Sunday, October 28, 2007

Whale Song: a novel that crosses racial boundaries

Yesterday at a book signing at Coles in Southgate Shopping Centre in Edmonton, AB, I was reminded of the power of words and what an honor it is to have written a novel that has affected so many. Although Whale Song is a work of fiction, it is also an inspired work that originated from a single, beautiful native legend--a legend that says that if you see a killer whale close to shore, it is really the reincarnated soul of a loved one who has come to say goodbye. Whale Song is a novel of many things--of love, lies, family ties, sacrifice. It is also a novel of racial discrimination and conflict, and one of healing, caring and looking past color or race.

At yesterday's signing I met numerous people who recognized me from recent TV interviews and newspaper features. I also met so many fans, especially Whale Song fans. I don't think I've ever met that many at one signing. A young teen came up to me and told me she loved Whale Song and that it was her favorite book. One man came up and asked if I had another novel out yet because his wife loved my work and was collecting my books. Another woman stopped by and told me how much she cried when she read Whale Song and how she was recommending it to all her friends.

Then Hanid, a sweet woman (from India, I believe), whom I immediately recognized from a previous signing, came up to me and told me how much she had loved reading Whale Song. She said it had affected her so deeply that she thought about it for days afterward. She had bought a copy for herself and for her mom a few months ago and she "loved Whale Song too". Hanid said something that floored me. She said that she thinks I should have won the Nobel Peace Prize for Whale Song. Wow! We talked for about 15 minutes and I listened as she told me about my characters, the ones I'd created, describing them in such a way that showed how real the story was for her. Here was a reader who had connected deeply. To the characters and to the messages within.

Hanid then bought two more copies of Whale Song to send to a friend in the city and to a relative in Pakistan. She returned to my table and handed me a gift bag. I was stunned by her generous spirit. The gift was lovely. It contained scented lotion and a huge bottle of one of my favorite perfumes--one that I am nearly out of. Of all the perfumes to give me...

She left with two copies of Whale Song, and I was left feeling very blessed to have met such wonderful fans and very grateful to have made an impact--even a small one--on someone's life and thinking.

My experience at this one signing really opened my eyes to the universal appeal of Whale Song. Those who had read it and loved it were from various nationalities and skin colors. Those who bought yesterday also came from different countries. I have seen international sales to many countries now--the US, England, France, Scotland, China, Japan, Australia, India, the Ukraine, Pakistan and more. English versions, no translations.

Whale Song crosses racial boundaries because it deals with a young white girl who is thrown into a completely different culture--the native culture. This is a story of how friendships are made with open hearts, hearts that don't see skin color or race. Hearts that share their experiences and knowledge from different worlds maybe, but hearts that share, all the same.

Whale Song knows no boundaries, and that is why I believe that people all over the world are reading it...and 'getting it'.

Yesterday made me remember a project that one of my author friends is involved in. Luanne Rice wrote a lovely novel called What Matters Most and a website explores that sentiment too, allowing you to post 'What Matters Most' to you (I invite you to do so). Whale Song explores 'what matters most', and I think that is why it will continue to cross boundaries and dissolve racial discrimination. What matters most is love, caring, family...life. And for me...making a difference.

If you send Whale Song as a gift to someone in another country as a gift, please let me know. It gives me immense pleasure to know that it is crossing boundaries everywhere. You can buy Whale Song at your favorite bookstore. If it isn't on the shelves, please ask them to order it in. Or you can order online from various retailers like Chapters.ca or Amazon.com.

To everyone who stopped by my table yesterday, thank YOU. You all gifted me with your stories and your interest. And since a portion of my royalties from the sale of every Whale Song goes to 3 non-profit organizations, together we have made a difference. And believe me, talking to each of you has made a difference in my life.

~Cheryl Kaye Tardif,
author of Whale Song, The River and Divine Intervention

Author...author

I was out to dinner a few weeks ago. One of those "I-hope-I-don't-see-anybody-I-know" dinners. Not that I am anti-social, but I was sharing a table for two in a quiet corner and romance was dancing on the china and silver. It was the sort of evening where you do not want to talk shop or even casually speak about the ordinary. Ah, but we do not write the script of life and how well I know it because this fact is always the seasoning of my writing. Too bad I do not pay attention to my own stuff. Anyway...we were interrupted (in a good way) not by a fire alarm or an x-spouse or worse. The table next to us took on two new diners and I recognized one of the women and she me. There was that second of eyes connecting when I knew I couldn't bypass her without stopping. My companion was gracious and stepped aside. The woman shook my hand and offered her name which I had lost somewhere in my brain datafile. I know you she said...you are the author. Ah yes, I am and the conversation swirled around books and signings and spring releases and all that good stuff. As we exited the restaurant my companion said..."You are famous"...hmmm not yet. "What will I do when you are?" "Do you like paparazzi?" I asked. "I could get used to them," he said. Stay tuned...

www.kunati.com/linda-merlino/

Thursday, October 25, 2007

A Rare and Lovely Moment in a Writer's Life

Sometimes, all the hours of thinking, writing, editing, and self-doubt results in the type of recognition you might have dreamed of, but hadn't really expected. This year, I entered the Surrey International Writers' Conference storyteller's competition. In late September, I received an e-mail telling me that I'd won an honourable mention (there was first prize and two honourable mentions only). Now, I've won honourable mentions before - fourteen, in fact, but this time there was an awards ceremony, a cash prize, and a copy of the anthology my work was published in. Since the conference was held only minutes from my home, I went to the ceremony, not knowing what to expect.

The final judges were Diana Gabaldon and Jack Whyte. Both of them walked up to the microphone, said really nice things about my story "Some Mother's Child", and then announced my name in front of 500+ people. During the applause, I walked up to the stage, shook hands, thanked the judges and contest coordinator, then accepted the cheque, anthology and a certificate. After my picture was taken with the presenters, I returned to my seat somewhat dazed by this unaccustomed attention. The event was thrilling, humbling, and truly memorable. I wish the same experience for all writers who care about words.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Something your publisher won't tell you

I took Robert McKee’s Screenwriting Course a few years ago. One of his mantras to the wee writers in the room like me was, “Flex your courage.” And if any of you have ever heard or seen McKee speak, you know he said this not as a suggestion, but as a command.

I had an idea of what that meant back then. Today, it takes on a new meaning. As a writer whose work has yet to be seen by the world, well, I am learning to flex my courage.

I didn’t count on this, but I’m glad to learn it.

Right now, I am living in a rarified period like no other I will ever experience again. I am about to debut a novel. People are excited. People are expectant. But, you can only fall in love for the first time once. And, you can only be a yet to be discovered, yet to be criticized debut author once. And that period only lasts a few short months. It’s a heady experience.

Along with the excitement, there is trepidation. I am reluctant to admit this, but it’s true. What will critics say? How many books will actually sell? Will it change my life in any measurable way? And if so, how?

So for all the writers who have gone to the bookshelves before me, I salute you. It took a lot of courage to do what you did. More than I would have guessed. For your first novel, you had to take flight on the sheer belief in yourself and the support of a handful of people who agreed to publish your work. That’s a small margin of opinion. Still, you went for it. And perhaps, when the reviews came in, good and bad, you kept going. Maybe you had the temerity to write another book and another. I now see it took more than your talent to do so. You flexed your courage. Thank you. You inspire us all.

