because you have no idea what that success might be. Meyers didn't know. Anymore than I do. That's the point. To be a writer, you have to surrender to the unknown and write anyway.
So to the lady who asked: How does one start? One doesn't. One is taken by force.
Tuesday, June 14, 2011
And guess who I found! Linda Wiken at Mystery Maven Canada! Linda is the former owner of Prime Crime Mystery Books in Ottawa and was (and is) a tremendous supporter of my first novel, ICED UNDER. She invited me to her bookstore for a signing happening at the same time as the Great Glebe Garage Sale. If you know anything about garage sales, yard sales, or tag sales I need not say more. Even my own kid popped in to say an extremely brief hello before whipping out to cruise the sale.
But Linda's store was soul quenching. The equivalent of cosying up to a blazing fire on a rainy day with your favourite mystery. I loved every minute of it. I'm no saleswoman though. I kept poking over the books. One woman thought I worked there. She asked me if I could recommend a good medical mystery. I actually felt sorry that I couldn't think of any.
On the journey to becoming an established author it's easy to forget those moments or to remember them as being unsuccessful. I think I sold three books (of mine) that day. But you know, it was a great experience. I have that book signing in my writing arsenal. I was sweaty and rattled and I felt like a fraud--it was amazing!
Linda Wiken now has her own booksignings to look forward to after landing a contract with Berkley Prime Crime for her series, writing under the pen name Erika Chase.
Congratulations Linda!! I'm very happy for you and I can't wait to read your first title when it's released in 2012.
Pay a visit to Mystery Maven Canada. They have exciting lives over there.
Saturday, June 4, 2011
Very exciting...some surprises and delights!
Best Crime Novel
Bury Your Dead, Louise Penny, Little, Brown UK
Best Crime Nonfiction
On the Farm, Stevie Cameron, Alfred A. Knopf Canada
Best Juvenile/YA Crime Book
The Worst Thing She Ever Did, Alice Kuipers, HarperCollins
Friday, May 27, 2011
Pre-orders are open at Amazon.ca for THE GREY LADY
ABOUT THE BOOK:
Saturday, May 21, 2011
Here's the proof.
In addition to Concordia's Animation Film Festival, Good Daughter and I hiked Mount Royal, watched The King's Speech on her computer, ate croissants whilst strolling the tulip-festooned boulevards, found a cheap greasy spoon, and toured Musee des beaux-arts de Montreal.
The First Emperor of China Exhibit is humbling. The age of some of the exhibits boggle the mind. I found the exquisite artistry in each of the pieces touching. Just think of it---an unknown artist centuries ago, probably a slave, poured all of his skill and his heart into pieces that he believed would be buried with the Emperor for all time. And there I was in 2011 admiring that artist's work.
The exhibit's focus was the accomplishments of the Emperor but I couldn't stop thinking about the artists, the sculptors and craftsmen who brought the Terracotta Army to life. The Emperor was just the egomanical catalyst--the artists were the real givers of joy and life.
THIS JUST IN: I've joined Absolute Write. After my previous post swearing I would RESIST.... I did not resist. I joined. Caved. Collapsed like a Montreal bridge.
ALSO JUST IN: The River Bride is coming along beautifully if I do say so myself. The big crunch is on to have a clean draft ready for September 1.
And spring is here. The flowers and birds and the greens and yellows are ahhh.
Thursday, May 5, 2011
I'd never get any work done if I became a member and I'd probably stop wearing underwear or something radical like that.
(Although I'm not actually getting any work done at the moment because I'm lurking in the Cooler, but I'm operating on the theory that I'm minimizing the damage by not signing up. And I still have my underwear so it seems to be working.)
Be warned. This is a true writers' site. Books are like hot dogs--we like 'em but we'd like 'em less if we knew what went into the making of them. Keep your illusions about literature and stay away from This Site if you want to chow down on your book without the visuals.
But if you don't mind a little reality mixed in with your fiction, pay the forum a visit and learn what it really means to be a writer. Stephenie Meyers wouldn't have lasted five minutes in this playground.
