Friday, 16 January 2015

Ready, Set, Print!

This is it.

This is how my book would look if it fell to the pavement, open and face up, from the Penthouse Suite of Trump Towers.

It takes a team of people to polish a manuscript so it is ready for a reading audience.
Here are my thank you's:

Relish Design you have blown my mind. Thank you for creating a book cover that I am honoured to say is mine.
Thank you Great Plains Teen Fiction, for keeping the door open for me by asking me to rework my original submission.
Thank you Catharina de Bakker, my editor, for providing wisdom and guidance as I revised further.
Thank you to my mentor and friend, Carolyn Gray, for your insight and for helping me uncover Julia's real story squirrelled away in the back story.
Thank you to my writing group, The Anitas. I am so proud of all our accomplishments and how we continue to support each other. 
You are my writing family.

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Excavating Gems from the Great & Vast Internet - a.k.a. Research

Research. I adore it and I often get lost in it.

Sometimes I excavate gems from the great and vast Internet. Gems, I say. Pearls. Diamonds. Rubies. You get what I'm saying?

Today I was piecing together back story, character arcs, and answering annoying little issues like; how can that scene happen if  X, Y, and Zee are missing, and plot points A through W are built on shaky ground?

No, not shaky ground, but swamp land. Murky, stinking, and bug infested swamp land.

This afternoon, however, I cleaned up most of my alphabetized issues and found some pretty cool locales for an important and creepy scene.

Here is a section of what I wrote today. 
(Remember these are first draft words, and they aren't fully creepafied yet, so keep that in mind and try not to rewrite it as you go. This may prove impossible for my writing pals. I apologize.)

Chapter 12 or 13 or possibly 34
Next Day/Next week
They meet the psychic - Clarice

“Are you sure we’re at the right place?” Ford asked. 
He checked the GPS on his phone, then considered the crumbling building that towered in front of him. Chunks of the stone steps had fallen away and dark green vines climbed the outside walls and across the windows on the first three floors. The rain gutters hung low, like a line of loosely strewn ancient Christmas lights.
“Of course. I am never wrong,” Ellie replied, but her voice quivered when she spoke. Ford stared at her. “Well, rarely,” she admitted.
“I sure hope today isn't one of your rarely wrong days. This place is creepy.”
Ellie took a deep breath and exhaled it fast, squaring her shoulders.
“It is just an old building. There is nothing to be afraid of. Paris is old. It is full of old buildings. This is just another old building, that you find. In Paris.”
Ellie’s nattering did nothing to ease Ford’s mounting sense of unease. She only rambled when she was nervous, which was atypical for his normally confident, fearless cousin.
“Nothing to fear, but fear itself, right?” Ford said, wiping his now sweating hands on his t-shirt.
“Exactly,” Ellie agreed and pushed on the black iron wrought gate. It screeched open, scraping a layer of moss off the cobble stone walkway. She dusted her fingers on her jeans and marched toward the front door. Ford followed, looking back at the ridge of earth that mounded at the bottom of the gate. When was the last time someone had used that gate?
“Hopefully Clarice isn't as scary as this building.”

End Scene.
(Remember this is a first draft. If you did rewrite it, send it to me.
I have a deadline after all.)

Here is the photo I later found on Pinterest. This building is so very similar to the one I pictured in my mind. An old apartment covered in vines, with a gate, just like this one, but older and creakier. This building's front steps are nicely maintained and the windows are newish, yet the resemblance is unreal.

(Of course this is New York not Paris and it is new world not old world old, but still.)

I LOVE when this happens. 
Kinda' creepy. Sorta' karma. Just plain cool.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Step 1,052 Complete! Forever Julia is off to Layout!

They say it takes a village to raise a child. I say it takes a community to support a writer.

Now, on the cusp of the publication of my second book, I am quite sure it takes 3 to 33 years, 385 pots of coffee, and 1,064 steps to publish a book. 

That's right, I have zero conclusive evidence, actual facts, or statistics to back that up. Call it a hunch, if you will. Or hyperbole. Whatever floats your boat, canoe, or catamaran.

