t December 2011 | sh C. K. Kelly Martin o

Months back a writer friend sent me a link to Margaret Atwood's insightful TED talk on the future of publishing, "The Publishing Pie: An Author's View." The part that resonated the most deeply with me begins at the 2:16 mark where Atwood, reflecting on acute changes to the industry remarks, "We have heard a certain amount of panic and my first message to you is, don't panic because if you do panic and run away they will think you're prey."

To me, this seems to be solid advice in any number of situations: Don't panic because you'll look like prey.

When my first book was accepted for publication in 2006 the publishing environment was very different than it is today, only a few short years later. The rise in popularity of e-books has significantly changed the publishing landscape. For one thing, there's tons more piracy (and most writers make very little money to begin with so that's extremely bad news). A 2011 poll of French readers found that 27% of ebook readers reported that they got their content from pirate sites. Another 2011 Digital Entertainment Survey showed the "advent of eBook readers has increased illegal downloading activity across the board: 29 per cent of eReader and 36 per cent of tablet owners of all ages, both male and female, admit piracy."

To be honest, I have trouble understanding some readers' willingness to download (and even post) pirated copy of books. It doesn't take much insight to realize that if you don't financially support books there'll be less choice in reading materials in the future. Worried publishers, seeing diminishing returns for many, many books, will award less contracts and writers that aren't perceived to be writing the next Hunger Games or The Help will be out of luck. Some may self-publish (with varying degrees of success and still facing piracy in that arena) and some, in time, may be forced to stop writing almost entirely, bruised by financial realities—the need to feed themselves and their families. Surely if you're a reader, you'd want a certain diversity and depth of reading material to be available to you in the future. You'd think, right? But it seems that a significant percentage of readers are woefully short-sighted on this point.

Piracy aside, this is the year that Borders disappeared from the United States, leaving a single big national bookstore chain in place, Barnes and Noble. Even before Borders went bankrupt Barnes and Noble had way too much power— influencing book covers, titles and sometimes even the content of books. But now if Barnes and Noble decide not to stock your book it's a bigger concern for writers than ever. There may not be an indie store around for miles and they just don't get the traffic that Barnes and Noble do (if you have the chance, please give indie bookstores all the traffic you can!). At times it may in fact be easier for readers to find pirated copies of your book online than physical copies of your novel on bookstore shelves (head slap!).

Too, when my first book, I Know It's Over, was released contemporary young adult books were in much greater demand than they are now. These days, while there are still some contemporary YA books kicking around at Barnes and Noble, their shelf and table space is puny compared to that awarded to more escapist fare—paranormal, fantasy and dystopian fiction for teens. Not that I have anything against books that offer an escape from reality but I do have a problem with those books being supported by publishers and chain booksellers to the exclusion of almost anything else.

And this is the place I find myself at the end of 2011, a writer who wants to continue to pen books for young people (realistic contemporary books mainly but other things too. A little of this, a little of that, whatever inspires me at a particular time) despite not having any hit novels to my name at a time when the industry feels like it's standing at the edge of a hill, beginning to cascade down the side like a runny egg.

A writer could get very nervous thinking about it all and then there's the shaky state of the economy in general and the fear that every year we delay getting serious about combatting climate change puts our collective future in greater jeopardy. There's alot to worry about for all of us, no question, but the act of worrying isn't actually helpful in the least so in 2012 I'm adopting a WWII slogan Britain's Ministry of Information came up with way back in 1939. Given the anxiety of the current times it's easy to see why it's become popular again.

Keep Calm and Carry On

I don't normally make New Year's resolutions and I'm not even sure this is one exactly but in 2012 I plan to take Margaret Atwood's and the British Ministry of Information's advice. I'm not sure what the publishing industry has in store for me, or any of my fellow writers this year—or what the slippery global economy has in store for any of us either—but soldier on with me, folks. We'll have to get more creative in working around our problems than we've had to be in the recent past. Much more, I imagine. But we can do that. Our species happens to be quite talented at adapting once we put our minds to it.

Keep calm and carry on.
The Christmas holidays may be a great time for turkey, plum pudding and sledding (if you have the weather for it), but one of the other things I love about the season is the feeling, after the main festivities are over with, that it's okay to slow down and smell the roses or, er, the snowflakes. I haven't been doing any writing during the past few days but I've been doing a heck of a lot of movie watching (including the adventures of my childhood hero Tintin!) and reading. One of the novels I devoured over the holidays is Amplified by Tara Kelly, which I'd been especially looking forward to tackling because I have a big ol' crush on rock fiction. Now I can officially say I have a big ol' crush on Amplified too. Main character Jasmine Kiss is an awesome guitarist, one hell of a strong girl and one hell of a mess too. Delicious drama with a hard rock edge.

Reading Amplified prompted me to put together this list of my favourite rock fiction. It was originally intended to be a top ten list but I couldn't decide which of the Superchick trilogy novels should make the list and even if I just named one, that would've left me with a top eleven list. Most of the below descriptions are the publisher's (because I'm lazy at this time of year and have a bad memory at the best of times) but they're all fantastic, highly enjoyable books, some of them YA and some of them adult. I consider them all perfect examples of crossover books, ones that would appeal equally to older teen and adult readers.

