First-time children’s author Diane Martin believes it’s important to find something magical in each and every day. In her new book, When Time Stands Still, the first entry in what she is calling the Medallion Mysteries, her young protagonists do exactly that.
Inspired somewhat by Mary Pope Osborne’s popular Magic Tree House books, Martin’s debut entry in her own series follows siblings Megan, Nicholas and Brooke on a magical journey through a watery portal to a land filled with glowing orbs, fairies, magic footprints and a giant yet timid monster. Their youngest sibling, Tanner, stays behind fishing with his father and stumbles onto clues to their whereabouts.
Martin started writing When Time Stands Still 16 years ago when she was pregnant with her fourth child, also named Tanner. The Eden Secondary School student appears as his younger self in the book, as do Martin’s older children, Megan, 27, Nick, 25, and Brooke, 19.
“I was up late one night,” Martin recalls, “and an idea came into my head, so I just started writing. When I was done, I was proud of myself, and I sent it out to all of these publishing houses and was rejected. So I just put it away.”
It was Ridley College grad Brooke, now attending the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts, on a hockey scholarship, who urged her mother to put the book out there for the world to read last year.
She didn’t want to knock on the publishing house doors all over again, though. Having read about other authors going the self-
publishing route, Martin looked into some options and settled on Vancouver, B.C.’s Tellwell Talent.
“They helped me go through the whole process,” says Martin. “I had someone there edit the book, and I’m working with their marketing person right now. They also offered an illustration package but I wasn’t happy with it, so I decided to get it done on my own.”
Geared primarily toward ages 8 to 12, When Time Stands Still features illustrations at the start of each of its 10 chapters.
Martin’s son Nick is studying fine arts at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, where Diane and her husband Fab own a construction company. She asked Nick to do the illustrations, but he wasn’t comfortable drawing cartoon-like images. So he connected Diane with his friend Emma McLay, who was happy to come up with likenesses of her pal and his siblings.
The likenesses don’t end with the drawings. In fact, Martin insists that she captured the personalities of the younger versions of her children in her writing.
“This is how they spoke,” she laughs. “It may be a little bit exaggerated for content purposes. But they’ll tell me ‘I never said that’ or ‘I didn’t do that,’ but yeah, they did. They like it. Tanner thinks it’s funny, and Nick’s a go-with-the-flow kind of kid.”
When pressed for specifics, Martin says the younger Brooke really did confuse words such as “definitely” with “defiantly” and “debrief” for “debris,” as does her character in the book, and the younger Tanner really did point at people when he spoke to them. As well, Megan, who is now in her final semester studying psychology at university, is captured at that awkward tween stage when her three younger siblings annoyed her just by being present.
“They still get along together, they have so much fun together, but they do have their moments,” Martin adds. “Some kids who have read the book have told me that it’s just like their family, how they get along with their siblings the same way.”
The plot centres on Brooke discovering an old photograph of their great-grandfather Brian at a campground that the family just happens to be packing to go to. That leads to a story about the mysterious disappearance of Brian’s brother Jack many years ago.
Once the chaos of packing is worked through, the family leaves for their trip. After setting up camp, intrigued by the story of their great-uncle Jack, the three oldest children pack some snacks and a first aid kit and set off to explore. They discover a shoe that seems to have belonged to Jack, and it leads them to a waterfall, which turns out to be a portal to another world.
There they meet all kinds of strange creatures and experience adventures scary at times and magical at others. Through it all the three kids grow closer together. It’s a well-written tale that will appeal to young and old alike.
Martin based the camping experience on a location in the Canadian Rockies that their own family frequently travelled to. The idea of exploring seems second nature to her — she organized elaborate scavenger hunts for Halloween and Christmas, and she insists that her four children were never the type to sit around on screens all day.
“They were always building forts, inside or outside,” says Martin. “I think kids should do that. Get off the electronics and go outside and explore.”
Martin is giving local readers, both kids and adults, a chance to explore live and in person next Wednesday, March 22, at the Simpson Room in the community centre. She’s holding a book launch event from 7 to 9 p.m., and it will not be your usual author reading.
“I have face painters coming, and I have a big cardboard cutout of the monster,” says Martin. “I got a backdrop of the castle made, too. I also made a fairy diorama, and Brooke helped me make a sheet of clues for a scavenger hunt. I just want it to be fun for the kids.”
McLay also helped Martin create activity books, chock full of crosswords, mazes, word searches and pages to colour. Those who purchase a new copy of When Time Stands Still for $15 that night, or bring in the book purchased previously through Amazon, Chapters or Barnes and Noble, will receive a raffle ticket for an age-appropriate gift basket.
Martin proudly tells The Local that shortly after her book debuted in December it topped Amazon’s Hot New Releases list for more than a week. It also spent a few weeks as the number one mystery/detective story on their website.
The reviews she is getting from family and friends, especially from the kids, were encouraging enough to convince her to release book two in the Medallion Mysteries series, which will happen some time in 2023. She finished writing it during the first COVID lockdown and promised to work the names of some of her local young fans into the new adventure.
And Martin has already begun filling her coil-bound notebooks with material for book three, which may take the four siblings away from the campground of the first two books and into other enchanted lands.
The event Wednesday, March 22 at the NOTL Community Centre, is free to attend.