Saturday, 7 December 2013

Les livres sont ici!

The French version of The Littlest Knight was delivered to my door on Thursday morning!  Being faced with selling 500 copies of a book in my second language is daunting, but it is still exciting to know that the story can now be shared with that many more people... and in French!

Of course, the arrival of the books required a bit of quick action on my part.  My amazing illustrator, Darren Bird ( was scheduled to be at Ottawa's Pop Expo this weekend, so I had to get copies to him before the event.  I drove to his place over lunch and we sat down to catch up and to sign 100 copies of the book.

In Canada, the National Library also requires a legal deposit of the book, so those were mailed off quickly.  It's pretty neat to think this book, in both languages, has become a piece of Canadian literary history!

Then, the first few copies were shipped off to eager readers: my friend and editor, Roxane Delisle; a former co-worker and my initial proof-reader for the French version, Stephan Vermette; and a copy for Milo, the son of a long-distance friend who lives in France.  I even had a few pre-orders to fill, and a couple of books were donated to my son's school for their library.  It's thrilling to know that there are already children out there who will be able to read this book during the holidays.

So, next year's task will be to step up my marketing plan, perhaps do some readings (with an abridged version of the sotry), and look into the possibility of finding a publisher who might take the book to the next level.  And, yes, I plan on working on another Littlest Knight story, but I don't expect that it will be done for at least another few months.  Perhaps that will be my holiday project to have the first draft.  Stay tuned!

If you're interest in ordering either The Littlest Knight or Le plus petit des chevaliers, visit my Etsy store at .

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

A great year nears its close

I know I haven't been very diligent about updating my blog, but the year is coming to an end, and I can finally post with certainty that the French translation of my book will be available before Christmas!  I set up the Etsy listing to take pre-orders, and the toy store that carries The Littlest Knight will also be selling Le plus petit des chevaliers as soon as we have copies.  My next task will be to write condensed versions in English and French so that I have something a bit shorter for public readings as the entire book itself can be a bit lengthy for these events.  I've already been approached about doing a reading and selling the book at the next book fair at my son's school.  It's a bit daunting given that French is my second language and I'm not fluently bilingual, but it's a challenge I'm willing to undertake!  For the translation of the book, I gratefully aknowledge the contribution of Roxane Delisle, a friend and professional translator, who agreed to edit the book.  Also, a huge thanks to a former co-worker Stephan Vermette, who proof read my initial translation of the book.

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Where has the time gone?

This blogging business is not easy when you have a lot of things on your plate!  Of course, that doesn't mean that things aren't happening.  Last month, I received the final edited translation of Le plus petit des chevaliers from my French editor.  Roxane is someone I know from performing in musicals with the Orpheus Musical Theatre Society, but as with most performers I know, she also has a "regular day job" as a translator.  Because The Littlest Knight is so close to my heart and a labour of love, it made sense to approach someone I know well to work on the French version of the book.  Roxane is also a mother to a young child, and this project was a departure from the more formal government and corporate documents she is often asked to translate.  I'm so grateful to have been able to include her in the continuing evolution of The Littlest Knight.  The translation is now with my wonderful, multi-talented partner-in-crime, Darren Bird, for layout with his amazing illustrations.

Also, during the summer, I had dared to send a copy of The Littlest Knight to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge as a small gift for their new son, Prince George.  I sent it in the hopes that maybe one day they might read the book to him.  When I was younger, I had actually sent a card to congratulate Prince Charles and the then Lady Diana Spencer on their nuptials.  I think I was 13 at the time, and it was thrilling to receive a reply from one of the royal secretaries.  This time around, the response included a lovely photo.  I do wish the royal couple well, and hope they get as much joy from their son as I've received from mine.

Friday, 30 August 2013

The Child in Our Hearts: Review

Recently, I received copies of a wonderful story about adoption, written for young children. The Child in Our Hearts: A Story of Adoption is written by Paul Janson and illustrated by Kevin Scott Gierman.  What makes this story unique is that there are several different versions of the book.  Paul and Kevin have addressed multiple family situations where adoption has been considered: single parents, "traditional" couples, and same sex couples.  The story is straightforward, and the drawings are full of smiles for the children who see this book.  My son was intrigued to see the different versions, and he readily accepted that children might be adopted into different family settings.  It's all about the love of the parents for their child.

Some versions of the book have also been translated into Spanish and Italian.

More information about this book and how to purchase a copy can be found at

Monday, 12 August 2013

What we'll do for our kids

Summer is vacation time for most Canadians, and if you have kids, that vacation time is often spent geared towards entertaining and/or educating your child(ren).  It can be both relaxing and stressful all at once.

