Monthly Archives: June 2011

Thank you Andreas Stridsberg: Photographer Responsible for darkness Cover

Something I have been meaning to do for a long time and am finally getting around to! Swedish photographer, Andreas Stridsberg is responsible for the cover of my last book, the darkness between the stars.

As you can see from image below, the cover is eye-catching, whimsical and stunning:

Cover for the darkness between the stars; cover photographer Andreas Stridsberg

The bookjacket is the first thing a potential reader notices, and if they are drawn to the image, they are very likely to want to see what lies between the covers, so a brilliant cover image like this one is invaluable. This is my favourite cover image to date and from the feedback I’ve had from both booksellers and readers, it’s a hit!
Thank you Andreas!

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Short Story Competition: A Great Way to Get Published

What better way to hone your writing skills and practice working to a deadline than to enter a contest? The Federation of BC Writers has extended the deadline for its annual Literary Writes Competition to August 7/2011 and you can email your short story (max 2000 words) entries in.

For more information and guidelines, visit their website here.

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Writing Tips: Breaking Your Novel Down Into Chunks

One of the most difficult things about writing a novel for the first time is the sheer size and magnitude of the project. Even a shorter novel, one between 40 and 60 thousand words can seem daunting to the beginner writer.

I was talking to a friend yesterday about her work-in-progress and she explained that she had stalled out after a few thousand words because she just couldn’t see her way through to the end of the book. “I have scenes and dialogues in my head, but it’s hard to write the whole thing down from the first chapter to the last chapter.”

If you think of your completed novel as a series of shorter, but linked stories based on a group of characters, it is much easier to write and complete your book. Every time you hear your characters talking or envision them in the middle of a conflict or just living their everyday lives, write it down.

Too often, writers make the mistake of not writing down their ideas as soon as they come. As my friend said, “Sometimes I get the most amazing ideas, so good that I’m sure I can’t possibly forget them, but then, when I go to write them down, they have somehow evaporated.”

Sometimes these great ideas arrive in the form of an overheard conversation, or something you’ve read in a newspaper or online. Write them down immediately, before it is too late.

Set a realistic word count and write every day. This accomplishes several things:

1. You will begin to really know your characters; their goals, their motivations, their fears and their beliefs
2. As you get to understand your characters, the story arc and continuity becomes much clearer
3. A good novel is character driven, and if you want to put your characters in the driver’s seat, you have to give them the room to show you who they are
4. Even if you only write 200 words a day, by the end of a month you will have 6000 words and by the end of a year, you will have 73,00 words!

Even if your goal is only 500 words, make sure that you reach it. Some days will be more challenging than others. Often those first couple of hundred words are all that you need to get your creativity flowing.

Don’t be afraid to use the delete button. A good writer views this tool as a best friend.

Don’t worry at first if your chunks of writing don’t seem to flow together. Just write it down. The time to look for continuity is after the ideas are on the page and the first draft is complete.

Break your novel into chunks – try it for a month and you will be happily surprised at the results.

As long as you can see a few feet ahead of you, you will get to the end of the journey

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Writing a First Draft: To Outline or Not to Outline

There is no right or wrong way to begin a novel. Some authors like to begin with a detailed, chapter-by-chapter outline, some, and I count myself among these, find an outline restrictive and just dive straight into the story. Recently, at the request of a publisher, I had to create an outline for the new book I am working on and although I found putting the plot down on paper to be an arduous task, I was surprised how helpful it was for me to identify the main plot twists in my new story.

Because most of my books are character, not plot driven, I always have the sense that, like a Seinfeld episode, nothing really happens; my characters move through their lives without leaping from airplanes, chasing down bad guys or solving crimes. Yet, this is simplistic and not true at all – things happen to and because of my characters – huge life-changing events, like in The Perfect Cut when Brian must struggle with his sister’s death, or smaller, but difficult to deal with problems, like the pressure Cole feels to be perfect in the darkness between the stars.

Know where the road leads to

Actioni contrariam semper et æqualem esse reactionem: To Every Action there is an equal and opposite reaction. By creating a plot twist outline, it helped me to identify the motivations behind the decisions, often deceivingly small, but life-altering, made by my characters. It helped me to get to know them better, because I spent hours thinking about who they are and what makes them do what they do.

