Sunday, November 29, 2009

It's CONTEST time!!!

Here it is! The contest you've been waiting for! Win a Kobe Bryant jersey! Check it out!

Stitched on letters and all! So what do you have to do to win this baby? Simple.

1. Read my new novel Ghost Ride.
2. Post a comment about it on my blog.
3. Send me a private email at (write "Contest" in subject area so I don't miss it!)with the answer to this easy question: What is the name of the Rapper mentioned in the book?

When you post your comment on my blog you can do so anonymously--just sign your comment with a first name and your city. When you send me the answer to the skill-testing question, you need to provide me with your name and an initial. Make sure the email you send me is from an account I can reach you at should you win! Please DON'T post the answer here or you'll have too much competition! Oh, and if you can guess why I called the Rapper that specific name I will enter your name into the competition twice!

Contest will run from Tuesday, December 1st to Thursday, December 31st! Winner will be announced on New Year's Day! Good luck and happy reading!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Made it into the Economist & Sun!

I was so excited to open my Economist & Sun today and find this (just in time for Halloween!!!)

A really nice article. Thanks to the journalist Keely Grasser! HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Lunch Launch 2009!

Today was the first in a series of launches for my new novel Ghost Ride! I presented the book to a captive lunch-eating audience of some 200 intermediate students at Castlemore P.S.--what fun!

Why Castlemore? Well, for starters the teacher-librarian, Grace Wong, is amazingly supportive.

Last year she had me present to the entire junior and intermediate divisions and I sold a whack of books! Also, a few students lingered after the presentation to chat and when I mentioned I'd love a trailer for my new novel--well, they actually agreed to create one for me all on their own! Check it out! So when the time came to choose a school venue for a launch--Castlemore was the way to go! Even the now grade 9 students who created the trailer came back to their old elementary school for the launch! I was so excited to see them and thank them again.

The local newspaper, The Economist & Sun, even dropped by--can't wait to read the article!

Now recently I've been following a discussion about book launches--all the dos and don'ts. One thing I can say for sure, is that free food--especially treats--is the greatest lure! Though this was totally an optional event and all these students showed up of their own accord, I can't honestly say just how many showed up for me and my book or how many showed up for the free treats!!!! (Peanut-free, of course!)

Saturday, October 10, 2009

They're Here!

They're here! They're here! (jumping up and down) My author copies of Ghost Ride arrived this past week and the first thing I did was take a good, long whiff! Nothing like the smell of new books hot off the press--especially when they're yours! I feel like I've been living and breathing this novel for the past three years. It took me 8 months to write, 8 months to find and agent, 8 months to find a publisher and 8 months to hold in my hot little hands. When I stop and think about it, that's kind of weird. I think 8 will be my new favourite number! Launch details coming soon!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Quest for Gingerbread...

I love gingerbread. What can I say? Something about the spices--you can never have enough cinnamon in your life. I've been making gingerbread cookies since I was a kid. I remember trying several recipes and then settling on one that was published in the Toronto Star in 1982. I still have the original newspaper--now decrepit yellow, edges frayed, and covered in stains of various spilled ingredients.

One year, I actually constructed the sleigh--reindeer and all!

But now, here's the thing. Ever since I started teaching near the Village Grocer, I've been obsessed with their gingerbread cookies. They are the best ever. Not only are they true works of art, they taste awesome! I have tried no less than four recipes recently--some of which I had to toss the dough. DH thinks I've gone mad and perhaps he's right, but I desperately want the recipe! So. How does one go about asking a baker to divulge their culinary secrets? It would be like asking a magician to tell you how their tricks work. Strictly taboo.

Soooooo, here's my idea. I go to the store once a week for the next, oh, say, several months. Each time I buy a cookie and ask, "Is there nutmeg in this? Because I'm allergic to nutmeg..." Next time, "Is there cardamom in this? Because I'm allergic to cardamom." "Is there brown sugar in this? Because I'm allergic to brown sugar..." Slowly, but surely, I will amass the ingredients. Is this a great plan, or what???

