Saturday, September 29, 2007


I know a secret.

Getting to crunch time with the Surrey International Writers' Conference, and lately there's not time for much but head down -- push forward. We've been working on the contest lately, and now I've heard back from all the judges and the results are in...

But I'm not telling.

Friday night, October 19th, all will be revealed. Four winners of four categories. $1000 each. At least one honourable mention in each category, $150 each. And everyone gets published in the SiWC 2007 Anthology.

A pretty exciting night, October 19th. Will you be there?

Tomorrow the 'Teacher Appreciation Travelling Road Show' starts up again with our Chocolate & Chat events at Chapters. James McCann and I are going to brave the wilds between Surrey and Langley and visit the Chapters stores there. (Last week when we did a trial run, we got lost for more than an hour -- but less than two -- trying to find the Langley story.) This time we have Google directions AND a map book to help us out. We'd love to see you -- we have chocolate and books to spare, AND Chapters is showing their appreciation of teachers by offering a 20% discount.

A quick look at two more of the amazing line-up of presenters this year. For those for whom non-fiction is their thing, we have a couple of great choices. Conference favourite Elizabeth Lyon is returning this year. In addition to being the author of five great books about writing, Elizabeth has been an independant editor for many years. [And speaking of secrets, as one of the judges for the Non-fiction Writing Contest, she knows a secret or two herself!] This year at the conference, Elizabeth will offer a workshop on the subject of giving your fictional story an Extreme Make-over -- but she's also a great resource for selling a non-fiction manuscript.

Another star on the non-fiction scene is Daniel Wood. One of Canada's best known magazine writers, Daniel has also produced fourteen books over the years. He'll tell you everything you need to know about how to make freelance writing a career -- and he should know, he's done it himself!

If you'd like to learn more about either of these two amazing writer-teachers, check out the conference website at

And you'd better book your spot fast. The conference has sold out for the last two years running.


Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Holy Autumn Leaves, Batman!

Autumn leaves -- me breathless.

This one in particular.

Not the picture -- the season. Between book launches (4 more coming up September 30th and October 1st), Word on the Street, the Surrey International Writers' Conference, a book tour through Ontario, a McKee seminar -- well, let's just say that there is a whole lot to blog about.

Right now I am working with Kathleen at Carlson-Wagonlit to book travel arrangements for the folks coming to SiWC. With more than 60 presenters this year, scheduling the group is quite an interesting challenge!

Letters, schedules and e-tickets are flying through the ether as the last-minute details of the conference take shape.

Jack Whyte has made his selections for his Master Class -- and now he's busy (with Diana Gabaldon) judging entries for the writing contest. His decisions and those of the other judges will become evident on Friday, October 19th, as they are announced on the first evening of the conference.

And speaking of the conference -- for our two featured authors tonight, I've picked The Adventurer and The Showgirl.

The Adventurer is one Anthony Dalton, current president of the Vancouver branch of the Canadian Authors Association and the best man to have behind you in a tiger hunt. (Note: As a vegetarian, I do not regularly hunt tigers, however, since they might consider me a tasty, corn-fed morsel if I was in their neighbourhood, I wouldn't mind having Anthony watching my back...)

I've known Anthony for many years, but only in civilization. Before he settled to his life of bliss in White Rock, he's been around the planet a time or two. Here's just a _smidgen_ of his bio:

A British-born Canadian adventurer and author he is a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and a Fellow of the Explorers Club. His expeditions have taken him across the Sahara many times, through the deserts of the Middle East, into the mountainous terrain of Afghanistan, on dangerous Arctic waters, and canoeing wilderness rivers in northern Canada. He was the organizer and leader of a CBC-TV filming expedition to the Saharan salt mines of Taoudenit in northern Mali, and participated in a television documentary on great Canadian rivers for the Discovery Channel. Magazine assignments have taken him to the Australian Outback, the Falkland Islands, Namibia, Vanuatu, New Zealand, Bahrain, Oman, and Saudi Arabia, among others.

