Circus Dogs review

Through intense buttering-up of Rachelle Delaney, my daughter recently got her paws on advance proofs of The Circus Dogs of Prague. You may remember that she wallpapered her room last year with posters of the dogs from the Metro Dogs of Moscow. Well, she loved Circus Dogs even more. But I’ll let her tell it in her own words:

Join Pie, Robert, Beatrix, and of course JR, on a trip to Prague with George and his new girlfriend Nadya. At first, JR loves Prague. Cake, Parks, Treats. But then he sees them. Cats. Worse, Nadya has adopted a stray cat! ‘Kisa’ is nothing but trouble. At least, that’s what the dogs thought. But when Nadya’s brother’s circus is going out of business, is it possible that Kisa could save the day? Read The Circus Dogs of Prague to find out.

This book was awesome! I loved how Kisa was kind of unpredictable and sometimes, she was just so nice. Sometimes, she was just trouble!

There you have it. An advance review from JR’s biggest fan.


Writers Fest-ing

I have never, ever been to the Vancouver Writers Fest. Until now.

Isn’t that horrible? Not only am I a writer and an avid reader, I also live FIVE MINUTES AWAY from Granville Island, where the Writers Fest takes place.

I am very ashamed of myself.

Fortunately, I am rectifying the situation this year with not one, but two events. Yesterday afternoon I sprung my daughter from school and we went to see Rachelle Delaney, Meg Tilly, and Cary Fagan at Mystery, Adventure, and Lies. All three were spectacular.

We are already a household of Rachelle Delaney fans, of course, but we enjoyed watching the hundred or so other groupies in the audience ask question after question after question about The Metro Dogs of Moscow.

Cary Fagan read a hilariously twisted first chapter (think children’s version of The Family Fang), and Meg Tilly read/acted a story about the tooth fairy, a baseball glove, and poo. She’s a writer who knows her MG audience!

Tonight I’m hoping to have just as good a time as I leave my daughter behind and head out with some fellow writers to see Fantasy@Six with Maureen Johnson and Maggie Stiefvater. My expectations are high, after yesterday afternoon, though I have a feeling there will be less talk about poo.

How to find a writer’s group: the sequel

Today, for some light comic relief, I present the story of how I ignored most of yesterday’s advice, and nonetheless found my writing group.

I went to a writing workshop. This particular workshop was about electronic publishing and on-line presence. But here’s the thing about writing classes of any form: 99 percent of attendees are introverts, and at least half of the remaining one percent are… um, how to say this nicely… wacko. So, you turn up at this exciting class, and you find a whole room of nervous-looking people writing notes (before anyone’s said anything) and trying to look busy, because after years spent in front of their computers, they have no idea how to interact with strangers.

Being one of those people, I got out my notebook and began taking copious notes. I continued to scribble right up until the moment when we were supposed to write down our goals for the coming year. Then I wrote “FIND A WRITING GROUP” in big letters, and left my notebook conveniently open, hoping the writer sitting next to me (Rachelle Delaney, whom I sort of knew from CWILL meetings) might glance my way.

I went home and waited. And waited. And waited a bit more. And lo and behold, she called me and said she and her friend Kallie were starting a writer’s group. Did I want to join?

Well, glory hallelliuah! I did.

I never asked whether she actually saw my secret message.

Confession time

I was chatting to Rachelle last night about e-book reading, and now I’m here to confess my most ridiculous reading decision, ever.

I downloaded Anna Kerenina… on my iPhone.

When displayed on a 17-line screen, Anna Karenina has 4087 pages.

This is possibly not the most realistic way to read a Russian novel. BUT, I’m loving it! I’ve never read a Russian novel before because (a) they’re Russian, which sounds hard; and (b) they’re thick, which looks hard. But Anna Karenina (translated, obviously) turns out to have balls, and beaux, and ice skating parties, and mansions and estates, and late-night soirĂ©es, and basically anything else I might want in a historical novel.

Rachelle hasn’t read Anna Karenina either, because her Russian-novel-loving dad said nothing ever happens. And I have to admit, nothing much has happened in the first seventeen chapters. But the gowns, and the balls, and the beaux… those are enough to keep me reading.

I’m on page 848. I’ll let you know how it goes with the next 3239.

