Come Away with Me – News updates …

Excited about a few upcoming things…

Bucket List Contest! My amazing publisher, Mira/HQN, is running a bucket list contest where simply posting your top 10 list items gives you a chance to win one of them! Up to a $5,000 value, how can you not enter this contest? Runs until August 27th.

BookExpo America (BEA) – I’ll be attending BEA in New York City this year, and will be signing copies of Come Away with Me!

Come Away with Me was chosen as a PublishersLunch Buzz Books (Spring/Summer 2015)!

I’ll be doing a reading at World Literacy Canada KAMA Reading Series – I’m both honoured to have been asked to contribute to such an amazing, worthwhile event, and terrified at the prospect of doing my first, official reading!

 

PitchWars 2014 is here. Have you Got what it takes?

I’m going to keep this as short as I can (which probably means not short at all), mostly because I’m currently running “Mommy Camp” (summer break = no break for mom) and my six-year-old daughter tends to prefer playing outside versus watching me tap at these keys (shocking, right?).  So if you have a Women’s Fiction, Literary, or Marriage Thriller book, and it’s fresh and shiny (to be clear, to me “shiny”=POLISHED, not first draft material) and you’re simply BURSTING to get a solid critique, PRETTY PLEASE SEND IT TO ME. No, really. Go to the submission form (on August 18th), put my name on it, and hit SEND. For everything you need to know about how to submit, including the amazing agents playing along, head on over to Brenda Drake’s blog.

But Karma, I can hear you saying — why would I choose you over any one of the other amazing/talented/accomplished/(and likely funnier and more clever with their bio) mentors? I’m so glad you asked.

1. I may be the most thorough critique out there. Well, perhaps I’m overstating this BUT my critique partners talk about my “cocoon” of notes. Meaning I line edit, focusing not only on the bigger things like themes, pacing, tension, and characterization, but also on the little details. I promise you a manuscript riddled with track changes. I am a, um, tough critique (consider yourself warned), but isn’t that exactly what you want out of an experience like this? (If you answered, “not really” to this last question might I suggest a different mentor?) Together we will make your manuscript the best it can be — if you’re in, I’m in. (Also, check out my mentee’s success story from the last PitchWars!)

2. I’ll be there for you after the contest ends. Seriously, ask any of my #TeamGoodKarma mentees from last year, and they’ll tell you we still exchange emails, and I’m happy to offer advice, give feedback, and tweet the heck out of their good news. Writing can be a lonely, isolating endeavour, so the more we can stay connected to one another and support each other the better.

3. I’m an avid reader, and a focused writer. While I write upmarket women’s fiction, my reading tastes vary from young adult, to (light) urban fantasy, to everything in between. I also read A LOT, even when I’m on deadline, and I think I might shrivel up and die if I couldn’t read. Is that melodramatic? Maybe, but it’s true. Which means I also love reading the books my critique partners write, and why I can’t wait to read your manuscript! As for my own writing, I get up nearly every morning at 5 am (if you’re an early morning writer and on Twitter check out #5amwritersclub — that crew has kept me going many an early morning) and write for a couple of hours before I have to put on my mom hat.

Want to know a bit more about me? I live near Toronto, Canada (if you would like to know the appropriate way to insert ‘eh’ into a conversation, I’m glad to help), am happily married, am mom to a beautiful daughter and an equally handsome labradoodle named Fred, and love to run, read, bake, and drink coffee (another one of the great pleasures of life). I also wish I could go to Hogwarts, am addicted to chocolate-covered jujubes, and haven’t slept in past 6am in, oh, six years. My day job is freelance writer, and I write mostly lifestyle/parenting articles for magazines. I’m also an 11-year cancer survivor, and pretty damned pleased to still be here to say that. I’m represented by Carolyn Forde, who is the most supportive and determined agent an author could ever ask for. I’ve blogged the twists and turns of my road to publication, in case you’re interested. My debut novel Come Away with Me will be out next July (Mira/Harlequin), and my second book will come out about a year later.

Me and the mini. This is pretty much how you’ll find me on any given day, unless I’m writing!

Now how about a wishlist? If I were to generalize, the books I’m most drawn to have complicated issues, big hearts, and pretty words.

