Recap – 2018

I don’t usually do a recap of the previous year in my writing life, but this year was an exception. So many great things happened; most of it had to do with the Silver Birch Nomination for my middle grade novel Cammie Takes Flight.

I really can’t begin to express what this nomination meant to me AND to Cammie. Knowing that so many kids would be reading your book is a dream come true for any author.

When word of the nomination came in October of the previous year I knew I was in for an interesting year. I’d heard stories about the Festival of Trees held in Toronto each year at Harbourfront Centre, and while I never dreamed I’d ever be so fortunate to get such a nomination, I knew one way or another I’d be going to that festival.

I was SO grateful to my publisher, Nimbus, for making the arrangements for me to go.

As many of you already know I’m not the travelling kind. This was going to be my first time flying, add to that, the fact that I come from a tiny place of about 200 full-time people. Well…I’m sure you get the picture.

But I had plenty of help getting me there. Truth be told, I couldn’t have done it without them. As soon as the nomination was announced I had offers of help from other authors who had previously gone through the experience. (It’s always helpful to have some idea of what to expect ahead of time.) Then there was Hubby, who swore he’d never fly, but he got on that plane with me and off we went.

We stayed much of our time with one of my oldest friends and her husband, and she was certainly a God send. Were it not for her we might be roaming the streets of TO (See how I’ve picked up the lingo?) to this day. I was about as pampered as any one author could be! She picked us up at the airport, took us out sight-seeing, drove us into Toronto for the reception and festival, then out to Oshawa for another event. Can’t imagine having done all that without her, plus it was really great catching up on old times. I’m so glad that I was able to share the experience with her. Thanks again, Darlene!
So, a few other things happened this year as well.

First this… (I already mentioned it in an earlier post.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And then this….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m most excited about the second contract as it’s for my first adult novel and is due to be published in spring 2020! The second book, for children, is due in the fall of 2020. It should be a busy year. I’ll be sure to keep you up to date with the progress of these as it comes along–such as covers, blurbs, etc.

As for the rest of 2018, I’ll be trying to squeeze in some writing time before Christmas. It’s not always an easy thing to do. I’ve a few stories I’m working on and I’m hopeful that I’ll make good progress this winter. And who knows, 2018 isn’t over yet. Perhaps there will be more news before it’s over.

I can always hope…..

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Guest Author–Kayla Hounsell


Photo: Alex MacAulay

It is my pleasure to welcome Kayla Hounsell to my blog today to talk about her book,  First Degree: From Medical School to Murder. Kayla is an award- winning journalist who covered the murder trial of Will Sandeson. She is now the CBC’s National Reporter for the Maritimes. Based in Halifax, she has worked in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Ottawa, Rwanda, South Sudan, and Liberia. This is her first book.

Book Blurb:

A murder, a missing body, and a sensational trial that shocked the community. Will Sandeson seemed like a model son. A member of the Dalhousie University track and field team, he was about to start classes at Dalhousie’s medical school. He had attended a medical school in the Caribbean; he worked at a group home for adults with disabilities. “There’s times for whatever reason that things don’t go quite as planned,” a Halifax police officer told Sandeson shortly after he was arrested for the first-degree murder of Taylor Samson, who also, on the surface, seemed like a model son.

Samson lived in a fraternity house near Dalhousie, and when the six-foot-five physics student disappeared without a trace, the focus eventually turned to Sandeson. Sandeson’s trial, blown open by a private investigator accused of switching sides, exposed a world of drugs, ambition, and misplaced loyalties. Through interviews with friends and relatives, as well as transcripts of the trial and Sandeson’s police interrogation, award-winning journalist Kayla Hounsell paints a complex portrait of both the victim and killer, two young men who seemed destined for bright futures. First Degree includes previously unpublished photos and details never made public until now.

First Degree: The Story Behind my First Book

It was May 2017 when I was asked to write First Degree, although it didn’t have a title then. My first thought was, “Of course I want to write this book. This book has to be written!” But my immediate second thought was, “But what will Taylor’s mother think?” It was a question that would follow me through every step of the process, every line I wrote, every social media post I made, and every public appearance since. (I even asked her to read this blog before it was published. She told me it was not necessary and that she wouldn’t want to edit my feelings.)

First Degree: From Med School to Murder: The Story Behind the Shocking Will Sandeson Trial is ultimately about two promising young men whose families were destroyed after one plotted to kill the other. Taylor Samson, a Dalhousie University physics student, is now dead. Will Sandeson, a Dal medical student, is serving a life sentence for first-degree murder. Samson’s body has never been found.

