Dandelions, book signings and childhood memories

While walking outside with my granddaughter recently, she looked at the dandelions growing behind the house and said, “Some people think dandelions are weeds, but I think they’re flowers.”

Okay, so I had to agree with her. I happen to think of them as flowers as well.

Of course her statement reminded me that life really is just a matter of perception, that there isn’t always a right or wrong to things, and that the perfection we often strive to find only exists in our own minds. The answer lies in the way we’ve been conditioned to think and be.

I was also reminded that day of what it’s like to see the world through the eyes of a child, something we lose through the process of living. Can you imagine a world where everyone sees a dandelion as a flower instead of a weed? We certainly wouldn’t be striving so hard to have them removed. I know people who put a great deal of effort into removing dandelions from their property, and I’m not saying there’s anything wrong in that especially if that’s something important to you.  Of course, the magic of it all is that in a few short weeks they leave all on their own with no assistance from us—just saying

I love the story my sister used to tell about “blow flowers.” When her daughter was young she was fascinated by the fluffy white dandelion heads that had gone to seed and she called them “blow flowers.” At the time I thought: leave it to a child to see the beauty in something that’s at the end of its life cycle.  I remember picking those dead dandelions as a child, blowing on them, and watching the seeds fly through the air. Such a simple thing and yet it was fun. I suppose those same white heads would make most adults cringe as they imagine their lush green lawns becoming a field of yellow the coming year. However, my granddaughter would be delighted!

Yesterday, I was off to Coles in the Bridgewater mall for a book signing. It was part of the Canada 150 celebration that Coles and Chapters had set up with various authors coming in at one hour intervals. As I’ve said in the past, for me, it’s never about the amount of books bought or sold but the conversation with those who drop by. I had some really great conversations, found out some news, shared some laughs and sold some books. Author  Syr Ruus  dropped by to lend her support too, so that was an added bonus. Have I mentioned that Syr’s memoir will be published next year?

I’ll also be at the Inside Story in Greenwood on the 24th. I’m quite pleased to be going there. The very first book signing I ever attended was at the Inside Story. Allison Maher was signing copies of I, the Spy. I was quite nervous meeting her and remembering being  a bit in awe that she’d had a book published. I’d been published in various literary magazines at that point but had my sights on one day having a book published as well. Of course I had yet to write that book. She encouraged me to keep writing, and reminded me that dreams do come true. She was so right.  A few years later Hadley Dyer was signing copies of Johnny Kellock Died Today  and when I head she’d gone to the same High School I did I knew I had to go meet her. Still didn’t have a book of my own published.  Loved her book, BTW and we’ve kept in contact since. She’s been very supportive of my writing and that means so very much. I’ve also gone to the Inside Story to hear Sheree Fitch read from her first adult novel, Kiss the Joy as it Flies . My first novel , Bitter, Sweet had been accepted for publication and Sheree was absolutely wonderful. So, as you can see, it’s a real thrill for me to actually be going there this time to sign copies of my own book. I do love signings, you really never know who you’re going to meet or what great conversations you’ll end up having. And, if you’re lucky, the cherry on top of it all could be a few book sales.

So, as I come to end of these ramblings I find myself curious to know:  do you consider a dandelion to be a flower or a weed, and have you ever gone to a book signing before? If so do you remember the first one? Did it leave you with any lasting impressions?

The Sealed Book

I’m not sure if any of you are old enough to remember the old radio program called, “The Sealed Book.” I discovered it during a conversation with my mother while writing Cammie Takes Flight. I could still hear the excitement in her voice when told me how when the gong sounded it meant the Keeper of the Book had unlocked the vault where the great sealed book was kept. It was in that very book that all the secrets and mysteries of mankind has been recorded through the ages. Just imagine how mysterious that must have sounded to my mum and her friends as they crowded around the radio on Saturday nights. At the end of each episode, listeners were told to tune in next week when “the sound of the great gong heralds another strange and exciting tale from… the sealed book.” According to my mum the show also had sound effects that made it all seem quite real.

