Writing Local

We hear a lot these days about supporting all things local and I have to say I’m a big supporter of that idea. And I even try to support local authors because, being an author, I know how difficult it can sometimes be to get any attention for our books.

Being a writer, “supporting local” has another meaning for me. When I set my first novel Bitter, Sweet here in my own little community it was important to me to set a book locally to let readers know that books don’t always have to have some exotic setting, that sometimes our own backyard can be the perfect backdrop for the right story. I’ve continued to use local name places in my books and some of the local “lingo.” My latest book, Cammie Takes Flight is set, for the most part, at the Halifax School for the Blind and uses other local name places. There also a connection to the Ideal Maternity Home in East Chester which was shrouded in controversy and it’s alleged that babies at the home were neglected and even starved to death. I found that to be quite disturbing  yet it’ also a piece of our history here in Nova Scotia. And, like all things that happened in the past, it isn’t going away.

Most people in Nova Scotia are familiar with the Ideal Maternity Home that was in operation more than half a century ago. While it might not ring a bell for everyone, the story of the Butterbox Babies usually does. I’ve read quite a few articles and books on the subject while writing Cammie Takes Flight and I’m not at all sure I’ve put the subject to rest. New articles keep cropping up. Here’s one from last December. What went on at the home was tragic and, as you can see from the article, is still very much an issue today for many of the survivors who are still looking to find their roots.

Some people will admit to not liking history but I’ve always been a big fan. The past has always seemed relevant to me, a piece of who were are. Perhaps there are things to be learned from looking at the past, trying to understand what life was once like and, hopefully, doing better in the future.

So, for now, I’ll continue my writing journey by doing what I’ve pretty much done right from the start—writing stories set in Nova Scotia with local characters that, hopefully, the rest of the world can relate to. Who knows, maybe years down the road, someone will pick up one of my books and they’ll get a small glimpse of the past and maybe, just maybe, that small glimpse will open up a whole new world for them. My backyard might very well be an exotic setting for them.

 

There’s an awesome review of HERE of Cammie Takes Flight on Reading With a Pencil. It’s always a thrill when someone you don’t know has wonderful things to say about your book,

Author Darlene Foster will be a guest on my blog next time. Darlene’s got a new book about to be launched in September. I hope you’ll drop in for a visit.

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A Positive Approach to Winter

In an If-you-can’t-beat-‘em-join-‘em approach to the snow this winter, I’m trying my hardest not to complain about the white stuff. Besides the fact that complaining doesn’t do one iota of good, I’ve also been trying to busy myself with other things—writing being first and foremost. Truthfully, not complaining helps keep the cranky away. I’ve come to realize the more you complain, the more you enjoy it until it almost becomes an Olympic sport. Not only that, you find others to join your team in your quest for gold. We’re usually good at finding teammates.

SO enough of the grumbling about the snow. Spring will come sooner or later. I say this with conviction as we’ve never yet had a winter that lasted 365 days—not to my memory at least. So here are a few things I’ve been doing to keep that four letter word from making me gripe.

1. Write, write, write: Okay, no surprises here. I’ve been making great headway on a project I started several years back. I’ve come back to the place where I’m enjoying the story again. Here’s where I’ll let you all in on a secret, we writers sometimes come to despise the story we’re working on. It’s true! We lose all objectivity about our own work. We can’t seem to put a sentence together with eloquence, our plot line stinks to high heaven. Sometimes we pull our hair and gnash our teeth. Sitting at the computer and opening that file can be pure hell. But even at that it still beats four feet of snow!

2. Knit, knit, knit: I’m a knitter, have been since I was a kid trying to knit a scarf with two nails and a ball of cheap yarn I found lying around the house. Not an easy thing to do, knitting with two nails that is, but even so I wasn’t complaining about the s***. You’ll be happy to know that I graduated to knitting needles many moons ago. I’ve made socks and mittens, sweaters and even afghans over the years. This winter I’ve picked up where I left off three years ago. My rippling wave afghan didn’t go anywhere during that time. Maybe this winter I’ll complete it.

3. Housework: Okay, that’s just a little joke to throw you off.

4. Reading, reading, reading: I’ve read some great books this winter, one for book club coming up next week and several simply for enjoyment. Actually, all the books I read are for enjoyment. Here’s where I want to mention that I love reading books from local authors and Canadian authors in general. We have a lot of talent in this country. I’ve some great local books coming up on my reading list. Hugh R. MacDonald and his novel Us and Them the sequel to his book Trapper Boy. Meghan Marentette’s The Stowaways , Shatterproof by Jocelyn Shipley and Keeper of the Light by Janet Barkhouse. Maybe you’ll have time to check out some of these great reads.