Wednesday, May 4, 2011
Drum roll if you please....
Shortlist 2011 Arthur Ellis Awards
Whoohoo! The nominees were winnowed from an impossible-to-choose-from list of entrants.
When I read the titles this year's Arthur Ellis Awards had attracted, I was gobsmacked by the quality and variety. Canadian crime is looking very, very good. The shortlist must have been hell to decide. Kudos to the judges--better you than me.
Of particular note and excitement for me in this year's Shortlist are the names C.B. Forrest and Jayne Barnard. WHEN THE BOW BREAKS is Jayne's unpublished novel, shortlisted for the Unhanged Arthur, and C.B. is up for Best Novel for his second effort, SLOW RECOIL. His debut novel, THE WEIGHT OF STONES made the shortlist last year and for good reason. Incredible story and superb writing are a lethal combination--I couldn't put it down.
The winners will be announced on June 2, 2011 at the Bloody Words Conference in Victoria, BC. I wish I could be there ... perhaps virtually ... hmmm .... me and a bottle of bubbly to toast the winners and what the heck, I'll raise a glass to the runners-up too!
Congratulations to all of the nominees. I'll be here in Quebec rooting for you!
(And getting just a teeny bit drunk ... )
Tuesday, April 26, 2011
Wednesday, April 13, 2011
Regarding authors responding negatively (or positively) to the reviews posted by readers on GoodReads or other sites: I wouldn't do it.
Not saying other authors shouldn't but I won't and here's why:
- I am a reader. I'm a kinder, gentler reader now that I've written a couple of books of my own and know what's involved. Nevertheless, I am still a reader, and if a book compels to praise or criticize in print or online, I'm going to do it. I expect to voice my opinion in peace without feeling the author is waiting to pounce. It follows that my readers might feel the same way about my work. Yes, it's unnerving but if we can't take the heat, we'd better get out of the kitchen.
- Responding to either kudos or criticism feels to me like a form of censorship. If I'm satisfied I've done the best I possibly can with my novel and a reader is less than impressed ... well ... arguing about it is a tad controlling. My ownership of the book ended as soon as it hit the shelves. The reader takes over.
- To preserve my sanity. Distance between the art and the audience is necessary to function creatively. A good friend of mine is a talented actress. She told me once that she never reads any of her reviews. She said if she believes the good ones, she has to believe the bad ones. And that can be destructive to an artist. The more I engage in reviews—reading them, responding to them, obsessing over them—the more I jeopardize my creative process. It's tilting at windmills and I won't do it.
- Reviews are not written for authors—they are written for readers. We have agents and editors to critique our work. Reviewers are looking out for the readers. Budging into their clubhouse is rude. Praise is fabulous. I won't lie. I'd have given up if it weren't for my early readers who were enthusiastic about my book and let me know it. Their comments are posted on this blog. And conversely, the criticism I received made me feel I was being taken seriously as a writer. But the criticism and the praise were to help readers—not me. I wasn't a factor in the equation. What I got out of their efforts to read my book and comment on it was a gift, not my right as the author.
- My opinion just isn't relevant. It's a weird exchange, this art to audience thing. It does not take a deep attachment to the author to be deeply attached to their work. I feel as though I would walk over hot coals for Alice Munro, but I've never met the woman. And if I did I might be disillusioned. She only wrote the stories. I made them what they are by reading them. The artist in any medium is not the point. The art is the point. The audience is the point.
But a note to readers who comment on the reviews that writers have posted:
- I've noticed that writers are often accused of envy if they post a negative review of a book. Envy doesn't drive us to criticize a book any more than bootlicking drives us to praise a book. Writers are a passionate opinionated breed and we're really passionate about books. We're not driven by much more than that when we post.
- Writers have been publically criticizing the work of their peers for hundreds of years. This isn't new. Books and writers manage to survive regardless.
- Writers like one another and support one another, critical reviews aside. A writer criticizes an author's work and defends the author's right to expression with equal gusto.
- Unlike many other art forms, writing is done in isolation. Accessing the critical opinions of other writers on all stripes of literature is crucial.
