Thursday, November 26, 2009

Crime on a Dime - my first big CWC event

It was my first big event with the Crime Writers of Canada, and it was an adventure, let me tell you!

We advertised the "Crime on a Dime" event through book clubs and writing clubs, through community newspapers, websites, and so forth – and Louise even posted it to her blog, which drew out at least one additional fan. My friend Mady did the flyers, the posters and the community news notifications (plus translations). And I rented a sound system with four mikes, so everyone could talk at once (I hate when you have to share mikes, because then all attention is on the squabble, rather than what’s said). So we were well-prepared.

Unfortunately, we weren’t prepared well enough in advance. We had a turnout of only about 15 people, including the librarian, the janitor, two book sellers and five of my own friends. Michael Blair tried to make me feel better by telling me at one of his own book launches, nobody showed up. (That made me feel great about the event, but a little leary of my own book launches!) Then Louise Penny and Mary Jane Maffini chimed in, telling me the same! How encouraging!

Right before the event, a library tech and I set up the table mikes, the Fender mixer/amplifier and the speakers, and when it came to powering everything up, I discovered there was no power cord for the Fender. I plotzed. Fortunately, the power cord that goes into a Fender is the same power cord you use on most computers or monitors, so he and I ran around the whole library and invaded offices in search of a spare power cord. (Turns out the power cord was hidden in a secret chamber in the Fender case. I learned that the following Monday when the vendor left me an email.)

All three of the authors were great, though. I only had to ask leading questions, and they took it from there. The challenge was for each of them to “sell” me one of their books, because I had put up the money for the sound system and was therefore only able to buy one book from each. They had misunderstood me and thought I could only buy one book, period! Michael picked up one of his books and said “It’s thin and it’s the cheapest on the table!” Mary Jane said, “Well, when money’s a factor, you’ve got to go with quality,” and she held up her own book. Louise looked at the audience, she looked at the other two authors, and then she turned to me and said, “Buy Mary Jane’s book.” They played off each other perfectly.

But during the event, I discovered that writers are immune to my magical middle-management powers. Normally, I can keep a 60 minute meeting to 50 minutes or less. But authors are like train engines. It takes oomph to get them started, and it takes even more oomph to get them to stop! So at quarter to five, I was sweating because out of the corner of my eye I could see itchy hand signals from the librarian, who wanted to close soon. Even after I did my wrap-up comments and thank you’s, Louise Penny, bless her heart, kept asking if there were more questions in the audience, and there always. After hearing all their jokes and a sample of each book, one audience member said, “You guys seem like so much fun, and so well-adjusted! Why do you write about killing people?” Michael sat forward with his hand on the mike stand, and he confided, “Well, you’ve heard what we’ve read, and it really isn’t all that dark!”

At that very moment, all the lights went out.

(It was the fifteen minute warning for the library closing time, but we couldn’t have timed that if we tried.)

So eventually people got up to buy books (the vendor was actually quite impressed – she had more sales that night than she normally did with an audience three times that size), and as I packed, I apologized profusely to all and sundry about the small turn out, and about our lateness getting everything knocked down again.

Then the librarian said, “Oh, you have time. We haven’t closed the library yet. Apparently a little girl was taken from the library and now her mother’s looking for her. We’re waiting for the police to show up.”

“Only during a Crime Writers event,” I thought, “does somebody gets kidnapped from the public library.”

They found the girl a little while later.

Not bad for my first big event, eh?

Sunday, November 8, 2009

NaNo - Day Eight - Adapting

What a beautiful weekend.

Instead of jumping into writing on Saturday, (or more likely, complaining about not writing), I went for a walk.

Montreal is an incredible place, isn't it? I've been here for more than two years now, and I still get lost. But every time I get lost, I end up in another small "town" within the greater city.

Imagine: you're walking down streets you've been down a million times before, and because you have a little extra time on your hands, you make a right, following the street until it ends. On one side: the setting for a perfect werewolf attack scene. The train yard is barricaded by some of the flimsiest chain link fencing, but the ground is rife with cinder blocks and patches of concrete foundation, reclaimed by nature. On the other side, you can follow a side street along a row of old houses - duplexes, triplexes, all of them with brightly coloured shingles, or decorated with stark, black Gothic trimmings. Go a little further, and you find a cobblestone side street, bracketed by stores selling high fashion, diamonds, artwork, rare books and sculpture (and at least three different coffee shops, each with a fireplace and soft lighting).

Imagine, heading back home, and because it's still only three in the afternoon, you take another back street. The road ends, and a sprawling park opens up before you. Well-dressed couples stroll hand in hand in the afternoon sun; teenaged girls take pictures of tame squirrels they've charmed with make-believe peanuts. The park is laid out before an enormous, stone building, complete with greenhouse, turrets and a crenelated roof - a castle in the middle of the city. And that's just the library! Go for a walk around the park, admiring the venerable oaks and the nodding willows, pause under a tree where the squirrel has dropped his chestnut on your head, and realize, the man behind the greenhouse is saying his evening prayers.

Head further uphill, out of town, and you enter into yet another world. Fantastic houses on corner lots are three stories tall, with spiky widow's peaks, steep stairs, and a general air of haunted houses. A little further down, if it's dark enough, you can peer through windows without ever leaving the sidewalk, and attach dollar values to the immense, chrome-plated kitchens, and to the cathedral windows, to the paintings and the Swarovsky crystals in the glass cabinets, and to the field stone walls and the solid oak doors.

Imagine walking through this urban sanctuary, smelling the crushed maple on the warm, autumn air, see how the yellow-leaved trees bow over the shady street; listen to the gentle conversation of men and women as they pass by, walking their dogs; and realize: this is where you live.

I didn't write yesterday at all. I gave myself the day off to get outside and absorb this fantastic November weekend.

I made up for it today: I sat in that same, castle-like library, joined to the imposing Victoria Hall by the greenhouse (which will feature in the story I'm working on now), and I wrote. Then I came out here, to Pointe-Claire to sit and enjoy the company of my fellow writers, Mady and Michael.

This has been a very good weekend.

It's given me something to write about.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

NaNo - Day Three (the DTs)

Take out garbage. Check.

Write 2000 words! Check. Oh boy.

Walk 5 kms. Check.

Buy ink, paper and sunflower seeds. Check.

Pick up the garbage the squirrels chewed through. Check.

Work 8 hours. Done.

Whine on Facebook chat. Done.

Send church emails. Done.

Clean living room. In Progress.

Print stuff to edit. Also in progress.

Make more hot chocolate. Good idea! Don't mind if I do.

Wash dishes. A woman's work is never done. A bachelorette's work is never done either, but that's because she rarely STARTS it.

Check blackberry! Yes, an email to reply to! Done.

Chat on Facebook. Play Facebook games. Done and done.

Uh...uh...shower again and clean the bathroom! Visit upstairs neighbours! Hang pictures!

Blog about sticking to the dare: Done.