5. Treadmill: Yup. I’ve been faithfully working out this winter. Okay, so we all know that treadmills are like THE most BORING thing on the face of the earth after the first two minutes, but I’ve got a little secret. I read while I’m walking the miles. Yes, I do. Many people say they just can’t do it. These same people can’t read while riding in a vehicle. I can do both. Lucky me. No complaints here.

6. Snowshoeing: I’ve been making an effort to get out there when the weather’s good which hasn’t been all that often this past week. (Nope, that’s not a complaint…just stating facts.) The good news is next week’s forecast is looking up.

7. Gourmet Cooking: Haha! Not really. That one was actually for my kids if they happen to be reading. I figure they could do with the belly laugh after the snowy week we just had.

8. Snow racing: Admit it, this one sounds impressive. Snowracing—whizzing down the slopes, wind on my face, sun in my eye, the taste of freedom on my lips. Here’s the real scoop: when our grandson came for a visit a few weeks back, Guppy and I each took some turns on the Snowracer. (Sorry no photos as proof.) First time ever for me; not sure about Guppy. Oh, the things we do for grandkids.

9. Join the circus: Surprised ? Me too. This winter watching the news has been like having a front row seat at the circus. I’m not looking to get into any political debates here, but daggum it’s been interesting to say the least. All the juggling of news and fake news, people walking a very tight rope, a pretty sad bunch of clowns making us laugh and cry. Yes, indeed, there has been a lot of interesting acts taking place under the big top this winter. Every night there seems to be a new attraction added to the show. I wait in anticipation. All that’s required is for me to bring my own popcorn and drinks…lots of drinks.

So there you have it, my positive approach to this snowy Nova Scotia weather. While I may not love the mounds of snow we’ve been getting I’m doing what I can to keep from complaining about the things I can’t change.

What have you been doing this winter instead of complaining about the weather?

September Catch-up Post

Oh wow, where did summer go? Seriously, I want to know what happened to this entire season that only began a few short weeks ago. Is it hiding? Did it get lost? Did someone steal it? Did it disappear all on its own? Abducted by aliens? Come on. This is simply ridiculous.

I’ve been busy working and writing and gardening and editing and grand parenting and knitting. The edits for the sequel to Flying with a Broken Wing are moving long. I finished two rounds with my editor Penelope Jackson who is really wonderful to work with. I worked with her on the edits for the last book and was really pleased to have her as an editor again. From what I’ve been told the advanced reading copies (you know, the ones that get sent out early to reviewers and the like) will be ready to send out early winter. I expect there will be some small changes to the manuscript once the proofreaders go through it and who knows maybe I’ll see a thing or two I might want to change. (But just minor changes at this point.)

So with the edits done (for the most part) I’ve been working on a few other writing projects. Again this summer, I took my books to the Heritage Blueberry Festival in Parkdale and I also took part in the Rural Arts and Life Tour. I met a lot of people and sold some books, but most importantly I had a great time. I picked up a few gifts at the gift shop in the Parkdale/Maplewood Museum. They have a great little gift shop and museum. If you’ve never been there plan to check it out sometime.

Despite having the lack of rain this summer, the garden managed to grow. We weren’t overrun with zucchini or pumpkins this year which was a bit of a relief. Luckily, hubby cut back on how many seeds he planted. You really don’t need ten + zucchini plants. Those buggers multiply like rabbits. This photo of dsc07829the LaHave River was taken in early August.  Many of our rivers are nothing but beds of rock. We’ve recently had a bit of rain but no where near enough to bring the water levels up. I read this morning that this is the driest summer on record and that we can expect more of the same in  the years ahead. Wells are going dry. Serious stuff.

Work…what can I say? Work.

Miss Charlotte got in a visit to Nova Scotia this summer which was nice even despite the fact that we had to work. She’s headed into to grade one this year and really loving it! The twins turned one in September. I’m not sure where that year went either. Hmm, seems to be that time is dwindling everywhere I turn. I think that happens as we age. But don’t quote me on that. Little Levi is a going concern and talking a blue streak these days. He’s filled with “whys” and other questions. He’s a boy on the go.