While doing a little checking online the info I found said the program originally ran between March 18 and September 9, 1945, and was broadcast on Sundays from 10:30pm to 11:00pm. My guess is that the program aired on reruns for years after its original broadcasting which makes me think that it’s good to actually talk to someone who has knowledge of a time period rather than just relying on the information that’s available online. Obviously that’s not always possible and so a writer must do the best job she can to bring that authenticity to the story.

I worked in some bit and pieces about The Sealed Book to my novel during my first round of edits as it seemed to fit in nicely with a scene I was working on at the time. I found it quite exciting and hadn’t remembered my mother ever mentioning it over the years. And who knows perhaps there was something in our conversation that day that jarred the memory loose for her. It’s strange the way memories can suddenly come to us when we hadn’t thought about a particular thing in many years. (For anyone who doesn’t know, Cammie Takes Flight is , for the most part, set at the Halifax School for the Blind.)

Part of a writer’s job when writing historical fiction is to research the time period we’re writing about. All those details add authenticity to the story and help the reader to become a part of that time and place the author is writing about. What many people told me after they’d read my first novel Bitter, Sweet was that they remembered that time so well since they were kids themselves back then. Many of them found it easy to relate to the Burbidges plight because of it.

With both my mother and step-father having gone to the Halifax School for the Blind they were able to provide little bits of information I would not have otherwise discovered through research—The Sealed Book being one of those things. There were other little things as well, the note tossing between the boys and the girls during classes when the teacher they had was blind, and the way the boys would sneak out of the school and call the payphone in the lobby asking to speak to a particular girl they had a crush on. There were other stories as well that I was able to weave into the novel and hopefully when kids (and adults) read it they’ll come to understand that the children who went to the School for the Blind weren’t much different they are.

My ARC (Advanced Reading Copy) for Cammie Takes Flight arrived the other day in the mail. I finally got to see and read the story in book form for the first time. It’s such a wonderful sense of accomplishment to know that others will get to read my words and hopefully find something of value in the story. I’ll read through the ARC a few more times to pick out anything that needs changing before it goes for the final printing. Release day is three months away!

So, without giving you age away, do any of you remember The Sealed Book or are there any other old time radio programs you might have listened to back in the day? 

Spinning Wheels and Book News

“There’s an old spinning wheel in the parlor.” Never dsc08174thought I’d be singing that old tune, let alone actually being the owner of a spinning wheel. I understand that most people wouldn’t be excited over something like this, but as a writer of historical fiction it makes my little heart go pitter-pat. Coincidentally, I’d been given a set of wool cards a number of years back. Perhaps the universe has ideas for me!

(Again)coincidentally, I have a friend who knows how to spin wool and the plan at the moment is for me to get a little instruction on this. I’m looking forward to it! Who knows I may discover a hidden talent. Stranger things have been known to happen. Or maybe when I sit down to spin I’ll have a flashback to a past lifetime and it’ll all come rushing back to me. My grandmothers both spun wool, as I’m sure many others did. It was a way of life back then. I’ve always said that history is made up of ordinary people simply living their lives the best way they could, doing the things that were before them to do, and yet when we look back we’re totally amazed at some of the feats they preformed.

While we speak about the past as simpler times there was certainly nothing simple or easy about the work our ancestors did. I marvel at how industrious people were one hundred or even fifty years ago and how we take so much in our lives for granted these days. We run to the store for most all our needs or else order it online from the comforts of our homes. What could be simpler? I’ve always felt a connection to the past from the time I was quite young. I suppose that plays a role in my writing life. When I sit down to write a story it almost always seems to end up being set in the past. It’s as if I can’t stop myself. I remember when it dawned on me that Bitter, Sweet was considered historical fiction—actually not until I saw it in the historical section in a book store. For some silly reason 1949 didn’t seem that long ago to me.