All I know is that sometime in January I will load up Lexy with my family, including the dog, and head down to Altona to watch Forever Julia fly off Friesen's printing press. My mom is sure to scrapbook this milestone in my literary career. This is the only proven fact I have.

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Books for Reluctant Readers - A Wrinkle in Time

Reluctant Readers

What exactly does that mean?

On the surface it seems simple to answer: kids struggling to read.

But why is reading more difficult for these children?

"Reluctant readers" may struggle with concentration, word recognition, dyslexia, working memory deficiencies, or other challenges. Reading clinicians and child psychologists have terminology that groups kids in meaningful ways for classroom and resource teachers.

I am not a reading specialist, so I can't provide any advice on diagnosis, treatment, or clinicians. I am an author of children's literature, a mother, and an enthusiastic and extremely vocal book nerd.

I have a reluctant reader. Getting her past simple two and three letter words was a hurdle, until we found highly illustrated early readers, chapter books, and graphic novels. That was two years ago. She is now on a reading roll!

Today I begin my series on books for kids struggling to read. 

Some of the books will resonate with your child or student, others will not. Just like any reader. Just like your own personal reading tastes.

Here is my first recommended title:

"It was a dark and stormy night..."

I kid you not, there is a graphic novel version of A Wrinkle in Time and before you leap from your chair, spilling tea across your key board and wail about the plight of the future of children's literature, let me ask you a few quick questions.

  • How many 10 year olds do you know that have read the original book? 
  • How many 10 year-olds have you had a meaningful discussion (over a bowl of honey nut cheerios on a Wednesday morning before school) about that famous first line; "It was a dark and stormy night"? 
  • Can you imagine having this conversation with a child struggling to read?

I can, and have. It was thrilling, for us both.

She was surprised to learn that Madeleine L'Enlge coined that phrase, which has now become cliche. This graphic novel encouraged my youngest to search out other over used lines when she reads, engaging her critical mind. We discussed the author, her impact on modern literature, and her wild imagination. All before 8 am.

Where can you get this book? Your library, local bookstore such as McNally Robinson Booksellers, or Amazon.

10 year old rating: 5 Stars

“Any book that helps a child to form a habit of reading, to make reading one of his deep and continuing needs, is good for him.” 
― Maya Angelou

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Edits, Revisions, Rewrites. Fun.

Not sure why I thought I was done editing Forever Julia. Maybe because this summer I strengthened Julia's relationship with her boyfriend, tweaked her interactions with her best friend Annika, and merged two characters into one new, uber dude?


More likely it is because I am often a completely unrealistic dreamer. Somehow I thought I would skip merrily over the copy editing step.

Ou est copy editing you wonder?

It is the joyful line by line analysis of every single sentence.

I wish I could say this news filled my heart with a joy only writers can feel. Even more, I wished I Happy Danced around my laptop. I do love a Happy Dance. But I would be lying.

Sort of.

I do want Forever Julia to be the best book I've written, thus far. I want readers to pick it up and think,

"This is the BEST BOOK EVER, I need to read more of Jodi Carmichael's works!" 

But there is this tiny and almost impossible to hear voice, sucking its thumb and hiding behind my left rib cage*, whining,

"Come on. When is this ever going to be done?!"

Thankfully, I am a grown mature woman. I am married, with two children, and a healthy mortgage so sadly it must be true.
Naturally, I can shut up that whiny voice - fast. 

I only need to get myself in writing mode complete with fuzzy slippers, a pot of coffee, and half a pan of Nanaimo Bar. 
(Who am I kidding. I'll eat the entire tray.)

Nanaimo Bars at the ready.
(New York Slice for my American Pals.)

*That is right, that whining voice hides behind my left rib cage. This is also where one of my lungs went to recover after I played that extremely exhausting parents vs kids soccer game. Apparently it is a good place to chill.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

SAGE - Here I Come!

My check list has begun for the MTS SAGE 2014: Special Area Groups of Educators Conference on October 24th. 

