Monday, 31 December 2007
I'm putting this together in a lull in the afternoon before the lovely sushi dinner we have planned. We'll later head into beautiful downtown Fergus for some first night celebrations. Things are a little upscale in Fergus this New Year's Eve. 2008 is the 175th Anniversary of the town. We'll head out and frolic until the kids are too tired, then head home. If I have some time between then and midnight I'll add to this posting. If not, you'll hear from me next year...
Thursday, 27 December 2007
There have been moments of disillusionment regarding the Display job. Things are far more political than I'd been led to believe. There are different stories from different places changing from day to day, minute to minute. I had hoped (naively perhaps?) that a smaller, privately run company where I answer only to the president would be devoid of the pitfalls of my previous employer, but I guess human nature is human nature where ever you go. I've been doing some soul searching over what I want my future to look like and whether this company can get me from point A to point B. The jury's still out, but they are closely scrutinizing the situation.
Writing has been sparse leading up to the Yuletide season but I did get in a few snatched hours going through Loremaster and skimming and re-reading The Platinum Ticket for future expansion.
Small Town Secrets continues to be difficult for me to write. I really like what I've written so far but the subject matter is ... well, it's unlike anything I've written before. It's very tough to get what I want to say out of my head, through the arm, out the pen and onto the sheet. Every so often everything will be right and I'll sweat out another page or two. It's tough going but I'm sure it's worth the effort.
I've been reading a lot. I finished Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman a few weeks back and found it an entertaining read. I just finished Tom Holt's Earth, Air, Fire and Custard. It had a real Terry Pratchett kind of feel to it, but with lots of references to Canada it pandered to that little insecurity that all Canadians have over the need to be mentioned and see anything concerning Canada in print. Bradbury Speaks was a collection of Ray Bradbury's essays that I quite enjoyed.
I am almost finished the novel, A Fold in the Tent of the Sky by Michael Hale. He's the guy who will be leading the writing workshop I will be attending in the New Year. I like the story and the character development. He wanders the banks of the good ol' stream of consciousness (which I dislike) and there are times when he dives right in and splashes around for pages on end with nary a verb to be seen. I know why he does it and it works to a degree but I'm of the school of thought that a sentence needs at minimum a noun and a verb. Period.
The lead up to Christmas was the usual hellish rush to get things done and put together before the joyous 25th descended like a hammerfall. With frayed nerves and tangled strings of lights everything came together as it always does in great part due to the unceasing efforts of my better half. She keeps it all focused and in line and even reminds me that it's supposed to be fun. Thanks, honey.
This year was a white Christmas, the whitest in years. On the 22nd, the weather grew mild enough that the Beynon family was able to give glorious birth to a bona fide person of snow (that's the term the Society for the Preservation of Persons of Snow would prefer you to use) right there in the side yard. He was tall and handsome and stood about six feet tall. That's him over there with your's truly, and the wee chilluns. The following day, unfortunately, it rained. Our sweet person of snow leaned forward and eventually, horrifically, his head tumbled to the ground. My son tells everyone with glee, "We have a headless snowman in our yard!" Forgive his political incorrectness, he's only four. Today, another mild day, I gathered his teeth, his carrot nose, his pipe, buttons and scarf. His eyes are buried somewhere and his hat is frozen to the ground. If tomorrow is mild, and the good people at the Weather Network say "yea", I will attempt to rebuild him, better than he was before.
Santa was good to everyone. I had a very Cormack McCarthy Christmas. I have heard recently from a few sources that I trust that he's an author well worth reading. The family got me his first book (somehow it got mysteriously ordered at our local bookstore just in time for Christmas), The Orchard Keeper. I also received The Road and No Country for Old Men. I've started with the Orchard Keeper and am really enjoying it so far.
Well, it's getting late and I need to be getting on to other things. A belated Happy Christmas to all and I'll leave you with this image of my 69 year old neighbour to remind us all what the holidays are really all about.
