Sunday, August 31, 2008


There's a huge difference between conflict and excitement. In fiction, there's supposed to be plenty of both. In real life it's nice to have plenty of the latter and little of the former. The odd thing is how often we mistake one for the other.

I'm inputting and editing as I go. By this time next week I should be done and floundering around for a post. I tripped across a scene that was heavy on conflict and not all that exciting. Too much drama and not enough substance so I broke it up, twisted perspectives and allowed the conflict to generate excitement through the internal turmoil as the characters played out the action.

Nea is conflicted just by breathing. That's not always interesting, let alone exciting. She's drawn to situations that feed her combativeness.

Alex has a strong sense of adventure. Everything to him is exciting. He rises to the challenges that are part and parcel of those adventures. Until recently, he wasn't particularly conflicted.

Reconciling the two of them is fascinating to me. All too often in life, we're attracted to people and situations that keep our blood pumping. We seek adventure and conflict thinking that we have to overcome in order to be either exciting or excited. That's where all those Bad Boy Heroes come in. The more dangerous he is the more exciting.

Oddly, I've never been drawn to write dangerous bad boys. My guys usually end up in conflict between doing their job and the heroine's goals. Sometimes his values are challenged by hers but I don't think there's been a badge-wearing, gun-carrying, motorcycle-riding, black leather jacket in the lot of them. They've all been strong men drawn to strong willed women.

It's a good thing I've been around to teach them all the difference between conflict and excitement so that they all get their requisite Happy Ending.

Sunday, August 24, 2008


A friend of mine made the observation the other night that there's a fine line between optimism and delusion. She illustrated that with the idea that meeting Gerard Butler was optimistic but expecting him to instantly fall in love with her was delusional. He'd have to go out with her a few times. Which made me laugh.

It also dovetailed nicely with my recent thoughts about fans. Not the ones that blow around air and make you feel cooler, although that description could apply. I'm talking about the people who make it possible for artists, authors, musicians, sports figures and film people to make a living from something they love.

There's a strange love/hate relationship between those two groups. They each satisfy a need in each other, and seem to carry a great deal of resentment for it. I don't quite understand it. Admittedly the Keziah Fenton fan club is small at the moment and I'm not getting hate mail deriding my penchant for the colour purple(the actual colour not the movie or book of that name). There aren't a lot of expectations built up around my behaviour, personal life or productivity.

People sometimes mistake celebrities for the roles they play(even musicians and authors play at a public persona). It's easy enough to do I suppose. I certainly joke enough about the aforementioned gorgeous Scottish actor. I do realize the man has a private life that should be all his own and not fodder for speculation from a bunch of people who don't know anything about him other than his job.

My major concern about fans is the way they've been handled in all the NASCAR books I've been reading. Yes sports fans love to embrace the fanaticism aspect of their moniker. They decorate their homes, cars, clothes, kids and pets in their team colours. Some of them tattoo their bodies or shave logos into their hair. But I watched the cash flow at the track a couple of weeks ago and the disdain TV announcers, authors and sometimes crews had for the fans irritated me.

I wasn't feeling well that day and inhaling exhaust behind the pits didn't help so I spent a lot of time wandering the park observing people. Pit crews ogled the sweet young things in their tight tank tops and skin tight jeans then punched each other in the arm whenever one of them got a phone number. Vendors rolled their eyes at the guy with Die Cast cars glued all over his ball cap. The TV hosts re-read the same page thirty times rather than interact with the crowd in the audience. There was a definite us versus them mentality.

People lined the gate back to the driver's RVs hoping to catch a glimpse, maybe even obtain an autograph, of their hero. Some drivers obliged, some ducked. A couple even sent out decoys and slid out the side. It must be difficult to be in such demand.

I'm not being facetious. When I get home from a long day at work, I can go upstairs, pet the dog and relax. I don't have to run the gauntlet of people congratulating/commiserating/clamoring/waiting/expecting. I can wear sloppy clothes, no make-up and a messy ponytail. I don't have to fulfill anyone's expectations.