And I didn't even get to the tigers...

You can come and listen to Anthony Dalton tell his stories and talk about writing at SiWC this year.

Anthony might be a great raconteur, but even if you are into the bearded male look, he is no showgirl. You want a showgirl? I've got one for you.

This showgirl comes with brains, beauty and a best seller or two. Vicki Pettersson has had a whirlwind of a year. Her first two novels launched within mere weeks of each other, only to find their way, almost immediately, onto best seller lists across the US and Canada.

Her books THE SCENT OF SHADOWS and THE TASTE OF NIGHT are rockets in the Urban Fantasy genre, and Vicki will be talking about them and the processes that led to this self-described 'ten-year overnight sensation' at the conference this fall.

Less than a month away -- check out more details at

And now -- at a minute to midnight -- adieu.


Friday, September 14, 2007

Things are Changing... the minute, it seems, with regard to the upcoming Surrey conference. I'll be sending out a new email note to the mailing list in the next day or two, detailing all the exciting new developments for the conference. We are anticipating selling out again this year -- if you're still on the fence, better make the leap soon. I'm just saying...

Interested in great crime fiction? Author Patricia Smiley will be one of our guests this year at the conference. The latest book in her Tucker Sinclair series (the third, as a matter of fact) was just released in July. Patty loves a good ride-along with the LAPD -- in fact, she is a special reserve officer with the police force in Los Angeles. That's taking your research seriously!

When Patty is not working on her latest Sinclair novel, you can find her participating in the crime writing blog:

For a crime tale of a different sort, have a peek at local writer Wendy Roberts's mysteries. Wendy is an SiWC poster child, who started attending the conference before she'd published a word. Her second 'Ghost Dusters' novel is due out this year.
When she's not busy writing or blogging, this mother of four specializes in driving her kids around. You can read all about what Wendy is up to these days on her blog at or on her website (with a very cool new trailer for her upcoming book) at
And once again -- I've missed the midnight deadline for my blog. Suddenly it's tomorrow, again. I seem to have this problem a lot lately...

Wednesday, September 12, 2007


...with a massive allergy attack over the past couple of days. It seems to be subsiding now -- but it slowed me down for a couple of days. It's remarkably difficult to think when the interior of one's head dissolves and tries to run out one's nose.

Was interviewed for Co-op Radio (102.7 FM) today by a friendly and fiesty group of seniors for the Senior's 411 Radio Show. We talked about books and about the conference and it was great fun. It will air Thursday at 2 pm, I think.

Okay -- a quick look at a couple more authors coming to Surrey. Two of my favourite Canadian writers for kids are on the agenda, so let's take a closer look...

Eric Walters is one of the most prolific writers of books for kids and teens that I know. He started off as a teacher, began writing books in his spare time, and his career as a writer took off. At last count he'd written 38 books for kids and teens, but there's probably been a couple more out since I last checked. In the interests of full disclosure, I have to add that no -- he did not write Ms. Zephyr's Notebook -- even though his name is on the cover. He did, however, scribble on the cover in a grafitti-style blurb that made me very happy.
Eric has a lot of passions in his life -- literacy for boys, literacy in Africa -- and is a mesmerizing speaker. His books reflect his passions and those of his subjects, from Canadian heroes like Terry Fox and William Stevenson, to historical adventures like The Bully Boys, to contemporary teen angst. An incredible writer, he'll be sharing his insights in his workshops at SiWC, and giving a keynote speech as well. You can read more about his life and work at

Lee Edward Fodi is an illustrator and a writer and a guy who is not afraid to walk around in a wizard's hat. I've worked a lot with Lee in CWILL this year, and taught with him at the CWC summer camp. Lee's Kendra Kandlestar books are beautifully illustrated, wonderful stories, and this past year he collaborated with Victoria Miles to produce 'The Chocolatier's Apprentice', a run-away best-seller to celebrate Purdy's Chocolate 100 year anniversary.
Lee just came back from a stint in Seoul, teaching writing to kids at the Korean version of CWC, and he's got a bunch of other projects on the go. He'll be talking about writing books for kids and using illustrations to inspire your work as a children's writer when he comes to SiWC this fall. You can see some amazing examples of Lee's beautiful work at


