oops

As I sat at my desk this morning trying to avoid housework, I realized it’s been a while since I blogged. I actually blogged about my almost failed trip to Banff last month, but it’s still sitting in draft mode. Probably a good thing, since the story is about to become a novel (don’t want to give too much away).

Yeah, I’ve carved out some time to write for myself. This new novel is the battle of wills between a moderately successful writer such as myself and the great writer in the sky. A deity, who follows the advice we’ve all been given, such as, ‘keep throwing stuff at your characters’, ‘test their limits’, ‘see what they can do’.

Great advice if you’re a writer, not so much if you feel like the character in one of their novels.

So the new story is based on my trip to Banff in March, i.e. ridiculously delayed flights and arriving almost too late to pick up the rental car. Happily that’s where the two stories part ways. In real life mine continues with a lost wallet, panic and a trek back to the Calgary airport to retrieve it. In the novel my heroine veers off the road at 3am to avoid hitting an elk. She’s thrust into a world of rapid time and morphing landscape where she meets a guy… and then stuff happens. (Hey, I’m a pantser. I know how the story ends, but I have no idea what’s going to happen to them between now and then.)

I also have a second story on the go. I’ve been writing it as part of the Toasted Cheese Sunday Brunch Prompts. In this one, she’s an arson investigator and he’s like Prof. Trevor Anderson in the Journey to the Centre of the Earth. She’s found a medallion that acts like a portal through time and space and well… let’s just say her new pet is… interesting.

In between writing my own stuff, I’ve been reading a lot of submissions for PaperBox Books. They’re coming in fast and furious and the quality is looking pretty good. I’ve already called for a few full manuscripts. Things are really starting to hop over at PBB.

OK – I’ve delayed long enough – it’s Saturday morning and I want to finish housework so I can go out to work in my gardens. Sunny spring days in Vancouver on the weekend are rare – can’t waste this one.

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Good-bye 2011, Hello 2012

This has been a good year. I’m glad because 2010, as a good friend of mine would say, ‘sucked ass’.

2011 started off with me dating a great guy, getting a new job, and uploading my second novel, Hiding in Plain Sight for sale. The year got better as royalties started coming in and my new job went from good, to great to fantastic. Sadly, the great guy faded to barely good, and then to me saying, “Yeah, this isn’t working out anymore.”

My trip home this year was for a happy reason. My middle brother got married to a great girl and I’m now a proud step-aunt to a couple of awesome kids. The wedding was sad without Dad, but our family has healed enough to celebrate despite our missing member.

My year ended with bobsledding down the Olympic track in Whistler, BC, reuniting with a childhood friend, chocolate, good friends, a flirtation with potential, and a bottle of apricot brandy.

2012 is starting off with a lot of promise.

My new job is not so new anymore but I still get up with a smile on my face and look forward to going into the office. PaperBox Books is thriving. Our reputation is growing and the submissions are flowing in steadily and I’m in the process of editing “Kiere” my new distopian, young adult novel. It should be ready for sale by the end of March, at least that’s my goal.

and there is that flirtation…

and we’re off – NaNo 2011

NaNoWroMo.org 2011 has begin and I’m already behind. It’s a little disconcerting, but I’ve been here before and haven’t failed yet.

This years story is a bit more serious than my usual light and fluffy fare. I’m basing it on a video from Live Leaks about a man found dead in a hotel room. He has ID but no one steps forward to claim him. When I heard about the video, I decided I had to tell his story. How come he had no one to miss him?

While I was pondering this, I talked to some of my writer friends. I’d decided to have his son looking for him and interweave chapter’s about the son’s search and the father’s journey as an ‘Unclaimed Life’.

One of my writing buddies suggested I needed more drama. So the father is estranged and the boy sees him across the graveyard at his mother’s funeral. The father was banned from seeing his children after being jailed for sexually molesting his daughter. It’s now 10 years later and the siblings are all grown up and so are the psychological demons that haunt them.

I hope I can do the story in my head justice.

VCON, SIWC and NaNoWriMo

I’ve been a bad blogger. I was reminded this over the weekend at the Surrey International Writers Conference. I attended a lot of the social media sessions because I’ve been out of the ‘what’s happening in Social Media’ loop over this past year. Happily, I’m not as out of sync as I feared, but I was slacking just the same.

Mysterious Ages, my fellow ML for NaNoWriMo.org and I spoke at the beginning of the month at VCON. It was awesome, although, according to Myst, I was a bit of a chatterbox. Yeah, well… anyone who knows me could have told him that. VCON was great though. I thoroughly enjoyed exploring the rest of the conference after our session was done. I am seriously considering attending next year as a participant.