Okay, so that brings us up to quarter to nine...I wonder what Sarah's doing tonight...

Monday, November 2, 2009

Day Two - NaNoWriMo, and The Nine Day Wonder

My first NaNoWriMo was in 2007. Tobin and a couple of other friends had flirted with the idea of participating, but me, I hadn't really considered it until Hallowe'en, 2007.

Then, the problem was, I didn't know what I was going to write about. For the preceeding five years, I had been working on a massive project in epic fantasy, and I was losing hope. I'd also just been "sharpening the quill" on a few radio plays, so mystery was fresh in my mind. Other than that, my brain was running on fumes.

So, Halloween night, I tossed myself into bed, giggling at the thought that I was going to launch into this venture. I'd never written a book in such a short time before - especially without having a single idea.

Having decided I was going to work on a new mystery (*toss, turn), I figured I would need a unique character. Deaf? No, that's been done - Sue Thomas, F.B.Eye. (*toss, turn) Confined to a wheelchair! No, that's been done - Ironside. (*toss, turn). He's a drunk! He's a hobo! He's jinxed! He's a red head! He's...he's...He's really a SHE! (*toss, turn...)

Out of nowhere, around 1:00 or 2:00 in the morning (dizzy and tangled in the sheets from all the tossing and turning), it came to me: He has no tongue.

Immediately after that, I thought, I'll call it Mummer's the Word.

Immediately after that: "It would have to be Halloween. I don't know if that helped or hindered." They were the opening words to the story. I heard the voice of the narrator in my head, fully formed, sarcasm intact. I could see him, I could hear him, I could laugh with him - I swore, I could reach out and touch him.

For the next few hours, alternating between fussing and giggling, scene after scene fell in place. I gave up sleep, threw my stuff in my backpack and hit the coffee shop before going to work that morning. After that, the story just kinda...fell out of me.

I wrote over 36,000 words in the first week, and I took a day off. Sarah and Tim (my friends in Ontario) were coming down to visit Sarah's newest nephew on his baptismal day, and I really wanted to finish the story before they arrived. I didn't quite make it. But I did have it finished by the 10th. Sarah and Tim, I swear, are the most patient guests ever to walk through the Hobbit Door.

So, between November 1st and 10th, with one day off, I had Mummer's the Word completed in nine days.

Early December, after I'd done my first edits, I received an email from Invisible Cities Network (an artist's forum here in Montreal), championed by Christina M. It was a notice about the Crime Writers of Canada's Arthur Ellis Awards, and how, for the second time ever, the CWC was going to offer the category for "Best New Unpublished Author". I thought...what the heck.

Who knew by April, 2008, Mummer's the Word would be shortlisted for that category? And by December 31st, 2008, I would have an agent representing the series?

I met up with Christina and some friends late 2008. I had been trying to come up with a good website address to register, but I was coming up blank. I didn't want a website for just Mummer - I wanted it for the Author of Allsorts! More than just mystery, more than fantasy - a page for every major project. I had mentioned to one of my friends there that I had continued writing stories for Mummer - I think I had most of the series done by then, actually. So, knowing I had written Mummer in such a short time, he turned to Christina and told her what I had done. Christina gave me a bit of a smile and said, "You're a real nine day wonder, aren't you?"

I had the title to the website.

Granted, a "nine day wonder" is also a bit of a let down. According to Wikipedia, a "nine days wonder" is a sensational event that evokes widespread interest but is soon forgotten.

So I guess I'm just going to have to update Wikipedia! Nine Day Wonder is the story that is Mummer's the Word.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

NaNoWriMo, Day One

This is, without a doubt, the silliest way to do a marathon.

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is celebrating its tenth anniversary this year, and I'm sure Chris Baty, among others, is amazed at how this venture has grown.

In 1999, it started as a pod of 21 amateur writers in the San Francisco Bay area, challenging each other to write a book in 30 days. That was the challenge: write 50, 000 words in one month. He (or she) who made it to the end of 50,000 and survived won nothing but bragging rights.

Thus began the international craze that is NaNoWriMo. The "contest" grew beyond their server capacities: more participants, more referrals, more neat ways of procrastinating... 21 people swelled into tens of thousands of participants. Last year, I believe it was well over 100,000 participants from umpteen countries (most of whom, I've realized, I've "friended" in Facebook).

I think they'd considered changing the title to International Novel Writing Month, but it just didn't have the same ring to it. InnaNoWriMo? GloboNoWriMo?

(Wanna learn more about the history of NaNoWriMo? Click here. But until about Nov 10, be prepared for delays.)

And it's more than just a contest. As you may have read from previous posts, I'm big on organizations that encourage young people to explore their talents as well. The Office of Letters and Light (the angels behind NaNoWriMo and Script Frenzy) collect donations for youth events they organize and equip. I plan to donate, and I think anyone who signs up for this should at least consider the $10 gift.

This will be my third year participating! In upcoming blogs, I'll tell you about the projects in the first two years, and where those projects have led me.

This year, maybe in retribution for my "NaNoTriMo" last year, Michael Lorenson put the challenge to me, and he was backed by his newfound co-conspirators: Mady Virgona and Tobin Elliott. The challenge was to not exceed 2000 words per day. Foolishly...FOOLISHLY, I SAY...I accepted the challenge, with the terms that all three of them would participate in this year's NaNo with me.

Today, the first day of NaNo'ember, I went to Mady's place to cheer her on, work on some CWC stuff (event on the 21st - more about that later), and to write my 2000 words.

Okay, let's do some math.

The first time I did a WriMo, I wrote 50,000 words in 9 days.

The second time I did a WriMo, I wrote 177,000 words in 30 days (hence, NaNoTRIMo - three times what I was supposed to do).

The last marathon I was in was 72-hours long, and I wrote 55,000 words. Okay, granted, it was crap, but STILL!

It took me just shy of an hour to overshoot 2000 words, and another 30 minutes to bring it back down to my quota. Mady heard a lot of weeping and cursing tonight.

And it's still Sunday! Why did I agree to a cap of 2000 words, for goodness sake?

But here's the thing I love about marathons like NaNoWriMo. If it wasn't for them, I wouldn't have met Mike, Mady, Maryse, Chris, Brian, Hendrik or JayBee; if it wasn't for the Muskoka Literacy Council, I wouldn't have met Martin, Amy, Paula, Tracey, Tracey, Susan, Susan, Karen, Jacqui...

Heck, if I excluded every writer from my friends list in Facebook, I wouldn't have any more neighbours in Farmville!

Any writer can chunk out 50,000 words, and any writer can challenge themselves to write it in 30 days. But events like NaNoWriMo are more than just marathons, they're more than just excuses for friends and family to roll their eyes at us, and it's more than just another excuse for leaving dirty dishes in the sink. It's a social networking phenomenon, and I love every second of it.

Follow my progress: Margo Lane is my screen name.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Mixed Inspiration

If I had one piece of advice for aspiring writers (as if I can speak with authority...), it would be this: it's all right to cry, as long as you don't give up.

