Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Leaving on a jet plane ...

I'm leaving on a jet plane ... pretty sure when I'll be back again ...
As I pack for my trip to Toronto, where I will have a book launch at Scooter Girl Toys on Thursday November 26th at 7 pm, and several school visits, I ask myself the question that authors on book tours for millennium before me have asked: do I wear the fabulous shoes that make my feet bleed or the nice, dressy, acceptable, but a few iotas short of fabulous, shoes that don't make my feet bleed?
It's a dilemma that will play itself out repeatedly over the years for writers and will not get resolved in many authorly lifetimes.
Many of you have asked where you can get my debut novel Dead Frog on the Porch. Here's a run down:
In Calgary:
I'll be signing books this afternoon/evening (Tuesday) in Indigo in Signal Hill.
In Edmonton:
Greenwoods' Books (Small World Children's books) and Indigo North Town Centre (they have a very large Indigo Kids section).
In the rest of Canada and the world:
I promise when I'm back that I'll continue with the de-brief of awesome writerly things I learned at the Surrey International Writers Conference.
P.S.: My feet will bleed ;-j

Monday, November 23, 2009

Frogzilla, paper chewing cats, and the Toronto event

You remember Sprite - the rescue cat who doesn't like rejection and chewed up all my rejection letters from agents? Well I let her decide the winner of the recent DFOTP book giveaway.
The question was: what was the name of Jane's frog that Cyd accidently kills in the opening pages of the book.
The answer was Frogzilla. The person who thought the right answer was cupcake - seriously? really!?
Out of the right answers, I let the cat decide on the winners.
There were two books to give away. One book goes to Amani and Ife a 9 and 11 year old brother & sister team in Kelowna, B.C. The book is on the Canada Post dog sled as we speak.
The other book was won by Beverly out of Colorado. Beverly is an avid collector of Nancy Drew memorabilia and proud to call herself a Nancy Drew Sleuth. There will be a big conference in 2010 to celebrate 80 years of Nancy Drew. You can find more about it on the link. Beverly, your book will be on the Canada Post dog sled as soon as I hear back from you about your address.
In other news, I will be in Toronto on Thursday November 26th at Scooter Girl Toys for a book launch event. Tell your friends. And your enemies. And your frenemies. Heck tell everyone!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

“You’ve don’t know me but …”

“You don’t know me, and I may or may not be a stalker …” that was my email to Marty Chan that started it all. I’d never met the dude, but had read his funny mysteries. I knew he thought he was funny but I thought I was funnier and challenged him to the Kids’ Lit Mystery-Comedy Smackdown that was held yesterday at Greenwoods' Books in Edmonton.

But first we were on the City TV Breakfast show on Friday with a beaker full of some disgusting green slime that the evil scientist Dr. Bert Talbot aka The Cheese Pie Man from my novel Dead Frog on the Porch and the science teacher character from Marty’s novel the The Mystery of the Mad Science Teacher cooked up in their lab for us. Before we went on the air the host Bridget Ryan said to me “Let’s have a little what what, and what town is this boy from! I said: “I don’t … know…what…that… means?” And she said: “And we’re live …” So the TV spot was fun and we had a mini-smackdown.

There was an awesome turnout at the Smackdown. The judges were author Debby Waldman, and Edmonton Journal columnist Paula Simons and the emcee (or referee as she called herself) was chidren's author and storyteller Kathy Jessup. The judges made Simon Cowell-Paula Abdul-Randy Jackson like comments after each round.

For round one we both told the story of how we got the idea for our novels. Marty won that round because his story involved a sweaty gym teacher who used to yell at him and mine just involved me confessing to frogicide!

Round two was a reading of a funny passage from each of our novels. I either won that or it was a tie, I don’t remember because the thunder of the applause was dizzying.

For round three we took suggestions from the children in the audience. They wrote an opening line an we had three minutes to write a bit about it. The line I pulled was so good Hot pink bike shorts aren’t good camouflage that I think I will use it as the opening of the second in the Megabyte Mystery series Dead Bird through the Cat Door.

