The Road to Writing

January 29th, 2012

There’s nothing like a long drive to think about things. Normally I avoid thinking but out of sheer boredom I finally relented and allowed my brain to some work. I did try listening to the stereo, going through about thirty stations before I figured out I didn’t feel like music for a change. I was a little slow there.

As you can see by the photo this particular highway was one where drifting off to sleep could have dire consequences; two lanes, lots of trucks and snow along the shoulders. I would also like to point out the highway was 350 km long (or 200 miles for those who don’t do metric) without a town in between. Fill up before you go.

By the way, this lovely stretch of road goes to Ft McMurray, oil capital of North America. Out of nowhere this city appears. It’s an interesting city where pickup trucks outnumber cars ten to one and it’s the very definition of a growing economy. But I digress- this has little to do with my thinking, or the lack of.

During my road trip my thoughts turned to writing and to some stories I would like to write. I like science fiction and fantasy, so I envision different circumstances that involve those genres. For example I went past a work camp with dozens of trailers used for housing. The work camp likely held a thousand or more workers. I wondered what such a work camp would like in the far future. To be specific, on an alien world but only much bigger. With a strange creature attacking the workers.  Okay maybe a little too much imagination, but you can see where some stories can have a humble beginning.

My first novel, Talnut, was inspired by a trip to New Zealand and the wonderful landscape there. My trilogy Castle was started by a painting my dad did of a castle overlooking the Wear River. I guess what I’m saying is that stories are not born out of a vacuum. Perhaps the next time you find a fascinating novel, consider the author may have been on a long uneventful trip.

Best wishes and have a great day.

Jack

 

 

Personal information and Staples

November 21st, 2011

Sometimes one wonders why a company requires certain information when doing business with an individual. Well, maybe not just sometimes. For example Staples has a not so Easy online print service. I understand the need for some information, for example who you are and a contact phone number. But Staples moves this to a whole new level. Never mind I just want a few documents printed. First they insist you register with them and create yet another password. They want your phone numbers and your home address, despite the fact you have to pick up the documents. And, this is absolutely mandatory- they want to know what time zone you live in. How does this information have any bearing on a printed document? Idiots. Of course I supplied them with an incorrect address and spelled my name wrong (yes I do know how to spell my own name and where I live). I did give them the correct time zone but I wondered if I claimed a time zone in Russia if my Staples membership would have been refused.  

I normally take my printing needs to Copy City, a small but very good west end printing service. I send them print requests on-line and sometimes just phone them to do some minor work I’ve done in the past. What’s amazing is they have my phone number but don’t know, or care, where I live. They’re smart people and likely assume I live in the same time zone as they do. If they ever ask me for a password, I’ll use the one I have for Staples; $ucks2BU.

Now I don’t mean to just pick on Staples, but why do companies where you only want to do business one time with need so much personal information? As various companies have data bases hacked by some 16 year old kid, it becomes a little worrisome. My method is to lie. Transpose some numbers in your address. Use your brother’s name. Create an email address just for registration purposes (more_spam@ yahoo.ca).

Okay, that’s my rant for the week. After admitting I lied on my Staples registration form I hope the dreaded Staples Internet Security Team doesn’t pay me a visit. Wait- they only have my brother’s address, so it’s his problem.

Cheers

Jack

The Art of Writing

November 2nd, 2011

The art of writing a good story isn’t easily taught. I’m a believer in writing stories that I find interesting in the hope the reader finds it as well. But what makes a story interesting? What grips the reader? Some authors are very good at it and seem to do so without effort. That isn’t true in my case. I have to work hard to put the right “secret combination” of words to make my story interesting, with a bit of help from editors.

So what should a writer look out for? Well there are all kinds of books out there for writers and some of them do offer some valuable tips. For example in one of my writers’ group there is a link to http://romanceuniversity.org/2011/10/26/author-lucy-monroe-more-than-five-senses-writing-for-visceral-impact where author Lucy Monroe talks about 11 senses. The article was very interesting as I had no idea we possess so many senses. My wife is the opinion I have no sense at all at times and while I politely disagree with her, frankly eleven senses is more than I can count using both hands. I suppose I’ll have to drop one of the senses in my writing.

