Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

One Brother Shy is finished!

Tuesday, July 26th, 2016

Typewriter2 (The End)

True to my pledge, I’m doing my best to keep you all up to date on the progress of my sixth novel, One Brother Shy. I started the actual writing of this manuscript back in early March, having spent the preceding six months or so conceiving the story and then mapping it out in what eventually became an 80 page chapter-by-chapter outline. I’m now pleased to report that the novel is finished!

I sent the manuscript to my editor, Doug Gibson, about a week ago. Since then, he’s read it a few times and worked his editorial magic. He complained that I’d left him little to do, which I took as a good sign. I received his editorial suggestions on the weekend and have been working my way through them, page by page, ever since.

And now, it’s finished! One Brother Shy is finished, at least until the manuscript is put through the copy-editing process at McClelland & Stewart. Having made this journey on five previous occasions, I know that copy editing will yield more little changes thanks to minor discrepancies, inconsistencies, and typos that neither Doug nor I caught, even though we’ve both been immersed in the manuscript these last few weeks.

But the important point here is that, at least for a while, the novel is out of my hands while the wheels of publishing grind on. This frees me, and my addled mind, to consider what story might be told in my seventh novel. I have a few ideas, but none has yet grabbed my throat and refused to let go. Soon, I hope.

Still no formal word on when One Brother Shy will be published, but stay tuned. It will be sometime in 2017. When I know, you’ll know.

One Brother Shy is, among other things, the story of identical twins discovering one another some 25 years after they were born. While there is virtually no autobiographical content in this novel, as you can see below, I do know what it’s like to have an identical twin brother. I’ve dedicated this new novel to my identical twin brother, Tim (on the left, below). He’s been big supporter throughout my writing odyssey. This shot was taken when we were about fifteen. I just wish I still had that much hair.

T&T twin photo

 

Thrilled to sign on with M&S for two more novels

Monday, June 27th, 2016

M&S logo

This has been in the works for a while now, but it’s just being announced today. I’m happy to report that I recently signed a contract with McClelland & Stewart for two more novels. The first, One Brother Shy, will be published sometime in 2017, while the second, (whatever it ends up being!) should be out sometime in 2018.

M&S is the only publishing home I’ve ever known and I’m thrilled to be with them for the next two novels, and I hope many more thereafter. As for all of my novels thus far, Douglas Gibson will be my editor on One Brother Shy, supported by Bhavna Chauhan.

I’m just finishing the manuscript for One Brother Shy so we’re on track for number one. I’ll keep you posted as we work our way through the editing, designing, and publishing process.

My deep thanks to M&S for keeping me around for another two novels, and to my stalwart literary agent, Beverley Slopen for all her efforts . It’s a happy day.

A wonderful evening with Margaret Atwood

Wednesday, June 15th, 2016

IMG_0844

I’m a little tardy recording this memorable event, but better late than never. Back in May, Margaret Atwood invited me to be the speaker at an annual fundraiser in Windsor in support of the Pelee Island Bird Observatory, an organization to which Margaret and her husband, Graeme Gibson, are deeply committed. I was honoured to be there. Margaret introduced me, which was a surreal experience. I imagine it would be similar to a rookie singer-songwriter being introduced by Paul McCartney, only more so.

I managed to get through my talk and it all seemed to go well. I noted that two very big highlights of my writing life had been when Margaret had tweeted favourably about my first novel, The Best Laid Plans, and then again about my current novel, Poles Apart. It was not just extraordinarily gratifying when she did this, but it gave me a big sales kick as she currently has over 1.2 million followers.

Margaret Atwood tweet re TBLP

Atwood Tweet re Poles Apart

I sat with Margaret for dinner and then again after the event for a signing. An experience I’ll not soon forget.

Writing Update

Monday, April 18th, 2016

It’s been many weeks since my last post where I revealed that I’d started writing the manuscript for my sixth novel, One Brother Shy. I figured I owed you an update. As of today, I’m more than 30,000 words into the new novel and all seems to be going according to plan. Finding the time to stay on schedule is the challenge. I’ve been trying to complete one 5,000-6,000 word chapter each week, and for the most part, I’m on track. At any rate, I’ll have the manuscript finished sometime in the summer.

I’m currently writing Chapter 6. When it’s finished later this week, I may send the first six chapters to Doug Gibson, my principal editor at McClelland & Stewart for his initial take on the story. We’ve learned from the last two novels that comments he might have are much easier to accommodate at this early stage, rather than waiting until I’ve finished the entire manuscript.

So there you have it. It’s about one third written. So far, so good (I think!).

 

I’ve started writing the manuscript for novel #6

Saturday, March 5th, 2016

Starting blocks

Yes, it’s time to dust off my traditional starting blocks metaphor, that I think I’ve used for nearly all of my novels. How very creative of me. It may be tired and shopworn, but it feels like the perfect analogy for my writing process. Olympic sprinters train for a very long time just so they can then run the big race. In the same way, other than the Olympic part, I spend many months creating, shaping, and mapping out a new story in anticipation of the chance to write it. Only when the very detailed outline is finished (for this novel, it took a year and is 79 pages), can I slip into the starting blocks and begin to write the manuscript itself. Well the gun just sounded and I’m out of the blocks.

