“Rocket Camp” has to be one of the best decisions I’ve made as a parent this summer. Run by the good folks at Mad Science, they’ve occupied the rectory of a local church and have taken on kids for a week of rockets, rocket safety, rocket related games, the whole gamut. And I’m pleased to say that while there are a majority of boys at this camp, Vivian and Nora aren’t the only girls. Three other girls are with them. They come home very excited about their day, and have a lot to tell me about launches, and parachutes landing in people’s yards. Really, if you want to get more girls into science and engineering, the job starts now — actually, it started long before now, but I feel like I’ve given them a good boost.

I’ve not had much to say on this blog of late, but I have been busy writing. In addition to last week’s post, here are some more things I’ve written:

I’ve also been conducting further revisions to The Night Girl, so I’m really keeping busy… just not on this blog. I’ll see what I can do about that.

We got back from our vacation in the States on Thursday. It was one of those vacations where we needed a vacation to recover from the vacation, but well worth having. We’ve been busy with the recovery, and my posting rate on this blog has taken a hit (again). However, I have been active putting words to paper or pixel. Here’s some of the stuff I’ve worked on recently:

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The kids should remember this, I think.

After we left Benton Harbor, we struck out across Iowa, stopping overnight outside Iowa City with author friend Sarah Prineas and her family. Their wonderful hospitality included roasting marshmallows over a fire, helping to bring in goats, and canoeing on a pond. This was followed by a trip to Weeping Water, Nebraska, which I’m sure most of you haven’t heard of. We rented a farm house off of AirBNB and stayed for three nights somewhere at least two miles from a paved road, and with soybeans growing as far as the eye could see.

There was horseback riding in the Platte River State Park, a picnic on the river, and a rendition of the Wizard of Oz at a very decent community playhouse near Manley. Vivian may well have acquired a dream of becoming a farm girl. Her grandma Rosemarie is thinking about having her walk a half row of beans at Big Poppa Howard’s place in Vermillion, South Dakota, to see if the desire sticks. I avoided the horseback riding due to allergies, but I have to admit that the chance to hear country noise (you can’t really call it silence) was good for the soul.

We also met up with grandpa Wendell and grandma Judy for a day in Omaha, checking out the Zoo, eating at a Mexican restaurant, and attending an Omaha Storm Chaser’s game, which was greatly enjoyed, even if the Storm Chasers lived up to their name and brought the rain with them. This triple-A ball club has a rallying cry of “stir up the storm!” and, I swear, every time they did that, it would start to rain. We all figured the audience was stirring up the wrong storm.

Two more nights to go in Vermillion, and then we start back, stopping for two nights in Chicago before heading home. All in all, a successful journey, and it’s not over yet.

Click here for more photos of our visit to Omaha, and click here for pictures of our trip to Platte River State Park.

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The photo above is entitled Glider at Mont Blanc and is by DrTestman. It is used in accordance with his Creative Commons license.

At last, the truth can be told. Late last week, I signed and sent off contracts to my agent which complete the sale of Icarus Down to Scholastic Canada. The book will likely be published sometime in 2016.

Some of you may recall the science fiction YA novel that I started working on back in 2009. It’s the one about colonists on a far-flung planet forced to cower from intense sunlight above and mysterious ticktock monsters below in cities suspended halfway up kilometres-deep chasms. After extensive revisions and a couple of false starts, I was taken under the wing of Emily Gref, agent at Lowenstein Associates, who worked tirelessly on my behalf, securing me this contract. Scholastic Canada, of course, are the same people who published Erin’s Plain Kate and Sorrow’s Knot here in Canada, so Erin has told me all about the editors and marketing people and the joy they are to work with.

There is still a lot of work to be done. Emily and I took Icarus Down as far as we could on our own, and now it is up to my editor at Scholastic Canada to help me take the book to the next level and get it ready for publication. I expect this will take up a lot of my time over the next few months, but I’m looking forward to it. But, for right now, it’s time to celebrate.

Thanks to everybody for their kind words, constructive criticism and support, who have helped me get this far. I am looking forward to seeing you all at the book launch when it finally happens.

Benton Harbor Beach

St. Joseph and Benton Harbor appear to be twin cities. Either way, I believe I’ve used “the Beaches of Benton Harbor” before, and I must have my alliteration!

Yesterday was a good day. We left the west of Detroit and didn’t have long before we hit our booked hotel in Benton Harbor. After meeting up with my mother-in-law and her husband, who were following on behind, we headed out to dinner and then a jaunt at St. Joseph’s beach park. The sand is really quite good, and some enterprising soul seemed to have brought a big shovel to the beach hours before, for they had created four great big craters in the beach sand. Maybe they were digging for treasure, I don’t know, but these craters were, of course, kid magnets.

We like to dig when we get to the beach. My theory is that it’s because we can. It’s our best hope to reach China with only plastic shovels. You could never envision doing something similar with coarse topsoil.

I built my own sandcastle closer to the shore, and pleased myself by being able to dig below the water line. Indeed, I created a growing sinkhole that I had to collapse less somebody come along and get their foot trapped.

One alarming moment came at supper, where the restaurant’s ceiling fans created a flickering light that made Erin woozy. Switching seats helped. The alarming part, however, is how Nora was affected by the same light. Like mother, like daughter. The poor girl went quite pale. We took her out of the restaurant, though, and she perked right up. So, now we know, and we’re armed for the future.

Further photos of our day can be found here.

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