Overheard This Week

“I hope you guys are in school because this really isn’t the kind of career type job I like to see people in.”

So said a customer at the local bottle depot where my son, now known as the Graduate (AKA Teen Freud or The Basement Dweller), has worked part-time sorting and stacking bottles since he was in high school. Amazingly (and I use that word deliberately because he’s not known at home for his diplomacy) the Graduate  smiled, nodded politely and waited for the woman to take her bejewelled self back to her Mercedes before letting loose with a rant to his co-workers about judgement and expectations and class systems.

With his undergrad degree freshly in hand, the Graduate will likely make a job switch at some point over the coming months. But so what if he doesn’t? What if he decides he wants to stay where he is or open a bottle depot of his own? What if he was like a former co-worker who chose the job because he was a photographer (his passion) during off hours but the bottle depot provided a steady salary? Or his single mother co-workers who find the work, though dirty and often unpleasant, reliable and well-paying, especially for a job that doesn’t require post-secondary education.

Why do the jobs we do, the Graduate asked, inspire so much judgement? Why indeed.

That got me thinking about some of the jobs I assign my fictional characters. The mother character in In Plain Sight is an artist and predictably absentminded when she’s lost in her painting. The father is a terrorist and in jail so I went out of the box there. But in The Art of Getting Stared At, the main character’s parents are a doctor, an airline pilot, and a model respectively. In Girls Who Dish, my latest Laura Tobias title, the main characters are a restaurant owner and a lawyer, though I do throw in an accountant with a Shirley Temple obsession.

Sometimes characters and plot reveal the best choice of career or job to further our stories. You need a detective in a whodunit, for example. But Agatha Christie’s  Miss Marple was an elderly spinster and a most unlikely detective, something Christie used to her advantage.

So the next time I’m considering character careers, I’m going to forget the doctor or the teacher or the artist or the politician (especially the politician). I’m going to look for something fresh. How about a timeshare seller or a spider researcher or a cello maker or an otter technician for the Department of Conservation? Or  a chimney sweep . . . letter carrier  . . . judo instructor . . . dialysis tech . . . FAA tower controller . . . exterminator . . . glass blower . . . Christmas Around the World salesperson . . . preschool dance teacher?

So many jobs . . . I’d better get writing.

But first I’m heading out to get a t-shirt printed for the Graduate and his co-workers. I want it to read: Recycling Equipment Engineer . . . and proud of it.

Another Lesson from the Garden

Nature is giving me another writing lesson.

She’s behind this year, or so everyone says. Daffodils, normally in bloom weeks ago, are only now starting to open. The buds on the fruit trees surrounding our house are still, with the exception of a few keeners, tightly furled. We live on old orchard land and normally by the end of February we’re cocooned in a frothy haze of sweetly scented blooms that last, if we’re lucky, for three or four weeks. Instead, here it is the middle of March and we’re still waiting. It’s been a rough winter; the wait feels long; people are complaining about Mother Nature.

In fact, Mother Nature is dancing to her own particular tune and her timing isn’t always our timing. Timing in the publishing world doesn’t always fit what we want or expect either.

Last November I launched a Laura Tobias title (Million Dollar Blues if you care to look it up) on Amazon. I knew enough to avoid a December release – holiday sales can be notoriously slow unless you catch a wave between Christmas and New Year’s when people are off work. What I hadn’t counted on was the fallout from the American election negatively impacting ebook sales. It did, across the board, and writers are only now starting to recover. It was a timing issue I didn’t expect, though apparently it’s not the first time book sales have plummeted during election months so it’s something to keep in mind for next time.

In December I submitted a YA novel to a publisher I’ve worked with before, hoping for a sale (obviously) and expecting a quickish turnaround. Not quick (I knew better than to expect that) but quickish since this particular publisher has always been good that way. However, due to a combination of circumstances beyond anyone’s control, things are backed up there too and it’s going to be a while yet before I hear one way or another. It’s not the timeline I had in mind but there’s nothing I can do about that either.

We were at a memorial for a friend last weekend. One of his favorite sayings was some days you get chickens, some days only feathers. To that I would add some days you get silence, other days you get feedback. Some days you get rejections, other days you get acceptance.

And some days you get blossoms, other days only buds.

Buds, however, hold promise. And promises can keep you going when you’re waiting for the timing to turn.


Book Buys for 2016


teamsheltieThe snow days have arrived. Team Sheltie is happy and I am too. I love a good snow day, especially when my holiday shopping is done and I can relax by the fire with a book. I’m giving books to friends and family this year and I have a few on my wish list too. I’m after Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult, What if This is Heaven by Anita Moorjani and The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben.

Since I again noted down what I read through 2016, I thought I’d share some titles to help you buy for the readers on your list.

For fiction lovers:

First Star I See Tonight by Susan Elizabeth Phillips. Phillips is the undisputed Queen of character-driven romance and her latest novel doesn’t disappoint. Private Eye Piper Dove has been hired to trail former Chicago Stars quarterback Cooper Graham. It’s all spark and snap from the minute they meet. There’s a touch of mystery in this one too. Perfect for the romance reader on your list.