As for book news, the edits for the new anthology being put together by Vernon Oickle is moving along. There wasn’t a whole lot to do, actually. The piece I’ve submitted was previously published in The Antigonish Review quite near the beginning of my writing career. I’m looking forward to the book’s release. The works of a lot of talented writers is included in the anthology. And now for the really exciting news, the Advanced Reading Copies (ARCs) have arrived at the publishers! I’m hopeful that a copy will arrive for me in the mail one day soon. While it’s not the final version (I’ll have the chance to make some subtle changes to the text) it’s still pretty cool. I haven’t done a cover reveal on my blog yet as there could still be some changes there as well. So I’ll wait until I receive the “official” cover—front and back. Should be soon since the release date is April 30th. That’s coming up quickly. When I look at the calendar I can scarcely believe that we’re so far into January. We’re half-way through winter on February 2nd—or Candlemas Day for anyone with a mind for these things. Before you know it April 30th will be hear and Cammie Takes Flight will finally be released into the world. What could be more exciting?

What has your winter been like so far? Are there any new happenings on the horizon for you?

What’s news?

This week marked my blogging anniversary. That’s right! I’ve been hiding out on WordPress for seven years now. The number seven seems significant in that it’s always been said to be a lucky number and aren’t the cells in our bodies all replaced in seven years? I always wondered how they can know this. Regardless, I’ve been here in the blogging world for seven years. I’ve met some wonderful people and I’ve seen many bloggers come and go. Maybe I deserve a pat on the back for making it this far. Also it’s been seven years this fall since Bitter, Sweet came out–just saying.

It’s berry season in my part of the world. Wouldn’t you love to have a field full of these beauties to pick? We’ve been helping some friends with their berry crop for a few days. It’s always a challenge to get them harvested.DSC07511A few weeks back we took a trip to Centreville and stopped off that the Cement Museum which was the home of Charles Macdonald. Unfortunately it wasn’t open for the season, but we took some pics of the statues outside. Quite amazing to think it is all made of cement.  I’m looking forward to seeing the inside once the museum is open.

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These cottages were also built by Charles Macdonald in the 1930’s and are in Hall’s Harbour. I think they’re absolutely charming. Some describe them as fairy homes and I can understand. They look so enchanting.

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This one is called the Blue Cottage for obvious reasons. I understand that it can be rented!

 

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Outside the museum there were other statues all made by Charles Macdonald.

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Love this mountain lion. He looks to be on the hunt. Maybe for the deer that are hanging around the property.

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I’m curious about this lovely lady, how and why she ended up here, naked, in the garden. Perhaps there a story there and maybe, just maybe, the answer can be found within the museum itself.

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Okay, to many, none of this is earth-shattering news, or even news at all, but just a few things that caught my attention this past while. I’m so glad to say that summer is finally here. I’ve been looking forward to it and hoping I’ll squeeze in some writing time over the next few months.

Do you have any special plans for the summer months? I love to hear about it!

The Answer to Your Question

In the two and half years since Flying with a Broken Wing was published I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked, “When’s the sequel coming?” To be honest, some of you have been relentless in you pursuit of an answer, even trying to trick me into telling. (Smile because you know who you are!)

Many of you would agree with me when I say I’ve been a bit annoying vague about it all, dodging the question as best I could, not even willing to let you know how the writing was coming along. I’m not a fast writer. Or perhaps it’s more accurate to say I’m not a writer who gets to the end as often as I’d like. I typically have several projects on the go. That was the case when I started writing the sequel to Flying with a Broken Wing.

And then I started another novel.

And then I went back to one I’d started right after Bitter, Sweet was published.

I went back to the sequel again…

You get the idea?

Things went along slowly.

Then I lied. Well, maybe not an out and out lie. Let’s say I withheld certain information from y’all. (Did I just say y’all?) Seriously, writing a story doesn’t necessarily mean that story will see publication. I mean what if the publisher hated it? What if it just wasn’t what they wanted? Doubt sets in.

But now all that doubt is gone. I’m here to confess that the sequel has been finished for some time now. Yay! Do you forgive me for leading you astray? Hope so.

BUT WAIT….

There’s more.

I just signed a contract with Nimbus Publishing for the sequel to “Flying with a Broken Wing.” Yup…signed …sealed and delivered. And I’ve been dying to tell y’all.