I just got back from Chapters, Pointe Claire, and I have in my possession a brand new book - signed by the author herself, Kelley Armstrong. She's actually quite down to earth, and she's mastered the art of the consistent smile - a genuine smile. I met her for the first time at the Festival of Fear and spoke with her briefly there, too. She's got a sense of community, too. I didn't realize this, but the proceeds from all sales of her Men of the Otherworld Series go to World Literacy of Canada! I admire that.

What else is cool is that I kinda "knew her when." I had first heard of Kelley Armstrong through Tobin Elliott - who at the time was "just" my creative writing teacher at Durham College, and who has since morphed into my butt-kicking mentor. At the time, just ten years ago, she had just sold Bitten. Now look: international fame and a list of titles as long as your leg. All that and a family too! Moms rule. (Just ask my mother.)

And in other news (old news, if you've been following my Facebook status...), I've had a request from EDGE Fantasy and Science Fiction Publishing for the complete manuscript! That's a very good sign. I'm not holding my breath, it's not a contract, it's nothing like that, but it's a good sign.

Unfortunately, the manuscript isn't quite where I wanted it to be. I'd wanted to get this draft finished before the start of October (because, ironically, I had a feeling I'd be getting an email from EDGE). But funny how two major call centre outages, the flu, food poisoning and a car accident can really set you back! Fortunately, I have a vacation starting tomorrow night. (Vacations - ha! I don't take vacations - I temporarily switch careers!)

But the closer I get to being published, the more I worry! Have I written something distinct enough that it won't be lost in the fad? Or have I written something so outrageously off-the wall that it'll be nigh impossible to market? Do I want to stick to fringe and cross-genre, or do I lean more toward what will sell the most, and capture the widest (paying) audience?

(And before you suggest it: I will write for me, first, no matter what - but if I want to SELL, I have to sell to the best possible market, right?)

And on top of that, tonight has really made me wonder - again. It started with Verna mentioning about her Capitol City Young Writers group, and it sprang up again tonight with Kelley Armstrong. At some point, if I'm able to make a sustainable living off my nefarious pursuits, how can I give back to the community?

So, I pose the question back to you! (I like doing that - why should I be the only one writing? That would be boring.) I've thought of signing books in exchange for non-perishable food items or for a cash donation to Food Banks Canada. But what other suggestions do you have?

Sunday, September 13, 2009


I had left church around 1:15, having made my excuses from the 2-year church anniversary party with the rest of the gang. I had wanted to get stuff done - a little editing, a little shopping, a little cleaning and lot of organizing. And I wanted to BE in certain places, despite the traffic.

And the funny thing is, I ended up taking a completely different route from the one I should have taken, just to get back to Decarie. Roads I thought would take me there didn't, so I ended up taking a couple of detours to get where I wanted to go.

I was driving along, minding my own business, when I realized that, as I was going through the intersection, I would have to stop IN the intersection - and stop very abruptly. So, I held on and came to a quick but safe stop - not even so quick that my tires screeched or anything. It was just one of those stops that makes the engine go down and the back end go up, until you come to a complete stop and everything settles back down again.

And then, as I usually do under these circumstances, I looked in the rear view mirror.

I had just enough time to think - simultaneously: "Oh no!" "Oh crap!" "Here we go!" "Why me?" "What am I supposed to do again?" "This should teach me to be more patient," "This is gonna hurt," and "I shoulda gone to the party with everybody else."


Followed by BANG.

I was the monkey in the middle.

My first accident in Montreal, and there was absolutely NO possible way I could have avoided it. I didn't know what to do, I didn't know if we should call the police, I didn't know if I was going to have to do everything in French...

Three cars, three drivers, and a surprisingly tame flow of traffic! Cars simply sat in the intersection, waiting for the three of us to pull off to the other side - and it took me a few long seconds to realize that's what they were waiting for me to do. But no one honked horns, not one gave us the finger...on the other side, no one stuck around as witnesses, but that was all right, because the police told us they weren't coming, and to just contact our insurance agencies.

The guy in the lead, driving a white Mitsubishi, took the least of the damage. He was able to reach down, brush off some dust transfer and pop the fender back where it belonged. My car's front end was very gentle and apologetic to his rear.

Me, I took damage on the front bumper so that the passenger's side headlight looks like it's bulging out. The back fender took the worse damage. If it wasn't so well jammed, it would look like it's falling down. I have a dent on the passenger's rear quarter panel, too, though I have no idea why. The trunk is dented too, and the license plate is now more bent than ever. But the trunk opens and closes. (And imagine my surprise - I had been headed out to Ikea to buy a laptop tray for writing in bed - and guess what I found in the trunk! I'd forgotten my mother had bought it for me already! It's been in there for a couple of weeks!) And my purse exploded - but fortunately, it was one of the car's rare CLEAN days, so I didn't have too much flying debris.

The guy behind me, though, can barely drive. The front end is smashed in like a broken nose, and it was dribbling coolant all over the road. He wasn't happy, to say the least, because he knew exactly whose fault the accident had been - and he just wanted to go home. But irony of ironies...we'd had our smash-up three doors down from a garage and a manned tow truck.

And I realized: this is my third accident. The first and worst was when Sarah was in the passenger's side and I was t-boned on that side (so hard she actually bounced off and hit again), and that had been a white Sunfire. The second accident was more annoying than anything, and that had been a white Cavalier. This accident involved not one, but TWO white cars. I'm developing a superstition against white cars!

(And realizing this now: scramble the letters of WHITE and you get WE HIT!)

It was a most civilized exchange: we all traded license, insurance and contact information, asked each other if we were okay, and in our own languages and religions, I think we all thanked God there were no injuries. grievous injuries. Tomorrow I'll hit the clinic to see whether or not I've really sprained my pinky finger or not, but I somehow doubt it. I can't make a fist and I can't lay my hand flat, but I can type. (But then again, I've walked on sprained joints and typed with broken fingers, so this is no challenge.)

So tomorrow, I'll go to the garage and the clinic, and afterward, go to choir practice as was the plan, and I'll spend a little extra time at the prayer meeting.

I don't think you can walk away from something like this without taking something away with you: last thoughts before the ka-bang, I guess. I was in such a rush to get somewhere today, and I can't even remember why it was such a big deal at the time. It's like the mad impetus to BE somewhere at some specific time was knocked out of my head, and all that remained was a single thought: thank God no one was hurt.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Relative Peace and Quiet

I know! I should be cleaning! But this is just so much more fun, and it's something else I can cross off my to-do list today.

I've been thinking a lot about what I write, for whom and why - and, at the same time, what I don't write, and why.

I'll pose the question back to you, at the end of this post.

So, yeah...I'm getting caught up on some old posts, writing about things I should have written about weeks ago. Like...staying at Aunt Shirley and Uncle David's place - almost a month ago, already!

