24 October 2016

In Irina's Cards wins 2nd for YA/NA at the IDA Awards

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I got some great news late last week and I'm excited to finally post about it here on my blog. In Irina's Cards got a little love from the IDA Awards in the Young/New Adult Category.

"I am pleased to inform you that your novel, In Irina's Cards, won second place in the International Digital Awards! Congratulations!"
If more of my days started with lovely emails like that, I'd be a whole different sort of person. I may be a pessimist on some fronts but when it comes to my books, I'm a glass is half full kind of lady.

So any time I hear so much as a hint of a reader enjoying one of my stories, it makes me happy. Not the 'I-just-heard-my-baby-giggle-for-the-first-time' kind of happy, but more like the 'first-pumpkin-spice-latte-of-the-season' kind of happy. Warmly content.

Whoever you are reading this post, I hope you get some good news soon too.

20 October 2016

Welcome to Nancy Fraser and Eye of the Pharaoh


I have a new guest joining me today, the talented Nancy Fraser. She just, as in yesterday, released a new book, Eye of the Pharaoh. This story was inspired by a trip to Chicago's Field Museum and a fortuitous inheritance of an Egyptian collar necklace. I like it already!

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Book Blurb: Publicist Teri Hunter has her hands full promoting Professor Joshua Cain and his new non-fiction book, The Pharaoh’s Mummy. She’s not convinced it’s even possible to turn this absent-minded, modern-day, Indiana Jones into a best-selling author.

Dr. Cain’s PhDs in archaeology and art history have prepared him for almost anything on the lecture circuit and among ancient ruins. He’s just not sure about a book tour...or the sexy publicist sent to monitor his every professional move.

When an odd request falls in their laps while in New Orleans, Josh and Teri find themselves transported to 1920’s Egypt where they must resolve an ancient curse in order to be sent home. Will the dangers facing them hinder their success and threaten their very lives? Or will help from an ancient guardian keep them on-track and safe?

Author Bio: Like most authors, Nancy Fraser began writing at an early age, usually on the walls and with crayons or, heaven forbid, permanent markers. Her love of writing often made her the English teacher’s pet, which, of course, resulted in a whole lot of teasing. Still, it was worth it.

Published in multiple genres, Nancy currently writes for four publishers. She has published twenty-two books in both full-length and novella format. Nancy will release her 25th book in early 2017. She is currently working on her next Rock and Roll novella and two other equally exciting projects.

When not writing (which is almost never), Nancy dotes on her five wonderful grandchildren and looks forward to traveling and reading when time permits. Nancy lives in Atlantic Canada where she enjoys the relaxed pace and colorful people.

Excerpt from Eye of the Pharoh

Teri stared in amazement at the well-worn guest home Dr. Cain had chosen for their stay. In her mind’s eye, she could see the grand entranceway of the Marriott on Canal Street, feel the pampered luxury of the hotel spa. Instead, she got this . . . an early nineteenth-century home in obvious need of repair. Collingwood, apparently, had history. Of what, she wasn’t certain. From the road, it looked like something torn from the pages of a horror novel.
“This is where we’re staying?” she asked, unable to hide her surprise and disappointment.

“You’re welcome to go elsewhere, if you’d like. Personally, I prefer a room with some character.”

She choked back an outright laugh. “It’s certainly got character. As a matter of fact, Freddie Kruger comes to mind.”

He shot her a disapproving frown before taking his bags from the driver and starting up the front walkway. Teri had no choice but to follow. They’d barely made it to the porch when the huge oak door opened. A short, frail-looking woman stood in the entryway.

“Welcome back, Joshua,” the woman greeted.

“Thank you, Martha. It’s good to be here.” Glancing back to where Teri stood, he said, “This is Miss Hunter. She’s with me.”

“Oh,” the woman said simply. “Welcome, Miss Hunter. We trust your stay here at Collingwood will be enjoyable.”

Teri smiled faintly, but couldn’t muster up a ‘thank you’ to save her soul.

“One room or two, Joshua?”

In unison, they both answered, “Two.”

Martha responded with a minute bob of her graying head and then motioned toward the parlor with a sweep of her hand. “We were just about to have tea if you’d care to join us.”

“If you don’t mind,” Dr. Cain began, “we’d like to get situated in our rooms. We’ve got an event at the museum tonight and I, for one, would like a bit of down time to work on my lecture.”

“You’re in your usual room. I can give Miss Hunter the room next to yours, if you’d like.”

He shook his head. “Perhaps she would be more comfortable across the hall with the view of the garden.”

“As you wish, Joshua.”

Teri followed closely behind as they climbed the stairs to the second floor. She was about to turn toward the long hallway when she realized they were climbing yet another flight. What she wouldn’t give, she realized, for an elevator or even a bellman. Rather than voice her wishes, she hiked her carry-on higher up on her shoulder and tugged on the handle of her suitcase until the wheels gained purchase on the worn carpet. The next landing looked to be at least a half-mile away.

When they reached the third floor, Martha stopped outside the first room off the staircase and opened the door. “This is your room, Miss Hunter.”

