Tuesday, December 31, 2002

When I was growing up, my family moved a lot. By the time I was in Grade Ten I had attended ten different schools and we had moved fifty-six times on three different continents. This trend continued when I left home - I have five different universities on my undergrad transcript and added quite a few more addresses of my own. Just because we moved a lot didn't mean we got rid of stuff along the way. Au contraire - we are all (and I confess, I am the worst) pack-rats. By the time my parents, daughter, and I moved into a house in the country outside Victoria (my parents live upstairs), we had accumulated dozens and dozens and dozens of boxes of papers, books, albums, old toys, life jackets, camping gear, costumes, stuff, stuff, and more stuff, all of which has been stacked, untouched, in the basement for the last seven years or so.

This year, both my brothers are here for Christmas (one from Tokyo, the other, with his two small children, from California). What possessed the Tokyo Bro to suggest we make cleaning out the basement our family project this year, I can't imagine, but that is exactly what we have been doing for the past several days. What a job! But the treasures I've found! And the ludicrous junk! I've already tossed out eight - EIGHT!!! - garbage bags full of papers, magazines, brochures, maps, travel guides, etc. - and that's just the papery stuff. There is a mountain of ... other stuff ... destined for the dump and another sizeable heap destined for the Goodwill.

As a result of all this frenzied activity, I will not have to make a New Year's Resolution this year as I've taken care of the past several years' worth of resolutions in one fell swoop!

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 24, 2002

Merry Christmas!
Just when you think the big issue of the day is whether to bake shortbread or chocolate chip cookies, this happens:

As my mother was pulling out onto the highway about 30 seconds away from home, someone else changed lanes and side-swiped her into the ditch. DON'T WORRY! Despite my mother's car being totalled, nobody in either vehicle was injured. The fence, however, is another story...
Luckily, here in Victoria we have very strong tow-truck guys... this one didn't even wait for mechanical assistance before he started hauling the car out of the ditch... "Look, Ma - one hand!"

Sunday, December 22, 2002

Ahhh, Christmas - such a silly, crazy, fun time of year. My brother and his family (children ages 1 and a bit and 2 1/2) are here already and my goal is to make sure my niece, Aly, (the older one) becomes completely book crazy before she leaves. I have quite a stack of picture books that have been lying in ambush for months... It's great fun to study them and make up silly stories vaguely related to the illustrations - a favourite game that Dani will no longer play with me now that she's nearly 16 and knows how to read most of the words... My other goal is to create some serious horse enthusiasm by taking Aly down to the barn and letting her have a little ride around the ring on Breezy (flanked by Dani and her dad, of course, and led by me - Breezy may be old, but she has her spunky moments!)

That's it for now - many elfy things to do around here! Carnillo essentially on hold for the moment... sigh... was within twenty pages of the end of the most recent draft... Best of the Season to you!

Monday, December 16, 2002

Find of the week on the discard cart at the library... Dragons and Other Creatures: Chinese Embroidery. This book describes the secret language (hidden symbols, multiple meanings) woven into Chinese embroidery designs... Extremely useful in the context of my ongoing struggles with quilt development (see earlier post).
Not much time to blog over the weekend - was at the fabulous first annual Christmas Writers' Festival in Sidney - more about that after I get back from Courtenay - if Christmas doesn't get me first. Today was also a bit crazy - editing and then scurrying around doing a bit of Christmas shopping. For the morbidly curious, here is a piece out of the middle of Carnillo... a manuscript in shreds at the moment... though best you don't mention that to Diane at Sono Nis. She will have my head!

Wednesday, December 11, 2002

And, now, an experiment... I have recently upgraded my account and should, in theory, be able to post photos right here... Let's click this button and see what happens...