At this point you may join DH in thinking I've lost it, but I've actually tried this twice. White sugar, not brown sugar and no cardamom. The third time, I felt I had to vary my tactic lest they begin to suspect a gingerbread spy in their midst. I said, "My mother and I are having this huge argument. I hope you can settle it. She says you use sugar beet syrup. I say molasses. Can you please tell me who's right?" Worked like a charm. Molasses. No sugar beets.
I think I've been writing too many zany scenes in my new WIP. Am I beginning to act like my MC or even worse, am I in denial that my MC is actually ME???!!!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Something About Fall

Yesterday was the perfect fall day (even though it was still technically summer). You couldn't have asked for a more lovely day for a literary festival! Edin Mills was in full swing and something called Telling Tales (must look into that one--heard it was stellar). I was at Words Alive--third year in a row--presenting this year on non-fiction to a very small, but very engaged crowd. Even sold a few books. Bonus. The sunshine drizzled through the huge oak and maple leaves dazzling the grounds of Sharon Temple. I had the best conversation with author, Bruce Hunter--must run out and buy his books, especially his latest, In The Bear's House. I also thoroughly enjoyed hearing Natale Ghent read from her middle-grade, The Odds get Even. It was an awesome day.

There's just something about fall that puts me into writing mode. I'm not sure what it is. Fall's always been my favourite season. When I think of fall I think of my first year at the University of Western Ontario. I think of my first solo travel to Europe (aimed for Oktoberfest--but missed it. Who'd 'a thunk Oktoberfest was in September???). I think of wearing new boots--fall boots--which are infinitely more fun and chic than those practical winter boots, jeans and sweaters and of course poncho's. (I've never actually owned a poncho, or a wrap for that matter, but I think of them nonetheless.) Fall air feels fresh. Maybe because the summer smog has settled. People start using their fireplaces, though sadly most (including myself) now have gas fireplaces which may provide some warmth and ambiance, but totally lack that amazing smell. Fall makes me think of apple crisp and stew--oh and chili! Big pots of soup. All that comfort food. I'm not sure why fall makes me want to write--seems like it makes me want to eat.

Ah well, off to dig out my fall boots, jeans, maybe knit a poncho and write, write, write!

Monday, June 22, 2009

A TRAILER for Ghost Ride!!!

I’m so beyond exited! I have a book trailer for Ghost Ridecheck it out!!!!

And the most amazing thing about this—it was put together completely and independently by a group of tech-savvy grade 8 students!!!

Earlier this year I did a presentation at a school with an incredible teacher-librarian and enthusiastic audience. I mentioned the idea of a book trailer and one girl said she’d happily take on the project. I gave her a copy of the manuscript—something I wouldn’t normally do!. She read it and became the driving force behind the trailer, designing the scenes and extracting the narration text from the manuscript and blurbs. She was able to get a few friends to act out the scenes while another student filmed it and put the whole thing together (I’m sure he spent many hours—and all this during his last few weeks of grade 8!)

I can’t thank these guys enough for all their hard work and dedication. What fun to see your novel spring to life like this!!! Ghost Ride is coming out with Dundurn Press this fall--should be in stores by November. I will definitely be inviting this group of students to my launch for a special thank you!!!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

My Sadly Neglected Blog, Non-fiction Take-over and Cloning Experiments...

I’ve just completed a whirlwind of non-fiction books!!!! 4 in the past 2 months! And they are already up on Amazon alongside my new Y/A Ghost Ride!

I still can’t believe I wrote 2 graphic novels (which has provided me with a deepened respect for the genre!) and 2 science books in 2 months! I mean from science fiction to science—genetic engineering no less—was a ginormous leap for me. I had a blast though. It forced me to do a ton of research (which has been the biggest barrier between me and historical fiction!) and I came across some amazingly interesting stuff! For example, when I learned that there are about 100,000 bacteria crawling around on every square centimetre of my skin, it sure made me a lot less of a germaphobe!