What I’d love to see:

  • Women’s Fiction — think book club/upmarket (commercial with a literary feel, including those with magical realism, and in a perfect world, magic AND food): WHAT ALICE FORGOT (or anything by Liane Moriarty), AFTER I DO (Taylor Jenkins Reid), THE PILOT’S WIFE (Anita Shreve), ME BEFORE YOU (Jojo Moyes), WHERE’D YOU GO BERNADETTE (Maria Semple), GARDEN SPELLS (Sarah Addison Allen), LIKE WATER FOR CHOCOLATE (Laura Esquirel), PRACTICAL MAGIC (Alice Hoffman)
  • More literary (still with a commercial feel) — LITTLE BEE (Chris Cleave), THE DINNER (Herman Koch), THE NIGHT CIRCUS (Erin Morgenstern)
  • Marriage/Psychological Thrillers — GONE GIRL (Gillian Flynn), THE SILENT WIFE (A.S.A Harrison), and though it’s still on my TBR pile, if your book is anything like Natalie Young’s SEASON TO TASTE (look it up, trust me when I say this is a strange and compelling idea for a book), I would love to see it. I also just finished THE GOOD GIRL (Mary Kubica) and have determined I’m a psychological thriller fan. In truth, it’s pretty hard to scare me away with a concept!

What’s probably not for me (though you never know, I am open to having my mind changed…):

  • Fantasy & Sci-fi
  • Romance
  • Crime
  • Anything boring or not polished (wait, did I say that out loud?)

Also, if you own a tattered copy of ON WRITING by Stephen King, and have at one time or another mentioned something about “killing your darlings,” we are sure to get along.

I’m trying to curb my GIF addiction, but will leave you with one of my favourites (<= note the Canadian spelling) — this will be me, opening the submissions and finding THE book (your book?) I can’t wait to read and critique.

 

Don’t forget to check out the other mentors’ blogs — click below and start doing your homework …

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A Peek Behind the Scenes …

If there’s one thing I love about twitter, it’s how engaged the writing community is … and Dahlia Adler, uber-supportive blogger, editor, and author of the just released BEHIND THE SCENES (a contemp young adult novel, published by Spencer Hill Contemporary), is no exception. While I was querying, and going through offer decisions, and dealing with submission woes and highs, she was there to respond whenever I sent a message that usually started with something like, “So, now what do I do?”

So as part of helping her celebrate her book’s birthday this week, I’m participating in a blog hop where we each go “behind the scenes” about some aspect of our life … but first, here’s the blurb for Dahlia’s book, and where you can purchase your own copy:

High school senior Ally Duncan’s best friend may be the Vanessa Park – star of TV’s hottest new teen drama – but Ally’s not interested in following in her BFF’s Hollywood footsteps. In fact, the only thing Ally’s ever really wanted is to go to Columbia and study abroad in Paris. But when her father’s mounting medical bills threaten to stop her dream in its tracks, Ally nabs a position as Van’s on-set assistant to get the cash she needs.

Spending the extra time with Van turns out to be fun, and getting to know her sexy co-star Liam is an added bonus. But when the actors’ publicist arranges for Van and Liam to “date” for the tabloids just after he and Ally share their first kiss, Ally will have to decide exactly what role she’s capable of playing in their world of make believe. If she can’t play by Hollywood’s rules, she may lose her best friend, her dream future, and her first shot at love.

 Goodreads | Amazon | B & N | The Book Depository | Indiebound

As for a behind the scenes of my life, I had a few ideas — but then decided to skip the confessions of true love for alien-themed, angst-filled teen dramas, cheesy medical thriller novels, and hiding vegetables in everything I cook or bake — and will offer a brief glimpse into (my) life as a freelance journalist and writer.

I am not one of those writers who always wanted to be a writer, even if I have been writing since I was a child (haven’t we all, to some degree?). In journalism school I laughed when it was assumed by most that after graduation I’d set myself up at a newspaper as a reporter. I wanted to do television, and for a brief time really wanted to be a war correspondent. But then life took an interesting turn, as it often does, and though that’s a story for another day, I am now a writer. Specifically, I freelance — which essentially means I never get a regular paycheque, but I get to write about all kinds of cool things.