And that, my friends, is whole new view of the publishing world I am now beginning to see. It’s not all wine and thesauruses. It’s work. It’s confidence. It’s faith.

Ultimately, it’s true what they say: You’d better be writing because you love it, and not for anything else.

(Oh, that great group of wise minds called They. Do They have a blog, I wonder?)

--

Karen Harrington, author JANEOLOGY (Spring 2008: Kunati)

Saturday, October 20, 2007

I ate my book cover today--and it was delicious!

Yes, you read the title of this post correctly. I ate my book cover today...and it was delicious.

Okay, I'll explain...

Today I was at the 2nd Annual Local Authors Extravaganza in the West Side Chapters in Edmonton, Alberta. There were about 16 authors, including myself, at this event, and it was filled with energy and excitement. I sat at a table next to Drew Karpyshyn, bestselling author of the latest Star Wars novel. Further down the aisle was YA author Marty Chan, and up by the doors was the lovely Lynda Steele, a TV news personality from Global TV, where I've been interviewed a few times.

Having so many authors in one place created a lot of buzz. Some of the customers came down just to see us; others were surprised to see our tables and wanted to know what was happening.

Right around lunch time, I was getting hungry. So I ate my book cover. It was, as I mentioned before, very delicious. I was a bit worried about the blue dye. I thought it might stain my tongue...or my lips. Now, wouldn't that look funny? Imagine talking to an author with blue lips and a blue tongue.

With the first bite of my cover, I thought about poor Sarah Richardson, the tormented young woman in my novel, and how her life was turned upside down by a single tragic event. I thought of her mother, wanting so desperately to end her own pain and suffering, and Sarah's father who was put in the position of having to make a life-changing decision. I took another bite of my book cover and thought of Annie, Sarah's childhood bully--the bully that most kids have at least once in their life...and I thought of the killer whales that Sarah saw in her dreams, the ones that called to her at night.

My book cover tasted very sweet. Almost heavenly.

Well, if you haven't guessed it by now, it was a piece of cake. Chocolate and vanilla layers, with a tart strawberry filling and vanilla icing. The bookstore had ordered it for the event, with our book covers in gel icing on the top. When I saw the cover of Whale Song, I just had to ask for that very piece. It's not every day that an author gets to eat her book cover. :)

To order Whale Song (the book and not a cake), please visit your favorite bookstore. If they don't have a copy on the shelves, just ask if they can order you one. Or, you can order online at Chapters.ca (Canadian customers) or Amazon.com (US customers)

~Cheryl Kaye Tardif
http://www.whalesongbook.com/
http://www.cherylktardif.com/

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Introduction from a New Blogger

Hi, my name is Debra Purdy Kong, and I'm new to the blogging world. People tell me it's fun, so here goes.

I have a college diploma in criminology but because of different twists and turns in the road, I wound up working in offices for 13 years. I quit to raise my family and 14 years later returned to salaried work, this time in retail. Through all this, I've been writing about 27 years now, and have been lucky enough to have published stories, personal essays, and articles in a variety of publications. I've also published a mystery novel called Taxed to Death and the sequel, Fatal Encryption, will be released in early 2008. Needless to say, I have a lot of opinions about the ups and downs of the writing world. I've suffered through two unproductive agents, one horrible publisher and too many incompetent magazine editors. Still, I've had some terrific experiences too. Before I go any further, though, I'll post this and see if I've actually managed to press the right buttons. I'm not great technically, and this is my second attempt. Oh well.

In a novel it's called an epilogue. In life, a eulogy.

Family stories are my passion. Genealogy and exploring what we inherit from our ancestors is one of my areas of study. So naturally the two come together in my writing. These are the themes of my novel JANEOLOGY.

To me, these interactions are the common denominator of the human race. So I was struck with a new revelation on my way home from a funeral yesterday. I realized someone else gets to put an end to your story.

In novels, it's called the epilogue. In life, the eulogy.

As I drove home from the service, I reflected on all the stories I had just heard about the deceased. She was the beloved mother of one of my writing mentors. Naturally, he imbued his recollections about his mother with a few great stories. One included her penchant for IHOP and how she demanded to stop and eat there one day after getting a biopsy. Said biopsy was still in its sealed medical jar and was supposed to be en route to the hospital via the patient. But on this day, my friend's mother insisted she had time for a quick Rooty-Tooty-Fresh-And-Fruity before couriering her biopsy to the hospital. So there it sat, on the table at IHOP inside a McDonald's sack my friend thankfully found in his car. He said he watched it with the care of Top Secret documents while she enjoyed her pancakes.

Another story about this woman came from one of her granddaughters who spoke lovingly about her grandmothers' famous stories. She told us that all of her siblings had a "Help Me" code to flash to one another when grandma's story was taking too long. The non-grandma engaged sibling would vanish to another room and call the other sibs cell phone, necessitating her ability to take leave from grandma without insulting her.

And the stories went on. Some were touching. Others were funny. All filled with respect and admiration for a woman who lived and loved. Still, I had to wonder if this feisty, well-loved woman would have told her stories just the same way.

Perhaps we should be mindful of how we might like our final epilogue to read. That is, while we still have a chance to influence the person who will later recount it to others in the form of a eulogy.

Because as someone once wrote, "When we die we become 'stories' in the minds of other people."

From Kunati Books, Spring 2008

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

A Little Bang Bang in The Brave One

Note: There are no spoilers in this review if you have already seen the movie trailer.

Jodie Foster’s latest film venture is sure to bring her an award―or three. The Brave One is a fascinating character study and one that certainly allows for much discussion afterward.

Foster (Silence of the Lambs) plays Erica Bain, popular radio host of a segment about New York called ‘Street Watch’. During the day, she takes to the streets, a recording device in hand as she records city noises, finding something interesting in the simplest sounds. Then in a semi-monotone voice, she talks about her own observations of city life on her show. Erica’s tone is mesmerizing and the audience is drawn in, comforted, made to feel safe, just as she feels. Until things change.

Erica’s fiancĂ© David, played by Naveen Andrews (LOST), is an ephemeral yet key character. While walking their dog and discussing future wedding plans, Erica and David are brutally attacked by three taunting thugs. Erica wakes up three weeks later, battered and bruised, only to discover that the man she loves is dead and buried. But David haunts her, his touch and music ever close, making for some very poignant and sorrowful scenes.

Erica feels empty―dead inside. And the transformation begins. When asked how one recuperates from such terrible violence and loss, she says, “You don’t…you become someone else.” Suffering from a mild form of agoraphobia, she finds it difficult to leave her home. But when she finally does, she discovers that her once-loved city that seemed so safe is now something she dreads and fears. Every shadow, every person who brushes past her, every footstep behind her causes her to lose all security and faith. And justice is far from swift. So she buys a gun. This is the first pivotal, defining moment in the film, the point of no return where she takes that leap into the dark unknown.

Erica is shopping at a convenience store when a furious husband walks in and shoots his wife who is standing behind the counter. Erica is spurred into action when the man begins to hunt her down in the store. What’s a gal to do? The fact that she shoots the man isn’t surprising. You know that’s coming. But you don’t expect her to marvel at how easy it was. Her hands don’t shake. Why does killing seem to come so easy to her?