Here are the covers! I’m obviously biased, but I think they look AWESOME!!!

Okay. So I decided if I was going to include experiments in each of these books, they had better work. Here are some photos of my incredible edible cell:

And if you think the concept of cloning is freaky and frightening, try cloning a cabbage to ease your concerns…

Of course my cabbage clones are still growing--stay tuned for regular updates!

Now that the non-fiction take-over has passed (for the moment anyway...) I hoping to nurse my undernourished blog (and other facets of my life!) back to good health!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Jeremy's Launch!

Stopped by Jeremy Tankard's launch of Boo Hoo Bird this evening at a cute restaurant on the Danforth.

Little Miss K had to show off her very own boo boo to Jeremy who appears extremely concerned. Jeremy had prepared an amazing colouring table on which he'd sketched a variety of his characters for kids to colour--this amused Master J for quite some time while I lined up to purchase a few books and then lined up again to get them autographed. What a great event and what a huge turn-out! Congratulations Jeremy!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Five quarters to skip class...

Last week I had the absolute pleasure of presenting to four groups of junior/intermediate students at Castlemore P.S.

The TL there was so incredibly supportive and each of the four groups of students was beyond enthusiastic, energetic and completely attentive.

At the end of each of the presentations, I was thanked by a student. The junior students both put a huge smile on my face and the intermediate speeches were so funny, so touching, and so sincere that I asked to keep their notes and just can’t resist posting them even though they're tough to read:

I just love the line: “I walked in thinking I "payed" five quarters to skip class…”

During recess, I was treated to a plate of goodies and had expected to sign a few books for eager readers—well, 95 books later, I was completely bought out and I’m going to return this week with another 50 books! I still can’t believe it! Thank you, Castlemore P.S., for the warm welcome and wonderful treatment—I think every children’s author out there should have the opportunity to visit your school!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Slumdog Controversy

Yesterday I saw the movie Slumdog Millionaire—truly one of the best movies I’ve seen in a long time. The story sucked me into another time and part of the world that I confess I know little about. And it was shocking. And humbling. And certainly made me look at the rip in my leather sofa and the scratches on coffee table and my broken California shutters in a whole new and embarrassing light.

Growing up in Western society—in a far from affluent neighbourhood—I learned early in life what real poverty looks like. Having a Romanian uncle who, at the time, was not allowed back into the country he’d escaped from, I was taken on two occasions, 9 years-old and again at 15, to a country that made my lower-middle-class house look like a palace. I remember clearly seeing the white, bare store and asking, “What is that?’ and being told, “It’s the bread store.” “But where’s the bread?” “There isn’t any.” And beside it another empty space. “And what’s that?” “The meat store.” “And where’s the meat?” “There isn’t any.” I remember parked cars, snaking from a gas station in a ghostly line that went on for miles. “Why are they parked like that?” “They are waiting for gas.” Let me guess. There isn’t any.

For a 15 year old, it was an eye-opener and certainly a turning point in my life. I am eternally grateful for that experience as I was able to remind myself often over the years that I have it good.

When I came home from the movie last night, gushing about how great it was, I was taken aback when my babysitter informed me that there was a huge back-lash against the movie in India, that using the word “dog” in the title was derogatory and that the scenes of total poverty in the movie were exploiting those that live in these slums.

I can totally see why there is such uproar, but in my opinion, the movie does less to exploit the poor and more to educate those of us living in a world so far removed from this sort of desperate poverty that we weep freely at seeing these scenes rather than gawk at them as sensational. I firmly believe and live by the adage, “The more places you see, the more you know,” and for all those who never make it out of their own city, let alone province or country and who will never go half-way around the world and experience first hand just how good they’ve got it, this movie can at least transport them for two hours and hopefully have them leave the theatre as humbled as I did.

Friday, February 20, 2009

A Great Week!