Little Beach Street Bakery by Jenny Colgan. Polly escapes to a seaside British town after a relationship ends. In an effort to forget things, she begins to bake bread . . . the locals hear about it . . . and so does a reticent local beekeeper. A cross between chick lit and women’s fiction with a dash of romance.

The Forgetting Time by Sharon Guskin. This debut novel by Sharon Guskin centers on five-year-old Noah who has overpowering memories of a past life, a life that seems to have ended with many unanswered questions. Desperate, Noah’s mother turns to an aging psychologist who is near the end of his own life but is still willing to take on one last case. Captivating with a number of twists and turns I didn’t see coming.

Close to Home by Lisa Jackson. For the suspense lovers on your reading list. Vowing to make a fresh start, Sarah McAdams has come home to renovate the old Victorian mansion where she grew up, but there are some horrifying secrets buried within the house. If that’s not enough for you, teenage girls are going missing . . . and Sarah has two girls of her own.

With Malice by Eileen Cook. This YA thriller has the 18-year-old heroine in a hospital bed for a large part of the book and yet it still manages to hold your attention and draw you forward. Jill Charron wakes up in the hospital after a car accident she was involved in during a school trip to Italy left one person dead. Jill can’t remember what happened . . . she only knows she’s at the centre of a murder investigation.

For food lovers:

My Kitchen Year: 136 recipes That Saved My Life by Ruth Reichel. I love Reichel’s writing and the only thing wrong with this book was that it had to end. The book chronicles the year after Gourmet Magazine unexpectedly closed its doors putting Reichel, editor-in-chief, out of work. Facing an uncertain future, Reichel turned to the one place that had always provided solace: her kitchen. The book follows the changing seasons and her struggle to adapt to a changed life; it also delivers some of Reichel’s favorite recipes.

Oh She Glows by Angela Liddon. We try to eat vegetarian once or twice a week but I’m not a vegan. This vegan cookbook, however, could turn me into one. The recipes are amazing. You feel healthy just reading them. If you’re gifting this book, buy an extra copy for yourself. And check out Liddon’s blog too.

For non-fiction lovers:

10% Happier by Dan Harris. Subtitled ‘How I Tamed the Voice in my Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing my Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works – A True Story, Harris’s book is smart, brave and funny. Harris is an ABC news correspondent and after a nationally televised panic attack on Good Morning America he knew he had to make some changes. His search for a deeper understanding of what makes all of us tick and his ultimate solution to destressing led him to meditation – or as he puts it ‘sitting around and doing nothing.’ He went in a skeptic and came out a believer, and in the process he gained some helpful insights. Highly recommended.

Unearthed by Alexandra Risen. As Risen uncovers and revives a large, neglected garden in the centre of Toronto, she comes to understand, accept and make peace with her past. A deeply personal testament to the healing powers of nature.

The Rainbow Comes and Goes: A Mother and Son on Life, Love and Loss by Anderson Cooper and Gloria Vanderbilt. Told in an exchange of letters between mother and son, this book came about because of Cooper’s desire to get closer to his mother after she suffered a brief but serious illness at the age of 91. It’s an interesting glimpse into the private life of two public people, and Cooper’s journalistic take on things is quite a contrast to his mother’s sunny optimism.

And shameless self-promotion time: My Laura Tobias title Million Dollar Blues is now available in ebook format at your favorite ebook retailer.

Happy gift giving!


I’m excited to announce that my next Laura Tobias title MILLION DOLLAR BLUES is now available for pre-order. This is book one in the Girls Who Dish series and it’s about what really happens when you strike it rich. Here’s the synopsis:

Take one 75 million dollar lottery win. Toss in a struggling restaurant and a weasel of an ex-husband. Spice heavily with one true love. Is it a recipe for disaster or the recipe of Temple’s dreams?

Winning the lottery will help Temple turn her restaurant, GIRLS WHO DISH, into a world-class establishment. Except, everybody wants a piece of lotto pie: her mother, her daughter, her best friend . . . and the furious staff members who didn’t win and sue for their share.

As Temple struggles with a case of MILLION DOLLAR BLUES, she’s blindsided by the return of her first love, James LeShan. Now a successful lawyer, James will help Temple out of her legal mess . . . but he has something much more personal in mind for the two of them.

If you’re interested in pre-ordering for your e reader, you’ll find the book here:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01MSP38SC/ref=sr_1_10?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1479788904&sr=1-10&keywords=million+dollar+blues




Vacation Time

P1000623Heads up: the blog is taking August off though I won’t be. I’ll be working flat out for the next couple of weeks in an effort to conquer my ‘to do’ list.

I’m just about finished another round of revisions on One Good Deed, I have a book proposal to finish by the beginning of September, and a couple of articles to research and write too. I also have line edits to tackle for Million Dollar Blues and I’ll be exchanging emails with Estrella Cover Art as we work to come up with a cover concept. I’m planning to send that story into the world sometime this fall.

It’s going to be a fun (and busy) three weeks. At the end of it, I’ll be rewarding my efforts by escaping up island for a few days at the beach.

Enjoy the rest of your summer. See you in September!