Spaghetti is NOT a Finger Food books to sell. Check.
Spaghetti book marks and Lesson Plans: Check.
Stuffed Charlie Dog: Check.

Forever Julia book marks: Half a check. (In process.)

Stoked to be manning The Manitoba Writers' Guild table with friend and fellow author, Susan Rocan.

Wish us luck as we promote the Guild's resources, fellow Manitoba writers, and ourselves, too!

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Forever Julia Cover Revealed!

It's here! It's here!
My breath-taking book cover is here!

My most awe inspiring patience has been rewarded.
Good things happen to those who wait. 
(Even if the wait is only 17 1/4 hours.)

Forever Julia

Launching Spring 2015

Forever Julia is a humorous, yet at times dark, contemporary novel about a 16 year-old girl struggling to accept the death of her father. She falls for a wealthy and controlling boy who leads her to betray her friends and sacrifice her integrity. Ultimately, she alone must decide what lines cannot be crossed. It is Mystic Pizza meets 90210 on the Canadian Prairies and is full of romance, heart-break, and dangerous secrets. 

And a heartfelt thank you to the creative genius of 
Great Plains Teen Fiction. 
You continue to make Forever Julia better.

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Forever Julia. Forever Awesome Cover!

Okay, I am beyond excited to share my book cover for Forever Julia with the world. 

Thrilled. Overjoyed. 
Pumped Up! 

But, I can't. Not yet. I must be patient.

It is killing me. 

This is a perfect likeness of me: 

All pent up excitement. Near tears and screaming. And if I was 4 years old again.

But soon, I hope I'll get the green light, peeps. Then bazinga! I will blast that cover across the interwebs.

Wish me patience. 
Perhaps this would be a good time to meditate...

Monday, 29 September 2014

The Craft Makes My Left Eye Bulge. And Twitch.

It has been too long since I returned to my middle grade manuscript, Ford and Ellie's Mostly Solved Mysteries: Family of Spies. AKA Ford and Ellie.

Much has gotten in my way, much of which was out of my control, but however it happened, my free time was consumed. Today I snatched back the reigns & scheduled actual writing time. It worked.

I'm not going to lie. It wasn't easy. 

I found myself drifting to other things; laundry, email, messy bedrooms, plus my left eye has developed a twitch. But I did get some fresh words onto paper.

Baby Steps, Peeps. 
That's how this next novel will get written. 
Twitchy-Eyed Baby Steps.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Cancer Meets Courage

In today’s world of Internet spams, unsolicited emails requesting help are met with suspicion. At least they are for me, as I have evolved into an Internet sceptic trained by The Drew, my information security specialist husband.

Last month, I received an email from a man named Cameron Von St. James, asking for my assistance in a matter close to his heart.

Was this legit? It was my automatic response, yet my gut told me yes. Experience cautioned me to Google search to fact check Cameron’s story.

Sadly, he checked out. Sadly, he was not a scam artist. Sadly, his message was one that needed to be shared with others.

Why sadly?

Heather - a true survivor.
Cameron’s wife, Heather, is a Mesothelioma Cancer survivor. Sadly, Mesothelioma invaded their happy home, their perfect family, and nearly took Heather’s life. But that is where the sadness ended for the Von St. James’ and courage took over. Courage to push despair and feelings of injustice aside and to begin a mission of education, so that other families don’t have to follow their footsteps.

The Courageous Von St. James Family
This is why they reached out to me, a stranger, to ask for help. They are building a vast network of bloggers to spread information about Mesothelioma. Their goal is to share their story, the signs, symptoms, and risks of Mesothelioma with as many people as possible.

So what is Mesothelioma Cancer?

“Mesothelioma is an aggressive cancer affecting the membrane lining of the lungs and abdomen.
Malignant mesothelioma is the most serious of all asbestos-related diseases. The primary cause and risk factor for mesothelioma is exposure to asbestos.” -

What are the Risks?