So it was that I was live-tweeting from the murder trial in my role as a reporter, when I received an email from Elaine McCluskey at Nimbus Publishing asking if I’d consider writing a book about the case. It quickly became clear that my employer was not willing to work with me, so I quit my job. It was shocking to everyone in my life. After all, it was a great job that I had held for many years, the people I worked with had become family, and now I had what? A book deal, great. But then what? I had no idea and it was terrifying.

But there was no way I could not write this book. So that was that.

Next, I had to tell Taylor’s mother and humbly ask for her participation. By that point I had been covering the case for nearly three years and felt I had developed a positive relationship with Linda Boutilier, but I was well aware committing to an interview for a TV story that would last less than two minutes was far different than agreeing to participate in a project of this scale. I had no idea what she would say. I invited Linda and Taylor’s childhood friend for lunch. On a break from the trial at Nova Scotia Supreme Court, I went around the corner to Stayner’s Wharf Pub & Grill, my heart pounding.

To my absolute astonishment, Linda gave me her full support. I went so far as to point out that there would be parts of the book she might not like to read. I knew even then that parts of it would be graphic, and I would have to point out that her son was a drug dealer. I had no intention of shying away from the truth of the matter and I certainly did not want that to be a surprise to her.

“That’s okay,” she said in that downtown Halifax restaurant, “I know if you write it, it will be fair.”

Again, astonishment.

For a journalist, there is no greater compliment. That level of trust cannot be matched when you build everything you do on trust, balance and fairness. It also came with an incredible amount of pressure and it played on me over and over as I wrote lines, deleted them, and rewrote them.
Since then there have been multiple conversations, endless text messages, and even words of encouragement from Linda for me.Imagine.

You may think you know a little about Linda Boutilier by now, perhaps you’ve seen her on TV. You might think that she seems tough, you might even judge her because she knew her son was selling marijuana. But you do not know what I have come to know over the last three years. Linda Boutilier is fierce. She is fearless in the face of unimaginable adversity. She is her son’s defiant defender. She is also rational and compassionate and she has my utmost respect.

As she says in First Degree, “I am who I am. If you judge me because I’m honest, well then you’re going to judge me because I’m honest.”

Linda Boutilier has welcomed me into her home, shared her family photos, allowed me to look through her private text messages and shared her grief.

She has done all of this so that you might come to know her son as more than a drug dealer, so that you will have a full picture of what happened to him, what Will Sandeson did to him, and so that you might have a rare glimpse into the Canadian justice system unlike any you have seen before.
It’s because of her that this is the first page of First Degree:

Dedicated in memory of Taylor Samson. May we not forget that wrapped up in the pages of this crime thriller, a mother and father lost a son, a brother lost his protector, and a young man lost his life.

And as for her words, “I know if you write it, it will be fair,”they played in my mind like a mantra as I wrote, and I did my very best to be fair.

My great thanks to Laura Best for the opportunity to share a little of my writing process.

First Degree is available at Amazon.ca. and Chapters.ca as well as independent book stores.

Thank you Kayla for sharing the story behind your first book. I’m looking forward to reading it. Best of luck to you and your book. 

Interview with Author Syr Ruus

Today it is my pleasure to welcome Syr Ruus to my blog to tell us about her brand-spanking new book, Krambambuli , A Memoir published by Inanna.  I met Syr at the launching of A Maritime Christmas back in 2008 and we’ve shared many cups of coffee over the years while talking about writing and the business of publishing.

Syr Ruus was born in Estonia and grew up in the United States, where she earned her MA degree in English, her MS in Education, and taught briefly at Illinois State University. She moved to Crescent Beach, Nova Scotia in 1969, where she taught Grade 3 in the local elementary school while raising her three children before turning her full attention to writing. Her short fiction has appeared in literary journals and anthologies. She has won two first prize awards from the Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia and has published four books of fiction.  A memoir of her childhood years as a refugee and an immigrant has just been released by Inanna Publications. A novella “Walls of the Cave,” will be published by Quattro Books in 2019.

Here’s a bit about the book:

Krambambuli is a memoir of the author’s childhood experiences during and subsequent to World War II. She documents three stages of displacement due to war: escaping destruction in Estonia, living as a refugee in Germany and Austria, and beginning a new life as an immigrant first in the United States, and later in Canada. Krambambuli is not meant to be a historical account. Rather, it offers a child’s perspective of the situations and people making up her early existence: her handsome and charming father, Isa, who sweeps into her life at intervals but provides no financial support; her disciplinarian mother, Ema, an optimist and extremely competent survivor who uses her creativity to make even a small rudimentary space attractive and homey; the hated Onu Gusti; and the many others who pass through this transitory time dominated by war. The book is a moving account of child’s experience in a camp for displaced persons and of growing up as a displaced child and daughter of a single mother in America. Totsu, the child, is terrorized by the war and the disruption and fears losing her mother’s love to a male lover and the possibility of being displaced by a half-sibling. She endures multiple new school and language situations and the added angst that being a displaced person can add to the life of a teenager. With such different personalities, she and her mother live their lives in both conflict, and in the knowledge that they are all each other has.

