Tuesday, October 30, 2001

Okay - I am quite used to being busy - but this is getting a bit silly! Since I last posted (and though it is only a few days ago, I have to say it feels like years and years have passed since I last made a few notes here...) I have completed a full set of revisions on the StableMates 7 manuscript. In this book, a new boy (Andrew) comes to Kenwood Middle School (Jessa, too, is now in Grade 7), Jessa continues to have problems adjusting to riding Jasmine, and she and Cheryl discover an antique pocket watch under an old shed near the Dark Creek Railway Trail.

As I did with the revisions to the Pony Express manuscript, I'll note a couple of examples of changes made to the StableMates book...

Editor Freda said: Jessa's reaction to hearing about Andrew's secret isn't strong enough (I just typed out his secret and then had to delete all that just in case you might someday like to read the book - Andrew's secret is, after all, one of the main storylines in the book). Suffice it to say that Andrew's secret is a bit shocking and Jessa (in the first draft) didn't get quite excited enough about what she hears.

Nikki's Solution: Added about half a page of dialogue which, I hope, will make Jessa sound more horrified than before. Also added a bit more of a physical reaction to support her words.

Editor Freda said: Molly needs to be more fully developed. Currently wimpy.

Nikki's Solution: I added a big confrontation between Molly and Jessa (in case you haven't read Book 6, Molly is the young rider who has been riding Rebel. Jessa can't stand her, especially since Jessa has been having such a tough time on Jasmine). The new scene is about three or four pages long and... Hmmm, I guess I shouldn't say what happens there, either, as it is sort of central to the plot, too - I can say that Jessa got so upset while I was writing this scene that I started crying as I wrote it! That girl is really getting to be quite troublesome!

Editor Freda had a couple of pages of notes and comments. I hope I have addressed them all to her satisfaction. I dropped off the revised draft last night. The timing was excellent because today I was able to pick up the Sarah Winnemucca biography (as well as another book about the Paiute War of 1859-60) from the library AND the book I ordered from the USA arrived in the mail today. Amazingly, Sarah Winnemucca was in Carson City at exactly the same time that my character, Jo was locked up in the Carson City Home for Unfortunate Children. Not only that, but when I thought they might meet again the following October, Sarah Winnemucca is in the hills not far at all from where Jo gets lost! So, I should be able to find a way to have them meet not once, but twice!!!! It feels like Sarah just wants to be in this book.

An aside: In case you are wondering, I do all of my revisions in longhand on the most recent draft. All new scenes I write out by hand. Then, I go back through the manuscript and type in all the changes, print off the new draft, read through it to check for errors, and then correct those (first on paper and then on the computer). This process is very hard on trees but I can't seem to work very well directly onto a computer screen. I blame this process for any awkward sentences or incoherent paragraphs I might post on this BLOG.

Other projects I've been busy with over the past few days: E-mailing teachers in Campbell River, Nanaimo, Comox, and North Vancouver to finalize dates for a week of school presentations in early March, 2002; corresponding with Malaspina College in Duncan to figure out how we might organize two on-line writing courses in the spring term (it looks like I'll be teaching two, five- week courses - the first called : Fiction Writing Workshop, and the second: Introduction to Freelance Writing; running errands and preparing my materials for air travel (I leave at the crack of dawn on Saturday for my Ontario trip); continuing to put a dent in my dreadful accumulation of emails; and, finally, doing my duty as a soccer mom - watched Dani's game and ferried her between practices, a field hockey tournament, and her team photo shoot on the weekend. Did I mention grocery shopping, laundry, and cleaning out the summer house?

One final note before I sign off - Wonderful news yesterday- Here is a copy of the BC Bestseller List for children's books for last week:

Week of October 22, 2001

Children's Titles

1 A Pacific Alphabet (Whitecap Books)
2 Tarragon Island (Sono Nis Press)
3 No Cafes in Narnia (Sono Nis Press)
4 Rebel of Dark Creek (Sono Nis Press)
5 Cat's Eye Corner (Raincoast Books)

This is very cool! Thank you so much all you readers out there! You all made my day! My week! My month!

