Another sale!

While I admit my magazine sales are few and far between, Tomb Thief, the story I sold in December 2013 to Red Squirrel Magazine has been published and my payment received. It’s exciting to think of something I wrote appearing in another continent, in another language (Chinese). Conny, Editor at Red Squirrel Magazine is lovely to work with and open to questions if you wish to submit. Read the call for submissions at


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5 Delightful Book Dedications

Lovely Nell. Gone but not forgotten.

To my wife, Melinda. To my husband, Simon. To my children. To my reading group, Peter, Paul and Merry; I couldn’t have done it without you. Etc. Etc. Etc.

Book dedications like these must mean a lot to the people mentioned but don’t stand out for the reader. Don’t you love the witty ones, the ones that make you think or smile or just stop and go hmmm…

Here are five entertaining and intriguing dedications, all from children or young adult writers.

From Holly Black in The Spiderwick Chronicles: For my grandmother, Melvina, who said I should write a book just like this one and to whom I replied that I never would.

From Maureen Johnson in 13 Little Blue Envelopes: For Kate Schafer, the greatest traveling companion in the world, and a woman who is not afraid to admit that she occasionally can’t remember where she lives.

From Wendelin Van Draanen in Sammy Keyes and the Sisters of Mercy: To the woman who knocked on my door looking for a jacket and walked away with one and a piece of my heart.

From Lynne Jonell in Emmy and the Home for Troubled Girls: To my dear brother Doug. In fond memory of the infamous horseradish jelly-doughnut incident and with many thanks for making my childhood interesting.

…and I’ve saved the best for last…

From Karen Rivers in The Quirky Girls’ Guide to Rest Stops and Road Trips: I’d like to dedicate this book to every actor who thinks she would make a great Haley, and every producer who thinks this book would make a great movie, and all the directors who think they could turn it into a smash hit film. Thank you, in advance. And to you, for reading it. Thanks!

I enter a book slowly, reading even the publisher’s page before moving on. A humorous or touching dedication is a wonderful way to begin to read. Thanks, authors.


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2013 in Pictures

I can’t remember if we had snow in January in 2013 but I have no pictures of it so maybe no. It’s Vancouver, sometimes it happens. And sometimes it’s no fun because the park down town is wet and empty and deserted. Might as well go home.

Dog walks are still pretty at the Serpentine Fen in February.

March. Ducks. Swollen ditches from all the rain.

April and spring is definitely here.

May and the forest in the watershed is so green.

May was super. Let’s do it again at White Rock beach.

And again at David Lam Park.

June in White Rock.


July. Summer in the city.

August road trip to Alberta. This pictures does not do justice to seeing the Rogers Pass in person.

September. The fruit flies are driving me nuts. Wine with a topping of vinegar in a wide-mouthed glass. It doesn’t take long.

October. Happy Halloween everyone!

November in Steveston, Richmond, BC.

December at Lost Lagoon, Stanley Park, Vancouver. Cold enough for the ice to start forming.

I hope the swan isn’t actually frozen into the ice.

Remember to feed us. We may be hard to see but we`re here.

Merry Christmas!

And all the best from 2014, from Gee.

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Almost anyone can be an author; the business is to collect money and fame from this state of being. A. A. Milne

I’m not scared to self-publish but not being the impulsive sort, just leery. Still, I’m definitely leaning toward taking the plunge. Yes, I’ve read about the authors who have had amazing success self-publishing in this age of e-readers. Most of them write male adventure novels, romance, sci-fi or other genres of fantasy, or erotica. I write none of those. Fear of middling success doesn’t stop me, but fear of failure altogether? For sure.

If you’re like me, you might like to think about these three famous authors–so different from one another–who initially self-published their books, went on to be picked up by traditional publishers and whose books are still best sellers today. They began in the days before e-publishing but I don’t think that tiny detail is important. What all three had in common was a belief in their book and the confidence to take a chance.

Beatrix Potter, The Adventures of Peter Rabbit

Beatrix Potter’s life reads a little like that of a renaissance woman. She was highly educated; artistic; curious, with a love of nature and fantasy; and moved in a world filled with educated and privileged people, as she was. She first published her book of stories and artwork, The Tale of Peter Rabbit, meaning only to share it with family and friends. It was soon picked up by a book publisher and has never been out of print since.

