Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas

I don't know that I have ever seen this much snow in this neck of the woods ever, let alone at Christmas. It's beautiful, but...

I am very glad my folks live within walking distance, so they can still come for Christmas Eve. And Matt's mom is on her way from Holly's place, so hopefully she drives carefully and makes it ok. Tonight's feast is not to be missed: Our traditional fondue, with veggies, chicken, beef, and this year's Exotic Meat... Wild Boar. I can't wait.

Thank goodness, too, for my sharp eye that noticed the water trickling down the basement wall last night, entering where the main enters the house. We managed to set up a bucket overnight and caught about 8 litres of water. But the plumbers are here and it...might be fixed now. 

All is good. I haven't showered yet, coz the water's been off, but that is ok, I'll get there. The mulled wine and spiced apple cider are filling the air with their Christmassy scents and we have lots of food, lots of firewood, so if the power goes off we'll be fine. We're healthy and happy, and Santa Claus will make it through any weather.

Merry Christmas to all and sundry, and I wish that everyone has as delightful a time as we will have.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Christmas and Rewrites

Spaghetti's cooking away, the toboggan hill is awaiting our arrival and all those incredibly loud rumbling noises have been identified as the train pulling in in The Polar Express, which is playing downstairs with the surround sound on. That scared the heck out of me, man. 

I want to thank everyone who so kindly sends us Christmas cards, even though we never send them. I do love receiving them, and have them all hung on a string above the pony wall in the living room. I tried to send Christmas cards once or twice but didn't make it through the project and it just became a huge dark cloud of guilt hovering over me. So I just said, NO! to doing Christmas cards. Man, I can't even seem to get the kids' school photos organised and sent out to friends and family. I suck at that sort of thing. [sigh] I love that everyone still sends me cards, though. That's very big of them.

Had a nice chat with Rob today, even though he's sick with the flu, poor fellow. Also talked to Colleen, which I do quite regularly lately, mostly because we're talking writing so much. I told her about my Stream of Consciousness writing I did t'other day. I wanted to find out what was truly going on in Kyer's mind once she gets taken by the enemy at the river. So I just wrote and wrote, occasionally checking back with the story to find out what happens next. I wrote in her dialogue, and her reactions to the things others said to her, but no narrative, just all Kyer's inner monologue. It was very interesting to discover some new things:

1) Kyer notes that Con is a coward. To finally pick her up but require eight men to do it, shows her that he's afraid of her. This knowledge keeps up her confidence for a lot longer than she might otherwise have lasted.
2) This also leads to a determination not to be broken. There are limits, of course, to how much she can take, and she's about to learn about those limits. However, during the trip to Ronav's headquarters she manages to keep her courage up.
3) Kyer compares her current situation to an event that occurred in the schoolyard where it took eight boys to beat her up. She still did them some damage AND walked home. They won the fight but they did not defeat her. Another source of courage for Kyer to draw on during this current little get-together with Con and Gyles and friends, whilst on their way to Ronav's headquarters.

And what a surprise awaits her when she gets there...

Now I need to figure out what nasty things to do to Janak. Derry, Jesqellan, Janak and Phennil are attacked by an ogre at the same time that Con & Co. are picking up Kyer, and I need Janak to incur some damage. Something that prevents them from following after Kyer, and something that royally ticks him off, so he can blame it on Kyer.

This has been the trickiest rewrite I've ever tackled. Don't know why. But I'm finally making headway. Making my characters suffer... what larks. Merry Christmas, guys.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Rejection: Get over it

Jonathan just nagged me to blog, coz I've neglected it. Ok fine. I thought about blogging about the Canadian political circus, but then I decided that some people are afraid of clowns, so I'd better not. It's a busy time, coming up to Christmas. School concerts, shopping, dinner guests, decorating... My advent calendar says we're supposed to buy a tree today. Considering I haven't done the advent calendar tasks I was supposed to do yesterday nor the day before, I can't guarantee that the tree will happen today.

Really, what I want to talk about today is rejection. Again. I got a letter from Eddie Schneider yesterday. It simply was not tos his taste, and there's nothing I can do about that. Rats. But you know the worst part about getting rejected, once I've gotten through the initial drag of reading the letter and a bit of, "Why am I doing this to myself? Why don't I pursue some other career instead?" Really the worst part is telling other people. I always feel like I'm giving bad news. Like a doctor who has to say, "Sorry, your tests results showed a positive indication for [insert Really Crummy Condition here]." 

Everyone cares so much and they get excited for me whenever something cool happens in this long and often painful process, and I hate having to go around and tell people that it was just another false alarm. There's a small part of me that cringes and wants to hide away and pretend it didn't happen, but that's because there's a niggling fear that being rejected means my work is bad; and maybe it's a greater fear that if I tell people my work was rejected, they will believe my work is bad.

As Tom keeps reminding me, Jasper Fforde received 75 rejections for The Eyre Affair before he hit paydirt. 

The point is that the announcement of a rejection needs to be just as matter of fact as the announcement of the request for submission. Work through the misery and dejection and despondency (a process which should take about... 13 minutes) and then hunker down and get back to work. So here goes: Ladies and Gentlemen... I received a rejection from Eddie Schneider yesterday! 

Now where's my pen?

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Editing madness

Colleen said to me on Monday, "You're going to hate me." Why would I do that? Because she's editing my MS, and came to a part that she thought was totally lame, and said so. Grrrr.

It's never easy to hear a comment like that, and if you ever get the privilege of being edited by Colleen, you will learn that she doesn't hold back, she makes her points VERY clear with lots of comments, honest reaction, and even a little sarcasm. I take criticism in that way from her because she's my friend and I trust her. (Plus there's that little bit of knowledge in the back of my mind that turnabout is fair play and I'm going to be editing for her some day very soon!!) I brace myself for her negative comments and take lots of deep breaths, but I listen to them and remain objective. I don't get all pissy and mad... because she's... well, she's right. It's refreshing to hear someone say, "I really wanted something bad to happen to Kyer in that scene, and it didn't, and I felt totally let down." Believe me, there was more to it than that. Ouch!

