Saturday, December 20, 2014

A book trailer, courtesy of Byrne Creek Secondary School Media Arts student Morgan Fraser.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

My Guerilla Marketing at Chapters Yesterday


...and after:

Now, if I can only get them to move the books from "General Fiction" into the Kids' section!

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Winnipeg Free Press chooses its Holiday recommendations

The Winnipeg Free Press yesterday listed Caravaggio: Signed in Blood as one of its recommended titles for Christmas, in their words, for "juvenile readers, especially those who enjoy hearing of sword fights and pirates."

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Photos from the Launch of Caravaggio: Signed in Blood

Caravaggio: Signed in Blood launched officially on Friday, November 7, 2014, and while I had an understandable amount of anxiety leading up to the event, it all came together nicely with the help of the fantastic students of the Leo Club at Byrne Creek Secondary.

Academie Duello led things off with an exciting demonstration of sword-fighting techniques, followed by a workshop with twenty members of the audience.

Academie Duello demonstrating technique.

Participants of all ages.

Kudos to the youngest participant in the sword-fighting: my 7-year-old son!
After that, it was my turn. I gave a brief talk about how I came to be interested in Caravaggio, and a short reading from the first chapter. I signed books throughout the event.

...and signing.
All the while, guests munched on delicious Italian salamettas and cheeses, garlic-stuffed olives, grapes, fennel-infused crackers, and biscotti with coffee, while images of Caravaggio's paintings flashed on the screen above. It was a wonderful way to connect with friends and colleagues, and to introduce the world to my first novel.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

This guy gets to the point.

My interview with Devon Boorman, director and co-founder of Academie Duello, a school of Swordplay and Western Martial Arts devoted to teaching the traditional martial practices of Europe. Come meet Devon when he conducts a sword-fighting workshop at my booklaunch, November 7.

Devon Boorman, Director, Academie Duello
MDS: First and most obvious question for everybody: Western Martial Artist vs. Ninja: who wins?

DB: Not fair. Ninjas are invisible.

MDS: O...kay. Growing up, every boy imagines himself a sword fighter, but did you imagine you'd be doing this for a living?

DB: I was born in Trail, BC but grew up in the lower mainland. I certainly was a boy who imagined himself a sword fighte, specifically Robin Hood and Zorro. I loved watching old Zorro reruns and classic Robin Hood movies and I used to emulate their moves and make up my own with a fencing foil my parents had found in the attic of an old house.

MDS: Did you ever practice any Eastern Martial Arts?

DB: When I was a kid I started with Kung Fu when I was about 7 years old. I also explored Filipino Martial Arts in my teens, but I wanted to do some type of sword fighting or fencing. Eastern Arts always disappointed me because you had to rise so far through the belts before being able to work with swords. I’m more patient now, and enjoy unarmed sparring as much as armed work.

MDS: Every time I type “Martial” too quickly, I misspell it as “Marital.” Do you think Academie Duello might someday offer “Western Marital Arts” as well? What would that look like?

DB: I think they’d look exactly the same. Every marriage could use a few more conflict resolution skills.

MDS: Okay. You've choreographed and consulted for film, television, and stage for years. Who are some of the most noteworthy and interesting people you've been able to work with?

DB: Honestly my main focus is on effective combat. A lot of the stage work goes to other members of my team now who are more geared to that area. However, I certainly enjoyed training the stars of Smallville and doubling for Lex Luthor in some early fencing scenes. Beyond that, being on the Bard on the Beach stage both last year and this year in a special co-production based around Shakespearean fighting has been a thrill.

MDS: What is your favourite weapon or style among the Western Martial Arts.

DB: I have had a long love affair with the rapier, however each aspect of our disciplines carries different qualities I love. Right now I think I’m particularly enjoying sword-and-buckler.

MDS: Reading the history page on the Academie Duello website, I was amazed at how the studio has expanded so quickly from such humble beginnings. What do think has been the main catalyst for the growth and popularity? Is this more of a local phenomenon, or is there something in our broader culture that is responsible for people getting into Western Martial Arts?

DB: Western Martial Arts are definitely undergoing a renaissance worldwide. There are growing events and schools in most major cities in North America and Europe. Locally I think the key to our success has been a combination of an exciting martial art and the values that our school represents. We are a welcoming place and we see swordplay as a way to feel empowered and conquer our own personal blocks and barriers. That’s pretty compelling.

