Here I am hard at work editing my upcoming novel Blue to the Sky, a story about a girl coping with too many allergies and surviving because of poetry. Banjo is here giving me encouragement and making sure I take breaks, especially for walks. I’m reading this story for possibly the hundredth time and still loving and rooting for Ella my main character. Maybe it’s because Ella is a composite of some of my grands. In any case, reading a book more than once is a joy. You see so many nuances you didn’t the first time when you were gobbling up the story. Revisiting work through editing is similar in that you can add layers and not worry about figuring so much about the plot. What I wish for book lovers is that they take the time this summer to reread a novel and enjoy a story even more. It’s what book shelves are really about.
After reading 70 mystery books in three months in order to judge them for the Arthur Ellis (novel) Crime Writing, I felt inspired to write one. Just one. Endlessly I walk my dog in Brant Hills so I instantly found a natural setting. An inciting moment was when I took a bag of dog poop from a tree (who puts them there, honestly?) and deposited in in the new blue domed recycling box. OMG! Once you put something in you can’t reach back in to get it out. The irredeemable, Mistake one.
How awful it feels to realize you’ve made an error you can’t correct. I thought about how anxious kids seem to be these days and thought of structuring stories around mistakes; celebrating the errors that help us observe something more clearly or make us more understanding of others’ errors. Mistakes that cause us to change and grow.
Remember no story happens unless something goes wrong.
The Best Mistake grew into a series of four book: The Best Mistake Mystery, The Artsy Mistake Mystery, The Snake Mistake Mystery and The Diamond Mistake Mystery.
Mysteries can require tight plotting; for me I certainly approach with an ending in mind. But my characters take over and I seem to chase after this quirky bunch as I write my stories.
Check the video out to see what I mean and to enjoy a giggle.
“Does this snake look real to you? It doesn’t look real to me. His name is King by the way and he’s the star of The Snake Mistake Mystery.”
The young girl stares at me, gape mouthed. She steals an anxious glance back at her dad. Am I a danger stranger, can she talk to me?
She shakes her head slightly.
“Would you like an autographed bookmark?”
“We’re looking for a book,” the girl finally says.
“What kind of book?” I ask. “Maybe I can help.”
“Your book,” she answers. Apparently I spoke at her school. She’s not sure which in the Great Mistake Series she heard me talk about but I know it’s the one with King in it. When Mom joins us, she suggests they buy all three. Smart woman.
We call them signings but most authors agree that beyond the dreamlike trance you go into when your writing is going well, the best part of our careers are the one-to-one experiences we enjoy with our readers. it always feels a little surreal to realize someone else will actually read our work; we’re sharing a very intimate creative experience with you after all. The bookstore signing is perhaps the easiest way to achieve this interaction.
That doesn’t mean it won’t be painful to sit at a table with piles of our book surrounding us and no one stopping by. Or worse people avoiding our glance. Some writers are introverts.
And while I am an extrovert and love meeting and chatting with new people, I do find the selling of my own stories awkward. So here’s what I tell myself. I am giving each child an encounter with a real live Canadian author.
This is an extraordinary opportunity for them, a cultural experience totally free to them. The book, or just an autographed bookmark, is their souvenir of the experience.
I never meant to write about them. The bombsquad using a robot to disengage a backpack “bomb”. A friendly crossing guard who twirls his stop sign like a baton and shares his driving judgements even though he can’t drive himself. And these two dogs, they literally grabbed the story like a stick floating in the water.
Two best friends, sort of, relate in a complicated way. Do they like each other? Mortie will stand up for Worf to the max of his little lung capacity. Worf does not kill Mortie when their respective fangs lock onto the same bone or stick–a huge compliment from a food defensive pound puppy.
The two of them hijacked my story about a dogwalking 12 year old who spots something he shouldn’t have and doesn’t even know it. An emailed threat warns him not to talk to the police. When the police interview him, the criminal kidnaps Worf aka Pong (transformed mysteriously into a greyhound by the way).
“Give me five hundred dollars or the dog dies”. Mortie aka Ping leads his walker in the rescue mission.