Well Marty won that round and I had to drink the green slime!

Wait a minute, weren’t both judges and the emcee from Edmonton? And hasn’t Edmonton and Calgary been playing out a rivalry that dates back over 200 years. Are those the judges and emcee in a conspiratorial huddle? Hmmmm, maybe the title of my next book will be Conspiracy at the Comedy Smackdown or Conspiracy in the Capital.

Does the word “re-match” mean anything to you Marty?

Thanks to everyone who got on board for this fun event! ;-j

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Naomi K. Lewis - Self Portrait in Cookie Dough

This is the second in a series of profiles of the members of my critiquing group - the Kensington Writers' Group (KWG).

This is a self-portrait of author, and KWG member, Naomi K. Lewis done through the medium of cookie dough and icing. It’s funny that she chose to portrait herself as a cat because she is so allergic to cats, that when I go to her condo, I am instructed to take off my shoes and socks and leave them in the hallway (my smelly socks are a nice treat for the neighbours). I also have to wear freshly laundered clothes (rather than my usual sasquatch wrap) – okay, this is doing nothing to dispel the myth that I’m a crazy writing cat lady!

She made those cookies for the meeting we had when we were reviewing my manuscript Dead Bird through the Cat Door, the second in the Megabyte Mystery series. The sweet mix of chocolate and oatmeal took away the sting of the feedback (naw, it was all constructive and awesome feedback which I used in the rewrite).

I met Naomi at Lori Hahnel’s book launch a year ago. And I quickly realized that she was a writer I needed to infiltrate into the Kensington Writers’ Group. It didn’t take the others long to agree.

Naomi is the author of Cricket in a Fist – a novel about a family losing one of their members to her own self-help movement, “willing amnesia.” Check out a review I did on Chapters (for some reason it was posted twice - must be my superior technological ability - not!).

Naomi has several teaching gigs coming up – on November 28th, she’ll give a workshop on character development at the Calgary Public Library’s Teen Writing Conference. Beginning in January, she’ll teach a full-year novel-writing course at the Alexandra Writer’s Society Centre, and Creative Writing Level 1 at Mount Royal University.

She is also a ghostwriter, and most recently worked with burn survivor and motivational speaker, Spencer Beach, on his memoir, which is scheduled for publication in the spring. Until this month, she was associate editor of Legacy magazine, which just put out its last issue. When Naomi isn’t busy making banana bread in her toaster oven (don’t ask) and writing for magazines she is busy working on her next novel and short stories.

Since I have two cats, we will never again have a KWG meeting at my house, but if that means I have to eat more cookies and banana bread then I am willing to suffer for my art ;-j

So check out her book and her site, maybe some day she'll make you banana bread (with chocolate chips)!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Chai Tea and Chicken wings – or the making of the DFOTP video

I’m not above bribing someone to get what I want. My 12 year old niece Teaghan (aka Director of Marketing and Video Production for the DFOTP team) makes awesome videos. She has her own you tube channel and she just designed and created a website called the Big Green Project for kids to save the earth one act of conservation at a time (both kids and adults can join).
So if it meant keeping her hepped up on a steady supply of sweet milky chai, chicken wings and pizza from Little Caesars, tootsie rolls, sushi, raspberries, cucumbers, warm blankets over her shoulder, and TV and cat cuddling breaks – well, I was prepared to do that. And we’re both thrilled with the result.
I’m launching both the video and a DFOTP book give away contest.
So this is how it will work. You need to answer the question below and email me the answer on the contact page of the website. Don’t leave the answer in the comment box of the blog because everyone will see it. I will give away two books. I’d like one of the winners to be from around here (i.e., Canada) and the other to be ‘not from these parts’(i.e., UK, USA, Australia, South Africa or anywhere else you read this blog.). The contest will run from Monday November 16 to Friday November 20th. I will announce the winners on Monday November 23rd and will contact the winners by email. Then I’ll put the book on the Canada Post dog sled team and point it in the winners' direction.
Here’s the question:
In the opening pages of Dead Frog on the Porch, Cyd accidently kills her twin sister Jane's frog. What is the name of the frog?
The answer is in the video.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