 

  1. Could you tell us a bit about yourself, when you first started writing, and what you have published?

I am what might be considered a late bloomer, spending the first half of my life reading rather than writing.  Perhaps this was because English is not my native language and it took that long to become confident enough to even consider that I too could enter that hallowed fellowship of writers. There were the inevitable rejections of course, but also a couple of first prizes for unpublished manuscripts from the Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia, a few short stories accepted and some positive comments from editors which provided sufficient incentive over the years to keep me going.  My first published book was “Lovesongs of Emmanuel Taggart” (Breakwater, 2009). Subsequently I self-published three regionally- based works of fiction: “Devil’s Hump” (1913), “The Story of Gar” (2014), and “In Pleasantry” (2016).

  1. Your upcoming book is a memoir. Why was it important to tell your story?

People have asked me why I make up stories rather than telling my own.  There are a few reasons for this. First, I still believe that fiction reveals the greater truth (except for genre fiction, which generally follows an established formula), for it gives expression to a writer’s unique vision. Thus I believe all fiction is, in a sense, autobiographical. Memoir writing, on the other hand, reveals selected factual material about the writer’s life, yet we all know that each individual perceives reality differently and there can be bitter arguments about what really occurred, or sometimes if it actually happened  at all.  Another reason I found it difficult to write meaningfully about my past was because World War II has been written about so extensively by so many others.  Millions lost their lives and suffered unbelievable atrocities. Within this context, my experience seemed trivial. Finally, however, I began to approach it in a different way:  not relating my life as a part of history but examining how historical eventsaffected me as an individual growing up—as a refugee and as an immigrant. Unbelievably, there are still wars, refugees, and immigrants.  This book is dedicated to every person who has been displaced by war.

  1. Krambambuli is an unusual title. What is the significance of the title and exactly what does it mean?

Krambambuli is an alcoholic beverage that was popular in Germany in the 18th century.  It was also a drinking song among university students.  My native country, Estonia, was occupied by various foreign powers for hundreds of years. In fact its independence lasted for only 20 years before it was annexed by the Soviet Union in 1941, to be liberated again fifty years later. Before World War I, it  was under Russian rule, but controlled by Germans who owned most of the land and businesses.  The song was translated from the German and sung by Estonians. Although I never tasted the brew, I enjoyed singing about it as a child.

  1. I love the cover of the book. Explain a bit about the images on the cover?

The cover was designed by Val Fullard.  The photograph depicted is of the author (me) at eight years old, wearing an Estonian national costume that my mother created from whatever she could find in the refugee camp in Augsburg, Germany, where we lived for four years.  It was taken to be sent to America hoping we could find sponsors in order to emigrate. The belt is representative of Estonian design.

  1. Your previous publications were fiction. What were some of the challenges you faced in writing this memoir and how long did it take to write?

The major difficulty with writing a memoir is that you involve the lives of others who undoubtedly have different opinions and views and memories.  I did change the names, which of course doesn’t hide the identity of close family members. I have very few relatives and I did send the first draft of the manuscript to my half-sister to make sure there was nothing there to offend her. Much of the book deals withmy relationship with my parents as affected by the war.  My father died some years ago.  My mother, however, lived to be 102. Although she always read everything I wrote, I did not want to share the memoir with her for it would inevitably provoke some distress and argument.  Thus, although I began writing it about fifteen years ago, I did not send it out for publication until 2016. By that time it was revised numerous times.

  1. What is new on the horizon for author Syr Ruus?

Back to fiction!  A novella “Walls of the Cave,” has been accepted by Quattro Books and will be published in the spring of 2019.  During the long wait between sending out a query to a publisher and when the final product is to be released, I completed another short novel “Sucking Stones,” and am revising (yet again) a novel I’ve worked on for many years entitled “The Grand View.”

  1. Is there anything else we should know about the book?

“Krambambuli” will be launched at the LaHave River Bookstore on Sunday, October 28, at 4 p.m.  This bookstore has been such a wonderful addition to our community.  It is not only a beautiful place to browse among new books, used books, and even a shelf of freebies—it also offers a welcoming place to share thoughts about literature and to meet other people who love to read.  I try to visit as often as possible to refresh my spirit.  Although closed during the weekdays in winter, it will be open every weekend.

Thank you so much, Laura, yet again, for this opportunity to talk about my writing.  There are very few things—perhaps none–that an author finds more gratifying.