Sunday, September 09, 2007

More Ms. Z Reviews

MS. ZEPHYR'S NOTEBOOK has received a couple of very nice reviews lately. The Globe & Mail's book section on the weekend coupled a review of Ms. Z. with VISIONS, Book 2 of Carol Matas' FREAK series. Of Ms. Z., reviewer Wendy Kitts says: "Although the concept of this young adult book is quite ingenious - from its cover design made to look like a notebook to the way the story, like an intravenous drip, is fed to us gradually through snippets of notes - the best part of this story takes place in the present tense."

The full review can be found here:

Carolyn Cooke, reviewing for SURREY NOW, says "Ms. Zephyr's Notebook is a great read -- fast-paced, engrossing with memorable characters struggling with overwhelming issues."
The full review is also online at:

SiWC author profiles up soon -- have to feed the rapacious hordes first...

Friday, September 07, 2007

Attention Y/A Writers

I just read in Nephele Tempest's (Knight Agency) blog that she is currently accepting y/a queries straight into her blog -- bypassing the usual Knight Agency protocol! This looks like a limited-time offer, but if you nip over there now, you can read the details.

Nephele Tempest's (who will also be one of our honoured guests at the Surrey International Writers' Conference this year) blog can be found here:

And speaking of the conference, here's another look at a couple of our featured authors -- in this case, poets, both.

The lovely and talented Bernice Lever comes to the conference as both a presenter and a judge of our SiWC poetry competition. Bernice has been a poet and author for most of her life, and in between raising her family she's also been an editor and a teacher. She has read and performed her poetry on five continents, but these days spends her time on Bowen Island, teaching, editing and continuing to write. I've known Bernice since right around the time she planted herself on Bowen, and she is, without a doubt, the most wonderful mentor for writers of anyone I know. She's been a member of the Canadian Authors Association for 30 years and is currently their grievence chair. Bernice will also be doing Blue Pencil at the conference, and this is one lady who gives some seriously good advice, so my suggestion is regardless of genre, line up quick for an appointment. Her expertise is priceless.

Bernice has just launched a new book of poetry 'NEVER A STRAIGHT LINE' with Black Moss Press. Her website is

Bernice will be sharing the stage of one of her workshops with fellow poet George McWhirter.

Vancouver's first Poet Laureate, George McWhirter, came to Canada from Belfast. He has written eight books of poetry, edited and translated countless more and has won awards for his teaching an mentoring of students throughout his career.

For more on the career and interests of this remarkable poet, check out his website at
I'm looking forward to hearing what both these experts of their craft have to say.

By the bye, I checked out Christianne's Hayward's new venue last night, as promised. The Lyceum for Literature and Art is a BEAUTIFUL facility at the elegant end of 8th Avenue in Vancouver. When I got there it was packed to the gills with glittering local literati, great food and a bunch of very excited kids. This is a huge addition to the local literary scene, especially for young people. We'll be hearing more from Christianne -- no doubt at all.
Now -- I think I might just take a few minutes to work on my book. A friend of mine told me that I was cursing myself when I called the thing DEADLINE.
He was right.

Madeleine L'Engle

Madeleine L'Engle died yesterday in Connecticut at 88 years of age. Her book, A Wrinkle in Time, was my favourite as a child. She is one of my inspirations as a writer. Her legacy, of course, lives on.


Thursday, September 06, 2007

Long Day

I've spent the day at top speed -- meetings, events and much driving, driving. Let's see...I think I covered 6 municipalities today. Lions Bay (of course), Surrey and Vancouver, and drove through Burnaby, New Westminster and North Vancouver, as well.

