Monday, 31 March 2008

On the trail...

Another Google Alert just in.......... Café au Lait is now online at Target, the second store thus far. The release date in September is still five months away; I had no idea that the stores got their act together this far in advance. I'll continue to post sightings as they come in - ad nauseam, in fact.

In other news (clears throat to herald momentous announcement) - I'll be interviewing none other than author Lynn Emery in April. She'll need no introduction to anyone who's into multicultural romance, especially African-American romance. Those who aren't familiar with the name will just have to wait until next month to learn all about this remarkable lady!

The Jobs Meme for Writers

Stolen from Stephe, dynastic queen incomparable, who hails from Georgia (USA) and writes SF&F. Why is it called the Jobs meme? I don't rightly know.

The Jobs Meme for Writers:

1. How many books have you written? Three complete, three partial.

2. How many copies of your books are in print? Um, they're working on the first print run right now. Don't know how many, though.

3. How many of your books did you write on a Mac? I'm P.C., y'all. (When I told this to a newspaper editor I worked with briefly he offered condolences.)

4. When did you buy your first Mac? Y'all deaf or something? I DON'T BUY MAC! Jeez.

The Jobs Meme for Readers

1. How many books do you read a year? As many as I can get my eager hands on.

2. When was the last time you bought a new computer? A year ago, and it took all of three months to die on me! All my other computers have been second-hand relics, and they worked just fine for years.

3. When do you expect you'll buy your next computer? Dunno. Hoping to inherit my son's laptop when he upgrades.

4. When do you expect you'll buy your next cell phone? Never, I hope :) Once this old one works I'm okay with it.

5. On a scale of 1-10, how important do you think it is that we support reading and literacy? 10,000! There's simply no substitute for the written word.

Monday, 24 March 2008

Cover art

I just got in from work minutes ago (yes, it's a public holiday here in Trinidad but my employer insisted that there was critical work to be done that couldn't wait, and I ended up working three of the four days of the long holiday weekend). Yup, got in, sat down immediately to check mail. Found that I had another Google alert for Café au Lait in the inbox. Almost discarded it when I realized it was the same link from, that bookstore in Canada where the novel is already available for preorder. I hesitated, then decided to look anyway because I had notified the editor of errors in the story outline on the page and wanted to see whether they had been corrected.

Oh boy. What I discovered instead is that a book cover image is now up. So, voilà! The cover art for Café au Lait is now out in the store, and this is my first glimpse of it.

Hm. Lots of stuff is turning out contrary to my expectations. Like, I thought I would see the art before it went out to the dealers. But then again, I have no control of this part of the publishing machine. Those guys don't need my approval or anything.

I had no idea what to expect of the cover, so I'm going to try to articulate my first impressions, which I'm forming as I write. I like the colours, as anyone who reads this blog might realize - the pinks and purples and plums. The woman looks kind of sassy, which is fine by me. And where is she sitting? Looks like some kind of concourse. Since an airport features prominently in the story then that's okay. I'm surprised that the cover doesn't feature a couple but I'm rationalizing that everyone knows the story is romance so there's no need to have her entwined with a male.

So what we have here (to me) is an impression of je ne sais quoi - not knowing quite what to expect. And that's fine with me too.

P.S. - My mother just trotted past on her way from the yard; I told her the news and showed her the image. Her response: Is that the name of the book? Why did you call it that? Lady, I asked you about the artwork! And off she went to pour some mysterious elixir over her plants, joking that very soon she'll have to make an appointment to see me.

Hrmmph. What kind of reaction is that? The floor is open. What do you think of the cover? Feel free to love, hate or say 'meh'.

Saturday, 22 March 2008

Of puppy memes, oranges and movie rights

I found the puppy meme on Patricia Wood's blog. You remember her, right? I posted last year about the stellar launch of her novel, Lottery. Well, I hoofed it over there to congratulate her on two new triumphs in what has been a breathtaking authorial debut: she has been long listed for the Orange Prize for fiction (YEAH!) and... and... This is too much. Let me take another deep breath: Sarah Michelle Gellar has bought the movie rights to her book!

How about that, eh??!!

Congratulations, Patricia. You done good.

And now for the meme... What breed of puppy are you? I'm a German shepherd, they say. Seems I'm a bit more - um - assertive than I imagined.

You Are a German Shepherd Puppy

Intelligent, quick witted, and a bit aggressive.

You've got the jaw power to take a bite out of anyone you choose.

Monday, 17 March 2008

Author interview: Sandra Cormier!