Irma S. Rombauer, The Joy of Cooking

Irma was a traditional homemaker who found herself in financial difficulties after the death  (suicide) of her lawyer husband. Struggling through the Depression, she found success with something she did well: preparing food and exploring cuisine. In 1936 she self-published The Joy of Cooking and proceeded to sell it herself. It was picked up by a commercial publisher soon after.

David Chilton, The Wealthy Barber

As a young financial planner, David Chilton self-published his book, The Wealthy Barber, when times were tough economically (1989). His first and biggest sale went to his grandmother. David’s book was different; written in the style of a novel rather than a traditional, non-fiction book of financial advice. Gradually his sales increased until it became a Canadian best seller and today is considered a brand name.

So, revise, revise and revise again, and polish that sense of confidence. That’s the first, most important step to remember. Let me know how you feel about self-publishing.



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I’ve posted a new review in Books at the Bottom of the Bin, a place for older books we shouldn’t forget. Wreckers, by Iain Lawrence is the first in a historical trilogy about sailors, storms, and people of the sea. Check it out.

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Fear is only as deep as the mind allows. Japanese proverb

Writing poetry is something I’ve never attempted, not even three lines of Haiku. But I was recently reminded by writer, Lois Peterson, that poetry is a good discipline for all writers. I  checked out some sites and pretty soon I decided this was something I wanted to try. Guess what, haiku can become addictive. Here are a couple of my attempts.

fog descends                                                                                                                                         in clouds she is lost                                                                                                                                silence

shards of grass                                                                                                                                     new and stiff                                                                                                                                         sheltering life

frosted feathers                                                                                                                                       on blackened leaves                                                                                                                             snow day

I’ll keep at it. If you haven’t tried it before, why not see what you can come up with.

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Draw your chair up close to the edge of the precipice and I’ll tell you a story.                                                       F. Scott Fitzgerald

Every once in a while someone publishes a list of great first sentences from well known novels. I decided to make a search through my own books to see what I could come up with. First, from 6 books I’ve read and love enough to keep, and P.S. in some cases the first sentence came from the prologue which I never ignore and consider the beginning of the novel. The first sentence always provokes a question in my mind, which prompts me to read further.

  • I live with my father, Ray Nickel, in that low brick bungalow out on highway number twelve.  (only your father? where is your mother?) A Complicated Kindness by Miriam Toews
  • My house stands at the edge of the earth. (where? are you isolated?) The Birth House by Ami McKay
  • A mile above Oz, the Witch balanced on the wind’s forward edge, as if she were a green fleck of the land itself, flung up and sent wheeling away by the turbulent air. (who or what are you looking for, Witch?) Wicked, The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire
  • Right before my twelfth birthday, my dad, Jules, and I moved into a two-room apartment in a building that we called the Ostrich Hotel. (again, where is mom?) Lullabies for Little Criminals by Heather O’Neill
  • The day Shiloh come, we’re having us a big Sunday dinner.  (what will you do about the uninvited dog) Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
  • Just before I came inside and started the fire, I stood and watched the old white house. (why today since the house has always been there?) Lone Wolf  by Kristine I. Franklin

Here are 4 first sentences from books I have and intend to read soon. (I hope.)

  •  The great gray beast February had eaten Harvey Swick alive. (why this February) The Thief of Always by Clive Barker
  • Two years after my mother died, my father fell in love with a glamorous blonde Ukrainian divorcee. (and will you try to put a stop to this?) A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian by Marina Lewycka
  • I have been arrested for winning a quiz show. (were you cheating?) Q & A by Vikas Swarup
  • I seem to have trouble dying. (why aren’t you fighting death instead?) The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill
This is a fun exercise. Contemplate some first sentences, decide what you like about them (if you do) and why they pull you forward into the story. A more difficult exercise is to revise your own first sentences so they work just as well. I’m going to try it myself with my own WIP.