Holy crow! That was exciting... first time I tried that, the photo was the size of a whale! And then somehow the line of photo code got in here twice... (after I fixed the size problem... then a quantity problem...) And then, as I was trying to re-upload... everything froze! So, I do apologize if you happened to stumble through here right while all THAT was going on...
Anyway... this is a photo of me inside a whale skeleton at Miracle Beach Elementary School... I'll be visiting students there again next week (MB is near Courtenay, farther north on Vancouver Island).
Ok - before I have any more near disasters here, I'm going to head for the kitchen and scrounge up something for supper...
Though the weather has turned really wet and miserable, Dani and I slogged through barn chores in record time this morning so we arrived comfortably early for a visit with students at Blanshard Elementary School in Victoria. The kids were terrific and thanks to two wonderful local businesses (Scrapbook Parade at Royal Oak and Bolen Books at the Hillside Mall), each child at the presentation went home today with a copy of Jo's Triumph.

In other news, received a package of books from the Canadian Book Review Annual as well as tear sheets for all the reviews I wrote last year. This publication tries to review every book published in Canada each year. What a job! I'm quite excited to see what the latest titles will be like -

And, in the work-related emails received today department (because this blog is supposed to be at least partly work-related...):

- message from librarian in Ontario confirming the dates I'll be available for school visits during the week of May 19th (leading up to the Silver Birch Awards ceremony)

- message from coordinator of the annual Children's Festival up in Nanaimo - sounds like they have some great stuff planned - also in May - must let them know my availability for readings in schools during the week leading up to the festival

- DELIGHTFUL message from Annick in Toronto saying my advance cheque is in the mail (for the Grandmother picture book) - this bodes well for some extra jollies at Christmas

- and, finally - a quick note from the organizers of the Author's Festival this week out in Sidney letting me know where the secret room is where authors are allowed to run and hide, presumably when the mob scenes get overwhelming....

Tuesday, December 10, 2002

Just sent in my Island Parent column... decided to go for the 'Quirky Teens' theme and added Carole Frechette's little novel, In the Key of Do (story of two teenage girls and their odd but powerful friendship).

Continue to work on Carnillo... Freda (editor) is reading behind me, as it were - she has the first 150 pages or so and, after reading the first fifty, doesn't see any major problems. This is progress! So, I continue to plug on through the back half of the book...

On the 'wow, I'm not actually dead yet' front - Dani dragged me out to the Kids (U-16 Metro Girls) vs. the Parents Soccer Game last night! The miracle is, I can still move (albeit slowly) today! I have to say it was way more fun than I thought it was going to be! Actually, Dani has decided to take her relatively sedentary mother and whip her into shape... So, rather than letting me steep in a brew of Ben-Gay and Tiger Balm, she hauled my sorry butt off to the gym this morning! There I was able to read on a comfy recumbent exercise bike... My legs kept turning those pedals for 20 minutes but I hardly noticed because I successfully distracted myself with Basbanes', A Gentle Madness. I was feeling rather smug after that and was all ready to head upstairs to work on Carnillo in the library when Dani said - "Oh no you don't... first some weights... and some ab-work." Good grief! Next thing you know she'll be having me in training for some Ironwoman event... Not!

Sunday, December 08, 2002

In case you are worried about my mental health (pondering the endless intricacies of a world that exists only in my head is perhaps not the healthiest thing to do hour after hour, day after day, week after week...) I did take Breezy out for a therapeutic ride this morning. It was still foggy after I dropped Dani off at the ferry (she has an off-island game today) and Breezy and I just slipped into the fog and disappeared. It was a little spooky along the trail (yes, she did her share of that, too) - but by the time we came back about an hour later, the sun was shining and the cyclists, joggers, and other riders were out in full force. Breezy was full of spunk and did her best imitation of a head-tossing, prancing, dancing four year-old!
So, what the heck am I up during the famous rewriting of the Battle for Carnillo, Book Two of the Estorian Chronicles?. Well, at the moment, I'm working my way through the prickly problems created by deciding to set this trilogy in a preliterate society. In the last draft I had a group of political agitators referring to a map. The problems are many.
1. In a preliterate society, what sort of material would this map be written on?
2. With what? Why would anyone invent any sort of permanent ink as well as the tools to apply it to an appropriate surface if nobody knows how to write?
3. What kinds of symbols would be in common use in a society where storytelling/the oral tradition is the primary means of sharing information?
Given that I need some way for groups of people not necessarily in the same room together to share information and history useful to the rebel cause, my editor made the brilliant suggestion of using some sort of quilt (think Underground Railroad, gumboot dances, etc. where one item or action takes on a completely different use/meaning within a suppressed group) to record and convey information.