MDS: Many Martial Arts studios consider self-discipline to be part-and-parcel of fighting skills. What sorts of virtues does Academie Duello try to impart to its students, beyond excellence in technique?

DB: Our school motto is Arte, Ardore, Onore. Arte is the italian word for skill and represents our pursuit of masterya lifelong journey. Ardore is passion, and speaks to the journey of finding, invigorating, and reinvigorating our passion for this art and other aspects of our life. Many modern people struggle with finding things they’re passionate about; when we find them we often lack the wisdom to understand how to feed and grow those passions—we often expect the passion to be a limitless font of energy and are disappointed when it starts to wane. I want my students to understand that it’s a two-way street. Onore is the Italian word for honour. I think it is important to honour ourselves and the work we put into things, our teachers for investing time into us, and our training partners for putting themselves on the other end of a sword to help us learn.

MDS: Ever had any accidents? What was your most memorable?

DB: Fortunately swordplay has turned out to be relatively light on accidents. We emphasize control in our training and wear appropriate safety gear during more vigorous activities. My most memorable injury came a couple years ago when I was fighting in an armoured tournament in traditional style (done in full suits of plate armour). My opponent got in close to throw me, and in my attempt at reversal I drew him onto my right side and he fell onto my shoulder; but our weapons were also tangled in between us, causing my spear to lever my shoulder out—a separation. I healed fully but it led to a lot of fun stories at the lunch counter. “How’d you hurt your shoulder?” “A man in a suit of armour fell on it. Don’t worry I stabbed him with a spear twice first.” This was usually followed by a long silence.

MDS: You once told me that no description of a sword fight would ever be as interesting as actually being in a sword fight. Having said that, what is the most enjoyable description of a sword fight you've ever read, and what made it so good?

DB: I enjoyed CC Humphreys sword fights in Shakespeare’s Rebel. He used a lot of good traditional terminology and yet captured the excitement and challenges, both internal and external, of being in a sword fight—however I consulted on that book so I might be biased!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Book Launch coming November 7

The party goes from 4-6 pm, November 7, at Byrne Creek Community Secondary School. Refreshments, a reading, and book signings, of course. Sign up at 4 pm for a sword-fighting workshop presented by Academie Duello, North America's premier Western Martial Arts studio. Books cost $12 (cash only, please), and part proceeds will go to support the Byrne Creek PAC.

Friday, October 10, 2014

The New Cover

The new and improved cover to my book was sent to me today. For reasons I won't get into, the publisher asked the artist to make some changes to the cover. Instead, he redid the entire painting! (This reminds me of something Caravaggio would do.  Because he does. It's in the book.) What do you think?

Monday, May 12, 2014

My Writing Process Blog Tour

I was honoured last week to be tagged by fellow CWILL member Yolanda Ridge, author of Trouble in the Trees and Road Block (both published by Orca Books), to participate in a series of blog posts about the writing process.

Here's how the blog tour works: I will answer four questions about my writing process, below which I will introduce you to three gifted writers of my acquaintance (finding three is harder than you might think!) who will take up this same challenge in the next week or so. Please visit their blogs and see what they have been up to.

Drum roll, please.

What am I working on?
At this moment . . . this! If that seems a glib or impertinent response, allow me to elaborate. (Attention students: look up glib and impertinent! Dictionaries are our friends!) 

Once my manuscript was past the line editing stage and sent off to the copy editor, I headed to the library and took out half a dozen books about Prohibition on the West Coast, and wrote up an outline and a first chapter. I'll be meeting with my publisher again in June to discuss my next project, but in the meantime, I have to approve of all the changes the copy editor is making on my current novel. Sometimes I agree, sometimes I don't, and that process takes time that I might otherwise use for writing and researching. In addition, knowing that my novel is coming out in October, I'm putting time into promoting its release--books don't sell themselves! That means creating this blog, organizing the production of a book trailer, and organizing a launch party. Hopefully I'll be done with the copy editing before June, and I can spend the whole summer writing.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?
Well, for one, it features the Baroque painter Caravaggio. Most people's knowledge of artists of the period is limited to two: Michelangelo Buonarroti and Leonardo Da Vinci. And yet, we owe more of our concept of realism to Caravaggio than to any other artist in history. So my work is different simply because very few novels--particularly for children and young adults--have been written which feature Caravaggio as a character .

