Five Chapters and an Owl’s Nest

I did a little mini-tour of Calgary’s books stores last night. I didn’t get to all of them, but a lot. I thought that with the Vanishing Track enjoying some degree of success in that city that I should do what I could to maintain momentum. There’s only so much an author can do; one of the things is sign books.

It’s always humbling to walk into any book store, let alone five Chapters stores in a row. The first Chapters I visited was in the Chinook Centre and I had to navigate my way around a massive circular table adorned with the biggest stack of books I’ve ever seen. It must have been piled as tall as a person could reach, and all by one writer: Suzanne Collins, author of the Hunger Games trilogy.

She also got her own section. Similar piles of that same book greeted me in the other Chapters.

More than just that display of marketing power, the thing that really humbles me when I walk into a Chapters is the sheer volume of titles vying for the consumer’s eye. There are tens of thousands of books on their shelves. And that’s just a drop in the bucket of what is being published each year. Ten times that number are being published as e-books. It’s good to keep perspective.

I dutifully sought out copies of The Vanishing Track and the End of the Line, my two most recent books, on the store’s shelves and signed them and introduced myself to store staff and asked for “signed by the author” stickers. I don’t really know if this helps book sales. I don’t think it hurts, and I suppose if a reader has to choose between two books, a scrawled personalization might tip the scale in my favour.

I did have two really positive experiences. The first was visiting Owl’s Nest Books, one of my two favourite book sellers in Calgary, the other being Pages on Kensington (who I visited last week). They had lots of my books on their shelves, including copies of The Darkening Archipelago, a previous Cole Blackwater title. Owl’s Nest, like other independent stores, is not so easily influenced by mass hysteria around books like The Hunger Games. I’m sure they had copies in the store, but nothing that threatened to bury a customer if they inadvertently knocked the display table.

The End of the Line, Darkening Archipelago and The Vanishing Track at Owl's Nest Books. You can just see Stieg Larsson being crowded to the side by my titles.

The other really positive experience was in the Dalhousie Chapters. They were short on staff, so I just grabbed copies of my books off the shelves and took them to the checkout counter where I signed them and handed them to the clerk for stickers and re-shelving. The people in line behind me had a small armload of mystery titles and they asked me about my books and then happily added copies of The End of the Line and the Vanishing Track to their purchases. Connecting with readers is one of the best parts about being a writer.

In the end, I don’t know if driving all over Calgary and signing books will help sell a few more. But it was good to meet more book sellers and a few readers. And my message is that, as a writer, I’m willing to go the extra mile to make a success of my books.

The Vanishing Track

The Vanishing Track is the third book in the Cole Blackwater mystery series. The book is set in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, and features the protagonist and friends investigating the disappearance of homeless people from the troubled neighborhood. My amazing publisher, Touchwood Editions, has crafted a new look for the Cole Blackwater series. What do you think? Take the poll found on the right hand side of this page and let me know what you think. Click the image to open it in a separate window (to better appreciate it….)

40/9

My first son Rio and I have birthday’s two weeks apart.

I turned 40 in the middle of the month. Rio turns 9 today.

Passing the 40th milestone seemed like a pretty big deal at the time, but now, with it two weeks in the rear-view mirror, its significance has faded. At the time, Jenn and I were in southern Mexico, in the Yucatan; we spent the day driving from the Caribbean coast to the Gulf of Mexico. We stopped in the capital of Quintana Roo state called Chetumal, where my novel Thicker than Blood is set, to do on-the-ground research, and then pressed ourselves for almost six hours of exhausting driving to reach Campeche on the Gulf Coast.

Along the way we had a lot of time to talk and I remember telling Jenn about my fears: that the journey was half over. If I took care of myself, and if luck was on my side, I might get another forty, or fifty years out of this corporal being that houses heart, head and soul.

There is still so much to do.

Back in Alberta, in our glorious home, Jenn throws me a slow-motion surprise party. The guests – many old friends who I have lost touch with while in BC – show up over the course of an hour or two and I’m grateful that I put on a party shirt for the occasion. Silas and Rio run wild with half a dozen other kids and the party feels like equal parts house-warming and birthday celebration.

I remember my mother’s 40 birthday as if it were yesterday; making her a card with a hand-drawn picture of a voluptuous woman reclining on a sports car; the sentiment being that she was still young at 40, even though I thought she was ancient at the time.

A few days later the morning dawns on Rio’s 9th birthday, his 10th trip around the sun, and it feels so right to be back in Canmore where he was born.

I lie in bed with my boy, his little brother still asleep above us, and he tells me about his night-time dreams. We discuss why we dream, and what nightmares are, and why we are afraid of some things and not others. And then he tells me about his real dreams; the ones that he will pursue in life. He wants to travel around the world. He wants to work with animals. He wants to climb mountains. He wants Star Wars Lego for his birthday. And carrot cake.

We rise and get ready for the school day and he and I sneak off and have breakfast together in town before I drop him at school. I love that both he and Silas are making so many friends in Canmore. I was shocked and amazed a few weeks ago when one of our neighbors – the mother of twin boys who are in Silas’ class – showed up at the door and took my son away for the morning. It was glorious watching him traipsing off with these new chums. It felt like bliss. In Victoria, we felt as if we had to watch the boys all the time; here Rio heads out the door with another neighbor to toboggan and play at his friends house and I don’t waist a moment on concern.