Merry Christmas to all and the Best of the Holidays - I'll be back before the New Year with another post.
Friday, 7 December 2007
Life will always deal me distractions so I need a constructive way to force myself into a set schedule for writing. I know myself well enough to know that in order to do that I need real deadlines, sooooo...
I have decided to sign up for a fiction writing workshop with the Elora Centre for the Arts.
The workshop is held weekly for a couple of hours every Thursday night for 10 weeks. There are assignments and exercises due each week so getting into a writing schedule will be necessary. The challenge for me will be to stick with it and build upon it. The instructer looks kind of cool, too. His name is Micheal Hale and he had a novel published back in 1999 called A Fold in the Tent of the Sky. The book is apparently about a bunch of psychics, time travel and a psychopath...all good fun for girls and boys. I'll have to visit the library before classes start in January.
It will be fun to get out and meeting new people and who knows, I might actually learn something in the bargain.
Friday, 23 November 2007
Anyway - I love dinosaurs. Always have. As a wee lad I used to model them from plasticine. Everyone loved the brontosaurus (I guess they're known as brachiosaurus now) and of course tyrannosaurus rex (after all, he was the king) and good ol' stegasaurus with the decorative fashion statement plates. Lower on the list was my all time favourite dinosaur - triceratops.
I think the reason I loved the triceratops was a story I heard as a little kid about some t-rex and triceratops fossils found locked together in mortal combat. I was fascinated by the idea that the gentle, yet tank-like herbivore was able to defend himself against the mightiest predator ever to walk the earth. For me, they have always stood as a symbol of the quiet gentle giant who wants to make his way in the world and just wants to be left alone. But God (threw that one in there for you Creationists...) help the creature that disturbs his peace. They are the personification of physical toughness.
Well, imagine my delight this week when this not so little guy went on display. His name is Eotriceratops xerinsularis and he was discovered in the badlands of Alberta. That's right - this bigger, tougher ancestor of the triceratops I grew up with as a kid was Canadian. I'm thinking I'll have to make up a story for the kids tonight with Xerin the Eotriceratops front and centre.
Wednesday, 21 November 2007
Exactly one year ago today my former employer of 16 years called me into a boardroom and informed me that my services would no longer be needed. It was this catalyst that sent me on a whole new path in my life. It prompted me to re-evaluate those things in my life I deem important. It prodded me to take up the pen again after far to many years away. The taxi ride gave birth to a short story - The Long Ride Home.
One year ago today, with a without-cause dismissal, my old life ended and a new one began - a much better life in every way. Throughout the day I had been musing about the strange turns and happenings that life tosses at us and how lucky I am for all the things I have.
When I got home tonight the little red light was flashing on the answering machine. I pressed the button and listened to a message from the head of the payroll department of my former employer. It was a request that I give her a call as soon as possible. One year to the day of my unwarranted firing my former employer wanted me to call them?!?
Well, the call was from Montreal so I girded myself for an automated phone message system - in French no less! After some deft bashing of buttons I got through to her.
"Good evening, Mr. Baynun (never fails, it's always mispronounced) I am afraid I have some bad news for you." she said.
"How on earth could you have bad news for me," I replied and I'm sure she could hear the grin on my face, "I no longer work for you."
"Well, do you remember the lump sum settlement you took in February of this year."
"Of course I do"
"Well, there was an extra pay added to that sum that was paid out to you."
"Gee," I said, the smile widening, "That sounds like your mistake."
"Yes, Mr Baynun, it was our mistake."
"I fail to see what this has to do with me."
"Well, you should never have been paid for that extra pay period. We need to reconcile."
"Once again - your mistake. I fail to see what this has to do with me."
"Well, you weren't owned those monies."
"We're going in circles here. I really think you need to put together a nice legal document and send it to me."
She agreed and we said goodbye. I find it amusing that nowhere in our conversation did she actually come out and say that she expected me to pay the money back. Good thing, too, because I'm pretty sure you can guess the odds of that happening.
