Sunday, January 31, 2010

Acknowledgements: I would like to thank...

El Paso Trail has made the Editor's Choice list on After doing a little happy dance, I got to thinking about the number of people I will need to thank if the book is ever published. Here's my first draft.

I'd like to thank John Macleod who told me that the story I wrote in hospital would make a good novel. The first draft of EPT was written in longhand while I was recovering from surgery. During my week of home rest, before returning to work, I transcribed the story onto my roommate's Commodore Plus 4.

I'm not sure I should thank my roommate Amanda Bloss -- now Amanda Maloney -- for the use of her computer. The dang think  almost ate the book. However, I do thank her for the gallons of red ink she expended on EPT's first edits. I should also thank her for her patience. There were times when I was less than grateful for her efforts. There were times when I was ready to grab that red pen and -- but I'm thankful now.

Getting back to the Commodore Plus 4 -- the computer that almost ate my book -- I must thank Janet Warkenton for scanning my one hard copy and converting it to a set of usable digital files.

Now, when I say usable, I am speaking loosely. The printout from the the dying computer was made on a dying dot-matrix printer on cheap fan-fold paper. The OCR program Janet used did its best, but there were large gaps, odd characters, and PAGE ## interspersed through the text every few paragraphs. I don't know if I would have ever had the patience to fix it up. Which brings me to Frances.

Frances (Peate) Nunn always thought El Paso Trail was the best thing I ever wrote and was bugging me to go back to it. I said I'd finish the book if she'd clean up the files. She did. So here we are.

As I continue the editing process, it's going up on TextNovel. If I get slow with updates, my niece (who wasn't born when this story started) cracks the whip. If you are reading El Paso Trail, you can thank her.

Finally I'd like to thank Nancy O'Neill (who is still an O'Neill) who wields the red pen these days.

End credits. Fade to black.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Travels with My Family Part 1

That's my mother and father in the picture on the left. I'm not sure who took the picture. I suppose it was me, age eleven or twelve.

It's a photo that can't be taken anymore.

We are at Stonehenge. I have no idea whose kids are climbing over the stones in the background, but moments earlier or later they could have been my sister and I.

Can't do that anymore.

I completely understand the need to limit access to the site in order to preserve it, but I'm a little sorry that my own children will never get to climb over the fallen pillars, pretend to sacrifice each other on the central slab, or look with wonder -- up close and personal -- at the standing stones.

I think this was the first trip that I started taking my own photos. The camera case on my father's shoulder was a Super 8 movie camera. I don't think the movies survived the passage of time. I know I don't have anything to view them on. My photos are still in their albums, on the shelf, where I can easily pull them down to show my kids. . . the closest they'll get to Stonehenge.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

It's a Crime: How The Arthur Ellis Awards Ate My Book Review

There's a lot of great Canadian crime fiction out there. I know. A lot of it is stacked on and around my dining room table.

I have the honour, the pleasure and sometimes the headache of being the Administrative Assistant for the Arthur Ellis Awards. All the submissions for 2009 have been unpacked, checked, sorted by category, resorted by judge and are in the process of being shipped out to their relative destinations.

I'm behind on my dishes. Clean clothes for the next work week? Oops. Worse, this state of affairs is likely to last a while.

Why? Because my reading list just expanded exponentially.

I won't pretend that every title that has gone by me at least four times appeals to me. No doubt they are all fine works but I'm not usually into spy thrillers and, since becoming a mother I've stayed away from anything involving children (or puppies) being harmed. I have to be in the mood for procedural crime fiction, police, forensic or otherwise.

I can appreciate the stories drawn from the news -- but usually I want a break from reality. I enjoy getting intimate with small town or big city Canada or travelling the world with sophisticated private investigators. I love finding books I can share with my kids. However, my secret vice is the cozy-comedy-crime-caper.

All of the sub-genres are there (or were until it got packed for the mail) on my dining room table.

Once my dining room is empty, I'll start filling up my nightstand with the books on my expanded must-read list.

