Wanna meet me? Wanna win one of my books? Come on down to #teenfest in Calgary this Saturday, Sept 26, from 11-5 on Prince's Island Park and visit the Reality Is Optional booth. If you win on of our wacky writing and art games you get a book and other "fabulous" prizes. Also, every competitor gets a Reality Is Optional pin. What is Reality Is Optional? Click and find out. Want to know more about my books? Look up and click.
My latest book, Creep Con, about anime, comics, manga, and superhero cartoons and the fans who love them is now out. I am seriously in love with this book and I think you will like it too. I got to write about all my favourite things. You can check out more info about it at my page CREEP CON and even order a copy for yourself.
It all started this morning at 5:45, trying to navigate the Calgary International Airport. I was still pretty much asleep. I knocked my knuckle into the Jeep door, thought an announcement from a spooky looking speaker was about Autobots (it was actually autobus), and had a brief discussion about how the sky looked so flat that we might be living on a cube (Cube World)! Yeah, me and mornings don't mix.
I did finally find my way to the right place to check my bag with the help of some great white hatted people wearing Flames jerseys. You'd think we were in the playoffs or something! R
Anyway, I caught my fight to Edmonton and then had an hour to kill so I grabbed a breakfast sandwich, which turned out to be a good thing because the flight from Edmonton to Montreal was delayed, then slow, and we arrived only a few minutes before boarding began for the flight to Wabush, Labrador. I managed to get a drink and go to the bathroom, but not much else.
The Wabush flight made a brief stop in Sept Illes (not sure on the spelling) then up it went again on the way to Wabush.
I was picked up by the extremely wonderful Trudy Andrews who assisted me in tracking down supper at 10:30 at night.
Tomorrow I'm going to be presenting at two schools and I'm really looking forward to it. It's going to be loads of fun. Of course I brought Red Robin along. He simply must go everywhere with me. Okay, maybe not must, but it's really fun taking pictures of him.
Now bedtime. It's been a long day and I have an early start tomorrow.
I always both dread and look forward to it. The little tweaks are pretty easy and I love seeing how they tighten up my work and make me look good. That is, if not too many things change. If that happens - then I have to get my nose to the ground and track down the entire plot line to make sure things aren't repeated or lost or dropped.
The other kind of editing is the big stuff. The kind where whole parts or large themes need to change. Where the last half of the novel just isn't right or a whole character (or two) need to be eliminated. Then it's time to reach for both the antacids and the Tylenol.
The trouble with these big edits is that there isn't a map to follow. Sure the editor, if that's whose guiding these edits, may give you some idea of how to proceed. But more than likely, they won't. It will all be up to you to dismantle the novel, rip out parts, remake them, and try to fit the whole thing back together again into a smoothly working machine. Unfortunately at this point things can get irrevocably destroyed - purely because so much is going on.
I always look at writing a novel like weaving. There are a bunch of threads representing plot lines, characters, antagonists, hints, trails, red herrings, etc. And each one has to weave between all the other threads. In the end they have to look like a tapestry with no knots, holes, or threads - which start out but don't go anywhere. And it's hard. Especially when you've finished and the picture looks good until you get a really good look at it and see the flaws (or someone else points them out to you). Undoing the whole thing sets up the chance for tangles and knots. Or worse, a whole thread disappearing. And that's not even taking into account all the new threads coming in.
So I hit the paper. Plot and map. Hope things are going to become clear by the end while I spread each thread carefully out and weave them back in properly. By the end of the process, things generally look good. The panic goes away. The tears dry up. And the novel, that was such a mess just a month ago, looks like a novel again.
I always say, you can't fix what isn't there. First drafts, however abominable, have to hit the page before the real work can begin. But that doesn't mean editing is the easy part. It's not. It's just as hard as the first draft. In fact, I don't really think there are any easy parts to writing.
So what does that make me? I struggle with my writing but I still love it. I get an adrenalin rush every time I figure out an issue, solve a puzzle, or figure out how to really put one over on my reader. I get a buzz when the novel is put back together and all the parts snap into place and start to hum perfectly. When the picture is complete and it's smooth and masterful. For me, writing is like an extreme sport - luckily with only mental danger. I'm not that coordinated.