My husband and I both love to do things that are geared towards kids.  When my husband suggested visiting Disney World last Hallowe'en, I balked a bit at the total cost, but I knew we would all have fun.  When we visit museums, play mini-golf, go to see the latest Pixar film, or visit an indoor play place, we all have a great time.

This summer has been no exception.  Although we don't have much more than a week (and weekends) to get away, we can still find many ways for all three of us to have fun.  Our "stay-cation" included a day at Canada's largest waterpark, Calypso; a trip to the local go-kart track where we also played a couple of rounds of mini-golf; a visit to the Museum of Science & Technology; and, a day at the cottage.  The travel part of our vacation took us to Marineland where my son and I had the opportunity to touch and feed a beluga whale.  (Those Marineland commercials really have a way of capturing a child's imagination, and it's a "must see" destination for many 5-year-olds.)  If you live in southern Ontario, you can get a really good deal on Marineland tickets since the cost of a season's pass is only $5 more than a day pass.  We enjoyed the rides, seeing the whales, watching the show, and playing in the arcade.

Of course, summer isn't all play and no work.  Jobs afford us the luxury of taking vacations away from home, but it also means less time together during the week.  But splash pads and parks are great places to get your child(ren) together with their friends so they can burn off some energy, and museum memberships can cover a few rainy days.  At home, we do crafts, play video games, bake cookies, read books, and more.  I'm even working on a story idea with my son.  He hasn't quite grasped the concept of a story line yet, but he knows what he wants as the subject of his story (robots), and if I prompt him with enough questions, we'll have a story to tell eventually.  Hopefully it won't be long before I have something more to share with all of you on this subject.  Including my son's story idea, I have two other very concrete ideas floating around in my head.  Not bad for someone who really thought The Littlest Knight would be a one-shot deal.

Monday, 15 July 2013

Braving the heat

The initial rush of interest in The Littlest Knight has died down, and with the summer heat upon us, I haven't given much thought to doing any more marketing, opting to wait until the school year starts again; however, the good folks at the Osgoode Medieval Festival invited me to do a reading this past weekend.  The weather was sweltering hot, but attendance was fantastic.  I found a nice shady spot under a tree, gathered a few parents and their kids, and read The Littlest Knight.  (Thanks, also, to my attentive and supportive friends who I've known since as far back as grade two!)
One thing I realized is that I probably need an abridged version of the story for events such as this.  It's going to be something I work on so that I'm not reading straight from the text, but speaking more around the illustrations.  I could tell the kids would be more interested if they were engaged, so I broke from the text several times to ask them questions and make comments.  Eye contact was really important.  They stayed to the end, so I think they enjoyed what they heard.

Another lesson learned?  When the humidex is set to hit 40 degrees, choose a blouse with short sleeves and skip the bloomers! :)

Saturday, 29 June 2013

Happy Canada Day!

In honour of Canada's 146th birthday on July 1st, I actually have two book recommendations.  These are books I first saw as board books when my son had just about outgrown board books.  Of course, even at the age of 5, he still occasionally enjoys a well-written and well-illustrated board book such as these ones, and they are available in a more standard paperback format for older children.  The books are written by Canadian author Kim Bellefontaine and illustrated in simple and bold way by Toronto-based illustrator Per-Henrik Gurth.  The text and pictures in the books will win over children and adults alike, and each page evokes a whimsical Canadian childhood scene.  It's all a lot of fun.

Bellefontaine first wrote ABC of Canada and continued with Canada 123.  I believe they are also both available in French, and, for our American friends, there is also ABC of America.  All these books can be purchased at  The ABC of Canada was the first gift I purchased for my nephew who was born in January 2013.  Although he lives in the U.S., I hope this will help him appreciate his Canadian heritage from a very early age.

Happy Birthday Canada!

Monday, 10 June 2013

C'est l'heure d'aller au lit! (Time for bed)

In my role as mom to a 5-year-old, I have had the privilege of being able to read hundreds of children's books over the past few years.  I figure I'll use this blog to highlight some of the books that we've read which Cole and I have really enjoyed. 

This first book is one that just resonated with me as a mom.  It always seems that my son can find a way to postpone the inevitable, and this can't be more evident than at night when he is supposed to be settling down to go to sleep.  C'est l'heure d'aller au lit! ("Time for Bed") is written cleverly by Andrée-Anne Gratton with captivating illustrations by Fil and Julie.  It tells the story from the perspective of little Caroline as she finds one thing after another to delay her bedtime.  We get to know what goes through Caroline's mind as she sees how her mother reacts, but, in the end, it all turns out, and you just can't but help loving the little girl in spite of the frustrations she puts her mother through.  It's probably a familiar story for most parents, but it's such a refreshing presentation of the dilemma, and a reminder that "you're not the only one who deals with this."