For now, the title of the book is “Cammie Takes Flight,” but as I’ve explained before this could end up being changed. I’ll be sure to let you know if that happens.

So, do you think I’m excited at all? You betcha. I can hardly wait!

Speaking of waiting, I assume y’alls next question will when when’s it going to be published?

Well, my sources are saying Spring 2017. That’s just around the corner in the book publishing industry.

So, there you have it. The answer to the question you’ve been asking me for years now. And well, me, I’m just walking around with my head in the clouds.

And if all that isn’t enough Darlene Foster , author of the Amanda Series, posted a lovely review of Flying With a Broken Wing posted on the Children Writer’s Guild. You can read it here. Again, thank you Darlene for your generosity!

 

 

Amy’s Marathon of Books—Guest Blog Post

I’m so excited to announce that Amy Mathers has kindly agreed to be a guest on my blog today. Perhaps you’ve already hear of Amy and her Marathon of Books. She’s been getting quite a bit of media covering and, yes, she even appeared on Canada AM a few weeks back! The buzz around Amy and her “Marathon of Books,” began back in December and continues to grow. If you care about books, teen books in particular, I hope you’ll support Amy and her quest to raise $100,000 dollars to endow a Canadian teen book award. I know you’ll be inspired by Amy’s story and her determination to help promote teen fiction in this country. To date Amy has raised $10,000 dollars toward her goal. I think that’s an amazing feat in itself. If you’d like to support Amy, why not pop on over to her website HERE and find out how. 
Dear Laura Best Blog Readers,
AmyMy name is Amy Mathers and Laura has kindly invited me to write a guest post for her website. I am currently reading my way across Canada with Canadian teen fiction books. My Marathon of Books is a year-long venture and I have been reading a book a day since January 1st. I started my reading journey in St. John’s, Newfoundland by reading books either set in St. John’s or written by authors either born or living in St. John’s. I’m going province by province and territory by territory, and after 90 days of reading I am now reading my way through Quebec.
The goal of my Marathon of Books is to raise money to fund a Canadian teen fiction book award to be given out on a yearly basis by the Canadian Children’s Book Centre. Currently they award six cash Canadian children’s book awards at a yearly awards gala, but none of them are specifically for teen fiction.
As a volunteer for the Canadian Children’s Book Centre and an avid fan of teen literature, I felt not having a specific teen award to support the efforts of our incredibly talented Canadian teen fiction authors was a real gap, and one that I hoped I could do something about.
You see, books have played an important role in my life. I was born with a genetic illness called Glycogen Storage Disease (GSD), type 3A. It’s considered to be a metabolic disease, but also a type of muscular dystrophy. My type affects the liver, heart, and muscles, and my case was so severe that I needed and received a liver transplant when I was five, and then a heart transplant when I was 27. I am now 31 years old.
Terry Fox is my hero, and I love the message he sent to Canadians through Marathon of Hope that people dealing with disabilities and illness could still live the lives they wanted to live despite their limitations.
But having a muscular dystrophy made me different than Fox, and even different than Rick Hansen. I use an electric wheelchair for mid to long distances and while dealing with chronic illness my whole life long has given me the fortitude of a marathon runner, I am not physically able to be one.
Instead of being a runner, I am a reader, and I realised that I could be like Fox and Hansen in a different way, by reading my way across Canada instead of running or pushing myself in a manual wheelchair. It’s a journey of the mind through literature, and I am experiencing everything Canada has to offer.
A typical marathon day starts with me reading a book that can range from just under a hundred pages to over 400 pages. I take the rest of the day to think about and write a review to prove that I’ve read the book and hopefully promote it, and also a daily Tumblr post to let my followers know about my reading experiences.
Some nights I’m up pretty late finishing my writing, because depending on how my body is doing that day and if I had other events going on, my brain can take time to work things out. Also, while I had figured out that I could read about 10 pages in six minutes, I didn’t take into account page size, spacing, and font size which affects my reading speed on a daily basis. Terry Fox could run a kilometre in about six minutes, and so every ten pages I read counts a kilometre across Canada in my Marathon of Books. I’m up to 19,532 pages of reading, which translates to 1953.2 kilometres travelled across Canada.
My favourite part about my Marathon of Books is that I’ve had tremendous author support. I’ve heard from the likes of Deborah Ellis, Eric Walters, Vicki Grant, Gordon Korman, and, of course, Laura Best. I’ve read so many books that I probably would have never heard about or picked up before my journey, and I love getting to review each one and brag about the talent our country has. Also, with all of the books that helped me through my life, letting me experience what I couldn’t physically and providing me with the mental strength I needed to face my situation, not to mention my profound love of Canada and its health care system, I can’t help but feel that my Marathon of Books is a wonderful way for me to say thank you for all that I have been given.
I hope you’ll visit my website, www.amysmarathonofbooks.ca, to read my reviews and for more information. I’ve already reviewed Laura Best’s Bitter, Sweet which you can read here: http://amysmarathonofbooks.ca/bitter-sweet/. Also, I encourage you to take the 13 Book Challenge and read your own way across Canada through reading one teen fiction book from each province and territory. If you do take the challenge, I hope you will get in touch with me and tell me about your reading journey.
Warmly,
Amy Mathers
Thank you Amy. It’s been such a pleasure to have you visit my blog. I wish you all the best and will continue to watch your progress in the coming months!
You can follow Amy on twitter,  Goodreads Facebook, tumblr and Youtube.