Thank you, Syr. I’m looking forward to attending the launch on Sunday. Krambambuli , A Memoir is available at LaHave River Books and Coles in Bridgewater. Also check out Syr’s other books while you’re there. It can also be ordered from Chapters. Ca HERE and Amazon.ca..HERE  

Preparing for Winter

Why does the passing of time always catch me off guard? I was about to express my surprise at how quickly September whizzed by, but I seem to do this each time a new month rolls around. One would think it would get to be an old story—but apparently not. All these quickly dissolving months soon add up to another year. Perhaps I’m more aware of this since I just celebrated another birthday last week. Birthdays have a way of making us reflect upon things, hopefully, in a good way. I’m not someone who minds birthdays. I know not everyone feels that way.

A heavy frost the other week brought things in the garden at a standstill. Warnings of a frost usually send people out to cover anything up that is still growing on the vine or else bring them in and away from any threats of frost.

We’ve been busy freezing butternut squash and putting in firewood these beautiful autumn weekends. Living in the country is a unique experience with all the preparations for winter. It’s always been that way, and most likely will continue.

Country living is a different experience with so much time preparing for winter. I remember as a kid that fall was a very busy time. Everyone planted enough potatoes to last at least until spring. When you consider that most every meal revolved around potatoes in some form, that amounted to a lot of digging come fall and a lot of storage room for winter. Carrots and turnips were also grown in large quantities, as were cabbage. Everyone had bushels of apples. These were the things that were stored in the cellar. People hoarded food. They had to, being so far away from the stores, and roads not getting ploughed as often as they should. Since ploughed roads are still very much a factor for those of us living in rural Nova Scotia, many of us still tend to hoard food for winter. I expect that will change with a new generation, although, truth be told, there is no “new generation” living here.

We are quickly becoming a retirement community as people with young families do not find it feasible to live so far from utilities, without access to highspeed internet or even cell phone service. We did so with our kids, but people aren’t willing to sacrifice these things for the peace and quiet of country living. And I understand that. The power outages we randomly experience and even poor phone service does little to entice new people to the area.

And so, it seems, the old ways will live on as we struggle to catch up to the rest of the world, a struggle I’ve pretty much given up on, because as they say, “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.” So, I’ll stick to my gardening, to freezing and canning, and the hoarding of food for winter and gathering of firewood, and to preparing for anything that Mother Nature will send our way for the next three months. “sigh”

But I have my writing and some projects to work on this winter that I’m very excited about. I have a generator to give me power and wood to burn to keep me warm, and let’s not forget the hoarded food! I’m all set.

Do you live in an area where they prepare for winter? What things do you do to get ready?

Coloured Leaves, Monarch Butterflies and a New Contract

Although we technically have another three weeks until fall arrives, I can feel summer slowly slipping away. I enjoy the cool evenings and warm days of August, always have. It reminds me of those early days of school when I was young, settling into a new classroom with a new teacher; eager for another school year to get underway. This evening I found a hint of fall I wanted to share with you, not that I’m wishing time away, even though fall is my favourite season. I recall reading somewhere that these trees that turn colour in August were called Judas trees because they betray you into thinking summer is over. Now, this might not be an exact quote (as a matter of fact I’m sure it isn’t) but it gives you a bit of an idea of where the name came from.

These past few weeks I’ve been seeing a lot of monarchs, not something I remember seeing a lot of over the years. I managed to get a few snapshots but they don’t sit still for long. I’ve also seen a number of toads this summer which seems significant as, again, I haven’t seen hardly any in many years.

I was surprised to realize that I hadn’t written a blog post since July 1st—not that I was meaning to take a break. Summer is a busy time for all of us.  There never seems to be enough time.

This summer I spent time catching up with some school friends; one friend I hadn’t seen since high school. We shared a lot of laughs and tried to catch up on the past forty years. Obviously, we didn’t cover everything, but hopefully we will over time. We’ve also been spending some time with Miss Charlotte and Levi who are vising this week.

Sorry to report that we didn’t grow any giant pumpkins this summer, just lots of ordinary pumpkins, Zucchinis and squash.

I’ve not been getting as much writing done as I’d like this summer, but hoping to soon buckle down and start working on my next book again. I’ve actually been working on it long before Cammie Takes Flight was published and I’m to the point where a lot of the dots are starting to fill in. At least I know where the story is going in my own mind. Now to transfer it onto paper or should I say computer file?

Also this happened over summer, but before you get too anxious, the publishing date is Spring 2020, so it’s still a long ways off. Expecting that edits will get underway next winter. I know this seems far into the future but, trust me, it’s not really when you’re talking about the publishing industry. I’m very excited about this story as I originally wrote it maybe twenty years ago as a short story but kept adding to it and tweaking it off and on through the years. The story was inspired by a friend of mine and I’ll let you know more as we get closer to publication. You’ll have it forgotten by then anyway..lol.