This made perfect sense to me until I started working out the logistics of these story quilts. Who owns them? Who contributes to them? Do they have any magical aspects? If so, how do those magical aspects work? Were scissors of some sort invented in the Estorian/Campriano world? (if not, how will the scraps of cloth be cut into meaningful shapes... likewise for needles and thread... are there dyes? Can one have coloured cloth and thread?)

At the moment, the quilt that Dominique sees is 12 X 12 squares in dimension and is one of 1000 quilts known to exist in the world. Once all of the squares have been filled, 144,000 chosen individuals will have contributed to this recorded history/knowledge/story compilation... So, what is the significance of the 144,000 chosen in the context of this trilogy? What will happen when all the squares are filled? Will recorded history as these people understand it stop? Or will a new means of communication/recording of story/history begin?

With each decision made (and this second book introduces a whole slew of these seemingly innocent objects that are actually causing me no end of grief. I mean, who would think a quilt would cause so much trouble??????), I have to answer about a million questions and then figure out if the answers to any of those questions are actually going to cause some other problems elsewhere in the narrative.

Saturday, December 07, 2002

The children's section of the bookstore is a kind of Nostalgia Lane for many who linger in front of shelves filled with old favourites like Pippi Longstocking, Harriet the Spy, Treasure Island, and The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe. Spending a fair amount of time there myself, the nostalgia effect has pretty well worn off. But last night, I overheard a browsing couple mumbling something like... 'great book... nasty boy... Struwwelpeter...' Struwwelpeter? Could it be that this gentleman knew about the evil little boy who refused to cut his fingernails or wash his hair? Didn't my mother use that very book to strike terror into the hearts of her children - "If you don't wash... well, just think about what happened to Struwwelpeter!" Alas, last night neither of us could figure out how to spell the little tyke's name, so we were unsuccessful in tracking down the book... However, the Internet (and my mother who put me on the correct track spelling-wise) turned up the book in English translation as well as a cool website with the original text, illustrations, and several translations and English versions of this cautionary tale.

Thursday, December 05, 2002

While I wasn't paying attention, December rolled around and with it, another Island Parent Magazine deadline! How the heck did that happen? So, off to have a look and see what might be good to review... I'm tempted to do Arthur Slade's Tribes and The Losers' Club, by John Lekich. Both books feature some quirky teens who don't quite fit in but who, nonetheless, manage to muddle through.

Another recent read that was rather good was Cornelia Funke's, The Thief Lord. Set in Venice, this is an intriguing tale of street children who take refuge in an abandoned movie theatre and are protected and cared for by the shadowy character, the Thief Lord. Funke's book has a fantasy element completely lacking in the first two, so I'm not sure if I can find a way to include all three in the same review... not that I need to be boring the rest of the world with my musings about what I might possibly include in my column. On the other hand, what good is a blog if it doesn't bore the world with musings?
Had a chat this morning with Diane at Sono Nis Press who seems to be very busy with her new fall lineup. She's had several very successful launches this season including one at Point Ellice House for a recent children's title, The Olden Days Locket. This is a great story about one of Victoria's landmarks, Point Ellice House. Penny Chamberlain's first book does an excellent job of blending historical fact with a dash of fantasy and a good dose of mystery. Look for more good books to come from this new author (I hear she is hard at work on her next novel - can't wait to read it!)