As someone who admires another's work, I try to remember the fine line between fan and fanatic. I can appreciate one driver's skill over another. One actor's style, look, persona. I can even share that admiration with other people. I'm not sure at what point that makes me an object of ridicule.

Actors need an audience. Drivers need to fill the stands. Authors need readers. They are symbiotic relationships and as such shouldn't be taken for granted nor mocked. They deserve each other's respect and until we've been on the other side of that relationship we would do well to remember that.

I know I'll do my best. I trust you to remind me if I slip up.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Writing Olympics

My friend Me drove in from Detroit, S the Ky-ropractor(so called because she adjusts Ky's spine) came from Niagara-on-the-lake and I came home after work so that we could participate in the first annual Writing Olympics.

The Opening Ceremonies and lighting of the orange pillar candle(for creativity and success) were followed by a nice glass of Italian wine and homemade spaghetti. We had tortilla chips and salsa as well as sushi for appetizers, which we didn't end up eating, in keeping with the International flavour of the weekend.

It took a while for us to settle into writing. The athletic Olympics were on the television as background noise mostly because we wanted to watch Michael Phelps win his eighth gold medal. I'm not really used to a writing marathon that full of distractions.

We talked a fair amount about our individual projects. While writing isn't a team sport, it can certainly benefit at times from external input. Our genres are vastly different. Me is writing romantic suspense, I'm writing paranormal and the Ky-ropractor writes non-fiction. Some very interesting parameters and writing styles to choose from. There are times when another perspective can help clarify a scene for you.

We had a very productive night. Three gold medals in all.

Me for Distance(self-explanatory), S for gymnastics(there are a lot of mental twists, flips and jumps that she has to go through to write this book)and a Gold in the Decathalon for myself as I'm usually doing nine other things when I write.

Today was a great day. I finally figured out how to destroy a forest, trick a demon and save two souls in the process. I talked it through with Me to see if she bought my machinations and it worked for her. This sticking point has held me back from the last five scenes in the book. It was a major turning point for all of the main characters.

We watched the NASCAR race from Michigan while I wrote a fight scene then we took a break with Wrath of Gods. Again. Because it's brilliant and I want everyone to see it even if I have to show it to the world one person at a time. It makes me want to be a film maker again.

However, I took that creative spurt and poured it into Nea's breakdown. The Ky-ropractor has left the Games to do more research. Me is in the other room working towards her ending. I heard her curse at a character awhile ago so that was entertaining. One more night then she goes home tomorrow. I plan to have this draft done by then.

These have been excellent Writing Olympics. I think we'll do it again in two years for the winter games and see what we can dream up then.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

More kissing

A lot of people are reading my First Kiss post. Which is interesting because kisses have been part of my thought processes a lot lately. I'm having quite an interesting dream relationship with a man I've only met online. All of whom are now wondering if it's him. Unless you're quitting your job, cutting your hair and going off to Connemara to play a lawyer on television, it's not. At least that's what you did in the dream.

There was some good-bye kissing. But that was also the first kiss. There was no kissing until the latter half of the dream. To be perfectly honest, it wasn't that good. Too awkward, too much pressure, too quick. The second kiss was better. The third was a real kiss and the fourth was so wonderful that I can still feel it hours after waking.

I'm sure the whole kissing aspect of the dream was inspired by a conversation with a young friend of mine who has never been kissed. She's built the First Kiss up to such an ideal that she knows she'll be disappointed. I told her there are so many kinds of kisses, and rarely is the first one the best. Awkward, brief, too wet, nose bumping, glasses locking together, does-he-really-like-me? thin-lipped, over-analyzed first kisses are not unheard of. Once you get that behind you and relax the fun begins. But not for everyone. Some people don't ever like kissing.