Hopefully, I’ll be able to share the cover of my new book with all of you soon. They’ll want it finalized to put in the spring catalogue. Not sure when that gets put together but I believe it will be relatively soon. So keep your fingers crossed. I’m getting pretty excited to see it. As you’ve probably noticed publishing is a mighty slow business. Of course they’re planning ahead all the time so they are always very busy getting their titles ready for publication. It just seems slow to all of us.

Oh yes, knitting. If you’re on Facebook with me you might be aware that I’m knitting a few pairs of slippers for a friend’s mother, trying to squeeze that in during my spare time. I’m having coffee with her next weekend so I need to be all ready for then. Three of us , friends since high school, get together once a year to catch up on all our news. It’s always a fun time.

So, that was just a bit of what’s been happening in my little corner. Nothing exciting. Just every day. The exiting life of a published writer!

Local Books For Your Winter Reading Pleasure

From time to time I like to give a shout out to some authors and their books. It’s been awhile. Actually, longer than I thought once I got looking back on old posts. Since I do like local (as many of you know) this shout out is for some local books that have recently come onto my radar. I wanted to mention books that I hadn’t previously mentioned on my blog, books that are new to me! From picture books to novels, I really don’t care. A book is a book no matter what age you are. I hope you’ll check some of these books out this winter when you’re curled up by the fire on a cold blustery night.

Explosion Newsie by Jacqueline Halsey.

imagesOn December 6, 1917, two ships collided in the busy wartime harbour of Halifax, Nova Scotia. The resulting explosion was the biggest man-made blast prior to the development of nuclear weapons. It flattened one fifth of the city. Thousands of people were killed that day and thousands more injured or made homeless. One lucky survivor, ten-year-old newsie Macky, has a key job to do — get the news out.

The beautiful and compelling illustrations in this book help tell the story of what it was like to be a working child of ten in the city that day. Macky, an unreliable and fun-loving boy, has to deliver the news to a confused and wrecked city where the only way to know what happened to missing loved ones was to read the local newspaper.

Red Coat Brigade by Vernon Oickleimages (1)

On a warm, beautiful sunny day in June 1782, the women and young children of the village of Chester come together to defend their still-fledgling settlement against the invading and much more well-armed Americans. Armed only with their cunning and imagination, this rag-tag group of settlers pushed back the marauding intruders without the loss of a single life. In this fictional account of those events, veteran author Vernon Oickle weaves facts and legend to tell a story that has become part of Nova Scotia’s heritage and folklore.

 

These Good Hands by Carol Bruneau

downloadSet in the early autumn of 1943, the These Good Hands interweaves the biography of French sculptor Camille Claudel and the story of the nurse who cares for her during the final days of her thirty-year incarceration in France’s Montdevergues Asylum. Biographers have suggested that Claudel survived her long internment by writing letters, few of which left the asylum because of her strict sequestration; in Bruneau’s novel, these letters are reimagined in a series, penned to her younger self, the sculptor, popularly known as Rodin’s tragic mistress. They trace the trajectory of her career in Belle Époque Paris and her descent into the stigmatizing illness that destroyed it. The nurse’s story is revealed in her journal, which describes her labours and the ethical dilemma she eventually confronts. Through her letters, Camille relives the limits of her perseverance, and through her journal, Nurse confronts the limits of hers; these limits include the faith these women have in themselves, in the then-current advances in psychiatric medicine, and in a God whose existence is challenged by the war raging outside the enclosed world of the asylum. In her dying days, Camille teaches the nurse lessons in compassion and, ultimately, in what it means to endure.

Lonely Angels by Heather D. Veinotte

As a medium, Kelsey Gordon has had to deal with people’s distain of her gifts for most of her life. 51RqiF2VF7L._SX311_BO1,204,203,200_Through her firm, “Gordon’s Agency” she’s been hired by the Mayor’s Task Force of the city of Bridgeview to help find three little girls that have vanished without a trace. As soon as she’s introduced to the very handsome Lieutenant Jake Carson, she feels his contempt for what she stands for and realizes that this assignment will not be an easy one. The murderer must be found, but she knows if she and Jake work together, her heart will be lost to a man who detests what she is. Lieutenant Jake Carson is stunned to learn that his uncle has hired a medium to work on the task force when he knew what his nephew thought of so called psychics. Anyone who declares that they have psychic powers are the lowest life form on the planet, but Jake has no choice but to work with her. To make matters worse, he can’t keep his eyes off of this beautiful, but phony Kelsey Gordon. Time is running out. Kelsey’s life is threatened by the murderer and to complicate the situation they’re fighting the sexual cord that’s pulling them closer.