That kind of feedback is crucial. I appreciate her candor, and said so. I don't want an agent to read my book and feel "totally let down." I'd rather get it from a friend in a timely fashion, allowing me to fix the problems before they can be read by an agent who might then reject the whole thing.

So, I've worked on the chapter in question, using a scene I wrote for book two but removed because it didn't really fit. See, that's a reason to never reject an idea: always write the scene, even if you don't wind up using it where you planned. It has found a place elsewhere.

Now Kyer is in bigger trouble than she was before, and furthermore, she tries to talk her way out of it, but it fails, and boy oh boy is she in for it. And hopefully the reader response will be, "Oh NO! How's she going to get out of this?!"  

And THAT is the kind of reaction I want. So once again, thanks Colleen, for being so very nasty. And no, I couldn't hate you if I tried.

Friday, November 28, 2008

"Don't judge a book by its movie"

So says the marquee in front of a bookstore on the Lougheed Highway in Maple Ridge. And it's true, so true.

I watched a bunch of movie trailers online yesterday and I can say with all certainty that I will not be going to see Coraline. Why do film makers think they have to exaggerate everything? If a scene is exciting and intense in a book why is it not possible to reproduce that intensity on screen without overblowing it? A battle scene does not have to be twenty minutes long and keep going until every item in the vicinity has been either smashed, blown up, or used as a weapon. Writers work really hard to create great scenes in their books. Some even succeed. ;-) And yet film makers don't seem to trust that what they've been given is better than something new. 

I liked a lot about the movie of Stardust. But the opening scene was dumb, and the big overblown neverending battle scene at the end wrecked the whole thing for me. Robert De Niro was hilarious, but why did Yvaine call Tristan (and he's Tristran in the book) him "a moron"? That did not work. So many parts of the book they could have followed but didn't. And though I liked a lot about it I was really disappointed with Stardust.

I was talking the other day about A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle. I was told a while ago that it had been made into a movie, too. When I told my daughter so she said immediately, "I don't want to see it!" I understand what she means, because I feel the same way. My imagination has created such a vivid picture of what that story looks and feels like that I don't want to wreck it by seeing someone else's interpretation. I was pretty cautious about Lord of the Rings, too, but Peter Jackson et al took such pains to maintain the integrity of the story and I loved it. (I had great difficulty with the changes to the Two Towers, with Frodo being taken to Gondor by Faramir and all, but when I watched the discussion about it in the extended version their reasoning made sense).

Now Coraline is a book I read out loud to my kids in a single afternoon. I had asked them several times if they'd like me to read it to them and they said, "No." So one day as they played on the livingroom floor with their trains and whatever else, I sat on the couch and just started reading to them. They kept playing. They were listening, though. Soon they stopped playing and kept listening. And not long after that they were up on the couch with me, listening and rapt. If I tried to stop they said, "Keep reading!"

It took several hours, but we read the entire book.

And now the movie is coming out. The trailer shows that it is computer generated animation, which is fine. [Upon further reading I have learned it is 3D stop motion. That's fine too] I think it would be better live action, but that's ok. No, the trouble I can see right away is that it's a lot more colourful than the way I see the story. Added to that it looks like they've taken the story completely away from its dark simplicity, that spine-tingling fear of all those things kids are afraid of. From the trailer, it looks like they've turned it into a big spectacular extravaganza. I don't know... I found the book downright eerie, and the movie does not look that way at all. I can just see them overblowing everything, the way filmmakers tend to do these days.

Henry Selick has an alternate vision of the story from mine. Oh well. Enjoy everyone. I will stay home and keep my vision of it to myself. 

Or maybe I'll watch it, but with only one eye...

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Favourite books and favourite moments

One more thing... This evening I finished reading A Wrinkle In Time, by Madeleine L'Engle, out loud to my daughter. MAN, I love that book. Reading out loud is so much more emotional than reading in my head. Maybe it's the actor in me, but I can't just read words when I read out loud. I have to put in all the emotion, too. So there I am reading out loud as Meg tells Charles Wallace that she loves him with all her heart, and begs him to come back to her, dear baby brother whom she loves... Tears are running down my cheeks at the same time as they're running down Meg's and Charles Wallace's....

And a number of years ago, I read Lord of the Rings out loud to my son, and by the end of it, when Sam says, "Well, I'm back." We both of us were bawling our eyes out.

Yeah, my kids are as old as they are, but damn right I still read out loud to them every night. I treasure that time. When they were wee I couldn't wait until they were old enough for me to read Word to Caesar, by Geoffrey Trease, to them. And The House in Cornwall, and Treasure Island, and all the Great Brain books and all the Madeleine L'Engle books. Now I'm reading Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman, to The Boy, coz he's old enough for that, and the Girl and I have watched the tv series of Pride and Prejudice so I can't wait to read that to her.  So many books, so little time. There's a part of me that hopes they never move away from home, coz I'll miss this dreadfully.

In ten years' time, somebody remind me of this, ok?

Another day, a few more words written down...