DFOTP at the Calgary Children's Book Fair & Conference

I was pleased with the turnout yesterday at the Calgary Children's Book Fair and Conference. It was nice to see how many Calgarians are interested in literature for children.
I was joined by my nephew Logan with his VIP badge. He was indeed a Very Important Person and the Director of Sales for the DFOTP team.
He sold a few books while he was helping me out and came up with the brilliant idea of giving away Halloween candy with each purchase. I knew there was a use for that left over candy!
Here are a couple of pics from the event.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Crazy on a Stick Right Side Up!

As I was getting ready for the Calgary Children's Book Fair and Conference tomorrow at Hillhusrt Sunnyside community hall from 10-4 pm, I came across a post on the blog of one of my followers.
I've been playing around with the phrase blog followers - as it's a little too 'don't cry for me argentina' I thought I'd come up with another word, well two words exactly: Blogowers or Followogs. What do you think? What should we call blog followers the blogosphere over?
Australian writer/archaeologist Jade, over at Jade Hears Voices did a review of Dead Frog on the Porch (and I didn't even have to bribe her with vegemite). Jade's blog is hilarious as she talks about her characters, her writing, and her journey toward publication - and her dogs, who doesn't love pets? Oh, yeah, she also reviews middle grade and young adult books. She freely admits to being crazy (that's the first step toward recover Jade) and to celebrate craziness in all its myriad of forms Jade launch a second blog: the Craziness Appreciation Society I'm a blogower of that blog because if anyone knows me, they know that crazy people are strangely drawn to me ... but that's a whole other blog post.
Since Jade is the co-founder of the Craziness Appreciation Society she really appreciated the line in my book that is the title of this blog post: "You're crazy on a stick right side up." That's what protag Cyd says to one of the evil characters in Dead Frog on the Porch. You can read Jade's review of the book here Extra Special Review Dead Frog on the Porch by Jan Markley. Jade has some interesting (alright, I'll say it, crazy) criteria for how she reviews books. They involve things like whether or not she loved it enough to lick the page (too much information) and how well she loved walking in the valley of the commas and the freaky things writers do with semi colons (writers are crazy for punctuation).
Check out her review and her blogs!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Kids' Mystery Writer Smackdown! on City TV Breakfast Television

Marty Chan and I will be on Edmonton's City TV Breakfast Television show at 7:40 am on Friday November 20th. We'll be talking about the Kids' Mystery Writer SMACKDOWN! between Marty and I which will be on Saturday, November 21 at 2:00 pm at Greenwoods' Bookshoppe in Edmonton.
The loser of the SMACKDOWN has to drink this! Rumour has it that the concoction was created by the mad scientist characters in both of our books!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Back-story is not story

I've returned to blogging about what I learned at the Surrey International Writers Conference a couple of weeks ago.

I went to a workshop by independent editor extraordinaire Lisa Rector of Third Draft New York City. It was called The First Fifty Pages and here are some of the notes I took. It was truly an inspiring workshop and on the last day I also went to her workshop called the 11th hour Checklist which was about how you need to look at your manuscript before you send it out. That's a future blog post waiting to happen.

Story is the culmination of conflict and change. You need both internal and external change. The promise that you make to your readers is that things will be profoundly different at the end of the story. The story begins with the first moment of change or conflict and has to matter deeply to your characters right off the start. Then you repeat the pattern – what are the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th moments of change and conflict - and are they in the first fifty pages? Your story is the turning point when things shift for your protag and antag.

What are the consequences for the character if they fail and if they succeed? They have to give up something to get something. Conflict drives the story. True conflict is both external and internal. How can you build on the conflict you’ve created? Does it need to be resolved? Is there a secondary conflict? How can you make the conflict bigger?

Commanding openings grabs our attention and are written with intention. They put the important stuff on the page immediately and show that the writer has a plan and is setting it up on the first page. You need to be deeply invested in your story and we need to know why this character’s story needs to be told and why it matters. The first page sets out the promise. It sets out the tone and type of conflict, voice, event – here’s what this story is about – if you don’t deliver what you set up you lose the reader. The reader needs to know what kind of story it is and why. Set up is not story, and back-story is not story. Story starts when then is a change in the character’s life.