TOP 13
* Amplified (by Tara Kelly, 2011)
When privileged 17-year-old Jasmine gets kicked out of her house, she takes what is left of her savings and flees to Santa Cruz to pursue her dream of becoming a musician. Jasmine finds the ideal room in an oceanfront house, but she needs to convince the three guys living there that she's the perfect roommate and lead guitarist for their band, C-Side. Too bad she has major stage fright and the cute bassist doesn't think a spoiled girl from over the hill can hack it. . . .

* Chartbreak (also known as Chartbreaker, by Gillian Cross, 1987)
When Janis Finch storms out of a family row, it starts a chain of events which transforms her whole life. For it's in the motorway cafe, minutes later, that she meets the unknown rock band, Kelp, who talk her into coming to their gig that night. Janis goes along for the ride and finds herself increasingly provoked by Christie, Kelp's arrogant lead singer. He pushes her into singing with them, and winds her up into a fever of rage, awe, and attraction. So when Christie asks her to join the band, Janis feels powerless to refuse—and her life explodes.

* The Commitments (by Roddy Doyle, 1987)
Barrytown, Dublin, has something to sing about. The Commitments are spreading the gospel of the soul. Ably managed by Jimmy Rabitte, brilliantly coached by Joel 'The Lips' Fagan, their twin assault on Motown and Barrytown takes them by leaps and bounds from Paris Hall to immortality on vinyl. But can The Commitments live up to their name?

* The Exes (by Pagan Kennedy, 1998)
A hip and hilarious tour of the world of rock 'n' roll. The Exes, an up-and-coming indie band, is made up of people who used to be lovers. Progressing from jam sessions in a basement to second-rate clubs to a cross-country tour that requires them to share seedy hotel rooms—with their exes—the four band members reveal their quirks, their problems, and their fantasies in alternating narratives.

fav rock fiction
* Girl (by Blake Nelson, 1994) Meet Andrea Marr, straight-A high school student, thrift-store addict, and princess of the downtown music scene. Andrea is about to experience her first love, first time, and first step outside the comfort zone of high school, with the help of indie rock band The Color Green. *There's also a sequel called Dream School which came out on December 6th.

* Guitar Girl (by Sarra Manning, 2003)
Seventeen-year-old Molly Montgomery never planned on becoming famous. Molly's band, The Hormones, was just supposed to be about mucking around with her best mates, Jane and Tara, and having fun. But when the deliciously dangerous Dean and his friend T join the band, things start happening fast. Soon The Hormones are front-page news, and their debut album is rocketing up the charts. Molly is the force behind the band, but the hazards of fame, first love, screaming fans, and sleazy managers are forcing the newly crowned teen queen of grrl angst close to the edge. Fame never comes for free, and Molly's about to find out what it costs.

* High Fidelity (by Nick Hornby, 1995)
Pop music junkie and record store owner Rob finds that his myriad diversions after the breakup with his longtime girlfriend are not as entertaining as he thought they would be. This international bestseller was Nick Hornby's first novel.

* Live By Request (by Rob Payne, 2002)
On paper, Jay Thompson is a 26-year-old bartender going nowhere. But his burning desire is to be a working musician, or failing that, a working songwriter. Together in pursuit of the dream is his band, Archangel: Tyler, headstrong composer of the experimental rock opera "Space Oddity"; Jan, the sassy bass guitar smashingplayer and object of Jay's affection; and Noel, the Gap-wearing, scissor-kicking guitar player, who spends his days labouring in the corporate world. Set on the Canada-US border, Live By Request follows the exploits of a band on the run from bscurity, boredom, and sometimes, even themselves.

* Rock Star Superstar (by Blake Nelson, 2004)
Music is Pete’s life. He’s happiest when playing his Fender P-Bass. He doesn’t care about prestige or getting girls; it’s the quality of the music that matters. Then he meets the Carlisle brothers. They can’t sing and they can barely play, but somehow they have a following. Pete can’t resist, and he joins The Tiny Masters of Today. When the band gets a chance at real stardom, Pete wonders if he’s ready. He knows the music should come first . . . but who knew selling out could be so much fun?

* Superchick (2004), Rock and a Hard Place (2006), Ride On (by Stephen J. Martin, 2008)
The Superchick trilogy follows Jimmy Collins' journey from Dublin middle manager to full-blown rockstar along with his perpetually randy bandmate Aesop. All three novels absolutely bleed Irish sensibility which is a big part of their charm. I keep hoping some talented filmmaker will get them onto the screen and give these books the exposure they deserve.

* Vinyl Princess (by Yvonne Prinz, 2009)
Summer's here, and 16-year-old Allie, a self-professed music geek, is exactly where she wants to be: working full-time at Berkeley’s ultra-cool Bob and Bob Records. There, Allie can spend her days bantering with the street people, talking the talk with the staff, shepherding the uncool bridge-and-tunnel shoppers, all the while blissfully surrounded by music, music, music. It’s the perfect setup for her to develop her secret identity as The Vinyl Princess, author of both a brand-new zine and blog. From the safety of her favourite place on earth, Allie is poised to have it all: love, music and blogging . . .or is she?

