Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Beer, Hockey & Lumberjacks - Happy Canada Day!



July 1st is Canada Day here in the true north strong and free. Formerly known as Dominion Day, it's the day Canadians kick back, take a day off from their jobs as lumberjacks, have a beer, barbeque a slab of Alberta beef and play hockey (or the summer equivalent Lacrosse) - you guessed it - it's the day Canadians get to be Canadians. 


Canadian Please is a video about what it means to be a Canadian - and it's not a coffee and donut shop, or a beer commercial. 





Star fleet Commander Canadian William Shatner (aka Captain James T. Kirk) spoofs the famous My Name is Joe and I'm a Canadian commercial. My favourite line is when Shatner says: "I speak English & French, not Klignon."  





And yes, no tribute to Canadian culture would be complete without a beer commercial presenting us as hockey playing, railroad building, beer drinking lumberjacks! 





Oh Canada! You're still rocking it sista after 143 years - we stand on guard for thee! 

Monday, June 28, 2010

We get to make up words …

With the global economic downturn (GED as I call it) the word ‘stay-cation’ has been coined. It means staying in your own region and taking a ‘stay-cation’ by enjoying the local attractions, festivals, and natural wonders instead of going to a far away land (does not include Narnia). 

As writers we get to make up words.

I’ve made up a couple words that I would like to catch on. This is a word that describes a mid-afternoon coffee with a friend. It’s a Saturday so maybe you had a later breakfast, worked out at the gym at noon and met a friend after. It’s not really lunch because it’s in a coffee shop, and it’s not just coffee, because you might be a bit peckish. So here are my words: Lunfee (a combination of lunch and coffee) or Coffunch (a combination of coffee and lunch). Which one do you like better? Feel free to use either so that they will become mainstream like redonculous.

I’d like to make up a word that describes a writer who uses her vacation time to write (delusional and misguided don't count). This is something I’ve done over the years, taken vacation, or leave without pay, to write and let me tell you I got a heck of a lot done. 

So here’s my attempt at a word that means a writing vacation: edit-cation, ecrire-cation, write-cation, scribe-cation, and finally, scrivener-cation.

What would your word be? 

Have you ever squirreled away time to write? 



Saturday, June 26, 2010

Life among the Dandelions: Another great thing about being a writer

To follow up from my last post, I discovered another great thing about being a writer. Being a writing means never having to dig out the dandelions. Really, why would I? What would be my motivation? Do I have a character who is a gardener and I want to feel the earth under my nails? - not! Do I have an evil antagonist who is concocting wine made from pesticide contaminated dandelions to take over the world? (hmmmm... maybe). Writers have to prioritize and dandelion digging just doesn't make it on my writers to-do list. Besides, if I dug them out then I'd never win that World's Tallest Dandelion award that I've been preparing for. I am still on the look out for an international level competition to test if my concoction of crushed up chick peas is the world's best humous. Do you see a pattern here? Blog post on embracing the inner narcissist to follow ;-j.


Here are two pictures of my young neighbours Thomas and Claire standing, in my front yard, beside what is a contender for the world's tallest dandelion. They've got that 'seriously? giant dandelions?' look. Claire and Thomas are great neighbours. Not only is there a constant lemonade stand outside their house, they routinely greet me at the door with a bouquet of said dandelions.


As I sat in the blistering rays of the sun today, dandelions growing unhindered around me, I read Fire in the Fiction by Donald Maass aka the God of Agents. That's what we call him, he probably calls himself Donald or something equally humble. And he's currently being stalked, pursued, er, professionally courted by Jocosa of the Earrings.  This and his first book Writing the Breakout Novel are must reads for writers at all stages of their journey.


I'm two chapters in and lots of gold there. He's got me thinking about my protag, my antag and my side kick characters. Here's my favourite line from the introduction: "It disappoints me when authors perpetuate the myth that writing is magic." That's what we've been talking about here at Three Dead Moths ... Writing is about craft, wrangling your talent into story, butt to chair time, and occasionally stopping to smell the dandelions.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Seth Godin and the Susan Boyle Syndrome ... no glass slippers


