Monday, November 12, 2018

Valencia and Valentine Has A Cover!

We've all heard that dumb old saying about not judging the covers of books. It's very old and I think we could retire it. I always judge the covers of books and I always will because that's the whole dang point of covers of books: they're supposed to give you an idea of the style or mood of the book, maybe hint at a character or two, or the setting, or a detail pertinent to the plot. They're supposed to imply genre and they tell you who wrote it and what it's called. Everything is intentional, if a cover is well-designed, right down to the colours and the fonts.

If you were not meant to judge a book by its cover, a book would not have a cover. 

That said, I'm finally allowed to show you the cover of my book, so judge away, people. It was designed by Philip Pascuzzo (one of the designers behind the famous Twitter logo). It's going to be in hardcover and paperback, which is especially exciting to me because Lake Union is known for their beautiful hardcovers and it'll be a dream come true to have my name on one. 

Isn't it so pretty? I have it saved as the lock screen on my phone so I see it all day every day. Many thanks to Pepco Studios, but also to Lake Union and Alicia and Victoria for all the back-and-forth brainstorming sessions and allowing me to give my input. It was suuuuch a cool process. 

One step closer to pub day!

PS: You can preorder here (or click on the cover above), but I also just wanted to take a moment to add that preordering/buying a book is not the only way to show support to a person who has written one (though it really does help and I'm enormously thankful for everyone who's done this, srsly). 

A few other (free) ways are:

Add the book to your to-reads on Goodreads.

Same with bookstores. If you happen to be there anyway, I mean. It helps bookstore employees become aware of a book they might not have known about otherwise and maybe they'll read it and maybe they'll like it and then maybe they'll start handselling it, which would be the best.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Sullivan at 22

I don't know why the word 'eccentric' is most commonly applied to old people. After all, the most eccentric person I know is four years old.

This week, Sully has assumed an alternate personality, one which he embodies whole-heartedly and without breaking character for hours at a time. His name is Sullivan Barclay Krause; he is 22 years old and lives in BC with his wife and two children (who are, coincidentally, 1 and 4 and named Scarlett and Sullivan). He is fairly deadpan, speaks to me as a fellow adult, drinks americanos, likes jazz, and takes his kids to the park, like, all the time. He even asked me for my number so we could hang out sometime.

Today, he came for lunch. I asked him how his day was and he sighed deeply and said, "Welp. My car broked down. AGAIN."

I said, "Oh? What happened to it?"

"Welp. I was just going to the guitar store to buy some picks and a bad guy comed up and started punching it and it broked." Here, he rolled his eyes and shook his head and his little shoulders rose and fell and he let out another massive sigh.

"That's terrible," I said. "Just for no reason?"

"Oh no, he had a reason," said Sullivan Barclay Krause (never only Sullivan or Sully). "I just don't know what his reason was."

"Ah," I said. "You're probably right."

"I am," he said sagely.

"Hey, Sully," I said, clearing the table, nudging a blanket that had been left in the middle of the floor with my foot, "would you—"

"Sullivan Barclay Krause," he reminded me. "I'm 22. I'm an adult."

"Right. Hey, Sullivan Barclay Krause, would you mind putting that blanket back on the couch?"

"Sure," he said. "Where's your couch at?"

I pointed to the couch, and he nodded approvingly. "Ah," he said. "It's a nice couch. My wife has the same one."

"Ah," I said. (We say 'Ah' back and forth to each other so much when he's 22, apparently.) "Would you also mind putting those pillows back on it? My son's always throwing them on the floor."

I said this very pointedly, but Sullivan Barclay Krause was oblivious, neatly stacking my pillows on the couch that is the same as the one his wife has. And then, rolling his eyes again, he said, "Yes. My daughter is always doing the same thing."

"Ah," I said. "Do you want some coffee?"

"No," he said. "I've got coffee at home."


He stood in the middle of the living room and put his hands on his skinny little hips, surveying it. "Yep, yep, yep," he said, making a very grown-up sound out of the side of his mouth, the kind you make when you're in a pause in a conversation and you don't know where to go with it. "I see your husband likes to play video games."

"He does," I said. "What does your wife do?" I thought maybe he'd tell me his wife was a writer or a mom, since she seemed loosely based on me from all he's told me about her this week.

"She works at Suds. The car wash," he said. "She runs all the brushes."

Anyway, it went on like that. I just wanted to write this part of the conversation down verbatim before I forgot it, because 22 year-old Sullivan Barclay Krause is my favourite. 

Friday, August 24, 2018

I have writer's block again, and that's fine. I only come here anymore when it hits. Usually blogging at least distracts me, if not totally cures me—maybe being distracted from writer's block is the cure for it.

It's kind of the perfect day for writer's block anyway. Life has been nonstop around here. Maybe I should look at it less like, "Ugh, my brain is being blocked from getting important stuff done," and more like, "I have hit a natural barrier within myself to doing anything more today because that's what's good for me." It's probably accurate.

