Monday, November 29, 2010

Dead Bird Launched through the Cat Door or I had my cake and ate it too!

Cake before
Thanks to everyone who came out to help me launch the latest in the Megabyte Mystery series Dead Bird through the Cat Door.  

I had two young people introduce me: Sophia and my niece Teaghan. Sophia talked about how she met me at the Owl's Nest Junior Owlette Book club and how she loved my book and loved following my blog. But when I didn't update it enough she started her own blog. She blogs at Sophia's Choice where she does book reviews. And in a weird twist of blogging fate, I now update my blog more often than she does. Thanks for the funny intro Sophia! 

My niece Teaghan talked about how writers are theives, stealing ideas from their own lives and how I stole the idea for Dead Bird through the Cat Door from her plus sized cat Stubby when Stubby brought a dead bird into my house through the cat door. Here's a picture of the ferocious Stubby as captured on my niece's ipad. Teaghan blogs at Tiny Canadian where she offers the random rantings of a Tiny Canadian. Check out both of these creative blogs (p.s. let's support the youth of today and follow their blogs!).   

Then I read from a part of the book when twin detectives Cyd and Jane are having meals with the nefarious culprits and eating suspect things like blood pudding and beak soup! 
The crowd went wild when I read from Dead Bird through the Cat Door
Another shot of the crowd going equally wild
I'm reluctant to use the word 'fan' even though I know I have a few (not counting cats). Michael is my biggest fan - his words, and he was at the book launch. I'll give you a little backstory (despite the rule about no back story until you are 2/3 of the way into the story. 

Remember my childhood friend Jane? I accidentally killed her frog (the original dead frog on the porch) and it was the jumping off point for my debut novel Dead Frog on the Porch. Then I told the story of how I tracked her down after two decades and went to her house and it was pretty much a shrine to her dead frog

Fast forward to last year. I did a school visit at Jane's daughter Alyssa's school. That's where I met Michael. He bought a book, read it, loved it read it a couple more times, and asked Alyssa (repeatedly) when the next book would be out. He was really excited about the book launch and there was a rumour that he was working on a 'I'm Jan Markley's biggest fan' t-shirt. It was great to see Michael and again and meet my biggest fan!  

My biggest fan Michael. 
And then, with apologies to Marie Antoinette, we let them eat cake, and then we let them eat more cake and more cake ...

Kake Karnage!
Thanks to everyone who came out to the book launch, I appreciate it! As well, thanks to those who came out to the signing in Edmonton. 

If you weren't able to make the launch or the signing Owl's Nest Books has copies of both Dead Frog on the Porch and Dead Bird through the Cat Door.  Chapters/Indigo Sunridge Mall in the N.E. has copies of both books, as does Indigo North Town in Edmonton.  

It's also available at

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Shout out to the bakers of the giant cake!

There would be no giant book launch cake without the staff and baker at the Beddington Co-Op in Calgary!

They've all gotz some crazy mad baking skillz!

They made my cake for last year's launch and they made it for today's launch! Check it out! Not only are they amazing and friendly, they always pick up a couple of books for the young people in their lives.

Thanks to Stan the baker and Linda and Anna.

Here's the before picture. The after picture will be an empty plate!

Here's a place where one of their cakes will never show up (that's a good thing)!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Twas two nights before Jan's book launch ...

This is an hourglass book case - get it? Time ticking toward the book launch?!
... and all through the house an author was pulling her hair out trying to figure out which part of the book to read!

With my debut novel Dead Frog on the Porch I'd read the first chapter or two at launches/presentations. But now with the second book of the Megabyte Mystery series, Dead Bird through the Cat Door I'm ready to mix it up a bit. 

Should I read from chapter one? It opens with this line:

"In a flash of feathers and fur Yin bolted through the cat door with a dead baby robin in her jaws." 

Or should I start at chapter two, with this line?

"Hot pink bike shorts are not good camouflage. The neon lime green pair I had at home probably wouldn't be any better for undercover work. I bet Nancy Drew never had this problem. " 

Twin sister detectives Cyd and Jane always seem to be having dinner with the culprits. 

There's a scene where the Scottish director of the Bird Sanctuary Aviary Finch invites them to dine with his wife Cygnet Finch and a not-so-good-guy Souris Vole. They dine on such delicacies as blood pudding and what they think is bird beak soup. I could read from that part. 