Most of my work is for magazines — though I do have some corporate clients — and generally speaking every story I write is a story I’ve pitched to an editor. Sure, some writers probably get assigned stories more often than I do … but essentially if you’re a freelance writer, you are your own rainmaker. So I spend a lot of my non-writing time — when I’m at my daughter’s swimming or gymnastics lessons, when I’m out for a run, or doing laundry, making dinner, walking the dog, etc. etc. — thinking up story ideas.

It’s been a fantastically fun career so far. It’s nowhere near lucrative, or even “pay all the bills” kind of stuff, but I’ve won a coveted award for a story that meant a lot to me, have written about everything from luxury resorts in Jamaica (now that was a press trip I wish I could do again!), to self-leveling concrete, to the state of frozen embryos in Canada, to going sugar-free for a month (an experiment my poor family was dragged into with me), to raising altruistic kids, to advocating for your own health, to onesie-style pjs for grownups, to how to make the perfect pie crust.

Every day is different, and I love what I do — especially because it offers flexibility to be home with our young daughter. Most days you’ll find me at my kitchen table or at the local coffee shop, on my MacBook Air that has been so well loved the keys have worn off, and drinking far too much coffee (though the secret is to switch to decaf after noon).

And being a freelancer has helped me so much with my novel writing. For one, I am very tuned into and disciplined about deadlines. Whether from a magazine editor, my agent, my book editor, or self-imposed, I treat all deadlines as non-negotiable. I get up every day at 5am (or at least most days) and write. I ALWAYS file pieces at least a day ahead of schedule. And I can honestly say I’ve never (ever) missed a deadline. There have been times when I’m panicked and stressed because life has thrown a curve ball and I have to move heaven and earth to get to my computer. Like that one time when my daughter had the stomach flu, and I was holding a bucket for her in one hand and typing with the other (at 3 am), trying to make sure I didn’t miss my deadline …

But that’s life, as they say. And I wouldn’t change a thing.

Write. Rewrite. Repeat.

“Books aren’t written — they’re rewritten. Including your own. It is one of the hardest things to accept, especially after the seventh rewrite hasn’t quite done it.” – Michael Crichton

(Nailed it, Michael.)

When I started writing my first novel (three books ago) my goal was to just get the first draft finished. Would I try to publish it? people asked. I used to shrug and say I didn’t want to get ahead of myself. Writing the first draft of that first book was hard. It took a long time. I had no idea what I was doing. I didn’t understand tension, pacing, character development, not to start my first chapter with my protagonist waking up (yes, I made that faux pas), how to show versus tell … I had a lot to learn. Fast forward a bunch of years and a bunch of drafts, and I get it. The first draft? Simple. You just keep laying down the words. Get the story out. Give yourself a deadline and stick to it. The words add up — and before you know it, you have a completed draft. Of course, simple doesn’t mean easy, but had I known just how many revisions a book takes to make it sparkle, well…it’s probably good I was so naive.

I’m doing revisions now for my editor — which thrills me to no end. You won’t hear me complain about going through my ENTIRE book for the 15th (20th?) time. It’s a process, and I’m giddy with excitement to have this opportunity.

This book, THE MEMORY OF US, will be published July 2015. Though I’ve revised the manuscript before (for my critique partners / for my agent / for submission), I’m now doing it on deadline … and I’ve been paid … and I have another book as part of my contract to write after this one is done. The game has changed, and so has my revision process. I have no idea if this is how I’ll approach revisions on my next book, but for now, this works:

  • TAKE A DEEP BREATH (or a few)

Despite my excitement to dive in, editorial letter and marked up manuscript at the ready, the above does a great job at showcasing how I was feeling about this round of revisions (MUST.NOT.EFF.THEM.UP.). So the first thing I did was read my editor’s letter again, go through her notes in the manuscript, and go for a run. That cleared my head and got me ready to jump in.

  • GATHER YOUR SHIT & GET EXCITED

This is the time to pull out the red pen, your post it notes / index cards / spreadsheets / notebooks, a hard copy of your book (I edit on both hard copy and digital files), and any sustenance you need (COFFEE), and get to work. Give yourself a pep talk (YOU CAN DO THIS, or die trying…), and get psyched. It’s likely going to be weeks (or months) before you hand your revisions in to your editor, so you need to find ways to keep your energy AND excitement levels up.