Random Acts By Valerie Sherrard

download (1)In the haze of a food-induced stupor, Zoey Dalton and her best friends Bean and Jenna make a pledge to begin performing random acts of kindness—anonymously. Their previous track record for altruism is pretty much a flat line, so anything they do to help others is bound to be an improvement.

Or is it?

What if the random acts of kindness are unwanted and misunderstood? What if, instead of spreading joy and good will, the trio’s actions stir up trouble, wreak havoc and maybe even cause bodily harm? That, of course, would be a different story.

This story, in fact.

Scotia Sinker by Alison Delory

download (2)Cameron and Erin take a new adventure in their cardboard box — this time, to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean! In Lunar Lifter, the first story in their adventure-packed series, they used magic markers to transform their box into a spaceship that took them to the moon. Now, when they find their damaged Lunar Lifter on the beach, they use their remaining pens to repair and transform it into a small submarine called Scotia Sinker. Their new adventure pulls them far from home, deep into the ocean’s wild waters where many thrills and threats await. Here, Cameron and Erin need all their bravery, wits and the help of some interesting aquatic friends to outrun a fearsome predator.

 

Just Beneath My Skin by Darren Greer

download (3)In the small town of North River, every day that goes by bleeds into the next. Poverty begets hopelessness, hopelessness breeds violence, violence causes despair. The only way to change fate, a minister tells his son, is to leave. The minister’s son, Jake MacNeil, chooses to ignore his father’s advice. Only when he realizes what has become of his life – working a grueling dead-end job, living with a drunk, friends with a murderer – does he decide to make something of himself. But nothing comes without a cost: in choosing freedom, Jake abandons his own son, Nathan, to the care of the boy’s abusive mother. Years later, a reformed Jake comes back for Nathan, to finally set things right. But in North River, everything comes around again; and when a dangerous figure from the past becomes hell-bent on dragging the new Jake “back down where he belongs”, three generations of MacNeil men must come together to pay the full price of hope. Gritty, unrelenting, yet peppered with Darren Greer’s trademark mix of wit and poignance, Just Beneath My Skin is the work of an author at the height of his game.

Grist by Linda Little

download (4)“This is the story of how you were loved,” Penelope MacLaughlin whispers to her granddaughter. Penelope MacLaughlin marries a miller and gradually discovers he is not as she imagined. Nonetheless she remains determined to make the best of life at the lonely mill up the Gunn Brook as she struggles to build a home around her husband’s eccentricities. His increasing absence leaves Penelope to run the mill herself, providing her with a living but also destroying the people she loves most. Penelope struggles with loss and isolation, and suffers the gradual erosion of her sense of self. A series of betrayals leaves her with nothing but the mill and her determination to save her grandchildren from their disturbed father. While she can prepare her grandsons for independence, her granddaughter is too young and so receives the greater gift: the story that made them all.

Somewhere I Belong by Glenna Jenkins

download (5)In Somewhere I Belong, we meet young P.J. Kavanaugh at North Boston Station. His father has died, the Depression is on, and his mother is moving them back home. They settle in, and P.J. makes new friends. But the P.E.I. winter is harsh, the farm chores endless, and his teacher a drunken bully. He soon wants to go home; the problem is how.

A letter arrives from Aunt Mayme announcing a Babe Ruth charity baseball game in the old neighbourhood. But Ma won’t let him go. P.J is devastated. The weeks pass, then there is an accident on the farm. P.J. becomes a hero and Ma changes her mind. He travels to Boston, sees his friends, watches Babe Ruth hit a home run, and renews his attachment to the place. But his eagerness to return to the Island makes him wonder where he really belongs.

Amazing Grace by Lesley Crewe

download (6)Can you really move forward without putting the past to rest?

Grace Willingdon has everything she needs. For fifteen years she’s lived in a trailer overlooking Bras d’Or Lakes in postcard-perfect Baddeck, Cape Breton, with Fletcher Parsons, a giant teddy bear who’s not even her husband. But Grace’s blissful life is rudely interrupted when her estranged son calls from New York City, worried about his teenaged daughter.

Before she knows it, Grace finds herself the temporary guardian of her self-absorbed, city-slicker granddaughter, Melissa. Trapped between a past she’s been struggling to resolve and a present that keeps her on her toes, Grace decides to finally tell her story. Either the truth will absolve her, or cost her everything.