Cover It

In Plain Sight CoverBook covers are on my mind. Last week I received an advance copy of the cover for In Plain Sight. If you missed it on my Facebook Author Page, here it is on the left.

I’m thrilled with the way it turned out though I’ll admit my first glimpse of the cover raised concerns. Megan, the girl you see, finds out early in the story that the father she thought was dead is very much alive, he’s a convicted terrorist, and he’s Middle Eastern. For my story purposes, Megan needs to look a little like him. Not a lot, but enough that one could argue for some similarities.

The first time I saw the cover I identified Megan as a beautiful girl with a strong Celtic look. Her hair was reddish rather than the dark hair I’d referenced in the story, her eyebrows were light, and her face was made even paler by direct sunshine. I asked the art director if she could darken Megan’s eyebrows as well as her hair, and possibly give her skin more of a golden tone. I did get darker eyebrows, but messing with skin tones is problematic, so instead the art director removed the direct sunlight which gave Megan’s skin a slightly golden look. The hair, which remained a lovely reddish hue, remained the same and that posed a bit of a problem for me.

Luckily Orca shared the proposed cover before my final page proofs were done so I was able to go into the manuscript and tweak. Where a couple of girls make racist comments and insult Megan because she looks just like her father, I have the girls referencing the fact that Megan must streak her hair to hide the fact that she has the same coloring as her terrorist father. I think it’s a stronger passage than what I originally wrote and it’s realistic too: most teenage girls mess with her hair color at least once or twice in their lives. I made a few other subtle modifications here and there, allowing for Megan to look the way she does on the cover.

I’m grateful to Orca Book Publishers for sharing the cover early enough in the process that I could make some changes to the manuscript. It’s wonderful to have a strong cover that matches your story. Watch for In Plain Sight in 2017.

Meanwhile, I’m just starting the cover design process for Million Dollar Blues, my next Laura Tobias title. It’s a novel about love, money and relationships. I’m excited to be working with Viola Estrella of Estrella Cover Art. www.estrellacoverart.com. I can’t wait to see what she comes up with!



Revise, Revisit, Retreat

reviseI’ve been in revision mode for the last few weeks, working on In Plain Sight, a YA novel about a girl who learns her father was a terrorist. I’ve also been cutting and shaping Million Dollar Blues, a women’s fiction novel about a lottery win.

This Friday, however, I’ll be leaving the desk and heading up island. I’ll catch up with a dear friend that night and then on Saturday, I’ll head to the Red Door for a two-day writing retreat with my friends, the Pen Warriors.

It’s a revise, revisit, retreat kind of week. With luck, I’ll find time for a beach walk.

And that’ll make it rejuvenating too.   P1000623

Seeding Heavy

I usually plant heavy and I tend to write long. That means my garden overflows even after I thin and prune. And it means my novels sometimes get a little out of control before I revise them down to an acceptable length.

I can plant sparsely. I’ve done it plenty of times. I can write lean prose too. I do it when I produce novella length books for reluctant readers (watch for In Plain Sight coming in 2017).

Gardens and books start with seeds – the seed of an idea or the seed of a tomato – and in the beginning stages, it’s my nature to seed heavy. With garden seeds, you rarely get 100% germination so it’s prudent to allow for some failure. With novels, you never know which tiny tangent, random piece of dialogue, or secondary character might play an important role in the final novel. I outline, but not rigidly, and I like to leave room for surprises.

That means starting out like this if I want a garden bed of basil:basilseedlings 002





And starting like this if I want to work my way down to something publishable:april 11 2016 032





Then I need to take that overwritten book and revise it, and take that over seeded flat and thin it. I like the process. But last weekend, as I worked outside transplanting peppers I’d grown from seed, I felt a little sad at the number of plants that wouldn’t make it to the garden. They’d germinated but they were either stunted or so far behind the other seedlings that there was no point potting them up.

april 11 2016 023

Coincidentally, the day after I finished my garden work, I was back at the computer editing Million Dollar Blues and feeling a little blue myself at the passages and phrases I had to delete.

But if I want to get to this:april 11 2016 033






And eventually this: STEPPINGOUTCOVER9781459808959









Then the work of thinning and revising has to be done. It requires a certain ruthlessness that can be painful. But the end result is always worth it.  basilpot

Million Dollar Blues

money bundle_1Here’s an interesting bit of trivia. On this date back in 1690, the first piece of paper money was issued by the Massachusetts Bay Colony in the United States.


Life would never be the same again.

I’m thinking about money quite a bit these days because I’m working on Million Dollar Blues. It’s a women’s fiction novel about a contested lottery win and the impact it has on the lives and loves of three different women. I’ll be self-publishing it under my Laura Tobias name but first I have to get it in some kind of shape for the editor. There’ll probably be revisions to tackle after she’s finished with it too. And then there’s the cover to commission and the formatting to take care of and all the other details that go into self-publishing a book.

It’s been a real learning curve since I uploaded What Lainey Sees a little over a year ago. Changes are afoot with that title too. It started life as an ebook available only on Amazon, but in the coming months I’ll be making it available on more platforms and getting print copies made as well.

Stay tuned for details.

Meanwhile, happy February!