If you're not familiar with author Seth Godin, I'd encourage you to check out one of his ten books or an interview with him. He is a new media marketing guru. He talks about marketing, change management, and finding your on-line community or tribe. Kool stuff. 
In a recent blog post, Hope and the Magic Lottery, he talked about how artists are holding out to win the marketing lottery - or, waiting for their Oprah moment. Here's a teaser from the link:   
"... the fledgling author, the one who has been turned down by ten agents and then copies his manuscript and fedexes it to twenty large publishing houses--what is he hoping for, exactly? Perhaps he's hoping to win the magic lottery, to be the one piece of slush chosen out of a million (literally a million!) that goes on to be published and revered.
You deserve better than the dashed hopes of a magic lottery.
There's a hard work alternative to the magic lottery, one in which you can incrementally lay the groundwork and integrate into the system you say you want to work with."
It got me musing about what I call the Susan Boyle Syndrome.
We all saw the video. I felt chills go up and down my spin as she sang, I admonished those who scoffed at her bushy eyebrows,  and I felt hope for all of humanity. 

The syndrome is the feeling that if I only get a chance the world will see my talent and I’ll be a star. In her case it was true. But we are obsessed with the notion of overnight success. Most artists' ‘overnight success’ is the result of years of professional training and hard slogging. There is this notion that writing or singing doesn’t take any effort if you have talent. 

There is a feeling that you should write it once and it will be perfect. When I talked about how excited I was to learn from the editing process, one non-writer I know (is that like a muggle?!) regaled me with a story of a best selling author who wrote his book in two weeks and got it published. I would suspect that wasn't the case. My story of how I got published is a more realistic experience. We’re not doing students of artistic disciplines any favours if we send the message that you do something once and it’s perfect; and if not you quit. Artistic pursuits are a process. A process that requires continued learning, doing, and excelling. It also requires persistence. Susan sang in the church choir, in every production she could, and at karaoke night. She keep the dream alive, nurtured it, and made it happen by putting herself out there.

I love that Susan Boyle is living her dream. Dream big, be prepared for success, and learn as much as you can along the way.      

Friday, June 18, 2010

And the winners are...?!

Thanks to all the bloggowers who entered my blogiversay contest. You commented, twittered, tweeted, Facebooked, blogged and generally offered congratulations. While one person took up the challenge to send a photo of their earrings, no one stood on their head and divided by zero - but hey, next time! I don't think this has ever happened in blog history. There is a three way tie for first! So I'll be giving away three copies of my debut novel for young readers Dead Frog on the Porch. Here's how it went down in blogland. Deb was a strong start with 8 points plus she twittered (so I gave her a bonus point). Then Candy weighed in with at lease 8 points. And then Rebecca did what no other bloggower dared to do. She went above and beyond the blog of duty. She sent a picture of her super cool earrings. Yes, the picture is a little blurry, but, like any writer, she had a critic to content with:
Here is a picture of my earrings bought years ago in Spain. Face made of twisted, painted leather. Sorry for the quality, not easy taking a photo of oneself, and not helped by the baby screaming in the background for attention. Or perhaps she was telling me what she thought of my earrings. :)
Thanks to all who entered. Deb, Candy and Rebecca please send your addresses to my email (janmarkley@janmarkley.com) and I'll get the book off to you by Canada Post dog sled as soon as possible.
I hope everyone will continue to follow my adventures as a writer and explore with me where writing meets life ... or life meets writing.
To blogfinity and beyond! Taking over the world one blog post at a time ... okay, I'm done now.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Video Vednesday! (with a blogiversary twist)

Thanks to all who've already entered the Three Dead Moths ... blogiversary book give away contest!

And for those who haven't entered there is still time. 

Here's the contest - there are two copies of my debut novel Dead Frog on the Porch to win.

If you already follow this blog (thanks) you get 1 point.

If you become a follower: 1 point.

If you leave a comment: 1 point.

If you cross post this contest to your blog: 3 points.

If you cross post this to your Face Book:  3 points.

If you cross post the book trailer video to your blog or Face Book: 3 points.

If you feel you have earrings that rival the coolness of the earrings worn by Jocossa of the Earrings and you send me a pic of your earrings: that's like 5 points because that probably entails rummaging around in your jewelry box, finding the camera, charging the battery, and then finding various bits of cable to download and send the photo (send through the email on the website).

When you leave your comment please tell me what you did and add up your points - bloggowers, I'm a writer, not a mathematician or an accountant or someone who ever got pleasure in counting the number of jelly beans in a jar.

If you can stand on your head and divide by zero you get my undying admiration.

Contest closes Friday (June 18th), winner to be announced shortly after.  

For Video Vednesday we're taking a walk down blog video lane with the videos that my 12 year old niece designed and produced for me (She blogs at Tiny Canadian).