The thing that got me was the gall. I had spent 16 years with this company. When I was dismissed I was their top producing sales rep for my division. The settlement, the pension and everything else are all history. It is a closed book as far as I'm concerned then out of the blue - one year to the day of my firing - some bean counter in Montreal realizes they made a mistake eight fucking months ago and feels that it's cricket to come a-calling?!? Suck it up and write it off because I'm telling you, if they want that money they can talk to my estate because as long as I draw breath that company will not see one red cent from my pocket!!!
It's all really very funny. I look forward to her legal document...
Sunday, 18 November 2007
Work has been occupying my time, but I'm also a member of the local Heritage Committee. Our job is to research and preserve those things in our community of architectural, historical or cultural significance. It is an advisory committee to the Municipality and it is a great insight into local politics and the unique history of the little hunk of the world I've chosen to call home. With work, the Heritage Committee, playing with the kids and writing, it makes for a busy life.
I've also enlisted the aid of the lovely Mavis Beacon to teach me how to type. Retraining the fingers is a hard job, but I'm learning. Still, when I want to type fast I'm still using hunt and peck...It'll come.
Anyway, it has been a week of parent-teacher interviews (the kids are doing really, really well) and playing with power tools (the 18 volt battery packs make you feel like some kind of handy god). Life is good and I've no complaints.
I hear little feet upstairs - time for breakfast.
Monday, 12 November 2007
The one day event I attended made approximately $130,000 that will go toward Survival Kits (a duffel bag filled with things like sleeping bags, toiletries, some food items, clothing, candles etc) and various relief agencies in the Greater Toronto Area. The charity has about an 85% throughput so donations aren't going into huge administration. I encourage you to follow the link and check them out.
While at the event I made some bids on some silent auction items - more to run up the bids than to actually win. I bid on this Ryobi One+ system of 18 volt power tools - again, trying to run up the bids. Well, at the end of the night I won the set for $ 125.00 (it's actually worth about $390.00).
I took home my prize and the next morning my 4 year old son looked at the set with awe - the power tool gene is firmly planted on the y-chromosome, I'm convinced - and asked how soon he can use the reciprocating saw. My six year old daughter took one look at the set and said, "That's very nice, Daddy. I'm pleased for you. Now, I guess there's no excuse for you not to finish the doll house you started for my Polly Pockets." I've got some work to do, I suppose...
In the writing world I'm starting to find something like a routine. Small Town Secrets is in the process of being very much rewritten into a much better story. Notes on the Platinum Ticket and plans for fleshing it out continue. Over Christmas (hey, it's a comin') I am planning to begin an overhaul on Loremaster and finally submit it.
I also have a number of new ideas germinating and I am scribbling outlines and ideas as they come. All that and a doll house to build, too! Ambitious plans to be sure and we'll see where those plans take me...
Sunday, 4 November 2007
In the fullness of time it will become better organized, but for now, I'm making this up as I go along. Just click on the Link to Dave Beynon's Fiction Notebook and you will be taken to a new page that currently links to some of my short stories.
Enjoy and please let me know what you think.
Friday, 26 October 2007
I am not seeing Lear this time. The Merchant of Venice is on the playbill this time. Not my favourite, but still up there in the pantheon of Dramatic Delight. I haven't been to Stratford to see a play for many a year and I'm looking forward to the magic of the stage. Reviews haven't been great, but I'm fairly light on criticism when it comes to live theatre - it takes iron nerves to mount any stage for a dramatic performance and it has to be pretty shitty acting for me to say boo.
In other news, I am dedicating several hours over the weekend to put a couple of projects to bed. I will be putting together a short story of the CBC Literary Awards. I will also be finishing Small Town Secrets. I'm not entirely sure where to market it but I really like the story.
I've put some minimal notes on The Platinum Ticket and the rewrite required there but no actual fleshing out has begun.