Nea has never seen the appeal. If she wanted to spread germs, she'd send in thousands of rats to affect more people in one swoop. Demons are not noted for their sense of romance.

I'm in the home stretch of editing, should get it done this weekend provided the sore throat doesn't develop into anything more brain-fuddling. The very thing that saves both Alex's and Nea's souls is a kiss. A life-changing, True Love kiss. The perfect kiss of which I dreamt last night. That kind of kiss. I should go write it down right now. Except I don't want to share that kiss. I want to savour it, enjoy it and keep it for my own. Even though it wasn't real and came from my imagination. Strange, huh?

PS If you're a man who knows me online and you woke up with a sore throat and the imprint of lips on yours, let me know cause that would be strange.

Monday, August 11, 2008


My love affair with motorsports is an apparent contradiction to the rest of my life. I was a tree hugging environemntalist before it was cool. My idea of heaven involves lots of trees, a lake or ocean and an assortment of wildlife. Doctor Doolittle and Swiss Family Robinson were my ideal living conditions growing up. Now I want to live on Nim's Island and not just because Gerard Butler is her father.

Yet, the one sport I have more than a passing interest in is the least environmentally friendly one out there. I don't have the statistics at my fingertips but I'm sure that one weekend of racing does more damage to the environment than I do in a year. Yet the sound of all those engines makes me crazy. I completely lose my mind. Where does that passion come from?

When I was little, my grandmother watched Formula 1 on Sundays. I can remember sitting on the arm of her chair cheering for one driver over another because that's who she told me was best.

Bright lights changed the dark track to a daytime setting on several excursions to stock car racing with my parents when I was a kid. We didn't go too often because the roar of the engines hurt my brother's ears. Spilled fuel filled my small lungs and I was hooked for life.

When my nephew was seven or eight years old, I took him to Toronto for the Molson Indy race. Nothing like spreading the addiction. The grin on his face the first time he heard the call, "Gentlemen, start your engines<" was worth every penny. We went every other year until three years ago.

That's when we went to a NASCAR race at historic Watkins Glen. Last year, he insisted on buying his dad a ticket to the race as a Father's Day gift. Now we are three.

I didn't take too many photographs as my camera decided to crash at the track. Maybe it was the pictures I was taking of the television cameras and photographer's lens. My envy made the little point and shoot feel inadequate and quit. My nephew used his cell phone so we have lots of pictures of the scenic setting. And some cows. No sheep. Sorry Stashaholic.

As I was flipping through the photographs I do have, I realized why I adore a sport that is so unlike the rest of my philosophies. Many great bonding moments have occurred with several generations over the scream of engines, whine of air guns and through a thick screen of tire smoke. Sunday is Race Day. I usually go downstairs to my parents' apartment to watch it with them, not despite my father's rants at the TV, but because of them. Racing means family.

Next time you give a character a characteristic, passion or hobby that is so alien to their personality, think about my example and root it well. Make it believable. Give it a history that defies convention. People are more complex than we tend to write.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008


I was up an hour earlier than usual this morning so that I could take the rescued Quaker parakeet to the vet. Yoda spent six months of his life in a custody dispute before he ended up coming to live with me almost a year ago. It was supposed to be temporary. Stop laughing. I knew what I was getting myself into. Or so I thought.

He's been attack parrot the last couple of weeks. No one has been safe from his vicious beak. I had a sneaking suspicion about what ailed him but wanted confirmation from a trained professional. And to be completely honest, there is so much more I don't know than what I do know about birds. I could have been wrong.

The little demon has reached sexual maturity. It turns out he's two years old instead of the three I thought he was. Should have read his band.

Driving home I took Highway 8 along the base of the Niagara Escarpment. It was beautiful and if Yoda hadn't been abnormally subdued I might have stopped and snapped a couple of quick photographs to share here. I felt the stress of the morning drop away as I drove past orchard after orchard. I had forgotten how much I love the western part of the region. Alex has kept my focus in the Falls. I don't enjoy all the developments. It's all grape vines, wineries and monster homes, the occasional sheep or Highland cattle notwithstanding. For those of you not from this area, the old homes, stone outbuildings and ancient trees are exquisite. They soothe me.