Wednesday, December 04, 2002

Going to be in the area December 13-15? Looking for something bookish to do? Check out the Christmas Writers Festival in Sidney, here on Vancouver Island. Sidney is sometimes called "Book Town" - for very good reason. You cannot turn around without stumbling into another book store! There are tons of cool events lined up - it should be a wonderful festival! Hope to see you there!
Currently reading with much, much glee, A Gentle Madness: Bibliophiles, Bibliomanes, and the Eternal Passion for Books by Nicholas A. Basbanes. I take a fair amount of flack for my ever-growing book collection and am forever answering questions like, "Have you read all those books?" or "Why don't you just go to the library?" or "Are you sure you don't want something else for Christmas? Maybe some clothes that aren't quite so 80's?" Anyway, after reading about people who have had serious book acquisition habits through the ages, my measly little stash seems completely... well, modest by comparison.

So, now that I don't feel the need to hide my own bibliomania, I can start planning how best to store my paper companions. On the off chance one of my family members happens to stumble upon my blog while wondering what I might like for Christmas, I wouldn't say no to a copy of At Home With Books: How Booklovers Live With and Care for Their Books so I can drool over gorgeous book cases, libraries, and reading tables. Along the same lines, Living With Books would find a happy home with me. Sigh. So many books, so little time.
Seems like our more typical weather is back with us again - rain, grey skies, drizzle, fog. After the vet came to visit yesterday (by the time he'd administered dear old Breezy her various shots including the one for West Nile virus, checked out her teeth, flexed her inflexible hock, wrote a prescription for Bute, etc. I was out a considerable lump of cash... Canadian though it might be, the bill still smarted!), Breezy and I did the neighborhood loop in reverse. Along the way, passed these fine riding establishments: Ambleside Farm and Hunt Valley Stables (I had a quick search for their web pages but couldn't find any matches...). Riding along Hunt Road, Dooley Road, and the Lochside Trail just north of Sayward is always a bit of a strange experience for me. This is exactly the landscape about which I write in the StableMates novels so sometimes, when I drift off into that blissful semi-dream state a quiet ride can induce, I find myself wondering if I might run into Jessa on the trail. Scary.

Saturday, November 30, 2002

What a glorious day today! Mild, sunny days like today almost make up for Victoria's notoriously rainy winters. Took Breezy out for a ride through the Hunt Valley, making mental notes (for future StableMates books) about the way the leaves have suddenly all dropped, the teeny birds flitting from branch to branch, the cyclists, the pigs, the gurgling seasonal streams, Breezy deciding to have a MAJOR spook on Dooley Road because someone had put two killer garbage bags out beside the road... She was convinced said monsters were going to eat her. We entertained a cyclist who slowed down to watch the show and make comments as we maneuvered, backwards, past the ferocious Glad bags. Why it would be acceptable to travel past the bags in reverse is beyond me - would it not make more sense to keep the enemy in full view rather than sidling past with your head turned away? If Breezy could speak I'm guessing she might have been saying something like, "I'm not looking! I'm not looking! At least I'm pointing back toward the barn, even if I'm moving in the wrong direction..." Once safely past, she wheeled around and smartly marched off, none the worse for wear.

Continue to work on Carnillo - sorry if it gets boring to keep hearing that. Just imagine what it's like to keep rewriting!

Thursday, November 28, 2002

And by the way... if you have been reading this blog and wondering if we ever needed any anti-venom in Nevada, the answer is "No". In fact, the only snake I saw during the whole trip was a rather small and very dead rattler in the middle of the small dirt road leading up into Egan Canyon (for more on the ride, photos, etc., visit the StableMates website). According to locals, the snakes were shedding their skins in preparation for winter hibernation, an activity the snakes prefer to do in private.
Strangely enough, today I was back at GNS again, this time to do a storytelling performance at the Junior Girls campus for the grade 6's and 7's. I told two of my favourites - Patience and the Underpants (a great story set in Japan for which I have completely lost the original reference - if anyone out there knows of the collection in which this story appears, please, please write to me ( so I can give proper credit when I tell this tale again...) as well as my version of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (told from the perspective of Mary Elizabeth May Cotter, Camelot's finest chambermaid). We had lots of fun and the hour we spent together seemed to fly past (a good sign that I wasn't desperately longing for the clock hands to move along a little faster...) If you are interested in learning more about good old Sir Gawain, check out Gawain's website.