Although we borrowed the book from the library (which is the case for most of the books we read), it  is available in French from Bayard Canada and in English from Amazon.

Saturday, 8 June 2013

Book Signing

Last week, Darren and I had a very successful first book signing at Tag Along Toys, a locally owned toy store which is carrying The Littlest Knight.  Many of our friends, and some of Darren's family, came by to show their support, buying copies of the book at the event and getting them autographed and/or personalized by us.  We also had "swag" on hand for the kids: colouring pages, stickers, and pins with pictures of various characters from the book.

A few months before our book was published, when I was first looking into the idea of having a book signing, all signs pointed to doing it at a book store or a café since that's where most authors seemed to be holding these kinds of events, but I think having the toy store was a perfect location.  We even had a backdrop of fairies, knights and dragons!

Saturday, 18 May 2013

A trip down memory lane

It seems that The Littlest Knight is not my very first 32-page illustrated children's book.  At the bottom of my nightstand drawer, I've been holding onto a book that I made in 1980.  I was either in grade 4 or 5 at Barrhaven Public School.  We wrote haiku poems in French, illustrated each haiku and then bound our books in a cardboard cover with fabric on top for a nice look.  I remember using an iron to somehow adhere the book pages to the cover, and we actually hand stitched the binding with the help of our teacher.

Here is one of the 2-page spreads from that book:

I think I still draw almost exactly as I did when I was 11 years old.

I know I have another book of illustrated sentences from grade one somewhere, but I'll have to dig that up for another blog post.

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Jack of all trades!

I've come to discover that self-published authors need to quickly become "Jacks of all trades", and the writing itself is just the tip of the multi-tasking iceberg.

When I first wrote the story of The Littlest Knight, I never thought much about what lay ahead as far as responsibilities went.  But the work already began as I had to consider my own requirements: Did I want to self-publish? Would I attempt to illustrate the book myself, hire a friend or look for an independent artist?  Would I go with a self-publishing company or do the printing myself?  What did I want the final product to look like?  How many copies should I print?

Once some of those questions were answered, I researched contracts between authors and illustrators to ensure both my illustrator and I were protected and fairly compensated (in case we should eventually see any profit).  Fortunately for everyone, I did engage an illustrator - and an awesome one at that - but it was a cooperative effort to settle on the layout and design so we were both happy with the final product.  The fine-tuning and editing are skills all on their own.

Now, I'm also the accountant for my self-publishing company, although any true accountant would probably cringe at the way I'm keeping track of things.  (It works for me, and everything is accounted for, but all those accounting classes from university have been long forgotten.)  And, just today, I wrote my first press release and sent it out to the media to announce the launch of The Littlest Knight which means I'm also the publicist for the company. :)

So, writer, business analyst, contract negotiator, layout designer, accountant and publicist.  Who would have dreamed I would have to develop all of these skills just for one book?  I'm really enjoying the challenge, though, because for each step I take, I feel more confident that I could do this all again.

By the way, our first signing and the official launch of The Littlest Knight will be held on Saturday, June 1st from 11am to 2pm at Tag Along Toys in Kanata (499 Terry Fox Drive).  Both Darren and I will be there to sign books, and we'll have stickers and colouring pages for the kids. We're so grateful for the support this local business has given us.

Saturday, 4 May 2013

Reaching out

This past week has been a whirlwind of excitement.  It's hard to believe that the shipment of books only arrived on Monday.  On Tuesday, Darren and I got together to autograph dozens of copies.  Even though I've had some experience signing autographs (on rare occasions after some of the musial I've appeared in), it will probably always feel a bit strange to me.  My handwriting is, most often, tidy and very straight, and, for some reason, I keep thinking that my signature should be more "artsy".  Certainly, the way I sign cheques shows a certain flare after years of practise, but I decided my autograph had to be different.  Anyway, I digress.

On Wednesday, I headed out to an independent bookstore in the downtown area (near my workplace) and asked the owner if he'd consider carrying the book.  He was very enthusiastic, and asked me to bring a few copies to the store when I was able.  So, Perfect Books became the first bookstore to agree to sell The Littlest Knight and they now have copies in their children's book section.  The next day, I took a small order of books to Tag Along Toys where the owner was more than happy to support another local area mom, and she even took a copy home to read to her own child.

Sales have been going well so far, and there will be at least two book signing opportunities.  I'm really looking forward to these because I want to reach a broader audience than just friends and family.  But they are the ones who have boosted my confidence, and I'm so grateful for their support.