It never rains it pours--good things as well as bad--and this week I got a few happy buckets dumped on me! For one, I just received word that Ghost Ride, the first of my Y/A thrillers, will be published by Dundurn! I have nothing but respect for Dundurn--they have excellent books by excellent authors (see: Marsha Skrypuch, Mahtab Narsimhan, Valerie Sherrard, Deborah Kerbel, James Bow, to name a few!) And they have excellent covers! (Can't wait to see what mine will look like!)

Now, as if that isn't enough to keep me grinning for the next, oh, say, year, I also found out this week that I'm the recipient of ETFO's Curriculum Development Award --Women's Program for my teacher's guide for Shadow of the Moon! This thrills me to no end because my personal joke is that I spent more time writing the teacher's guide than I did writing the novel! I've received great feedback from teachers that have used both my guides, but man, to have ETFO acknowledge my work is HUGE!!!

I'm going out to buy a lotery ticket!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Schools and Canadian Authors

I just read an article by Marc Côté (for whom I happen to have the utmost respect!)

and felt his words spoke directly to me for three reasons:

1. Growing up, I loved Edgar Allen Poe.

2. I went on to become a huge Stephen King fan. I also enjoyed the works of Anne Rice, (who was truly an inspiration!) and Dean Koontz.

3. One of my favourite all-time novels is Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird AND not only haven’t I read Gwenthalyn Graham’s Earth and High Heaven, I’d never even heard of it. (It’s now definitely on my list of things to read!)

But despite all this, I find myself questioning whether my education and the system’s lack of promoting Canadian authors had anything to do with my taste and the writers I gravitated toward. Media? Absolutely. But not sure about the schools…

In elementary school, two novels I studied that still stand out in my mind today are Luke Baldwin’s Vow (Morely Callahan—Canadian) and Underground to Canada (Barbara Smucker—American). Sadly, I can’t remember many others, though this is more a reflection of my aging mind than anything else.

In high school, I was definitely exposed to a variety of Canadian writers—Mordecai Richler’s The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz, Margaret Atwood’s Lady Oracle, and Margaret Lawrence’s The Diviners, are those that come to mind.

I have to agree with Mr. Côté that American and British authors are far better promoted by the media, but by the schools (at least back in my day)?…hmmm…still thinking on that…

Saturday, January 31, 2009

OLA magic and my banned-books bracelet!

The magic of OLA Superconference never fades! This was my fourth year attending and I felt as exhilirated as ever meandering up and down the aisles of publishers displaying their new lines. I joined many a signing cue and walked away with a number of treasured autographed books. But I have to say the highlight for me was buying my I Read Banned Books bracelet--I bought three!

I adore To Kill a Mockingbird! Can't even imagine it ever having been banned!!! Is this not the GREATEST bracelet ever???

Other highlights included hanging with Helene Boudreau (who signed Acadian Star), Marsha Skrypuch (who signed Daughter of War), Natalie Hyde (who held her non-fics in her hands for the first time).

Hi Mahtab and Marsha!

Yay Helene!

Go Nat, go Nat, go Nat!!!

And what better way to wrap up a great day than with a great evening with good food, good friends and great conversation! Only 364 days until the next OLA Superconference!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

I wish I could write like this...

I’m drinking in a novel as deliciously decadent and satisfying as a warm cup of cocoa.

Awake and Dreaming, by Kit Pearson, was a spontaneous purchase at the last Packaging Your Imagination workshop series. It sat in my enormous pile of books desperate to be read until a few days ago, when I picked it up, read the prologue and was whisked into a world so vivid and real, so rich in language and image—a novel so brilliantly crafted that I couldn’t put it down (sorry kids, Mommy wasn’t ignoring you, she was temporarily sucked into another world!) Awake and Dreaming is a definite must-read, not only for its intended audience of eager young readers, but also for any aspiring fiction writer. A word of caution to the latter though—this novel was so darned good it made me want to throw down and retire my pen forever!