- Writers do not subscribe to the "It's-Entertainment-Whaddya-Expect?" school of thinking. Poor writing is not entertaining. Poorly written books are a tough slog to get through. Writers who write reviews expect more of their peers. For example: Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol. There is no excuse for the lazy writing in that book. Dan has plenty of money, no pressure there, and he had six years between books so he had the luxury of time. No excuse. And for that reason alone, I was more critical of that book than his others. (See? I'm not a literary snob! I read Dan Brown!)
The main thing is we all keep reading, we all keep reviewing and when we disagree, we all agree to disagree. We're all in this together.
Friday, March 4, 2011
8 am: Bring the laptop to the living room where it's warm. Put on a Celtic music CD. Boot up computer. Still in bathrobe.
10 am: Looking at my page count; fight the urge to check email instead. I want to finish this Act and I've got 3 pages to go.
12 noon: Incredibly, I'm finished. 5 pages and the Act is done. Now I've got something I can work with tomorrow. I'm tempted to keep going but past experience has taught me that the first Act "informs" the second Act. Why write cold if I don't have to? I'll revise what I have so far and from that I'll get the foundation for Act II.
Still in my bathrobe with the dog staring at me, I check my email. Nothing there that requires attention so I do a little surfing around writer blogs because writing is a lonely gig ... and that's my day.
This is my "first draft" writing life. At this point, sheer discipline is the only "talent" I'm drawing on. It's the most exhausting phase of the process and the most dangerous. Distraction is ever present. Resistance to the work is high. As for income ... uh, well, there isn't any. I work for the local bookstore and newspaper on an on-call basis. When they call, I come. The constant pressure to make money is a gnat that I have learned to ignore. I live cheap instead.
Time to get dressed! The dog awaits.
Friday, February 25, 2011
Ah, the life of a writer--so similar to an Angelina Jolie action movie. The bad guys we're fighting are demons of doubt, bad news, and a mean-spirited inner critic. And we must never, never, ever give up. We must get up, dust ourselves off and turn to the page. Over and over and over again.
Natalie Goldberg says it best in Writing Down the Bones:
"Okay. Your kids are climbing into the cereal box. You have $1.25 left in your checking account. Your husband can't find his shoes, your car won't start, you know you have lived a life of unfulfilled dreams. There is the threat of nuclear holocaust....it is twenty degrees below zero outside...and you don't have even have three plates that match to serve dinner on....You lost your favorite pen and the cat peed on your current notebook.
Take out another notebook, pick up another pen, and just write, just write, just write. In the middle of the world, make one positive step. In the center of chaos, make one definitive act. Just write. Say yes, stay alive, be awake. Just write. Just write. Just write."
In fact, Natalie Goldberg says everything about writing best. Stop reading blogs. Read Natalie Goldberg.
Tuesday, February 8, 2011
I was waiting until everything was signed and finalized before I said anything, and that day is today. McArthur and Company has signed me for a two book contract. ICED UNDER and THE GREY LADY will be released by McArthur&Co this Fall 2011.
I'm honoured to be published by one of Canada's largest publishers. They have an amazing list of authors and I will be among them. I cried when I got the news. I'm not ashamed to say it. I bawled like a 9 year old girl meeting Justin Bieber. I wish I had it in me to pepper this post with exclamation marks. You'll have to trust me. I'm excited.
For those interested in submission-to-contract timelines (aren't we all?) here's how it broke down in my case:
Feb 2010: Queried 4 agents via snail mail re: The Grey Lady.
April: Received 1 request for the full, 2 nice rejections, 1 no response.
July: Queried 4 more agents via email. Received 3 requests for full, 1 no response.
August: Signed with U.K. agent Diane Banks Associates Literary Agency
Nov: McArthur and Company makes an offer. We accept.
Feb 2011: Contracts are signed and sent Priority Post.
But worth it. Worth it to secure a talented agent and to have the publisher I've always wanted, right from the beginning. Worth every nail-biting minute of it.
I am a writer. The fat lady has sung.