Friday, 22 June 2012

My Guest Blog

I apparently picked a bad time of year to try and get reviews.  It isn't that people don't want to, but their lists of books they have to read and review is a mile long.  I am a slow reader myself so I can't imagine.  So instead of reviews, or until in some cases, I have done some guest blogs on some other sites.  This one just happens to be my first.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

It's a Bumpy Road Ideas Sometimes Take

I'm going to take a bumpy road to get you where I want to take you, but some things just have to be done.  A while back I wrote a poem about my favorite singer and how his music made me feel.  It was called Chris Isaak Dreams.  A short time after that I started to write a short story called Living Off Chris Isaak Dreams.  It was about a guy who lived his life off of CI's music and the pictures on his CD's.  I wanted something more so I added a little of an actor who seemed to have the same feel.  The title then became, Living Off Chris Isaak Dreams and Ethan Hawke Fantasy.  Long title for a little novella.

The point - in LOCID&EHF the main character, Zeke, owned a cafe called, The Alcrest Cafe.  The title for that came from the name of my aunt's house in southern England.  I told you it was a bumpy road.  The Alcrest was an artisans cafe.  It was a small place where painters, musicians, and writers could hang out and have their work featured for free while sucking back cups of coffee.  A few bumps down the road I was in my second year of culinary and had to design my own restaurant from the ground up.  Ta da, already had the idea.

The Alcrest:  an artisans cafe, is still not a reality and I am not sure if it will ever be one, but it is a nice thought.  Wood tables of all different shapes and sizes, a section with couche
s separated from the main room by a wall of hanging window frames connected by hooks, cups and mugs that don't match because they were bought at yard sales, a small fire place, a small stage for singer/songwriter Saturdays, local artists work on the walls, poems and quotes everywhere, and homestyle food plated in an upscale way.  It smells of wood and coffee.  Did I mention Writer's Circle Wednesday where all writers meet to discuss writing, read their work, have their work read, and free promotion?

Bump up the road about six months later and I got asked to submit a short story for a tiny magazine some poet friends were putting out.  LOCID&EHF was too long.  Hell, the title was too long.  The magazine was called The Core and was just this little thing printed on paper at someones work after the boss was gone for the day.  To me the core of any story is the character.  You follow them through everything.  So, I wrote a short story about every character I ever wrote, and could remember, meeting up at The Alcrest to play poker.  The outer tables had people you couldn't really see because they were unfinished from stories that never found an ending.  At the main table were those characters with fully fleshed out stories.  And in the shadowy corner was this guy with a black covered notebook and Bic pen.  (you ever try writing yourself into a story? weird)

What is the point of this bumpy road?  Well, to be honest this blog was aobut how life imitates art.  It was supposed to be the idea of The Alcrest in a story put me on the honor roll in college.  I was thirty-two so it was a big deal.  However, just as the idea went from a poem to a short story to a novella to a project to a completely different short story and the name of my aunts house went to a fictional restaurant in a story to one in a project to my own catering biz - ideas change.  What you start out thinking is not always what you end up with.  When starting a story I try never to think about the ending.  If I know the ending at the beginning there isn't much of a reason for me to write.  I may know what roads I am going to try to take and what vehicle I'll be in, but I really don't want to know where I am going until I arrive.  The journey for a writer and a reader is the fun part.

Whew, theres a fun use of metaphore.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Ideas Everywhere

Since publishing Red Island as an ebook the number one question I have been asked is, "where do you get this stuff from?"  In case you don't know Red Island is about an RCMP sergeant chasing a serial killer.  The part people are curious about, and a bit timid, is that it also looks at the life of a serial killer starting from 8 years old and going up to where he is this monster terrifying the tiny Canadian province of Prince Edward Island.  So the real question is, "are you secretly a serial killer?"  Pfft, no.  But I can tell you where ideas come from....Everywhere.

I was writing a scene that first introduced Sgt. Reid's wife and I needed a name.  Though the character looks nothing like the actress Hillary Swank, we were watching a movie she stared in.  Boom!  Reid's wife became Hillary.  Ideas come out of the air.  You see a leaf blowing across the sidewalk in front of you and get an idea about a story of a woman on an automn day.  I think I read that J.K. Rowling got the idea for Harry Potter by being on a train and in her mind she saw him walk by.  Sometimes you have to struggle for a while searching for ideas and other times they come to you.  A TV show, a news report, a word someone says.  For Red Island I needed something to connect all of the victims together...I saw a beautiful girl with a black and white tattoo of a rose on the back of her shoulder...Boom!  All the victims would have a tattoo on the back of their shoulder, when the killer was younger a girl with a tattoo in the same place completely destroyed him.  Tada!
For weeks I walked through a parking lot and saw this car with a dozen or so air freshners hanging from its rearview mirror.  I was writing a short fantasy story about a cult leader so I thought a little about Stephen King's The Stand and came up with something I think is really good.