Crackling with Lesley Crewe’s celebrated wit and humour, Amazing Grace is a heartfelt tale of enduring love and forgiveness, and the deep roots of family.

Hopefully, you’ll get the chance to take some of these books out for a test drive this winter. You might be amazed at how much local talent we have here in the Maritimes. Keep warm and Happy Reading! If you’d like to give a shout out to a local book in the comment section please do. I love promoting local. 

The Scoop

I’d like to announce that I just signed a big fat publishing contract, and while I’d like to announce that… it just ain’t the case.  Sorry to disappoint.

So here’s the scoop…Which isn’t actually “the scoop.” My use of social media presence has been a bit on the skimpy side for much of the fall, checking in occasionally on Facebook to drop a comment or post a photo or two. My poor blog likely thinks I’ve abandoned it. But nope, here I am.

Fall is always my busy time. Things get away from me. I’ve stop trying to stay on top of everything. I’m only me, after all. Working six days a week when Fall comes doesn’t give me much wiggle room. I wasn’t able to write everyday. And I had to simply say “no” to a few things and not worry if people didn’t understand. It has taken me a long time to know my limits. Even now I sometimes struggle with the word “no.” Not only that, my world has expanded to include grandchildren so we need to make a special effort to spend time with them. (The kiddies grow too quickly.) Even then, we didn’t get to see them as often as we’d have liked because of work and other obligations.

Saturday, Jan Coates and I shared a table at the New Ross Christmas Tree Festival craft fair. We had a great time. It was so nice to see so many people out supporting local crafters. I think Jan would likely agree with me about this one lady who turned out to be my favourite customer. She happened by our table just as Jan and I was enjoying a homemade cookie and coffee. She bought a book from each of us, but was so impressed that we were authors she chimed, “I can’t believe you’re both published authors and you’re just sitting there eating a cookie like it’s nothing.” Yup…that we were. That was just a highlight to the day, although there were many other people who happened by who were quite delightful, as well. So nice to have that kind of support from the community, and nice just to see a friendly smile or have someone stop and chat even if they already have your book or are not planning to purchase one that day. It’s more about meeting the public and enjoying the day. If book sales happen that comes as an added bonus.

Christmas is coming. No need to panic…Deep breath. Some how things will all get done as I mentioned recently on my Facebook status. I know it. The tree is in the stand—not yet decorated, but that’s okay. Maybe on the weekend if we get time. I’m in no hurry for that and can remember a Christmas, not too many years ago, when the tree wasn’t decorated until Christmas Eve. Lots of shopping left to do but that will get done as well. I made fruitcakes a few days ago. (No one eats or wants fruitcake. It’s just something I’ve always done.)

This year, Levi had fun picking out the family tree. 😉

DSC06750

 

12295427_585814727079_1086416405704928326_nThe Lilly and Lleyton are now three months old, smiling and laughing. What precious a thing it is to see them developing their own personalities.

 

Miss Charlotte brought home her first report card and has even experienced her first snow day of the season in New Brunswick. She’s anxious to come for a visit during the holidays and hasn’t yet met new baby cousins.

12348423_10153274457043951_1571437249_nHere in Nova Scotia it doesn’t look the least bit like Christmas, if you’re used to a white Christmas, that is. All that could change very quickly, and the weather forecast is calling for some snow on Tuesday. We shall see. Of course that doesn’t necessarily mean we’ll be in for a white Christmas. The temperatures have been fluctuating most of the fall.

So there it is, the scoop… sort of. Am I doing any writing? Sure am. While I struggled many day this fall to make the time, I’m actually working on a few projects. I have a piece coming up in another anthology next year and lots of ideas brewing.

So, what’s your scoop or non-scoop? I’ve missed you all these past few weeks.

Basil the Bootlegger

IMAG2423Years ago people used to comment all the time on what a small world we live in. That was back in the days before social media and the Internet, when you could travel to another county in the province or even a whole other province and cross paths with someone who knew a relative or neighbour from your little community. It seemed a big deal. A little serendipitous, a little uncanny that you should stumble across someone who shares that connection with you—enough to make someone declare what a small world it is. Usually here in Dalhousie, you’d meet someone who was acquainted with an old fellow who used to bootleg. Seemed no matter where you went in Canada, and mentioned you were from Dalhousie, his name would come up. I swear he’s East Dalhousie’s most famous person which is exactly what Cammie had to say about her aunt Millie in Flying With a Broken Wing. But seriously, that’s the truth about these little communities in Nova Scotia—the bootlegger holds near celebrity status. And now just look, there’s a blog post even named after the bootlegger from Dalhousie. Yup, people still remember him from back in the day. I should only hope for the same recognition with my books. Hmmm, maybe I need to rethink this writing career of mine!