True dat! That is something we all need to remember.

Monday, November 9, 2009

“ … like that girl from London who wrote those books …”

Here’s a picture of my pre-Vancouver Book Launch meal. It was in a little restaurant called East is East on Main Street. It’s lentil soup and chai tea (and a cool new agey candle). It was the best lentil soup I’ve had in my life and believe me, I know lentil soup. I make my own lentil soup and I routinely stalk other people for their recipies. I have soup for lunch almost everyday and if it’s not lentil … it’s lentil. And let’s not even open up the whole soup vs. stew debate. I asked for the recipe and they distracted me with a cup of the best chai I've had this side of Delhi.

Here’s my pre-Vancouver launch conversation with a random older guy on the platform of the new Canada Line (high speed rail line from the Vancouver airport to downtown - awesome!) I told him that I was in town for the launch of my novel ...

Random older dude: “So you’re like that girl from London who wrote those books, right?What’s her name?”

Me: J.K. Rowling.

Random older dude: I was going to say J.R.R. Tolkien, but I guess you’re right.

Me: Yeah, I’m pretty sure it’s J.K. Rowling.

Random older dude: But we don’t even know if it’s a girl, right? Given that it’s just initials.

Me: She’s a woman.

Then random older dude sat with me on the train and told me about his idea for a cook book where he takes one recipe each from famous cook books and publishes them all in one cook book.

Me: I’ll keep an eye out for news of the law suit. Good luck with that.

The launch was at Once Upon a Huckleberry Bush and featured Gumboot Books fall release. Picture books were aRYTHMetique by Lori-Sherritt Fleming, Tiffany Stone, Kari-Lynn Winters and Scot Ritchie; Ready for R by Marian MacDougall and Silvana Belvilacqua; When Chickens Fly by Kari-Lynn Winters and Izabela Bzymek; the Fly Catcher Boy by Rebecca Kool and The Pirate Who Lost his AARRR! By Marcus Wild and Crystal J. Stranaghan.

Middle grade and young adult novels included Dead Frog on the Porch by moi; It’s All Greek to Me, Jack by Dan Bar-el; and The Midnight Blue Marble by Melanie Jackson.

If you weren’t able to make it out to the launch, don’t despair, the bookstore kept some copies on hand.

The Calgary launch at Owl’s Nest Books was well attended and thanks to those who attended. Here’s a pic.

There are a number of upcoming events for Dead Frog on the Porch in Calgary and Edmonton.

Saturday November 14, 10:00 – 4:00 pm. Calgary Children’s Book Fair and Conference at the Hillhurst Sunnyside Community Centre.

It's an opportunity for Calgarians to discover the wealth of talent in their own backyard. I, along with nearly 30 other Alberta children's authors and illustrators will participate. It’s a great opportunity for children to meet local writers, chat with them about their work, and obtain an autographed copy of a favourite book. Get some Christmas shopping done and support local authors and illustrators! All participating authors will be reading from their work throughout the day.

Thursday November 19th Children’s Literature Round Table (CLRT), 7:30 p.m. @ the Academy at King Edward, 8525-101 ST. Edmonton. Admission $8.00

This event is open to the public but is designed for teachers, librarians, and resource room teachers. A number of children’s authors will be presenting their books. Current CLRT members have been notified but not all teachers and librarians are members so spread the word.