Yeah . . . Editing, ug! But I love it. I really, really do.
I have been so busy with my writing and teaching careers for the past three or so years that reading has taken a back seat. It used to be when my daughter was younger, that summers spent "supervising" her in the back yard meant that I could get in a few chapters of a novel, or a comic. Now, with her needing space more than anything, I have had made very little time to read, preferring to "get some work done" during the pause between parenting.
This turns out to be a bad thing. Not only for the obvious reasons that I have lost a pleasant pastime but also that my own writing, in the absence of new input, has stagnated. It turns out that in order to improve my own writing I must read works of others. Indeed, for a while I was feeling quite hopeless at how my abilities seemed to be standing still when not that long before they had been growing exponentially. I didn't equate the lack of time spent reading to the lack of my own growth until I was forced by way of becoming Writer in Residence for Open Book Toronto, to read a great number of locally produced books in order to either recommend them or not. Reading pushed away the fuzz that came of burying my self exclusively in my own words and reinvigorated me.
So now I am determined to inhale books. I must, for the sake of my own career, read. It's not a bad vitamin to take. I'm quite pleased with the therapy. I've already reached chapter two in The Great Gatsby just yesterday. I hear it is wonderfully written. So far I am smitten.
So lesson learned. Read to write better. Got it.
Now, back to my book!
My new novel, Stupid, is coming along. I've been working on edits from the reader's report that, due to my unfortunate choice of title, came back at me as the "Stupid Reader's Report". Yeah, the whole novel has been one big accidental joke after another.
I have a week to get it done. I'm almost 1000 words over my maximum count. And I have a bunch of other things also due this week. Not to mention I have to write a twenty minute play in two and a half hours this week as part of the 4play YYC festival. Come on out if you're interested in seeing it. It's going to be amazing.
Suffice to say, I feel like I'm drowning. But I'm also living my dream. Being a writer - if not totally making a living at it. (That would require some big time, best selling type novels and I'm getting to those). Right now I'm really happy to write for kids who need a good novel geared to their reading level. One that doesn't talk down, or try to teach them stupid stuff. One that exists in the real world. I wish they had these kinds of books when I was a teen - instead of those "drugs are bad" after school specials that they passed off as Hi/Lo reading.
I'm not panicking yet though. Deep breathing and moving forward is keeping me going. I'm looking for places in the manuscript to tighten my writing. Taking out all those unnecessary words like that and just I seem to always over use. I'm looking for repetitive phrases where I didn't trust my reader to get it the first time. I'm taking out exposition and putting in dialogue. Tight dialogue.
Tomorrow I start my read through of the book as well as squeezing in reading time with other books like Girl Fight by Faye Harnest too. I vowed this summer to read more, and I have. A bunch of good books including one with poetry (try not to fall over dead at that statement). This will be my second time reading Girl Fight, it's that good. But I'll fill you all my reading come November when I'm writer in residence for Open Book Toronto. You'll love me there. I'll actually be blogging every day instead of this sporadic stuff I manage here. I'm looking forward to it. So I hope you'll join me.
Until then - back to my Stupid book. See, I told you it was an unfortunate title.
Summer is the time for adventures and I’m planning on having a ton of them. I started the summer by teaching at WordsWorth summer camp week one. I ran a class called Action Scenes. We used a lot of stage blood. A LOT. But it was fun. We learned how to write action scenes by toying with sentence length and pacing both on the page and using video. We watched a James Bond scene to see the visual equivalent of short sentences. It was pretty cool and something I just realized days before the class. I love teaching because it’s what helps me to write better.
After getting home I built a bush fort with my daughter. A bush fort is kind of like a tree fort, but on the ground. Anyway, it’s pretty cool and has a secret passage and built in snacks come August. Of course that wasn’t the only thing I was doing (it was mainly an excuse not to weed the garden). I’ve also been working on writing a new book called Stupid. I’ve been doing about a chapter a day, though I’ve hit a bit of a snag lately with my knowledge and my writing has come to loggerheads. So today I’m out to do some interviews in order to fix this issue.