So there’s a bit of what’s been going on in my world this summer. I hope you’re enjoying what is left of this gorgeous weather.

 

 

 

 

 

A Canada Day Shout-out: Some Summer Reads For “Young Readers”

It’s been awhile since I gave a shout-out to some fellow authors by sharing with my readers some of the great Canadian books that are out there for readers, young and old. I thought it was high time I did something about that.  And since it’s the Canada Day weekend, what better way to celebrate than giving a shout-out to some Canadian books? While the title of the post suggests that these books are for young readers I know many older readers who enjoy reading books for the younger set. I happen to fall into that category.

This list contains some of the books I’ve read recently and really enjoyed, and a few that are on my summer reading list. You do have a summer reading list–don’t you?

I hope you’ll keep in mind that a good book is a good book regardless of the intended market. So it you’re not inclined to read books aimed for young readers, I suggest you consider giving some of these a try because a good book really is a good book. Hey, I already said that!

Talking to the Moon: A new middle grade novel by Jan L. Coates. I’m  really looking forward to reading this one. My Dalhousie friends will remember Jan as our author-in-shining armor who pitched in and helped Jeff sell books at my book launch, and helped save the day!

Deep roots. Last year in Social Studies, Miss Matattall got us to draw our family trees. Mine was the only one with no roots and just one full branch for me, plus a half branch for Moonbeam. Because maybe she’s already dead, and that’s why she didn’t come back to get me.

Katie Dupuis Pearson wants to find her real mother; her only clues are her Lavender Lady, a piece of amethyst, and a bookmark from Lunenburg. While spending a month in lovely Lunenburg with her foster mother, Katie makes friends with estranged sisters, Aggie and Jessie Langille. Katie becomes fascinated by stories about their ancestor, Catherine Marguerite Langille, one of the original Foreign Protestant Lunenburg settlers in 1753. Like Katie, Catherine was friends with the Moon. Like Katie, Catherine was uprooted, forced to transplant herself. Will Katie find her own roots buried deep within the Lunenburg soil?

Halifax Time Travelling Tune by Jan L. Coates. This year, Jan has not only one book but two coming out. I’ll be picking up a copy for my grand kids as well as myself!

Grandma closed the piano lid. “I love singing those old tunes with you.
I wish you could have seen the Halifax I once knew.”

This dreamy and whimsical story follows a young child who travels back in time to 1950s Halifax with a whimsical tune. Follow the pair through Point Pleasant Park, the Public Gardens, Spring Garden Road, Citadel Hill, and other historic Halifax landmarks, showing off all the sights and sounds of the city. With lively text from Governor General’s Literary Award finalist Jan Coates and vivid illustrations of mid-century Halifax by Marijke Simons, A Halifax Time-Travelling Tune is bound to conjure more than a few bedtime sing-a-longs.

Camped Out by Daphne Greer. This book has been nominated for the 2019 Hackmatack Award. It’s the sequel to Daphne’s earlier book, Maxed Out. And is definitely on my summer reading list.

Max knows his mom can’t afford to send him to summer camp. But he really, really wants to go. He needs a break from looking after his autistic brother, Duncan. And from his mom’s new boyfriend. He is surprised when his mom says that he can go after all. But there’s a catch. There are spots available at the camp for families with special needs. A grant would cover Duncan’s fees, and Max could attend at no charge. If he goes as Duncan’s escort.

This is the second story featuring Max and Duncan after Maxed Out. 

Here so Far Away by Hadley Dyer. I was anxiously awaiting the release of this book and I wasn’t disappointed. Really, really enjoyed it. It actually stayed with me for a time afterward. Just couldn’t shake it. Valley people might be interested to know that Hadley is a former West Kings student.

George Warren (real name: Frances, but nobody calls her that) is well aware that she’s sometimes too tough for her own good. She didn’t mean to make the hot new guy cry—twice. And maybe she shouldn’t have hit the school’s mean girl in the face. George’s loyalty and impulsiveness are what her friends love about her—they know she’s got their backs.

On the cusp of her senior year, though, everything starts to change: a fight with her best friend puts an irreparable rift in George’s social circle, George’s father can no longer work as a police officer, and the family’s financial problems threaten her dream of going away for college. The year is turning out nothing like what George envisioned, but unfortunately, life’s a bad writer.

Then George meets Francis, an older guy who shares her name and her talent for sarcastic banter. In him, she—the queen of catch-and-release—has finally found someone she wants to hold on to, when lately it seems like she’s only been pushing people away. And with him, she falls hard and recklessly in love in ways she never thought herself capable. In short, it’s the year George nearly loses everything, including herself, in secret and utterly alone. 