But! Writers gotta write, even if it's just for fun. So, in the spirit of butt-in-seat, in the spirit of getting words down, in the spirit of all that good advice other writers give you that they probably don't completely follow themselves, here is a list of the things keeping me & my household busy lately:

1. Barclay is starting his own landscape construction business. I don't mean, like, someday, Barclay is starting his own landscape construction business. I mean today is last day at his current workplace. 

It's, you know, on.

He had some great years at The Shovel (and will still be around there a lot, considering he's staying in that field), but this is something he's wanted to do for a long time. It's been fun watching him get ready for his first few jobs, even being able to help a little. It's especially significant to me that he's chasing this dream at the same time as I'm chasing mine; we're in a really cool season of life that way, being able to cheer each other on and daydream out loud back and forth. I don't take it for granted at all, and I'm so excited for/with him.

Also, check out his name and logo:
(The peregrine falcon is his favourite bird. A thing I love about Barclay is that he has a favourite bird.) 

I'm making his website right now, but I'll probably link to it later on in case you need someone to build you a really sweet patio. Barclay makes amazing things.

2. I finished yet another round of edits on my book. This editorial letter was much shorter than the last, and I think we're nearing the end, which is exciting and terrifying. There's a certain sense of comfort in sending my manuscript away but knowing it'll come back to me for another pass. The day I send it off for good, I'll probably crumple up like a piece of paper and spontaneously combust. But. I had a great phone call the other day with my editor and my agent and they're both so lovely and optimistic and always saying good things to me, so maybe I'll survive. 

Also, I'm almost done the first draft of book #2! A good, polished-up draft is due to Lake Union in February, and I think I'm gonna make it. I feel...quite proud of that, actually. When I finished the first one, the thought of doing all that again felt impossible. But here we are. And then I guess I'll start on #3? Momentum is great.

3. The LPGA's in town (I'm second-guessing myself on the order of those letters), so Tourism Regina sent us out to a bunch of stuff this month to highlight the city for visitors. This week alone has been pretty full: we went to a Nazareth concert last night, a movie in Vic Park and supper downtown at Famoso on Wednesday, the RCMP Heritage Centre on Tuesday, and the CP Women's Open...oh, also on Wednesday. I really do love this gig.  

There could probably be numbers 4-10 on this list, but but it's all pretty obvious stuff like housekeeping and making supper. Reading books. Having friends. Raising children. Running errands. Building a little office space in our bedroom (it's really functional and cute and I'll show you later). Life right now is a mix of mundane and sensational, and that's the way (uh huh, uh huh) I like it.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Unconventional Writing Career Goals

In my first telephone conversation with my agent, she asked me a very hard question: "What are your goals for your writing career?"

This sounds like an easy question, and maybe it would be for you, but for me it was hard because at that point, I only had one goal: get published. Like, once. Like, here is a book I wrote; if someone saw potential in it and slapped a cover on it and tried to sell it to someone other than my friends—there. That's my goal.

When she said career, the skin on my arms bubbled up. A career? What a lovely, impossible thought. It wasn't that I didn't daydream about a writing career; it was that it literally seemed unattainable. It was like someone had come to me and said, "Where do you plan on going when you're granted the superpower of flight?" I could only answer that question hypothetically, jokingly, wistfully.

"Like, everywhere," I'd say.

In the year since, I've been thinking about that first question more seriously. It's not as hypothetical anymore, which is fun. But it's still hard, even if it's hard in a fun way.

The typical writer career goal list might look something like this:

1. Get a book deal

2. Win the __________ Award/Prize

3. Sell film rights & star in your own movie

4. Private jet

5. Blue checkmark on Twitter

6. Have people actually care about your opinion because you've "made it"

7. New York Times Bestseller List

8. Amazon Charts #1 spot

And, I mean, I would be straight up lying if I said I didn't want to be on a list or win the kind of award you have to accept in a ball gown. However, I have recently begun to daydream about a few other, more unconventional writing career goals.

That list, so far, is as follows:

1. Have my book cover painted on Jennie Shaw's fingernails.

Okay. Go to Instagram, right now, and search @jennieshaw, or click here to read the article about her on Goodreads. She reviews books and gives herself manicures of the books' covers. And they are INCREDIBLE. I found her through Andrea Dunlop, when Jennie did She Regrets Nothing. I have scrolled all the way back. All of my writer friends agree: this is the coolest ever. We must achieve this.

2. Another Instagram-related one: There's an account called @subwaybookreview. They go into the subways of New York, London, Mexico City, Delhi, Milan, etc, see people reading, and ask for their thoughts and opinions. The idea of this is so wonderful: no one's paying these people to read these books. Publishers aren't sending the books out, saying, "Here's a free copy, tell us what you think." These people aren't 'influencers' or 'book bloggers.' For those reasons, I feel like it would be the hugest compliment to see my book on there someday. Like, someone chose to read my book on the subway, all by themselves. Cool.

3. Have an old teacher email me and be like, "I never thought you'd amount to much, but look at you! You published a book!" I don't know. I just think that would be kind of satisfying.