These days our world has been made even smaller via the Internet and social media sites. Now, we’re stumbling across people from all over the world. I can promise you though, not one of them has heard tell of Basil the bootlegger. Well, maybe now if you’re reading my blog. With all the social media sites out there we’re privy to information we’ve never had before and our world just keeps getting smaller. Some of you might remember that I was contacted last winter from someone in the US who wanted a picture of an ancestors tombstone here in Dalhousie. I snapped a photo and sent it off…Super cool. I was happy to oblige.

If you’re an author, the world has also become smaller with all the different sites at your disposal. A Google search of you or your book will bring up reviews as well as all the sites your book is listed on. You can read what others have to say about your book on GoodReads and what rating they give it. A site called WorldCat.org will show you the libraries around the world where your book (print and digital) is available. How cool to know that “Flying With a Broken Wing,” is in a library in Perth, Australia, and that someone in Singapore can sign out a copy of “Bitter, Sweet” and read about life in little old East Dalhousie, Nova Scotia—my backyard yet a totally different world for them.

An author can even track their book sales (print and digital) on a site called NovelRank that allows you to track your book on any Amazon site around the world. Novel Rank tells me that someone in France downloaded a digital copy of Flying With a Broken Wing. Tell me you don’t think that’s cool! There’s also a site called “Author Central” that tells you areas in the US that reported sales of your books, as well as the number of copies and how your book sales rank. Copies of my books have sold in Ohio, Colorado, New York, Minneapolis, Washington and Boston. (I believe this site keeps track of, not only Amazon sales, but other sales as well.)

And if all that doesn’t have you falling over with adulation for the Internet, you can become involved in promoting your own book through Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, or by starting your own blog through WordPress or Blogger. Whew! I’m exhausted just writing this. Some might say we really don’t need all these tools at our disposable, and that might be true, nonetheless they’re here. Like it or lump it. I prefer to like it, but also to pick and choose how much time I’ll devote to any one of these sites. Let’s face it, if your book makes a peep anywhere in the world you have the ability to know about it. Wonder why some days the Internet can make us feel like a spy?

To prove my point about how small the world has become I just did a Google search on Basil the Bootlegger and a whole page of links came up. Seems he’s more world famous that I previous thought! Okay, so I’m just joking with you, but I bet I had you fooled for a second.

So, I’m sure you’re curious to know—was Basil actually related to me or just someone from the community? You bet he was a relative, a distant cousin a few times removed. Wow, never thought I’d be boasting that fact. When all is said and done my claim to fame might not be the books I write at all, but the fact that I have a connection to the once infamous bootlegger of East Dalhousie. Go figure!

The only thing now that could bring Basil world wide recognition would be if this post went viral. Now wouldn’t that be a hoot?

What are you thoughts on the small world we live in today? Is it good, bad, scary or do you fully embrace it? More importantly, do you know who Basil the bootlegger was or were you related to him?

 

Dinosaurs, Crowns and Twins

I just got to the point where I’d had enough. I was completely fed up. And so, a week ago I decided to slay the dinosaur in my house—yes, I did say dinosaur. Yes, I did say slay. Let me explain.

She was simply taking up too much room with her slow, uncontrolled, unpredictable moves. Not to mention all the grumbling that was left in her wake. As far as dinosaurs go, she wasn’t really so bad, not like your run-of-the-mill T-rex or even stegosaurus which I venture to guess would be next to impossible to cohabitate with. My dinosaur was clunky and pre-historic but I brought her home when she was newly hatched. We bonded. I knew her every clunk, thump and grind. I wasn’t always appreciative of her. (You know how you tend to take all those dinosaurs in your life for granted.) She allowed me to check email, and Facebook, but she wasn’t so nice to me when I visited my friends in blogland. Sometimes she simply refused to budge. She didn’t want me to *like* any of you, and she didn’t want me to make any comments on your posts. Sometimes, she even forced me to go to the local c@p site to upload photos to my own blog. Imagine that.

Power can go to a dinosaur’s head.

Overtime, she became too independent for her own good. We were becoming disconnected. Yet, I resisted…and resisted. Even though I grumbled and complained. Finally, I just had enough. I mean, how long can you cohabitate with a dinosaur and be happy?