Want to hang out?

Lots of fun book events on the horizon! Here’s a few I’m going to… want to come?

Rachelle Delaney’s launch of The Metro Dogs of Moscow on February 7th at Kidsbooks. Check out Vikki VanSickle’s review of the book, then get your launch details!

The Vancouver Children’s Literature Roundtable illustrator breakfast with Oliver Jeffers. I’ll let this video do the explaining for that event:

The Getting Started in Children’s Books 2013 panel discussion at the Vancouver Library, organized by the lovely Ellen Schwartz. If you have a manuscript stashed away in your underwear drawer, this is the place for you.

Word on the Street

I took my Seeing Red show on the road yesterday (literally on the road) at Word on the Street.

Thanks to an audience chock full of friendly faces, it was great fun. (Thank you, Rachelle and Jacqui and Shannon and Megan and Kit and family members whom I may or may not have paid to attend.)

I got to talk about how the ancient Gauls sacrificed their enemies, how blood solved baby mix-ups in the early 1900s, and how early blood analysis techniques saved people from murder raps.

I also learned a great presentation technique. Get yourself sandwiched between the witty Susin Nielsen and the wonderful Kit Pearson. Voila! Guaranteed crowd!

An interesting coincidence: speaking before Susin was Gina McMurchy-Barber. Gina and I met almost a decade ago, at a great Booming Ground workshop led by Kit Pearson. And of course, Kit Pearson was speaking just a few minutes later. You have to love cosmic mash-ups.

Check this space tomorrow. Official announcement on it’s way…


I was little miss social this week. First, I had a lovely lunch and seawall walk with Alex Van Tol, who was visiting from Victoria for the VPL’s Writing & Book Camp.

I’d only met Alex electronically before this. She’s very smart and funny and pretty. And she swears just as much (maybe a teensy bit more) than the characters in her books. We had a great time talking about plot-development, the obstacles (children) involved in summer writing, and the earthquake/power outage dilemma. (Is it better to be well-prepared, or will that attract looters?) Seriously. That’s what we talked about.

Last night, I had an impromptu back-yard dinner with Rachelle Delaney, who is deep in the editing process for a new pirate novel. We talked a bit about writing, too, but mostly we listened to my husband’s ridiculously inappropriate stories from his time as an Easter Seals camp counsellor.

And today, Rachelle and Alex are going out.

If there are no new books published next year, you’ll know it’s because we were all too busy being social summer butterflies.

The right kind of book

Every once in a while, I find the exactly-perfect kind of book. The kind of book that challenges my brain without straining it, that makes me stop at occasional sentences just to wonder at the rightness of them. The kind of book that makes me feel as if I might look at people differently, for the rest of my life, just because I’ve now read that book.

I’ve met two of these in the last week. Two!

Come, Thou Tortoise, written by Jessica Grant and recommended to me by Rachelle Delaney, was just the most heartbreakingly engaging story ever. I love unusual narrators, and this book has two. One’s a tortoise.

Sorta Like a Rock Star, By Matthew Quick, was a book I picked up after reading a glowing review by Vikki VanSickle. And it was everything she promised. I’ve never fallen in love with a character as quickly as I fell in love with Amber Appleton. The sad surroundings of those first few pages, coupled with her obvious love for her messed-up mom… well, she had me at hello.

What a good way to start the summer reading spree!


I am waiting for editing notes. The first round of edits is always the worst. Except when the second round is the worst.

Really, neither is THAT bad. It’s more the waiting that’s bad. The knowledge that you’re about to find out everything that’s wrong with your book and it could be anything from “move chapter eight until after chapter five and shift chapter three up thirty pages and rename that guy named Lance, what a stupid name” to “please revisit the theme of this novel and consider whether it might be better if it included zombies.”

That last suggestion has never actually been made to me. Yet.

Anyway, while I wait, I figure I can:

  • Cook a few things, so when I ignore my family for days on end, they at least won’t starve.
  • Catch up on laundry. Of course, having a surplus of clean clothes will probably give my family a collective stroke. And then they won’t need to be fed. Cancel step one.
  • Stock up on sugar. I find that rewriting requires a fairly constant sugar intake.
  • Pray. I could start praying now.
  • Revisit my friend Rachelle’s excellent advice on revising.