"So how's the writing coming?" asks Tom today. 
"Not bad," I say. "I'm doing a lot of brainstorming and mulling these days. A bit of writing, jotting notes, playing with ideas, and all that."
See, book three is tricky. This whole story has been based on the Fantasy role playing game my friends and I used to play; that's where a lot of the ideas came from--stories that had already been created. Mind you, very little that happens in the story actually "happened" in the game. There are really only a few events that I've used, and of course I had to create the story to go round them, not to mention flesh out the characters and make them real (one of the funnest parts of all this, I must say). Book one stemmed from Kyer killing Simon at the Burnished Blade. The rest of Dark Elf's Warrior came from my brain. Book two stemmed from an event in the game, wherein Alon Maer (Kien Bartheylen's wife) is terribly ill, and pregnant, and will die if our heroes don't find a cure. The visit to the wizard Kayme "happened" in the game, as did Kyer's rather nasty fall, and of course... The Gate. But now that I think about it, that's about it. The story surrounding those events was all me: The fact that the theme is Trust, the whole relationship with the Guardian, the antagonist's motivation and his goal (look at me not giving away spoilers!), the Indyn Caves situation, a certain pair of twin assassins named Misty and Juggler...
So why is book three so tricky? Now, here's why blogging is a helpful tool: I hadn't truly put those thoughts down in tangible form. I was thinking all along that I had to make book three up completely, but that's not the case. Sure I'm still not sure if they'll take that journey by ship, and if not, then that negates Skimnoddle's need to pose as the merchant Flavius. But if I don't use that, then it also means I lose Skimnoddle forcing Derry to be his lackey which is such a delightful abuse of Derry's gallantry. The battle with the dragon Greok is there, as is the ultimate confrontation... Ah, but IS it the ultimate confrontation? I'm not so sure. See, the Guardian is still around and is most definitely up to no good. Maybe.
Oh, it's such fun! I do have lots of things to work with, now that I think of it, at least as much as I had when I began Book Two. I just have to remember back to the time when I started writing it, and how long did that take? Crikey, I started it at the same time as Book One, because I had no idea how many pages the first part of the story would take up. The Kayme scene was the second scene I wrote, and much later realised that it would have to go in the second book. Sheesh.
I guess the message I am getting from this is that I just have to keep writing and it will all fall into place the same way the first two did. I don't have to plan everything now.
But yes, Tom, I will continue to walk round and round through my living room and kitchen talking out loud to myself to work out ideas. Writers, I think, have to be just a little bit crazy. And please, Tom, chat with Jock and help me with some brainstorming, ok?

Monday, November 24, 2008

Grey Cup 2008

Another Grey Cup has come and gone... and my mighty Roughriders were not a part of it this year. But the fans sure were! I think the cameras could not show us a shot of the crowd without several spots of green in there. 

Congratulations to the Stamps, who haven't won the Grey Cup since 2001, and heck, the Alouettes have had lots of chances over the last few years. Much as I respect Anthony Calvillo, I am pleased for Henry Burris, who's been shut out for far too long for such a talented guy.

Just a quicky today. Gotta go. My mum will flip if I'm not ready when she arrives to pick me up! I don't want to face the wrath...

Friday, November 14, 2008

The guy just ticks me off

It's a little late to blog about the civic elections tomorrow, but I feel like mouthing off, so I will. 

Greg Moore (mayoral candidate) drives me crazy. All his talk about PoCo's reputation having been "tarnished" and PoCo residents feeling shame over our former Mayor's assault conviction is ridiculous. Ok, so what happened was regrettable, but you know what? The courts--the body whose job it is to deal with such things--dealt with it. It is now in the past. The witch hunt is over. 

There's a different name that comes to my mind: Does Greg Moore recall the name Robert Willy Pickton? Golly, I think that name will go down in history with a bit more infamy than our former mayor. If we can live THAT down, I think we'll be ok. Scott who? Anyhow, Scott's served his time, and sought help.

And why should the rules be different for him than they are for the Premier of our Province?

The point is that everyone I know is proud and happy to be a resident of Port Coquitlam, regardless of the personal issues of our former mayor, and even a PoCo resident's conviction on 26 counts of murder.

Also, this guy has done an awful lot of bad-mouthing of his fellow candidate. Not cool, Greg, buddy. Mike Bowen hasn't put out any flyers with negative comments about his opponent. Nope. Just Greg. I'm not impressed, nor are any of the other people I've spoken to. He seems to be trying too hard to turn this election into something bigger than it is. 

That's it. I have to go read to The Girl now, so I'm done. We're reading A Wrinkle in Time, one of my favourites, and soon to be one of hers.

Where would I be...?

I had a very nice phone call from Colleen last night. I was half an hour late for FAT Jazz rehearsal, but it's all right. She said some very nice things, with which I will not bore anyone, but I will say this:

I would have given up a LOOoooonnnnnnggggg time ago if not for all of these marvellous friends who critique and edit for me and keep saying, "Well done." I haven't even got where I want to be yet, but I know I wouldn't have come this far without all of you: Rob (who started this whole thing), Myst, Tom, Stuart, Kathy, Colleen and LOTS of others, not to mention my family who put up with me. See, here's the thing. I strongly believe that if I ever gave up and said, "I've had enough of this! I've had it with rejection, with hearing, 'this just doesn't do it for me,' or 'the writing is good, but...', I can't take it anymore!" If I ever said that? There would be so very many people who would KICK MY ASS.

So quitting isn't an option, coz that would hurt a lot.

And if I do take criticism well, it's because... well, a lot of things, really. 1) I learned years ago that being arrogant about my work (any kind of work) isn't good for anyone, least of all myself. 2) I want my work to be the best it can be, so I need to listen to others. 3) My friends want me to succeed as much as I do, and they wouldn't steer me wrong. 4) I'm tired of messing around with this, and I'm ready to do what I have to do! It's still not easy to take, and some days I don't do so well (such as last Sunday when Colleen managed to talk me down off the ledge... again), but I know in the end I have a better product than I had before.

I'm looking forward to having Tom and Myst, and some others as well, read Dark Elf's Warrior in its new incarnation because they're the ones who read the first version. They will see an enormous transformation!

I'll just keep plugging away til I get where I want to be, and thank you all.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Told ya...

See? I did it. I just sent off a query to Michelle Grajkowski at 3 Seas Literary. I said I would and I did.

Man, I love places that accept e-queries.