Continue to work away at revisions to Carnillo, the book that will not stop growing. Currently sitting at 62,000 words and still counting. Yikes! If the last couple of editing go-rounds have been all about adding and fleshing out, I suspect the next one will be all about cutting and hacking away some of the excess verbiage I've been labouring over for so long!

Wednesday, November 13, 2002

Yesterday, in a torrential downpour, took Breezy into town to deliver mail to two local schools. The expedition was like a strange flashback to all those Nevada mail deliveries - except, of course, for the weather! Thank goodness for my long Australian coat! Students at Sir James Douglas School and Glenlyon-Norfolk School made brief trips outside to greet us as we rode up. Carried the mail in hand-made saddlebags borrowed from cowboy poet, Ron Lambert. Dani took lots of photos that may some day be posted over on the old website (the frequency of my website updates is almost as poor as the frequency of my blogging!). It was very cool to visit with the kids after such a long time - it feels like I have been lugging all that mail around for months... which, actually, is completely true!

Update on the Annick story... after another couple of drafts, we have a contract on the table! Expect to see GRANDPARENTS' DAY (title may change) in the spring of 2004! I'm very curious to see who Annick has in mind for an illustrator... Will post links to potential illustrator web pages when I hear rumours of who is being considered...

Sunday, November 10, 2002

Well, for a writer, I am pathetic, absolutely pathetic about keeping this here BLOG up to date. I'm tempted to just give up and delete everything rather than annoy those readers who might stumble by here and wonder, 'Hey - did she ever make it to Nevada?' And, how would you know? The single entry I was able to write at the library in Winnemucca was written but, for some reason, never published online so it appeared for weeks that I had never actually gone beyond writing lists!

We did, of course, make it all the way to Nevada and, once there, had an absolutely MARVELOUS time! I could, I suppose, just post all the press releases Jan wrote - which would at least be a start - but that seems like cheating. Or, I could start with the news of the day and work backwards... The news of the day is varied - Dani's injured ankle was finally well enough today that she was able to play for about 20 minutes in the second half of the soccer game against Coquitlam... Took Breezy (the half-Arab mare we bought down in Nevada and brought home with us) out for a ride this morning. She was, as usual, under-impressed with the rain. It seems she is unused to the following things: rain, trees, leaves, and umbrellas - all of which we have in abundance at the moment. This evening took the old girl a bran mash with carrots and her dose of Bute - her arthritic hock is acting up with all the dampness.

In most excellent publishing news, Annick Press is interested in taking on a picture book inspired by my Omi - stay tuned for details. Am back at work with what I hope (we all hope) is a last major revision to the Battle of Carnillo and raring to go on the next Tarragon Island book (working title: Another Tree Falls). It's safe to say that title will be chopped before we go to press. I'm highly motivated to get cracking on the book because we are still negotiating the sale of the TV/film rights to the series and the production company is expecting a four book package.

Had a wonderful time at the Women Writing the West conference in Denver a couple of weeks ago - Met some fabulous writers and attended some great workshop sessions. Can't wait to go to next year's conference in Arizona.

Recent reads:

Lucky: A Memoir

by Alice Sebold

A Rhinestone Button

by Gail Anderson-Dargatz

Wednesday, September 11, 2002

Winnemucca, Nevada
Well, we did it. On September 11th I find myself at the public library in the twon of Winnemucca, partway through our great Nevada adventure! We have been riding sections of trail and visiting communities and schools near the historic Pony Express trail for the past several days. We've been having an absolutely marvelous time - so much so that my crew members keep threatening to abandon the motor home and stay right here!