Saturday November 21, 2:00 pm Edmonton @ Greenwoods' Book Shoppe (Small World) Children's author Marty Chan and I will be doing a Kid's Mystery Writer Smack Down. The event will pit Marty and I against each other in a Mystery Comedy smack down.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Destined not to be the next Dead Frog on the Porch

This is one of my friend Jane's pet frogs. She has three. She sent me a picture because she wouldn't let me near her frogs when I was at her house recently. You'll remember that my childhood friend Jane had the pet frog that was accidently killed by moi and served as the jumping off point for my novel Dead Frog on the Porch.
When I asked to hold the frog, Jane distracted me with crab cakes, salad, wine, and chocolate. (How deviously brilliant of her!) Jane's been very supportive of re-living her childhood trauma in the first few pages of my book. She was at the first launch and she will be at the second launch (she just can't get enough dead frogs) at Owl's Nest Books in Calgary on Saturday November 7th at 2:00 pm.
I was thrilled to hear that my novel will be reviewed November 7th by Leslie Horton on Global TV's Saturday Morning News show. She does a segment called "Leslie's Library." So I'll be up bright and early tomorrow to catch the spot at approximately 8:10 am.
I'm off to pick up the cake with the cover of Dead Frog on the Porch depicted in icing! Yummm! Here's to keeping those frogs alive ...

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Dead Frog launches in Calgary and Vancouver this weekend

It's a big launch weekend for Dead Frog on the Porch.
In Calgary Saturday November 7th at 2:00 pm I will have a launch at Owl's Nest Books (Owlets Children's Store) at 815A-49th Ave. SW.
On Sunday November 8th I will fly to Vancouver for the Gumboot Books Launch Party at Once Upon a Huckleberry Bush (4387 Main Street). The event runs from 12:30-4:30 pm (I'll be reading at 2:00 pm) and will feature eight new releases which range from picture books to middle grade and young adult novels.
So Dead Frog on the Porch has been out in the world now for a few weeks and some reviews are trickling in. Most of these are on Amazon.com and Amazon.ca and then a few people have been randomly emailing me their thoughts on the book. I only added commentary on one!
I thought I'd share what other people think of Dead Frog on the Porch!
From Keely: About 1/3 of the way through Dead Frog – LOVE IT!!!

From Pete: the book was so funny. I was laughing from page 2 onwards. (hmmmm makes me wonder why he wasn't laughing from page 1 onwards ;-j)

From Colleen: wanted to tell you that I really, really, really love your book!!! It is funny, and very "hip". Cyd and Jane are really endearing, Cyd's inner voice saying things like, "that is so mystery-book-evil-villain"...I laughed outloud!! I loved all the Nancy Drew references and the frogs were a fun subject. Can't wait to read it with my daughter. Great book! Recommend highly! This book harkened back feelings of adventure long forgotten since my own Nancy Drew days. I am sure any child who reads Dead Frog on the Porch will have a great journey with twins Jane and Cyd as they collect the frog clues to solve the frog mystery while learning fun frog (among other) facts along the way. The references to classic and modern Nancy Drew were treats too!

From Naomi: Jan Markley's debut novel will definitely make its way to the children in my life this gift-giving season. The writing is witty and smart, and avoids condescending to its readers with dumbed-down vocabulary or over explaining. Nancy Drew-loving twin sleuths Cyd and Jane are savvy, quirky and fun, and their mystery suspenseful and well plotted, with plenty of silly puns and squeal-worthy slime. There's even food for thought about ethical issues such as the use of animals in science and in our kitchens, references to the ubiquitous technologies that are so much a part of children's lives today, and a series of clues in haiku form. Well done.

From Peter: Picked up this book the other day in trying to get an early start on my Christmas shopping and I must say, I was very impressed! Markley crafts a wonderfully inventive story which blends humor, mystery, and of course, a good dose of life lessons along the way. The main characters- sisters Jane and Cyd- are well developed throughout the fast-moving narrative. Youngsters will definitely relate to the characters- particular due to Markley's cleaver references about being a kid (grownups don't always understand!) and technology (blogging!) which all young kids seem to be so attuned to these days. The narrative- Jane and Cyd are propelled through a fast-moving adventure to solve the frog mystery- is hugely imaginative and full of both fun and educational sub-narratives (e.g. the environment). Children and adults will find the story tremendously entertaining and fun. Markley's writing is crisp and full of wit that should bring a smile to the faces of all readers. The particularly creative and inventive plot makes DFOTP stand out above many other adventure stories for youngsters. I strongly recommend "Dead Frog on the Porch" - you won't regret treating yourself/your children to this treat of a novel.

