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.