It feels so right to be here.

Later today we’ll take the boys to the Nordic Centre for their ski lessons and then head to Boston Pizza for a birthday dinner. Rio wants to go to the Royal Tyrrell Museum to see the paleontology exhibits, so the next nice weekend they are here we’ll make the trip to Drumheller.

Part of what sends jolts like electricity through me from time to time is the knowledge that even as we plan and prepare for our lives here in the Rocky Mountains things are slipping away. Rio has recently started to greet me with hugs when I pick him up from school again, but I expect that will be short lived. Soon it will be back to fist-bumps as a means of acknowledging my aching love for him as he makes his way into the world. Silas is still all snuggles and hugs, but the cruel reality of being a parent is that from the moment your children are born – the very first moment – we have to start letting go.

As it is with our very own lives; it’s all just a process of letting go; of surrender.

This year will be a big year; for the 9-year-old and the 40-year old. I recently learned that my amazing publisher – Touchwood Editions – will pick up a third series from me, essentially publishing my books as fast as I can write them. After nearly 20 years of effort to make something of my writing I feel that I am on the cusp of commercial success, and loving the process of arriving there. And in the next few days I will have an announcement about my impending return to the conservation movement after a 6-year hiatus (exile?).

It seems that the return to the Bow Valley, to the Rocky Mountains, has indeed been fortuitous.

And of course, there will be a world to travel. And animals to help. And mountains to climb.

And Star Wars Lego. And a carrot cake.

A Room with a View

This morning I moved into my new office. We’ve been in our new home in Canmore, Alberta since December 10th, but during the time I’ve been here, which has been just shy of two weeks, I’ve been getting up early, and in the darkness making my way to the kitchen table to write. Yesterday I got my desk organized and this morning, around 6 a.m. started tapping away on a novel called Thicker Than Blood.

My pattern when working on a new project is to first map it out in broad strokes, usually on large pieces of “butcher” paper. This looks a lot like a story-board when its done. Yesterday afternoon I taped this outline up on the wall next to my desk so this morning, as I began chapter twelve, I could easily see the narrative arc of the book.

My office window faces south-east, and I had the curtains closed and hadn’t thought to open them when I began work. When working on a first draft, or any draft for that matter, I am often myopically focused on the characters and their troubles. The story unfolds in my head faster than I can write, and sometimes I get lost in a daydream where the plot of the book is as real as anything that is unfolding around me. I’m not always the best company during this time.

Around 8:00 a.m. I felt my way downstairs for a second cup of tea, and noticed a faint light through the blinds in the living room window. I opened them and was stunned by what I saw:

The view from my office window: Mount Peter Lougheed and Centenial Ridge

I watched spell-bound for the next forty five minutes as the moon crept across the sky and the sun emerged over Skogan Pass. The entire range was set ablaze in the rosy dawn. Mount Rundle,  Ehagay Nakoda, and The Three Sisters all turned red, then white as the morning progressed. The moon slipped behind the Middle Sister, and the sun became so bright it was hard to look in its direction.

An hour passed and I returned to my office, another cup of tea in hand, where I had to draw the curtains once more so I wouldn’t go blind. And so I could get some work done.

Put a lump of Cole in someone’s stocking this year

This Christmas season, put a lump of Cole in a friend or loved one’s stocking: some Cole Blackwater! The Darkening Archipelago – the second Cole Blackwater novel – is a fast paced environmentally themed murder mystery perfect for any reader on your list. Set amid the convoluted knot of islands known as the Broughton Archipelago, on British Columbia’s jagged mid-coast, the novel joins the often heated debate over salmon farming and the demise of wild salmon stocks.

The Darkening Archipelago as described by readers:

This book changed the way I buy salmon!”

“If you have not yet discovered Legault’s dark and deliciously sinister writing, and if you enjoy gritty realism, treat yourself to his new book for a good [Christmas] read.”

“Having bought the book I could not put it down – a truly excellent read. I will be buying this book as a present for many friends this year.”

If that sounds like the perfect stocking stuffer, then here’s what you should do:

1. Email me and tell me how many you would like and who they should be signed to. The books sell for $19.95 CND each.

2. I’ll email you back and tell you what the total will be, including postage, and give you a link to my Pay Pal Account. Cheques are acceptable, but slow the process down.

So to read about what new lumps Cole must endure in The Darkening Archipelago, drop me a note today!

Bringing Blogs Together

For the last few years I’ve been writing a number of blogs, all hosted on blogspot. With the launch of this website, I’m going to amalgamate two of these blogs under the writing seciton of stephenlegault.com. They are:

Running Toward Stillness: Searching for Bliss in Work, Family and Love

and

The Cole Blackwater BLOG

Running Toward Stillness began as a blog about the launch of my first book, Carry Tiger to Mountain, but soon became an inquiry into the underlying importance of running, meditation, buddism, taoism, family, work and love in my life. There are almost 100 entries in this BLOGs original location found here.

The Cole Blackwater BLOG is a chronicle of the progress of the Cole Blackwater mystery series. The original location of this BLOG serves as an archive for older material, and is a blow by blow accounting of how this series came to be published.

In addition, I’ll be posting blog entries of a less personal nature on the Highwater Mark section of this web page here.

Rio and Silas explore Sandcut Creek, Vancouver Island

Rio and Silas explore Sandcut Creek, Vancouver Island