Another day, another rejection

I feel that each day just isn't complete without a rejection, don't you? [My best week was last spring when I received seven rejections in seven days]

I received a very nice e-rejection yesterday from Brandi Bowles at Howard Morhaim. [not the agent I submitted to on Monday] She's the agent with whom I had an appointment at the PNWA conference in July. I'm disappointed, of course, but not terribly surprised, as it was a bit of a long shot: she's not hugely into fantasy, but gave it a good try. Actually her boss had told her to try fantasy, and she went into it willingly. In fact, I saw it as a good opportunity.

Why did I sign up to speak to her when she doesn't "do" fantasy? Well, here's the tricky thing. Her agency does represent fantasy, which is why I chose her. And I tried to get a meeting with Michelle Grajkowski but was unsuccessful. It's a bit of a gamble sometimes at these conferences, when you get to sign up for one appointment and just hope to get a chance to speak to someone else. There wasn't a lot of opportunity to run into agents at the PNWA con and chat in an offhand way. I don't know where they went to hang out in between workshop sessions, but it was rare to catch a glimpse of agents and editors, unless they were eating in the restaurant. And maybe it's just me, but I don't like to interrupt someone while she's eating.

Anyway, it's easy for me to look back and say, "I should have signed up with a different agent." But if another agent had been interested, and had ultimately rejected my MS, I'd be saying the same thing about them. I made as educated a choice as I could based on the agents' sales and all, and it didn't pan out this time. She said very nice things about my writing, and I take those seriously.

I can still query the others. And what's more, I will.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Success in spite of stress

What a week it has been. Proctor for the MCC last Thursday, the hot water hose on my washing machine split on Friday, spraying water all round my basement for about 20 minutes until I discovered what that hissing noise was (I wasn't even doing laundry!), working the PEBC exam on Saturday, tremendously foul mood from Friday to Tuesday, sent myself to my room, the rain keeps dumping down and the siding on my house is leaking somewhere, allowing water to seep in along the foundation and soak up the cloths and towels we lay there for that purpose. 

BUT! On Monday I mailed off my sample chapters and synopsis to Eddie Schneider at JABberwocky, who requested them a couple of weeks ago. That is something I'm very proud of. It's always scary to seal that envelope, and even scarier to slip it into that slot. So I celebrated with a Chocolate Extreme Blizzard at our local Dairy Queen. And now I just hope the guy takes his time reading, so I am able to finish revisions on the rest of the novel. Nothing like living on the edge.

AND! (golly, wouldn't an editor just hate my capitals and exclamation points??) I used my proctoring time productively. Yes, yes, I was still paying attention to the candidates in my section, signed them out to the bathroom as they needed, confiscated their drinks that weren't water [honestly, how ambiguous is "bottle water only"?] and cell phones. However, it was such a long, quiet day that I wrote a good three pages of book three. By hand. In my notebook. Which will likely translate into 6-8 pages of typed work. So this is book three of Dark Elf's Warrior. Ideas are just formulating and percolating, and some of them are even starting to make some sense in my brain. It's such fun!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Nearly Ready

I have a big submission coming up and have been quite preoccupied with editing, revising and generally getting it as close to "perfect" as possible. Two weeks ago, Dark Elf's Warrior had about 122,000 words. Thanks to much hacking and slashing and harsh criticism from my writer friends (look out you guys when it's my turn to look at your work!) it is now under 118k. It's pretty hard to take at first, but I was ready for it. The words, "This scene doesn't accomplish enough," and "This really slows the pace," are, in a perverse way, music to my ears. (Thanks Colleen). If cutting these bits, no matter how fun they are, means picking up the pace of the story and adding to the tension... then I'm all for it.

The lovely amusing scene wherein Aidan, the overbearing proprietor of the inn in Paterak, feeds the party average food, pushes Kyer and Phennil together, and hopes for a sale of some of her ghastly paintings (to goofball Phennil, of course) is GONE. Who knows? Maybe I can bring it back at another time in a later book, but it truly is not necessary here. And how fascinating that to keep Kyer and Derry on horseback instead of stopping to rest elevates the tension? In spite of making virtually no changes to the dialogue, the scene is much more interesting all of a sudden. Kind of mind-blowing, really. I love this process!

Jonathan told me the discussion about the war between Valrayker, Kien and Governor Lyndon was too conversational. So yesterday I worked on stepping that up, giving each character a firmer motivation behind their words. Funny how a lot of the dialogue remained the same, but I switched them around so Kien says something that Val used to say...that sort of thing.

I read my submission to hubby over the last two nights. Now, he's been involved in the story since day one, naturally, so he noticed huge changes in the pace and all. He didn't think his comments on it were very helpful, but that's not true.

See, each reader who critiques for me has a different perspective, and therefore has a different type of comment. Colleen was big on the pacing, which was absolutely necessary at this point. Jonathan is very nit-picky about words, rearranging them, losing unnecessary dialogue tags, that sort of thing. Kathy is not a writer, but loves to read and is certainly an intelligent person... She pointed out where things felt awkward or confusing to her, and it is up to me to figure out why. Hubby's comments are similar. "I don't get that," works just as well. I've only just sent this chunk of chapters to Ron... I'm afraid!

I think my friends will be just as upset as I will be if this submission gets rejected. It's good to have friends.

It's not supposed to be a writing day. I'm supposed to be baking so the kids have things for snacks in their lunches. Better get back to it.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Post Conference Energy

Was that a week ago I last wrote?? Just shows how much fun I've been having.

Once again, the Surrey International Writers Conference was an uplifting, invigorating and exciting experience. This year I enjoyed it as a volunteer, rather than as an attendee. Colleen and I had a great time as Timers in the agent/editor appointment room, and felt we helped things run smoothly and ease everyone's nerves. It was neat to work with the agents and editors, helping them and making sure they had everything they needed. No stress for us, because we weren't pitching. Funny how it made the author/agent relationship feel more human...