Thursday, October 25, 2001

Since finding my feet back here in Victoria, have been hard at work revising the Pony Express novel for Orca. We are contemplating a title change as 'Jo's Triumph at Ruby Lake' was only ever meant to be a working title. Alas, Jo doesn't actually triumph anywhere near Ruby Lake, so this must change. Some ideas include:
Rider Last
Orphans Preferred
Jo's Triumph
Horse Before Rider
... and, with any luck, some brilliant suggestions by my editor, Maggie.

Most of the revisions to the manuscript posed few problems. Here are a couple of examples...

Maggie suggested Jo (a girl who, in 1860, disguises herself as a boy in order to be able to get a job as a Pony Express rider....) seems a bit blase about riding (she has spent some time in an orphanage and the riding is supposed to be a pretty exciting experience for her...)
Nikki fixed this by adding some more bonding moments between horse and rider on the ground and more communication between rider and mount during the riding scenes when Jo is thundering across the barren landscape of Utah Territory...

Maggie noted that the motivation of the bad guy, James, is a little unclear during the final scene (can't tell you what happens or it will spoil the ending).

Nikki fixed this by adding a bit more dialogue between James and Jo and changing the way James barges into the cabin where she and the militia are waiting for him.

Maggie does not like the use of italics throughout the text to indicate Jo's innermost thoughts.
An easy fix for Nikki who just changed everything back to regular old Times Roman.

...and so on...

A more difficult problem to address was Maggie's concern that the Paiute Indians are portrayed negatively in the story. This is true. Jo (and just about everyone else) are either terrified of or quite hateful to the Indians of the area. This may be historically accurate (there were some pretty horrendous battles fought in 1860 resulting in casualties on both sides) but is not politically correct today. So, off I went to search for some plausible (more positive) encounter Jo might actually have enjoyed with some member of the Paiute nation. Lo and behold I discovered a wonderful character, Sarah Winnemucca, a terrific advocate for her people who might have been active during the period when Jo is riding around in the wilds of Utah Territory.
I've ordered her authobiography (from a rare book dealer in Idaho...) and tracked down a biography here in our public library system. Maggie (somewhat alarmed at this development) has given me an extra three weeks to revise the manuscript. My hope is that I'll be able to orchestrate a believable encounter between Jo and Sarah. Failing this.... well, I'll come up with a plan B if I have to.

Meanwhile, the length of the book is getting to be a problem. The Orca Young Readers Series includes books from 12,500 - 15,000 words. Though some are a bit longer (up to about 22,000 words), Jo's Triumph is already at 21,000 and is likely to grow with the addition of this new sub-plot. On this point, Maggie was adamant I was not to stretch the book much longer. Therefore, for each word I add about Sarah Winnemucca, I'll have to delete something from elsewhere in the manuscript. This should be lots of fun!

While I wait for my reference books to arrive, I am working on the revisions to StableMates 7 (more on this another time). Apparently Pat Cupples has started work on the cover design.

In other news.... did an hour-long interview on CFUV last night with three other children's authors: Margaret Thompson (EYEWITNESS, and a story in the anthology, BEGINNINGS: STORIES OF CANADA'S PAST, Sylvia Olsen (NO TIME TO SAY GOOD-BYE, and Maggi de Vries (CHANCE AND THE BUTTERFLY. And, yes, by coincidence, this is the same Maggie who is my editor at Orca). Airing today on Richardson's Roundup - a segment taped last week at the Vancouver International Writers Festival with Loris Lesynski. Also visited grade six and seven students at Hampton School yesterday. Thanks to Ann Warren for organizing things! Made posters to send to the Country Quill store in Ontario. They are hosting a book signing at the Royal Winter Fair on November 4th....

Ok - I'd better stop now - those StableMates 7 revisions are not doing themselves!