I've been having trouble at this particular computer posting my photos, but I have managed to put a few up over on my website at this address (just follow the links to the towns we've visited...) Be careful when you navigate over there, though - use the BACK button rather than the nav bar as it seems I didn't quite catch all the links when I built my mirror site over on Tripod (the only way I could update from on the road...)

Outside the building, firetrucks are rumbling up and down the street, going to and from the memorial ceremonies marking September 11th. My crew has just returned and both Dani and Jan have taken lots of photos of the ceremonies - will try to post some over on the other website before too long...

Having a wonderful time! Wish you were here....

Monday, August 26, 2002

Survival by Lists

With my departure date just a week away, it seems my days are governed by lists. Not only my own lists, but also those sent to me via email by my good friend Jane, who will be driving one or the other of the two vehicles down in Nevada. Jane's lists seem so much more interesting than mine - they include items like a "Swiss Army knife with the full array of dental and surgical tools. That rib-spreader may save our lives." Yikes.

I should talk. "Investigate snake-bite kit" is one of the items on my list. Though it is somewhat reassuring to know that only a very small percentage of snakebites in North America are actually fatal, there are a couple of times when we will be waaaaaay out in the middle of nowhere. Survival, it seems, depends on getting to a hospital with anti-venom within two or three hours... If our vehicles break down, or one of our drivers is bitten while I'm somewhere out on the trail, or I am bitten after falling off the horse onto a pile of snake-sheltering sagebrush and have to ride two hours to find the drivers... Well, "Investigate snake-bite kit" remains on the list. Here on Vancouver Island, we have little need for such items in our first aid kits, so this particular task will remain on my To Do list until we hit the Nevada state line.

Friday, August 02, 2002

Ok - I haven't forgotten about the old blog... really. But, wow - another action-packed month- working on the first round of rewrites for The Battle for Carnillo, working like mad on organizing the Great Pony Express Adventure in Nevada this September (including setting up a cool literacy/fund-raising initiative where sponsors can purchase books that I'll give out to students in Nevada and British Columbia), and, of all things, helping my extremely talented father (E.Colin Williams) re-touch a mural he painted in Chemainus fifteen years ago. Now that was a cool project - visual artists see the world quite differently to anyone else... And, yes, it really is hard to keep your perspective when you are working a few inches away from a wall that is fifty feet long.

Wednesday, June 26, 2002

The Young Authors Conference in Kamloops was the next stop. This is the 25th year the conference has been held in Kamloops and the turnout was terrific. After that it was on to Vancouver to sign a few books at Vancouver KidsBooks - a wonderful bookstore nominated for this year's Specialty Bookstore of the Year by the Canadian Booksellers Association. Lots of local events took me through the end of May and then Julie Lawson and I tried to drive to Maple Ridge to the first ever Maple Ridge Young Authors Conference hosted by Meadow Ridge School. I say 'tried' because Julie and I drove over more bridges than I thought existed in Vancouver after we found ourselves hopelessly lost... We did eventually arrive and were most impressed with Don Philpot's organizational efforts. The day was quite marvelous (long, and busy!!) and all the attending authors, both young and not-so-young, left greatly inspired.

Sorry, btw, about the somewhat backwards order of things... my blog keeps exploding when I try to type in too long a chunk of text at one time so the events are slightly out of order... Ack. technology.
Unbelievable - it's the end of June! What the heck happened there? As it turns out, lots. The biggest accomplishment was getting through the first draft of The Battle for Carnillo,accidentally referred to as The Dark Tower of Carnillo in an earlier post. This probably happened because I would have been writing one of the scenes that takes place in the nasty prison tower. If you'd like to see the real city on which Carnillo is based, visit Aigues Mortes in the south of France. The Tour de Constance is now a museum, but the interior of this great, hulking building is still sufficiently depressing to inspire a scene or two of misery in the new book. And, speaking of scenes of misery - tomorrow morning I meet with Freda, my editor, to go over changes to the manuscript. I speak in jest - really, rewrites are lots of fun. Really.

