Archive for the ‘books’ Category

The Siege is on!

October 20, 2014

My new book is out! The teenage characters in Siege dodge ghosts and smugglers during a War of 1812 re-enactment summer camp at Old Fort Erie, Ontario. For several months in the real War of 1812 (which actually ended in 1815), Fort Erie was occupied by US soldiers. One of the biggest and deadliest battles of the war occurred there in August 2014. (Siege is a short easy-to-read novel in the Orca Currents series for ages 10-14). (Review)

P1230638P1000765

Advertisements

Siege of Fort Erie – 1814 – 2014

August 7, 2014

Fort Erie gateTwo hundred years ago, in July 1814, American troops attacked Fort Erie (in what was then British Upper Canada). The British surrendered with only a few shots fired (the fort’s commander was later court-martialled for giving up too easily). The British withdrew from the fort, but made plans to get the fort back. In early August, they set up camp outside the fort, just out of reach of the fort’s guns.

After dark, on August 15, 1814, about 2,400 British soldiers, Canadian militia and First Nations allies attacked. Under the cover of darkness and the heavy gun smoke that hung over the surrounding field, the British stormed the walls of the fort and captured the northeast bastion. Within the fort, the Americans turned a cannon around and fired at the British on top the bastion. The British turned one of the captured cannons and fired back. As this close-range cannon battle raged, a spark found its way to the powder magazine under the bastion. The explosion killed 400 men (mostly British and Canadians) and turned the tide of the battle in favour of the Americans.

The British retreated from the fort (with almost the entire column that had attacked the bastion, wiped out), but continued their siege for days. By the time the siege ended on September 17, 3,500 men were killed, wounded, or missing. It was the most devastating and prolonged battle of the war.

Today, Old Fort Erie is a museum, which I visited last fall to research the setting of my new novel Siege (for readers approx. ages 10-14), which will be out October 1. This coming weekend (August 9-10, 2014) hundreds of re-enactors from both Canada and the U.S. will be gathering at the fort to commemorate the 200-year anniversary of the siege. It promises to be the largest War of 1812 re-enactment in Canada. Unfortunately, I won’t be at the re-enactment, but I’ll be imagining the characters of my novel on top the fort’s walls in the middle of the musket and cannon smoke.

Siege_postcard_08-05-14

Blog Hop stop

June 2, 2014

hopscotchI’ve been “tagged” by author friend Laura Langston to join in a game of blog hop. The rules of the game: answer four questions about your writing and writing process, and tag three more people. Laura writes picture books, young adult novels and adult novels. To see her post on the blog hop, click here.

Here I go with the questions:

1)    What am I working on?

I’ve just finished the final edits for a new novel called Siege (for ages 10-14), which will be out this fall with Orca Books. It’s about a teenage boy who reluctantly attends a War of 1812 re-enactment summer camp and discovers some modern-day criminal activity around the Niagara River and Old Fort Erie.  As part of my research for the story, I watched the re-enactment of the Battle of Queenston Heights on its 200-year anniversary and also visited Old Fort Erie. I have a picture book story about the War of 1812 in the works as well.

I’m also working on two short non-fiction stories about dogs which will appear in Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Dog Did What?, scheduled for release in August.

Re-enactor staff at Fort Erie answered my many questions while I poked around the fort

Re-enactor staff at Fort Erie answered my many questions while I poked around the fort

2)    How does my work differ from others of its genre?

My newest book, Siege, mixes history in with the present day, which is a bit unusual. I don’t think I’ve come across any other stories about people re-enacting historical events. It was fun to write, partly because the main character doesn’t want to be where he is, and I enjoyed writing about his reactions to things like his musket misfiring, the old fort’s ghost stories, and trying to navigate the Niagara River in an old-fashioned row boat.

FloodWarning_coverI’ve also written more straight-forward contemporary fiction and historical fiction. Flood Warning, for example, is a chapter book (for ages 6-8) that takes place during the Fraser River flood of 1948. There aren’t a lot of chapter books that tell historical stories (especially BC and Canadian history), which makes my story (and the others I’d like to write) somewhat unique.

3)    Why do I write what I do?

I write for kids because it’s  something I’ve wanted to do ever since I was a kid (about the time my dad made the hopscotch in our backyard, which appears at the top of this post). I fell in love with books such as The Narnia Chronicles by C.S. Lewis and the Emily of New Moon series by Lucy Maud Montgomery when I was in grade six and have continued to love books for children (both reading them and writing them). I also sometimes write poetry and nonfiction for adults, but writing for kids is my main compulsion.