I'm discovering that having the discipline to write has been lacking over the last weeks and I'm going to need to pull it together. The demands of the new job are only going to increase, so I've got to build writing into a solid routine now while I can. It won't be easy, but it needs to be done...
Monday, 15 October 2007
I have been repeatedly assured by those who have read The Platinum Ticket that it is a fine piece of fiction...and I'm pretty sure it is too, so I do think it is certainly worth the effort to build upon the root story.
I recently reconnected with an old high-school chum through Facebook - yes, I have a Facebook account - I know, I know - I'm too old and too grey but they say everyone's welcome and there's a lot of us over 40 folks sitting in our rockers typing away, I'll have you know... Anyway, this old friend reminded me of a road trip we once made in a convertible VW Bug with a shitty European heater in the dead of winter that I'm thinking is uniquely Canadian enough for the CBC Literary Awards. I'll have to get it on paper to see. Thanks for jogging the memory, Brett.
Well, tonight is the first night of the indoor soccer season for the young lad so I must be off.
Monday, 1 October 2007
What I would really like to know is who sneaks into the house and slips the kids the cocaine. Seriously, one second everything will be fine. Everyone will be full of love and happiness and then something happens and all hell lets loose.
Now I worked extra hard this weekend monitoring for the early signs of escalation and headed each potential derailer of harmony off at the pass but I was doomed to fail from the start. There's two of them and even though I'm the adult...they're smarter than me.
All told, there was no blood and only some tears and most of those were shed by me late in the day when I had finally cajoled, bargained and sang the kids to sleep.
When my wife came home on Sunday afternoon two lightning streaks swept by me to greet her. You'd have thought I'd had them in shackles from their reaction. I was equally glad to see her, though she did show up just as Mike Weir and Tiger Woods were closing in on the fifteenth hole of the President's Cup and thus had to wait for her hug.
Last night after the children were asleep I had to retreat for about an hour and a half to the basement to finish polishing The Platinum Ticket for submission to Jim Baen's Universe. I had forgotten about the September 30th deadline until earlier in the day. Fortunately I was able to tweak a few parts that needed some attention and get it submitted. Now the waiting game begins.
My wife has lent the manuscript for Patriot to a few of her colleagues at work and so far all of the feedback has been very positive. I've let a few friends take a gander at it as well and it has been received with some enthusiasm. Currently the manuscript stands at 112 pages - a typical length for an entry in the 3 Day Novel Contest - but Patriot could easily be fleshed out to full novel length without losing any of the spirit of the story.
Sunday, 23 September 2007
I can't express how satisfying it is to have a boss who supports you and wants nothing more than for you to succeed. I spent too many years working for someone who didn't understand that if I was successful, so was he. Too many years wasted working for someone too thick to realize that when you're selling a good or service your customers are essential and need to be treated accordingly, not as a nuisance that must be endured.
My new boss built this company and knows firsthand that if I do well, he does well. He has said to me, "Any thing you need - any tools you require - any resources you have to call upon to be successful - just let me know."
A friend of mine - Diane - said, "Cool, you're working for Hank Scorpio!"
Hank Scorpio is the guy on the right. (I guess that kinda makes me the guy on the left, huh?) In case you don't know him, Hank Scorpio is the Bondesque, kind-hearted super villain who hired Homer to help with his world domination scheme. Scorpio's organization boasted full dental and health benefits, profit sharing, stock options and 3 weeks paid vacation to start. Hank rewarded results. "Thanks, Homer. Good job. When you get home tonight you'll have an addition on your house." That's the kind of thing Hank Scorpio throws out for a little effort.
Now I'm not saying I'll be getting the Denver Broncos as a bonus (Homer did, though he complained they weren't the Dallas Cowboys), but real rewards for real results sounds pretty good to me.
Writing has not be zipping along so well. I have started to rewrite Small Town Secrets, decided to start over with the new handwritten first-draft thing. I also just looked at the date and I need to polish The Platinum Ticket a bit for submission to Jim Baen's Universe before the end of the month.