Since I last posted I've put a few more miles on this old body - to Parksville to watch Dani play in a soccer tournament, to Nanaimo to talk to kids who attend the North Island Distance Education School, Courtenay to visit with kids and pick up Pony Express letters (photos of the inside of the whale at Miracle Beach Elementary School over on the website), all around Victoria's lovely James Bay for the Times Colonist 10K (a group of children's writers from the area formed a group called Write on Track - again, check the stablemates website for a few pix), Vancouver a couple of times (including to attend the CWILL-BC group launch at the Greater Vancouver Public Library - what an event - it's a great chance to meet all your favourite BC authors! Don't miss it next year if you are anywhere near Vancouver...) And, let's see - oh, yes - an amazing visit to Strathcona School in Chilliwack. Every inch of the school walls was decorated with posters and drawings. One of the teachers had brought in all sorts of horse gear and the kids had made a huge map of Kenwood - very handy as I was able to show how my real life neighbourhood compares to the fictional Kenwood in the StableMates books.

Sunday, April 21, 2002

Well, the last several weeks have been a bit of a blur. Keeping Secrets at Dark Creek was the first of the two spring books to come out just after I'd returned from the Salt Spring Island Family Arts Festival (held over Spring Break). Dani and I had a great time even though it SNOWED!!!! I was kept busy all day - teaching a workshop to some very talented kids in the morning, doing a signing/reading at Fables Cottage bookstore in the afternoon, and then doing a performance of one of the King Arthur stories in the evening. It kept snowing for several days, in fact, which made attending provincial soccer team tryouts in Vancouver rather exciting. All the fields were closed so poor Dani had to be at the indoor pitch at 5:30am for her first session. Yikes! Not a happy place to be for a bunch of 15 year-old girls!

While waiting for Jo's Triumph to arrive, compiled packages for four hundred school kids in BC and Nevada (the original Pony Express Pen Pals Project grew in leaps and bounds from my original modest idea!), prepared press releases, and designed a whole new section over at the website.

In the middle of all that (imagine several weeks with piles of envelopes, carefully counted stacks of onionskin paper topped by the official Pony Express 2002 logo, publicity photographs, bookmarks, posters, etc., etc. spread all over my living room and dining room) kept working on The Dark Tower of Carnillo. Perhaps optimistically, I'm hoping to get the first draft done by the end of May. Hmmmm.... Also wrote articles for the new edition of The Canadian Writer's Handbook (about writing series fiction for young readers), the Island Parent Magazine Family Summer Guide, and my regular column... Travelled up to Nanaimo to speak with a couple of groups of kids who complete their studies by correspondence, as well as a really fun trip up to Campbell River to speak with students at several schools.

Tomorrow I'm heading up to Courtenay to visit with students (and to pick up the first batch of student letters bound for Nevada in September!).

After a number of delays, Jo's Triumph arrived this week - great excitement to see the new book! It was here just in time for the signing on the weekend at Cadboro Bay Books on Saturday. As usual, Burdina did a wonderful job of providing snacks, coffee, and even some customers - all required ingredients for a good signing.

The third StableMates book from Sweden arrived - it looks pretty cool. The covers are very different from the Canadian edition - the Swedish publisher has used photos instead of artwork. I have no idea which characters are supposed to be represented by the models they've used - one of them looks far too old for the stories...

That's it for now -

Friday, February 22, 2002

Sigh. The down side to making all those long lists is that sooner or later you have to start checking things off! That's basically what I've been doing over the past month - non-stop list-attacking. One of the projects was to redo my website to better organize what was there and to add things like online versions of teacher guides. Check out the new web look here.

Also in the works, final peeks at both Jo's Triumph and Keeping Secrets at Dark Creek. Both books should be out next month - pretty exciting. The biggest excitement of all, though, has to be the progress being made on the Nevada launch of Jo's Triumph.

