Wish I'd Said It

Weeds are flowers too - once you get to know them.

- A. A. Milne

Monday, January 30, 2006

Erection Dejection

Wouldn't that make a nifty title for a story about a crane that couldn't lift things? Sort of a parody of the Little Engine That Could. Or maybe it could be called The Little Crane That Couldn't.

Why? What did you think this was gonna be about?

Ha! Sometimes I crack me up.

I was away for a couple of days and came back to the usual 125 or so emails, about 90 of which were junk. As I deleted the junk, most of which seemed to involve suggestions for the improvement of my manly bits, the phrase I used in the subject line leaped into my brain. I had to do something with it.

I've decided that blogging is a Very Good Thing. It's re-awakened a love that's lain dormant within me for decades - writing just for the plain fun of it. I think most writers start that way. But somewhere along the path towards, and beyond publication, the sheer love of playing with words begins to dissipate. We become consumed with the mechanics - crafting and polishing and rewriting and submitting and dealing with rejection and re-submitting.

Then, one day, we "make it!" We sell stuff and editors want more of the same and we're happy to provide it and then, somehow, someway - it becomes work.

Even my column, (Free! - Contact me for details!) which grants me lots of leeway, comes with constraints. Admittedly, they're self-imposed but they're constraints nonetheless. Folks have come to expect a certain tone, a certain length, a certain feel.

It's been ages since I wrote because I dang-well felt like it.

I think I might get used to it.


Tuesday, January 24, 2006

The good guys won

We have a minority Conservative government today. That'll do. Now Prime Minister Harper has a couple of years to prove he doesn't have cloven hooves.

Oh, a word to the Toronto Star: Nyah-nyah!

Okay. A compound word. Whatever.

Monday, January 23, 2006

It's election day! Okay - who yawned?

I'll be voting in a couple of hours to help choose a governing party here in the Great White North. The polls close at 9:30 EST and I'll spend the evening glued to the tube to watch the results come in.

I'm pretty excited because I think, for the first time in 13 years, the Conservatives have a chance to form the next government.

I can hear the gasps from my American friends, who equate the C-word with everything Bushy. Relax folks, that's not the case here. The Canadian Conservative party platform wouldn't raise too many eyebrows if it was presented by the Democrats in the US of A. There are no cuts to existing social services. Canucks will still get "free" cradle-to-grave health care. Guys will still be able to marry other guys and women will still be able to marry other women. (It's remotely possible though, that they'll change "marriage" to "civil union" - but I'm betting that won't happen either.) The death penalty will stay off the books. A cabal of right-wing religious zealots will not be pulling Prime Minister Stephen Harper's strings.

What I expect from a Conservative government is honesty and delivering what they promised in their platform - a rare and welcome change from the decade-plus-long reign of the "Fiberal" party.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Memed. (Can it be used as a verb?)

September Skies tagged/memed/ me.

Last live music show seen: Bar bands don't count I guess eh? It's been a while. It was either Van Morrison at the (then) O'Keefe Centre or Rod Stewart at Maple Leaf Gardens, both in Toronto and both around 1980-ish. Both were excellent. I'm a huge Morrison fan, particularly of his early-middle stuff and this was Stewart when he sang more than postured.

Last CD purchased:Green Day's American Idiot. I bought it for one of my nephews for Christmas but love many of the tunes.

Last thing cooked: Does toast count? No? Umm, how about heating a frozen, prepared dinner? No? Boiling frozen perogies? No way eh? FINE! I guess it was a pork roast I did last week. I made rice with it too. It was a complete meal.

Last new thing eaten: Focaccia. It's sort of a cross between pizza and bruschetta (sp?). It was okay I suppose. Better when I added some Garlic Plus to it. Who's up for kisses?

Last thing bought: Groceries. Exciting eh? Well, it was! I included some Miss Vickie's Honey & Roasted Garlic potato chips in my cart. Who's up for kisses?

Last gift received: A copy of Jenna Glatzer's excellent the Street Smart Writer. Her publisher sent it to me. Probably hoping for a mention somewhere. Ha! As if! Like I can be bought!

Last piece of clothing bought or received as a gift: Some sweaters from Old Navy. They had a great post-Christmas sale and I went a bit nuts. Which is strange for me because I'm usually the very model of restraint. I never buy anything unless I'm in a store that sells things.

Last embarrassing experience: Nuh-uh. This is a PG-rated blog.

Last totally new experience: This morning when I opened my eyes. (Every day is brand, spanking new.)

Last foreign country visited, if any: Paradise Island, Bahamas. It was a looong time ago. I'm not sure if I'm allowed into foreign countries anymore.

Last big achievement: A couple of months ago I backed into a parking spot even though there was another car on one side. I usually only try it when there's a space open on each side. Gotta tell you, when I was done, and there was no sound of grinding metal, I got out of the car and I strutted into the mall.

For this meme I'll tag: My dear friend and new blogger mogie. She'll thank me. She's a good woman.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Plumbing The Writer's Psyche

I've been helping an aspiring writer with her book for the last few months. We've done a fair bit of tweaking and were several chapters into it when I realized something: The beginning would be much stronger if it opened with the 3rd chapter and the first two unfolded afterwards as a flashback.