And I loved hearing people's success stories: Jonathan was asked for submissions and had great feedback from an author or two, Ron received an overwhelming positive response to his work being read allowed in the SiWC Idol... and many other good news stories.

And of course we linked up with old friends, hung out in the bar with them, and also met new ones. In our spare time Colleen edited my MS in preparation for my submission to the agent who requested it. All is good. I worked all day on that yesterday, cutting trimming, revising transitions... I love this process. Sure, it's hard to be told that a scene, although it's amusing, doesn't accomplish anything and serves only to bog down the pace of the story, I do love the problem solving. I'm happy to cut and to smooth out, and it never ceases to amaze me how plot items fall into place in very intriguing ways. Simply by not allowing Kyer and Derry to stop and rest that one time after the battle in the woods not only added more urgency, it also added some lovely tension which was missed before. Gosh I wish I'd thought of writing it that way! I feel like I can't claim responsibility for the cleverness of it.

Now I have to write a cover letter to accompany my chapter submission, print off my pages and my synopsis and get it in the mail. Let's get this show on the road.

It's another busy day with appointments and errands... but the added bonus is a lunch date with buddy Jonathan, who was down for the conference and is now down on business. Yay! I get to talk writing some more! 

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Writing's in the Air

Ooo, there's a buzz in the city today.... Master Classes are already underway at the Surrey International Writers' Conference, and tomorrow is the official opening. Ron is attending two classes, so I know he's already in town. Colleen's on her way up and Jonathan's on his way down today. Excitement is in the air!

I will be a timer in the Agent/Editor appointment room tomorrow, and am looking forward to being a part of all those writers' pitching experiences. I wish them all best of luck and hope everyone is asked for submissions! And maybe I'll get a chance to pitch informally, too.

I've hardly done any reading about what's going on at the conference this year, because I'm not an attendee... but I had better figure out which workshops are going on tomorrow afternoon so I can decided which one to attend, as my volunteer "free time." Oooo, what to do! There's so much to choose from.

I LOVE the writers' conference. The best time is just hanging out with my friends, old and new, in the bar. Come by and say Hi! I'll be there in every chunk of free time I have. I can't wait I can't wait I can't wait!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Celebration time!

The mail just arrived. I sent out a query to JABberwocky Literary Agency on October 8th and today I received a reply. Eddie Schneider wants to see the first 50-75 pages of Dark Elf's Warrior. I can hardly believe it. I opened the letter expecting yet another rejection... I guess that "contest finalist" phrase is going to come in handy.

Gotta go. I have some work to do!

Family and Friends. Oh, and POV.

How'd so much time go by between posts? Oh yeah, I know. I worked on Friday, the overnight retreat at the school happened, I began recovery on Saturday, went to a dinner party, I had a FAT Jazz gig yesterday.... Ok, it's all making sense now. Work was exhausting, the overnight retreat was successful thanks to all my many volunteers, I had a nap on Saturday afternoon, the dinner party was lovely, and the gig went great with much audience enthusiasm. We helped the Eagle Ridge Hospital Auxiliary raise about $8000, which is pretty good for only the second year of this fundraiser.

And can rest easy now, thanks to my friend Tom returning the rest of my Jasper Fforde collection. I'm happy to loan out books to eagerly curious readers, but I always feel just a little on edge until my favourites are returned to me. It's like when the kids are out at a birthday party and hubby's at football... I don't feel completely whole until the family has come home. It's worth it, though, if everyone had a good time and the books were enjoyed by the borrower. Especially if it means I've converted another friend into a Fforde Fan. 

I would never have discovered Jasper Fforde if not for my friend Sheila. See, Jasper is her neighbour in Wales and she, knowing I'm a writer, suggested I read his work. Why he isn't classified as Fantasy I can't understand, because I can't think of any books more "alternate world" than his, and yet there he is on the General Fiction shelf. I don't get it. In any event, I found him, and Man, he's terrific and clever and hilarious. Love it.

After a nice chat with Ron the other day while he was driving north to Seattle (yes, he's hands-free) I am looking forward to sitting down and mucking about with Griffin today. (After I create the agenda for tonight's music parents' meeting). See, I really wanted to write this novel in the first person and I love the way it's coming out. Trouble is that one of the ways I figure out where a story needs to go next is to play around with other characters. For instance, what is Jesqellan up to? That's how I developed that character in Dark Elf's Warrior, and by golly that also created a lovely sub-plot which became a integral part of the sequel, Deception

I guess I was blocking myself from trying that with Griffin because I'm writing in the first person and somehow convinced myself that I wouldn't be able to use it. But I have to remember that there are no hard and fast rules in this art form, and I can do whatever the hell I want. I can play around with other point of view, and I can find other ways to bring that stuff in even though it's in Griffin's pov. Or, I can insert small segments from other POV's, so long as I do it smoothly. (I read a book recently that was mostly in 1st person, and then stuck in these 3rd person bits and I didn't like it, so I'd have to handle it another way). Whatever I do in the final draught, I can try anything. So that's what's going to happen today. 

Let's see what Rickenbacker Topiary and Fenix Overland are up to, shall we? 

[Apologies to Griffin fans: I don't have anything more for you to read yet! I've been working on the end.]

Thursday, October 16, 2008

elections and turkeys and conferences, oh my.

So we had our federal election on Tuesday. Did I mention our turkey dinner was fantastic? Yup. Good food, good company, lousy football....

300 Million dollars later we have virtually the same government. A slightly stronger minority. Apparently the election was needed because Parliament was behaving like a dysfunctional family. And now that he didn't get his way, by golly, Stephen Harper has now said that they'll all work together. Cool. Why didn't they just get along properly before? Oh, I know! It's because Harper figured he'd be able to get a majority government, and then he'd be able to have his way in all things. Thanks pal.

Lowest voter turnout in the history of Canada. Gee I wonder why.

