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 publisher...you 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 Chapters.ca 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 anything...it 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

Testing...testing...is 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 phrase...it'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!