As for what I write about: I like to explore the world around me and notice things that maybe nobody else is paying attention to. I’m always fascinated by history, nature, and unique bits and pieces that I stumble across. When something surprises or intrigues me, I immediately start imagining it as part of a story (I always keep a notebook handy).  I write about things that interest me and hope someone else will be interested, too.

4)    How does my writing process work?

Usually when I’m working on a new story, I do quite a bit of research first (which I always enjoy, especially when it involves visiting interesting new places or trying out some new activity). Sometimes I find it difficult to actually sit down and begin the writing, though, and I might procrastinate by doing more research, or even by doing some different types of writing (like nonfiction articles or blog posts). But, once I dig into a story,  it starts to flow, and I get caught up in the world of the story.

I do most of my writing from my home office. If I need a break, or get stuck on some aspect of the story, I go for a walk, and usually the problem or the next scene works itself out in my mind as I walk. Rather than doing several drafts of a story, I edit as I go, which means sometimes I can rework the same  chapter or scene for days before moving on, and by the time I get to the end of the first draft of the story, it’s fairly polished. But, of course, there’s always more editing to be done.

P1150827

sunset from my office window

For the next stop on the blog hop, I’ve tagged Cindy Henrichs and Daniela Elza (I tried to tag a third person, but everyone else got away), and they’ll be blogging on June 16.

Cynthia Heinrichs is the author of two books: Mermaids, a picture book about the diving women of South Korea, and Under the Mound, a novel for young adults set in 12th-century Scotland. Cynthia is also a regular contributor to British Columbia Magazine. She lives in Vancouver, BC, where she writes and tutors college students in academic writing. To learn more about Cynthia, please visit her website here (and check out her blog on June 16).

Daniela Elza had been published nationally and internationally in over 80 publications. Her poetry books are milk tooth bane bone (Leaf Press, 2013), the weight of dew (Mother Tongue Publishing, 2012) and the book of It (2011).  Daniela earned her doctorate in Philosophy of Education from Simon Fraser University and was the 2014 Writer-In-Residence at the University of the Fraser Valley. Check out her website here (her blog hop post will be up June 16).

Note: If the next blog hop posts aren’t up by June 16, please check again in a few days.

Thanks for playing!

 

Chicken Soup for the Soul & the lure of a frozen pond

December 1, 2013

book cover4Everywhere it snows, kids love winter. The first snow of the year is always the most exciting ─especially if you live in a place like the south-west coast of British Columbia, where snow is not guaranteed. When my boyfriend and I moved from Vancouver Island to Toronto to go to university, we were looking forward to escaping the cool, rainy winds of Victoria and experiencing a real Canadian winter of sunshine sparkling on snow and ice hockey on frozen ponds. We packed all our essential possessions in two large hockey bags (including two pairs of skates and a toaster oven). The morning we left, we discovered that our friends had graffitied a sarcastic message on the road in front of my boyfriend’s house: Craig loves Harold Ballard (Harold Ballard was the coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs hockey team at that time, and my boyfriend was not a Leaf’s fan). [Note: scrawled on the road in front of my parents’ house were the words There is no pie in Toronto, but that’s another story.]

Our first winter in Toronto did not start the way we expected. We discovered very quickly that the York University campus, where we were living, had the apt nickname, “Siberia,” and that we had exchanged the damp but relatively gentle winds of Victoria for the bone-chilling, driving sub-zero blast of what we were beginning to think of as a flat urban wasteland. Did things improve? Did we finally get that beautiful Ontario snow we were expecting? Well, you’ll have to read my story in the new collection, Chicken Soup for the Soul: O Canada The Wonders of Winter: 101 Stories about Bad Weather, Good Times, and Great Sports.

But seriously, Craig and I ended up having many wonderful winter experiences over our four years of living in Ontario (including snow-shoeing over pristine snow north of the city, seeing my first Snowy Owl and Snow Buntings on an outdoor education field trip, and gazing down at the frozen Niagara Falls as we crossed the bridge to the US to watch a hockey game in Buffalo). By our second winter, we had a car, and two of our good friends, Mark and Donna, had moved from the westcoast to Hamilton (an hour’s drive from Toronto), and on weekends we explored a lot of the countryside together. Craig and Mark were on a constant quest to find the best pond on which to play ice hockey. In warm weather, they scouted for accessible ponds with potential. When the temperature started to cool, they monitored the thickening ice. The moment the ice could hold their weight, they were out skating and passing a puck around (long before locals were ready to brave the ice). Donna and I skated too, but we never lasted as long as Craig and Mark.