This one act of fury spawns a killing spree, and introduces Terrence Howard (Four Brothers) who plays Detective Mercer, a divorced cop who listens regularly to Erica’s radio show. His partner Detective Vitale (Nicky Katt) adds a bit of comic relief to this pensive, gritty movie directed by Neil Jordan. When Mercer finally begins to suspect who the vigilante is, the movie takes a twist, the ending not quite what many would expect and one that you’ll certainly remember.

But it is Jodie Foster’s portrayal of a woman who feels she has nothing left to live for that will stay with you. You watch her transform from a light-hearted, flirty, loving woman to a cold, calculating, hardened shell. Is there any redemption for her, any salvation? You’ll have to watch the movie to find out.

The Brave One reminded me somewhat of a novel I’d heard of recently. In author Lynn Hoffman’s novel bang Bang, a waitress who is against guns is devastated when a close friend is shot dead. She takes to the streets with a BB gun, targeting windshields of those who incur her wrath, especially those in the United Gun Association.

I find that when a story is really told from the perspective of the main character, we are drawn in much further, not only to the plot but to the emotions and motives. In my own novel Whale Song, I explored a flawed character that, much like Foster’s Erica Bain, has closed herself off to those around her after the tragic death of her mother. Death, especially a violent one, tends to do that to people.

As an educated society that has witnessed terrorism and an overwhelming daily diet of death broadcasted by our media, we can’t help but cheer these vigilantes. Certainly, none of us condone murder, but it’s in our human nature to yearn for the ‘bad guys’ to get what they deserve. That’s what made The Brave One so compelling and controversial. That’s what makes bang Bang a novel that the NRA might have an issue with. But it is the characters―flawed, defenseless, haunted, terrorized, grief-stricken―that bring these stories to life.

I invite you to check out The Brave One at your nearest movie theatre, and for those cold winter nights, curl up with Lynn Hoffman’s bang Bang and my bestselling novel Whale Song, which you can buy on Amazon’s Better Together program. All three explore strong women who have learned to fight back in their own way―one with a gun, one with a BB gun and one with the truth.

* * *

Cheryl Kaye Tardif is an Amazon bestselling author. Her recent release, Whale Song, has received rave reviews from Booklist, Midwest Book Reviews, Fresh Fiction and more, along with reviews from authors like New York Times bestselling author Luanne Rice. All of Cheryl’s novels have captured the interest of major film companies, and Whale Song is now in the hands of Hollywood producers and directors, as well as some highly acclaimed actors and singer-songwriters.

http://www.blogger.com/ and http://www.cherylktardif.com/

Monday, October 15, 2007

Are you smarter than a fifth grader? If so, create a neologism.

No doubt many of you learned readers have read or heard about the Annual Neologism Contest hosted by The Washington Post. You haven't? Me neither.

Each year, the Post invites its readers to submit alternate meanings for common words. Thus, the birth of a neologism.

Here are the recent winners:

1. Coffee (n.) the person upon whom one coughs.

2. Flabbergasted (adj.) appalled over how much weight you have gained.

3. Abdicate (v.) to give up all hope of ever having a flat stomach.

4. Esplanade (v.) to attempt an explanation while drunk.

5. Willy-nilly (adj.) impotent.

6. Negligent (adj.) describes a condition in which you absentmindedly
answer the door in your nightgown.

7. Lymph (v.) to walk with a lisp.

8. Gargoyle (n.) olive-flavored mouthwash.

9. Flatulence (n.) emergency vehicle that picks you up after you are run
over by a steamroller.

10. Balderdash (n.) a rapidly receding hairline.

11. Testicle (n.) a humorous question on an exam.

12. Rectitude (n.) the formal, dignified bearing adopted by proctologists.

13. Pokemon (n) a Rastafarian proctologist.

14. Oyster (n.) a person who sprinkles his conversation with Yiddishisms.

15. Frisbeetarianism (n.) (back by popular demand): The belief that,
when you die, your soul flies up onto the roof and gets stuck there.

16. Circumvent (n.) an opening in the front of boxer shorts worn by
Jewish men.

I tried my hand at this game and came up with a few lame neologisms.

- genealogy: the study of Gene.

- ancestry: the act of being indecent with one's pedigree.

- skillet: a small talent or ability.

- librarian: someone who is religious only in the month of October.

If you create a neologism of your own, please show off your genius. Proceed.


- Karen Harrington is the author of JANEOLOGY, a Spring 2008 release from Kunati Books.

Playthings



Bright lights! Damn! Where did all those bright lights come from and why is everything white? Is this heaven? What is that plastic bottle doing there, glistening against the light? And - and

what is that long clear tube doing? Oh my god, it’s attached to me!

That is when I understood I was in a hospital. The IV tube gave it away. What happened started coming back a little at a time. First, there were muffled voices, a concerned look on my wife’s face, men in white jackets doing things to me, suspension in a prone position like a magician’s assistant. Laughter, sudden, uncontrollable laughter...Yes, I remember now But, how is that I’m in the hospital?

“How’re you feeling?” A man’s voice inquired concernedly.

I looked to my left; an empty bed and plastic flowers on a metal stand; they needed water.

I looked right. There was a man in a metallic grey business suit standing beside my bed. His expression was stern but emanated apprehensive concern.

Spiffy, That’s what I thought, he was “spiffy”. The suit was supposed to look expensive, but I think it came from Mrs. Murphy’s Aluminum Siding and Haberdashery Boutique – designed by Alcoa. The knot in his cheap necktie was dark from sweaty fingers. He had a yellow legal pad in his hand and his other hand was poised over it with a Bic pen.

“How’re you feeling,” he repeated.

“Everything hurts.” I said and started to touch my forehead but the IV tube restricted my movement. My other hand told me that I had a bandage around my head. I suddenly realized that the apparition below me was my left leg suspended in traction. Then, I realized something else hurt too ... real bad. I reached under the sheet, groped, groped some more, a bandage? I didn’t ask about that, instead I said, “Is my leg broken?”

“Simple fracture, the doctor told me.” He replied. “You’ll be out of here in a few days, I’m sure.”

“Who are you? What do you want? You’re not a doctor. They wear better suits and have one of those thingies around their necks. You know a spthoscop...uh, spetho...”

“Stethoscope. I’m from the insurance company. I have a few questions.”

“Like what?”

“Whose cat was it?”

“My wife’s and when I get home I’m going to drown it in the toilet. What happened after the little shit ...”

“It was an accident, okay. Purely accidental, I can assure you it was unavoidable.”

“Alright already, I hear you.” I demanded, “Just tell me what happened. All I remember is that I was taking a shower when my wife yelled that the kitchen sink was clogged up. I put a towel around me and went in the kitchen. Damn woman was almost in hysterics. I got down and stuck my head under the sink and my towel came loose.” It was coming back to me now. That damn cat loves to play with dangling things.

Sudden, awful pain, like a red hot poker to my privates. No, it was worse. It was as awful as when - when Dale Earnhardt missed the NASCAR Nextel cup chase.
After what happened crystallized in my mind, I went on, “The little furry bastard decided he would claw any dadgum swinging thing he sees and went for the nearest with them sharp claws and I hit my head on the under side of the sink.”