Luckily, my yoga class started up again, so I had a chance at a little serenity before the madness took over.

Okay -- time for a little writer tid-bit or two. How 'bout something mysterious and romantic? Let's start with the mysterious side of the equation....

Phillip Margolin is one interesting guy. For a long time, he was a defense lawyer, trying cases before both the U. S. and State of Oregon Supreme Courts. He's defended many an individual charged with murder, and even a few who have faced the death penalty. In his spare time, Phillip Margolin started writing thrillers. He got so good, with a chain of best sellers behind him, that he turned to writing full time, and that's what he does now.

Close to his heart is 'Chess for Success', an organization that helps kids learn life and school strategies using chess as a guide.

When he comes to SiWC this year, he'll be talking about writing legal thrillers and sit on a mystery panel. And he's also going to give a killer keynote speech ... I can't wait. You can read more about this remarkable writer at his website --

And now for that romance I promised you... Vancouver author Nancy Warren has written more than 30 novels for Harlequin and Kensington, including a racy novel or two about NASCAR. When she speaks at the SiW Conference this year, she'll let you in on the art of the love scene and also talk about building memorable female characters.
You can learn all about Nancy and her interest in fast cars and cool shoes from her website:

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

New and Cool in the City...

A huge supporter of the writing-for-kids community in Vancouver is embarking on a new venture. Dr. Christianne Hayward, who has worked for Vancouver Kidsbooks for years, has also headed their Book Club programs since way back in 1996. She has a dream coming true these days in the form of her new Lyceum of Literature and Art -- a new site for Book Clubs and more literary events than you can shake a stick at. She's having an open house tomorrow at the new location: 3696 West 8th Ave., Vancouver.
I'll be there.

And now -- the feature SiWC presenters of the day...

This shadowy figure belongs to the nefarious writer Michael Slade, a crafter of strange fiction and amazing tales. This man can tell a story like no other, and his voice is a welcome one in the halls of the SiWC. This year, attendees will get a special treat, for not only will Slade be pairing with Diana Gabaldon to do a workshop, but he will also make a special appearance with the even shadowier Pink Slade -- his collaborator in all things fiction.
All things Slade can be discovered at
New to the conference this year is Kelley Armstrong. This amazing author is a wunderkind in the genre of paranormal suspense, and will be a natural when she pairs in a panel with the shadowy Slade to talk about putting the Fear into contemporary Fantasy. Kelley's first book BITTEN appeared in 2001, and she has produced seven more books since then -- an astounding output from a talented new voice. Check out her website at
More on other SiWC 2007 authors and presenters coming soon to a blogspot near you.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Contest Time again...

...and I'm doing a bit of reading. This year there are fewer entries than in past years, as we fiddled with the deadline to make things easier for all involved. We'll likely change it back next year -- people just associate the fall with the SiWC writing contest, I think.

Anyway, there are a bunch of folks getting bloodshot eyes this year as each category goes through a long-list, then a short-list process before going off to the judges.

All this reading doesn't leave much time for blogging, so it's on to our feature presenters for the day.

One of the wonderful new faces who will be joining us this year for the first time is Jacqueline Mitchard. Jackie's first book THE DEEP END OF THE OCEAN was a NY Times bestseller, and a featured pick on Oprah. She's had a series of other bestselling books since then, and has even written a y/a novel or two for teens. You can check out what Jackie is up to lately on her blog, which you can find at her website:

If you are a regular attendee at SiWC, you'll know that the board likes to keep things fresh by inviting new presenters every year. But popular demand means that invitations have to go out to some favourites as well. One of those particular favourites is the affable and laconic Don McQuinn.

Don has a special place in my heart, as a few years ago he served me up an unforgettable combination of embarrassment and pleasure, by presenting me with the SiWC /Surrey Board of Trade Special Achievement Award. Unfortunately, I happened to have just come in from a run and promptly spilled a hot chocolate down my shirt, so I stood up to accept my award looking pretty much like I always do, but perhaps not exactly as an award recipient should. However, I do believe my ensemble that day inspired board members to ensure that winners are now discretely notified enough ahead of time to allow appropriate dress for the occasion. Let's hope so, anyway.