I received a notification from the 3 Day Novel Contest informing me that the manuscript for Patriot was received. Now I just need to wait until January to see how I fare.
Friday, 14 September 2007
After the 3 Day Novel Contest I need to admit that I needed a break. I haven't really worked writing into my daily routine, yet and I think I know why. During the Labour Day weekend I managed an output of forty hand-written pages per day. Now, I know I can't keep a sustained 40 pages per day, but I find that handwriting goes a lot faster for me than typing - I'm a hunter and pecker, so the pen and paper thing works out fairly well for me.
I've decided to go back to writing my 1st drafts by hand. I feel it will encourage me to write on a daily basis. Handwriting is also more satisfying, somehow.
When you type in the computer, sure you can see the word count and scroll down the pages, but when you're writing by hand it's truly physical. The words spill out of the pen and you can track your progress as your hand works across the page.
Currently I am revamping The Platinum Ticket for Jim Baen's Universe, an online Sci-fi and fantasy magazine.
With my decision to write my 1st drafts by hand Small Town Secrets and Nothing's Made to Last should progress nicely.
Wednesday, 5 September 2007
On Saturday I read an article in the Globe and Mail about the decision to transport undetonated explosives from Northern Toronto right down to the Leslie Street Spit to blow them up. Traffic was shut down while the convoy traveled through the heart of Toronto. The even had to chase Audubon Society Scientists off the spit so they could blow the things up. In grumpy old man fashion, I wrote a letter to the editor.
I've gotta get a rocker for the front porch...
In other news I mailed off my 3 Day Novel Entry, Patriot , today. I read it over last night and other than a few typing errorz it's really quite good (if I do say so myself). I will have to wait until January 2008 to find out if it wins.
Yesterday I was suffering from withdrawal from all the caffeine and sugar I consumed to keep me away long enough to scribble out 120 handwritten pages over the weekend. Tons of thanks to my lovely missus for typing the manuscript for me and for keeping the kids corralled for the weekend.
Tuesday, 4 September 2007
Well, I'm done with the 3 Day Novel Contest for another year. I finished Patriot around 9:30 last night when I wrote "The End" on my 120th handwritten page. I have an aching back, a blister on my thumb, a callus on the side of my index finger where I nest the pen. Speaking of pens, I went through three brand new ones over the weekend, the last one dying as I had only about 200 words left in the story.
Anyway, it is done. It's pretty rough but I think it's good. I had only a couple of hours to edit but overall I think it flows well and tells a coherent story. There are a couple of scenes I'm particularly proud of.
I dropped the manuscript off to be printed. I've come to the realization that with printer ink the cost of high grade cocaine, for anything over thirty pages it's cheaper to go to a printer. I'm getting one spiral bound for me to edit at my leisure and another standard manuscript format to be mailed into the contest.
To anyone reading who might have taken part over the weekend - congratulations, I know it's not easy. Anyone interested in learning more about the 3 Day Novel Contest can follow the link.
Saturday, 1 September 2007
In preparation I bought a couple of cans of Red Bull. I haven't had Red Bull for almost twenty years. The last time was in Salzberg, Austria in a dark techno-punk bar drinking with the locals. There's a whole story there but time I write here is time I'm not spending on the novel.
I am doing the 3Day novel writing longhand as my typing is the good old hunt and peck style popular among men my age. When I was in highschool they offered typing but that was something girls took. Never did we imagine that one day it would be a vital skill for talking to your computer.
So far I have 12 solid handwritten pages. I like the story so far but it's damn early in the morning and I needs some rest.
To bed with me now....
Friday, 31 August 2007
Tonight at midnight I embark on the 3 Day Novel Contest. I entered last year and came up with the Platinum Ticket and by all accounts from those who have read it, the thing's pretty good. Aliens, time travel and Adolf Hitler all in one neat tight package.