Rock on!
I'm an absolute sucker for those miniature Christmas villages people set up on their mantelpieces at this time of year. If I had boundless room my own village would no doubt expand to the point where it would, in fact, be so large you'd have to call it a town.

Recently my dad told me about a fantastic Christmas display in Campbellville that features a collection of these Christmas villages as well as lights, animated boxes and more. So this past Sunday Paddy and I drove up to The Stonehouse in Campbellville to visit the Singleton family's Christmas lights display. It's open to the public free of charge from mid-November to the end of December and donations made on sight go to Halton Women's Place for its Children's programs.

Christmas bakery goods 2011The display is totally charming and I swear I've never heard a kid filled with such excitement as the young girl who, during our visit, squealed with uncontainable glee from behind us. "I love this!"

I've posted a selection of photos from our visit below, starting with the fuel we ingested before our visit — a sugar cookie (mine) and mince pie (Paddy's) from our local bakery here. In one of the snaps you can even see me doing an amazing skating stunt!

The Singleton's Christmas Lights Display 2011

The Singleton's Christmas Lights Display 2011

The Singleton's Christmas Lights Display 2011

C.K., The Singleton's Christmas Lights Display 2011

The Singleton's Christmas Lights Display 2011

The Singleton's Christmas Lights Display 2011

The Singleton's Christmas Lights Display 2011

The Singleton's Christmas Lights Display 2011

The Singleton's Christmas Lights Display 2011

The Singleton's Christmas Lights Display 2011

The Singleton's Christmas Lights Display 2011

The Singleton's Christmas Lights Display 2011

The Singleton's Christmas Lights Display 2011

The Singleton's Christmas Lights Display 2011

The Singleton's Christmas Lights Display 2011

The Singleton's Christmas Lights Display 2011

The Singleton's Christmas Lights Display 2011

into the future, just like the song says. Sometimes I feel like the Doctor must be messing with the fabric of time because, for instance, how can it already be two weeks since I last updated my blog? What has happened during all that time (aside from my trips to the cinema to watch Arthur Christmas, Hugo and Breaking Dawn)?? Shouldn't I have more to show for it?

Hugo, Breaking Dawn, Arthur Christmas

Now, if the Doctor is fooling around with time I'm sure it's in the service of good and that the earth has just been saved from maleovalent aliens but for our own sake we haven't been allowed to remember it. If this is the case I heartily thank the Doctor for once again rescuing humanity (and humbly request that he consider doing something about getting us Canadians a half decent Prime Minister). Either way I'm hoping to get much more writing done next week because I'm falling behind in my new book and have left the main character alone in the middle of a very precarious situation for far too long. Let me tell you, she's not happy about this. I'm probably going to hear alot of crap from her when I get back to the book!

Meanwhile in real life I've acquired a case of shopping mall sickness which comes from having been in four shopping malls (five if you count the Atrium on Bay) within the last three days. Not that I've bought alot mind you, but I've spent hour upon hour there just the same. I think shopping mall air must be similar in quality to airplane air because I feel generally lacklustre and am exhibiting the symptoms of a head cold. Today the Santa Claus in Dixie Value Mall wished me a Merry Christmas as I passed him, without me having to sit on his knee or anything. Hopefully the good vibes will set me right again soon but while I'm on the subject how ridiculous is it that while even a discount shopping mall has a real-life Santa to visit Toronto's Eaton Centre has nixed this longtime tradition in favour of offering Skype visits with Santa? That's a big bah humbug of an idea to me. So much of daily life now is already divorced from reality and spent interacting with electronic devices. The cool thing about being able to meet a mythological figure like Santa live in the flesh is the fact that, well, he's live in the flesh.

C. K. & Santa, Eaton CentreAnd it's doubly a shame because the Eaton Centre used to have some of the best Santas around (I was so entranced by a particular one that I felt compelled to go have a chat with him myself a few years ago, picture at right). Great job with the cool illuminated giant deer decorations, Eaton Centre, but thumbs down on the too cool for school Santa Skype idea.

During my time in downtown Toronto yesterday I had a chance to check out G for Gelato at the corner of Adelaide and Jarvis. I'm a total sucker for gelato and after reading the Toronto Star review I was all excited to stop by. Trust me, if you're as big a fan of gelato as I am you should go too. So yummy (I had the pistachio)! And my husband really enjoyed their espresso too.

Anyway, I hope you'll forgive me if I stay away from the blog a little longer to try to make progress on my current book. By the way, the other day I noticed that my next book, Yesterday, has been posted on Goodreads. It doesn't hit shelves until next September so there's no finalized cover yet but I'm excited to see it just dipping its toe into the pool of existence at this stage and when I can, I'll definitely say more!

Christmas decorations at Eaton Centre
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