I first saw Sandra on the blog of that famous anonymous agent, Miss Snark, commenting under the moniker Chumplet. That was two years ago! When I started a blog of my own last June I looked up a few of the regulars I remembered from Snark's, Sandra among them, and discovered that her first novel, The Space Between, was published last year, and Bad Ice is due out in July 2008.

Sandra, I know that you're Canadian, and that you spent part of your childhood in Trinidad.

My father was a payroll accountant for a company that did large construction projects all over the world. We traveled extensively while I was growing up. His company placed our family in Trinidad when I was three years old. I remember the little cat that stockpiled hummingbirds under my mother's bed, and the neighbourhood dog that visited every home for handouts. We called him Brownie.

Along with Trinidad, we moved all over the Eastern part of Canada, mostly through the Maritimes. I love the rough beauty of the Atlantic and I'd like to move back there someday.

When I was a teenager, we spent a year in Mallorca, Spain. What a change from Canada! The atmosphere was so vibrant and stimulating for an impressionable sixteen-year-old. I returned to Canada with a whole new outlook on life.

We finally settled just north of Toronto. I met my husband while working in a camera store and immediately fell in love with his big brown eyes. We bought my parents' first home in Newmarket, and there we remain with our two teenagers, Chester the dog, and Ridley the grey retriever kitty.

What books do you remember most from your childhood? Were there any special favorites that you read more than once?

I loved Walter Farley and Marguerite Henry books. I think I've read J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings about ten times since I was a teenager. I loved to trace the lineage of the Elves and marveled at the different worlds the hobbits visited. I think LOTR sparked my interest in genealogy, prompting me to share my father's research into our Acadian roots.

What are some of your favourite novels?

I'll read anything - romance, science fiction, fantasy, historical and mainstream fiction. Wonderful works by new authors such as John Elder Robison, Patricia Wood and Therese Fowler have exposed me to new voices and experiences. I like to read many of my children's books, such as the Harry Potter series and Philip Pullman's Dark Materials. What great new worlds our kids can visit!

Of course, being a horse lover, I read almost every Dick Francis novel. Some of them twice! I love his characters' understated heroism.

When did you start writing, and what prompted you to begin?

After I finished college, I used my skills in art and photography, finally becoming a graphic designer for a newspaper. Writing had always been a passion, but until the kids were teenagers I just didn't have the time to give to it. Then one day, quite out of the blue, my lovely, supportive husband surprised me with a refurbished laptop. That day changed my life.

I couldn't wait to get started. Since I'm an incurable romantic I began with romance writing. For as long as I can remember, I've woven stories in my head while waiting to fall asleep, and now I had the opportunity to share them with others.

While writing, I bought used books on writing and set to work. I cruised the internet and discovered jewels such as Miss Snark and Evil Editor. The forums on Absolute Write gave me tons of advice. I joined a wonderful online writer's group and posted chapters for critique. Boy, I had a lot to learn.

When I thought my first book was ready, I queried like crazy. I wasn't ready. The rejections piled up, and I was disappointed. But I kept at it, learning as I went. My writing partners taught me a lot, and blogging editors like Evil Editor kept me going with advice and humour.

Tell us about The Space Between.

The Space Between is like an old friend. It is the story of Margaret, a woman who had endured a twenty year marriage marred with jealousy and mistrust. In an attempt to save their marriage, she and her husband embark on a once in a lifetime trip to New Zealand.

However, the plane crashes, leaving our heroine alone on a South Pacific island (can you believe it?) with David, a mature actor who is having his own doubts about his union with a much younger woman who had elected to skip this trip. Along with David and Margaret, we have Mitch, a used car salesman. He's a bit of a cad, and causes a heap of trouble.

Margaret and David must decide whether their attraction for each other is real, or just a result of the allure of the island.

I'm looking forward to reading it. It certainly does not sound like the cookie-cutter boy-meets-girl romance. I've noticed that your writing journey mirrors mine in some ways. Our first books were romance. Now we've written/are writing romantic suspense and mainstream women's fiction. I've dabbled in other genres. Are there others you'd like to explore?

I considered romance to be a great place to start. It might be the genre I stick with, but because of my eclectic taste I'd like to dabble in different genres. My second novel Bad Ice is romantic suspense, slated for publication in July 2008. I have two more in the works - another romantic suspense and a women's fiction.

I also have plans to write mainstream fiction with a large cast of characters, along the lines of The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood.

Was your road to publication a difficult one?

It wasn't easy. I experienced many stops and starts and turns down the wrong road, but with the help of the aforementioned blogging agents, editors and fellow writers, I managed to attract two excellent e-publishers.