Or I could read from another scene where Finch and Vole are at Cyd and Jane's house having dinner with their parents. At the end of the scene, Cyd's dad scoops up some ice-cream, for the culprits, with a side of suspicion, and the twins wonder if their scientist father has been pulled into the hybrid of deception. 
P.S.: the apricots are a hint! 
Lots of good parts to read from at the launch on Saturday November 27 at 2 pm at Owl's Nest Books - just need to pick one (or two) and rehearse! 

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Dead Bird through the Cat Door Launch Reminder!

Just a reminder for those of you in Calgary. 

The book launch for the second in the Megabyte Mystery series, Dead Bird through the Cat Door, is:

Saturday November 27th, 2:00 pm  
Owl’s Nest Book Store (In the Britannia Shopping Plaza)
815A-49 Ave. S.W.
Calgary, T2S 1G8
(403) 287-9557  

I now have a reputation for having great turnouts at my launch given how successful the launch was last year. So hopefully everyone will be able to come out again this year!

I'll read from the new book and we'll all have a piece of cake. 

Yes, There will be cake! (just saying!) 

(Note to self - bake a giant cake with an image of the book cover in icing!

Just to get you thinking about books in preparation for the book launch (when are you ever not thinking about books?) here's a cool video!

In other news ... You'll recall the main character, Darby Christopher, from kc dyer's new book Facing Fire did a recent guest blog post and she had a book give away. The winner of the book giveaway is bloggower and blogger Samantha Verant. Samantha blogs at Life, love and living in France. Check out her blog, she's got an interesting story.   

Here's a fun video! 

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Adventures in book signing!

This is a scene from a recent book signing: 

Lady buying my book for her daughter: Can you sign it with her nick name Julia Ghoulia?

Me: Sure, how do you spell Ghoulia?

Lady buying my book for her daughter: I thought you were a writer? You should know how to spell it?

Me: I am a writer, but it kinda seems like a made up name.

Lady buying my book for her daughter: It’s Ghoul with an ia on the end.

When I autograph my debut novel Dead Frog on the Porch I used the tag line: Hope you love dead frogs followed by a giant exclamation point and then my name.

Something like this:

Hope you love dead frogs! Jan Markley

That works because I’m really hoping you love the book Dead Frog on the Porch.

For the second in the Megabyte Mystery Series Dead Bird through the Cat Door I thought I would do something similar and write: Hope you love dead birds! Well, that doesn’t really work because it sounds like I hope you want birds to be dead and frankly no one wants that. No one wants that for frogs either, but it just seemed to work.  

Then someone suggested: Look what the cat dragged in! Which is good in theory until you write it.

Then it looks like this:

Look what the cat dragged in! Jan Markley

It kinda looks like the cat dragged me in.

So, I’m looking for a tag line to use when I autograph copies of Dead Bird through the Cat Door.

Need help from my bloggowers. Any suggestions will be given full consideration and will either be soundly rejected or I will use them and take full credit for coming up with them (no, I joke, I’m a joker!)

For the time being I’m using:

Tweet, tweet! Readers rock! Jan Markley 

I will be signing copies of both books Sunday November 21st at the Indigo(Chapters) store at Signal Hill in Calgary between noon and 4 pm. If you're in that hood driving around, come in out of the cold and have a chat and get a signed book! 

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

From the Sasquatch Cave

This is the writing sasquatch's version of a kitchen sink kinda blog post. We're in the midst of a snow storm and not only are my feet cold (fuzzy sock kinda night) my brain is a bit mush and I don't think it's because of the zombies that seem to be out there. 

Here goes:

The wastebasket is a writer's best friend.  ~Isaac Bashevis Singer

Clearly, Isaac wrote this before they invented the delete button. A 21st Century version would be:


Repeat the above over and over until your fingers bleed and you are typing with knuckle stumps. Repeat until the moon shines off the hard, craggy rock of your sasquatch cave. Repeat until your eyelid is twitching from staring at the screen for too long and eating too many sour ju jubes.   

Because: Easy reading is damn hard writing.  ~Nathaniel Hawthorne 

True dat Nathaniel!