When I saw the call for submissions to a Canadian winter themed Chicken Soup for the Soul, I knew I had to write something about our Ontario experience and the siren call of frozen ice. But which of our many winter memories should I pick? Should I write about the Christmas day we tested the ice on a pond in the middle of a deserted conservation area? Or the night we skated on an old outdoor rink ─with boards around the outside and lights overhead, canned music, and a warm-up hut with a wood stove? Or should I write about the time we were house and dog-sitting on a farm north of the city, and we skated on the farm pond as the two big dogs slipped and skidded around us? No. I decided to start at the beginning ─with the first winter and the first pond.

pond-skating

Flood Warnings!

June 25, 2012

Recent flood alerts along the Fraser River feel like deja vu. This year’s delayed mountain snow melt combined with extra rain have made for conditions similar to those in spring 1948, when my new chapter book, Flood Warning, takes place. But, while the story might be too close to reality for some communities this week, the worse threats seems to be over in most locations –at least for now. You can read flood news here.

If you’re interested in sharing this story with kids, please ask for the book at your local bookstore, or order from these amazon.com or amazon.ca links (thanks!). You can find info about my other books for kids on my website.

Fraser River flood flashback (and book giveaway)

May 21, 2012
On this day in 1948*, the town of Agassiz’s Victoria Day dance was interrupted by news that the Fraser River was about to flood. Men, young and old, quietly left the dance to build up the sandbag dyke along the river and begin what would inevitably be a lost battle to keep the water back and protect their homes, farms and businesses. A few days later, children waded through waist deep water on the school grounds, men rowed boats down the main street of town, and hundreds of dairy cows choked the road west of town as farmers herded them to higher ground, murky water licking at their heals.

Tom, the main character of my new chapter book, Flood Warning, wishes he could join his father and the other men fighting the flood. He’s sure his favorite radio hero, the Lone Ranger, would do no less. At the very least, the Lone Ranger on his firy horse, Silver, would escort the evacuation train safely out of town. But Tom has to go to school, and when school is dismissed early, he has to stay home and help his mom around the house. Until the flood comes to him, and Tom must become a real-life hero and help save his family’s dairy cows. (Info on book giveaway at bottom of post.)

The story, while fiction, is based on what really happened during the 1948 flood. Agassiz was the first town to be evacuated (read Flood Warning for the unusual role played by the town cemetery), but communities all along the Fraser Valley were affected. In total, 30,000 civilians (local farmers, townspeople, and volunteers from other areas) sprang into action to fight the flood, rescue stranded people and animals, and bring in supplies. Sixteen thousand people (including 3,800 children) were forced to flee, and hundreds of animals were also removed to safety (750 cows were evacuated in Agassiz alone). Roads (including the Trans Canada Highway) and railways were swamped, people who remained in the flooded areas were cut off from the rest of the world, and even the city of Vancouver was isolated from the rest of the country except by plane.

When the water finally began to recede two weeks later, it left devastation in its wake. Orchards and field crops were destroyed, debris was everywhere, floor boards of houses, cupboards, stairs, etc. were warped and rotting, carpets were ruined, walls stained, water-soaked furniture falling apart, and dark stagnant water and mud remained stuck in low areas. Yet, throughout the ordeal, there was a sense of camaraderie and mutual support, and people’s spirits remained high.

For more information on the Fraser River flood, Nature’s Fury, a first-hand account by newspaper correspondents and photographers who witnessed the flood, is available to download from the city of Chilliwack’s website.

Check out Flood Warning for a child’s eye view.

Book giveaway!

I’m giving away a signed copy of Flood Warning along with a bookmark, special button, and a DVD that includes episodes of the 1950s Lone Ranger TV show. Add a comment here, or “Like” my Facebook page to be entered in the draw. (Draw deadline: June 15, 2012.)

Of course, you can also ask for the book at your local bookstore, or order it through Amazon.comAmazon.ca and other online sources.

Flood Warning is part of the Orca Echoes series for grades 1-3 and is illustrated by Leanne Franson (Leanne also illustrated my previous chapter book, Mystery of the Missing Luck, and I love her work).

* Note: Today is Victoria Day here in Canada, and it was on Victoria Day in 1948 that the flood warning began, however, in 1948 Victoria Day fell on May 24th.

