Tuesday, August 31, 2010


I made it on to . i09's September calendar of awesomeness. While this is probably not the kind of goal you tell your guidance counselor about, it has been one of mine since I discovered the site . . . long after I had a guidance counselor.

I could probably use a guidance counselor, now that I think about it. Now more than ever, really. Sigh.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Profiling The Misspellers

My first book, The Misspellers, has found a second life at Smashwords.com, as an ebook. I was reluctant to put it up, not thinking too many 9 to 12 year olds had Nooks or Kindles. That has turned out to be a silly consideration. That phrase about presuming making an ass . . . no, that’s not right. ‘Presume’ makes a ‘pres’ out of you and me, and there’s nothing wrong with that, other than it’s misspelled, which brings me back to my point. The Misspellers has taught me that you never know what’s going on out there in the world. People who access ebooks may very well read novels intended for middle readers. If they’re about faeries, anyway. (I think there’s people who will read anything about faeries.) Predicting literary markets is difficult, if not impossible and probably a waste of time for a writer. Write what you want. If it’s for kids, write it. If it’s for adults, write that. Put it out and let other people slap on their labels and shove it into their ready-made holes. Don’t pre-shove, I guess, is what I’ve learned.

Oh, and give away if you can. People seem to like that, too.

The Misspellers.

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Binky Fairy

Max, my four-year-old son, dictated a note to the Binky Fairy, imagining the places she (or he, I don’t know) might take his binkies, now that he was a big boy and no longer needed them. Babies in the jungle. Clown babies. His note was specific and far-reaching and troubling. Every time I see one of my children exhibit creative skills – every time someone shows me a great piece of writing from any young person – I get a tiny ping of dread. For them.
Yes, unbridled imagination is great. But, you know, doesn’t every parent want the easiest possible path for their children? A strong imagination never leads to the downhill-all-the-way road. There are easier ways to make a living than by thinking things up. I know. I’ve tried them. I’m not complaining about being a writer. It’s kind of a choice I’ve made (kind of a compulsive disorder) so I never curry condolences. In fact, because I enjoy writing, it took me a while to pinpoint the source of my ping of dread.

Rejection. Nobody wants to subject anybody they like to the waves of rejection that crash against any creative process in a constant cold and salty assault. You face those that don’t like your stuff because it’s not that good, those that hate it because it is, others for whom you are simply not their cup of tea and still others with no taste at all. It’s daunting and I wish for my kids to escape it all, in whatever they choose to do. I wish for them a life of fair exchange. A binky for a plastic robot. Straight up and done while they’re asleep. Of course, that kind of fairy-filled world takes a tremendous leap of imagination . . . and I’m back where I started. Crap.

Thursday, August 12, 2010


. . . that is Cinco de Mayo’s ranking on Amazon. Yep. There are apparently 4 ½ million books more interesting than mine at the moment. It hasn’t gone on sale yet, so I shouldn’t be too upset, but that is a big hill to, well, I’m not much of a climber. I rather strap on the ole’ jet pack or take the family dirigible. Because if you look at 4.5 large as a one-step-at-a-time kind of journey, you’re better off just making camp. The Amazon equivalents of a Legion flight ring are going on Oprah – that would be too easy – or winning an award. I’m going for that one. My plan is to make up my own award and then win it. Or at least get on the short list. The Grand Island Literature Laurels or “Gilly” awards. That sounds so cute it could be true. We’ll start accepting nominations September 1.
Cinco de Mayo at Amazon

Friday, August 6, 2010

Editing Anonymous

The editing process for Cinco de Mayo was not at all what I expected. Two editors, and I never met either one. I don't even have full names. Safety standards, I guess, to protect them from the kind of writer that flips out and drives 2,300 miles to Red Deer to scream "I wrote 'froward' because that's the word I wanted!" They needn't have worried in my case. I have never done such a thing. 2,300 miles is far.

The anonymity benefited the process of creating a novel in ways that didn't occur to me until after. The book became the thing. The power of personalities became much less consequential than they can be in other, more personal exchanges. We had no bullying. No forcing. No contests of will that many boys lean towards in times of crisis. Nor was there suasion by means other than the written word. No one conceded any point because the other was pretty, nice or offering pistachio muffins.

Not that there was much to argue about. My book was near perfect when in entered the mill. . . And much more perfect when it came out. The procedure was, in the end, like any good surgery. Mostly painless, resulting in a healthier patient. The only real discrepancies arose from those odd places in the English language at which Canadians and Americans diverge. Colour and a few capitalizations. That was about it. Oh, and Chapter 73. That's gone. Which makes me froward. But not nearly enough to drive to Red Deer.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

A Picture's Worth 75,000 Words

26 years of writing teaches you not to get excited. Which does not help your writing at all. You've got to have oodles of enthusiasm - sourced from nothing - to jot a sentence, contemplate a scene or build a character. I've had projects killed in legal battles, bankruptcies, tragic accidents and death. (I'll leave out bad ideas, poor craft, 'what was I thinking?' . . .) After years of a mental steeplechase for which you never trained, but ran full out anyway, your energy can feel unfounded. I always have a little hope tucked away and certainly some intrigue. I'm guarded with my excitement, though. With Cinco de Mayo, I didn't allow myself any until I got this illustration attached to an e-mail.

The retro feel, the colors, the abstract interpretation of the book's defining event - very cool and very difficult. The novel is about people who share memories. It follows a half-dozen stories, spanning the globe, with the only commonality being something you can't see. Try drawing that next time you've got your Crayolas out. Berets off to Tomislav Tikulin. His picture got me excited about my words again.