You know when you venture out of your sasquatch writing cave and meet someone, and they tell you their whole life story including their issues with toe jam, their battles with halitosis and the dog that bit them 20 years ago? 

Well, here are some tidbits of genius from the mind of Tim Wynne Jones from the Surrey International Writers Conference (SiWC):

Meeting a character in a novel is like meeting them in real life - you don't want to know everything about them when you first meet them. You want to be intrigued. You want to gradually get to know them. So no back story in chapter one. And keep your toe jam issues to yourself ... just saying!  

We'll let Anton take us out on the note ...
Don't tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.  ~Anton Chekhov

Now returning to my regularly programed sasquatch cave to warm my feet!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Dead Bird arrived through the Cat Door!

As an author there are many moments to celebrate that don't involve you breaking the led on your mechanical pencil or writing until you fingers bleed - the moment your new book arrives is one of them. 

Waiting for your new book to arrive is like The Da Vinci Code meets the Lord of the Rings. They are on a quest from your publisher to you, but figuring out where they are and when they will arrive is like cracking the da vinci code - even in this day and age of electronic connectivity! 

You'll remember last year when my debut novel in the Megabyte Mystery series, Dead Frog on the Porch arrived in the nick of time for the book launch. 
This year I didn't have that problem. Copies of the second in the series Dead Bird through the Cat Door are safely at Owl's Nest Books for the book launch on November 27th at 2:00 pm (see how I just snuck that in there!?). (P.S. There's already a review up at the Amazon site - click on the link). 

The books didn't actually arrive 
through the cat door, they arrived

through the shipping company who shall remain nameless due to the fact that their 1-800 number is attached to a voice mail box that is full - really, seriously! They don't have the phone number or address of the local warehouse on their website. 

But with the superior sleuthing skills that I picked up from my twin protags Cyd and Jane, I found the address through the Canada Customs website - seriously can you make it any harder for me to find my package! My spidey senses told me that they would only be open until noon on a Saturday so I hightailed it down there. 

Got most of my books, there are still two boxes on the truck and they will continue their quest back to my house where I won't be there to receive it!

But *sigh* I've got books in my ink stained hands and they are fantastic! 
Okay, now I'm just bragging ...

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Write Hot, Revise Kool!

I promised I would let everyone know about the awesome things I learned at the Surrey International Writers’ Conference (SiWC).

For all you NaNoWriMo people the last thing you want to hear about is revising (am I right?!) given that you’re trying to get your word count up.

But this is good stuff and will come  in handy.

I took a master class from James Scott Bell which was awesome and a workshop on 'Revising a Novel They Can’t Put Down' (not sure who 'they' refers to - sounds like a conspiracy theory if you ask me, and why can't they put it down? is there crazy glue on the cover ... I digress). 

James Scott Bell has written scads of thrillers and three books on craft including The Art of War for Writers

Here’s his advice (aka the JSB rules for drafting):

Write Hot:

passionately and quickly; 
write from the subconscious (very NaNoWriMo ;-j); and,
push the limits in the first draft.

Revise Cool:

revise the previous day’s pages;
take a 20,000 word step back; and,
do a rolling outline – what will be in the next three chapters?

On the first read through (after a 2 week cooling period – don’t make your manuscript take out a restraining order on you!) read like a reader. Resist the temptation to take notes or edit and read as fast as possible.

James Scott Bell uses four main symbols for revising:

√ - for when the story is dragging

( ) - incomprehensible

O - material needs to be added or expanded

? - when you don’t know what’s going on – why did I write that? Why does my character eat nothing but sushi and sour ju jubes? 

Then once you've read it through - cry,  take a shot of scotch, or make some chia tea and pop a few sour ju jubes. Do all three if you have to – but at the end of the day (is that a cliche I see behind me?) you’re a writer and you know you will have to begin what JSB calls the Systematic Revision Process.  

Ask yourself: does the story make sense? Do the characters act like real people? Look at every juncture from the pov of each character. Don’t let a coincidence help your lead character – no deus ex machina! Are the stakes high enough?

Here are some gems from JSB:

- originality is not in the plot, but in the characters!
- inner conflict is the key.
- is there enough of a worry factor?
- banish slow openings: no happy people in happy land.
- dialogue is the fastest way to improve a manuscript.  