A lone man walked.  His boots hit the black highway dispersing the heat haze that hung above its surface.  Faded and torn jeans clung to his sweaty legs.  A belt buckle made of white bone seemed to glow in the sun and heat.  He walked like a man with a path to follow.  Each step had a purpose.  A white shirt, strategically stained with sweat, was open showing the muscles of his stomach and chest.  A brown suede jacket hung from his hand like a dead animal.  The hot afternoon sun touched his tanned skin in waves of immense heat that never seemed to stop.  Sweat ran down his face, grew pregnant on a hard jaw line and dropped only to be evaporated into the hot breathless air before reaching the black asphalt.  His sandy brown hair fell almost to his shoulders and was drenched in perspiration.  Tiny droplets fell and joined the others in the fabric of his shirt.  Blue eyes squinted and looked forward. 

Stretched out on either side of the long highway was a Southwestern American desert.  Cacti took whatever liquid they could get from the scorched sandy earth.  Rocks were scattered about as if play pieces from a child’s game abandoned and forgotten.  There was nothing close by with the promise of shade.  The trees were sparse and leafless.  The only wind was hotter than the air.  Perched on a sign, too faded to read, a black raven called out his name.  Somewhere amongst the rocks there was a rattling.  His tongue teased his cracked lips.  He was a lone man.  He walked alone through the valley of death and indeed, he feared no evil.

“Pony, eh, you alright man?”  The words came through the juicy smacking of gum.

Pony Rayne blinked.  The back of his hand wiped drool from his cheek.  The passenger heat vent was pointed directly at his face blowing hot air against him.  He looked outside the pick-up truck at the once grassy ditch going by now covered in a dusting of snow.  A key chain made of beads rattled off the steering column.  A woman’s voice sang a country song about independence and being a strong woman.  A collection of air fresheners hung from the rear-view mirror.  A dozen or so pine trees of dark and light green, yellow, blue, and white, a red maple leaf, a brown pine cone with a big green leaf, and one of the Tasmanian Devil from old Looney Tunes cartoons had all done their job at some time.  A new orange pine tree with the word coconut written on it was trying.  The first smell Pony got was stale sweat and cheese crackers.

“You were making noises in your sleep,”

Ideas. You never really know where they come from. You just get a slap in the face and give praise. "Mornin' Mr. Writer. Write me now!"

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Back up!

Back up!  No, I'm not talking about Lindsay Lohan's driving.  I'm talking about backing up your work.  It is a lesson you would think I, of all people, would know.

Six months ago I had the first couple of chapters of book 2 typed on my hard drive with a few notes on what else was going to happen and my computer turned off.  There was no popping noise, no warning pop-ups, no pictures of a hand giving me the finger - it just turned off.

Okay, don't panic.  Maybe the chord came loose.  Check.  No.  Maybe it was rebooting itself.  I'll just push and hold the power button and it will come back on.  Push.  Hold.  Still holding.  It's not coming on.  It's not coming on!!  IT'S NOT...prepare to faint.

A couple chapters, notes, the first book (okay, that was backed up onto memory stick), photos, music, movies, tv shows, other stories, 113 recipes from my personal experience as a cook/chef ALL GONE.  No back up.  Calm down.  Took the computer to our friendly neighborhood Staples.  Surely they can help.  Sure they can.  $75 later most of my text info is on an external hard drive.  Computer is still on warranty so we will just send that back and they can fix it for free and return it.  No worries. 

Until two weeks later when I accidentally bang the side of the external hard drive and can no longer get anything off it.  Oh and I FORGOT TO BACK IT UP!!!  I did eventually get my computer back after an argument about how I didn't do anything to the motherboard.  WITH A BRAND NEW HARD DRIVE AND NONE OF MY STUFF.