This weekend's story will prove to be a little different. I will begin at midnight and by Monday at midnight I will need to be finished. I'll post throughout the weekend and let you know my progress.
Wish me luck...
Wednesday, 29 August 2007
Here at the Beynon homestead we too are watching the summer wind down. The missus is on vacation and the kids are eager to start school. The girl, 6 years old, is looking forward to entering grade 2 and the wee lad, 4, can't wait for his first taste of junior Kindergarten. Yesterday we spent some time at African Lion Safari. I know that zoos of any kind are generally frowned upon by PETA and like-minded groups but I don't see how anyone could criticize the work they do at this place. The enclosures are mammoth(hundreds of acres) and they boast some of the most successful breeding programs in the world.
Over the past week I've been looking at building solid writing time into the schedule. Increasingly difficult. Three things on the go right now - Loremaster (kind of on the back burner) - reworking The Platinum Ticket (for Jim Baen's Universe - needs to be submitted before Sept 30) - and finally the short story, Small Town Secrets. I'd hoped to be finished this one by now, but no luck. I'll keep plugging away and have it done soon.
Friday, 24 August 2007
Writing has been sparse but as I develop my new routine I will absolutely build daily writing into the mix. My short story, Small Town Secrets, is coming along fine and should be finished this weekend. I have no idea of where I want to market it, but I'll find a home for it.
The Platinum Ticket, until recently on submission at Analog, came back with a polite form letter from Azimov's Magazine of Science Fiction. Looking at the websites they're both divisions of Dell Magazines. It appears that the editor at Analog passed the manuscript along to the good people at Azimov's. Two rejections for the price of one - what value!!! I'll polish it a bit and submit to Jim Baen's Universe.
Loremaster will be done soon. Once done, it's off to DAW.
Finally, I've mailed off my registration for the 3 Day novel contest. I'll be in the basement plodding away throughout the labour day weekend.
One last thing - I really need to change the Currently Reading section. Those books are long done. I'll do that later today and perhaps share my thought on what I've read and what I'm reading now.
Tuesday, 14 August 2007
In the works are a short-story I feel I'm going to end up being very proud of and I'll need to fill out and submit a form for this year's 3 Day Novel Contest. This is the 30th year for the contest and last year produced a very crisp novella, The Platinum Ticket (currently on submission to Analog Magazine). I'm toying with two ideas for this year's contest. The basic idea is to write a short novel between midnight Friday and midnight Monday over Labour Day Weekend. It was a thrill last year so I'm doing it again.
A little news on the employment front...I have signed on to sell packaging once again. This time I have attached myself to a small, independent organization that values people and results, everything my former workplace did not. The people are great, there's lots of support and these guys understand the importance of properly servicing your customers. I'm looking forward to my partnership with them.
Though I will be selling packaging, I have discovered (or rediscovered) how much I love writing and have built time into each day to continue my various projects. There are a lot of great stories rattling around inside this old head and I'm determined to get them out.
Thursday, 9 August 2007
A great time up North with only a smattering of familial bickering. Everyone survived the ordeal and we're all the better for it. Actually, it was great. We swam in Lake Huron and Big Basswood Lake pretty much ever day. We had campfires and there were sing-a-longs with the in-laws (I had quite enough of those for a while). We ate too many hotdogs and if I see another hamburger in the next month it'll be too soon.
Read the latest Harry Potter book and it was pretty much what I expected. I am really enjoying The Lizard Cage by Karen Connelly. It's everything you'd want in a Burmese Prison story and much, much more.
While on Vacation I discovered a few things that need fixing in Loremaster so the submission to DAW will need to wait for a few days.
There's a pile more stuff to add but the lawn needs cutting, the garden needs weeding and there's a short story in my head just aching to get out.
Friday, 27 July 2007
Today I paid a visit to my local printer and had the manuscript printed in two formats. One was double-spaced, single-sided for submission. The other was reduced to 9pt font, single-spaced, double-sided and spiral bound for me to read and for additional proofing.