The aluminum suit said nothing, waited for me to continue. He acted apprehensive, like he was in deep doodoo when, in fact, it was me that was in the doodoo. “I don’t know what happened after that, do you know?”

His face colored and he hemmed and hawed, finally blurting out that he represented the private ambulance service.

He said with all the sincerity he could muster, “We accept full responsibility, sir. I assure you it was an accident. I’m ready to offer you a most liberal settlement, sir. Your wife explained what happened as they were taking you down the steps and the attendants got so overcome with laughter that they dropped you and broke your leg. The doctors say you’ll be good as new, walking just fine. They didn’t have anything to with what happened to your balls, I mean your testicles.” He hid a snicker behind his fist. “You can, well, you know, you can, uh function normally in, you know ...uh when you’re aroused. As soon as they take out the stitches, I mean.”

“Are you an animal lover?” I asked him.

“Well, my wife and I do have a pet. Why do you ask?”

“Your settlement will have to be pretty damn high to save that damn cat’s life!”


Red Evans author On Ice

Sunday, October 14, 2007

The Best Way to Fight a Bully - 2

A victimized kid in Ohio shoots four schoolmates. A bullied, outcast in Pennsylvania talks his mother into buying him a 9mm semi-automatic weapon to take to school. It seems that sometimes the stakes in schoolyard fights can be raised to a deadly level. We shouldn't be surprised. In the savage world of elementary school, one teacher of my acquaintance estimates that at least a third of all children are the victims of bullies at least for part of their lives.
Another source-a pediatrician- says that, if you include high school, probably two-thirds of all the people who have attended school in America have a story to tell about being the victim of someone or a group of someones who use their physical or social power to injure them.

‘Two-thirds’ seems sort of extreme. If two out of three kids have been bullied, then who’s left to be the bully? The answer, as revealed by interviews with kids on both sides of the bully line, is that last year’s victim becomes this year’s bully. There are lots of reasons for the shift in power over the years: the things that make you queen of the hill in third grade may count for nothing in junior high.

So for those people-parents, teachers, family, who are charged with protecting their kid from bullies, there’s an additional morally compelling question: after you protect your child from the class bully, how do you prevent your child from becoming next year’s bully? (The problem won’t go away until parents on both sides of the power struggle see it as a serious matter.)

Of course, there is no single answer, but a very important clue lies in the stories we tell our kids. Stories are sometimes more important than sermons. In stories, we get to be all the characters if we want. In sermons, it’s easier to discount the voice of the preacher who, let’s face it, often sounds a lot like a bully.

So what stories do you want to tell our kids? There’s a whole genre of young adult (YA) fiction about bullies and their victims. The typical story line has the bully vanquished by the victim. But if it’s true that most kids play both roles at some time in their lives, then these stories alienate the (temporary) bully and simultaneously aggrandize their behavior. Basically, most stories simply shift the power relationships without questioning the nature of bully behavior.

And so, I was delighted to come across Cheryl Tardif’s Whale Song, It’s not a story about bullying, it’s a tale of youth and loss and redemption. Folded up in the middle of it though, is a thread about an angry, racist, destructive kid. Because this is a minor thread in a larger story with some very spiritual concerns, the preachy tone is missing. Instead the author is able to explore the pain and loss and humiliation that’s at the heart of the bully’s behavior. It’s a story that just might let the kid who’s temporarily in the bully’s seat see his or her own behavior and accept responsibility without having to take on a gigantic load of guilt.

As I said, Whale Song has a lot of other things on its mind. But by being so busy elsewhere, it manages to offer a wonderfully low-key message for kids on both sides of the bully line. I highly recommend it as a conversation starter on this and a few other special topics. You can buy Whale Song along with bang Bang at Amazon.

--Lynn Hoffman, author of THE NEW SHORT COURSE IN WINE and
the novel bang BANG which is all about a heroine fighting bullies.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Backyard Check Required

One of my favorite past times is watching Jay Leno's "Headline" segment each Monday night where he points out typos and other errors in all kinds of printed material.

This week, he displayed an ad from an organization looking to hire home health care professionals. Among the bullet pointed qualification requirements there was this sentence:

"Backyard check required."

Chuckle. Chuckle.

Unfortunately, spell check will not catch all the mistakes of a well-intentioned writer, especially when the incorrect word is spelled correctly. Spell check assumes we writers know what we are doing and will not question you about a "backyard check" being a valid step toward gainful employment. (Perhaps that's a good idea, but that's a blog of another color.)

Since I am poking fun at this ad, I will offer another error of this ilk. It comes from my own writing.

In a screenplay I submitted to a contest five years ago, I included this sentence:

"He walked in the room with nothing but a towel wrapped around his waste."

Ewwwww! What I meant to write was, of course, "wrapped around his waist."

Here we have the dreaded homophone error: words that sound alike, but have different meanings. (Brake/break. Mail/Male) This mistake is among the easiest to commit, the most difficult to catch and as in my example, one of the most embarrassing.

Two actions keep one from making these mistakes.

1. Have a friend proof your work.
2. Read your work aloud.

These steps take an investment of time, but isn't the difference between waste/waist worth it?

Perhaps you have a homophone error you'd like to share?

____

Karen Harrington is the author of the novel JANEOLOGY (Spring 2008/Kunati Books).

The Best Way to Fight a Bully

A kid in Ohio shoots four schoolmates. A bullied, outcast in Pennsylvania talks his mother into buying him a 9mm semi-automatic weapon to take to school. (Thanks, Mom!)
It seems that sometimes the stakes in schoolyard fights can be raised to a deadly level. We shouldn't be surprised. In the savage world of elementary school, one teacher of my acquaintance estimates that at least a third of all children are the victims of bullies at least for part of their lives. Another source-a pediatrician- says that, if you include high school, probably two-thirds of all the people who have attended school in America have a story to tell about being the victim of someone or a group of someones who use their physical or social power to injure them.

‘Two-thirds’ seems sort of extreme. If two out of three kids have been bullied, then who’s left to be the bully? The answer, as revealed by interviews with kids on both sides of the bully line, is that last year’s victim becomes this year’s bully. There are lots of reasons for the shift in power over the years: the things that make you queen of the hill in third grade may count for nothing in junior high.

So for those people-parents, teachers, family, who are charged with protecting their kid from bullies, there’s an additional morally compelling question: after you protect your child from the class bully, how do you prevent your child from becoming next year’s bully? (The problem won’t go away until parents on both sides of the power struggle see it as a serious matter.)

Of course, there is no single answer, but a very important clue lies in the stories we tell our kids. Stories are sometimes more important than sermons. In stories, we get to be all the characters if we want. In sermons, it’s easier to discount the voice of the preacher who, let’s face it, often sounds a lot like a bully.

So what stories do you want to tell our kids? There’s a whole genre of young adult (YA) fiction about bullies and their victims. The typical story line has the bully vanquished by the victim. But if it’s true that most kids play both roles at some time in their lives, then these stories alienate the (temporary) bully and simultaneously aggrandize their behavior. Basically, most stories simply shift the power relationships without questioning the nature of bully behavior.