Life’s too short not to be happy with your dinosaur.

So, she’s gone, put to rest, retired, withdrawn, given the boot.

My life will be a bit easier.

Saturday was the launching of Jan Coate’s brand new picture book, The King of Keji at The Box of Delights in Wolfville. Can you imagine a better name for a bookstore? I had a great time. The book’s illustrator, Patsy MacKinnon was also at the launch. Crowns were made for the kids which was pretty cool. Did I get a crown? You bet. In fact, I got two for the little people in my life. I didn’t want to push it by asking for one for myself. Seriously, the crown-making was a big hit with the kids and worked in well with the picture book. Jan read the story which many of you know is set at Kejimkujik National Park and National Historic Park right here in Nova Scotia. Patsy explained a bit about how she creates the illustrations. I believe she said she worked on them for about six months. I love the colours she used.

While he didn't make the book launch, Levi was happy with his crown and book!

While he didn’t make the book launch, Levi was happy with his crown and book!

When you get married and have twins;
Don’t come to me for safety pins.

Speaking of dinosaurs, how out-dated is that verse? Perhaps as out-dated as autograph books which I’m writing into my next story. Does anyone use safety pins or cloth diapers these days? Autograph books?

While on the subject of twins… Some of you already know that we’re about to be blessed with twins this time around. Master Levi is going to be a big brother at the ripe old age of 22 months. There’s no quicker way for a child to grow up then to become an older sibling. I know a mom and dad who are going to be BUSY in the future; September, or so we’re told. Hard to say with twins. We’re all so excited. Being a nanny and guppy is pretty darn cool.

So, that’s my news for now. What’s news in your corner?

The Wall–Revisited

A few winters back while driving through Aylesford I stopped at The Wall and snapped some photos. I posted them here.

As you well know snapping photos along side a Nova Scotia road in winter doesn’t make for such wonderful photos, not when there are dirty snow banks in the way. But I promised myself I’d return one day and get some better shots. Today seemed like a good day to share the photos what with the weather we’re experiencing. I hope everyone on the East Coast is staying safe and warm today.

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How’s that for taking a dull ordinary wall and turning into a thing of beauty? I think artist Larry Lee deserves a huge big thank you!

And since it’s January 27th I want to give a shout out for Family Literacy Day here in Canada. We all know how important literacy is! The experts say even 15 minutes a day can improve a child’s literacy skills dramatically and help parents improve their skills as well. So, with the weather being what it is, today seems like a great day to start flexing those literacy muscles.

What are your plans for Family Literacy Day other than staying in out of the storm?

JoAnn Yhard on Writing a Sequel

It’s my pleasure to welcome Nova Scotia, author, JoAnn Yhard to my blog. JoAnn is the author of “The Fossil Hunter of Sydney Mines,” as well as “Lost on Brier Island.” Her latest book, “Buried Secrets at Louisbourg” came out this spring and is now due to be released in the US on September 1st. That means all our US friends will be able to order. One lucky person can win a signed copy of  JoAnn’s book. Check the bottom of this post to find out how.

Buried secretsSo what’s Buried Secrets at Louisbourg about?

Fred has had a rough summer. His secret crush on Mai is going strong, his mother has barely recovered from a battle with cancer, and his unreliable father’s diving business has gone completely underwater. Now Fred, Mai and Grace, extraordinary fossil hunters, are at the Fortress of Louisbourg hunting a different kind of treasure. They are secretly excavating the historic site, trying to find a mass of jewels Fred’s ancestor may have buried there—jewels that could save Fred’s family. But Fred uncovers far more than he bargained for, including a dangerous plot that could leave Fred’s family in even more serious trouble. The young detectives from the bestselling The Fossil Hunter of Sydney Mines shine in this fast-paced mystery for middle readers. 

You can check out JoAnn’s Facebook Author page here for signing events.

Without further ado , here’s JoAnn .

Thanks so much, Laura, for inviting me to do a post on writing a sequel. I am sitting on the deck with our wild backyard groundhog, Sam, sitting on his rock keeping me company as James paints. It’s been a hectic summer with the move, but we are settling in and the words are starting to flow again.

Buried Secrets at Louisbourg, my new book, is the 2nd with the same characters as The Fossil Hunter of Sydney Mines.

