Thursday, 27 September 2007

I'm On Amazon!

I received an email from my publisher inviting me to order author copies of The Space Between. This prompted me to click on Amazon to see if it was available.... and there it was! I even have a review!

I'm planning a little 'launch party' at work, offering treats and homemade shark-tooth necklaces to promote the print release of The Space Between on October 5th. Perhaps I should offer the necklace to those who buy the book and give it to me to sign....?

I hope my author copy arrives before next Friday. Keep your fingers crossed!

Saturday, 22 September 2007

My Son's First and Last Career Goal

Most of you know by now that I'm a bona fide hockey freak. Imagine my delight when my son begged me to let him play hockey. There's nothing like getting up at 5 a.m. to load stinky equipment in the station wagon, driving in snowy darkness to a drafty community centre rink and watching a bunch of boys slapping the puck against the boards, while trying to warm your hands on a paper cup containing vile arena coffee.

I had misgivings, too. You see, at eleven years old, my son was small for his age and he had never strapped on a pair of skates. Why in the world would he want to play hockey?

Perhaps my enthusiasm for the game rubbed off on him. Anyway, I relented, dug up the cash and enrolled him in House League. After all, I'd be the perfect Hockey Mom, right?

He looked tiny and lost in hand-me-down padding and huge helmet with its cage that hid his round face. When he stepped on the ice for the first time, he went down like a little pile of bricks. It wasn't the first time. My heart squeezed every time he fell and got back up again, like a toddler learning to walk for the first time.

The other boys skated circles around him, occasionally helping him up and encouraging him. When shooting practice began, he took a puck on the back of his arm and crumpled, crying.

The assistant coach took him aside and sat on the bench with him, talking for a long time. Apparently they made a deal, that my son should at least show up for one more practice. He agreed to give it one more try.

Well, he showed up for every game and practice that year, improving slowly and even providing a few assists. His team won the championship, which was a good way to end his first year. He got the 'Happy Face' award for being the funniest kid on the team.

The second year wasn't as magical for him. He wanted to be on the same team, but he'd been picked up by the second place team from the previous year. He didn't quite connect with his new teammates, and I had to press him to finish out the year. I didn't want to waste my three hundred bucks or the new equipment he'd received for Christmas.

Was I being harsh? Maybe. He was unhappy, but I stressed that it wasn't a good idea to give up just because things weren't going his way. He knew he wasn't going to be the next Gretzky, but he reluctantly pressed on.

The final game day arrived, the Consolation Final for the Bronze trophy. He had wormed his way into the hearts of his new teammates and their parents. We all shouted encouragement when he was on the ice plugging away at half the speed (and half the height) of the other players. We were ahead by a goal, with only a minute or so left on the clock.

The other team (his 'rookie' team from the previous year) pulled their goalie for a chance to tie. Coach put Andrew on the ice. As the players streamed toward the opposing goal, Andrew's wing mate carefully steered the puck onto Andrew's stick. He pushed it ahead of him, lost his balance, and slid into the goal with four seconds to go. The puck went in with him.

The place went wild. Players from the opposing team crowded around him with his own mates and clapped him on the back. Coach gave him the puck at the end of the game. I mounted it with his card and had a plaque made with the date of the goal.

He retired from hockey at the ripe old age of twelve.

I've got the whole thing on tape.

Image: Waiting for the Ice • 11x14 Watercolour

Tuesday, 18 September 2007

The Anatomy of a Query Letter

Let me say first of all that I'm no expert on query letters. I'm only telling you what worked for me.

Waaaaayyyyy back in the spring of 2006, I sent my first query letter to Evil Editor for an online critique. I was prepared for a detailed deconstruction, but I didn't expect the hilarity. Some aren't ready for such a blunt evaluation for all to see, but I saw the logic squeezed between the gasps of laughter.

Here's a repost. The stuff in yellow are Mr. Evil's comments:
Dear Agent:

Please allow me to introduce my novel, entitled Bad Ice. [Pleased to meet you. And may I introduce my reaction, Bad Title.]

After a bullet narrowly misses professional hockey player Jason Peterson during a game, [Evil Editor knew all that fighting in hockey games was going to escalate, eventually.] he finds himself torn between Christina, the beautiful young widow who saves his life, and his ex-girlfriend Sheila, who will use any means to reclaim him, including attempted murder. [I can see his dilemma. It's sort of like when the waiter brings you the dessert menu, and the only two items on it are chocolate mousse cake and arsenic custard.]