Imagine, sitting out on a patio in the middle of the country side, surrounded by the sounds of crickets and cicadas and the gently falling rain - and writing! Unfortunately, all that peace and quiet is incongruous with writing about werewolves, guns and other nasty creatures, but the experience was quiet enjoyable, just the same!

And then, at some point that first afternoon, I was deep into a scene about sneaking around town, chasing a potential cannibal, when all of a sudden I felt a gentle pressure on my foot. I looked down and nearly jumped out of my jeans.


What is it with me and chipmunks?

And then, later in that same week, family descended on the Nortcliffe country home - my oldest cousin Andrew and his wife Julie (my cuz-in-law), and their baby, Skyler (pictured left); my youngest cousin, Tim and his sister, Jen, with her son Titus; my middle cousin Heather; plus Aunt Nancy, Aunt Sandra, Aunt Shirley and Uncle David, two country neighbours (one of whom I babysat when she was only 2 years old), and me, all on one mosquito plagued porch - at least 14 people on that porch, and 16 simultaneous conversations. And what was I thinking about? Werewolves and biting people. (I'm not particularly good around crowds of any sort, including family gatherings.) However, socializing and writing are mutually exclusive, so, writing waited. And I didn't bite anybody! (On the right, that's me not biting Skyler. Below, you see Titus introducing Skyler to the world of books - especially books about one's family. Good job, Titus. Good job.)

But it really made me think about what I was doing, and why. What I wanted to do was write; but at the same time, I knew I should be socializing, because I never know when I'm going to have the opportunity again! That's the thing about writing: you can't write about people unless you spend time with them, but you can't write without spending time alone!

And then I started to think about the material itself. I've talked to my friends (and fellow writers) about this too. Part of me wants to write the story the way it wants to be written - and the other part of me never leaves church - nor the family.

Because of that, there are certain scenes I want to write, but I won't, and there's a certain level of detail I could achieve, but for decency's sake, I avoid.

Because of that, there are certain words I want to use - words that would, I think, be appropriate in some circumstances (when you hear a gunshot, sometimes a gasp isn't good enough!) - but I've promised kith and kin I won't use them.

And there are stories I want to write - true stories I want to write - but I can't, because I don't want to bring about dishonour on my family. And there are some stories you can't - and shouldn't - fictionalize.

So, here's my question back to you: should you write whatever you want, irrespective of what others (specifically, your family) might want you not to write? Or should you heed their concerns and tone it down?

If you're serious about getting something published, do you write it for your audience, for your family, or for you?

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Anatomy of the 72-hr Novel, Part Two

...wherein we discuss the dangers of the 72-hr writing marathon: the top 10 list. Bear in mind: this is just my own personal experience, and timing was everything.

10. I do more stupid stuff than usual, and that's saying something! I can't recall all the dumb things I did, but one stands out in my mind. I wobbled into the kitchen to make a cup of coffee, and I started talking to someone. During the conversation, I put the grounds in the coffee press, poured in the water from the kettle, waited the requisite amount of time, pressed the plunger all the way down and poured the coffee. I offered it to my new friend, so she could have a sample before I downed the rest of it. "Smells good," she said, "except it's cold." Hadn't even remembered to turn the kettle on first. Good thing I let her drink it first!

9. Flashbacks. Writing that book was such an intense emotional experience that it became very, very real to me. I would be walking across a street, and I would suddenly be surprised that there was a street there. I'd lapse into silence for long stretches, staring off into the distance, even in the middle of a conversation. Music would trigger flashbacks. Snippets of conversation would trigger flashbacks. I had been there, in that world, and at the end of the 72-hrs, I had culture-shock in my own world.

8. Jumping the gun. When you're still glowing about the whole process - and the product - you may be inclined to believe it's the best thing you've ever written. (For the record, it still remains the best first draft of anything I've ever written). I jumped the gun once because I'd sent off the second draft to Verna before letting my first readers attack it - and now that I'm working on draft 4, I've had to ask her to recycle the manuscript I'd mailed her. And - speaking of jumping the gun: a follow up to a previous post! You remember the publishing house that remembered my name? They asked for more material! It's only been three weeks! And same thing again - they have draft 1.2, and I'm still finishing 1.4 - so I have to send them the first few pages again.

7. And why, pray tell, have I worked on so many drafts? Sequel-itis! Sheer momentum thrust me into sequel (8 days, and there's the sequel, such as it is). But because I know now where the trilology is going (yep...trilogy...November is my next vacation.) But stuff you do in later books means you have to go back to earlier books to add in vital clues or change the way people look or act or whatever. And from sequelitis, you get...

6. Edit-itis. It's when you just can't stop picking at the manuscript(s), and it occupies your every waking thought! You just can't let it go. You send off your mansucript to multiple first readers, fretting about every comment, kicking yourself for the little errors you've made - and this is the final stage of...

5. The fall from grace. Shortly after I came back from the marathon, my very good friend and role model Mady Virgona bought me a copy of Ian McEwan's Amsterdam. It had a very grounding influence. It's about two main characters who think far too much of themselves, including a "great" composer who, in his attempt to create an original melody, spends every waking moment indulging in and obsessing over his work - *spoiler alert* and his "masterpiece" ends up being a great big piece of crap. Amsterdam, plus some much needed feedback from my first readers, made my euphoria go away, leaving me very much adrift. It was not the inspired work of awesomeness I'd thought it was. The book became just another manuscript to work on - another unpaid job. I was starting to see the flaws, and I was losing the manic joy that had propelled me through the first two books.

4. Disruption of one's normal routine. That's a soft way of saying I was reluctant to socialize, and I kept forgetting to brush my teeth, shower and/or wash the dishes. At that point, I had to put everything aside - I had to make the thought of writing or editing unappetizing, in order to dislodge myself from my seat and do something else.

3. Exhaustion. Simply put, by the time I got back to Toronto, I was physically, mentally and emotionally exhausted. That's what you get for writing 55,000 words in 72 hours - especially when you get so wrapped up in the story itself. I was sick for 10 days afterwards, and I had to take time off work to get body and brain together again. I needed to detox.

2. The Blues. Not depression in the clinical sense - it didn't last that long. But it was bad. I would cry at inappropriate times, I couldn't get myself moving, I didn't want to do anything at all (washing dishes, showering, brushing teeth...). But at the same time, there had already been precipitating events at work before my trip to Toronto, during my trip to Toronto - and a killing blow when I returned from Huntsville. It had been just little things, but sometimes, that's all it takes. I started question why I was in that day job at all - I was terrible at it, everyone else was better at it than me, no one appreciated me - blah blah blah. Why should I be working at a job that suddenly revolted me, when I could be doing something I was actually good at - namely writing? Fortunately, I have an awesome boss (Ian Cruickshank) who talked me back from the ledge so well that when I "fell from grace", at least I still had my day job, and I remembered I actually liked it. And it was a bittersweet return, when I was well again. In order for me to return, everything had to change, and I had to set a deadline for myself to get out of the role I'm in.