From Nance: My nine-year old daughter and I read this while we waited to get her arm x-rayed (playground fall). The time flew by as this book was both hilarious and interesting. Real characters, hilarinteresting words (nincompoop had us in stitches), and a fast-paced plot-- we loved it!

From Jocosa: I grew up reading Nancy Drew and the Hardy boys, but I never remember them having as much fun as Cyd and Jane in Dead Frog on the Porch. Markley has created a page turning mystery that entertains from the first to the last word. Twins Cyd and Jane are fully developed characters with quirks and angst and tons of determination. Their wit and adventurous nature are magnetic enough to make adults wish they were kids again. It's more than a stocking stuffer for the holidays, it's a must have book for any kid who daydreams of being a hero.

From Jeff: A wonderfully crafted story. The two character Cyd and Jane take you on a wonderful adventure on their way to solving the mystery that lies within the pages of the book. I found myself remembering memories from my past and the story brought a smile to my face on many occasion. I would recommend this book for a parent or child. Better yet why not pick up a copy and read it together. My daughter and I did just that and it was a wonderful way to spend a few evenings together. A Great book and a great read!

From Jennifer: My daughter was home sick one morning this week and read 3/4 of "Dead Frog" in one sitting. She says she's enjoying it so far, but can't decide if she's more like Cyd or Jane.

(Do you like how I changed up the fonts and colours just to make it more interesting?)

Sunday, November 1, 2009

What does the Buddha have to do with character development? And why has Jocosa of the Earrings refused to cut her hair?


I attended a workshop by screenwriter Jeff Arch at the Surrey International Writers Conference.
He quoted the Buddhist principle that desire leads to suffering. Then he said: “we’re not the Buddha, we want things.” And by “we” he means your protag better want things. The most important quality your character can have is desire. You want your protag’s desire to cause suffering as s/he overcomes the obstacles to getting what s/he wants. What do your characters want? What will they do to get it? What will they stop doing to get it? What obstacles are they up against?
Your protag needs to want something tangible, not a concept like love (love can be a by-product of the protag getting what s/he wants).
Jeff drew two horizontal lines on the board. He labeled one ‘getting’ and the other ‘becoming.’ At the same time the protag overcomes the obstacles to getting, s/he is becoming (i.e., emotional growth of the character). The climax and the resolution are when the ‘getting’ story and the ‘becoming’ moment collide.
Jeff said, don’t start with theme; everybody wants a story. A story is about somebody wanting something. He says there are no bad guys in his screenplays, just obstacles.
Oh, yeah, and don’t talk to Jeff about writer's block – he doesn’t bother with it. If he’s having a bad writing day - it’s the day he writes lousy stuff. Don’t wait until you are inspired; write anyway.
I mentioned in the first post about Surrey, that my writerly friend Jocosa of the Earrings, from New York, pitched to Donald Maass. These were the earrings she was wearing for her perfect pitch to, as she calls him, the God of Agents. Jocosa writes woman’s fiction, not to be confused with fiction for Sasquatches (an under served market indeed). Donald suggested some areas to be strengthened by a rewrite, and asked Jocosa to send him the first 50 pages of that rewrite.
Not only does Jocosa wear awesome earrings, she’s prone to making life-altering statements in a state of glee over a request for the first 50 pages. Jocosa declared (and I and others witnessed) that she would not cut her hair until her book was published.
So I’m like “You mean when you get a contract, right?” and she’s all “no, I mean when the book is published. I need to put some fire in my belly.”
And I’m like “Yeah, so eat a dodgy taco or something. Because even if you got a contract tomorrow, it could be up to two years later when the book is published.”
And she’s all standing her ground “I will not cut my hair until my book is published!”
Well, you said it sista of the earrings and we heard it!
So we will follow her progress with, not only her rewrite and submission to The Donald, but her road to publication through the length of her hair.
I will get an updated picture every four months (with a different pair of awesome earrings displayed each time) until she is published. Relocation to a tower to be determined …