Present day writers are fortunate to have so many avenues open to them - electronic publishing, small presses and of course the larger publishing houses. Not to mention the vast wealth of information and support on the internet.

Family is important, too. My parents were thrilled to learn that I was writing, and were fantastic beta readers. When The Space Between was released in print, my cousins and aunts and uncles (I have a lot of them) cleaned out the stock at Canada's Amazon site.

This is just the beginning for me. I plan to finish two more books, get an agent and a place with one of the larger publishing houses. I have a few more ideas simmering on the back burner, so this writing gig could go on for a long time. I'm enjoying every minute.

You love ice hockey, ride horses, and paint beautiful portraits. You also have a young family. How do you fit writing into what must be a hectic schedule?

I always have time to watch a hockey game. Phone calls go straight to the answering machine when there's a game on, particularly during the playoffs. I had the occasional ride when the kids were small and my mom lived at home, but it fell to the wayside when she moved away. I still like to ride when I have the time, or can rope anybody into letting me ride for free!

Watercolour painting allows a flexible schedule, and I can paint whenever and wherever I wish. It's okay to put it down for a few days, and then pick it up during a quiet moment.

Now that the kids are older, I have time to pursue all the activities I love (and can afford).

I just want to say that I really appreciate the opportunity you've given me, Liane. I enjoy your blog and can't wait until your novel is released. This was fun!

Sandra, it was lovely having you as my guest! Thank you, and I wish you all the best in your publishing career!

The Space Between on Amazon
Bad Ice will be available July 2008 from Champagne Books
Sandra's website:
Her blog: Chumplet Writes

Sunday, 16 March 2008

Reading right now: A Visible Darkness by Jonathan King

I discovered Dave Barry and Carl Hiassen through their columns in the Miami Herald during my stays in South Florida. Jonathan King writes for the Sun-Sentinel, but I don't remember him, probably because I seldom bought that paper, and probably because as a journalist his focus was on crime stories.

It took me awhile to get into A Visible Darkness: I was distracted by publishing issues of my own. Also, I found the protagonist a bit distant, and the perpetrator of the crimes very off-putting, poor guy. Sometimes I'm just not in the mood for reality at its grittiest, seamiest and saddest. That said, the story began to seep into me little by little, and I credit King's mastery in transposing the South Florida landscape and making it a vital element of his story.
  • "Tormented by the demons of his past, Max Freeman rarely ventures beyond his secluded shack in the Florida Everglades. But he can't ignore the recent string of suspicious deaths of elderly women that the police have been unable, or unwilling, to investigate. His best friend urges him to get involved and act like the cop he's trying to forget he was. To discover an unseen killer, Max must confront the dangers of the city streets—and the unexpected shadows of his own past."
An enjoyable read, once I got past my initial detachment. The first three chapters are here.

Tuesday, 11 March 2008

What type of writer should you be?

Meme stolen from Karen, whom I just discovered is from Yorkshire. Remember those James Herriot books, anyone? I have about five on my bookshelf, all well read and re-read.

ou Should Be a Film Writer

You don't just create compelling stories, you see them as clearly as a movie in your mind.

You have a knack for details and dialogue. You can really make a character come to life.

Chances are, you enjoy creating all types of stories. The joy is in the storytelling.

And nothing would please you more than millions of people seeing your story on the big screen!

I guess my movie fantasy is out. I'll take comfort from the fact that most of us have the same grandiose visions for our stories.

Sunday, 9 March 2008

The pouis are back

In 2003 I was out of the country. I heard that this valley, unscathed by the drought and fires of the dry seasons during the years I had lived in its embrace, burned that year. By 2004 when I was back home it was the same as I'd left it: green and lovely. Since I've been back the dry seasons have been barely that, with rain throughout, so I have so far, thankfully, never seen this valley turn brown. The pouis have bloomed in abundance every year, as if to remind me of what I'd been missing, and to chastise me for the despair I often feel over the state of my country.

Every year, around this time, the pink poui (Tabebuia rosea) dot the hills, the verges, the fields and savannahs with clouds of shimmering colour. Words cannot describe the sight, nor can pictures do this blooming tree justice. Few joys compare with standing on a carpet of pink under one of these mammoth trees, staring up in awe as showers of the trumpet-shaped flowers rain down on one. At moments like these even my doubting soul acknowledges that yes, there must be a God.