Another rule in writing is to show, not tell. I know some authors want to show everything through the character’s eyes and the other ten senses, but it can be a bit tedious how some of them go about it. It gets to be almost tunnel vision. Occasionally when I read their writing I wish they would just tell me the room was big in one sentence rather than a whole paragraph of their visual impressions. Now it is true in a mystery details are best delivered this way but in action stories you may want to speed up the pace. Ie: He charged into the large room.” Vs “Bill Gates charged past the door, scanning the interior of the large room. “ The second sentence is a bit too long for an action sequence and it’s hard to picture Bill Gates as an action figure. There has to be a balance of providing information to the reader so the story flows smoothly. Not everything can told through the character’s eyes.

One final trick for writers is to use alternate words to describe something. For example I have the following list of words instead of using White: alabaster, blanc, bone, cloud, cream, eggshell, fog, frost, ghost, ice, ivory, milk, oyster, pearl, porcelain, smoke, snow, whey. To tell you the truth I wouldn’t ever use “alabaster” as I haven’t a clue what it means. However others may come in handy someday as I search for a way to make a sentence a bit more interesting.

I didn’t produce a Halloween story this year. I did have one in mind but time ran out. However I’ll draw your attention to a short story I wrote previously and I hope it still has the some chills in for you.

  Click here for the Fallen Angel PDF.  This is   anthology of stories in Shadows and Sensations, published by Melange Books.

Cheers

Jack Wear

Clearing the mind to write

October 3rd, 2011

Below is a comment a comment at my last blog. I decided I would devote this blog entry to it as it as good a topic I can come up with.

“First off I want to say wonderful blog! I had a quick question in which I’d like to ask if you don’t mind. I was interested to find out how you center yourself and clear your thoughts before writing. I’ve had difficulty clearing my mind in getting my ideas out. I do take pleasure in writing however it just seems like the first 10 to 15 minutes are generally lost just trying to figure out how to begin. Any ideas or tips? Thanks!”

A fine question indeed. I do understand about sitting in front of a keyboard and the brain refuses to come up with anything to say. My solution to that is very simple: I walk away. Perhaps that is not the answer you were looking for but for me I don’t have the time to sit pondering my next move. So if nothing comes to mind, I start to do something that needs to be done. I find that if I’m busy doing something- almost anything- I will think of something to write. Then I can return to the keyboard and at least start.  I find it impossible to clear my head (the blank expression on my face doesn’t necessarily mean I’m not thinking) before I start writing. In fact a cluttered mind seems to work quite well for me.

When I’m writing a story and get stuck where to take it next, I will sometimes jump ahead a few chapters to write. This helps me focus on what I need to work on in the earlier part of the story. At other times I’ll start editing the story at the beginning just to get a feel where I’d like to move the story to next.

I’m usually working on more than one story, maybe three at various stages of completion. So if one story is starting to stall I will switch over to another that get the creative juices flowing.

If I’m tired generally I do have trouble writing and don’t even attempt to do anything with a story. If I do, chances are I’ll delete most of it anyway. Better just to watch some TV or read a book. Or to finish that bottle of wine.

Unlike some authors, I don’t write every day. I have to be in the right mood; otherwise it‘s a wasted effort. I write for enjoyment and if I don’t feel like writing it seems silly to force it. I have read a few books where the last chapters end seem a little forced or not of the same quality of the beginning. Also I have read a series where the author seemed just plain bored but had to finish it anyway. (Okay, I’m thinking of Tad Williams and the Otherland series. Very good first book but it trailed off from there.) With that in mind the third book in my Castle series recently was released and I had worked hard to maintain the writing in each book. I hope that my readers enjoyed all three books.

