The Vinyl Cafe in Hamilton

December 20, 2012

My mother and I went to see Stuary McLean and the Vinyl Cafe Christmas Tour last night, which is something of a holiday tradition for us. It was a great evening – Reid Jamieson performed, as well as John Sheard, Dennis Pendrith, and a vocal trio dubbed “The Vinylettes”. Stuart retold the classic story about Dave building a snow machine, gave us two brand-new tales, (or at least ones that haven’t been featured on the radio show yet,) and was very funny organizing the prize giveaway just before intermission, with the help of a young child from one of the first two rows.

Stuart has an unfair reputation in some circles for telling long, pointless stories very slowly. Last night I think I really appreciated just how funny he can be, and how good his sense of comic timing is, especially when describing a scene where things are about to go very, very badly. Yes, he’ll dole out one sentence and pause, long enough to let us rev our imaginations into gear, and then drop another little tidbit. But it works. The heartwarming ending is also a big crowd-pleaser, of course.

One fun little moment involved what Stuart called ‘losing control of the show.’ The set-up began before the intermission, when Stuart said that he was giving out a prize for the oldest person in attendance. One lady called out 87, and before taking any other contenders he told the crowd that he wanted to talk with her a moment; Stuart asked her if she’d ever won anything before, she said no, (which could be a natural lie in the circumstances – you wouldn’t want to get passed over because you’ve won something before.)

‘Really, never won a thing in 87 years? I wonder how you get out of bed in the mornings.’ Paraphrased, but that was the sentiment, and we all laughed a little.

Then there was somebody else who won the prize for being 88, and Stuart gave the 87-year old lady his regrets. After the intermission, he checked with his young helper to make sure that everybody had got their prizes, and a sort of chant emerged from somewhere off to audience right. The people wanted the 87-year old woman to get a prize.

Stuart went along with it, making wisecracks the whole time. The woman got a Reid Jamieson CD, autographed by Stuart and each of the performers for the show, and also signed by the delivery kid. Somebody called out that it was his birthday at this point, and Stuart fished out one more prize CD, but drew the line at having anybody sign it. Enough was enough, at that point.

So it was a really fun evening, and definitely helped me get into the Christmas spirit. Less than a week left!

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A quick trip to the Short Story Shrine

December 10, 2012

First off, the Hamilton region TGIO was last night, and I had a really great time. The food was awesome, the company even better, the prizes and raffle seemed to be enjoyed by everybody. It was the perfect night to wrap up my first tour as a Nanowrimo ML.

I got some good progress made on the short story revision yesterday, and now I’m ready to go to the Short Story Shrine, which is the equivalent of the ‘How to Revise your Novel’ Monastery. As I said last spring, the Writer’s Monastery is not a place but a state of mind. Doing the Monastery exercise means leaving many things behind – you leave all previous drafts of your story out of sight, and all your notes, and don’t refer to them. Ideally, you leave behind most of the internet, all television and videos, and any music with lyrics. You don’t talk to other writers, or complain on your blog, or read other books.

You just take what you know deep down in your heart about what you want your story to become, and you write it down as a rough synopsis, one sentence or short paragraph per scene, from beginning to end, doing your best to write with care but not second-guess anything.

The Shrine is probably going to be less intimidating than the Monastery was, both because I’ve been through the Monastery and I really like what I got from it, and because ‘The Storm Mirror’ is shorter and won’t have as many scenes in its outline. But who knows! I’ll give you an update whenever I post next.


A tale of two Waffle-paloozas

December 1, 2012

Well, National Novel Writing Month ended on a random but fun note here in the Greater Hamilton area, which is certainly appropriate. For a few years we’ve been doing ‘Waffle-palooza’ on the last night of November – an occasion to gather together at a Williams Coffee location, type madly to reach 50k or whatever other end-of-the-month goals we have in our sights, and then celebrate by ordering Belgian waffles.

This year, since there was a regular Friday write-in at the Burlington Power Center Williams, it was agreed that this should be the venue for Waffle-palooza 2012. It was next door to a dessert joint called Demetre’s that also had great Belgian waffles. And since my Co-ML is out of town, Waffle-palooza was all on my watch.

The weather forecast said scattered flurries throughout the day. Yesterday afternoon it began to really snow – not a ferocious blizzard, but more than flurries. More than anybody was prepared for.

I left work just before 5 pm, crawled the two and a half kilometers through crazy traffic, and tried to take a shortcut between one Power Center parking lot and another that was much too steep and slippery to drive up. Back out onto the main road the wrong way, an illegal U-turn to get going north, (well, okay, more of a three-point turn, but it worked out alright,) and I finally got to Williams around six-twenty, to find one of the Burlington write-in regulars and two of his friends, who had just gotten there by bus a few minutes earlier.