The pink variety, which can be any shade between palest pink and vibrant lilac, has burst into bloom once more. Everywhere I turn, it seems, the incredible beauty is stopping me in my tracks, making me catch my breath. In a few weeks the show will be over, and the golden poui will be everywhere, equally startling, equally breathtaking. The golden variety is like the sun, dazzling and brilliant. The pink is... softer. More delicate and ethereal. Less... brazen.

I love them both. But I have to admit, I love the pink more.

Friday, 7 March 2008

Second sighting

After stumbling across Café au Lait on the Internet about two months ago I set up a Google Alert with my name and novel title. As a result, there's an e-mail from Google in my inbox most days, but always with links to my own blog, the blogs of my online buddies who have linked to me, and to my writers' group, The Novel Racers. Today, however I was surprised and excited to find that the Google Alerts have scored a biggie - the first appearance of the title on a bookstore site.

Here it is: I've never heard of this Canadian store; maybe some of my far-northern visitors have? If I had some alcohol in the house I'd drink to this news. And the book isn't even going to be released until September! You can even pre-order it. Is that cool or what?!? Now I'm going to have to restrain myself from ordering my own book. Am I crazy to even be thinking stuff like that? After all, I'm supposed to get author's copies...

There's no cover photo on the site; I haven't seen the artwork yet and I doubt very much that it's even ready. So what does this tell me? That the wheels are turning behind the scenes without my knowledge, input or trying to play general manager of the universe. The publishers are doing their job. Maybe now I can settle down and finally get those revisions to novel No. 2 done and sent off to the agent. She's been waiting for almost a year and my dilly-dallying is unpardonable.

Tell me, published writers out there: Did you feel this great, fluttery excitement when you first sighted your debut novel in a bookstore? Did you look around your very ordinary life, in your very ordinary world, and think: I wanted to do this extraordinary thing, and I did it? Did you walk, like I did through the streets of Port of Spain today, with a lilt in your steps and an inner smile because goddammit, you were a writer - an author? Did the lady behind the counter at the post office beam back at you when you went to post an ordinary letter, as if she could sense your happiness?

Joy is so episodic, so ephemeral. I'm going to bask in this ray and milk it for all it's worth.

Sunday, 2 March 2008

Sunday afternoon visitor

One of these guys scared me almost out of my wits some years ago when we lived higher up the valley. I was at home alone when I heard loud knocking. I investigated and realized the sounds were coming from the backyard. After several heart-pounding minutes - which I will not describe, especially the part where I armed myself with a kitchen knife - I discovered a woodpecker like the one in the photo tapping away at a dead grapefruit tree in the backyard. I had never seen one before, so once I had ascertained that a murderous thug was not trying to break into the house and hack me to death, I sat at the window and watched the bird until it finally flew away.

Today one of its kin appeared in the yard, tapping away at a wooden fence post. This is the first one I've seen here; I called my mother, who was doing something in the front yard, and we stood at the back door lost in admiration. It didn't seem to notice us about 12 feet away, and if it did that did not distract it from its hunt for insects in the dead wood. After about 10 minutes it flew away into a neighbour's plum tree.

This woodpecker is quite large, about a foot from tip to tail, I estimated. The beak looks lethal. Hope he/she makes a habit of dropping in on us.

Time Gentlemen Time

I suck at time management. Not on the job, of course; I'm obsessive about staying on top of things there. But in my life? Lord. Maybe if someone decided to pay me to manage my personal time I'd be much better at it.

Before the day job, it didn't matter that I would get up late, tool around or lie around reading, do chores when I got around to them, stay up half the night or all night reading my favourite blogs until my eyes were popping. There was always tomorrow to get to the more productive stuff, like writing and editing. Now my 'system' has been shot to bits.

Much as I hate too much structure, I have to admit that a bit of it is good for me. So now I'm trying to schedule all that I have to do: the job, the writing and editing, the blog, exercise, household chores and projects, internet browsing, movies with my sister on weekends, time with my son which just hasn't been happening lately... I haven't gotten it all covered yet, but I'm seeing progress.

I started exercising again this week. The face lift I've been giving my bedroom over the past month or so is moving along nicely: painting done, new curtains hung, portrait of Richard on the wall where it belongs instead of propped on my bedside table, filing reorganized, unwanted clothes etc. thrown out or given away. The new closet doors are scheduled for this week. Next month I'll get to the tiling, and that should be that for the bedroom project.

Of course, being the critical beast that I am, I'm never satisfied with falling short of that elusive thing called perfection. Whatever I do, there's always so much more to be done.

I'll see how the resumption of daily exercise holds out this week. As for the writing and editing... I'm not there yet. This organization business is a work in progress. Will see how it goes.