“Flying” to France and Germany

I’m travelling vicariously through my books, and I’m really getting around. These beautiful photos are compliments of Scott Haggerty who recently travelled to Germany and France with my books tucked close to his heart.  How’s that for a devoted fan? I like to think he planned his trip for the sole purpose of showing my books to the world, but alas that would be a bit presumptuous of me.

France

Taken in La Clayette, France.

Taken in La Clayette, France.

Taken in Chauffailles.  Scott says that both these places are about 400 km from Paris.

Taken in Chauffailles. Scott says that both these places are about 400 km from Paris.

Munich, Germany

The airport in Munich, Germany.

The airport in Munich, Germany.

Audi showroom outside the airport in Germany. (Munich)

Audi showroom outside the airport in Germany. (Munich)

 

Wow! love these photos, and the thought that my book is an international traveller. And thank you Scott for sending these along. I’ll be adding them to the album on my facebook page, along with some photos of Bitter, Sweet that were taken in the same locations. Got to keep it fair, right? Wouldn’t want to show any favouritism among my books.

Where will my book “fly” to next? I really can’t be sure, but I’m certainly excited to find out.

 

Old-Fashioned Valentines

A friend recently lent me her album of old cards— some from the beginning of the last century—that had belonged to her grandmother. I’m in the process of scanning them into my computer.  You know how people make the comment about how they “just don’t make things the way they used to?” This certainly applies to greeting cards. These ones are actually what we would call postcards. They certainly have a cool factor about them, not only that,  some of the post marks are from  “The Dale Post Office.”  Hey, that’s where I live.!  Not sure if I mentioned the fact that one of the rooms in the house I now live in was home to the Dale Post Office. Not only that, it’s  the  same Dale Post Office  I mentioned  in my book, Bitter, Sweet .  Doubly cool!

So in honour of Valentine’s Day soon approaching, and the fact that I just scanned these last evening, I thought I’d share these old-fashioned Valentines with you.

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The images and colours just make my little heart flutter.  There are Easter Cards in the collection as well as Christmas and St. Patricks Day. I’ll share them with you from time to time on my blog. Can you imagine saving cards for over a century?

 

When Readers Get What We Do

In a Facebook status last week, one author made the comment that it really feels wonderful  “when someone actually gets what you do.”  The comment really resonated with me. While I understand that many people read books simply for the entertainment value (which is absolutely acceptable, in fact it’s wonderful!) some of us gather much more from the story than what lies on the page.  And there are people out there that really get that.