Now it's time to prep for one of my favourite events of the year: the Surrey International Writers' Conference. I'm not officially attending this year, because I went to the PNWA conference in July (because Dark Elf's Warrior was a finalist in the writing contest... did I mention that?) ;-)  Instead I'm going to volunteer at Surrey. My friend and I decided to go and hang out at the conference just to be a part of it, and because I have lots of friends there and want to see them and talk writing. And then I said, "Hey! If we volunteer.... we'll get nametags! And then we'll look like we're not just generic hotel guests! We'll look like writers!" So that's what we're doing. And besides, I've often thought about volunteering but preferred to register. This is going to be fun in a behind-the-scenes kind of way.

I am hoping to have a chance to pitch my work to relevant folks, and I'll attend a workshop as "remuneration" for my volunteer efforts, and I know I'll laugh a lot and be a part of that invigorating writers' atmosphere. Colleen's coming up, Ron's coming up, Jonathan's coming down, Josef's practically walking over, and lots of others as well. I'll still come home buzzing the way I always do.

One week to go!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Making Reader Connections

Elizabeth Lyon, (an independent editor and writing instructor with whom I've worked many times at the Surrey International Writers' Conference), said that it's important to open your novel with helping the reader connect with the protagonist. She warned me against opening book two (Deception) in Kien Bartheylen's point of view, because the reader will automatically assume he is the protagonist. Then I'll have to work that much harder to help the reader connect with Kyer when we meet her in scene two.

One of the things I love about the way Elizabeth teaches is that she never says, "Don't do this, it's wrong, it's a bad idea." No, she simply warns you of the potential hazards so you can be sure your decision is right for your story, and allows you to forestall those problems. When I was reading at 5:00 this morning coz I couldn't sleep, I discovered that she was right.

This is the same book that has the long and boring prologue, by the way. Chapter one opens in the point of view of a girl, the daughter of the title character. Chapter two opens in a different point of view, and we spend a couple of chapters with him. Chapter three turns to another character.... It's not that I can't follow the story, it's just that I keep wondering when we're going back to the girl. And when are we going back to the second character? I'm having trouble settling in. I don't know who the protagonist is! Not that I can't still enjoy the story, but each POV change does pull me out of the story a little.  This new understanding will affect the way I review my own Book Two when I get back into it.

The other problem I'm having with the book I'm reading is where/when it begins. A murder has taken place, which is usually something that a reader can connect with emotionally. But in this story the information has come out in a rather distant way, in that the girl has finished writing a letter to her brother telling him about the murder. Because I hadn't had a chance to connect with the character, because it followed the aforementioned prologue, and because the murder came out in such an indirect way...I didn't connect with the information.

The issue of the murder came up again a few chapters later, and I found myself thinking, "Have I heard about this before? It sounds sorta familiar...." So I went back and basically re-read all of chapter one again to get the story of the murder straight. How irritating! Why not open the story with the girl hearing about the murder firsthand? Then I'd be able to feel the same emotions she feels as she hears about it, and it'd be pretty unlikely that I'd forget having read about it.

It's interesting to read a book critically and figure out what works for me and what doesn't. Trouble is, I haven't been able to read a book for pure enjoyment in years. Flawless books are hard to find.

election day

Here it is again, another day in which we collectively decide who's going to make decisions for the country for the next few years. I am always puzzled by the emphasis on voting for the party leaders: Vote for Harper! Vote for Layton! Vote for Dion! Vote for May! Gee, I don't know if these guys know much about the way the Canadian voting system works, but uh... I can't vote for any of those people.... None of them is running in my riding.

I need to vote for the person who is best going to represent me and my views in Parliament. I don't think the person I'm going to vote for will win, but that's OK. My vote still counts because I will have made my views known. I don't approve of every policy of every party. In fact, several views have been expressed with which I heartily disagree, throughout the election campaign, and previously. But I believe we need balance in government: we need representation from all the parties in order to best make the best decisions; choices that reflect what Canadians want.

What bugs me is when politics get...well, political. When politicians try so hard to say what they think Canadians want to hear, instead of asserting their views, speaking up for what they believe. This is pretty idealistic, I know, but I do wish politicians would just be (oh I can't believe I'm going to use this word...) honest! When there's an issue being discussed in the House of Commons, why must they vote according to what the party wants? Why not vote the way they truly believe is right? or the way that best represents their constituents? (Remember Chuck Cadman voting in favour of bill C-48? He listened to his constituents and made his decision. Regardless of the result of the vote, Chuck Cadman earned a lot of respect for that move).

Oh, these are rhetorical questions... I already know the answers. But I can dream, can't I? Have you noticed, though, that the individual who is most successful in the debate is the one with the least pressure on him or her? The one who isn't trying so hard, but just being honest and straightforward about their position. Maybe if they all worked that way we could feel we were making an educated choice. Maybe we would trust our politicians more. (That's pretty funny.)

To quote Michael Franti of Spearhead (this was at a concert just before the 2000 US election): "Vote for your hopes, not your fears."

Sunday, October 12, 2008


I need a gear shift in my head. Or, I know! a few switches. I envision a switchboard like telephone operators used in the olden days, where they took a plug from one location and plugged it into a different outlet to connect two people together. That would be great! 

I have all this work in various locations, playing various roles and I literally need to remember who I am at any given time. Add to that, I'm trying to keep writing in my Off times. Add to that, I have to vote on Tuesday, Add to that, I'm the Chair of the Music Parents' committee at our middle school and we have our October Overnight Retreat this coming Friday, and I have a whole ton of wonderful volunteers to co-ordinate, grocery shopping list to create, shopping trip to arrange, many jobs to delegate, AND I have to work on that day til 4:30, which means I won't be there until about 5:30...

