Where In Amazon am I?

Amazon Rank

When I made the decision to self-publish Guitar Hero, I knew that it wouldn’t be easy. While visions of best-seller lists danced in my head, articles about the difficulty of marketing, pricing, and getting noticed among the thousands of books being published every year brought my feet back firmly to the ground. But then, earlier this week, I discovered that both of my books ranked #86 and 87 on Amazon’s list of Children’s books in the sub-sub-sub category of multigenerational stories.

I’m walking on air. 🙂

Books ranked on Amazon

2013 QWF Awards Gala

And the winner is… Celebrating Montreal Writers

2013 QWF Awards

Last night, the Montreal writing community gathered to celebrate the 15th annual Quebec Writers’ Federation Awards. It was a cold night, the kind where you can almost feel snowflakes forming even though it’s not snowing, but inside the Corona Virgin Mobile Theatre, wine flowed and appetizers floated around the room as past winners and nominees mingled with family, friends and fans. The host for this gala event was Ann-Marie MacDonald whose book Fall On Your Knees was an Oprah Book Club pick.

If books are on your Christmas list (as they should be), you might want to take a look at these winners.

Cole Foundation Prize for Translation (French to English): Donald Winkler for The Major Verbs

Mavis Gallant Prize for Non-Fiction: Adam Leith Gollner for The Book of Immortality

Concordia University First Book Prize: Andrew Szymanski for The Barista and I

A.M. Klein Prize for Poetry: Ken Howe for The Civic-Mindedness of Trees

Children’s and Young Adult Literature: Paul Blackwell for Undercurrent

Hugh MacLennan Prize for Fiction: Saleema Nawaz for Bone and Bread

Monique Polak reading from her new book "So Much It Hurts"

What to read after The Hunger Games

Maybe the title of this post should be “What to Read after Re-reading The Hunger Games in Preparation for the Second Movie,” but I thought it would be too long.

But seriously, there are some new books just out that are worth a look. Montreal’s Young Adult authors have had a lot to celebrate in the past few weeks. The TD Children’s Book Awards were at the end of October, and besides myself, a few other authors also held book launches in the past week.

Monique Polak (pictured above) launched So Much It Hurts, a novel about violence in teen relationships. It’s a story drawn from her experience as a teenager. The children’s bookstore, Babar en Ville, was crowded as the writing community, family and friends got together to congratulate Monique on her 14th novel. If you read my post about my book launch, you’ll remember that Monique encouraged me to turn a short story into a novel that became Guitar Hero. I’m a fan of this award-winning author and can’t wait to read her latest.

So Much It Hurts

Becoming a statistic was never part of Iris’s plan. Iris is sorry. Sorry that she no longer hangs out with her BFF. Sorry that she’s not closer to her mother. But most of all, she’s sorry she makes Mick angry.

If all the world’s a stage, then Iris’s life has become a violent drama, starring a man whose fists are at odds with the eloquence of his words.

Karen Avivi and Alexa Nazzaro held a joint book launch for their respective books, Shredded and The Pool Theory at Chapters. The description on the back cover makes these books a must read for me.


Shredded by Karen Avivi


Josie Peters thinks she’ll do anything to qualify for the Ultimate BMX freestyle event the summer before her senior year. She can handle road trips and back flips, but when flashy rider R.T. Torres tempts her with an easy “in,” the sacrifices required threaten to send Josie spinning out of control.

The Pool Theory by Alexa Nazzaro

The Pool Theory

The thing is, I’m still having trouble believing it’s mine. And when you can’t own something, it’s pretty hard to do anything else with it. That’s what Dr. Jacobi says, and she’s the only reason I even made it to grade ten, which I guess is where this “story” starts; with an honest-to-god real social life. Hell, I was even a tad less obsessed with avoiding Damian Schofield, who made me hate school to begin with.

Sometimes I can almost convince myself that I’m still there, at the beginning. But that’s before I remember that Annie Cooper is pregnant, and she claims it’s mine.

On November 19th, the Quebec Writers’ Federation is holding its annual QWF awards.  Paul Blackwell (pictured above) is nominated for his YA book Undercurrent.

FYI, there is one notable book that won a QWF award long before it won the Man Booker Prize, and that’s Yan Martel’s Life of Pi.

Stayed tuned for the winners!

