Visiting old characters-Mrs. Dobroski from Grave Secrets

Mrs. Dobroski, sticklady from Grave Secrets

What does my new GPS have to do with my 1999 title Grave Secrets?  Lately I’ve been reading all the books on the Red Maple list so that when I meet the authors May 15th, I will know a little about them, perhaps their voice if nothing else.  So far I’ve read The Tiffin (Mahtab Narsimman) Testify (Valerie Sherrard) The Town that Drowned ( Riel Nasson), This Dark Endeavour (Kenneth Oppel) and most recently The Vampire Stalker (Allison Van Diepen)

In The Vampire Stalker, the characters of a book step into a reader’s real world and I noticed in some of the reviews that many of Allison’s fans love this concept and have imagined it themselves.  I thought “Not me!  I like to keep my characters on some other plane of existence”.  And then I thought about it awhile and realize how they do kind of seep into my real life.  

There is a real dog named after Beauty from my Bringing Up Beauty series for example and she sent me a Christmas card one.  I also have a candle holder wreath made up of black Labs with Santa hats.  A boy named Tom was killed by a car in front of MM Robinson and somehow I knew it was my character Scott.  My research often involves integrating snippits of real people into my story actors.  Somehow Tom had been some part of my character.

The other day, in replacing my stolen GPS Princess Leya, my husband downloaded some voices for me to choose from.  The Hungarian grandmother really grabbed me.  Perhaps because as a kid, all of my friends’ parents were of eastern European descent.  And then it hit me when I named her.  She would be Mrs. Dobroski, the Hungarian sticklady from Grave Secrets   In the book she said about her oriental rug: “Be careful.  Step only on the red parts.  The white parts are so difficult to clean”.

My GPS says:  “Listen to me.  Why don’t you stay in the right lane?  Then you will go onto the highway.  But please, don’t drive too fast.  It makes me nervous.”

None of my characters, to date, have required a place to stay or money from me, thank heavens.  But I know I have written series so that I could revisit them and sometimes I’ll daydream about them and wonder how they’ve grown up and what they’re doing on their own separate plane.  I think Elizabeth from my Beauty series travels the world to rescue people with a search dog for example.  Don’t know if she’ll ever get married and have children though.  She will always miss Kyle…

At least for now, one old character Mrs. Dobroski will lead me in new directions.













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The Making of the Reading Trailer

 This isn’t Hollywood.  We have no production budget.  I created a great script but became too busy to audition actors who would have to fill the roles with no reimbursement.   A publisher I worked with once told me she wanted a Q & A with an author.

Meh.  That sounds dangerously close to a free author visit.

I decided I would read the opening instead.

People have asked me how I made this trailer.  First I drove my son to Confederation College for film studies in Thunderbay some 12 years ago.  Really I owe it all to Craig McNicoll who works for Emotion Pictures in Burlington (  They’re a wonderful small firm that creates great corporate videos at a price no one can beat. If you’re a corporation, not an author. If you’re an author, you probably can’t afford them.

My son doesn’t charge me more than dinner but if I get the GG, or some good grant money, Hon, there’s a new dishwasher in it for you.

Perhaps some of you remember Craig from when he filmed our first mass book launch at Mississauga Public Library.  He worked for days on that one and used to come up from his office quoting some of you. He can still call up a quote when I mention any author who participated.  He especially enjoyed author Claire Mackay emceeing (and then totally edited her out due to space and time constraints)  

First Craig brings a huge expensive high definition camera and films me reading a few times.  We discuss images and collect some from stock art:  the eagle, the solo crow.  Some my husband photographed, the Scrabble tiles, the plastic crows in a line, I shot the clock.  The sound and ominous music Craig inserted from stock.

First draft of the video (yeah, even in video editing we have “re-writes”) went on past a couple of minutes.  Way too long with not enough images.  So last night he brought his immense screen over and together we adjusted images and cut a huge chunk out.  Craig did this, I just ooohed and awed. And held my three month old grandson.  It’s always a pleasure working with my kids and witnessing their talent and skill. And holding their babies.

So thank you Craig.

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The Next big thing: What I’m working on now

Marsha Skrypuch tagged me to answer a few questions about the project I’m working on right now which is difficult as I’m working on rewrites for three different books. One is called What the Dog Says, and it’s almost

ready to go to my favourite Norwegian publisher.

My one+ sentence synopsis is that it’s about a 13 year old girl who after drowning meets her dog at the gates of heaven and together they receive a one week do over. Their goal is to cheat fate and fate does not like to be cheated!