Hold on... it also means that I am forced to delegate, and will not have to do much work myself on the day. That's never a bad thing. I don't have a problem delegating, but being the one "in charge" I also have to think of everything and make sure I've told everyone everything they need to know. That's why I wake up at bizarre hours of the night saying, "The strawberries have to be kept out on the counter overnight so they're thawed in time for breakfast!" or, "The music teacher needs to ask the Home Arts teacher if we can put our perishables in her fridges and freezers, or else I'm going to have to store 7 boxes of frozen waffles in my mom's deep freeze!" or, "What happens politically in Griffin's sister Gillian's dance company that takes Gillian's dance solo away from Gillian and gives it to her rival?" [Must get together with dancer friend to learn about dance politics to apply to book]

[Geez, I'm starting to see a theme in these posts... time management]

So, you see, if I had a switch board I could unplug from the Music Parent Chair and switch into writing mode. Or switch from Work mode into Music Parent Chair.

Most importantly, I'd unplug everything so I could SLEEP.

Saturday, October 11, 2008


Pies are done. Turnips and carrots are done. Brussels sprouts are ready for steaming. Turkeys (yes, we are doing two, coz they're small) are thawing. Stuffing is begun, and must have a few other tidbits added to it then it will be ready to be stuffed into the turkeys. House is in process of being cleaned. There's beer and wine and rye and gin and vodka and scotch and whatever else we need to mix it with. TV is pre-programmed to turn on to TSN in time for the Saskatchewan Roughriders game at 1:30 on Monday. The bed is made for Gramma B to sleep in Sunday and Monday night. Yup, we're nearly ready for Thanksgiving. 

Go Roughriders!

What a productive day. And now we're ready to eat nachos for dinner. That's it for now.

Friday, October 10, 2008

A Tiny Little World

I spent all afternoon as a Standardized Patient for the BCIT School of Nursing... a very emotional role and I'm spent. BUT! I chatted at break time with my colleague, and it turns out she went to highschool with my parents in Regina. What a tiny little world we live in... So when we went to my folks' for dinner this evening, nothing would do but my mom got out the old yearbooks from Scott Collegiate and we had to find photos of the persons in question. What larks! I am going to take the yearbooks with me to work on Wednesday and show them to Marian. 

Colleen and I were going to chat this evening about my MS for Dark Elf's Warrior. She's critiquing for me. But I wound up not being home, as I mentioned, and it wasn't a good night for chatting for her either, according to her message on my answering machine. It can wait. We two are also looking forward to volunteering at the Surrey International Writers' Conference. It'll be my ninth time at that conference, but my first time volunteering. I couldn't actually attend this year because I blew my budget going down to Seattle for the PNWA conference in July, where Dark Elf's Warrior was a finalist. (Hooray!!!)

Tomorrow is Pie day. I've already made pastry and I have to make the filling for pumpkin pie. 13 or 14 people for Thanksgiving dinner on Monday. All Roughrider fans, if they know what's good for them. Oh. Lori's a Blue Bombers fan.... but she's a lot of fun, so we'll let her stay anyway. Everyone else had better pose, at least.

Thursday, October 9, 2008


I am SO glad I don't have to do that every day. I mean driving to and from UBC. Once in awhile is fine, but golly that's a long drive. And in rush hour traffic it really sucks. Today I had to detour into the West End for a meeting after UBC, so that made the day even longer. I am exhausted.

Gee, didn't I start the day exhausted?

Off to FAT Jazz rehearsal this evening. What is FAT Jazz you say? It is the jazz big band I've been singing with for about 11 years. FAT has nothing to do with our physique. It is an acronym for Friends and Teachers. The band, originally formed back in the mid-eighties, is comprised of music teachers who didn't want their love of teaching music to overshadow their love of playing music. The Friends fill the gaps in the instrumentation. The Friends come from a variety of backgrounds: we have a doctor, an architectural engineer, a youth worker, a music store owner, for instance. (And me, I'm a writer.) 

We play as guests at schools in a mentorship role, we play for fundraisers and dances and festivals, and we simply have a great time. We're playing a fundraiser for Eagle Ridge Hospital at the Inlet Theatre in Port Moody in a week or so. 

I didn't get any reading in today. Perhaps in the morning. After my blurb about prologues this morning I checked in the book I'm reading and found the copyright was in 1976. Maybe the rules were different back then...

I think they were, because I don't think Peter Pan would be published in its original form if Barry had written it today. 

Thinking about prologues...

A word about prologues.

I bring this up because the book I started reading at 4:50 this morning has one. Now, there's a bit of debate over To Prologue or Not to Prologue. Many times I've heard agents say, "I hate prologues." I've even been given the impression that they will reject a novel outright because it has a prologue. I think that's a bit silly, and maybe I don't want an agent who would reject a work for a goofy reason like that. To be fair, maybe the agents in question were just being melodramatic. But it has made me think about prologues.

I have to confess [flushes guiltily] that I have skipped prologues. Why? Because so often they are too long and dull. If a prologue just gives me a bunch of world history and background info, well that's boring. Why hasn't the author skillfully worked that stuff into the story itself if it's so important? The book I began this morning has such a prologue. 

The whole time I was reading it I was thinking, "This had all better be crucial information." It was about five pages long, and that's a lot of energy to invest in something that is kind of boring. If it isn't crucial I will resent being treated so disrespectfully by the author. 

Sometimes a prologue is the right way to impart critical information to the reader. If it's an event that takes place prior to the time period of the story but is somehow a catalyst for the events of the story. Or if it involves characters that may or may not appear in the main story. Or when said event needs to be from the point of view of a character who will not otherwise be a POV character. Those are some case where a prologue is a great tool. But for me as a reader I want it to be short and I want it to be intriguing. I have been known to skip prologues that go on and on. I read a book years ago, I can't remember which book it was, but its prologue went on for about 14 pages and I was so confused

[Growls in frustration because this is the point where the internet shuts down, and everything typed after this point is lost so it must be typed again... Grrrr]

...that I stopped reading after just a few pages. See, without any grounding in the story none of the places and names mentioned in the prologue made any sense.