With brilliant humor and heartbreaking truth, award-winning author Hadley Dyer tells a story of finding love—and the road back from unthinkable loss.

Missing Mike by Shari Green. Shari’s novels are in verse which makes them unique especially to anyone who isn’t familiar with Verse novels. I met Shari at the Festival of Trees in May. Her book Macy McMillan and the Rainbow Goddess was also a nominee for the Silver Birch along with Cammie Takes Flight. I knew Shari previously through blogging and I have to say she was just as nice in person. This book is on my TBR list. I can hardly wait. Check out her other books.

He’s a rescue, a mutt. Maybe there’s a little golden retriever in him, although he’s not exactly pretty. He’s had a run-in with coyotes and he’s missing an eye. But Mike is eleven-year-old Cara Donovan’s dog, and they love each other absolutely. Usually her pet follows Cara everywhere, but on the day the family first smells smoke in the air, Mike becomes anxious. Pine Grove is in the path of a wildfire, and the family is ordered to evacuate. In the ensuing chaos, Mike runs off. And then the unthinkable happens; there is no time to search for Mike. They are forced to leave him behind.

Shocked and devastated, Cara watches helplessly as the family drives through a nightmare, with burning debris falling from the sky and wild animals fleeing for their lives. Once in the city far from the burn zone, the Donovans are housed with a volunteer host family. Jewel, the hosts’ daughter, is nice, but Cara can only think about what she may have lost. What will happen if nothing is left? But as she reflects on what “home” means to her, Cara knows only one thing. She is not going to lose Mike. She will do what it takes to find him, even if it means going back to Pine Grove on her own.
With her signature style combining simplicity and lyricism, the author of Root Beer Candy and Other Miracles and Macy McMillan and the Rainbow Goddess tells an uplifting story of love and loss. And she shows how one girl’s stressful journey eventually leads her to an unexpected place, and a new definition of home.

The Goodbye Girls by Lisa Harrington. I first met Lisa at the launch for A Maritime Christmas and shortly before her book Rattled was published. I’ve also added this book to my summer reading list. I’m going to be a busy reader!

The students at Lizzie’s high school are notoriously terrible at breakups. Forget awkward conversations—they’re dumping each other via text. Inspired by the terrible breakups around her, sixteen-year-old Lizzie, strapped for cash and itching to go on the school’s band trip to NYC, teams up with her best friend, Willa, to create a genius business: personalized gift baskets—breakup baskets—sent from dumper to dumpee. The Goodbye Girls operate in secret, and business is booming. But it’s not long before someone begins sabotaging The Goodbye Girls, sending impossibly cruel baskets to seemingly random targets, undermining everything Lizzie and Willa have built and jeopardizing their anonymity. Soon family, friendship, and a budding romance are on the line. Will Lizzie end up saying goodbye to the business for good?

So here you have some Canadian books to consider on this Canada Day weekend.  I hope you’ll check some of them out, either for yourself or perhaps a young reader on your gift-giving list. It’s never too early to start thinking of Christmas, or is it?

Please feel free to give your own shout-out to any Canadian books that are on your summer reading list in the comment section below? It’s always always fun to share titles with others. 

Happy Canada Day. Enjoy the long weekend!

Persistence

You don’t start out writing good stuff. You start out writing crap and thinking it’s good stuff, and then gradually you get better at it. That’s why I say one of the most valuable traits is persistence.
Octavia Butler

I love this quote that I recently stumbled across. In the past I have shared this same sentiment about writing because it’s SO true.

When we first start writing we think we’re so much better than we really are. This is understandable since we’re so eager to unleash the creativity that’s been pent up inside us, sometimes for years.  In the beginning, we love all the words we put down, all those flowery sentences we deem so very important to all great works of fiction. And make no mistake, ours IS great, maybe THE greatest.  We smother our run-on sentences with adverbs and adjectives while searching for meaningful ten syllable words that we think makes our writing infectious, and certainly makes us sound….educated and sophisticated. You know, the way an author is supposed to sound. People simply will not be able to resist reading our work. (Wait until this comes across some editor’s desk! Won’t they be surprised!)

Turns out “infectious” is just another word for BORING, but boring to everyone except the author—funny how that works. We’ve been told that “describing words” are needed—and  plenty of them. Don’t just write simple sentences; make them come alive by describing them in detail…fine detail. Who cares about an actual plot when you’ve got a bunch of descriptive words and sentences to read?  Simple sentences show a lack of imagination and no one, but no one, wants to be accused of that. I remember this advice from my elementary school days when I was first discovering the power of words, when good writing amounted to writing with a lot of these aforementioned “describing words.” It takes a lot of imagination to come up with some of them when you’re nine or ten. I mean, how many words can you use to describe say, a blade of grass or a sunbeam that is SO detrimental to the story you’re crafting?