A book with the same characters. Should be easy, right? I mean, so much is already established: where they live, their history, their likes and dislikes. No agonizing over character traits. Will she have blue eyes or brown? It was also nice slipping back into that world again after Lost on Brier Island, my 2nd book, which had all different characters and was aimed at a slightly older audience, YA. I was back visiting with old friends and I’d missed them.

But it turned out that the 2nd book had some major challenges I hadn’t expected.

Initially, my plan was to do a mystery series with the same protagonist, Grace. She was the main character in The Fossil Hunter of Sydney Mines. However, for those of you who’ve read it, Fossil Hunter, while a mystery, had lots of emotional drama for Grace as well. It wasn’t about a neighbour with a missing cat. It was deeply personal to Grace. Her dad was presumed dead and the story centered around discovering what happened to him.

So, when doing another story, I was left with the puzzle of how to achieve the same intense emotional stakes? Her mom dies? Dog? Best friend? The answer is, I couldn’t. If sticking with a mainly plot-driven mystery series, like Nancy Drew, you can have the characters basically suspended in time (not aging), and solving crime after crime. Not that I’m criticizing my beloved Nancy Drew books…they were glued to my hands growing up. But there was not much depth to the characters in those stories. So, because I had intentionally added an emotional and personal layer for the main character, I had inadvertently created a major hurdle for book two.

I did try it, though. I wrote several chapters. But it was hard slogging – the words were not coming easy. I also found myself trying to bridge the time from the last to the current book. If it’s not a continuation of the first book’s plot, you don’t just pick up where you left off. It has to start with something interesting and relevant to the current plot. What’s this book about? I was finding it hard to jump into the action. In other words, it was boring. I thought maybe I was being too hard on myself. We writers tend to do that to ourselves at times (always). But I read it out loud to my writing group and…it was still boring!

So we rolled up our sleeves to brainstorm this crisis. I love my writing group! And out of that session came the solution. Why don’t you try another point of view? There it was. The missing link. This wasn’t Grace’s story – it was Fred’s, one of her best friends. It was Fred’s mom who was sick, his dad who’d lost his job, and it was Fred’s treasure to find. Telling it from Grace’s point of view was watering it down. So I unraveled it like bad knitting back to the first stitch. A few key strokes. Painless, right? Not at all. Watching the words disappear, I mourned all those wasted hours. But in the end, they weren’t wasted. I had direction and purpose. And the story flew with new wings.

I also got to see what the other characters looked like through Fred’s eyes. He has a crush on Mai, so everything she does is golden. He finds Grace bossy, where from her point of view she came across as self-confident. And Fred is not a fan of Jeeter, so Jeeter doesn’t get as much air time. Sorry in advance to Jeeter lovers. I found this aspect fascinating!

I definitely grew as a writer through the experience. I’m currently working on the third in the series, this time from Mai’s point of view. Danger in Iceberg Alley is set in Twillingate, NL.

A little plug for Buried Secrets at Louisbourg. It’s the 300th anniversary this year and The Fortress of Louisbourg is the #1 vacation destination in Canada. I will be there for signings August 24th 3-5 pm and August 25th  12-2 pm. It is one of their main event weekends.

Thanks JoAnn for agreeing to guest blog. Congratulations on your new book and best of luck with the other books in the series. I’m looking forward to reading them!

Now, to win your very own signed copy of JoAnn’s book you simply leave a comment on this post. To help get you started here’s a question. What’s your favourite summer vacation destination? Have you ever been to Fortress Louisbourg?  The contest is open until Friday August 23. Good luck! 

The Power of Harmony—Book Launch

Last Saturday we headed off to Wolfville in the beautiful Annapolis Valley to attend the book launch for my good friend, and writing pal, Jan Coates’ new book, “The Power of Harmony.” Okay, so the weather could have been nicer that day, but many great events happen in the wake of some nasty weather.

 DSC03724I’d never been to this charming little bookstore, and I have to say it was a real treat. It’s called “Box of Delights.” What a  wonderful name for a bookstore. Don’t you think? Look, there’s Jan’s book in the window. Cool!

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As you can see, Jan’s book is in good company, finding a spot on the shelf right beside “The Hunger Games.” I take this as a sign of good things to come. Let’s not forget, her last book, A Hare in the Elephant’s Trunk, was short listed for the Governor General Award. How mind boggling is that?

 DSC03716Here’s Jan looking all authorish and serious while discussing her new book.

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 Happy birthday to The Power of Harmony, may this book live a long and prosperous life.  To find out more about Jan and her books you can check out her blog right here. 

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