Another is Revenge on the Fly, a historical novel that I dusted off after hearing Christopher Moore speak at Packaging Your Imagination. I’m passionate about this story (Chris instructed us to write about a time in history that inspires us) and have a very positive outside reader’s report to edit from as one publishing house almost bought it. It about a 12 year old boy who immigrates to Hamilton, Ontario from England and participates in a fly killing competition in order to avenge his mom and sister’s death. The local health officer told him that flies carry and spread the germs for all the diseases

The project I really should talk about it Dying to Go Viral. That’s the actual title to come out this spring with Fitzhenry Whiteside.

It’s about a 14 year old girl named Jade who skateboards without a helmet as she hitches to a car. She tumbles under, dies and at a garden gate to heaven meets her mother. Jade watches her funeral from the garden and begs to go back to help her brother and dad get closer so that they can survive this huge grief. Her mom gets her a one week do over during which Jade signs up Dad to an online dating agency as well as negotiates for her brother to skip university and stay at home to help him at Dad’s design business. Jade also learns to experience life to the fullest. How can she give it all up when she’s finally fallen in love?

Oh man, that was so not one sentence.

The idea came to me after reading about a local skateboarding accident that put a boy in a coma when he “skitched” in a performance for youtube. (The other drowning story was inspired by a 14 year old girl who jumped off a dock in Burlington and drowned. She didn’t know how to swim.)

I guess you would call it an urban or realistic contemporary fantasy. What the Dog Says falls under the same non classification.

Who would play the main characters? Selene Gomez. Justin Bieber could play the part of her best friend turned best boyfriend.

How long have I been working on this? A year and now I’m approaching another rewrite.

What inspired me to write the story? I’m fascinated with what happens after death but have decided it must be different for each person. Everybody meets a different dead person to guide them along the way and everyone’s heaven will be unique according to what they like right here on earth.

What else can I say to pique your interest? I think by reading about Jade’s death you’ll appreciate life. Plus you’ll never skateboard without a helmet or attach yourself to a car when you do it.





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Arts Hamilton

Last night, November 12, was a celebration of literary arts in the Hamilton community. Lots of prizes are given out and my friends Marsha Skrypuch, Estelle Salata and Gary Barwin were celebrated.  The crazy thing about awards is that such diverse books end up in the same category.  So I think Tori’s Happy Journal by Estelle Salata should win a prize for the best book set in the Lake Erie cottage country with windsurfing in it.  Last Airlift by Marsha Skrypuch should win for best nonfiction on escaping Vietnam and Gary Barwin’s poetry books should win for…I’m not sure.  But you get what I mean.  We pit apples against grapes when readers love all kinds of fruits er books.  Still…  These awards offer a lovely get together for people who usually work alone in a messy office. 

The strange cooincidence is that instead of working on rewrites I declared Monday a reading day and read True Blue by Deborah Ellis.  I bought the book at Telling Tales in September and just got to reading it yesterday.  It was a compelling dark read about an uncomfortable character who does not stand up for a friend.  True Blue won in the Young Adult Category.  If only Deborah could have been there to hear Aquarius Theatre’s creative director Ron Ulrich read the first chapter.


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The Endcap–A Signing by product

This endcap is located at my nearest Indigo at 1250 Brant Street, right next to the new Marshalls.  I’m signing there this Thursday, November 8 from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.  Chris Chehowski, the enthusiastic new manager there, invited me on this his Plum Rewards night.   People enrolled in their free Plum Rewards program will get scratch and save cards, the first 25 will get a free prize.  There will a singer, refreshments.  It’s a general customer appreciation night.  Check out the details here:

I’m looking forward to meeting new readers and maybe getting some shopping done myself. As per my custom, I will be offering my up own renowned Mars Bars Squares and cheerfully answering questions from eager writers or readers. And of course signing!  Not just my latest Red Maple Nominee, crush. candy. corpse but also Grave Secrets and Last Chance for Paris.

We’re still pondering about signings being a good use of authors’ time. So far so good.

Late breaking news:  November 27th and the endcap is still up. This morning I received an email from a Burlington reader Amy who says she picked up crush. candy.corpse from the end cap, read the back blurb and ended up buying it.  She said she isn’t a big reader but she loved the story, and cheered for Sunny at the end.  She also picked up another of my books and intends to read more of my titles.

Signings seem to be the only way to connect with a non school market.  




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