Today was the last day of SIWC. My head is close to exploding with all the fantastic advice I received at the very well run sessions and keynotes. Despite my overwhelmed little noggin, I was sad to see the weekend close.

One of my highlights was to talk with Daniel Kalla. A few years ago he, in conjunction with The Province Newspaper , ran a Serial Thriller writing contest. Daniel wrote the first chapter of the book and there was a competition to write each subsequent chapter. I participated the 2nd year they did it and I won first runner up for the first chapter open to competition. Unfortunately, this was also the last year it happened. As we spoke over lunch, Daniel said that it wasn’t lack of interest that caused the contest’s demise, it was that there were too many participants to judge.

It gave me a bit of a thrill, knowing that I had been competing against even more people that I’d originally thought. It made that 1st runner up placement that much sweeter.

Writing Stuff

It’s September already and Marc and I are starting to frantically put together the events for NaNoWriMo.org 2011. This will be my 5th year participating and my 2nd year as ML (Municipal Liaison = organizer).

We’re getting an added boost this year from VCON. We’ve been asked to speak on a panel Saturday, October 1st all about NaNo. We’re very excited about it. NaNo is such a great way to get your first draft done. The camaraderie, community and cheer-leading is incredible. I can’t wait to spread the word.

Then it’s time for SIWC (Surrey International Writers’ Conference). I missed it last year so I’m doubly excited about it this year. We’re renting a room and staying on site which will enable us to stay and play with the other writers until the wee morning hours without having to worry about travel back and forth. It’s going to be a blast.

And then it starts: NaNoWriMo.org 2011

Marc and I are deep in the planning process. We’ll start posting things as soon as details are finalized.

This year, I’m tackling a story that isn’t my usually light, funny fare. I’m not going to lie, it’s going to be hard for me – there will be death, betrayal and abuse (and the family disasters that follow in its wake). Some of it hits very close to home. If it turns out half as well as I have it in my head, it’s going to fantastic in a haunting and thought provoking way. I’m just hoping I can do the idea justice.

(and yes, me, the die hard pantzer – has actually done a bit of plotting for it already. But only because some of the subject matter needs a little research so I can keep my facts straight)

*sigh*

Realized last night just how long it’s been since I blogged. After this stunning realization what did I do? closed the window and did something else…. Bad Buckley.

Lots has happened over the past few months.

New job, new books (mine and our author’s). In July, I went home for my brother’s wedding and a mini road-trip with one of my best friends, Tim.

The wedding rocked. I’m glad to welcome my new sister and her two children into our family and to be accepted into theirs too. Tim and I had a great road trip. It was a learning experience for both of us… and despite Tim’s dire predictions, we were still speaking to each other by the time we got back home.

Leaving New Brunswick to come back to BC has been really hard over this past year since Dad died. I’ve done it three times now, and it’s getting easier, but I still fell guilty every time I step onto that plane to come back out West.

Looks like my next few trips won’t be quite so long though – Seattle with Wil and friends in a couple of weeks and Banff to meet up with Robin and her family for their March break.

Okay – now that you’re all caught up the next blog will be all about the writing – I promise.

Distruction is the Lazy Man’s Way

This isn’t just about the recent riots in Vancouver, it a general observation. Although, the riots prompted me to talk about it.

Have you ever noticed how the destructive folks cite a noble cause to justify their actions. Violence to combat homelessness, computer viruses to bring down Microsoft – the list goes on.

To me these are lazy solutions.

You want to stop homelessness, devote your energy to helping. Don’t cause even more money to be spent on the thing you hate (like the Olympics) which only diverts funds away from the cause you’re supposed to be championing.

You hate Microsoft and want to take it down, then build a better system and make it free. Kill their money flow and they’ll disappear.

I saw a saying etched into one of my desk chairs back at university that has stuck with me over the years, “Fighting for peace is like fucking for virginity.”

For those truly committed to their causes, maybe it’s time to rethink strategies.

Post Game/Riot Observations

Initially, I wasn’t going to join the throng, but after a few days of pondering I thought I’d weigh in on my insights.

They are not accusatory. I’m hoping they may help Vancouver save face a little and perhaps help plan better for next time. Hindsight of course is 20/20.

I was downtown for four of the final round games and in Surrey for two of them. Although, I’ll admit I didn’t stay in the fan zone in Surrey, I passed by it just before and just after the game. Admittedly it was much smaller, and didn’t have nearly the threat potential as downtown.