Sunday, October 21, 2001

Though I was back in Victoria for a couple of days, my computer was kaput and my relatives from California were in town. Not only that, but I had to finish up all those articles I've been groaning about (did get them finished, finally!). Started work on the revisions for the Pony Express book, ran about a thousand errands, and hopped on an early ferry to Vancouver on Wednesday the 17th, headed for the Vancouver International Writers and Readers Festival.

I had soooooo much fun - though I was pretty worn out by the time I had survived three days of intense literary activity! I'll post more on this in the next few days - As you can imagine, I'm behind on nearly everything - e-mail, snail mail, revisions (oh, yes - received an e-mail from Freda, my editor on StableMates 7, with her list of comments about the first draft.... More on that, too, as I begin to work on that again...), and, ummm... laundry.
Oh, how annoying is it when the computer crashes???????? And burns???? And dies????? I have been terribly grumpy for nearly two weeks - struggling along without my virtual right arm. And, of course, it just figures that the past couple of weeks have been reeeeeeaaaaaalllly busy so now I'm waaaaaaaay behind with my posting here. Grumble, grumble, grumble...

On October 10 I scooted up to Campbell River so I could visit with students at Penfield Elementary School. What a wonderful reception! I've posted a few photos over at the MSN site, if you're curious about a what one might see in Campbell River... (scroll down until you get to the Campbell River album...) Penfield Elementary is one of those fantastic schools where everyone seems to love books and reading. The teacher-librarian there (John Woolley) was extremely welcoming, well-organized, and helpful and the kids were well-prepared with great questions.

Saturday, October 06, 2001

Wow - a very busy week. Frantically trying to finish all those Island Parent review books (reading, reading, reading) and write all those Island Parent articles (writing, writing, writing)... The absolute final, my-kneecaps-will-be-broken-if-I-don't-deliver-deadline is on Tuesday. So, just the small problem of a turkey dinner and a soccer tournament to deal with between now and then and all should be well.

On Thursday morning chatted with grade 3's and 4's at Cloverdale Elementary School. We had a great visit - I'm looking forward to going back again next year! Thanks to Peter Crawford for organizing things with such an excellent sense of fun (note, Mr. Crawford, that I did drink every last drop of my water this year...)

Today, scooted up to Duncan for a signing at the Volume One Book Store. The event was, I suspect, somewhat underpromoted - However, I had an excellent visit with a small but very enthusiastic group of kids who had some great questions. Hanna presented me with a copy of a marvelous school report she wrote about me as well as a lovely card with a photo of a mare and foal on the front (... like the one one Jessa's poster, I wonder?). Lovina provided me with the inspiration for another very, very cool character name... Information has been filed.

Thursday and Friday nights were both Bolen shifts... great to be back in the best bookstore on the planet, now even bigger post-expansion.

Tuesday, October 02, 2001

Yesterday morning visited Greenglade Elementary School in Sidney where I talked to a group of grade 4 and 5 students. Yesterday was the first time I was able to read from the new book (CAVE OF DEPARTURE)... One boy asked if I ever received fan mail that told me how much my books sucked. Hmmm.... I should have asked what his name was just in case he writes me a letter! Generally, the group was very enthusiastic and kept me busy right until the end of our 90 minute session with lots of great questions. Great fun!

In the evening (after picking Dani up from soccer practice) I photographed a group of women who were taking the Beginners Course at Scrapbook Parade (one of the Island Parent articles will be about scrapbooking for families).

The manuscript, Jo's Triumph, arrived this morning in the mail along with comments from Maggie (the editor at Orca who is working on this project). I've barely had a chance to glance at her notes never mind do anything about them as I've been busily working on all the Island Parent articles that are due... well, the minute I can get them finished!

Found a few minutes today to update the MSN Nikki Tate News site with a few pics from Whistler and Pemberton. The Blackcombe Lodge in Whistler wins the prize for having the cutest fake fireplace in a hotel room.