I'll let you know it goes.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Chocolate, Blogs, and New Year's Resolutions

Since starting this blog, I have been told there are three rules to blogging:
  • use short paragraphs; 
  • post regularly; 
  • always include pictures.
Blogs have been described to me as "eye candy". I don't buy into that as a blanket description, but it did inspire me to write about chocolate. For the eye, I took a photo of some of my Christmas loot. Then I ate some.


Did you know, over 180 million Cadbury's Creme Eggs are sold between January and Easter each year? The candy-covered eggs are so popular, Cadbury sells them year-round. (I got a bag in my Christmas stocking.)

 Some say Swiss chocolate is best (as you can see, I'm a fan of Lindt chocolate too) but it was the English that first popularized chocolate in solid form. Before that chocolate was consumed as a beverage.

Read a Regency Romance and your gentry will be taking cups of chocolate in the morning when we'd be having our second cup of coffee. (Coffee will be the subject of a future blog.)

Any chocoholic knows that the chocolate drinking habit started with the Aztecs who flavoured their drink with hot chilies. (This tastes better than you might expect.)

Chocolate has medicinal properties. It is an anti-depressant and anti-oxidant. Candy maybe dandy, liquor quicker, but you'll get better quality sex if you present your lady with really good chocolate. Just as Michele Bardsely's characters in her Broken Heart series. (I bought the series for my daughter for Christmas and wrapped up some Godiva chocolate with the books. Then I warned her that this better be the closest she gets to sex for a decade.)

That brings me to my New Years resolution: making this blog a weekly publication instead of a "when the mood strikes me" journal. I also promise pictures and relatively short paragraphs, trivia, reflections, and stuff about creativity -- mine and others.

Now I'll go have a piece of medicinal chocolate.

Friday, January 1, 2010


I'm trying to writer a story about my Dad. Part of the problem is that I have so much material about certain parts of his life and so little about others. Isn't that so true of everyone we think we're close to?

I've been to a lot of funerals in the past few years and each of them has revealed at least one thing that really surprised me. For instance, I knew Allen through the Guelph Star Trek Club. A year or so before he died he told me that he was leaving his Star Trek collection to the club. He gave us a peak at part of it and it was a considerable collection. I also knew that he was a member of a gay square dancing club and, of course, I knew he was suffering from AIDS. Once, when we were stuck in traffic, we started talking about our pasts. I thought I knew a lot about Allen, but I was wrong. I had no idea that he was an active member of Amnesty International or a member of a UN committee. And those are just the most high-profile bits of information that I learned at his funeral. (BTW Allen's collection was auctioned to other Trekophiles benefit of the club's favourite nonprofit organization - Action Read Community Literacy.)

I knew Peg Lush almost all my life. She was my mother's best friend and, I am happy to say, became one of mine as I grew older. She got me interested in municipal activism and I knew that she served on several citizen action committees for Toronto. She was active in Girl Guides of Canada and a past district Commissioner -- that how Peg and my mother met. She was well respected in the community and yet, even knowing that, I was totally blown away by the number of people who congregated at City Hall for her memorial service.

In contrast, my mother's service was relatively small -- but still many time larger than she would have expected. She suffered from depression and cut herself off from many most of her friends and colleagues in the last few years of her life. Yet, those who learned about the service filled the small funeral chapel to capacity. I'm afraid I can't tell you any great revelations I had then, however. Three months pregnant and emotionally overwhelmed by events, most of the day was a blur. I remember flashes, like a movie montage.

I grew up listening to stories my mother's side of the family. Mum, Nana and Aunty Yang were all good story tellers and I am and was a good listener. Dad's stories I had to pry out of him later in life. I learned more about him on our drives than any time else. Things he'd see would spark memories and, over time, a fragmented picture of parts of his life emerged. Even growing up with him only helps a little. He was out working so much that most of my childhood memories of him are of holidays.

The truism for good writing is write what you know. True enough, but I know my characters inside and out. Even my closest friends and family I know, and can only know, to a certain extent. Real people always hold secrets and surprises.