Stupid is about a kid named Martin who has been misdiagnosed as having ADHD when he really has dyslexia. He’s a film maker and really smart – but because of his learning disability, everyone thinks he’s stupid, until he meets Stick. Stick does parkour and thinks Martin’s movie making is brilliant. This is new for Martin and he kind of likes having someone in his life who is on his side. Then bad things happen and Martin’s dad threatens to send him away. I’m about a third of the way through. The outline went through a lot of changes. I had to really focus on the hero’s journey archetype, something I’m still learning. I think really getting a handle on this may help me rewrite my February novel. Once Stupid is done – I’m planning on working on that trilogy once again.
In a week (just over) I’m going to be writing and producing a one act play with the DramAntics kids. This of course means I’ll have a new play to put up on the website for people around the world to use. It’s kind of cool to have my plays out in the world even if I don’t get paid for them. Money has never been the issue for me. I mean I forgot to pick up my check from WordsWorth and only got paid because Lisa Murphy-Lamb, the director, ran out and handed me the check in the car.
So far the play is thus – A giant has been killed, Jack is somehow involved. That’s it. The kids will come up with the rest. I’m looking forward to seeing where their imagination takes them. The interesting thing is we all get to learn how to write a mystery – something I’ve never really done on this level.
And that takes me half way through the summer. I’m doing another camp right before school starts. I wonder what kinds of adventures I’ll have in August. It’s going to be fun – I know that much and I’m looking forward to it.
Boiled Cat is launched. I’ve managed to get another book proposal in to my publisher for a little novel I call Stupid. Now it is that time of the year when I start prepping my classes.
I work all summer. I teach at various summer camps such as WordsWorth, DramAntics, and RIO. And what do I teach? Writing of course. But not just any writing. I like to use play to teach. So in my classes we play writing.
That probably sounds strange. I mean how do you play and write at the same time. Well, it’s pretty easy. I think of the lesson I would like to get across, be it incorporating more senses into one’s work, or learning to pump more tension in to an action scene. Then I think of a way to get bums out of seats and up and moving. Bringing the lesson to life.
For senses I’ve done blindfolded hiking and tasting/smelling/touching/hearing crazy stuff. For tension I’m thinking of firing live water guns at my students while they run around trying to write in a notebook. Not everything I do works. But I do try everything. And even if it doesn’t work 100 percent, we have fun and writing comes off as a positive experience. Which is success in my book.
So Boiled Cat is launched! What a fun night. MJ Diva and Thrashadactyl rocked it out. I read. Books were signed. And I got to connect with people I haven't seen in a long, long time. (That's what happens when you lock yourself away to write)!
Now I'm on to new adventures. I'm doing art for the Boiled Cat book trailer. The STICK IT TO THEM Boiled Cat sticker contest is launched - go to the Boiled Cat website for info on that (www.boiledcat.com). Stickers are free so contact me to get some. I'm putting together classes for the THREE camps I'm teaching at this summer. I've also been invited to be a panelist for the When Words Collide conference in August. In November I'll be the Writer in Residence for Open Book Toronto. And during all this I've pitched a new book to Lorimer SideStreets called Stupid. If that makes it through all the hoops, I'll be working on a new book soon. I also plan on getting How To Be A Super Villain sold as soon as possible and finding an agent for February. The amount of work I have to do is endless, however I look forward to all of it. I hope you'll all stick with me on my adventures. Who knows where this road will take me but it looks like fun!
Oh, yeah, one more thing - there's new pictures on the corkboard and, as usual, they all link somewhere. Have fun with them!
The Boiled Cat book launch is only a week away! I'm so excited. I've already received some great feed back on the novel. Not only for Boiled Cat, but also Touch, my SideStreets novel that came out in the same month. Both will be on sale at the launch. It's going to be so much fun. I really am looking forward to it. If you're in the Calgary Area drop on down and party with me!
Here's the details:
Boiled Cat Book Launch, April 25, Doors at 6:00, Start time 7:00, New
Black Centre 919 9 Ave SE Calgary, doors at the back. All ages.
Writer, Teacher, Mutant. What more could you want?