I’ve now finished the first of 17 chapters of the manuscript for my sixth novel, One Brother Shy. While I love the story-mapping and outlining phase, it always feels good to start writing the real sentences of the manuscript. In this new novel, as is my custom, I’m writing about something I know a thing or two about. It’s the story of a pair of identical twins. You may or may not know that I am an identical twin. One Brother Shy is not in any way autobiographical, but I can certainly write about the experience of being a twin with some authority and authenticity (at least, that’s the plan).

In One Brother Shy, a loved one dies, secrets are revealed, mysteries are solved, oceans and continents are crossed, the lost are found, closure is gained, and someone is nearly made whole again. Oh yeah, and it’s funny, too (at least I hope it’s funny).

We’re in discussions with Penguin Random House/McClelland & Stewart right now about timing and hope to have something to report on that front shortly. In the meantime, it’s back to the manuscript…

Nine years later…

Friday, January 1st, 2016

2015

Yes, you’re right, it’s time to cast my mind back over the last year for the annual counting of my writerly blessings. I started this yearly tradition back in late December 2007, one year after I started this blog. And every year since, I’ve reminded myself, and anyone who happens upon this humble blog, that, nine years later, I have been very fortunate in my life as a writer. 2015 was no exception:

  • I slowed down a bit on the book talk circuit but still managed to put in well over 100 appearances in support of No Relation and then, later in the year, Poles Apart. I spoke at book clubs, literary festivals, writers conferences, libraries, community organizations,  schools, and many other venues. I’m convinced my book sales are heavily influenced by how many talks I give. And we all know how important book sales are to a writer’s ability to land publishing deals for future books. So I’ll be on the road again in 2016. Happily, I enjoy this part of the writer’s life.
  • The Best Laid Plans TV series won two Canadian Screen Awards. My wife and I were at the ceremony when Jonas Chernick won for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role. Peter Moss also won for Best Director.
  • Last spring, I again taught the Humour Writing course at the University of Toronto’s School of Continuing Studies. (Incidentally, I’m due to start teaching the eight-week course again later in January.)
  • In July, I was one of the writers aboard the Ocean Endeavour for the twelve-day Adventure Canada  cruise up the coast of Labrador all the way north to Ungava Bay. It was an extraordinary experience, not just geographically with ice bergs and polar bears, but the people, staff and passengers, were amazing. I’ll never forget the experience.
  • In September, I had the surreal experience of boarding a flight in Toronto bound for Vancouver, reading a few chapters of my first novel, The Best Laid Plans in the early part of the flight, then watching an episode of the CBC-TV series The Best Laid Plans on the Air Canada entertainment system, and finishing off the day by watching the debut performance of The Best Laid Plans – A Musical, at the York Theatre in Vancouver. I loved the musical produced by Touchstone Theatre and Patrick Street Productions. Efforts are underway to have the show tour. I’ll keep you posted.
  • I signed an option agreement with PDM Entertainment, the same production company that produced The Best Laid Plans TV series for CBC, for the film rights to No Relation, my fourth novel. The wonderful actor/writer, Jonas Chernick (Daniel Addison in the TBLP TV series), is writing the screenplay. There’s a long way to go yet, but the first steps have been taken.
  • While at the annual Writers’ Trust Gala, I was introduced to one of my literary heroes, John Irving. I managed to construct several complete sentences in a row while my heart pounded beneath my tux.

This is not an exhaustive review of 2015, just some of the highlights for me. Looking ahead, 2016 is shaping up to be another busy year. In the next two months I have about a dozen speaking gigs scheduled, including trips to Whitehorse in a few weeks, and Galiano Island off the west coast in February.

I’m also working away on my sixth novel, tentatively entitled, One Brother Shy. I hope to finish the outline in the coming weeks so I can start writing the manuscript before the month is out.

Happy New Year!

Eight years later…

Wednesday, December 31st, 2014

2014

It’s hard to believe, but eight years after writing my first blog post in this space, it’s time for my annual look back across the past year to reflect on how fortunate I’ve been in my writing life:

  • It was a very busy year on the talks/readings front. I gave 142 talks and/or readings in 2014, up from 137 last year. So much for my attempt to slow down a little bit. Again, my annual refrain, my deep appreciation for the patience and forbearance of my wife, Nancy Naylor, and our two sons, Calder and Ben. I truly believe these gigs are important in the never-ending quest to sell books, which, in turn, allows me to write another. My travels took me from Halifax to Vancouver, Sault Ste. Marie to Mexico City, and dozens of ports in between.
  • Starting in January, CBC Television aired the six-part miniseries based on my first novel, The Best Laid Plans. I loved it, and many others did, too. It pulled some very strong viewership numbers, but the travails at CBC, starting with the loss of Hockey Night in Canada, mean that, alas, there won’t be a second series. But we’ll always have six! I also enjoyed my brief cameo appearance in the final episode, though my phone has not been ringing off the hook for auditions.
  • At some point in the year, I can’t remember when, I became the 2014-2015 writer in residence for Hillfield Strathallan College in Hamilton. This isn’t that onerous an undertaking, but I’ve enjoyed my time at the school working with the students.
  • In May, my fourth novel, No Relation, hit bookstores and opened on the Globe and Mail Bestsellers list where it stayed for many weeks. I’ve been on the road promoting it ever since.
  • In the fall, I developed and taught the Humour Writing course at the University of Toronto’s School of Continuing Studies. I teach the eight week course again starting in May, 2015.
  • I have just finished the manuscript for my fifth novel, Poles Apart. The last couple of chapters were written in Paris during a welcome vacation visit my wife and I made in November. We now move to the editing phase, as well as cover copy and design. It is slated for release on October 6, 2015. I’ll start to record and post the podcast version of Poles Apart sometime in July.

I’m sure I’ve missed some happenings from 2014, but I’m already focused on 2015 (I still can’t believe I just wrote 2015.). Looking ahead to July, I’ll be one of the writers on an Adventure Canada trip up the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador. This will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. As well, I’ll be participating in several literary festivals in various Canadian cities including Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, and Eastport, Newfoundland. And my fifth novel, Poles Apart will hit bookstores in early October. Many thanks for all the support I’ve received from readers around the country. I’m grateful. Onwards and Happy New Year!

Poles Apart manuscript is finished…

Sunday, December 14th, 2014

Cover page

 

It’s always nice, even a thrill, to write the words “The End” at the bottom of the page. I finished the manuscript for my fifth novel, Poles Apart, last night. It comes in at just under 98,000 words, and so is a touch longer than my last novel, No Relation. I wish this meant I was well and truly finished. Alas, no. We’re still a long way from seeing the novel on bookstore shelves. But I think of this as, to borrow from Winston Churchill, “the end of the beginning.”

My wonderful editor, Douglas Gibson at McClelland & Stewart, will now go through it, first as a reader, and then on the second, third, and fourth passes, as an editor. We’ll talk about his reaction and suggestions. Then I’ll take another run through it, tweaking here,  tightening there. If our first four novels together are any indication, and I hope they are, the editing process ought not to be too onerous (I’m touching wood right now!). But we’ll see.

I’m just happy to have this first major phase completed. If all goes well, expect to see Poles Apart in bookstores in October, 2015. (Fingers eternally crossed…)

My talk to the Ontario Writers’ Conference

Wednesday, October 29th, 2014

Earlier this year, I was invited to give the closing address at the Ontario Writers’ Conference. It was not one of the standard talks I often give about one or another of my books or my strange journey to the published land. So I was a little nervous about it. Anyway, for what it’s worth, you can watch it here if you’re interested or suffer with insomnia…

Tag, I’m it, on the CanLit Blog Hop

Monday, September 1st, 2014

My friend and fellow writer Farzana Doctor ‘tagged’ me for this CanLit blog hop challenge. No ice bucket is required. I’m to answer the four questions below (check), and then ‘tag’ two other writers (still working on it) to take the challenge. So here goes:

1. What am I working on?

I’m about 20,000 words into writing my fifth novel, tentatively called Poles Apart. It’s my pro-feminist comic novel. You can see feminist themes lurking in the background of my first four novels, but they’re front and centre in my fifth. Feminism has been a long-term interest of mine. If all goes well, we expect publication by McClelland & Stewart in the fall of 2015.

2. How does my differ from others of its genre?

Well, I’ve yet to unearth any other feminist comic novels, but I’d love to find one. (Drop me a line if you know of others I should be reading.) Beyond that, I’m at a loss to describe how my novels are different from other funny novels except perhaps that I wrote them and they’re in my voice. Kind of a thin response to this question, I know, but there you have it.

3. Why do I write what I do?

I’m a member in good standing of the ‘write what you know‘ school of writing (except for the S&M scene in my first novel). There are pieces of me and pieces of my life strewn about the pages of my novels. Not so much in an autobiographical sense. But I just find it easier to write with authority, conviction, and authenticity if I’m writing about things I know about, or care about. In short, it’s easier for me to “feel” the story, and then write it.

4. How does my writing process work?

How good of you to suggest that my writing process works! I’m an engineer by academic training. Engineers don’t build bridges without blueprints, and I don’t write novels without blueprints. I’m a big time planner or outliner. Writing the manuscript is the very last stage in my so-called process. By that time, I know nearly all there is to know about the story. It’s captured in a 40-70 page chapter-by-chapter outline that guides the writing of the actual manuscript. A nearly-fulltime day job means that I don’t write everyday. I write when I can. In writing mode, I can usually sustain a pace of one 5,000 word chapter each week until the novel is written.

I’ve reached out to a couple other writers and I hope in a few weeks you’ll see their responses to these questions.

Now, back to my manuscript…

Update: The great writer Patrick Bowman has accepted the challenge. One down, one to go. Stay tuned…