1. Withdrawl. Would I do it all over again? Yes - absolutely, no question. But from now on, I'm always going to be trying to beat an extreme record, and it will only get harder and harder every time. Anything short of euphoria will be a let down.

But at the same time: I know what to expect now. I'm prepared now. And gosh darn it, now I have an incredible record to beat, and i'm determined to do it.

And best of all, I get to see all those crazy people again! Friendship, camraderie, jokes, laughter, and hope. I was not alone. There were others out there with me, and it was for a good cause. What more could I ask for?

And I know that when I go in there next, the book that comes out with me is not going to be perfect - but darn it...that's not the point.

The 72-hr novel is not a novel at all.

It's a story in itself.

Anatomy of the 72-hr Novel, Part One

...wherein we attempt to describe the experience and product of a successful 72-hr novel-writing marathon.

The temptation. This may come in the form of an advertisement in your local newspaper, chat rooms, writing groups or on Facebook. In my case, I took a wrong turn on the information superhighway, and instead of exiting at "3-Day Novel", I took the "Muskoka Novel Marathon" off-ramp and discovered a charitable event! I admire what they're doing. Literacy, computer skills, numeracy - things most people take for granted, but for others stand between themselves, and employability. Check the link. I really support their efforts, and I'll be asking for your help next year.

The daring urge. This is the moment in which you decide to chuck your hat into the ring. May be accompanied by such outbursts as "What am I doing?" and "Am I crazy?!" and often, incomprehensible giggles.

Cold feet. This is usually accompanied by feelings of self-doubt, guilt and fear. You may also experience strange stares from family, friends and acquaintances, some of whom may agree, "Yes, you are insane."

The story idea. This may come before you sign up for the marathon. It may come after the marathon. It may not come to you at all, even during the marathon. Fortunately for me, I'd had an amazing story idea come to me fully formed, in a dream, about three months earlier.

Preparation. In my case, I had driven in from Montreal (thinking about the story), spent a difficult week in Toronto (thinking about the story and not about work), then drove from Oshawa to Huntsville through farm country, rolling hills (thinking about the story) - and at last, into the Muskokas themselves, where inspiration lives. Where else to set a story about werewolves, but in a land of trees, water and rock? Add to this classical music, the whispering, swelling and crashing masterpieces - and to this, one moment of suspended silence, where all chattering mental static suddenly lifts, leaving just one thought: "I can do this."

The initial meet and greet. This is the moment in which you swallow all fear and march in through the door to sign in and accept your registration loot bag, then trundle down to the lunch room where twenty or so others are waiting. If this is your first marathon, you may note that some writers will reminisce about marathons past and compare track records (often explaining away absences and commenting on the new locale). This is also the moment in which you realize that, regardless of your idea or genre, you are among like-minds - which is probably one of the most potent of all the marathon experiences. And it's also the moment when you realize...I might just be able to do this.

The first ten pages. In our case, we tracked every ten pages with a slip of paper, stuck to a window. Me, being overly competitive, I absolutely wanted to be the first to stick something on the window. I did it, but only by mere seconds! Martin Avery was a very close second. Trust me on this: setting hourly goals helps you. It also helps to set landmarks, too - reach this point in the plot, grab a snack; reach that point, go for dinner with friends. Give yourself something to go to, and you will get there.

The first night. Don't expect to sleep. Bathing will help you to relax, physically, but don't expect your brain to turn off, because you are too danged excited about the whole experience!

The wall. It comes sooner than you think! For me, it happened Saturday afternoon, after I blasted through page 100.

The energy surge. Pick your poison: Rockstar, Red Bull, Monster...Surge at your own risk.

The wall. It keeps coming back. The second time you run into it (often coinciding the crash that follows an energy drink), you realize this is not just a contest: it's a true marathon.

The second night. Don't expect to sleep, especially if you leave the night on page 150, in the middle of your story.

The wall. It happens earlier and earlier in the day. Once you hit it, either you get your second wind, or you just keep pushing against the wall. That's what a marathon is.

Bonding. It happened for me, and maybe it happened with others, but sometime between Saturday and Monday morning, I developed a heart-swelling affection for my fellow writer. Every idea was brilliant, every person was a treasured piece of humanity, every foible a delight...And the friends I've made - people just starting off in their writing careers, some well-established, some peers like Paula Boon who is in the same position as me - agented and just so STINKIN' close to a break-through...I could name all my new friends alphabetically and in the order I met them, but this post is already long enough! Yikes!

The wobbles. From Saturday afternoon through Monday morning, I looked like I was trying to walk across the deck of a ship in a storm-tossed sea. Nothing was quite real anymore. Someone would make a comment, and my brain would add, "She said." Characters in the book became indistinguishable from the other writers. At one point, I swore I knew what people were going to say, a moment before they said it - the way an idea preceeds the written dialogue. This may also be indicated by the urge to say punctuation where appropriate. "This is such a good sandwich exclamation point," for example. Oh, and midnight office chair races are obligatory! Betting is optional.

The wall. After a while, you just feel punch drunk. You may laugh for no apparent reason. Or worse, if you have an apparent reason to laugh, you may start sounding like Barnie Rubble. Ask Amy Caughlin and some of the other girls - they witnessed it!

The third night. Try all you want, but you ain't sleeping, because you're about to have...

The moment when you realize everything you've written is absolute CRAP. Self-explanatory. This will occur in small bursts throughout the marathon - if you let it. For me, there was one big moment: about three quarters of the way through when I realized I had painted myself into a corner. Fortunately, this was quickly followed by...

The euphoria. Writing at that speed, your brain is forced into making snap decisions, and you're more or less witnessing the story, more than exerting a creative will over its evolution. Things you didn't even think you were thinking seem to just appear on the screen; you enter their world, listening to the sounds in their background, feeling their sun on your face...Suddenly you bust through the mental block, you see your way out of the plot hole - it's your Aha! moment, when it seems perfectly obvious, and why didn't you see it before? You chase down the idea, nailing it into place with each click of the keys...Characters speak their own lines, saying those profound things that advance the plot and add depth to their personalities - things that never made it to your note pages - things you could never imagine yourself writing even if you had all the time in the world! Imagine, watching this accelerating story unfold, trying desperately to write fast enough to keep up, and then, then you type what you hear: a character's perfect line, a line that you thought was meant for the other characters, but you realize the character was telling you something that you've been ignoring all along - You drift to a stop, breathless, stunned, staring at the screen, and you seep back into your own world, realizing just how far you had gone, how you had completely disconnected from your own body and time and space. The purest creative moment.