I hesitated to tell her what I thought because she'd done so much work to this point and in a way, it meant (almost) starting over. I did though, and she agreed, and trooper that she is, she rewrote it.

Now the story opens with the protagonist, a 15-year-old girl, treading water in the Atlantic ocean during a raging thunderstorm. When I read the new opening, I felt the writer needed to communicate the girl's emotions more vividly. I used a phrase she's probably sick of hearing by now: We need to get inside the character's head.

It can be a tough thing to do when you put your character into a position you've not experienced yourself. If the experience is traumatic, it can be a tough thing to do if you have experienced it.

I had a near-drowning incident when I was about 10 or 11. It indisputably was the most defining moment of my life. (But that's a topic for another day.) I vividly recall, even four+ decades later, the whooshing sounds and the frustrating sight of blessed, air-containing sky through the window of water above me. (Another aside. It just now struck me that that may very well be part of the reason I selected the cover I did for my book. The perspective is very much like the one I experienced while drowning. You can see my cover here.)

Anyway. There's times when writers are forced to either exercise their imagination to the utmost or plumb the depths of their psyche in order to accurately convey an emotion. And, depending on your subject matter, it can be a very unpleasant, even painful exercise.

But if you want your words to wrap your reader in the experience, there's no getting around it. You have to boldly go where you might not want to go.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

2005 In Music and Words

Yes, I make lists. Sort of. What of it?

(Too bad this is a smiley-free zone.)


2005 was a good year for music. I discovered some older artists who were new to me and found I liked plenty of the new kids on the block too. (No, not them!)

I always liked the blues but tended to focus more on blues-influenced rockers like the Yardbirds, Jeff Beck, George Thorogood, Wet Willie, the Allman Brothers and Led Zep. I'd listen to some B.B. King and Albert King and Johnny Winter now and then but it wasn't until last year that I spent time going to the source. This year I discovered Robert Johnson, Blind Willie McTell, Bessie Smith, Big Mama Thornton, Bobby Blue Bland and a host of others.

The simplicity and emotion of the blues speaks to me. It's just pure storytelling, set to music.

As for the current crop of folks, I like a lot of them: Green Day, Coldplay, The Killers, KT Tunstall, 3 Doors Down, Martha Wainwright, Low Millions and a bunch more I forget.

Song of the year is a tough call. Leading contenders are The Arcade Fire's Rebellion (Lies), KT Tunstall's Black Horse and the Cherry Tree, Green Day's Holiday and the Goo Goo Dolls' Better Days.

But (fusses with envelope) the winner is:

The Killers' All These Things That I Have Done!

This is a multi-layered song that risks a lot - it plays fast and loose with traditional structure while somehow maintaining a toe-tapping (okay, headbanging) beat. It's hynoptic but not in the way trance music is. It's simply a terrific song by a band that I think has a good shot of become one of the all time greats.

Up and coming band: The Arcade Fire (and not because they're Canucks). These folks are good.


A shortish list because I didn't read tons this year.

I enjoyed Neil Gaiman's American Gods. Robin Hobb's Fool's Fate was a satisfying conclusion to her Tawny Man trilogy. Victoria Strauss' The Burning Land was excellent - truly engrossing. It was runner up to my favourite book this year...(drum roll)....

Reading Dan Simmons' Ilium was a pure pleasure. It's a wild blend of history, fantasy and SF that defies a capsule description. You'll just have to pick it up if you like an entertaining writer whose talent is as boundless as his imagination. (And who doesn't?)

Other Stuff

I didn't see a single movie in 2005. Nope, not a one. Not in the theatre. Not on tv. Not via a rental.

HAY! I never claimed to be normal. Oh wait. Yes I have. Often.

Okay. I was fibbing.

I don't watch much tv either, except for Six Feet Under (season #4 up here now), Monk and the Trailer Park Boys.

The latter is hands-down the funniest, most bent, most offensive show I've ever seen. It was bumped from American cable tv. A bit too raw for their tastes I guess. Although there's no nudity or sexual content (beyond innuendo), there is drug (pot) use and a distinct disdain for most societal mores. If it doesn't play where you live, and a near constant stream of expletives isn't going to give you the vapours, try renting a few episodes. They're on DVD now.

There's my cultural highlights of 2005. I'd love to hear about a few of yours.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Here's to Mario and Debbie

For the first time in eons (okay, since the early-ish 90s) I went to a New Year's Eve party.

There were about a dozen of us in the host's cozy, wood-stove-heated sun room he'd built himself.

During the course of the evening we feasted on lobster, crab, scallops, shrimp, bbq-d steak, salad and a host of hors d'ouevres. There were beverages of course. Since I am the Poster Child of moderation I stuck to Scotch, Irish Mist and Courvoisier. I may possibly have had a sip or three of some other stuff as it made the rounds. Oh yeah, there were those Jello vodka shooter thingys too. They were good.

It was a wonderful evening chockfull of fine food shared with fine people.

Thanks Mario. Thanks Debbie. I hope we can do it again next year.

Pretty sure I'll have recovered by then.