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Sure it’s simple, writing for kids

Just as simple as bringing them up. Ursula k. LeGuin

You’ve read it often, the writer who refers to their book as “my baby.”  I’ve done it too so I thought I’d have some fun with quotes. First comes the original quote, then I’ve turned it on it’s head, so it’s either child-like or writerly.

From Dorothy Parker:

If you have any young writer friends who aspire to be happy, the second greatest favor you can do for them is to present them with copies of The Elements of Style. The first greatest, of course, is to shoot them now, while they’re happy.

If you have any young friends who aspire to be happy and parents, the second greatest favor you can do for them is to present them with copies of The First Five Years. The first greatest, of course, is to shoot them now, while they’re happy.

From Thomas Mann:

A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.

A parent is someone for whom raising a child is more difficult than it is for other people.

From Rachel Carson:

The discipline of the writer is to learn to be still and listen to what his subject has to tell him.

The discipline of the parent is to learn to be still and listen to what his child has to tell him.

From Democritus (so you know parenting has always been difficult):

Raising children is an uncertain thing; success is reached only after a life of battle and worry.

Writing is an uncertain thing; success is reached only after a life of rejection and insecurity.

From John Wilmott:

Before I married, I had three theories about raising children and no children. Now I have three children and no theories.

Before I wrote a book, I had three theories about how to write and no books. Now I have three books and no theories.

And here is the last one which mentions neither raising children nor writing but can apply to both. From Harper Lee:

Real courage is when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway.

Perhaps this resonates with me because a few days ago I sent off a submission and I’m still looking to sooth myself. But playing with the quotes was fun. Why don’t you try it and see what you come up with.

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As usual, my reading was a mixed bag. Sometimes I read just to find out what others are writing and reading (e.g. children’s books) and sometimes I read just for me. In no particular order:

I, Coriander by Sally Gardner. The title lured me instantly, and Coriander — what a great name. I thought I would be reading a historical novel, which it was, but it was also a fantasy about the fairy world. Had I known that, I wouldn’t even have taken it off the shelf but as I said, the title caught me. Fantasy is a genre I’ve never been a fan of (although Wicked by Gregory Maguire is on my list of favourite books). Lesson learned: be more open-minded. Sally Gardner is a skilled writer; it was a page turner to the end and I will look for and read more of her books.

The Adventures of Nanny Piggins by R.A. Spratt. Hee, hee, hee, and again, more chuckles; also raised eyebrows. Is Nanny Piggins really qualified to take charge of three children, 11, 9, and 7, when she:

  • confesses that her only previous experience was as a flying pig in the circus;
  • has no expectations for her charges except to “search through all the cupboards looking for things that contain sugar” and eat it until she gets sick. She welcomes the children to join her;
  • believes it undemocratic that children should have to go to school every day. How shocking and mean-spirited is that! “Isn’t that exactly why the French cut the heads off all their kings and queens?” she asks;
  • spends almost all the funds meant for the childrens’ school supplies on a day at the amusement park;
  • buys $12 chocolate bars instead of school uniforms; in her opinion they’re always ugly anyway;
  • ships Aunt Lydia to Lapland, where all the best singers come from, including Pavarotti, Caruso and Dolly Parton.

There’s so much more in R.A. Spratt’s funny, outrageous, and slightly deranged book, part of a series of Nanny Piggins escapades. Kids will love it; up-tight grownups might hate it so kids will only love these books more. The author is an award-winning comedy writer with years of experience in Australian television. I’ve always thought writing funny is hard and this writer keeps it coming.

The Devil’s Highway: A True Story by Luis Alberto Urrea. I will never again look at a desert landscape and not think of this book or the people the author wrote about. I only heard about the author and the book because I happened to see Bill Moyers on PBS interviewing him. When TV is good, it sends me right to the library.

What did you read and what would you recommend? Hoping all your dreams come true in 2013!

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I went for years not finishing anything. Because, of course, when you finish something you can be judged. Erica Jong

Having a story or an article accepted by Cricket magazine is a great credit, especially when you are unknown and have few other credits. Check out my article Cracking Cricket in Children’s Writers News December 6 newsletter at to see how I did it.


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