I'm now considering next steps in my writing "career".  I've got a few story ideas up my sleeves, and I'm thinking of translating The Littlest Knight in French.  I can't imagine we'd sell as many copies in French, but I would love to be able to donate a copy of the book to my son's school.  If that requires buckling down and working on my French, then I'll definitely give it a shot.

Monday, 29 April 2013

The books have arrived!

I'm excited to be able to meet with Darren now that the shipment has come in.  We've had so many requests for copies already from friends and family, and we're both eager to share the book with a wider audience.  If you would like to order the book online, we have a listing on Etsy.  I'll also be working on arrangements to sell the book in at least one or two local bookstores, and there will be one or two book signings in the near future.  All the details still have to be worked out, but I feel better now that I actually have the books with me.

Sunday, 14 April 2013

All about a boy, and a book

Oliver Jeffers is an author to whose works I was introduced when I became a mom.  His stories are whimsical and fun, and the drawings just evoke childhood through their structure and simplicity.  When I first met with Darren, I had one of Oliver Jeffers books in hand as a sample of what I liked best in a picture book.  I also always imagined that the main character in The Littlest Knight would have a big head and a little body - simply because I find that really cute.  Darren managed to use that "big head/little body" description and create a character I absolutely adore.

As for the Oliver Jeffers books, although I love all his books, I will admit to having a personal favourite: How to Catch a Star.  Not long after I had first read this book to my son, he told me confidently, "One day, I'm going to catch a star."  And there was no doubting from the tone in his voice that one day, he just might.

Here is a link to a recent interview with Oliver Jeffers by Today's Parent magazine:

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

We're ready for an audience!

Recently, I thought about the upcoming publication of The Littlest Knight, and what immediately went through my head was: "We're near the end!"  But that didn't sound right.  The publication of the book won't be the end of something, but rather the beginning.  Darren and I are both theatre people, and it occurred to me that putting this book together has been much like the development of a play with a rehearsal period of working on the text and images until the book was just as we wanted it.  The publication of the book will be more like an opening night followed by the actual performance when we finally have an audience.

So, as our rehearsal period comes to an end, I can look back at an amazing collaborative effort that's taken place, and I'm looking forward to sharing the end product with our audience.

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Early sketches

Have you ever wondered what children's book illustrators are given to figure out what to draw?  Other than the text, I have no idea, but here's a look at the really rough storyboard that I was able to provide Darren at our very first meeting.  Amazingly enough, he was able to make sense out of the scribbles, and he drew his inpiration for many of his drawings from these rough chicken scratches.

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Self-publishing in a world of technology

I work as an IT professional, but I will admit that there are more times than not when I wish we could just take a step back from all the technology that surrounds us. I was away from home when the huge power outage occurred in the summer of 2003, affecting the northeast U.S. and much of eastern Canada.  I often wonder what the quiet was like during that time.  No humming of air conditioners, no radio, no artificial lights… no computers, no Internet, and no cellphones!  I think it’s this wish for a simpler way of life (circa the late 1980’s or early 1990’s and not, say, the 1890’s) that was my motivation for self-publishing my book.  I don’t own a Kindle or a Kobo. I love to visit the library and flip through real books.  I hope my son learns to appreciate these simple luxuries as well, and that they are around for him when he is older.

All wishful thinking and reminiscing aside, technology is still a great tool for collaboration and communication in this day and age.  During the past 15 months, Darren and I only met in person less than a handful of times.  We regularly exchanged emails, sending files back and forth when we needed to run things by each other.  Rarely did we pick up the phone.  As the book started to take shape in a more finalized format, Darren introduced me to Google’s Hangout.  He was able to work on the layout in the comfort of his own home office while I watched remotely from my PC at home.  Now that the book is completed and a final softcopy will need to be submitted to a publisher, I’ll be learning more about DropBox which allows for filesharing and downloading.  Of course, I haven’t even mentioned how awesome it was to see how Darren draws and colours his illustrations right on his computer.

From a marketing perspective, I still have a lot to learn, but I’ve used Blogspot to start this blog, Facebook to create a page for the book, and 50Megs to set up a website for my publishing company, Tytanima Press.  I’ve set up a PayPal account, and I’ve connected with other authors on LinkedIn.  And there may still be other tools that I learn to use to help spread the word about The Littlest Knight.

 So, as much as I like to take a step back from technology as often as I can, it does certainly have its benefits and can help facilitate something like the self-publishing endeavour.

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Revenge of the comma!