And so, I was delighted to come across Cheryl Tardif’s Whale Song, It’s not a story about bullying, it’s a tale of youth and loss and redemption. Folded up in the middle of it though, is a thread about an angry, racist, destructive kid. Because this is a minor thread in a larger story with some very spiritual concerns, the preachy tone is missing. Instead the author is able to explore the pain and loss and humiliation that’s at the heart of the bully’s behavior. It’s a story that just might let the kid who’s temporarily in the bully’s seat see his or her own behavior and accept responsibility without having to take on a gigantic load of guilt.

As I said, Whale Song has a lot of other things on its mind. But by being so busy elsewhere, it manages to offer a wonderfully low-key message for kids on both sides of the bully line. I highly recommend it as a conversation starter on this and a few other special topics. You can buy Whale Song along with bang Bang at Amazon.

--Lynn Hoffman, author of THE NEW SHORT COURSE IN WINE and
the novel bang BANG which is all about a heroine fighting bullies.

Friday, October 12, 2007

'Creating a Character Wall' on WritersReaders.com

Cheryl Kaye Tardif recently attended a writer's conference and had the pleasure of meeting renowned book marketing expert and author Jerry D. Simmons.

In his TIPS for WRITERS newsletter, Jerry had this to say:

"Recently I was fortunate to meet author Cheryl Kaye Tardif and she graciously agreed to submit some of her fabulous articles to my newsletter. To read this week’s edition, click Creating a Character Wall ."

http://www.cherylktardif.com

Milan Kundera lifts The Curtain on Writing the Novel

Kundera's book about the novel is not exactly as billed. These are not seven
essays. What we have is a set of notes, some speculations and assertions about
the past and future of the novel and its place in the world of literature and art.

Since these happen to be the spectulations of one of the most radically unsentimental
writers of our time, they are very valuable indeed. As the thoughts of a writer
whose work inspires other novelists (well, okay, this novelist) to keep writing,
they're especially precious.

Kundera urges us to see the novel in the context of its history. He suggests that its
reason for being is that the novel can tell a particular kind of truth, that it can
get to the heart of things and tear back the curtain of interpretation that veils
our realities.

The specifics of this arguement are as enlightening as the arguement itself:Cervantes'
humor as a reprise of what grownups know about the world, Rabelais' coinage of
a word for the humorless, Musil's irony, Stifter's prescience. Read Kundera to enlarge
your circle of acquaintance and turn literary acquaintances into teachers.

For all the inspiration that Kundera's work affords writers, this is a very pessimistic
book. With the death of historical awareness and appreciation for the moment comes
the death of the novel. Without 'the history of various arts, there's not much left
to works of art'. It's the pessimism of the true conservative-one whose heritage and
nation have vanished and being now incapable of growth can only be shored up
against the inevitable ravages of the new.

This perspective encourages-I think-an appreciation for the everyday, a Gestalt
shrink's awareness of the here and now. It's the kind of appreciation that rubs off on
the reader. If the reader is also a writer, this is the stuff that keeps you going.


Lynn Hoffman, author of bang BANG (a novel) and The New Short Course in Wine

Why Query Letters Don't Work

Below, you will find a list of 103 Agents who would not read my work.

The list will never get longer. For fiction, I think cold querying was probably invented by Don Quixote.

That's an inflammatory statement, you’re thinking, “What proof does he have?”

How ‘bout more than seven years of trying? Look here, I’m not talking clumsy first draft trying although early on it might have been. My typical query envelope would include a cover letter on stationery with a strong sell line. Also included would be the first few chapters of the manuscript, double-spaced on good paper, and the obligatory SASE. Professional in appearance and style? Yes.

Never not ever did anyone ask for the entire manuscript.

Now, you’re thinking, “The guy's a chump. Can’t write a coherent sentence.”

Hmmm. I did sell the manuscript and it has earned critical praise from some pretty tough sources, Kirkus among them - but the sale didn't come through the query process.

The truth about fiction queries is, you could be Tom Clancy querying, “The Search for Red October”, and still not have a chance. Agents are overwhelmed by truckloads of well prepared queries and writing so polished it glows. But think of this – a hundred envelopes arriving EVERY DAY and less than an hour to evaluate them. Can you imagine how they smoosh together into an amorphous glob? The Moon will truly need to be in the Seventh House (and Jupiter aligned with Mars GWS) before the query YOU send will catch the eye of the one perfect agent out there waiting for you. In other words, me bucko, your chances of winning the pick twenty-six are better.

Here is a hard truth a lot of people don’t want you to know: 99% of all debut writer deals are made as a result of inside connections. The remaining silly millimeter % of query sales come to writers who’re smart enough to choose a subject there’s a severe shortage of, like Latino young adult romances, or Iranian Moslem girls whose brothers are suicide bombers. Not dissing those genres, just pointing out how if you wrote one your ms could be written on used Kleenex in ETL (English third language) and still pull offers.

Listen up! Everyone who reads this and has something to gain by perpetuating the myth is going to go nuts trying to convince you I’m full of it. The truth is, they’re visualizing the way things were thirty years ago, before word processors and the internet and when only a million people were trying to write. Now, it’s fifteen million in the US alone, and by the way, did I mention that number is ten years old?

Look, the query game is the American salesman at work; make a living peddling hope. Wake up, guppie. Think writers magazines, how-to books, and authoritative voices in general. YOU are their “end market” and their contents your Pablum.
Is it possible to actually win in this zero sum game? Unless you have real firepower credentials, like a novel that sold 50,000 copies, or you’ve just been released from Sing Sing and can implicate somebody in high office, you’re wasting time querying when you could be learning to write better. Right now, refocus on developing your craft. At the same time find out where published authors hang out and start talking to them. It will take time, and above all as in any friendship there must be genuine synergy. It only takes one! Find the person who thinks like you. They will willingly help! Rededicate yourself to the craft, cause when the time comes you’ll only get one chance.

It’ll happen like this: you will exchange genuine criticisms of each other’s work. Your friend will read your story and like it. He’ll introduce you to just the right editor, or agent. From there, getting read is a piece of cake. Make sure your ms kicks serious keister cause like I said before, one chance is all you get.

Good luck. Oh, you’re probably wondering where that list of agents is. Now that I’ve sold my ms, I decided not to reveal the names. I have another in the works, and besides, you never know who might be outside with a gun.


The novel Art is referring to is now named "The Secret Ever Keeps", and was released by Kunati Books in April 2007. Click the link to peek!

