Hanx Writer App Brings Back Typing the Old-fashioned Way

Hanx Writer

 

Everything old is new again.

I learned how to type in high school. Only the girls took typing
in those days. The one boy in my year who took the class was
considered to be either brave or an oddity. I remember the huge
manual Underwood typewriters we used. I never thought I would be
able to stretch my fingers far enough to reach the upper keys.
The room filled with the slow clack… clack of the keys as we
memorized where the letters were. And if anyone made a mistake,
there’d be a groan from the student and the grinding sound of the
carriage moving backward to correct it.

Well, thanks to Tom Hanks’ vision, I can relive the good old days.
He launched his app called Hanx Writer this week. The basic
version, Hanx Prime Select, is free at the iTunes store. It
combines the sound and experience of pounding away at the keys
with the convenience of the digital age. I’m figuring out how to
use it as I write this. One thing for sure, it’s a heck of a lot
easier to fix mistakes than on the real thing.

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Best Books for Kids and Teens for 2014

 

Best Books for Kids and Teens 2014

I’m pleased to announce that GUITAR HERO is named one of the Best Books for Kids and Teens for 2014 in the category of Junior and Intermediate Fiction for tweens ages 8-14. The annual award given out by The Canadian Children’s Book Centre is announced in the Spring Edition of their magazine.

Guitar Hero named Best Book for Kids and Teens 2014

Guitar Hero named Best Book for Kids and Teens 2014

My Writing Process Blog Tour

I want to thank Stella Papadopoulos for inviting me to take part in this blog tour.  We met at YES OUI CANSCAIP, a writers’ group for writers and illustrators of children’s and young adult books. She is an artist who is adding writing to her list of talents. Read her post on her writing process at http://inspirationsbystella.blogspot.ca

And now, on to the blog tour…

My Writing Process

 

What are you working on?

I have a few things on the go. I’m putting together a collection of previously published short stories called The Red Pagoda and Other Stories and will publish them as an e-book. I also have to revise a play which is based on the title story in the collection, The Red Pagoda, and revise a rough first draft of my next young adult novel.

How does your work differ from others of its genre? 

I don’t know if it does. I’ve been inspired by so many authors and have read a wide variety of books. I don’t think about being different and just work on telling a story the best way I can.

Why do you write what you do?

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One of the Most Important Things a Writer Can Do

One night last week, I was sitting and staring at the computer screen as usual. No, I wasn’t working on my next book or the play that I started writing last year, but it was one of the most important things I could do for my writing career.

You see, a couple of days before that evening, I had one of those scary moments when my writing life flashed before my eyes. I was sitting in my usual chair with my laptop working on an outline when the screen blanked out and then a blue screen with white text momentarily popped up. The only words I caught before it blinked out were “hard disk” and “crash”.

Writers' Tip

My heart stopped. I could feel the blood draining from my face. Flashing before my eyes were the files I had stored on the hard drive, possibly gone forever. Logically, there was no need to worry about the stories that were already published, but I kept drafts of them in various stages as a reminder I suppose, of the hard work that went into them. Then there were the gems of ideas in the beginning stages that I envisioned as someday being fully formed novels or plays or scripts. There were outlines and maybe two or three chapters of bad plots and weak characters that would now never see the light of day, the short story collection that I planned to publish as an e-book, photos from the past several years and videos that I had created for special occasions.

Did I back them up? I couldn’t remember. I did at one point copy the file folders onto a USB key, but had I done it recently? These thoughts flew though my mind in a matter of seconds, and then, miraculously, the computer rebooted and was back up and running in a couple of minutes.

So that was why I was staring at the computer screen that night last week, not writing, but setting up an external hard drive that is now connected to my laptop. The only New Year’s resolution I made this year was to get my writing life in order and finish a couple of these projects. Now I know that it includes making sure that my work is backed up. And, my laptop has a date for a check-up with a computer technician.

Have you ever had any close calls?

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

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

Shredded

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!

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

 Ingredients:

 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.

Win a free copy of GUITAR HERO (U.S. and Canada only)

When my picture book, The Fragrant Garden, was published in 2005, the publisher asked me to handle publicity in Montreal while they took care of the rest of Canada. It was an opportunity for me to learn about marketing. I created an interactive press release on a DVD which was pretty impressive back then, and mailed it to all the English newspapers, radio and TV stations in the city. I managed to score interviews with a local news show, a morning show (I battled my way through an ice storm in December to get to the studio. A little bad weather wasn’t going to stop me from promoting my book), a Chinese talk show (the interview was conducted in English for my benefit) and The Gazette. It’s tough trying to get noticed with so many good books being published every year, but the whole experience was fun and educational.

Guitar HeroNow I get to do it again for my young adult novel GUITAR HERO and it’s a whole new internet world. A book launch is in the works for November and review copies have been sent out. I’m also giving away two copies on Goodreads in the United States and Canada. The deadline to enter is Sunday, November 10, 2013.

Join me on my new adventure and enter the Goodreads Giveaway. 🙂