With a demon bird in the cage beside me, I couldn't help but think of my fictional demon. We're getting to the end of our journey together. I wondered if Nea would have identified with her nymph heritage more had she been raised in amongst all those trees. It's more likely she was responsible for all the plum pox that destroyed so many orchards. She makes no apologies for that. I hope that given all she's learned she will make different choices in the future.

Driving always makes me think. I've been accused of over-thinking things. Isn't that part of being a writer? One has to view each scene, action and emotion from every perspective in order to understand the characters well enough to tell their story. I don't think I'm the only one who does that.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Perfect day

Have you ever had one of those perfect days that defies description?

My friend Stashaholic is in town for the long weekend. We've known each other too long to count and while we're vastly different in our approach towards life, we're eerily similar. My parents call her their other daughter(they have several).

I didn't sleep much the first night as she felt the need to tell me(the person who never watches the news or reads the paper) about a horrific murder that has made headlines around the world. Canadians don't have much a violent history but when we do commit murder we make up for it in spectacular ways.

The horror hit me repeatedly throughout the night. When I woke up in the morning I wondered what I was doing with a fictional demon who was no where near as gruesome as this real life person. I ended up writing dialogue all over the back of the shower wall addressing that issue.

A few cups of tea later, Stashaholic proposed we go to a yarn store in Fonthill. I was lukewarm. We had been invited to a friend's house for Sushi and wine later and it was going to be a rush to get from one place to another before the winery closed. My sense of adventure was challenged (perhaps even mocked) so off we went.

Google maps let us down consistently throughout the day. The store doesn't have a website and I had forgotten to write down the phone number but we found our way. Eventually.

Stashaholic was thrilled with all of the variety in wools. Possum, corn and milk were all new to me but by then I'd decided to embrace her addiction to texture. It was fun. The darling man who followed us from room to room kept the shop open a bit late to accommodate our dithering. She bought some gorgeous stuff and sent me home with a hank of plant dyed wool.

We meandered from Fonthill to Niagara-on-the-lake to check out Frog Pond,an organic winery. More wrong turns, messed up directions and much laughter. We passed sheep. Twice. The same sheep. I'm not sure if this is when Stashaholic's plan to get some Icelandic fleece was born but it took root as we drove the countryside. At some point I'm going to have two pounds of fresh fleece in my spare room so we can clean it, card it then spin into wool for sweaters. She's already done plenty of research on that subject.

We tasted the wine, purchased a couple of bottles and began the journey to my friend's house. More country roads, a rainbow, and a Quest for hairy beasts(Highland Cattle)and more laughter. We stopped at an Irish tea shoppe and sat out the torrential downpour. Too bad I left the car window down for some air.

At one point I'd seen a man standing beside a metal sculpture of a man that looked like a great picture. Stashaholic kept asking if we were going to go back to see the alligator which threw me off because it was clearly a man. Another circuitous route and we pulled into the driveway to realize we were each looking at something different. The sculptor came out into the yard and shared his creations with us. The details were incredible. Personality glinted in metallic bugs' eyes. An iron dragon shimmered and clawed his way up a tower. And the artist himself stared at us from Don Quixote's face. He was a character.

By the time we got to my friend's house for sushi, I was savouring the day's adventures. I'd been so reluctant to embark on anything that morning but as the day unfolded I discovered so much pleasure in all that surrounded us. Every day things that so many of us take for granted.

We reached each of the destinations but the journeys defied structure. Most of my joy came from rolling with the experiences as they occurred. We talked about life, about writing, knitting, spinning and wool. Relationships, friendships and careers. Our conversations were as linear as my driving, yet they always made sense to us.

There are times when you just have to throw structure aside and simply experience life. I wonder how that will work with editing.