The glow. After all that frenzied writing and wrestling and spontaneous thought, it's done. The baby is born and put to bed. You can't breathe without sighing as you watch those pages emerge from the printer, one after another. No matter how good or how bad the work is, what was most important was the experience - the intensely personal and private moment of emerging from your own logical mind into unadulterated creativity, perfectly safe in the midst of your fellow artisans - people who know what you're going through, people who know when to stop you and pull you back from the brink - people who tell you they're leaving for the pub and you're coming with them! Everything seems cushioned, subdued. Walking and talking become a burden, and exhaustion settles in, erasing everything but the soft smile on your puffy face.

The addiction. You plan your vacation time around the next marathon.

Stay tuned for Part Two - the dangers of the 72-hr Novel Marathon.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

On pause

I know, it's been almost two weeks! Doubters will scoff and say, "Oh, she wasn't really into writing a blog after all, just another phase," blah blah blah - but I scoff back and say "Writing blogs while connected to the internet on an aircard is JUST not much fun."

Since the last post, I've been out to the Eastern Townships visiting an uncle, (David), 3 aunts (Shirley, Nancy and Sandra), 4 cousins (Heather, Andrew, Jen and Tim) and a cousin-in-law (Julie), 2 second cousins (Skyler and Titus), 2 ex-neighbours (one of whom was Samantha, whom I babysat when she was just yay high), and 1 chipmunk (who stepped on my foot but refused to identify himself, even after I said "Hello" - though it might have sounded more like "YAA!" at the time).

And now, I'm back in Oshawa, working (for real! day job and everything!), editing (what else is new), carpooling (thanks Tobin! nothing like conversation to make the traffic seem less trafficky) and visiting (1 mother, 1 Grampa, 1 Grandma, 1 bff with husband and child, several loosely assorted family members, 1 boss, 1 team, the local library and umpteen gazillion friends, at work or elsewhere).

In the time the last post, I've written another book, so NYAH - I think that's one mighty good excuse for not writing my blog! It took me a ridiculously long time to write (8 days), but I'm 85% satisfied with it. (Too silly yet - I have to scrape off about twenty-page of giddiness before I'm ready to offer it to anybody.)

So my next post should be when I return to Montreal (so, Monday-ish). After that, I have a whole bunch of fun things coming up, such as:
- "Relative" peace and quiet
- what "nine day wonder" really means
- the anatomy of the 72-hour novel
- Festival of Fear
- another "I am the punchline of the animal kingdom, here's proof" story
- anything else that happens to come up between now and then.

Stay tuned!

(And yes, I know, I have thing for brackets.)

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Hobbit Door

If there's such a thing as a dumb-smart person, that's me.

I have a Bachelor of Science degree. I can build spreadsheets and databases with macros and action buttons and hierarchical security login options. I could craft you an info-mapped technical manual, and design a schema in Visio - and darn it all, I can write a book in 72 hours. Do you think I can unlock my own door?

I have a history of door problems. I've walked into screen doors. I've walked into glass doors. I've locked myself out of the car in the pouring rain (much to my mother's amusement). I've tried to use my house keys to get into the office and I've tried using my security pass to unlock my car door. There was even a time when I lost my keys for a week, only to discover they were in the back of Grampa's refrigerator freezer (true story).

And the Alzheimers hasn't even kicked in yet. Heaven help us all.

But what has been my absolute undoing is the "hobbit door" to my NDG apartment. All my visitors are baffled at the height of my door, which is just over 5 feet tall. You have to bend to twist the handle, and you have to keep bending all the way down the stairs. Last fall, I invited some friends over from church, and I tell you, it was like watching a surprise limbo contest - with the loser too busy on his Blackberry to realize that the others had been ducking.

The door sticks. Ask anyone who's visited me in July when the humidity has made that short, obstinant little door swell shut. It's a pain to open, and it's a pain to close again. And all those action movies when the hero shoulders open the door and goes rushing in? It doesn't work for me. I bounce off. And that's when the door is unlocked!

Now, there was a story about the time last year when I climbed through the living room window because I thought the door had swollen shut for good. Turns out I'd been standing outside turning the key to the left instead of the right, locking it over and over again. But that's not quite as funny as what happened on Friday June 19th, 2009. This is an excerpt from my journal that day.


So, I got up, had my shower, had my breakfast, and immediately after that everything started to fall apart – everything being my sanity and my memory.

Got as far as the door when I remembered…I needed my Tylenol.

Got as far as the door again when I realized it might just be my time of the month – which was the reason for the Tylenol in the first place.

Got as far as the middle of the driveway when I realized it was garbage day.

Got as far as half a block when I realized that the whole reason why I was going to the downtown office was because I needed to deliver some modems, which I'd left behind.

Got as far as the Bell Centre downtown, when I realized I had no blackberry.

Got as far as a spare meeting room (my usual rooms were either borrowed or discombobulated), when I realized I had no power cord for the laptop.

Got as far as the end of my first meeting when the battery punked out.

So, after my first meeting, I took more than an hour to get home.

Got as far as the apartment door when I realized I had left my coat and all my other bits and pieces behind at the office – including my keys.

Checked for witnesses – of which there were plenty at first, including a ride-by-bicyclist and a plumber – and once they were gone, I opened the living room window.

Problem. My desk is under the living room window. The desk has a hutch on the top and wheels on the bottom – And all this I remember only after my left foot went skating and my right foot stayed out on the driveway.

At least I didn’t rip my pants.

Got inside, realized I didn't know how I was going to get back outside, because my lock takes a key on both sides of the door. And really, I didn't want to go out the way I came in. It was awkward enough the first time. I needed to stop and think.

Got a bag, put the power supply in the bag, put my lunch in the bag (then took the lunch back out of my bag and decided to carry it in my stomach instead), went to the bathroom – remembered the blackberry – and as I was walking back into the kitchen, I saw that when she was over last, my friend Mady Virgona had found two unmarked keys, one of which, oddly enough, worked just fine in the front door.

And that's when I discovered that I hadn’t locked the front door in the first place.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Paper Bag Radio

Short post today (hooray!) I've written two articles for a newsletter in California (yay! International publicity!) all about radio plays, and the first article is called Paper Bag Radio (after one of the most common props used in OTR)! The newsletter is put out by CCYW - Capitol City Young Writers - an emerging resource for young writers in California. According to the website, "CCYW is sponsored by the English Department at Sacramento State University in CA and Sigma Tau Delta International English Honor Society." Also from their site:
About Our Nonprofit Organization
Capitol City Young Writers is a national 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to educating and inspiring young writers up to and including high school. Our goal is to educate today's youth on the art and craft of writing, so as to encourage their own love of writing. Students are exposed to fiction, nonfiction, poetry, memoir, screenplay, broadcast radio, songwriting, and many other forms of creative writing.