Drawing a veil across that sorry incident in McQuinn's past, let us focus on his remarkable achievements. He's a published writer of nine novels and spends a lot of his time teaching people how to write -- and write well. Don will be teaching a beginner-level workshop this year in Surrey -- beginning writers and beginning stories. He'll also sit in on a panel or two. And I can pretty much guarantee he'll help make someone's day when he presents the Special Achievement Award this year. Hint to the winner: wear black.


Sunday, September 02, 2007

99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall...

The last whole bottle of beer I drank was in Amsterdam at the Heinken factory at 9 am, sometime in July of 1983. Not much of a beer drinker, I'm afraid -- but what the heck -- this is my ninety-ninth post, so let's raise a bottle to celebrate this particular blogging habit I've picked up.

I promised I'd start to offer profiles of some of the presenters coming to visit the Surrey International Writers' Conference in October. I'm coordinating the conference this year, with the help of an able and widely experienced board of directors, and the event promises to be a special one.

So here's a chance to celebrate some of the people you'll get to meet if you come to Surrey this year...

Let's begin with the reigning Queen and King of our hearts -- and of the Storyteller's Award -- shall we?

The Storyteller's Award is the prize offered to the writer of the best fictional short story as judged every year in the SiWC Writing Contest by Diana Gabaldon and Jack Whyte.

Diana Gabaldon is the New York Times Best Selling author of both the Outlander and the Lord John series. There are some fabulous pictures of Diana on her website at but I like this one that I took of her at the conference a couple of years ago, with another writer of great renown, Pamela Patchet. Pam has won many prizes for her writing over the years, and is a multiple-awardee in the Bulwer-Lytton fiction competition, (details of which can be found here: This particular shot of Diana and Pamela was taken very late one Saturday night, after a day of much hard work and revelry. This year, Diana will be participating in panels on the subject of genre-bending and the use of history in fiction as a reflection of present-day issues. In addition, she's sharing a workshop with the effervescent (and deadly) Michael Slade on the subject of plotting stories against the turbulent events of history. Diana will also give the closing keynote speech this year -- an event not to be missed. When she is not traipsing around the globe promoting her books, or being hauled off to shine at SiWC and other conferences, Diana can be found at home in Arizona, writing her astounding and vivid stories. (I am currently in the middle of the final story in her latest Lord John collection right now -- LORD JOHN AND THE HAND OF DEVILS. The book will be available in stores this fall, and I can tell you it's a great read.)

Jack Whyte, Diana's co-sponsor (and co-judge in the contest) will also be present in fine form for this year's conference. Jack's new book on the subject of the Knights Templar has just hit the shelves --STANDARD OF HONOR. Sequel to KNIGHTS OF THE BLACK AND WHITE, this book continues the chronicles of the St. Clair family during the crusades. Like his Dream of Eagles series, these new books are filled with heart-in-the-throat adventure and are must-reads. Jack is trying something new at the conference this year. He is taking on a Master Class -- that is, a class offered to writers who have some wide experience with writing -- but with a twist. In order to attend Jack's Master Class (on the subject of learning how to best accelerate tension in your novel), you must earn a place in the class. To find out more, check out the Master Class page of the SiWC website, found at . There are those who swear they come to the conference just to hear Jack speak, but if you really do want to learn to improve your writing, this is the man to listen to. You can read more about Jack, the man and his books, at his website These days, he spends his time writing (with the odd round of golf thrown in) in Kelowna, BC.

I'll try to profile a couple of presenters every day until the conference gets here. If you have a special favourite, let me know and I'll see what tidbits I can dig up. And if you want to find out more about the conference, check it out at
As for me, I have a little contest reading to catch up on...