Book launch invitation

April 22, 2012

My new chapter book, Flood Warning, about the Fraser River flood of 1948 (and how a young boy helps to save his family’s herd of dairy cows), debuts this Wednesday at Vancouver Kidsbooks, along with books by three other local authors. Kidsbooks is one of my favourite places to spend some time!

A Discovering Emily discovery

October 26, 2011

This morning, sorting through stuff I’ve had in storage for the past two years, I was surprised to discover a box full of bookmarks for my children’s book, Discovering Emily (a junior novel about the childhood of Canadian artist Emily Carr). I had no idea I still had all these bookmarks, and it is strange that they should resurface right at this moment. Only a few weeks ago, I found out that this book is no longer available in print, and I have to decide if I should ask for the rights back from the publisher and look for a new publisher, or possibly reprint the book myself. Are the bookmarks trying to tell me something?

Discovering Emily was originally published in 2004 by Orca (though, as with many of my books, the idea and research started several years earlier). I’ve had eight books for young people published now, but I continue to have a soft spot for this book because of my love for Emily Carr and her art and my admiration for the incredible spunk it took for a young woman in 19th century Victoria to go against the current and follow her dream of becoming an artist and painting in a way that had meaning to her. I first wrote the book because I wanted to show kids the person behind the dowdy-looking famous artist with a reputation for eccentricity. She was once a child just like them, who had fears and dreams, got into trouble, did things wrong, but kept trying and kept on being true to herself.

I was at a teachers’ conference this past Friday, and a few teachers came up to talk to me. Ironically, the one book they all mentioned using in their classrooms was Discovering Emily. I also have teacher friends who use this book every year. As one friend says, “[the character, Emily] inspired me to look for that spark in the kids I deal with every day.” Unfortunately, these anecdotes have not translated into enough on-going sales for my publisher to feel compelled to reprint the book again. Yet, I still feel there’s a spot for this book in primary classrooms and that there are children waiting to be inspired by the young Emily Carr.

Anyone out there have any thoughts on this book and what I should do? Are you a teacher who uses the book or would like to have the book in your classroom? If I reprint the book myself I may have to find a new illustrator (as well as figure out how to get the book into the hands of teachers, librarians, parents, and kids). Ideally, I’d like Orca to print the book again, as they still have the sequel, Emily’s Dream, available, and I still have all those matching bookmarks to give away!

If you’d like to encourage Orca to get the book back in print, you can contact the publisher, Andrew Wooldridge, at orca@orcabook.com.

[Note: on Orca’s website it says the book is “out of stock” rather than “out of print” because the book may still be available as an e-book.]

Past blog post about walking through Emily Carr’s old neighbourhood: In Emily Carr’s footsteps

Great website about Emily Carr: Emily Carr at Work and at Home

Downloadable teachers’ guide for Discovering Emily

[Note: Amazon.ca still shows Discovering Emily available, and Amazon.com shows one book left in stock.]

P.S. Just discovered a Kindle edition is available (my first book available through Kindle, so kind of exciting –if I took back the rights to the book I could make it available through Kindle myself, but would have to redo the cover and art):

Book Party winds down

May 22, 2011

Launch activities for my new chapter book, Mystery of the Missing Luck, are finally winding down after a busy month of guest blogging, book giveaways (winners listed at the end of this post), and live book events. It’s been a lot of fun, and a little exhausting!

The photo at left is me at a group book launch last Wednesday, which took place at one of my favourite book stores, Vancouver Kidsbooks (scroll down for a link to a blog post about the event). The photo below is the wonderful group of authors who participated in “The Best Mess” Children’s Book Week event at the Burnaby Library, Metrotown (story link below).

Since I spend a lot of time on my own, writing, it’s been great to get out and connect with other authors and hear about their books and projects –and also great to connect with readers!

If anyone’s interested, here are the links to the guest posts I did on my virtual book tour:

– Talking about how the Japanese Maneki Neko (lucky beckoning cat) got into my story, Mystery of the Missing Luck, on author kc dyer’s blog.

– More about the book’s inspiration and what started my interest in writing about different cultures on the Orca Book Publisher’s blog.

– Confession of my life-long love affair with bakeries on author Tanya Lloyd Kyi’s blog.

– My interview on the Children’s Writers and Illustrators of BC (CWILL BC) blog (part of a series of interviews with BC authors)

– Post about the Children’s Book Week event at the Burnaby Library, “Authors agree, the best stories often spring from messy beginnings”

– Post about last Wednesday’s group launch of new books by Orca authors, “The More Books, the Merrier!”