The fearless leader of CCYW is Verna Dreisbach, whom I met in person just back in June, right before Bloody Words 2009 (and I showed her the town - a.k.a. Old Montreal!), and as you can guess by the picture, we had a wonderful time checking out the haute cuisine (and the very well dressed men).
Unfortunately, I was also having a very non-cute hair (a.k.a. mullet) day, and Verna - well, she just always looks high class. And tall. Really, really tall. And me, I have to work on my posture. So, not only did she ask me for an article for her newsletters, but she's also helping me draft a proposal for a compendium of plays. We'll see how it goes, but I'm quite excited about branching out! And hey, if you're interested in more information about how she supports young authors, check out the link above. CCYW helps to match up teens with mentors, brings in specialists for workshops, Verna has organized outings to publishing houses - you name it. You should check out some of her success stories! I think it's amazing that some of her protegees are already - ALREADY - landing publishing contracts. Wow. Wow! Where was Verna when I was in school? What a great way to support her community - and even better, what an awesome way to support young minds.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Conventions, unconventially

So I go to Anticipation today - WorldCon for science fiction and fantasy, and brushed elbows with vampires, steam punks and overly enthusiastic young women wearing furry boots, cat ears and little in between. In the afternoon, my very good buddy Michael Lorenson and I headed down to the dealer's room between some panels, just to shop. That's all we planned to do.

While we were there, we chit-chatted about what I would like to read, since it's been a stinking long time since I read either fantasy or science fiction. We decided basically not to decide - instead of buying a book from one author or another, we both decided to buy one of the Tesseract compilations from Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing.

It took me a while, but then I realized why "Edge" was sticking out in my head. Then it came to me. Before I wrote mystery, I wrote fantasy - the Epic of Allua. I had sent it off to Edge in the hopes that I could make it big in my home country. Well...obviously, if I had been accepted, you would have known by now. But that project did make it as far as a second reader.

So I blurted all that out while standing in line to buy Tesseracts Thirteen, and wouldn't you know it: the publisher and his wife were on the other side of the table taking my money. They asked me for my name.

Believe it or not, they remembered my name. It was the double-w in my name that stuck out in their minds. Who KNEW?

I had submitted my proposal for the fantasy project almost 4 or 5 years ago - and they remembered THAT, too! (And Mrs. Edge Publishing - I'm going to have to track down her name - she says, "Oh, that must have been when you were just a KID!" I blessed her for it.) They remembered how long ago I had sent it off.

Now: flashback to the email Michael Lorenson's sent me a couple of nights ago, when I was considering skipping the whole thing. He said, "Just don't miss it entirely. Lots of authors and editors, LOTS. maybe bring samples of your stuff."

Now: flashback to today, and the conversation on the escalator down to the dealer's room. On our way down, we pass a man and a woman on their way up - one of which is the editor-in-chief of Tor Books. Then Mr. Lorenson, in his prescient wisdom, said that it was a good idea to have an "elevator proposal", so that JUST IN CASE you ever got stuck in an elevator with somebody who just happened to be a just never knew when opportunity would knock.

So on a lark, before I left this morning, I printed off one cover sheet, one synopsis and the first 46 pages of that science fiction project. This is the same crazy 300-page project I wrote between 8:00 p.m. July 17th and 7:00 p.m. July 20th, 2009.

Cut to the present moment once more, standing with Tesseracts Thirteen in one hand, money in the other, with Mr. and Mrs. Edge Publishing on the other side making off-handed comments about the unusual nature of my last name. My mouth opens, and words fall out: "So are you still accepting new materials?" And Mr. Edge Publishing (I've gotta find his name, too...) he said, "Sure!"

For a split second, I wavered, and then again: "So, I uh...y'know, I just HAPPEN to have a proposal right here with me...So,uh...would you, y'know, would you like it?"

In my head, all I could hear was Are you kidding me...? And this, of course, was accompanied by maniacal laughter, followed by, Can you just IMAGINE if this is how I make my big break?

Not even a month has gone by since the moment I applied fingers to keys, and the manuscript is now in the hands of a publishing house. This is NOT the way people are supposed to break into the industry.

But let me tell you, if something actually comes of this, Mr. Lorenson, accompanied by the children and wife of his choice, is going out for surf and turf on my dime.

Here's hoping this is a To Be Continued with a happy - and extraordinary - conclusion.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Regularly scheduled program interrupted by...el chupacabra?

Okay, let's forget work for a moment. I've gotta tell you this, because it gives you a nice glimpse into the dumb things a "tough chick" like me will do. This will be a recurring theme, with episodes when you least expect them - so this is what's going to make this blog worth the while.

So last night, I'm working away and I hear "CHEEP, CHEEP, cheep, cheep!" Since it's approaching midnight, I'm pretty sure it's no chickadee or anything. Whatever it is, it's shrill, it's loud and it's in distress. Then I hear noises like something is flapping and struggling to get out off the ground - or out of the clutches of a cat.

And then I think, well, if it really is a dying bird, then I'm gonna have to take it inside and have to suffer its peeping (and its lice) all night long - or worse, I'm going to find out it's been broken and eviscerated or something, and then I'm going to have to put it out of its misery - not something I want to do last thing on a Friday night!

This isn't the first time I've been disturbed by the local wildlife, either. There was one night I woke up to the banging of the door at 3:00 in the morning. Thinking it was the police, I rolled out of bed and into my pants and I threw on the nearest shirt-like thing I could find, rushed stumbling to the door without my glasses and flicked on the outside light - to discover a cheeky little raccoon had knocked over the garbage pail and was rolling it against the front door to shake loose the crusty stuff at the bottom. I looked at him through the window in the door, he stared back at me as if to ask, "Do you mind?" I opened the door and he jumped - then he assumed I was a loser and actually went back to eating - saucy little thing. I shouted "SCAT!" and waved my arms, and it stepped back, cautious but growling. So I shouted, "GIT OUT!" And he went back to dinner, ignoring me quite thoroughly. It wasn't until I grabbed the pail out of its grip that it finally ran off. Even when I put the pail inside and locked the door on him, he sat outside my window glowering at me.

Then there was the time I heard something else muttering and banging at the door. This time (again, three in the morning, not at my brightest), I swore a burglar was breaking it with murderous intent. And stupid me, I figured the best defense is a surprise offense, so I ran to the door again looking like a homeless crazy person with two fists and a scowl that would have made Popeye proud. This time, the burglar - and my beleagured garbage pail - had both ambled half-way down the driveway, leaving a streak of all the most embarrassing and disgusting garbage - and ladies, you know what kind of garbage I mean. Naturally, it had been the night I cleaned out the bathroom trash. This time, groggy, stupid and legally blind, I burst out through the door, waving my arms and hissing. And though I might not be able to see distinct shapes, I can certainly detect a contrast of colour - and there is no better contrast than black and white, even at 3:00 a.m. My friend the neighbourhood skunk turned upraised tail and aimed. Suddenly discovering ourselves at an impasse - her with all the power of stink and me with all the power of scary crazy person - I politely asked her to move along, and she did.

I don't know what it is about the wildlife in NDG, but it's nuts! The animals are not only fearless, but sometimes they're not even identifiable. There was one night I was coming home from the Metro, and suddenly - I swear to you - a koala ran across the road. It was either a koala or a chupacabra. Whatever it was, it was sandy brown, it had hunching shoulders and a squat rear end, it had no tail, and it ran like a very small bear. It was also two in the morning at the end of a gruelling week, so it could have been a hunchbacked leprechaun for all I really know.