Second, this work is an adventure story. Many historical fiction novels set in this period are much slower in the pace of the plot as they develop the ethos of the period. But because Caravaggio, apart from being a master painter, was a master swordsman--and a murderer--this work is able to bring action and danger to the forefront of every chapter. 

Why do I write what I do?
I'm not sure, but the best I can figure is that I want to know something that just isn't known. In the case of Caravaggio, I was intrigued by his violent and chaotic life; there is very little biographic information about him that is contemporary with his life and trustworthy. Much of what we know about his movements through Italy comes from his commissions, and of his character we rely on a) a few court transcripts in which he testifies, b) the words of one of his bitter rivals, and c) our interpretations of his paintings. For me, this uncertainty opened up the possibility that I could explore through my own fiction a character that the history wasn't able to document.

How does my writing process work?
Well, first I need an idea, a seed crystal which can draw from the supersaturated solution of my research and grow into something solid...and spikey...and--okay, this metaphor isn't working. But once I have that essential idea, I build an outline of a plot around it. Then I discuss it with the most knowledgeable people I can find to try to poke holes in the plot, find the soft spots, until I've got something that I think will work as a consistent, unified story. By that point, I've got a better sense of the theme, and the theme becomes the guide to my writing from page one. I need to have a sense of the particular understanding of life and the world that I am trying to communicate, so that my plot and dialogue is consistent with that idea.  After that, it is several years of late nights and early mornings at my computer. As a working teacher with children, I don't have hours to spend at my writing each day. It's a few minutes here, a half-hour there, wherever I can squeeze two moments together. Caravaggio: Signed in Blood will have taken me six years from conception to published book.

And now, without further ado...

As promised, allow me to introduce you to three dynamic authors with a wide variety of writing experiences.

David Russell is the author of Deadly Lessons, nominated by the Crime Writers of Canada for its Arthur Ellis Awards, and Last Dance, the sequel to Deadly Lessons. David is a long-time member of the arts community in Vancouver. He has worked on stage and television, including performing as a company member with the Vancouver TheatreSports League for more than 15 years. Russell has written freelance for a number of publications, including Maclean's, Vancouver's Sun and Province, the award-winning online news site The Tyee, and others. He lives in Coquitlam, British Columbia.

Ace Baker has won the Zola Award by placing first in poetry in PNWA's 2012 writing contest. He has also won the Storyteller Award for Short Fiction and the SIWC Poetry Prize, and his award-winning story, Victory Girl, will appear in the Fall 2014 issue of Pulp Literature.

PJ Reece is the author of two novels, Roxy and Smoke that Thunders, has ghostwritten a memoir of escape from Iran, and most recently self-published Story Structure to Die for. Early in his career, Reece pioneered the film industry in Alberta, and after trading camera for keyboard in the late 1980s, he wrote, story edited, and directed scores of programs for American and Canadian television networks.

Please visit their blogs in the next week or so to learn more about them and their writing process.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Cover Art

I just received the cover image via the publisher yesterday. Writers don't typically have any input into the cover art, and now that I see this I am so glad. I love the ghosted imaging of the sundry characters in the story, and Beppo's wary glance back over his shoulder gives an excellent sense of his conflict. And puh-lease! Is the font for "Caravaggio" amazing or what!

The artwork was done by multiple-Governor General's award winning illustrator Stéphane Jorisch, from Montreal.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

My Book

Caravaggio: Signed in Blood is historical fiction for 12- to 14-year-olds published by Tradewind Books. It follows the adventures of Beppo Ghirlandi, an indentured servant falsely accused of murdering his swindling master, as he flees early 17th Century Rome in the company of the painter known as Caravaggio, himself a wanted man. Their flight takes them through the Italian countryside and south to Naples and Malta, battling bounty hunters, pirates, and Caravaggio's own personal demons in their quest for a pardon. If that weren't enough, the penniless Beppo has fallen in love with the beautiful daughter of a famous--and socially ambitious--courtesan. How can he clear his own name? How can he stop Dolcetta from marrying the man her mother has chosen for her? And how can he protect his new master from vengeful foes, when Caravaggio's greatest enemy seems to be his own troubled mind?

You can find out this October. Stay tuned.