From the very beginning, I’ve known that there is more to the writing of a story than the story itself. I saw it in the short stories I wrote, felt it while I was in the midst of writing. I’m not someone who analyzes the works of others, nor do I analyze my own writing for that matter. Yet while I’m writing, I’m often aware of these underlying meanings that run through-out my writing. It’s not something I consciously set out to do, but something that develops on its own.  I’m sure it’s that way with many other writers as well.

I loved the mother in Bitter, Sweet for her wisdom and understanding about life. The line where she says, “There are all kinds of wisdom in the world, Pru. It’s in everything from a sunrise to a dewdrop. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Complicating things is our own doing. We’re handed life on a platter. It should be so easy.”  Love that line! And no I didn’t purposely set out to write it. Mama came up with that one all one her own. Do I believe it? Darn tootin’ I do.

While Flying With a Broken Wing is a totally different story, Cammie is one of the brightest ten year old I know. She doesn’t come out with any of Mama’s profound wisdom, but you can be sure it’s there.  One thing about Cammie is, she’s not one to sugar-coat things. She just outs with it. “Talking with Evelyn was a lot like picking your nose. You had to do a little digging around, but once you hooked a big booger it would slip out like nobody’s business.” One of my favorite lines from the book, because admit it, we’ve all known people who take a bit of prodding before they finally open up. But rather than wisdom, in Cammie’s case, I call it smarts. Smarts—Cammie would definitely like that!

We all have our own way of seeing the world, and we’re all much wiser than we realize. Often time we don’t express that wisdom, but I believe it’s something we all have. Writers are lucky in that we have an entire blank page at our disposal and we can express to our heart’s content. I’ve always felt that writing was a combination of brain power and heart power. While our brains come up with the premise of the story our hearts lead the way through the telling of it. I’m sure there are many writers out there who would disagree with this, but I can tell you when Cammie came out with that nose-picking line I didn’t have to stop and think about it. She said it. I wrote it. It was a done deal. And I loved it.

I really have to agree with the author’s comment about people getting what we do. One of the greatest rewards for any writer is creating characters and world that others can readily relate to. Not everyone will love our stories, and of course we’d wish that wasn’t so. But there’s a book out there for everyone. We all have such different tastes.

 Yesterday, one person wrote that “I felt so involved, like I was {Cammie’s} best friend.”  For a writer, it doesn’t get much better than that. As an added bonus this week, fellow blogger and writer, Darlene Foster, wrote a wonderful review of my latest book. You can view it here if you haven’t already seen it. Thanks Darlene. I’m so glad you enjoyed the book! As an added thought, you might think of letting a writer know when you’ve read and enjoyed their book. It means that all those hours we spend writing and rewriting means something to you, hopefully something good!

This winter I’ve been working at a few projects that I’m really enjoying, and when all is said and done that has to be one of the greatest rewards for a writer. It’s actually one of the greatest rewards period. I feel so fortunate.

There time for you to enter a draw over at Lynn Davidson’s blog for a copy of Shadows in the Stone by Diane Lynn McGyver. Click on the link and leave a comment and you’re entered to win. The draw is Feb 4th at 6:00 pm. Good luck!

Flying With a Broken Wing Goes to Chicago

My books like to travel. Me, not so much. It didn’t take long for me to realize that Bitter, Sweet was going to go much farther than I would ever dream of. In case you’ve missed past posts here are a few of the places Bitter, Sweet has gone to in the past—Without me, I might add!

So now I have a new book out, and yup, you guessed it, it’s also going places without me. I was excited to learn that Flying with a Broken Wing had made it all the way to the windy city. Oh, I had hopes that it would bump into Oprah on the street, you know maybe beg and plead to make it into her book club. (Does she even have a book club now?) But alas, that wasn’t meant to be. Instead here it is on the skydeck at Willis Tower in Chicago, high as a bird in the sky.  Sweet! Hmmm or maybe that’s a little Bitter, Sweet for me.

On the Skydeck at Willis Tower, Chicago.

Thanks to my baby sister for being such a sport. Maybe next time you’ll actually run into Oprah. And if you manage to get a copy of my book in her hands I’ll be flying.

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