4. Alternately, have an old teacher email me and be like, "I always knew you had this in you! Yay!" or something.

5. Have my book made into a movie and be an extra in every single scene, but in DISGUISE. So, like, I'd be a mailman in one scene (there are no mailmen in my book, but for example), and then in the next scene, I'd be a lady walking down the street, glimpsed very briefly, and then in the next scene, I'd be, like, in a mascot costume or something. And so on and so forth.

6. Be a guest on the Print Run Podcast.

(This kind of actually happened recently; I sent in a letter and they read part of it, and talked about it for a solid thirty minutes. I was driving and I literally had to pull over.)

I'm sure I'll think of more, but I really wish I had these at the ready for that first conversation with Victoria. She would've been so impressed at my forethought. Querying writers: be more on it than me. You may borrow any of these when your time comes.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

In a Cabin in the Woods

My friend Erin moved away last year, out of my neighbourhood and out of the city. She bought an acreage with this gorgeous old farmhouse on it, and a barn, and a little guest cabin. Her three children will get to grow up like I did—running around unconfined by city blocks and busy roads and other people's pesky property. They seem pretty happy about all that, so far.

Another friend, who happens to be Erin's sister-in-law and whose name is Kate, also moved last year—to a small town just outside of Regina. She's still close enough to maintain the illusion for most of her other friends that she didn't actually "leave," but I am not fooled. Because she, like Erin, used to live within walking distance of my place, and now I have to get into a car and go on the highway to get to her house. That absolutely counts as leaving.

I stayed here. (I will probably always stay here.)

(Also, a funny, completely unrelated thing is that these two women married brothers who grew up in the same small town as me, four hours from here, and their mother-in-law is tight with my mom, but that's not even how I know them. Isn't that a funny thing? And so completely unrelated?)

On to the point of it all:

After she left, Erin kept reminding Kate and me that they had a little cabin on their property that would make a great writing space, and that she wanted us to come use it.

And we said, well, we'd love to come, but we'll just want to sit and visit with you.

And she said, no, you should come write in my cabin.

And we said, but we want to have coffee with you.

And she said, yes, come for coffee.

So yesterday, at last, Kate and I arranged our children into two neat rows in her minivan, threw food, toys, and an iPhone at them (literally, and I hit Kate's four-year-old son in the eye with a plastic Cavendish potato), and travelled to Erin's new home.

We set out from here at 8 am and got there at 10 am. Our kids ran off, revelling in the open spaces both in and outside of the farmhouse. Erin fed us well and gave us coffee. And then, after lunch, we put the younger kids down for their naps and shuffled the older ones into the playroom for joint quiet time (which worked much better than solo quiet time ever has), and Kate and Erin said to me, "Okay. You're going to the cabin to write." Erin had packed a bag with cake and coffee and cream and water bottles and Werther's Originals.

I said, "What's all this? How long am I going to be in there?"

And they said, "As long as it takes."

(To anyone reading this who is not a writer, this sounds kind of mean, maybe? You should know that anyone reading this who is a writer and also a mother at the same time is salivating on their keyboard right now.)

So, obediently, I followed Erin out to the cabin. It was small, an open-concept-with-a-loft-type deal. There were books in all the window sills and a great yellow couch and a table with one chair.

Erin got the coffee going, said, "Haaaaave fuuuuuun..." and shut the front door behind her. The house filled up instantaneously with the kind of quiet I haven't heard in a very long time. Country-quiet. There-is-no-noise-in-the-house-and-not-outside-of-it-either quiet. I took a picture with my laptop, because that is what one does in the absence of a cell phone. Right? CAN'T NOT DOCUMENT.

Then, I sat down in the one chair and started writing, because that was the only thing there was to do. I hadn't grabbed my phone on the way out, so I had no Instagram or Facebook to distract me, no Internet hotspot for my computer, even. I had cake and a whole pot of coffee all to myself. It was incredible! I wrote and wrote and wrote and then, suddenly, inexplicably, I was done writing. Because, I guess, that's how writing works.

I picked up my laptop and went back to the house.

I found Kate in Erin's office, also writing, and Erin in the kitchen with her laptop. Everyone was happy and had gotten something done and the kids were still loving each other and we reconvened and ate more food and discussed our various works and writer's blocks and questions while the kids ran through the sprinkler and jumped on the trampoline.

So that was that. The writing retreat/coffee date was a complete and total success. How nice to be locked in a cabin in the woods by one's friends. How nice to have the kind of friends who know you want to be locked in a cabin in the woods even when you say they shouldn't lock you in a cabin in the woods.

Erin called herself bossy yesterday, and, in this case, she was a little bossy, but she was only being bossy because she wanted to do this super nice thing for me and I wasn't really letting her, so she had to be bossy. And I was kind of proud of her for being bossy too, because I think she had to try pretty hard at it. You can't help but love a person who is only ever bossy when it benefits someone other than them.

Erin and Kate, if you're reading this: next time, I will take the kitchen and you two can duke it out for the delicious cabin-writing experience. We're onto something real good here.