Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Neil Flambé #5 IS LIVE!

Today is the release day for the 5th Neil Flambé caper, Neil Flambé and the Bard's Banquet.


Every book you read has an acknowledgments section, usually thanking agents, family, friends, etc. I wanted to do something a little different this time, so I made my acknowledgments a kind of mini-essay on how a book is actually put together. It's a bit long, but here it is (or you can read it at the back of the book!)


Acknowledgements

All right savvy readers. I know that no one ever reads these Acknowledgements  (except for relatives who want to make sure they are included. Hi Mom!) but this particular back page thank-you list is going to contain some worthwhile advice. I promise.

A lot of people think writers work alone, that a book is the end-product of one person’s effort and creativity, a story born from the crucible of the tortured artist’s brain, sweat and pain.

This is total baloney.

A book is a team effort and these acknowledgments are going to serve as a roadmap (of sorts) for how a book goes from an idea in my brain to the book you are holding in your hands.

So yes, it starts with me having some idea of where Neil and his gang of friends are headed to and what enemies they will face. But then I start to do research so that I know what the world will look like. In this case, the world is London.

So I buy guidebooks. I visit London (if I can) and take pics, write notes, etc. I rely on the amazing research done by Shakespeare scholars, mapmakers, dictionary writers and (yes) Wikipedia.

BIT OF ADVICE #1 – Do research! Even a fiction book needs to be real.

Only then do I start writing a first draft. I should take a moment here to thank everyone who makes fair trade coffee available at my neighborhood supermarket as well as the musicians who’s music inspires me while I’m sitting in my attic. For this book there was a lot of Gogol Bordello, Justin Rutledge and choral music from the Tallis Scholars.

I finally get through the first draft, which then gets reviewed and ripped to shreds by my first team of editors – my wife Laura and my incredibly smart daughters Erin and Emily.  This might be BIT OF ADVICE #2 – always get someone to read your work who will rip it to shreds. The most useless advice you will ever get is “I liked it.” Ugh.

Then I do spend a lot of time BACK in my attic working and reworking the plot and characters until I think they are ready to submit to my amazing editor Julia Maguire.

BIT OF ADVICE #3 – Your first few drafts stink. They do. Everyone’s do. Writing is about carefully rewriting over and over.

Julia then goes through and points out the big stuff – the plot points that don’t actually make any sense. Round one of the editing process doesn’t even touch the (many) smaller mistakes in speliling, grammmer and uther stuf.

I go back and rewrite the book again and sometimes againandagain until we get the large issues worked out, and make sure the book works with the rest of the series, and then we do a final edit.

BIT OF ADVICE #4 – See #3, rinse, repeat. But also don’t lose heart. And don’t get angry (hard to do). Each person at each stage makes the book better.

Then the book gets sent to a copyeditor who goes over everything we’ve gone over with a proverbial fine-toothed comb. They always find dozens of mistakes. Some in spelling, some bigger. For this book, Kaitlin Sevrini did one of the best edits ever, and I am thankful.

Many institutions are cutting copy-editors from their budgets. That’s because they are idiots.

Of course, I also do the images for my books. So the biggest shoutout goes to Laurent Linn, who is simply fantastic at taking a rough idea from me, and pushing me to rework and rework it until it’s worth putting on the cover or inside the book.

Then there are the people who lay out the book, make the paper, the glue, the ink, bind the book, package the book, transports the book and on and on.

(There are so many more, my agent Michael Levine who talks to the big guns and Simon and Schuster, people such as Jon Anderson and Justin Chanda, to arrange contracts, marketing and so much more.)

Then there are the librarians and booksellers who get my book in the hands of readers who will get a kick out of the goofy adventures of a cocky chef who solves crimes and occasionally does his homework.

So, yes, in the end it’s all about you, the reader.


Thanks!


Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Baseballogy

I love winter, but am feeling a desire to watch some baseball. In honour of that "catchers and pitchers report in a few weeks!" mania, I'm posting this picture of the great Jackie Mitchell for your edification. As the story goes, she struck out Ruth and Gehrig in 1931.

This is from my upcoming book Baseballogy - available from Annick Press on Feb 3rd! Whether Mitchell did or didn't K the Bambino and the Iron Horse isn't the point. She was an awesome baseball player and features big in my chapter on women in baseball.

(NOTE: I also did all the pics for this book on my tablet, instead of transferring pen and ink sketches. It was fun!)


Monday, December 15, 2014

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Off the Eaten Path

I had a lot of fun working out a new idea with Ed Cassavoy from the Toronto Sun Travel Section.

An illustrated guide to eating weird stuff around the world.

The first one was based on my trips to China, and was in the Travel section today (December 6th).

For anyone who wasn't able to see it "live" here's the original.

2014 SOTS pic

I had a great day yesterday at the CBC Radio Sounds of the Season Open House. 

Armed with sharpies and a giant piece of paper I set up a donation jar and drew anything people paid me to draw.

The result? A weird "holiday party" with guests including James Bond, a Santa Fish, Avery the flying penguin, mermaids, skiing elephants... just about everything.


The total was almost 300 bucks! All proceeds went to Ontario Food Banks.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Rudolph the Red-nosed Radio

Every year I do a lino-cut print for the CBC Toronto's Sounds of the Season show. This year is December 5th at the Broadcast Centre. The prints are given (by me) to people who donate $100+ to support Ontario's Food Banks. (Details now up on the CBC website HERE).

As someone who writes about food a lot, the issue of access to nutrition is huge for me. There are usually about 300 takers each year. Here's a shot of this year's prints hanging to dry in my living room.

This year's print is a little different, and I want to explain why. It's the most personal print I've made.

The image is a radio. In fact it's a vintage 1930's RCA radio that I have had since I was a kid. I used to listen to old radio dramas and hockey games on this radio. It's how I fell in love with radio.

And I do love radio. I have worked in radio and I continue to work in radio (when possible). (I even do a podcast on kids books, which is basically a radio show by a different delivery vehicle).

This year's print is smaller than in year's past. It's about three inches wide by 5 inches high. Why so small? Because radio is shrinking, CBC Radio is in particular.

A series of federal governments have whacked the CBC and radio, in particular, has taken the brunt of the cuts.

This is tragic. It means the ability to tell great stories to Canadians front coast to coast is compromised. Hearing ads on Radio 2 is still killing me. Repeats, even of amazing shows, are becoming the norm.

It's a testament to the amazing people who work inside the CBC that they continue to make amazing radio despite all the pressures.

So, this year's print is being sent as a thank you to people who donate, but I'd like everyone who considers getting one to also think about what's happening to the CBC.

Heck, if you want, take a snapshot of this year's print and use it on t-shirts, the web, or letterhead on letters to your MP demanding the CBC receive stable funding.



Wednesday, November 12, 2014