This is what shocked me. I expected that those who worked with asbestos would be at high risk, but just like second hand smoke, there is a secondary exposure to asbestos. Those workers can bring asbestos back into the home on their body or clothing if proper cleaning facilities are not available on site.

This was how Heather was infected. As a child.

What are the Warning Signs?

Although difficult to diagnose and they may not appear until 30-60 years after exposure, be sure to look for;

In 60% of patients:

·         Lower back or side pain
·         Shortness of breath

In fewer patients:

·         Difficulty swallowing
·         Persistent cough, fever, weight low or fatigue

Additional symptoms:

·         Muscle weakness,
·         Loss of sensory capability
·         Coughing up blood,
·         Facial and arm swelling
·         Hoarseness.

Read more:

How can you Help?

Spread the word. Spread this post. Share it on Facebook, Twitter, or any other way you like! Information and education is our best weapon against disease. When Heather was diagnosed at age 36, only 8 years ago, information about Mesothelioma was hard to find. Joining this campaign will help eliminate that problem.

Want to read more about Heather’s journey? 
Click here to be connected to her blog.

"I've learned in my last 8 years of this journey, that the people who are in it with you can make all the difference in the world. Having people who know and understand your emotions during your cancer journey is life changing. A whole new wold was opened to me and I don't feel so isolated and alone anymore. I urge you, if you are going through any type of issue, whether it be illness, loss, postpartum -- anything that throw you a curve ball in life -- find others who have walked your path; you will not only find help, but friendships that will last a lifetime."
- Heather Von St. James

Learn more about Mesothelioma:

Saturday, 13 September 2014

The Internet is too Shiny for my Brain

Every writer approaches editing differently. When you are a writer with an overly active distractibility gene it goes a little like this:

Editor: Can you check that you have quoted the "Let the wild rumpus begin" correctly from, Where the Wild Things Are? Pretty sure it is "start," not "begin."

Me: No problemo. I am on it.

And I was. I raced to the kids' book case to search for Maurice Sendak's masterpiece. I stood there, staring at what looked like books exploding from the shelves.

"Who's got time for this?" I muttered, knowing the book may not even be in that chaos.

Fueled by edit fever, I charged to my computer.

"Google. Google shall save the day!" I cheered. Well, I didn't really cheer that. It was more a loud muttering about the state of the girls' rooms and how I was so going to get on them about that. Later.

I typed in the line of text I needed to verify and all sorts of results popped up, including this delightful video of 
Christopher Walken reading Where the Wild Things Are:

Which of course I had to share on Facebook. I then continued to watch every video that subsequently popped up along the sidebar. 
Like, Mr. Walken reading The Three Little Pigs:

And do you need to ask if I watched the entire Top 10 Saturday Night Live Skits?
Watch to the final sketch. You won't be disappointed.

45 minutes later I awoke from my Googling haze, cursed it for my lost time, and replaced "begin" with "start." I then logged off the internet. 
It is too shiny for my brain.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Good Book Reviews Never Get Old

If only I was like dear Wolfgang and could ignore book reviews, but I will never be Mozart and so for me reviews never get old. 

Every time one comes to my attention, I get the same thrill of excitement, the same zing of joy that shoots from the top of my head to the tips of my toes. 

I found this one on Amazon after receiving a wonderful message from an occupational therapist friend who works in The Pembina Trails School Division. Yesterday she was at a meeting with two resource specialists who had a bunch of books on their reading list for teachers. Both of them put Spaghetti at the top of the list!
I shall coast on the fumes of all this good news for the rest of the week.

Friday, 22 August 2014

Zero Purple Chickens

Recently, I posted a link to my lesson plans and was surprised to see a purple chicken attached to my link. 
Why does the vast and powerful internet do weird things like this? 

Since the Great Googler has not given me any deep insight into this phenomenon I decided to share it with you here. 
Any thoughts?

Jodi Carmichael shared a link.
For my teaching pals. This is where you can download Spaghetti lesson plans . Not sure why a purple chicken displays in this link. There are exactly zero purple chickens in my book. There is one green gecko and one brown dog, but I passed on poultry. I mean, who can compete with Mo Willems' Pigeon? He's got birds covered.
LikeLike ·  · 

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Writer's Block Fix!