In the end, although I was reluctant to write an outline, it didn’t do me any harm at all and may actually have helped me with my writing process.

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Summer Writing Retreat Canada: St. Peter’s Abbey, Saskatchewan

Every year or so, I have been lucky enough to be accepted at different writer’s retreats in places as far away as Iceland, or as enchanting as the Yukon and this July I am off to St. Peter’s Abbey in glorious Saskatchewan, a province I have visited in the past and fallen in love with, for it’s magical skies and awe-dropping sunsets and the people are pretty great too.

Thanks to the Saskatchewan Writer’s Guild, of which I am a member, as well as CARFAC Saskatchewan with funding from Saskatchewan Lotteries, SaskCulture and the Saskatchewan Arts Board, I will be able to spend two weeks at this lovely Benedictine Monastery in Muenster, just ninety kilometres east of Saskatoon near Humboldt.

In my experience, being provided with a quiet, tranquil and peaceful setting, absent of everyday distractions is the most ideal way to get the creative juices flowing and I am very thankful for this opportunity. While there, I will be working on a new novel – the ideas are formed and the characters are already in my head, so, with a little time to think and write, I should be able to get the bones of the story down.

I leave next Thursday and will be gone two weeks and hope to blog about this experience.

There is something magical about stepping out of the chaos of everyday life!

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Stanley Cup Playoffs: Vancouver’s Shame

I am sitting here watching the coverage of the aftermath of Stanley Cup Game. GAME being the key word. It’s only a game, a bunch of guys chasing a puck around the ice and it’s a good game, but the magic has been taken away. There were a bunch of kids here tonight, some had been at the game, some downtown and some watching at home. They left downtown when the game ended – they have brains.

There’s going to be some Darwin Awards given out tonight – how sad. And what a terrible shame for this city – an embarrassment and a humiliation.

Most kids did the right thing and left. The rest of you should shake your heads…there is nothing about tonight to be proud of.

The Canucks lost a game. We lost a lot more than that.


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Book Give Away: darkness between the stars

myjellybean,, the website for teenage girls is giving away three copies of my book. To enter this contest, visit darkness between the stars Sweepstakes. Good luck!

Goodreads is also offering three copies of darkness between the stars, so why not enter both contests and may the best reader win!

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Joy of Signing Books

I got to do my first book signing today at Kids Books, Vancouver – I signed all copies they had in store and man, did that feel good! I can’t express what a thrill it is to see books you’ve actually written on a bookshelf in the hands of one of our cities top booksellers!

In the meantime, fingers crossed for the Canucks tonight!

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Sharing Books – Spreading Literacy

I am a member of CWILL, and many people may not realize our strong commitment, as a group, to making sure that children have access to books, whenever possible. We do this through donations to various groups in need. For example, books from authors have gone to Japan and to Slave Lake in the past few months.

I was inspired by this generosity and wanted to make sure that the wonderful books I read this year for the annual Red Cedar Award would also find a home in a more local school library, where they would be read and read again, allowing students who might not otherwise have the opportunity to participate in the Red Cedar Awards for 2012, do just that.

With the help of fellow-writer, Lois Peterson, we found a home for all of these books at Jessie Lee Elementary School in Surrey, where librarian Dawne Murray plans to oversee a full Red Cedar reading program for her her students. I couldn’t be more thrilled about this 🙂

If you have books sitting on your shelves that need a home, please consider donating them. I know it is tempting to take them to a second hand bookstore to sell, but, in the end, it is much more satisfying to send them off to a bookshelf where they will be appreciated!

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A Writing Partner – Is it for you?

Up until now, I have never had a writing partner, but I was at a workshop at the Joy Kogawa House a little while ago and I met a fellow writer, a grad from the UBC MFA program, who I really got along with, immediately. After the workshop, we exchanged emaails, and today, for the first time we are meeting at The Wired Monk to talk about an informal one-on-one ‘writer’s support group.’ Basically, this would involve reading each other’s manuscripts, with a critical but kind eye and offering advice and encouragement.

I have never worked closely with another writer before in this capacity, but I have friends who consider this type of collaboration to be a really important part of their writing process, so I am excited to see what comes of this. More about this, post meeting.

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