Cheers and best of luck writing. Below is my contribution to fantasy literature, the Castle trilogy. The books are available through Melange Books.

BC Wines

September 15th, 2011

I managed to take a week off for a bit of a vacation. My wife and I drove to Penticton (British Columbia) so she could take part in a (yet another) dragon boat festival. This gave us a chance to visit a few of the wineries in the BC interior. Now we couldn’t visit them all- there are just too many to do that and besides most don’t open their doors at 6 AM (God knows I tried). Also a few we had been to before, such as Mission Hill. Actually I have to say the last time we were at Mission Hill we left without buying any wine. I don’t know if it was the winery itself or the server but we both thought it had a rather pretentious atmosphere. The wine was okay, but seriously overpriced for what it was.

The best area for us was the Naramata region. Regardless of the wine, they have the scenic wineries to visit. Most are built on a hillside that gives a splendid view of Penticton and the lake. Several have restaurants as well so you can spend the whole day drinking, eating too much and sightseeing. Great fun.

There were a few disappointments. One winery was out of their reds and only had average whites left for tasting. Another had a great bistro, but rather weak wines. However, overall the wines in the region were good and we took home 2 cases.

Several wineries boasted of having a New Zealand style Sauvignon Blanc. They did in a fashion. Not quite up to the Kiwi’s standard but also priced higher. The Pinot Gris were fair and the Gewurztraminer fairly nice. The reds I appreciated more, especially the Merlots and the Sauvignon Cabs.

Our favourites, in no particular order were:

Burrowing Owl  Cab Franc ’09

Heston Creek Character ‘09

Perseus Invictus  Merlot ’08  The best, in my ever so humble opinion

Poplar Grove Legacy ‘06

Tinhorn Creek Cab Franc ‘09

Gehringer Brothers Optimum Pinot Noir ‘10

Gehringer Brothers Pinot Gris ‘09

The Blasted Church Winery had the most fun labels and very good wine too.

By the way, I’m wondering how many wine festivals are held in BC. It seems every winery had a bunch of medals proclaiming the wine to be best in the class, judges’ favourite, taster’s choice and least likely to turn into vinegar next year.

Winery photo photo-shopped

My laptop died on the trip- the first day actually. I had intended to write the newest best seller but ended up reading a book called First Big Crush by Eric Arnold. Very funny, informative book on wine producing in New Zealand. If you can find the book, it is well worth the read.

Cheers!

The New King

August 7th, 2011

It is with the sounding of trumpets and great fanfare that I announce the arrival of my latest novel, The New King. It is the third book of my Castle series and I was able finish a few details from the first two books (like will Jon ever get married?). That doesn’t mean there won’t be a fourth book. I created the world of Domum and it really is too good to just stop using it. However that brings up a problem I have with my writing production lately.

My writing has slowed down a tad during the past few months. The problem is the amount of time I’m spending on my liquor business. Nasty stuff like getting records in order for my accountant and using a spreadsheet to calculate new prices. On the plus side I also get to sample new wines, but that also leads to less time for writing. I have found my writing ability suffers a bit after the third glass. By the second bottle it’s gone completely.

Anyway I hope to get back on track soon as I jotted down several ideas for a new story besides another Castle book. I have a few paranormal story ideas, plus a couple of science fiction stories I would like to write. When I sit down with my trusty laptop I’ll see which one wins out.

Back to the new novel, which I hope readers will call a fantastic read (I’m ever optimistic). I had fun writing it as I had to develop a couple of battle plans, not normally something I study but it was interesting to look at battle strategies of the past. I also was able to explore the town of Vegrandis where Gilbert and other dwarfs live. I took the opportunity to show their culture and beliefs that makes them unique from the rest of the human population. Lastly I was able to crown a new king, although in fact no less than five men claimed the title of king during the story. You may be surprised who finally was able to win the title at the end (Unless you cheat and skip to the end. Shame on you.). So if you have read the first two books in the series, I’m sure you will enjoy this one. Love to hear your comments on this book and series.

http://www.melange-books.com/authors/jhwear/wearcastle3.html 

Okay, I’ll have just one glass of Pinot Noir and then get back to writing.