Mayor Gregor Robertson had it right. Having a fan zone was a better alternative to having thousands of fans wandering the streets during game time.

The initial set up of having three separate fan zones needed tweaking. The merchants along Granville were blocked that first Saturday. I loved it when they created the giant zone surrounding the Vancouver Public Library.

The police and security controlled the crowd as they came in bags were good-naturedly searched and there was enough of an incline to enable people to sit down and allow those behind to see. Cops were on patrol and even the older security guards were shown respect. When we won there were high fives and hugs all around. When we lost there were a lot of shrugs and ‘next game’s.

It was what you’d expect from a Canadian fan zone.

Game 7 was different. Thanks to the media, there was an expectation of a riot. Most of the kids you see in the pictures were barely walking in ’94. Had the ’94 riot been downplayed, the idea of rioting probably wouldn’t have entered their heads.

On the night of Game 7, my roommate arrived in the fan zone around 4pm. At that time bags were still being searched and the entry points were controlled by security. By the time I arrived at 5pm. There was no security and the gates had been removed. Word spread quickly to anyone still heading downtown… bring booze.

The next thing I noticed was that the large screen at the bottom of Georgia had been moved. Instead of being centered in the middle of the street had been set-up over to the side. It caused a lot of aggression within the crowd. Instead of the blind spot being over in the relatively small area of the library courtyard, it was almost the entire centre of Georgia Street which affected a lot more viewers.

People were pushing their their way through the already packed crowd trying to get to where they could see the screen. Some were very aggressive which only heightened the frustration in the folks they shoved aside.

Alcohol was everywhere. Very little of it was beer.

One of the groups in front of me was a bunch of university/college students. Well dressed, excited and eager for the game. They each had 2 bottles in their hands. One of ‘water’ and another of pop. It took me a minute to realize the water bottles were filled with vodka. By the 2nd period, the water bottles were finished and they were drinking out of pint bottles which latecomers had brought. One started guzzling out of a quart bottle. I was actually relieved when one of them started smoking pot. It seemed to calm them and the crowd around them (and yes probably me too).

Even before the puck dropped at the start of the game, I was hearing comments like, “I can’t wait to see the riot.” and “It’s going to be so cool.” Mostly from kids who would never on their own started a riot but were eager to watch one happen. I’ll bet if you asked them before the game if they would participate, they would have said no. We just want to watch. Never thinking for a second they’d fall victim to mob-mentality.

The only police presence I saw was the police checking open bottles as we left Granville Station and the cops directing traffic.

Let’s flash back to the big party on Granville that first Saturday. There were no check points either, but the cops were visible. They had rooftop cameras and strode through the crowd in groups of 8. There were several pour-outs and a few incidents but the crowd was well behaved. The police were visible, and by traveled in large groups they were sending a clear message. Do NOT start.

I have to ask why wasn’t this done for Game 7. Bigger crowds, should have meant a bigger preventative measure. I’m not naive enough to think that this would have prevented a riot. There were people who came downtown equipped to start chaos. The difference would have been that there would have been more separation between the fan zone and the riot zone.

Those 20-somethings I heard all excited about the riot would have gone home disappointed about the game. They would have been sober and if a riot broke out on the next block, they would likely have thought twice about joining in.

And I know, it’s easy for me to talk after the fact. I wasn’t involved in the prevention/ emergency measures decision making process and have no access to the manpower data that the VPD and the RCMP had to work with.

But, I do know the preventative measures that worked for the previous games were not carried through to Game 7.

My advice for next time is plan for the crowd.

There weren’t enough screens or speakers. Next time pay attention to the numbers. There were estimates of how many folks they were expecting so it follows if you’re expecting a bigger crowd don’t try to squeeze them into a space too small to accommodate. Next time block-off more streets, add more screens to make sure everyone can see. This will increase the enjoyment for the crowd, decrease their frustrations – and as a bonus it will also increase the number of entry and exit points to make for a smoother disbursement of the crowd when the event is finished.

Stick to the no alcohol policy. It worked. I love having a beer while watching a game. But If I’m going to a public place, I have no problem sacrificing the beer to be part of the crowd. From the size of the well behaved crowed during previous games, I wasn’t the only one with this attitude.

 

I am extremely proud of the way the real fans and Vancouverites gathered downtown to clean up a mess they didn’t make. I’m pleased that the media stopped calling the rioters ‘fans’ This is a very necessary distinction. And I hope that they report responsibly next time and not focus on the sensational riot but remind potential participants how devastating it was to Vancouver and the livelihoods of the people who reside here. How social media swooped in to help capture the looters and the sentences they faced.