This past month, I contemplated trying to get the title of our book printed on the spine for the sake of shelving, for example, in libraries. I've seen some very nicely bound 32-page picture paperbacks with this, but what I've discovered is that this can't be necessarily easily achieved by small printers.  At least, not with the level of reliability that a big book publisher can achieve. If the alignment of the spine isn't perfect, it would reflect badly on the printer and look bad on the book, so I can understand a printer's reluctance to even talk about spines unless the book is of a significant size.

After working on finding a definitive answer to the spine question, I still didn't feel quite ready to submit our work for printing. I realized that I just wanted one more set of eyes to take a look at the final copy, but a set of eyes that was qualified. As luck would have it (and it took awhile for me to realize this), my friend, Allyson, with whom I had been part of a Christmas vocal quartet many years ago, had studied English Literature at university, and she had also written and edited a local food magazine (FoodMode Magazine)! She was more than happy to take a look at the book, and I'm grateful for her feedback. Of course, this is where my current disklike of commas comes in.  You can never take for granted that you are properly placing commas even if you are fairly confident that your grasp of English writing is at a sufficient level.

Now, the work is back in Darren's capable hands for some minor edits, and then we'll be ready to print!

Sunday, 24 February 2013

No pain, no gain

Last night, I met with Darren to complete the final layout of The Littlest Knight.  We made sure the page sizes were correct, and that the images and text were just where (and how) we wanted them to be.  As we standardized the font size throughout the book, we were able to uncover a bit more of his amazing drawings.

Since this is our first time doing anything like this - and neither one of us is knowledgeable in the production of children's books - we have the freedom to just make it look the best we can make it.  Both of us have an eye for balance, and I'm hoping this will serve us well in the end.  Are there rules to how many words should be on a page of a picture book?  Are there rules about putting just a few words here but more somewhere else?  And what about the actual placement of the text?  The software that Darren uses may not be the best for laying out a book, but it certainly can do a nice job when in the hands of someone who knows what he's doing.

So, maybe with one more look at the pages to ensure we didn't miss anything (or misplace any commas), we'll be set to send the book to the printer and get a proof.  It's been a year since we undertook this project together, and it has paid off that we were organized right from the start.  We're both looking forward to the day when we can proudly show off the finished product.

As for the "pain" in the title of this blog post, there really hasn't been any, and that's been a blessing.  The pain is quite literally in my back (and has been since Tuesday), and it was hard to drag myself out of the house to take care of these final details with Darren, but it was definitely worth it.

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Something's coming, something good!

Since I just started this blog, I haven't written much about the process of putting together The Littlest Knight.  As of today, Darren and I are so close to finalizing the look of the book and heading to a printer that it's hard to contain our excitement.  I can see the end result in sight, and I am so looking forward to being able to share the final product with our friends and family.

Rather than show you the cover design (which you can see over at Darren's blog - it's definitely worth a visit), I wanted to post one of the original concept sketches from the book.  Darren and I got together last January to discuss what kind of images I was looking for.  I had a drawing of a knight that I had done, and I mentioned to him that I really like characters with big heads and little bodies.  I also had really bad sketches of some of the pages I wanted, but he knew instinctively what I was looking for and churned out amazing drawings right from day one.

When I ask my son who this is, he answers, "Me!" 

Thursday, 31 January 2013

To blog or not to blog? That was the question.

I will admit that I have often wondered why anyone would be compelled to log their activities and opinions on such a public forum as a blog, but I have also read that blogs can be good marketing and networking tools for self-published authors. So, although I have yet to reach the point of having something published, it's coming soon. I should also mention that reading the blogs of other self-published authors has helped boost my confidence as I struggle through some of the logistics of choosing a printer/publisher and creating a marketing plan for my first children’s book.

The Littlest Knight is a story that I wrote for my son. I’ve been writing in some form or other since I was about thirteen years old when I started keeping a diary, but it wasn’t until I wrote this story that I wanted to find a way to see my writing in print for others to read. I wanted to do this for my son and I wanted to share it with friends. Once the story was written, I would leave it for a while before revisiting it for changes and edits, and soon I considered it might be illustrated. Although I can draw, my own illustrations would no doubt be inconsistent so I knew I would have to find an illustrator. As luck would have it, in the fall of 2011 I was cast in a local production of White Christmas with a talented actor playing the role of Phil Davis. Darren Bird and I had already performed together on a smaller scale, but it was during White Christmas that I saw some of his artwork and determined to ask him to illustrate my story. Right from the start, Darren was as enthused as I was about the project, and so our partnership was born.

I hope that, through this blog, I will be able to tell this reading audience about how The Littlest Knight began to take shape and how it’s transformation to a published work took place.