What is sometimes hard for people to understand is that the more you write the better your writing becomes. Just like anything else you’re learning. Authors don’t just sit down and write a story that immediately gets published. We write, and rewrite and rewrite some more. And once we’re convinced the story is as good as we can get it, we write and rewrite again. And then, when it’s finally accepted for publication we work with an editor who will squeeze even more out of this story that was finished a long time ago.

The story is not truly completed until we’re holding that book in our hands. But what’s this with all the writing and rewriting, you might ask? As anxious as we might be to see our story in book form every revision, every rewrite, all that extra buffing we do to the story only improves it. I promise.

I honestly believe that I became a published author because I refused to give up. Okay, so I did give up, many times. I screamed in frustration and vowed to never touch a keyboard again. But once the tantrum was over, I was right back at it. Like an addiction, I just couldn’t stop.  

So, to all the unpublished writers out there, I hope you can take heart in knowing that as you continue along in your writing journey, each story you write, each paragraph or even sentence, your writing improves. And if you’re writing is crap in the beginning you’ll know, so long as you never give up,  you’re one step closer to improving. And, by the time you are finally published, you will have learned the value of persistence. 

Laura Takes Flight (The Best Version)

As some of you already know the Festival of Trees, big award ceremony for the Silver Birch, is held every year at the Harbourfront Centre in Toronto. Last week I ventured into the big scary city for the event. Needless to say, Toronto is a bit bigger than East Dalhousie which has a population of a few hundred.

The day was busy and the ceremony lots of fun. While there were different categories: Sliver Birch Express, Silver Birch non-fiction, etc, I’ll just mention that the winner in my category was Alex Lyttle for his book From Ant to Eagle—a big congratulations to him.

Of course for the rest of us getting the nomination really did make us all winners. Yay! It really was an honour and a privilege to be nominated.

Here we all are up on stage. It was a little chilly with the cool breeze at the water front but we were warned ahead of time to be prepared for the weather. It was fun to meet some of the other authors nominated in my category. I’ve already read many of the books.

But  hold on a moment: there’s a version to the festival, the “Best” version that I wanted to share with you, the unedited verion. So while I was of doing my author thing for the week I shared a few highlights with the son who came up with his version of what REALLY happened at the ceremony. Now this he posted in our family chat on FB so no one else got to see it.

So what you should know is that I took a little tumble in the underground parking after the ceremony was all over. I blame the new glasses as they’ve made me feel a bit off all week. Not to worry though, I skinned my knee a bit but other than that I was ok.
However, when I signed into Facebook a few days later I was met with the Son’s version of events as he related them to his sisters.

Mom didn’t win the award and to top it off she walked out on stage, fell and skinned her knee. Knew there would have to be a racket!

Omg. Did she really? It’s those new glasses!

That’s what she said, the new glasses. Rolled around on stage, knocked over the microphone, pulled a tablecloth on her way down and ripped all the books off the table. Can’t wait to get all the juicy details

Stormed off in a rage, I suppose.

Now I don’t know what to believe! lol Did she really fall?!

Oh yeah, skun her knee up like a little kid on a playground

Okay, so there you have it, the BEST version of my adventures in Toronto at the Festival of Trees. Needless to say I got quite a chuckle out of it as my writer’s mind pictured the Son’s version while reading it. But of course the celebration wasn’t that eventful. Thank goodness. Leave it to the son to spice up the events for his sisters and his dear old mom!

I wanted to make this post short as it was a long week, we got home late, and I’m plenty tired at the moment. But just wanted to sign in to let you know I made it to Toronto and back. Now it’s time to go back to the real world and off to work tomorrow.

I hope you had a great week!

Mail System Error

Since having a book nominated for the Silver Birch Award I’ve been receiving emails and even letters from young readers. I have to admit it’s kind of nice. I enjoy answering their questions. This weekend I received an email from a young girl, Nichole. And after spending some time crafting an appropriate response to her questions, and feeling kind of good about it, I hit *send.* But wait! My email came back. Those nasty Mail System Error emails… Seems as though there must have been a mistake in the email address. So Nichole, if you’re reading this try sending me your email address again. Ok. I figure this is a long shot but what’s an author to do? I hope the young reader is not disappointed. When any reader reaches out to me I always respond. I think it’s the least an author can do. And Nichole had some very nice things to say about Cammie.