– Join me and others in sharing stories, folklore, and images about Maneki Neko, the Lucky Cat (ongoing)

The winner of the Missing Luck/Lucky Cat prize pack is Aymee Leake (who entered via the Lucky Cat -Maneki Neko Facebook page). Copies of the book go to Lesley McKnight (kc dyer’s blog), Kathy Hawkins Thomas (Orca’s blog), and Jacqui (Tanya Lloyd Kyi’s blog). Congratulations, and thank you to everyone who joined in my book party festivities!

And now, this blog will return to its regular programming (ie. irregular postings of haiku, photos, etc), and I hope to get back to work on my current novel-in-progress…

Book Party!

April 26, 2011

My new book is out! Mystery of the Missing Luck (Orca Book Publishers), illustrated by Leanne Franson, is a chapter book for ages 6-8 about a young girl, her relationship with her grandmother, and what happens when Maneki Neko, a lucky cat statue, goes missing from the grandmother’s Japanese bakery.

Usually, when I have a new book published, I celebrate with a launch event at a library, book store, or other physical venue. This time, I’m trying something new –a virtual book tour, online book give-a-ways, and a special Missing Luck – Lucky Cat contest. The prize is a Lucky Cat bag full of unique Maneki Neko (beckoning cat) items from Japan (including a cute plush beckoning cat, a wooden prayer plaque from Gotokuji Temple where the first Maneki Neko originated, tabi socks, hashi/chopsticks, stickers, candy, charm, etc. as well as a signed copy of my new book). Anyone can enter the Missing Luck – Lucky Cat contest here on my blog or on Facebook. All you have to do to enter the contest is leave a comment at the bottom of this blog post letting me know you’d like to enter and telling me why you’d like to win our great prize pack. Leave a comment on my Facebook page for an extra chance to win. The Missing Luck contest is being co-sponsored by the Lucky Cat – Maneki Neko blog and Lucky Cat Facebook page, so you have even more chances of winning by leaving comments there as well. Spread the word by posting a link to the contest on your blog, Facebook, or Twitter, let us know, and we’ll give you an extra draw entry. We’ll be holding the draw May 20 and announcing the winner here and on Facebook.

Follow me on my tour as I hop from blog to blog, sharing stories about how I came to write Mystery of the Missing Luck, visited the home of the first Maneki Neko in Japan, and learned about an-pan, a special Japanese bun that inspired a cartoon super hero. Leave a comment after one of my blog posts, and the host will enter your name in a draw for a copy of Mystery of the Missing Luck. There will be a book given away at each blog stop (4 separate book give-a-ways, plus a book with the Missing Luck prize pack).

Teachers, if you have a class that would like to enter any of the draws, students can enter individually, or the whole class can enter as one (if a class wins the Missing Luck prize pack, I’ll make sure there are enough Lucky Cat candies for everyone in the class to try one, and I’ll add a class set of Mystery of the Missing Luck bookmarks). A downloadable teachers’ guide to the book will be available from Orca’s website.

Mystery of the Missing Luck tour schedule (2011):

April 28 – I’ll be visiting the blog of kc dyer, author of historical and contemporary fiction for kids and teens, including A Walk Through a Window and its sequel Facing Fire

May 2 – Check out my post on the site of Orca Book Publishers

May 6 – Find me at the blog of Tanya Lloyd Kyi, author of Burn: The Life Story of Fire, Jared Lester, Fifth Grade Jester, and other fiction and non-fiction titles

May 7 – I’ll be breaking with the virtual theme by joining the Burnaby Library‘s celebration of Canadian Children’s Book Week in person (at the Metrotown library branch)

May 11 – My stop will be the Children’s Writers and Illustrators of BC (CWILL BC) blog

May 18 – I’ll be joining fellow Orca authors for a group book launch (yes, this one is also live and in person) at Vancouver Kidsbooks, 3083 West Broadway, Vancouver, BC, 7pm [Note: this is a change of location from the previously announced, Ardea Books]

May 19 (or shortly after) – see photos of the group launch on Orca’s blog and the CWILL BC blog

May 20 – Missing Luck – Lucky Cat prize draw! [note: contest now closed, but if you’re interested in Lucky Cats there may be a future Maneki Neko-themed contest on the Lucky Cat blog and/or Facebook site]

Please ask for Mystery of the Missing Luck at your local book store, or order it through IndieboundAmazon.comAmazon.ca, or Chapters/Indigo. [note: if you plan on ordering the book through Amazon, please use my links -thanks!]