This takes us into yesterday.  I recovered from losing book 2 and in fact wrote a better version of the book.  Now book 1, Red Island:  A Novel that from what I understand isn't doing that bad for a first novel, is safely on a hard drive and 2 memory sticks.  Not the versions that were uploaded to Kindle and Smashwords.  No, those versions and their covers are in a file on a memory stick.  A file that for some reason got corrupted and erased yesterday!  AAAGGGHHHHH

The moral of my stupidity is to back up your work.  And when you think it is safe, back it up again.  I should go do that.

Monday, 11 June 2012

And then the Character Spoke

So last night I was working on chapter 8 of the second Sgt. Reid novel, tentatively called Forever Screaming, and something odd yet wonderful happened.  With fingers delicately hovering above the keyboard keys, elbows resting on the edge of the table (my typing teacher would smack me for that), and an oversized mug of tea between my arms on the table I began to type the paragraph where the killer thinks inside his head about what he knew of the crime police were investigating…you see my novels let you see what is in the killers mind as well as what is going on inside the mind of Sgt. Reid of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police…and he told me that there were other victims.

In planning of the novel and writing I thought the very first victim in the novel was his first kill.  I was trying to think of why he hadn’t done this before.  What made him do it this time?  And it wasn’t until the moment I typed the words, “If the police looked further they would have found more,” that I realized it was the only way.  For about 2 weeks I have been staring at the same paragraph and it was not until last night when the killer said had me type those words that I was able to finish the small chapter.

This isn’t the first time a character has spoken and told me what direction to take them, but this one surprised me.  Does this make me crazy?  These characters live in my head.  I have to get myself into the characters minds in order to write how they react, what they do, what they wear, and so on that it makes sense that they would also talk to me.  They often tell me when I am taking them in the wrong direction.  The characters in the story know what they would do better than what I actually do.

I wonder if other writers go through the same thing?  Do their characters talk to them?  Do their characters suddenly go, “Hey, I wouldn’t do that Sunshine.  Try again,”?

Well, I guess I will get back to the voices

Friday, 8 June 2012

How far, as it is Measured

I can remember my first ever "completed" story.  It was about 27 years ago but still I remember the main character being Brad Stone.  Such a hard solid name, so much better that Lorne.  And his girlfriend was Courtney Kreiger.  Her name was taken from 2 G.I. Joe characters.  Brad's best friend was Joe Taputapu.  Oh yeah, Love and Jr. High was the big time.  I finished that story, amongst looking for the greater meaning in episodes of Doogie Howser M.D., and was so proud.  I had written a book.  Sure it was only three or four pages but how different was that from being like Stephen King, really?  It had a hand drawn cover with balloon letters stating the title and was written on lined paper in a #2 pencil.

Okay, it sucked.  I think I still have it hidden away in my parents house along with almost every story I had written on paper.  When I was a kid my school district had this thing called "Young Authors."  We would meet every Wednesday and talk about writing with the librarian or learn how to type and format on the state of the art Comadore 64's.  It was my Glee club.  Once a year, May I think, we would get to go on a field trip to the big city (I was in a rural school out in the boonies) for the Young Authors Conference.  There would be workshops all day on everything writing and then a published writer would read his/her work in the big auditorium.  It was great.  I don't think they still do that, but I hope they do.

That first story was 4 pages, double spaced, only on one side.  My novel is over 300 pages on the computer and over 111 000 words.  Yeah, I think I've grown as a writer.

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

To Blog or Not to Blog

That is the question.  My cousin would say, "bloggins is sooooo 2009," but she's from Alberta so what do you expect.  For any American's reading this Alberta=California.

I'm told by other Indie Author's that blogging is the way to reach your audience.  They will read your blog and decide if they like your writing, I guess.  I don't get it myself, but I like talking to myself in print as much as the next guy.  To me blogging always seemed like having a journal but one anyone could see.  Like your sister leaving her diary out in the open with the lock unlocked.  My sister's was boring though.

I'm also told not to blog exclusively about my ebook, Red Island:  A Novel, available on Kindle at and for most other ereaders at for the low price of $2.99US, so I'm not going to in this post.  Pretty much I was told to just talk about whatever is in my head and let people into the writer behind the thriller novel about an RCMP officer hunting down the first serial killer in the Canadian province of Prince Edward Island known as "The Gentle Island." 

I'm told to blog about books I like, expect the names Kathy Reichs and Tess Gerritsen to be repeated, daily hubabaloos (technical word), the writer's journey (to which I can quote Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory, "I'm not crazy.  My mother had me tested."), and anything else.  So in the coming weeks and months I will do that.

There, a new blog entry without ever mentioning my book.  The voices told me to do it.