Sprite Doesn't Like Rejection features my crazy rescue cat that, as you've seen, shreds book covers, and in this video she is shredding my rejection letters from agents. The second video is the DFOTP video book trailer. 


   

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Happy 1st Blogiversary to me! (and my blog)


Well, it's my blogiversary here at Three Dead Moths ... My blog and I have had our ups and downs, at one point my blog broke up with me, but we made it through year one.

To celebrate I've updated my template (blogosphere reno) and am launching a contest, but first a walk down bloggory lane. Over the year, I've had nearly 10,000 visits from all over the world. Thanks bloggowers who visit regularly. You rock!

It's interesting to see the search words people plug in that lands them on my blog. You'd be surprised how many times people have found me by searching on this phrase: 'I ate a dead moth, am I going to die?' First of all people - stop doing that! - seriously, don't eat dead moths! Leave them in their natural habitat of the mail box. There have been lots of searches on Sasquatch, Batfink, character development, Reeses Peanut Butter Cups and sour ju jubes.

We've meet Jocosa of the Earrings, the Tiny Canadian and Barbie Kong. We know that Jade hears voices and Candy Gourlay has notes from the slush pile. I've nominated the Sasquatch as the super hero for writers (and made the word into a verb - to sasquatch oneself). Over the year we've explored the writing process, community, and life. I've illustrated how life can teach us about writing and how the life of a writer is better when filled with awesome characters and writing buddies. We now know why cliches are to be avoided like the plague and why we all need to work on craft (Hi, I'm Jan and I splice commas).

It's been great and I hope you will continue to join me here on Three Dead Moths ...

Here's the contest - there are two copies of my debut novel Dead Frog on the Porch to win.

If you already follow this blog (thanks) you get 1 point.

If you become a follower: 1 point.

If you leave a comment: 1 point.

If you cross post this contest to your blog: 3 points.

If you cross post this to your Face Book:  3 points.

If you cross post the book trailer video to your blog or Face Book: 3 points.

If you feel you have earrings that rival the coolness of the earrings worn by Jocossa of the Earrings and you send me a pic of your earrings: that's like 5 points because that probably entails rummaging around in your jewelry box, finding the camera, charging the battery, and then finding various bits of cable to download and send the photo (send through the email on the website).

When you leave your comment please tell me what you did and add up your points - bloggowers, I'm a writer, not a mathematician or an accountant or someone who ever got pleasure in counting the number of jelly beans in a jar.

If you can stand on your head and divide by zero you get my undying admiration.

Contest closes next Friday (June 18th), winner to be announced shortly after.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Video Wednesday!

It's Video Wednesday (or Video Venesday)!
In the song Tik Tok by Kesha there's a line "... woke up in the morning feeling like P. Diddy." I asked my niece, "what does that mean feeling like P. Diddy? I thought he was this big international business man. So, she wakes up and feels like putting on a business suit and making a multi-national deal? And then she talks about brushing her teeth with a bottle of jack!?"
My niece responded with a sign of profound exasperation, threw me the classic 12 year old rolling back of the eyes look and drawled, "Jannie, nobody listens to the lyrics!"
Here's a version of that song done from a writers pov, it's called Writers Blok by Jackson Pearce. And it goes something like this "... writing starts soon enough, got to finish other stuff ... tik tok on the clock, let's just call it writers' block." It's actually funnier the second time you watch it. P.S.: I don't believe in writers' block but that a whole other blog post.
I found this video on the
The Writer's Ladders blog. And it's here on Video
Venesday because it's really cool.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Literary pioneers and the to-be-read shelf

This is a picture of my to-be-read shelf. Every writer and avid reader has one, and mine is heaving with books. That's why I sigh with joy, and frustration, every time people give or loan me books. Yes, I want every book in the world and I also want enough sunny days to sit in the backyard and read them. I'm glad a friend insisted that she lend me Sisters in the Wilderness: the lives of Susanna Moodie and Catharine Parr Traill by Charlotte Gray. It follows the lives of literary pioneers Susanna Moodie (Roughing it in the Bush) and Catharine Parr Traill (The Backwoods of Canada and The Canadian Settler's Guide) who came to Canada in the early 1800s. The book is a double biography that goes behind their literary works to reveal the women as the authors, wives, mothers, sisters and daughters that they were. It examines the hardships and joys of life in Canada in the early days. It explores how they nurtured their writing careers while raising children, running farmsteads, withstanding the heat, snow, cold and diminishing bank accounts, and managing husbands who were ill equipped for the harsh reality of the backwoods of Canada (they probably had never met a mosquito before moving here!). And then there were the challenges of submitting articles and manuscripts when the mail took months (by boat, train and dog sled), there were publishers that didn't pay (say it ain't so!) and books to sell during hard economic times to a population spread out over this vast land. And critics! There were critics even in their own family (sisters eh!?). I thoroughly enjoyed it and would highly recommend it for those interested in Canadian history (literary and otherwise), and to see how the life of a writer hasn't changed much (except we now have snail mail). My rescue cat Sprite enjoyed the book as well. She gave it a thorough going over with her teeth and gums. Naturally, I had to adhere to the-my-crazy-rescue-cat-who-used-to-live-with-coyotes-ate-your-book-so-I-will-replace-it rule of book lending.
Cats enjoy Canadian literature. Check out the Canadian flag on my vest in the background - True north strong and free!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Smack down in the dog eat dog world of the cat show