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NaNoWriMo Day 1

November 1, 2012

It’s started!

I just passed my first 1000 words, (1145) thanks to 2 morning sprints and an afternoon sprint. Soon I’ll be heading down to a write-in at Williams Coffee on the Pier. Whoo-hoo!

It’s so great to be in the crazy excitement of Nano again, and to be doing my best to lead such a great region. Hopefully I can get up to 2778 words for today – that’s my daily quota to reach 50k by November 18th. I’d feel like I was letting myself down if I didn’t ring the bell at the Night of Writing Dangerously in San Francisco again.

How’s November treating you so far?


Nano season is kicking off…

October 30, 2012

In my time zone it’s less than 27 hours until NaNoWriMo begins, and the excitement is definitely building. I had a great time at the Hamilton Kick-off party Sunday afternoon, and everybody seems to think I did well with my first official function as a Nano ML. The Hamilton Nano chat room has been registered, and I have three write-ins to go to in the next few days – Thursday evening, Friday late afternoon, and Sunday early afternoon. 🙂

My novel idea is coming together a bit more – it’s not the most planning I’ve ever done, but then, I think I do better and have more fun with Nano when I edge towards the pantsing side instead of plotting. I think I know where I’m going to start on Thursday morning, and that’s the important thing.

And my to-do list for October is nearly finished. It looks like one thing will end up partially unfinished; the novel critique I signed up for with critters.org  I finished reading the book, but I’ve still got over a hundred notes I took on my Kindle that I want to review and add as notes in MS word, and that just takes more free time than I think I’ve got. I want to give the author a chapter-by-chapter critique, though, and let her know that I’ll work on the line notes when I can, Nano permitting. I still need to work on that this evening.

And I’ve got a lot done in October, from ML preparation to a new short story, with plenty of ‘Goal, Motivation, Conflict’ and Holly Lisle revision in there too. I even tried a little sketching – more about that possibly much later. See you in NaNoLand!


Nanowrimo Spotlight #8: Elizabeth Twist

October 29, 2012

Well, it’s my great pleasure this evening to spotlight a good friend of mine, and a fellow Hamilton Wrimo, Elizabeth Twist. Take it away, Twisty Liz!

What’s the most unusual part of your writing process?
I do all my first drafts with a fountain pen, which isn’t unique but is a less popular choice than drafting on a computer. Hiking out in nature is also an essential part of my process. I do all my best plotting while mobile and surrounded by trees.

Where are your backup files?
I have a massive second hard drive in my computer. Once a month, I make a complete copy of my documents files on it. Whenever I change a story, I email a copy to myself and file it under a “story drafts” label in my email archive. That capacious gmail account really comes in handy. Originals, i.e., first drafts, I keep in a binder, or in a pile on my desk until I’m ready to work with them.

What advice would you give to all your fellow Wrimos?
Do as much planning as you need to get yourself really stoked for November. Once November comes, write like hell, and give yourself permission to enjoy it! Really do immerse yourself in the writing experience, and really do let other stuff go. Every writer deserves to have that experience, of putting writing before all other priorities. It’s not a state that you can stay in forever: those dishes will need attending to eventually. It is something you can afford to do for a month. November is an excellent time because you’ll have tons of support through the website, through the forums, and your local region if yours is active.

Sneaky Ninja Question! Who’s the best character you’ve ever written and why?
Tricky. I’m going to define “best” by “most enjoyable to work on.” I’ve written characters that I’ve been really proud of in terms of nuance and subtle layering of traits and all that stuff, but that’s, like, hard work, you know? My favourite character, who was just a blast, was a guy called Johnny Brittle, a creepy punkish fellow who was granted immortality by a goddess in some obscure wheat field in Mesopotamia. I’ve seriously considered going back to the broken manuscript he appeared in solely because he was fun.

Elizabeth Twist writes speculative fiction and lives in Hamilton Ontario. She blogs at elizabethtwist.blogspot.ca


Frustrated and anxious about ML business

October 24, 2012

So – it’s just over a week until Nanowrimo starts…

As I’ve mentioned, I signed up to be an ML for Hamilton this year. My Co-ML and I met to start discussing plans back in September, but – well, I haven’t been hugely ‘on the ball’ and proactive about getting all the little details organized, and as a result we’re both scrambling a bit to get the Kick-Off party organized in time.