Celebrating the end and a beginning

Yesterday was a day of celebration as my friends and family gathered at Babar Books in Pointe Claire to help me launch my first young adult novel, Guitar Hero. Some writers say that writing is a solitary process, but not for me. This book, from the beginning to the end, was created with the help of other writers in the Montreal community and the support of friends and family who believed I could do it, even when I thought I couldn’t.

I owe a big thank you to Monique Polak and Lori Weber for encouraging me to turn the original short story into a novel. Both are multi-published young adult authors who always take the time to give advice to emerging writers like myself. Lori then became my mentor and helped me flesh out the story and the characters, and finish the first draft. Then there’s my critique group, Virginia Modugno, Robin Patterson, Alastair Reeves, Judie Troyansky, and Helen Wolkowicz who read the manuscript over, and over and over again. Their thoughtful comments helped to shape the manuscript further. Robin, a talented illustrator, designed the cover and Virginia became my copy editor. I have zero talent when it comes to music so I have to thank James Morehouse and Collin Steinz (both real live guitar heros in my view) for their musical guidance, and Sebastien Hébert of the Queen Elizabeth Hotel for giving me a tour of the John Lennon, Yoko Ono suite. I would also like to thank Maggie Jagger, Michael Ferguson, Sandy Chan, Jesse Douglas, Levah Douglas, Amanda Lee-Roy, Kim Lo and Jennifer Hong for reading the manuscript in various stages.

And, last but not least, I’d like to thank Arthur and Crystal Lau, and the Chinese Mandarin School for sponsoring the launch.

Thank you all for helping me make my dream come true.

Book Launch Party – Almond Cookies for a Chinese theme

I’m really excited about my book launch for Guitar Hero which will take place tomorrow, Saturday, November 9th at Babar Bookstore in Pointe Claire. I’ve been busy all week getting ready and planning what refreshments to serve. Since the story is about a Chinese family, I thought I’d bake almond cookies. My favourite recipe is from The Joy of Cookies by Sharon Tyler Herbst. These cookies don’t look like the ones you get in a Chinese restaurant after a meal, but they are yummy! I’ve brought some to work in the past and they disappear quickly.

Almond Cookies

Almond Cookie Recipe from The Joy of Cookies


 2-1/2 cups all purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup lard, softened

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

2 teaspoons almond extract

1 egg

About 48 whole blanched almonds

1 egg yolk beaten with 2 teaspoons water for glaze


1. In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt; set aside. In a large mixing bowl, beat lard, sugars and almond extract until light and fluffy. Beat in egg. Stir in flour mixture 1/2 cup at a time, blending well after each addition; dough will be very soft. Spoon into the center of a 15-inch length of plastic wrap. Fold long sides of plastic over dough. With your palms, roll wrapped dough into a log 12 inches long and about 2 inches in diameter. Twist ends of plastic wrap to seal. Freeze or refrigerate until firm, 1 to 4 hours.

 2. Preheat oven to 350F. Grease 3 to 4 large baking sheets. Cut chilled dough into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Arrange, 1-1/2 inches apart, on prepared baking sheets. Lightly press a whole almond into the center of each cookie. Brush rounds with egg glaze.

 3. Bake 11 to 14 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool on racks. Store in an airtight container at room temperature 1 week; freeze for longer storage.

2013 TD Children's Book Awards

Celebrating Children’s Literature

2013 TD Canadian Children’s Book Centre Awards for French Books

Writers and illustrators of children’s books were feted last Tuesday night at the annual TD Children’s Book Awards. It’s always a fun and elegant evening.  Waiters floated around the atrium at the Museum of Fine Arts with trays of cranberry vodka cocktails and delicious hors d’oeuvres. It’s also a great opportunity to meet and mingle with authors, illustrators, librarians, educators, booksellers and publishers.   Even though I’m not nominated, the evening makes me feel special and proud to be a writer.

Michel Noel

Winner of the 2013 TD Book Award for French children’s books

The winner for French books was Michel Noël for his book A la recherche du bout du mondeThe prize for English books was given to Polly Horvath in Toronto the week before for her book One Year in Coal Harbour. Each author was awarded a $30,000 prize.

Marie-Louis Gay, author and illustrator of the popular Stella picture book series, was given the Claude Aubry Award by IBBY Canada for distinguished service within the field of children’s literature. Gay was also honoured earlier this year by Canada Post with a stamp which I wrote about in a post. After the ceremony, it was back to the atrium to celebrate with decadent desserts and champagne.