In September, 2002, I'll be off to Nevada to ride ten sections of the Pony Express Trail between Schell Creek and Carson City. We're hoping to launch the book in the US in conjunction with the Great Basin Book Far in Reno on September 21 (details yet to be finalized). After that, there are plans in the works to have me visit bookstores and talk with school kids in various communities between Sacramento and Los Angeles. We are also matching five BC grade five classes with five Nevada fifth grade classes for the Pony Express Pen Pals Project. I'll pick up the letters from the kids here and then drop them off (on horseback) to the kids in Nevada. I'll post more details on my website as they become available.

Last week had a fantastic trip to Vancouver to visit with students at Mulgrave School in West Vancouver. I've put a couple of photos up over at the MSN site.

Friday, January 18, 2002

Quick update before I head into town for a bookstore shift (at the end of the month I'll be dropping back to just one evening a week which should make scheduling the rest of my life just a wee bit easier).

This morning, lots of work on the student activity packages. I've finished those for Cave of Departure and the StableMates novel. All that remains is to type up the activity suggestions for No Cafes in Narnia and print them all (with matching crossword puzzles) on decent quality paper (note to self: need to pick up a new laser printer cartridge - I'm fading). At some point I'll also upload web versions so people can just log onto the websites and download the files. Speaking of web versions, the North Island Distance Education folks have created a wonderful on-line Novel Study to go along with Tarragon Island (I've had a sneak preview!). As soon as the website is posted live, I will post the link so teachers have access to this material. Thanks to Nancy Bowmer for her excellent work on this project!

Also in progress today - a massive file transfer from California. All those holiday pix are trickling over the Internet - estimated time remaining a mere 8 hours, 57 minutes, and 12 seconds. 11 seconds...

When I get too durned busy, I make lists to cope. Spent a bit of time this morning doing just that - creating a series of lists relating to getting the Pony Express trip organized. Yoiks. Sometimes I wonder what on earth I was thinking when I dreamed up that idea!

Oh, and one more thing. If you are interested in signing up for a Fiction Writing course online, check out the course information here. The course is scheduled to run during the month of April, 2002. Come join us - this should be lots of fun.

Thursday, January 17, 2002

Happy (belated) New Year!
Going on holidays is terribly disruptive when it comes to keeping up with such tasks as journal-keeping. First of all, in the two weeks leading up to my departure I had about eight million things to do - yet another revision of Jo's Triumph (we now have a release date of March!), writing various columns and newsletters for both the December and January deadlines, confirming several school presentations for Jan, Feb, and March, and then mundane things like Christmas shopping and packing.

After all that, Dani and I had a quite fabulous three weeks away in California and then Orlando! Boy, that sunshine is sure nice after way too much rain here on soggy Vancouver Island!

Of course, since arriving home on Sunday I've been working flat out trying to catch up with all sorts of projects and deadlines that stacked up while I was away (including, yes, yet another revision of Jo's Triumph - will that book ever go away?) One of the more enjoyable tasks was chatting with the tourism folks in Nevada as I start plotting how I might ride sections of the Pony Express route to celebrate the US launch this fall. Also lots of fun has been putting together some new student/teacher packages to go along with various novels - have a look at the new crossword puzzles posted here if you enjoy word games. Though I have a Java-script version working beautifully on my machine (where you can enter answers right on the screen), I can only seem to get a printable version going on-line. Hmph. Time doesn't permit additional fiddling, alas, so for now would-be puzzlers will have to print and use pencils - just like the olden days.

Let's see now - in other news - working hard to get my online writing courses through Malaspina College going (Freelance Writing in May and Writing Fiction in April), preparing for a trip to Vancouver to meet with Nevada tourism folks to make a formal pitch about why it would be so cool for me to ride horses across the high mountain valleys in the area once known as Utah Territory, and polishing several picture book manuscripts.

High on my list of priorities is getting some serious work done on The Battle for Carnillo - the second of the Estorian Chronicles.

Alas, all my holiday pix are still on a hard drive in California but as soon as my brother sends them to me I'll post a few so you can see what I was up to down in the sunny south!
By for now -