Jason is at the crest of his stellar career when Ian Pollard smuggles a gun into the arena and attempts to shoot Jason. Christina Mackey is a bystander who inadvertently thwarts Ian's attempt, [She accidentally spills her nachos in his lap while he's aiming his rifle.] becoming injured in the process. Stricken with guilt, Ian turns the gun on himself. [Guilt because he missed? Guilt because he injured Christina? What kind of injury are we talking about? Did she get shot?] [The ravishingly beautiful widow thinks, I've been in mourning long enough, I gotta get out and start living again. So she goes to a hockey game, and before the first period's over, she's lying in the aisle between sections 102 and 103, in a pool of her own blood, with the corpse of the guy who shot her sprawled on top of her. It'll probably be three years of therapy before she goes out in public again.] [Wait a minute, Ian goes to a hockey game to commit murder? Couldn't he shoot Jason outside his house, instead of in front of 20,000 people and ESPN, with the Jumbotron camera trained on him?] [Ian has no qualms about committing murder, but injuring someone is enough to make him kill himself?]

After Jason discovers that he was the original target, [Ian being dead, how did he discover this?] he visits his rescuer in order to thank her. They strike up a friendship which quickly develops into attraction. He is also enchanted by Christina's daughter Mishayla, six years old and already a budding hockey star. [She plays left wing for the Boston Bruins.]

Sheila Duffy is making life a living hell for Jason. [That should be the topic sentence of the next paragraph, not this one.] Their tumultuous relationship had come to a dramatic close when she confessed that Ian had been her lover. Jason assumes that Ian had tried to kill him out of jealousy, but eventually discovers that the dead man's motives were twofold. A secret that Jason had kept hidden for many years was the actual reason for Ian's rage. [Apparently Jason isn't the only one keeping this secret. What is the secret?!!]

Sheila uses lies, threats and manipulation [All the things men find attractive in a woman.] in an attempt to recapture Jason, but with no success. In a fit of jealous anger, she causes his demotion to a minor league in a distant city through a malicious fabrication. [At the crest of his stellar career he gets sent down? How is this explained to the fans and sportswriters?] [That must have been some fabrication. My guess: Sheila announced that Jason was sleeping with the owner's wife.] Aware that he is seeing someone else, Sheila is determined to drive herself between Jason and his unknown saviour, using his secret as a weapon. [At least someone knows the secret.]

Christina insists on obtaining proof that Sheila is behind Jason's demotion, but Jason tries to keep them apart, fearful that Christina will discover his secret and ultimately reject him. [If only Evil Editor could discover his secret. Can I have three guesses? Is he a serial killer who wears a goalie mask? Does he have a pink butterfly tattoo on his thigh? Wait, I have it! He's a hockey player; he has no teeth!] His selfish omission puts Christina and her daughter in peril. [What did he omit? Who are they in peril from? Christina? Has Jason moved to his new city? If so, how is he trying to keep Christina and Sheila apart?] [Your omission of what the secret is, in case you haven't noticed, is bugging Evil Editor.]

Bad Ice, a novel of approximately 58,900 words, is a romance laced with intrigue that revolves around ice - the fast paced world of hockey, the tranquility of a frozen pond, and the danger that lies beneath the surface. [Sharks. That's what this book needs. Sharks devouring a Zamboni driver. Seriously, think about putting in some sharks devouring a Zamboni driver.]
According to your submission guidelines, I have enclosed with this letter a synopsis, the first three chapters and a self-addressed stamped envelope. You may recycle the material. Thank you for taking the time to read this material. I look forward to further correspondence. This is a multiple submission.

Best Regards,

Revised Version

Dear Agent:

Jason Peterson is at the crest of his stellar hockey career when someone smuggles a gun into an arena and attempts to shoot him during a game. Luckily for Jason, a bystander inadvertently thwarts the murder attempt--though becoming injured in the process.

When Jason discovers that he was the gunman's target, he visits his rescuer, Christina Mackey, to thank her. They strike up a friendship which quickly develops into attraction. Jason is also enchanted by Christina's six-year-old daughter, Mishayla.

Sheila Duffy, Jason's ex-girlfriend, is making life hell for Jason. Their tumultuous relationship had come to a dramatic close when she'd confessed her adultery--she'd cheated on Jason with the gunman who later tried to kill him! Sheila uses lies, threats and manipulation in attempting to win Jason back, but with no success. Aware that Jason is seeing Christina, Sheila determines to drive herself between them--even if it means putting Christina and her daughter in peril.

Bad Ice is a novel of approximately 60,000 words. In accordance with your submission guidelines, I have enclosed a synopsis, the first three chapters and a self-addressed, stamped envelope. You may recycle the material. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Hilarity aside, he had some valid points. I used many of his suggestions for a while, even changing the title, then back again. In the end, I still used a great deal of his ideas plus what I learned from agents, editors and my critique partners. Can you spot the differences? Here's my final version:

Christina Mackey loves everything about hockey. Except the players. Left alone and pregnant by an aspiring pro, she vows it'll take more than a few muscles to change her view on jocks and their exploits.