I was supposed to meet Co-ML yesterday evening, actually, for a pre-write-in, but the location got switched several times at the last minute and the agreed-on coffee shop turned out to not be open past 6 on Tuesdays – whoops! And each of us tried alternate venues in a different order missed each other, and went home.

But we connected over the phone, and settled on a time for the Kick-off, an ideal venue, and a back-up venue. I called the #1 pick venue yesterday evening; the same local coffee shop where we held our MLs planning meeting. They have a gallery room that can be reserved for parties, which sounds really good. The woman who answered the phone took down my details and assured me that her manager would call back today to confirm.

But the phone, it hasn’t rung all day. 😦 I tried calling them again at quarter after four – a machine picked up, and I left my information again. Tried one more time just a few minutes ago. Same machine, I hung up on it this time.

I’m trying not to get too anxious. This coffee shop should work out, I’ve made every reasonable effort, and if not, the backup venue, (a restaurant that’s very popular with the Wrimos in our region,) should be happy to take a reservation for us on Sunday afternoon on relatively short notice. 🙂

I’m excited about being a Nanowrimo ML for the first time. Shouldn’t let the pressure get to me.


My Nano ML’s journey has begun, kind of

September 13, 2012

I went to meet some writer friends and fellow Wrimo-ers at a new coffee shop this evening, scouting it out as a possible Nanowrimo venue. One of the friends is a many-times Hamilton ML, and I’m joining her as Nanowrimo Co-ML for the first time ever. We decided that the place, the Mulberry cafe, would be a pretty good place for a Kick-off party, because we can reserve their gallery room, but maybe not so good for a write-in as the only tables with outlets are also closest to the loud music.

I’m very excited about being a Nanowrimo ML for the first time, but also a bit nervous about the responsibility, and of having to keep up with my friend. I’ve been ML for Script Frenzy before, but that was always fairly small and low-key. I’m going to need to up my game for November. It should be a fun challenge.

I also got two short scenes finished for Block Revision, and Elizabeth Twist got a page and a bit scribbled in with her pen. (My Co-ML brought a netbook, but wasn’t able to get any writing done, blaming the music.)

So it was a great evening.


Some Letters and Light in my life

August 28, 2012

Hi, all. Back from Fan Expo now, recovered from that excitement ready – and it’s pretty much time to start packing for Dragon*Con! 😀 But I do have a few other things to share with you about matters of Nano

Inching towards Camp Victory! At this point my August Camp Nanowrimo word count for “The Witches of Arion” is 47 thousand and 127 words – which means I’m less than three thousand away with 3 days to go. I was able to manage to tick over a thousand words a day or so even in the highest craziness of Fan Expo, so I really don’t think I’ll have a problem cruising over the finish line, maybe Friday morning. 🙂

Beta bugger once again. There’s not much to say about this, except that I will be working once again to help make sure that the Nano site is as bug-free as possible in October.

Just maybe possibly a Nano co-ML. I sent in an application to become a National Novel Writing Month co-ML for Hamilton. (That’s a local group leader and organizer of write-ins and other fun outings for crazy obsessed writers.) I haven’t heard back officially, but I think the signs are good that my application will be stamped ‘approved’ – or whatever other really fun thing Sarah Mackey does to initiate a new co-ML.

And out of the blue… Grant Faulkner added me as a noveling buddy on the nanowrimo website yesterday evening. I’m not sure if he just happened to log on, realized that he had no noveling buddies, and added the three other wrimos who had already added him as buddies or not, but seeing that little Nanomail notification made me smile.

I’m already looking forward to November. Am I the only one?


It’s good to be back home.

July 8, 2012

I had a great day at Polaris, but it’s nice to be back in my own apartment in Hamilton after having had so many adventures over the past two weeks, in Lawrence and Toronto.

The place was 33C when I got in, because of the summer heat and my leaving the air conditioner off to save on energy. Last I checked, the kitchen thermometer was saying 28 after a few hours of full power conditioning. 😉

A few more Polaris highlights – waiting for over an hour to volunteer help set up the autographs room, which I didn’t get a chance to because nobody showed up to unlock the room, sigh. (But I got some extra credit with the volunteer people, including a volunteer pin that I didn’t quite qualify for based on my hours. 😀 ) Got my picture taken with Miracle Laurie, had this big crazy grin on my face.

Also panels for: Ad Astra convention, Castle, Star Trek, Isaac Asimov, Chuck, and Doctor Who. And I made pretty good time driving back. I’ve been keeping track of my mileage for car trips, to help figure out how much I spend on gas going places, and from the Best Western parking lot to my building was exactly 100.0 kilometers.


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