I still don’t know my RSS from my elbow…

And why the hell would I? After all, I’m just an author and an author writes stories doesn’t he? Shit, how I sometimes wish that this were true, for it’s become clear to me over the past 2 years that actually writing the bloody story is just the start of it! You see, once the prose are finished and the characters happy in their new place, these days the author then has to spend pretty much all of his time presenting himself and his work to the world outside of his book. Now that used to mean occasionally sitting around in carefully selected book stores (preferably near your house), sipping crap coffee and smiling at browsers in an effort to convince them that your book about assisted suicide would be a better buy than the cookery book that they actually came in to the shop for. It used to mean, if you were lucky, radio interviews and newspaper ads. Today though marketing means blogging and any author who tells you otherwise is in denial (as I was until my publisher recently and rather brutally beat me into submission). So now I have my own blog. I guest post to blogs. I read blogs. I comment on blogs. I still don’t know my RSS from my elbow but I will do one day; and this from someone who only six months ago thought that blogging was for losers. In fact, thinking about it, now would be a good time for me to set the record straight on this point because, in my ignorance, I could not have been more wrong. It turns out that the blogging community is ram packed with vibrant and talented people who simply couldn’t produce the quality of work that they do without fully engaging the world outside the blog. For me bloggers are producing some of the best writing, the funniest observations and the sharpest comment (political or social) that you can read today and I personally am pleased to be able to contribute to that achievement at whatever level. But aside from the fundamental things that blogging provides (whether it be commercial opportunity, freedom of expression, communication of ideas, friendship or just plain fun) I still gotta ask, where the hell is all this going? Big question I know, and it isn’t one that I intend to try and answer here, although I would like to close by putting a rather strange thought out there.

You see, last weekend I was reading the latest issue of New Scientist. Now I’m not a regular subscriber but me and the girlfriend were on our way to Greece and she likes me to look clever at the airport (this while she fills her boots with copies of Heat magazine and pictures of celebrities without make up…..and by the way, have you seen Cameron Diaz without filler? Scary shit). Anyway, there was an article in the mag’ that laid out an alternative way of considering reality (bear with me) and a possible answer to the question of life, the universe and everything. If the boffin is to be believed, it turns out that the answer could well be 42. He argued rather convincingly that, whilst the scientific community generally accepts that the universe and everything in it can be defined by maths, more fundamentally than this, the universe is maths. As far as I understood it, his theory would mean that you, me, everything we see and experience is simply the result of some as yet undefined (but very simple) mathematical operation. And here’s the crunch. If you can accept this, or even consider that it may be possible that reality is a mathematical expression, then it may go some way to understanding why humanity seems to be moving, with every new fangled gadget and dogs bollox processor, ever closer toward representing itself in a digital format. Weird I know, but maybe not such a stretch if you put the ideas of evolution and a mathematical reality together because after all, wouldn’t that be the result; a super species that disappears up its own digital arse?

Andy Tilley
Author: Recycling Jimmy

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Contest: 'Create a Corpse'


When bestselling suspense author Cheryl Kaye Tardif is asked what she does for a living, she likes to say this: "I kill people off for a living."

You don't want to miss reading the rest of this tongue-in-cheek post about mystery, murder, messages...and corpses. Author Karen Harrington invited Cheryl to share a bit about her mystery/suspense novels and while visiting Karen's blog A Writer's Diary, Cheryl decided to hold an impromptu and ‘deadly’ little contest.

Visit Karen Harrington: A Writer's Diary for more information.

Author Cheryl Kaye Tardif helps 3 Non-Profit Organizations

The following article recently appeared on Grow Mercy, a wonderful blog by a wonderful and caring person--Stephen Thomas Berg. Stephen invited me to share how Whale Song, my recent novel about love, lies, sacrifice and transformation, is affecting people's lives.

Begging for Change

First, I’d like to pose a few questions. If you saw a beggar on the sidewalk, hand out for a bit of change, would you scowl, judge him and walk by? Or would you say ‘Sorry, I don’t have any change.” Or would you buy him a coffee and donut? Or would you hand him some money?

I know that these questions pose a moral dilemma for most. The first thing that seems to come to mind is that the beggar will only use the money for nefarious purposes--booze or drugs. And we have an aversion to helping anyone with those addiction problems. We also judge these people. Some of us think, “I worked hard for my money. Why should I give it to him when he can’t be bothered to get a job?” Some of us feel that we should ‘protect them’, buy them food or drink so they don’t spend it on a bottle of rye. Some of us give the money, thinking ‘it’s his choice’.

A while ago I heard two girls in a downtown Wendy’s discussing a man pushing a cart outside. They called him a “bum”, laughed at him, and said he “should get a job”. In their callous naivetĂ©, they thought a job would solve everything for this man. They had no concept of the fact that a person with addictions is physically and mentally unable to keep a job, without a lot of support and therapy. Spurred on by a burst of anger, I stormed outside the Wendy’s with a nearly full container of fries and I asked the man if he wanted them. The light in his eyes was the only answer I needed. Everything he owned was in that shopping cart, with no money for the day’s meal. I talked to him for about 5 minutes, and that man had stories to tell. An avid reader and educated fellow, he once had a job, a family…everything. Then he lost them all. I gave him some money, let him make his own choice for his life.

The opinion of these girls is a common one, and I will admit that even I have had those thoughts, once, about two years ago. Until something happened to change the way I view other people, especially those begging for change. Something that made me want to face those girls and yell, “Don’t laugh at him! That could be your father! Your brother!” But I didn’t. Instead, I went outside and spoke with a man whose life was measured by the belongings in a rusty shopping cart. I’m glad I did. And I owe my actions to my brother Jason.

A number of years ago, I invited my younger brother to come stay with us in Edmonton, Alberta, to look for work and help him get a fresh start. He had been living on Salt Spring Island in BC, and like a typical young person, he’d been getting into some minor trouble. In his early 20s, he moved to Edmonton, and everyone thought his life was just beginning. We never suspected what would happen. Not really.

On January 23rd, 2006, my 28-year-old computer-genius brother with his crazy humor, copper hair and freckled face was brutally murdered. It happened early in the morning in a cold, dark alley not far from the Mustard Seed Church, with no witnesses. I try not to think of his last moments, but it is hard not to imagine him begging for help, or crying for my Mom. Even typing this now is difficult. It’s been over a year since Jason died, yet sometimes it feels like yesterday. I miss him. I miss his laughter, his practical jokes and his generous spirit.

My brother led the life of that man with the cart. He had been homeless for a time, had tried numerous jobs, but his alcohol addiction overwhelmed him. He was on medication, off and on, for depression, and refused to keep in touch with our family. In some ways, he was determined to break free from his lifestyle; in some ways, he wanted us to be separate from it. Even though he lived in the same city, I never knew where he was from one day to the next, and long months would go by with no contact. To be truthful, I was relieved. There is nothing worse than watching someone you love spiral out of control and know that there’s nothing you can do to stop it. His choice, his life.

The morning that the police found Jason was a day like any other for me. I didn’t see the news, and even if I had, they had not released a name. So I went to work, writing in my office like any other day. I was finishing a second version of Whale Song in hopes that it would get picked up by a bigger publisher. And then someone knocked on my door…or the doorbell rang. I don’t remember. When I saw the two men on my doorstep I immediately assumed they were politicians. It was election day. They asked if I was Cheryl Tardif. I said yes. Then they asked me if I had a brother named Jason Kaye. I said yes and let them inside, thinking my brother was in trouble with the law.

It’s funny, that day--funny in a weird dreamlike way. Everyone in my family, including me, had always said that we were expecting a call from the police to say Jason was dead. We had even imagined that he’d end up in an accident, or stagger into a ditch and peacefully fall asleep. We knew he was an alcoholic and we knew he suffered from mental illness. But still, as I sat at my kitchen table with the two detectives, I didn’t really see it coming. Not at first. Not murder.