The road that healed itself

July 13th, 2011

Every town and city has their traffic problems, and sometimes we wonder if any planning is actually done to see how traffic is suppose to flow. When you sit behind an endless line of parked cars on the freeway you and gaze at a sign that encourages you slow down for road construction, you wonder if this was someone’s idea of ill humour.

I’m going to pick on one road in my area. It is called the Anthony Henday Drive, also known as highway 216. This was supposed to be a freeway to move traffic quickly but someone forgot to tell the road engineers that.

This highway has traffic lights, bunches of them. For good measure they also erected speed limit signs. Some say 100 Kilometres/hr, others 70, some others 60 and a couple at 50. All of these in a few kilometres of road. In this sea of traffic signs they also warn of heavy fines for speeding through construction zones.

Cartoon by Malcolm Mayes, Edmonton Journal, 7-13-2011

 

 I have to say I’m impressed with the new construction idea the city has. You see they just leave road building equipment lying around but don’t bother with any workers. Apparently the city is using some form of magic to get the equipment to drive itself and convince the road to heal itself. Bloody brilliant. If it works maybe we can do without road planners too and have the roads design themselves too.

Now I understand that it came as a surprise to the planners that traffic lights might cause a problem with the flow of vehicles. Really, how would anyone know that a road with 34,550 vehicles per day, meeting with another road carrying 40,800 vehicles, would have an intersection problem? Fortunately some engineer discovered the word overpass and more construction began. I just hope the magic of self-healing roads goes a little faster.

I don’t want to pick on just my city (I didn’t want to say Edmonton and give the city a bad name) as I have also had the great experience of driving through Saskatchewan and their gravelled shoulders. However I took a photo at one of the signs in the town of Whitewood, Saskatchewan. Here we can see a sign warning of a school zone. First, there isn’t a school to be seen. Second, take a look at that road. Who in their right mind would want to even travel over it, let alone at a speed faster than a fast walk? There isn’t any need for a speed trap;  just check at the local car shop for broken shocks.

School zone in Whitewood

Back to the Henday. Below is a picture of the Anthony Henday Drive where they actually completed the intersection of overpasses and ramps. Maybe they should have done that with the whole freeway first rather than tease us with opening it with traffic lights. I remember when I used to work for Xerox as a service rep. We had a saying; “Do it right the first time”. I shall humbly pass the quote on to the city planners.   

Short Story Writing

June 29th, 2011

A short story can be fun to write, but a writer has to be very judicious with words to describe the characters and the story line. I remember in school having to do those dreaded 1000 word essays. I would carefully try to pad the document with extra words rather than actually say anything significant about the topic. I didn’t get top marks from my English teacher in those days, but she also had a way of turning literature into something the class hated.

Today 1000 words are easy for me to write. Too easy if you’re interested in conserving words for a short story. For example try to describe yourself in fifty words. Now try to do it in one sentence.  In Castle One I described one of the characters like this; “Jon was a big man, and not soft, but he didn’t scare anyone when he entered a room.” 

The reason I mention all this is that I’m writing a story and the words just seem to keep adding up. I wanted to keep it around 50,000 words, a novelette. It now looks like it will hit 60,000. That’s not too bad but I know if I wrote it the same way as I do short stories I can chop of the extra 10,000 words. Those old essay habits are coming back to haunt me. 

So I am going to write a short story or two to get my focus back on being stingy with words. There is a contest for a short paranormal story at All Romance, 2500 to 3000 words. I just have to find a theme to write about. I might use the old stand-by, vampires.

It would be interesting if one of my old teacher as judging the contest. I’ll know if it is her if my submission is returned with a big red F circled on it. 