I hope they remind the next group of young people that the goal isn’t to join in and have a bigger riot but to avoid having one all together.

And for the record, I’m probably more of a Canucks fan now than I was when the series started. Even though our boys didn’t play well enough to win the cup, they behaved like true sportsman. I’m very proud of them and their accomplishments.

The Making of Hiding in Plain Sight

My new novel, ‘Hiding in Plain Sight‘ hit the virtual shelves almost a month ago. So far I’m thrilled with the response it’s been getting.

This is the first novel I’ve written specifically for a young adult audience. I was amazed at how comfortable this genre is for me. I guess that means that I haven’t completely grown up yet (which is a good thing in my humble opinion)

So, where did I get the idea for this book?

The first draft of this novel was written during NaNoWriMo 2009. At the stroke of 12 on November 1st I had four names and I knew one of the characters was an alien.

That’s it, That’s all.

My goal was to write a 50,000 word first draft by the end of the month. On November 30th, I had 55,000 words yet was nowhere near the end of my story. I stalled and procrastinated for another 6 months before I was forced into finishing it by a friend and fellow writer who wouldn’t let me alone until it was done (Thanks by the way). When I finished the first edit and send the final chapters off to my proof-readers we discovered that I’d made a fatal faux-pas – my ending happened without my main character. I had to re-write it, ditch the beautiful reconciliation scene and add in more action. The new version, I’m happy to say is much better.

As you can probably tell, I’m not much of a plotter. I break out in hives if I try to figure out what’s going to happen too far in advance. Sometimes I write my characters into a corner, but usually that just makes for a more interesting story as I write them back out again. For Hiding in Plain Sight, I was halfway through the first chapter when I realized that the whole family was from another planet and it wasn’t until later that I learned there were bad aliens coming to get them.

Why did I decide to use Saint John, New Brunswick as the setting?

Saint John is my hometown and I just pictured my characters there. I cheated a bit and had Hilary live in the house beside the one I grew up in. So when Ben moved in next door, he moved into my house. Alex, his little sister, has my old bedroom. Shannon lives in the the first house at the head of the subdivision across the street.

I say I cheated because I used a location I knew well. It meant that I didn’t have to put much effort into designing the setting, I simply pulled from my memories.

My characters went to Saint John High School, just like me. A lot has changed since I went there so I picked the brains of one of the SJHS teachers, who incidentally graduated with me. He updated me on the things that have changed since then and what hadn’t. A huge shout out to Peter Larsen. He was a huge help. FYI – if I got any of the details wrong, it’s my bad not his.

Where did I get the names for my characters?

My main character names are an ‘I never forgot you’ to my ex-husband’s nieces and nephew. I left when they were still really small, they probably don’t even remember me. But losing the ability to be part of their lives and watch them grow up was one of the hardest adjustments to make in the aftermath of my divorce.

The alien names were just jumbles of letters until something looked pronounceable. The name for the bad guys, the Hurliingen, is actually a misspelling of the Dutch word for pirate.

After writing this novel, I have a whole new appreciation for Tolkien and his ability to a) create so many names and b) keep them all straight. During my editing process I discovered at least three spellings for Myonus and four for the Hurliingen. I am in awe of any writer who has mastered this task.

If I’ve made you curious (I hope) and you’re interested in buying the Hiding in Plain Sight to read for yourself (crosses fingers) go to http://paperboxbooks.com

PaperBox Books is an indie e-publisher. Check out all of their books for sale.

Mom, men and monster to-do lists

Mom arrives here on Wednesday for a week. We lost Dad last August, so this is her first solo venture outside of my hometown without him.

Instead of holing up in her house like a weak widow, she’s staying with me on her way back from New Zealand. She’s been there for almost a month visiting her sister and nephews. She’s been able to see places and things my grandmother (her mother) described when she talked about growing up in New Zealand. I’ve talked to Mom on Skype a few times and she’s having a ball. She’s spending her last weekend in Rotorua, checking out all the geothermic pools and catching a Maori Haungi (feast) and live show.

I’m so proud of her.

In other news, I’ve turfed my guy. It wasn’t working out and I’m pleased that I recognized the path we were taking and decided to leave instead of doing my usual ‘hold on til the last hope and get crushed in the process’ thing. So “Yay me.”

This week it seems I’ve been attacked by the to-do list from hell. Every time I look at it I swear it’s doubled in size. As fast as I knock one thing off it, three more appear.

It’s not fair.

Especially since it’s sunny outside and I want to go play in my gardens, which technically are on the list, just not a priority this weekend.

Why did I want to be an adult again?