Dr. Cain, Teri realized, had already crossed the hallway and opened the door to the room just opposite hers. Teri took a short step forward. “Thank you.”

“Bathroom is down the hall,” Martha told her, the woman’s simple statement stopping Teri dead in her tracks.

“Down the hall?” she asked. “You mean there’s no bathroom in my suite?”

Martha chuckled heartily, her wrinkled cheeks jiggling and sagging like warm Jell-O. “Child, there’s no suite in your suite, it’s just a room. And, everyone shares the facilities.” Nodding toward the end of the long hallway, she added, “The key hangs outside the door. You take it in with you, lock the door from the inside and try not to take longer than fifteen minutes.”


17 October 2016

Top 10 Worldbuilding Questions

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The call of worldbuilding has been strong this year. So naturally, one of the projects in my 'Development' folder is a middle grade fantasy series of five books.

The road to building a world is a long one. Or at least in my opinion, it should be long with many twists and turns. An entire planet with species and associated civilizations (culture, infrastructure, politics, history) doesn't just materialize when you sit down to write.

As I continue sketching out this world (literally) and the main characters (also literally) I'm unravelling layers of what it means to build a world. The series I'm developing now marks a dramatic departure from my magic realism roots. It's a plunge into the icy waters of fantasy, for the hard-to-engage middle grade reader. And like many writers before me, I know the devil is in the details.

So with this in mind, I'm sharing my top worldbuilding questions. These are my thoughts on what you should ask yourself before and during the creation phase. They seem basic, but you do need to spend some time mentally dwelling on these areas. Keep reading and you'll see they're often questions within questions.

1.) What does your world look like?

This can be fun, but it's also daunting. If you want your world to be relatable and interesting, you need to make sure your continents, mountains, beaches, lakes, cities, and forests all exist and behave in believable ways. If you depart from what we know of planetary geography, you'll need to back it up with theoretical physics.

2.) Who lives where on the planet and why?

Consider the climate of your world and which species would live in which areas. Do you have one dominant species adapted to different regions, with a myriad of predator and prey animals in a separate food chain? Or do multiple advanced species inhabit their areas of origin and/or comfort? For the latter, what kind of ecosystems do you develop?

3.) How old is your planet?

The age of your planet may not be as important to the story as the age of your civilization(s), but consider both questions as you build. Are any areas of the planet geologically volatile? How long have the inhabitants had to evolve and adapt?

4.) Does your fantasy planet have a connection to Earth?

Bringing humans and Earth into the context of a fantasy story can be a great way to orient your reader. Some writers may feel it's needlessly gratifying to insert 'us' into a story where 'we' don't belong. In my experience as a reader, I like to see how humanity (and by extension, me) fits into the fictional world I'm visiting. You can make your fantastic world matter to the reader in a more concrete way if you thread it somehow into our own past, present, or future.

5.) Do humans live on your planet?

Related to the question above, but a distinctly different point. From Earth's post-human future to distant planets in a galaxy far, far away, it may feel more authentic to create a world that has no contact with humanity, if for no reason other than to honour the fact that we don't yet know of life outside our own world.

6.) How many stories will take place in/on your world?

Once you've built a world, you may decide it's worth more than one story. You might want multiple plots simply because of the current digital market business case for developing a series rather than a stand alone title. Personally, I like to tell a story as it evolves naturally. Do you need three books to get your characters where they need to go? Or will it be more complex, stretching into five, ten, or more books?

7.) How much history do you need? How much culture?

My favourite fantasy worlds are places with their own richly detailed history, art, music, and politics. With the good also comes the bad. How many wars are in your civilization's past? How does recent and distant history impact the characters in your story and the world they inhabit?

8.) Are you incorporating surreal geographic phenomena?

While this is a fun and fascinating realm to explore, you'll need to do some research to create something your readers will understand well enough to visualize. Start with some real world phenomena and you'll be surprised how bizarre you can get.

9.) Where does your plot take your characters?

Keep in mind the specific locations or settings where your story takes place and develop those areas the most. If your planet has an uninhabited continent not relevant to your plot, don't worry to much about the nuances of the topography.

10.) Are symbolism and/or allegory at work in your story?

Personally, I don't have a problem with the planet itself or the people on it representing something other than their literal realities. However, I believe it takes advanced skill to pull off in a meaningful and rewarding way. More skill than I myself possess. So if you're going to tackle creating a country or a civilization that represents a larger human truth, tread carefully or risk missing the mark.

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10 October 2016

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Up here in Canada it's Thanksgiving (always a Monday for us) and I've got a lot to be thankful for. My kids are happy and healthy, I love my new home, and our new neighbourhood is a great fit. I have an entire trilogy behind me in 2016 and I'm looking forward to my first middle grade novel next year.

What I cherish about this holiday is the opportunity it presents to those of us (I may be one of them) who can be prone to seeing hardships more clearly than blessings. I frequently need to step back and take stock of everything that's great in my life. So with that in mind, what are you thankful for?