The Festival of Trees is a week away. The winners in each category will be announced. As you can imagine it’s an exciting time for all the nominees! But truthfully, we’re all winners. Having this nomination has been absolutely amazing.

I think I’m safe in saying that spring is here. Flowers are blooming, the grass is green. A few nights ago we had a visit from some four-legged beings that gobbled down Miss Charlotte’s tulips. We were quite disappointed as Miss Charlotte was only one when she helped plant them and it’s something we look forward to seeing each spring. Nasty deer. Last week we were in an area with so many mayflowers you could smell their delicious aroma in the air. We picked a few to bring home. Such beautiful deep pink colours.

The ticks are here! The ticks are here! Or rather, the ticks have landed.. which is kind of the way we talk around here. No explanation needed to those of us who understand the local jargon. While I’m well used to what we here call wood ticks, I’m not much of a fan the deer ticks, namely the ones that could carry lyme disease. Five hours waiting to see a doctor at the walk-in- clinic the other week and I’ve kind of had my fill. I normally wouldn’t have gone in but when I tried to remove it , it didn’t all come out. I certainly didn’t want a nasty infection resulting from it. I’ve got things to do! The doctor also gave me an antibiotic pill (One dose) and asked me if I knew what to watch out for. Sure do doc. I’m happy to report, so far so good.

I found this tree to be a bit strange and so I snapped a photo last week. I decided to share it with you all just for the heck of it. While you might look at it and see an old stump, I see what once was a tree with character. It is now an amputee.  I’m sure it was quite something in its day. Lots of limbs that I’m trying to imagine being cut off, wondering exactly how they did it. I would have liked to have climbed up and had a photo of myself, tree-hugger that I am, with my head sticking out of the top. But alas, there was no dang way I was going to try and climb that on my own. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have made it.

I’m trying to get used to my first pair of progressive lenses. It’s challenging. While they assured me I’d get used to them, I’ve talked to some people who didn’t. Time will tell. I’m trying to remain optimistic.

With all this great weather coming our way, it’ll soon be time to plant. Will the Bests grow any giant pumpkins this year? Guess you’ll have to keep checking my blog to find out. Please don’t lose sleep over it, though.

Now that spring has arrived I’ve started a few new writing projects. It’s what happens when spring arrives I guess. Granted, it’s not always easy to keep your butt in the chair when the sun is shining and nature is begging you to come out and play. But progress can be made even by writing a paragraph or two a day.

How about you, are you working on anything special this spring? I’d like to hear about it.

Another Blast of Winter in Spring

Winter just doesn’t seem to want to go away this year. Here in East Dalhousie we were blessed with about 10 cm of snow last night. Some of it melted during the afternoon, and the eaves are still dripping. That said, we’ve been told to expect another 15 cm overnight. I’m not sure what will happen to the tulips in our garden that suddenly burst through the ground late last week, but I’m hoping they’ re hardy enough to survive this next blast of winter weather this spring. But this is not unusual for spring, nor is our complaints that winter just doesn’t want to give up. Still, with each warm day we’re granted, hope stirs inside us. That’s the one thing about hope. It seems no matter how many times we’re disappointed with the outcome of something, we remain hopeful that next time the results we’re looking for will finally show up.

It’s like that when writing a book. Most times it takes several attempts before I end up with the results I want. Some authors write many drafts before they declare the story completed. I tend to edit and revise as I go along, and often never get a first draft completely written out so I have no idea how many drafts I go through. Back when I was writing Flying with a Broken Wing I became dissatisfied with the story and even stopped working on it, so sure I was that it was never going to amount to anything, let alone anything publishable. So I took a break from it and went back to it many months later filled with new hope that this time I was going to make it to the end. And I did!

I actually started the book I’m working on now about the same time that I started Cammie Takes Flight, and while Cammie’s been a book now for nearly a year, that other book is still waiting for me. I don’t expect I’ll ever be a fast writer. Many times I feel as though the story is struggling to find me. Sometimes there’s a lot of static in the way. But when the lines finally become clear, sentences and paragraphs begin to fall into place. That’s when I know for sure the story I’m working on will not get abandoned along the wayside.

And while I’m hopeful that spring will soon be here to stay, there is definitely no guarantee. Just as there is no guarantee that the story I’m presently working on will make it into book form. Still, amidst the struggles and frustration, I try to remain hopeful. It may not always be possible. I sometimes fall into a rut and become discouraged even with three published books and over forty published short stories. I’m fairly certain I’m not alone in this. We all become discouraged from time to time. But it’s our ability to pick ourselves up time and time again, to find that small bit of hope and run with it as fast as we can, that is responsible for all the accomplishments we achieve in life.

I’ll leave you with this quote that I find particularly inspiring. Maybe you will, too.

We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope. Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

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