But someone was watching over me. My brother had left me some ‘gifts’. My husband showed up a minute later. He’d finished work extremely early that day. (Thank you, Jason.) When the detectives told me my brother was dead, that he had been murdered, there was no screaming or crying, no sinking to the floor like I would have imagined. Just a quiet calm that settled over my heart, and a quiet voice in my head that said, “This is the day you knew would come. Jason’s gone.”

The police told me that they had some problems tracking down Jason’s next of kin. After all, my last name is Tardif. I use Kaye, my maiden name, for writing purposes only. They called some Kayes in the area but none of them are related to us. And here was another gift. Jason had told his friends that his sister Cheryl (no last name) was an author in Edmonton who had wrote a book about whales. That’s it. That’s what the police had to go on. They Googled my name--and there I was.

Another gift: three months later, Whale Song was picked up by a bigger publisher and was re-released as a special, revised and expanded edition in April 2007, with a special dedication to my brother Jason. Whale Song is his book now. And as a result, I decided early on that it would benefit others who are struggling with life, addictions and mental illness.

That is why every time you buy a copy of Whale Song, you are helping three organizations: Hope Mission, Mustard Seed Church and the Bissell Centre. 5% of my royalties will go to EACH of these, to help combat poverty, homelessness and addictions. I invite you to order today, spare that bit of change, because I’m begging for it now…on behalf of those in need.

Order Whale Song from Amazon.com

Order Whale Song from Chapters.ca

Thank you again for letting me share my brother Jason with your visitors. For more information on Jason Kaye, please visit his memorial site at http://www.jaysporchmonkeys.com/

I am also begging for change—not money, but change in how we look at others. The next time you see a beggar with his hand out, I hope each of you will think for a moment, “There, but for the grace of God, go I.” Spare a little change in how you think, grow mercy…and gain a bit more soul.

~Cheryl Kaye Tardif, author of Whale Song, The River and Divine Intervention

http://www.whalesongbook.com/

http://www.cherylktardif.com/

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Minor vs. Major Characters



Have you ever noticed how many minor characters in stories are infinitely more interesting than the majors?

I started thinking about this after my husband and I watched the movie Failure To Launch. The problems with this movie were many, but there was one character who was memorable.

The story's romantic female lead (Sarah Jessica Parker) has an odd, insomniac roommate (played marvelously by Zoey Deschanel). The roommate is plagued by a mockingbird constantly singing outside her window. She is also the object of affection for many men, but dusts them off like lint - until she meets someone who mentions that he owns a BB gun. The pair falls in love while trying to BB gun said mockingbird out of the tree. She is consistently dead-pan and emotionless and taken to arm-slapping others whilst her paramour is a hapless, rose wielding romantic. In other words, an interesting match.

The rest of the movie is sunk by the cliched boy-meets-and-loses-girl formula we've seen a thousand times. But wouldn't it have been interesting if the writer had explored the side story to a greater degree and more fully developed the odd pairing who bond over dark mischief? I realize the answer to this question lies with the guaranteed formula that will produce the most money. However, novelists are not constrained by this formula.

Ultimately, watching bad movies or reading bad books can be instructive and inspiring by looking at those characters who truly stand out from the others by virtue of their strangeness.

This morning as I sat down to work on my current novel, I felt a tug toward one of my own secondary characters - an advice spewing teen kleptomaniac, who is blissfully aware that her parents ignore her. I realized she needs greater development. That I wanted to know more about her thoughts and motivations and why she was so comfortable being the wallpaper of her family.

So perhaps the lesson is this: go ahead and develop that story in your head and then reverse the major and minor characters and see what happens.

Perhaps you have some examples of minor film or book characters who were more interesting than the lead protagonist?

- Karen Harrington
Author of JANEOLOGY, Spring 2008 from Kunati Books

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Beating the Aussies and a new blog too...what a wonderful day!

The blog bug finally got me, so much so that I now have my own! Who'd have thought it six months ago. Back then, Andy Tilley getting involved in the blogging community was about as likley as England beating the Australians in the rugby world quarter cup final.

And guess what,

England 12 - 10 Australia

It has been a mighty fine day here in the desert, I can tell you. Kirk, an Australian collegue of mine, had been so confident that he already had his tickets bought fo rthe semi final at a cost of £1000. Additional to that, he'd lashed out £50 on a new rugby shirt. As my very knowledgeable friend Jonesy put it:

New rugby shirt, £40
Semi final tickets to see England vs Australia, £1000
Kirk's face as he storms out of the room........PRICELESS.

Smallville's Kristin Kreuk and Canadian Idol Eva Avila Read Whale Song

During my August 2007 'Touring the World' virtual book tour, the following article appeared (although now slightly modified) on My Book, The Movie. I was very excited when I realized that I would have a chance to dream a bit and discuss a possible movie version of my novel Whale Song, a novel that is haunting, compelling, mysterious and emotional. Great components for a feature film!

As I wrote the novel back in 2003, I could see the story roll across my inner vision, frame by frame, like a movie on slow motion. I saw the main character ‘Sarah’, who begins the story in the prologue as a mid-twenties ad exec. She then flashes back to her life as a child. In 2003, I imagined the younger Sarah being played by actress Mackenzie Rosman from TV’s 7th Heaven fame. Mackenzie has Sarah’s dark (Italian?) looks and tenacious spirit. But we’d need a younger actress to play Sarah now.

I also had a clear picture of who would play the adult Sarah. Kristin Kreuk, ‘Lana’ from the popular TV show Smallville. Again, she has the darker coloring, and I think she’s a wonderful actress who knows how to pull off emotional scenes. Shortly after this article appeared on My Book, The Movie, I was contacted by a Kristin Kreuk fan who gave me the actress’ contact information. I sent out a brief email to her agent and was invited to send Kristin a copy of Whale Song, which I must admit, made my day.

More recently, I came across a young woman who also makes me think of Sarah. I’m a Canadian Idol addict and last season’s winner, Eva Avila, was my personal favorite from day one. I’ve been emailing Eva, and she is actually reading Whale Song right now. In one of my emails I mentioned that she would make a perfect ‘Sarah’, and she commented back that she was actually looking to get into acting. The more I think about it, the more I think Whale Song would be a perfect role for Eva to start off her acting career. I would be pleased if either Eva or Kristin played my ‘Sarah’.

For Adam, Sarah’s love interest, I always visualized Nathaniel Arcand as the adult Adam. Nathaniel is from North of 60 fame and has starred in numerous TV shows and films. But again, some years have passed now. I created the younger Adam somewhat around Zac Efron, the teen actor who played in TV’s Summerland, and more recently in Hairspray. I think Eva Avila and Zac Efron would make an intriguing combination.

Whale Song has captured a lot of film interest. Currently, it is in the hands of numerous film producers, including some major players from Hollywood and one of Canada’s leading female producers. I know that the project has to be right for a producer; they have to envision it too.

I know in my blood that Whale Song will make a great film. I know there won’t be many dry eyes at the end. I can imagine the movie score filled with Eva Avila tunes, along with music by my other talented friends—Alexia Melnychuk (singer) and Julie Blue (film composer). Whale Song is a movie waiting to happen. And I am waiting patiently for the right time, right producer.

So until the movie is made, I hope you’ll pick up a copy of Whale Song, a haunting and compelling novel that will change the way you view life…and death.