This is a picture of my old grade school Spruce Avenue School. It is where I learned lots of things, such as there are great teachers and horrible teachers. I had a few of each and despite my English teacher’s best effort, I passed.  Anyway all is forgiven because maybe her words drove me a bit harder to succeed as a writer.

Spruce Avenue School

Whitewood Horror

June 5th, 2011

Grain elevator

I managed to find time to upload some photos on my website. Take a look at the gallery and you’ll see a couple of photos of Whitewood, Saskatchewan. These were taken a few years ago but if you want to define Small Town, just use Whitewood as an example. You’ll note that the main street photo was devoid of traffic and people. This picture was not taken at rush hour, but it was during the middle of the day. To say it is quiet here might be the understatement of the year.

Like many small towns it does have an interesting past and actually was a bustling town back in the days of taming the Wild West.  It was founded in 1892 and seems to have been home to fur trading, French culture and the pioneer versions of 7-11 stores.

The reason I’m talking about Whitewood is that I’m going to a family reunion there. (My wife’s sister lives there and it seems she thinks everyone will want to journey a thousand miles to visit grasshoppers. She has a kind heart but I think Las Vegas would be a better place to get together.) So with Whitewood on my mind I became inspired to use it for a story. A horror story as a matter of fact.

Now I don’t want to ruin the tourist industry of Whitewood, so I’ll likely change the name to something a bit more ominous. Maybe Blackwood or Deadlywood. However I like the idea of a small town where everyone thinks they know everyone. But do they? (Add sinister laugh)

I’m not sure if I’ll have a serial killer or come up some evil creature, like a vampire.  But my mind is coming up with different ideas how to use the deserted streets of Whitewood. Let’s face it; if the streets are empty during the day, can you guess what they’ll be like at the middle of the night under a pale moonlight?  

Main street

A frightened woman running down the sidewalk, gasping for air as she pounds on locked doors of the businesses. Her attacker gains on her but at the last moment the headlights of pickup truck illuminate them as it roars down the street. She calls out to the driver…

I guess I’ll have to do some editing on that but I think Whitewood is a great location for a horror story. Who knows, it may become famous for something other than grasshoppers.

Jack

Banff Wine Festival

May 20th, 2011

I always enjoy the drive up to Banff as the Rocky Mountains suddenly enclose around you. Along the mountain sides green trees give way to barren rock and eventually snow. If you’re lucky you will see some wildlife, usually deer, along the side of the highway.

Of course the reason I’m going to Banff is to do the Rocky Mountain Wine Show, held in the Banff Springs Hotel.

The hotel is old, in fact even older than me, and more or less completed in 1928. It sounds like my wife may have been in charge of the hotel because after that there were extensive renovations done. The hotel has a lot of interesting features, such as ghosts, expensive coffee and shops that makes your credit card quiver in fear.

The wine show is fun, my favourite of all the wine fairs. The event room has thick carpeting, beautiful wall decor and high ceilings that have several chandeliers, each with more glitter than Elton John’s glasses. Our table is next to another wine booth, this one featuring wine from Chile. On our other side has a booth tasting rum. So far we have had a good trade going between their products and our New Zealand wines. Nearby is a food booth selling chocolate, which goes well with our wonderful red wine and a delicious sparkling muscat we have. (Soljans Hawk’s Bay Merlot/Cab/Malbec and Fusion Sparkling Muscat. Now if this sounds like I’m trying to promote the wine it is because, frankly, I am).

Since this is a rather expensive hotel (and at $600.00 per night one would think they would offer free Internet service but they don’t), the guests sampling the wine are usually well dressed. For example the t-shirts worn are very trendy, name brand shirts costing more than my suit. Many ladies wear dresses with a tall price tag but short on length. Believe me I have a tough job. I have to concentrate on talking about the wine I’m pouring while ignoring the passing the scenery. Sometimes my eyes start to hurt as I try to look in two different directions at the same time.

Anyway, it is time for me to get ready for the next session of sampling wine.
I hope your weekend was as much fun as mine.