(Me, after my morning coffee…coffees.)

  • RUSH SERVICE IS FOR POSTAL DELIVERIES (step also known as, Calm the F**K down)

It’s oh-so tempting to race through the book. Not just on your first revision, but on all subsequent ones. Whether it’s because you’re dying to get it into your crit partners’ hands, or out for a contest, or to your agent, or to waiting editors, rushing is never a good strategy.

There’s a reason you set deadlines, or your editor sets them for you: everyone wants the best version of what you’ve got, and that takes time. When I revise, especially if I’m working on a new scene, I write it all down without stopping first. I do not edit as I go, or wordsmith, or get all up in my online thesaurus. I just write. Then I go back, a day later, and read it as critically as I can — again, without revising. I take notes with my trusty red pen on my post its or in my notebook, and only then do I go back and make changes. It’s amazing how differently I see a scene with a little distance between us.

  • STICK TO A SCHEDULE

For me, this falls into the ‘do what you say you’re going to do’ category. As a freelance writer, one of the most important ways to ensure I’ll be hired again is to NEVER MISS A DEADLINE. And I see my book deadlines the same — at a minimum, I will get the manuscript in two days early. Ideally, it will be even earlier than that. I treat revisions (and first draft writing, for the record) like a job, and even if I’m not feeling the creative vibe I force myself to sit down and write … because the discipline is as important as anything else, in my opinion. I set my alarm for 5 or 5:30 am, depending on the day and what I need to get done, pour my coffee, and dive in. Yes, there are mornings where I’d like to do this to my alarm:

But generally speaking, as long as I have coffee and my Twitter #5amwritersclub crew, I’ve trained myself to be able to write well in the morning. It’s a habit, like any other.

I should add that there have been plenty of moments through this process — which is not yet over, of course, so I expect I’ll have a few more — where I’m certain I can’t write, I’ve screwed up a scene or character, I’ll never figure out how to add in the plot twist I need to, or I’ve revised myself into a tight little corner I’m not sure how to get out of. But then I take a deep breath, go for a run, get out my notes, have another cup of coffee, and SLOW IT ALL DOWN, and generally, I’m back on my game.

What’s your revision process, or trick? I’d love to hear about it!

Cover Reveal: LITTLE MISS EVIL (by my talented critique partner, Kristy!)

I haven’t done this before, a cover reveal, but when your awesome critique partner and her husband and co-author have a book coming out, well, you give them well-deserved props!

First things first, the book’s blurb:

When you live in a volcano, ride to school in a helicopter, and regularly see your dad on the news with the caption “EVIL GENIUS” underneath his picture, it takes a lot to rattle you.

Until you get a message that says: We have your father. Deliver the NOVA in 24 hours or we will kill him.

What’s a NOVA, you ask? It’s a nuclear bomb capable of turning the city into a radioactive mushroom cloud, and ever since Fiona’s dad built it, it’s caused nothing but grief. But telling him to stop building weapons is like telling Michelangelo to stop painting.

And that’s why thirteen-year-old Fiona has a flamethrower strapped to her arm. After all, who’d mess with a girl who can throw fireballs?

 I was lucky enough to critique the book in its earlier stages, and loved this fun, fast, middle grade story with a flame-throwing female heroine (I can’t wait to read it to my daughter when it’s out).

Now for the cover, which I think captures this book beautifully!

LITTLE MISS EVIL is out March 2015 from Spencer Hill Middle Grade and I couldn’t be more excited for Kristy and Bryce!

Want to know more about the authors? Here you go: Bryce and Kristy are a tag-team writing duo with way too many voices in their heads. As engineers living in Toronto, they can’t be safely contained by mere cubicle walls, and therefore must spend every other waking moment writing to keep the crazy from leaking out at the office. When not writing or working, they spend their time parachuting into volcanoes and riding polar bears while tossing dynamite at rabid kangaroos. Yup, that’s right. Sometimes they can’t even believe how awesome their lives are.

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