But the story that takes the cake happened last night. Here I am, typing away in the middle of a scary scene where a bunch of people trapped on an island are ambushed by a pack of ravening werewolves in the pitch black night. Then I hear the sound of the animal in distress, and I'm thinking I have to go outside to twist a little bird's neck or something.

So I stand up and open the living room curtains. Can't see a thing. Too bright inside, too dark outside. So I go to the kitchen door and flick on the outside light. Now, I have a triangle of very bright light, bracketed by very deep shadows. I hear the sound again - a cascade of shrill chirps and a frantic flapping, scratching noise. So, I turn off the outside light and turn on the kitchen light, which shines through the windows out onto the driveway a little closer to the backyard. Not the brightest idea, if you pardon the pun, because it's still too light inside and too dark outside. I decide to laugh it off and go back to my work.

A couple of seconds later, there it is again - right outside my window. I figure I'm not going to get any peace - or any sleep - until I shut off the animal alarm. I have to open the door - despite my flashbacks to previous encounters with dauntless - and potentially rabid - animalia. And as big and tough and outdoorsy as I am, I stand on the inside step, staring out into the driveway because I'm too scared to go outside without a light. Whatever it is, it's big and it sounds like it's breaking into the upstairs apartment. Any second now, I expect the sound of crashing glass and a shriek. And to make matters worse, after flicking on all the lights in the house, I have absolutely no night vision.

Once again, I laugh it off and close the door, because whatever it is, it'll go away and I can get to bed. I go back to the all-important scene where spiritually contaminated werewolves are bursting soundlessly out of the dark, teeth and claws first and where there is no escape - and then the infernal cheeping again! Right outside my window!

The drama goes on like this for a good twenty to thirty minutes before I finally give up and decide to go outside. The only flashlight I have is buried under three seasons of camping gear and other various junk, so I light a large candle instead.

Once outside, I shine my pathetic little light in my own eyes, so candlelight or not, I'm blinded by these floating afterimages of a flame I held too close. So I raise the candle over my head, feeling very much like the pretty little extra who ventures too far into the woods in the third act of a B-movie saying, "Hello, hello, is anyone out there?" It was the moment in any bad movie where the camera pans back and the music stops...

What I hear is eight feet tall and full of teeth. Trees bend. A fence wobbles. Weeds rustle and garbage pails fall. Whatever it is, it's in the back yard and it's coming closer - and more precisely, it's coming toward me. The night is cold and overcast and all the street lights have mysteriously gone out, and the only thing lighting my stygian doom is this dumb candle I've got overhead, flickering in the wind.

Then at the bottom of my field of vision I realize there's something white on the lawn. My heart starts to race. Afterimage, I figure, or an optical illusion! I blink, and I realize - not only is that little white spot still there, but it's closer than it was before! For a split second, I think, "What if it's not an animal at all?!"

I blink again, and this time the white spot is scrabbling noisily up a tree to my immediate left. I hiss like an angry cat - and then suddenly the scrabbling is noisier and louder than ever and I realize that this white splotch is running down the tree toward me. I hiss and growl again, but now claws are scritching on the pavement where the backyard ends, and he's gaining ground.

So yes, I admit it. With the candle flame bobbing over my head, with my pride chucked over my shoulder, yes, darn it, I turned tail and ran with that crazy CHIPMUNK right on my heels.

Chipmunk: 1. Ego: zero.

I'm investing in a rubber band gun - THEN we'll see who rules the roost.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Selling out?

So I'm wondering first off about this whole "Monetize" feature of my blog - which is a euphemism for getting others to advertise on your page.

A couple of years ago, I would have been horrified at the very idea - I'd be selling out! But then again, I'm becoming a real capitalist in my old age. I've developed a bit of an affection for cash. Cash = coffee. More cash = cappuccinos and a yummy brioche.

From what I can tell, the advertisement fairies are benign: without any explicit direction from their creators, these invisible little midges flit from post to post, sniffing out the content of your blog and matching it up with available advertising that seems most appropriate - advertising when you're talking about books, for example, or advertising script resources when you're blabbing on about radio plays.

And really, people must be accustomed to seeing ads by now. You can't perform a google search or visit a webpage without having all the margins vandalized by Amazing Acai Berry diets and flirtatious solicitations from eHarmony.

Here's another thing though...When searching out information about radio play script formats (and boy, do they run the gamut), I actually saw some very good resources about radio, drama, educational resources...Advertising works. Without it, I wouldn't have known about the national 3-day writing marathon, I wouldn't be reminded of those wonderful Nova Scotia sailing cruises...

And hey...everybody's gotta make a buck - including those people selling Acai Berry diets.

No obligations, they say - but then again, I've seen some other "no obligation" arrangements that are as painful as a messy divorce when you try to weasel out of them. Decisions, decisions...

But if would mean I am officially getting paid for writing!

Well...we'll see.

But enough about all that silly stuff. Next Post: Paper Bag Radio!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Launch Day this thing on? Uh...oh now? Wha - what, we're live? Oh! Hee hee...uh...

Crap...I'm out of ideas early on, aren't I? That's embarrassing...

Well, I guess I could start with some of the things I'm working on - namely...uh...getting back to the gym, going to work and not freaking out so much about the little things in life...

Oh, and then there's my "real" job, which is also my "unpaid" job...Which brings me back to why it's embarrassing to be caught speechless. I'm supposed to be a writer after all!

And being a "boundary free" author, tampering with Crime fiction, made-for-radio scripts and all manner of speculative fiction (science fiction and fantasy), you'd THINK I would have more to say! I wrote a 56,000 word book in 72 hours - I should be able to write a blog!

Oh, and then there are the events...

Let's see, there's Anticipation 2010 in Montreal this weekend - a big spec fiction "comicon" - I hate that's more than just comics for crying out loud!

And then there are the longer-term plans with the CWC - getting things ready for a November function for the Crime Writers of Canada in Montreal - helping to set up the 2010 Arthur Ellis Awards, which basically starts soon and goes right up until May 27th - attending and volunteering at the 2010 before the Bloody Words event in Toronto....

Oh yes, and Mady's barbeque this weekend.

Okay, whatever I said about not having anything interesting to say, just...y'know, forget I said it.

Why you should stay tuned to this blog:

1) I'm an information resource for authors of most genres (sorry, I don't do romance or erotica, I don't do poetry, and country/western is waaaaay beyond me)
2) I want to advertise more community events for readers and writers
3) I want to advertise writing contests (whenever I find them) - hopefully you'll find the one that will help you break into the market
4) I want to SHAMELESSLY SELF-PROMOTE! (Once I have something in print to sell, of course!)

Where else to find me:
Your local bookstore (coming soon...I hope!)

So stay tuned!