Sometimes writing feels like careening blindly down the road to hell. 

And it's not like it's a quick trip, nor is it always obvious you are on the Highway to Hell

Nope, you may actually believe you are on the Candy Land Freeway, but then something happens and suddenly those bright jewel-tone jujube hedges that whip by as you zip along, don't look so tasty. In fact they seem to have melted into black pools of gummy goo, sort of like your thought process. You plod along for a while, stall out a few times as your words become more elusive and harder to pin down. Finally you come to a dead stop when your red licorice expressway decays into a fiery stretch of hot lava.

Your imagination is tapped. The writing has ceased. 
As the Soup Nazi would say - No Words for You! 

This process is repetitive, which is hellish in its own way and makes you wonder about the sanity of writers. Why bother to continue? Simple answer; we'd feel crazier if we stopped.

Sometimes I return after a brief lull in creative creation, with heady anticipation. My characters eager for further adventures, my plot bubbling, as excitement drips from my fingers onto my key board. Ew. That sounds sort of gross and my drippy fingers may be more the result of a broken air conditioner and wackadoo hormones, but I digress. What I was trying to say is my typing skills are maxed to keep pace with the seemingly endless perfect words that explode from my imagination. Trust me. This happens and it is sublime. (Love that word. It is so sublimely sublime.)

Other times, like right this very instant, my words hide from me, just out of reach. I've been nearly wordless for the entire summer, peeps. Writer's Block to the extreme. But I have a plan. This weekend I am off with my writing group, The Anitas, on our annual retreat to Grindstone Provincial Park at Christina Janz' cottage. It has been the solution to my past writing woes, so I am certain  hoping it will be the fix to my current predicament.

How can I be so sure?

There will be zero distractions; no kids, Internet, phone, laundry, wall scrubbing or window washing for me. Stop laughing. There was this one time I washed some windows.  My point is I will be hyper-focused, obsessed even, with stalking those verbs, nouns, prepositions, and conjunctions from their cozy hidey-hole in the back corner of my brain. (I can sense they are chilling out right behind the grey matter that controls my constant cravings for chocolate.)

Crap. Now all I can think about is brownies. And Hershey Kisses. Wait, what if there was a Hershey Kiss brownie? Must Google...

Sweet Mama! There is an entire Hershey Kisses site!
Hershey Kisses Recipes
What was I blogging about? Right. Writing distractions. 
I do believe I have made my point.

Monday, 28 July 2014

Mom's Choice Matters
Mom's Choice Matters!

As many of you are aware, I have been guest posting about Autism Spectrum Disorder on the Mom's Choice Matters Blog for a few months now.

It has been a privilege and honour to work with Terry Doherty the Director of Social Media for the Mom's Choice Awards. She is a true professional and a strong supporter of children facing all sorts of challenges. In addition to her work with Mom's Choice, she is also the Executive Director of The Reading Tub, an online book review site that is a must view for parents looking for great books for their children.

Terry Doherty

Sadly, I have now written my last guest post for Terry as my work with Rebelight Publishing and my upcoming book release of Forever Julia has erased all free time. However, great plans are in the works to continue the "All About Aspergers Syndrome Series" with a new contributor who will make you laugh, cry, and grab a pen and paper to take notes.

Once the official announcement has been made, I will write a quick post to introduce this most marvellous writer.
I know you will enjoy her writing as much as I do!
You can check out Mom's Choice Matters here!
And The Reading Tub here!

These are the links to my "All About Aspergers Syndrome Series":

Aspergers Syndrome and ADHD - Understanding the Difference

Helping Kids with Aspergers Syndrome in the Classroom

Making Friends 101 - Everyone Needs a Friend

Autism and Play Dates - Visiting a Friend's House 

Quote to remember:

"Autism is not a disease. I think of Autism as a different kind of operating system."

– Audrey Lintner, Special Projects Coordinator, Little Pickle Press