An example of a prologue I liked is in The Secret Adversary by Agatha Christie.

It is 1915 and the Lusitania is sinking. A man approaches a young lady and asks her to take charge of a packet of important papers, "because of 'women and children first'. He gives her a few instructions and that's it. It takes about a page and a half. That is the inciting incident for the rest of the story. When the story opens it is several years later, and the reader meets the protagonists, but continues to wonder what happened to the girl and the papers and why they are significant. 

That's a prologue that really works for me because it is intriguing and it's short! I figure I shouldn't refuse to write a prologue because some people "don't like prologues." If it's the best thing for the story, then I will go for it. At the moment my second book has a prologue which I quite like, but I revisit it when I return to that book for revision. 

My original ending for this post was way better, but I can't remember what it was. Ah well.

Boy, it's really easy to make these posts very long, isn't it? (sort of like some prologues). I'll have to watch that.

What a way to start a day

4:something am...Bam. Wide awake. Man, I hate it when that happens. The brain turns on and I start itemizing all the things on my To Do list for the next few days: E-mail middle school music teacher about upcoming retreat to see how many students are attending so we can plan the shopping list...Take kids in to have passport photos taken...Plan Thanksgiving dinner...Oh my god I have to make pies this weekend!...Don't panic, I DO have pumpkin in the freezer...Clean the house...assign clean-up duties to the kids...hubby can manage on his own...E-mail people on my volunteer list and recruit more folks to help with music retreat...Oh, and I have to plan dinner for today because I'm not coming directly home after work because I have to meet with my co-ordinator for work tomorrow...must leave that meeting in time to battle traffic to get home in time to eat dinner before going to FAT Jazz rehearsal...Daughter has to come with me because Son and hubby have hockey, but that's ok because her friend Silky the doggie will be there.

4:50 am. Get up. Come downstairs and curl up under Wallace tartan blanket on couch. Read fantasy novel borrowed from Rob until sleepy. Go back upstairs. It's 5:23. Wonder of wonders...fall asleep again! 

6:15 am. Alarm goes off for hubby to get up. Normally I get up, too, but I'm too wiped. Fall asleep again.

6:43 am. Wake up because son has band this morning and has to leave early. Is he up? Also, does he have rehearsal for Macbeth after school? Go downstairs. Son is sitting at dining room table holding his stomach. He hasn't made his lunch yet. He ate breakfast and his belly started hurting. "What have you done about it?" I ask. "Nothing," says he. Grr... Surely I have given my kids tools to know what to do in this situation, and that at the age of 14 he ought to have some clue? Silly. He has a drink of water, and belly activities begin. He is soon feeling better but I have to coach him to keep moving to get ready for school. He and his dad leave together.

I get to sit and have a cup of coffee. I'm exhausted and it's 7:04 am.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

At the end of the day...

Considering I've had a nasty headache all day I feel pretty good about what I accomplished today. I did a word count of Griffin and I'm nearing 27k, so I'm pleased. A bunch of those words are at the beginning of the story, and a bunch of them are at the end... Now I just have to put a whole bunch of words in between.

I have to write what comes into my mind, so the last little while it's been all the build-up to the climax of the story. Eventually I'll figure out exactly how she gets there! It's such a fascinating process. 

My work schedule is so busy this fall that I've had to set aside blocks of time for writing. It's working pretty well. Some things have to be neglected, and since it can't be the writing and it can't be the kids.... Golly, look at all those dishes over there. Wow.

It's my first time, eh?

Here goes. Welcome to my blog. We'll see how much fun I have, and how much of my limited time it uses up! 

It's a writing day, today, which means I'm not booked to do other work elsewhere. I've started out by creating this blog, so that counts as writing-related work. Yesterday I had some bonus writing time, between working and meeting my step-sister-in-law for dinner before going to work again. I sat in the bright and beautiful atrium of the Health Sciences building out at UBC, and wrote for a couple of hours.

What am I working on right now? I'm continuing to revise, as well as market, my first fantasy novel, currently titled Dark Elf's Warrior, which was a finalist in this year's PNWA writing contest. (Hooray!!!!) I continue to revise because to my mind, it's a work in progress until such time as it is published and on bookstore shelves. But I'm marketing because it's awfully easy to hold onto something forever because it's not "perfect" yet. 

I'm looking forward to revising the sequel, (the Serpent and the Sage... or maybe Dark Elf's Warrior: Deception, I don't know which is better. And it'll probably change later anyway). I'm looking forward to it, because I've learned so much in recent years and have fixed up book one so much that I want to apply all those things to book two!

My new project is what I call a Modern Fantasy. The term Urban Fantasy seems to indicate werewolves and vampires and so forth, which is entirely inaccurate for this one. It's simply a fantasy that takes place right here and now. It's about a girl named Griffin, who's dying for validation as a musician, (she's a guitarist), as well as a decent relationship.  Her Big Chance to make a good impression is ruined by an ex-boyfriend's drug-induced thrasher solo accompanied by many insults and expletives. But then she meets Rickenbacker Topiary, a manager of the Salamander House of Music and Pudding, who is also a self-proclaimed Finder of People and Things. He promises to find her the lead guitarist of her dreams. Which he does. And that's the beginning of a most bizarre period of life for Griffin...

I'm having great fun writing this story. It's funny and crazy and because language is not limited by the medieval-ish world of my first two books, I'm finding that simile, and metaphorical descriptive passages are coming much more easily than ever before. I'm getting great feedback and terrific reactions from my writer friends, and my writing partner Ron is grilling me for more detail, forcing me to think of background info I haven't thought of yet, mainly because I'm writing off the top of my head. Fun stuff, anyway.

Ok, I think that's probably enough for the first one. It's time for lunch, and then I must get back to finding out what's going on in Griffin's life, poor thing, innocent victim that she is.