The great thing about being a writer and anthropologist is that you can learn about cultures that you might not normally have access to. When I did my research on the Piikani First Nation in southern Alberta, I worked with a group of elders and ceremonialist and attended a number of sacred ceremonies. I listened, learned and participated. As writers we have opportunities to go into different cultures, or sub cultures in the case of the world of the cat show.
In Dead Bird through the Cat Door, the second in the Megabyte Mystery series – due out this fall – there are a couple of chapters that take place at a cat show. Aviary Finch, the director of the bird sanctuary, infiltrates the cat show and kidnaps cats to kill the birds at the aforementioned bird sanctuary (c’est what!?).
About a year ago, my niece and I entered her cat Stubby in the Southern Alberta Cat Fanciers show for research (and fun) purposes.
Stubby relaxing in the jacuzzi
Turned out to be very dramatic with lots of plot twists and quirky characters. It was a total cat show smack down that pitted the underdog (or should I say undercat) Stubby against a Supreme Grand Master Cat. It was a classic undercat story. I said to the woman (and her cat) in the next cage: “seriously, tell me, do you think Stubby has a chance of winning a ribbon.”
She replied, in a tone as if someone has just died: "Well, she hasn't been bathed. Your niece told me Stubby hasn't been bathed." So in addition to the registration fee, the vet bill, and the preparation of decorating her cage - we forgot to bathe the fricken cat! All hopes were dashed, but in the first ring we went on to win first in colour and first in division. Then like any good plot, our nemesis revealed herself. A short, frail, little old lady with a sunken jaw argued with the judge because she thought her cat was misclassified – this was after Stubby trounced her cat. Let’s call her cat Contessa Cuddles (because that wasn’t her name, but it is the name of a character in Dead Bird through the Cat Door). Her cat was a Supreme Grand Master, and in the cat show world that’s equivalent to the super mac daddy of cats! Turns out we've been holding Stubby back all these years.
All day we were up against Contessa. Sometimes we would win, sometimes Contessa would. The little old lady hovered, ready to fight any judge. Then tension rose when one judge declared that Stubby was not a Super Mackerel Tabby but was a Classic Tabby (who knew!) and that the Grand Marshal would need to reclassify her. Stubby went on to win a 2nd best and a 4th best.
Stubby in all her glory at the cat show
Quote of the day came from my niece: "I've been bit, scratched and hissed at, and that's just from my cat!"
Stubby is not amused (but she is clean!)
Expect to see some interesting characters in Dead Bird through the Cat Door. And look out cat show, grand champion Stubby will be back! And this time, we'll bathe her!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Reviews through the looking glass

My writerly friend Dawn Ius did a review of Dead Frog on the Porch on her blog Through the Looking Glass. Check it out. If you haven't been to Dawn's blog I'd check that out as well. Every week she posts her muse avatar and talks about her journey as a writer. Dawn writes in the thriller and romantic suspense genres, and I've heard her speak of a y/a novel. Basically, she's a busy writer who is committed to craft and developing characters that are enthralling. If you don't get why the words muse and avatar appear in the same sentence then check out her stunningly good looking muses - which leads one to wonder why her muses are never slightly balding and middle aged!? Dawn is also on face book and twitter so follow her and her amusing muses! There was another review of Dead Frog on the Porch that came out while I was in Italy. I was delirious from pasta and gelato and I don't think I ever posted it. It was in the Calgary Herald and Edmonton Journal. And at least one dog read it (dogs read everything now a days).
Just to get you geared up for the next post which will be called: The dog eat dog world of the cat show, here's a hilarious video.