P.S.: he's a big fan of death in a novel - physical, professional and psychological (or better yet, all three types of death). So of course I had to show him a copy of my debut novel Dead Frog on the Porch which not only has death in the title, but in the opening scene and the twin protags are motivated by that death to save the rest of the frog kingdom ... just saying! 

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Who’d win a smack down between Nancy Drew and Lady Macbeth?

Dead Bird through the Cat Door (Gumboot Books 2010) is like when Lady Macbeth meets Nancy Drew. Out dang spot, out!

For some reason Shakespeare gets involved in the mystery of why the director of the bird sanctuary Aviary Finch is kidnapping cats to kill birds. There’s also an owl named Mr. Hootenanny who figures prominently. Twin detectives Cyd and Jane use old fashioned curiosity and new technology to help solve the mystery. 

Which makes people who know me laugh given that I still have a VCR! I’ve described my self as a neo-luddite who has transformed into the Empress of the Embedded link since starting this blog (I mentioned that at a social media workshop at the SiWC and they tweeted out that 'The Empress of the Embedded link was in the room!'). Then I joined the … what century is this again? and joined FaceBook. Now I’m taking another step toward the final frontier and have signed up for twitter

Yes, you can safely call me a twit and you'd be right (0n one account)!

Please go and follow me there since I haven’t yet figured out how to find people on twitter and if you can suggest some groups for me to follow of people who are interested in children's literature I'd appreciate it!

If you think the pace of technology is cyber slick, it is. This video gives you a view of the world from the view point of technological advances over the last few decades.

And when things are going too fast, have a bowl of lentil soup/stew and a cup of chai tea and consider this: Who do you think would win in a smack down between Nancy Drew and Lady Macbeth?  

Monday, November 1, 2010

Launches and Signings for Dead Bird through the Cat Door!

As my bloggowers know Dead Bird through the Cat Door the second in the Megabyte Mystery series (Gumboot Books), will drop shortly (that's publishing lingo y'all)!

The Kindle version was just posted! 

The book launch will be in Calgary, and there will be a couple of signings in Edmonton and Calgary.

The Calgary launch is:
Saturday November 27th at 2:00 pm at
Owl’s Nest Book Store (In the Britannia Shopping Plaza)
815A-49 Ave. S.W.
Calgary, T2S 1G8
(403) 287-9557 
I now have a reputation for having great turnouts at my launch given how successful the launch was last year. So hopefully my local, loyal bloggowers will be able to come out again this year!

Come out and hear me read from the new book and have a piece of cake.

 Yes, There will be cake! (... just saying!)
Book signings: If you can’t make the launch and still want to get a book signed I’ll be at the following venues for signings:

Friday November 19th from 5:00 – 9:00 pm
Chapters/Indigo in the Spectrum (Sunridge) Shopping Centre
2555-32nd Street NE, Calgary
Sunday November 21st from 12 noon - 4:00 pmSignal Hill Indigo5570 Signal Hill Centre SW, Calgary

Sunday November 28th from 12 noon – 5:00 pm
Indigo North Town
9450 – 137 Ave. NW, Edmonton

Saturday, December 4, 12:00 — 5:00 pm
Writers Guild of Alberta Presents: The Book Lover Christmas sale
Stanley A. Milner, Centennial Room (downstairs from the main floor)
7 Sir Winston Churchill Square, Edmonton

Here’s a synopsis of Dead Bird through the Cat Door:
Dead birds? Stolen cats? C’est what? When Cyd and Jane’s cat Yin gets kidnapped – that’s when it gets personal.
Once again, Cyd and her animal loving twin Jane are up to their bird beaks in intrigue cracking the latest Megabyte Mystery. The director of the bird sanctuaryAviary Finch, is stealing cats to kill birds.

The twins use the latest technology and 
Shakespeare’s Macbeth to help crack the case. Methinks the culprits doth protest too much! Will Cyd and Jane save the sanctuary, free the birds, and return the cats to their natural habitat of their owners’ laps? It’s predator eats predator when evil meets crazy!
If you’re on Face Book, twitter or have a blog please spread the word!

Thanks to my bloggowers for their ongoing support!

After the launch you can sit in a chair like this
one made out of books and read my book!