During a rare visit to a game, she inadvertently foils a murder attempt by a man who smuggles a gun into the arena. When star winger Jason Peterson discovers that he was the target, he visits her to thank her. They strike up a friendship that quickly develops into attraction.

Christina's six-year-old daughter Mishayla immediately accepts him, prompting Christina to let her heart take the lead, albeit with caution. She figures he'll soon come to his senses and move on. Surprisingly, he doesn't. Maybe he's normal after all.

Jason is tired of the dating scene. He'd entertained a succession of beautiful women since his rookie year, but none were a substitute for his first relationship, which had ended in tragedy. Christina's gentle spirit reawakens him, and Mishayla reminds him of the child he could have had.

Shiela Duffy, Jason's ex-girlfriend, refuses to let him go. He had ended their tumultuous relationship when she admitted she was involved with the man who later tried to shoot him.

Her devotion to drugs and alcohol are second only to her obsession with Jason and his lifestyle. She uses lies, threats and manipulation in trying to get him back, but with no success. Aware that he is seeing someone else, she drives herself between them, recklessly putting
Christina and her daughter in peril.

BAD ICE is a contemporary romance set against a hockey background. Using MS Word count, the manuscript is 75,000 words.

Thursday, 13 September 2007

Thursday Thirteen

13 Things My Family Does To Stop Me From Having A Rye and Ginger Ale On My Half Day Off:

1. "Mom, when we go to pick up Andrew from school, let's go to Home Hardware so I can check out the Corner Gas merchandise."

2. "Oh, while you're at it, Honey, can you pick up a light bulb for the fish tank?"

3. "Mom, I'll love you forever if you put NHL 08 on your credit card, and I promise to pay you back. Can we go now?"

4. "Mom, can we see if it's cheaper at Wal Mart?"

5. "Oh, let's see if it's cheaper at Future Shop. You get a free hat."

6. "Darn, it's five dollars more. Not worth the free hat. Can we go back to Wal Mart?"

7. "What's for dinner?"

8. "Bark! I have to go pee!"

9. "My shoulder's killing me and we're out of Advil. Oh, and ginger ale."

10. "Can we come too? We want to buy candy."

11. "What's burning?"

12. "Bark! I have to go poo!"

12.5 "The cat threw up in the bathtub. Should I clean it?"

13. Snap. Glug. Fizz. Ahhhhhh.......

Sunday, 2 September 2007

An Offer for Bad Ice

My hockey romantic suspense novel, Bad Ice, has a home. The contract is in the mail, so I'm jumping the gun a little. But I couldn't wait to tell you!

I'd been submitting this novel to agents for about a year. As time went by, the 'rejections' became more personal and encouraging. No one offered representation, probably because the hockey theme didn't have a wide appeal in the U.S. agenting world.

However, Champagne Books was interested. After all, they're Canadian, a romance publisher, and they understand how every red-blooded Canadian girl can't resist a hockey player! I sent a query, J. Ellen Smith requested the partial, then the full a mere eight hours later! After only a few weeks, I received the email offering a contract.

It'll be released in electronic format and if sales are good it will go to print. I chose this publisher because if it goes to print, my book will appear on the shelves of a major Canadian bookstore - Chapters Indigo. It'll also be distributed in the States. So.... when it 's released, all you hockey fans who believe in love should buy an e-book first!

Some may wonder why I don't just wait for the "big one". Why pick small publishers? Am I selling out? I don't think so. Not every novel finds a place in mainstream publishing, but it still deserves to be published, especially if an editor believes in it enough to take it on.

The Space Between has mature characters and The Wild Rose Press has a special line just for that purpose. Bad Ice is a romance, but with a hockey background. Not quite a thriller, but a good dose of suspense. Champagne Books is a good fit, and I think they really believe in this book.

It seems that every novel I write is a little different. Perhaps it's because I'm a new writer and haven't found my niche yet. My work in progress, The Yearbook is different again. It's more introspective with two points of view in two different time periods. It's not a romance, but more like a love story, or women's fiction if you have to give it a label. Perhaps that will be the one to snag an agent.

My other WIP is a romantic thriller set in the Pyrenees, with car chases and stolen paintings. Definitely commercial appeal in that one. At least, I hope so.

So, there won't be any book tours or appearances on Letterman (yet), but I think a few people will enjoy a little "hockey, jealousy and passion - a hat trick that could lead to danger."