Order Whale Song from Amazon. Or you can order from any other online retailer, plus don’t forget your local bookstores, chains and independents.

Start your Christmas shopping early and help others in need. A portion of my royalties from Whale Song goes to 3 organizations to help combat poverty, homelessness and addictions.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

You have 10 seconds to make a life or death decision...

Let a madman take your child, or watch your son die.
Choose!

This is the premise for bestselling author Cheryl Kaye Tardif's new UNPUBLISHED novel, Children of the Fog.

A mother's descent into alcoholism and madness leads to strange apparitions and a face-to-face encounter with the monster who abducted her son--a man known only as...
The Fog.

Read an excerpt from Children of the Fog

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

If I did It...I'd be Crazy to Tell You! Wouldn't I?

Of course, I am referring to the controversy surrounding the recent non-fiction title If I Did It: Confessions of the Killer by the Goldman Family, which made #2 on the New York Times bestselling list. This is the confession of all confessions--if it's true. Or a warped piece of creative fiction, if it isn't.

Eric Kampmann, publisher of what many seem to be calling "the O.J. book", spoke tonight at the Express Yourself...Authors' Conference held at the Sheraton Park Ridge Hotel in Valley Forge, PA. As a Canadian visiting Pennsylvania, but being familiar with the O.J. media blitz and news about this book, I found it interesting to observe the faces of the people in the room as Kampmann described his passionate belief that this book has its place. Many showed a hint of distaste--not necessarily because of the decision the publisher made to tackle such a sensitive issue, but perhaps more because O.J. Simpson's theoretical 'confession' was being told at all, and in such a shocking way. Kampmann's connection to the Goldman family and to seeing that a certain subtle justice was served by publishing If I Did It seemed apparent in some of his speech, and one could only admire that he saw the people and emotions behind the book and not just dollar signs. Certainly, this story/confession/non-fiction work would have been told eventually, and I can relate to the emotion surrounding the murder of a loved one and to wanting a sense of justice.

My youngest brother Jason Kaye was murdered in Edmonton in January 2006. Since around 2000, he had lived a troubled life of alcoholism and mental illness, making him an unstable and unreliable employee. Without a job, he quickly found himself out on the street. But Jason had a heart of gold and a wacky sense of humor. And this kid was amazingly brilliant with a computer! He was only 28 when he was beaten and left to die in a cold, dark alley. His murderer has not been identified or found; he will probably never be found.

I truly empathize with the Goldmans. No none wants to feel that a murderer has gotten away with the crime. Or even worse, bragged about it or profited in any way from it. The Ron Goldman Foundation for Justice was set up to "empower, inspire, motivate and assist those people that are victims of crime" and "positively impact the lives of these survivors who start each day with pain, grief, trauma and injustice". This book, O.J.'s alleged confession, was their way to ensure that any profit would benefit other victims. Good for them!

Believe me, murder affects people in different ways, even the strongest of people. People who know me would say I'm pretty levelheaded and strong--stubborn even--but I had an extremely hard time leaving my house after my brother's murder. I lived in the same city but far from the rough east end where Jason had died. Yet, I had problems facing people and constantly felt anxiety and panic because even my neighborhood, which was far removed from Jason's world, didn't feel safe anymore.

Although I didn't have the resources to set up a foundation, I found my own way to make some sense of a senseless death, which is what I believe the Goldmans are trying to do. My brother read one of my novels--and only one. Whale Song. I had given him a copy of the original 2003 version shortly after it was released. I found that copy in his room when I went to clean it out. The pages were stained and worn, the cover dull in places. But that book was the most wonderful, beautiful thing I saw in that dingy room. It meant that my brother, throughout all of his downs and being homeless and moving from shelter to street to shelter, had kept a fragile grasp on at least one possession that meant something to him.

Seeing that battered, bruised, worn copy of Whale Song was a gift. For me. And I value it. In response to Jason's murder and finding my book, I have dedicated the new, improved, expanded version of Whale Song to my brother Jason. You will read about him in one of the front pages, and I am permanently donating a percentage of my royalties to the 3 organizations that did their best to help him. Hope Mission, the Bissell Centre and the Mustard Seed Church are doing what they can to make a difference--to combat addictions, homelessness and poverty.

Of course this won't bring my brother back. Neither will the Goldmans' book bring back their son. But out of grief and despair can come the most defining moments of clarity and hope. And we all deserve to find that.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Self-Publishing that Works FOR You!

September 28 was officially Day 1 of the 8th Annual Express Yourself...Authors' Conference, sponsored by Infinity Publishing, and I have to share some of what I observed and learned. First, I feel I should clarify that I was recently published by traditional publisher Kunati Books, a new company based in Ontario, Canada, with offices in Florida, US. Kunati has made it very clear that they wish to support my endeavors to help other authors and they know that I am particularly passionate about self-publishing, since I originally self-published 3 very successful titles, and not with Infinity (sorry, guys!). Publishing companies like Kunati make an author's journey far more satisfying, and I must thank them for this support.

That being said, I must also thank Infinity Publishing for allowing me to be a small part of their journey. I feel honored to be part of this conference and share my experiences with other authors. I have gotten a true sense of "family" with these Infinity authors, employees and the management, and they have extended this to many authors published by other companies, including myself. They have all made me feel extremely welcome and valued. Thank you!

There are so many things that have impressed me over the years about Infinity's strategies, service and journey. I have been 'watching' them for about 6 years, and became their Canadian Author Liaison less than a year ago. Today I had the pleasure of touring Infinity Publishing's facilities, and again...WOW! I toured one other publishing company a few years ago, and I have to say, Infinity has far surpassed anything I saw there. Not only is this company efficient in their processes (largely due, I think, to the sharp wit and bubbly authority presented by their office 'queen' Michelle), Infinity is like a well-oiled, organized machine that breathes synergistically with its authors. The company is clean and environmentally conscious, printing 288 pages a minute and anywhere from 100-200 books per hour, depending on the books. I watched covers being printed, laminated, bound, cropped, all within minutes. (And, Kelly, I even had a chance to see how your book's information has been packaged! ;)

After breakfast, Tom Gregory, President of Infinity Publishing, welcomed the conference attendees, and I found him to be genuinely interested in not only the success of his company, but the success of the authors--ALL authors! You don't find that often. I never met the President of the other self-publishing company I toured. :) One thing that impressed me with Infinity is the expense that this publishing company puts into having an event that benefits their authors and other publishers' authors. They have made the Express Yourself...Authors' Conference affordable for any author.

I was also impressed with Infinity's ability to get top-notch speakers to present at their conferences. I have been receiving Jerry D. Simmons' newsletter for a few years now and finally got to meet him. It is awesome to put a face and voice to a name and newsletter one receives via email. :) Other guest speakers were Dan Poynter, Penny Sansevieri and Brian Jud, who are big names in book marketing. Infinity also managed to entice Dave Lieber, an award-winning columnist, and Eric Kampmann, publisher of the controversial O.J. book If I Did It: Confessions of the Killer by the Goldman Family. I'll go more into what these speakers talked about as soon as I have more time.

P.S. Jerry, I promise I will get you some articles on marketing books as soon as possible and I look forward to being of assistance to other writers via your newsletter. Thank you for this opportunity. :) CKT