The manuscript for submission will be sent to DAW Books on the morning of August 9th.
August 9th??? Why wait?
Well, the family and I are going on vacation. We're heading up to the wilds on Northern Ontario for some much needed rest and relaxation. We'll be camping and swimming and fishing and maybe, if I'm especially lucky, I might get some golf played, as well.
Sunday, 15 July 2007
Loremaster rewrite continues to plod along.
I'm still waiting to hear from Analog magazine about The Platinum Ticket - it was submitted about 5 weeks ago so I should hear soon.
Here's a bit of fun. Visited the website for the upcoming Simpsons movie. Once there you can build your own Simpsons avatar. This is mine. His name is Mr. Radium Ion. Go make your own.
That's about it for now. I have some stuff going on that I can't talk about just yet but I'll keep you posted on any developments.
Wednesday, 11 July 2007
In other news, I submitted a story for the essay column in the Life section of the Globe and Mail, Canada's National Newspaper. With the 20th anniversary of the introduction of the dollar coin I decided to share my first encounter with the eleven-sided seven gram hunk of coinage.
A while back I mentioned I was diagnosed with sleep apnea. I have been receiving treatment via something called a CPAP machine. Continuous Positive Airway Pressure keeps the soft tissue in the back of the throat from collapsing and blocking the airway. Using a little machine and some great bondage head-gear my snoring is a thing of the past and I am actually beginning to notice increased energy and alertness. Here's a picture of the mask - very sexy...and it keeps me breathing.
We finally had a break in the weather. Brief showers came as a welcome relief from the near-drought we have been experiencing. Everything is greening up a bit but we could use a lot more rain. The forecast calls for more rain late tomorrow or Friday. I'm thinking I'll chance cutting my ratty lawn - grass hasn't been growing but weeds are doing just fine thank-you - and see what happens.
Anyway, an episode of Deadwood - Season Three awaits.
Saturday, 7 July 2007
We decided to check out the new Disney/Pixar treat, Ratatouille.
It really was a treat. Of all the great movies Pixar has put out - and there have been a few - this one is tops. The animation is superb. The story is heart-touching and works on so many levels. The timing and humour are spot on. Highly, highly recommended.
Earlier in the day, it was my turn to take the aforementioned 4 year old to his weekly soccer game. We were having a great time until he needed to go pee. In my town, Fergus, we have an A-1 volunteer soccer program. The coaches are great and the playing field is well cared for. There is one issue - toilet facilities.
There are 2 municipal buildings adjacent to the field - a seniors' centre and an information centre. Both have lovely, 21st century bathroom facilities - I know this first hand. Both, unfortunately, are locked on Saturdays. Hundreds of little soccer players and their parents, grandparents etc need to make due with a pair of chemical toilets. That's right, folks, 2 johnnies on the spot for literally hundreds of bladders. The complicating factor today is that after making the frenzied trek to the port-a-potties my son and I discovered that some jokers had decided to tip them over last night.
What's a dad to do. We found a shrub that looked like it could use a little moisture and the boy began to irrigate. At that moment someone's grandma came by and, with a look of shock and disgust, said, "That boy can't pee here!" As my son packed away his man-tackle, I looked the old bird in the eye and said, "Just did, lady. If you have a problem I suggest you and the other old folks open up your friggin' Seniors' Centre. Jesus, lady - I figured if anyone was sympathetic about bathroom emergencies it would be someone in their golden years. That is why they call them the golden years, isn't it?"
Thank god the kid didn't need to take a dump!
Tuesday, 3 July 2007
Another thing that didn't get done over the weekend was gardening. Normally, a long weekend would be spent cutting grass, weeding beds and maybe working on the odd woodworking project but it has been so dry here lately I'm actually afraid to do anything but water. The forecast calls for rain tomorrow, but I'll believe that when I see it.
Over the last week I've been working outside. I've retreated to the backyard with the laptop to go through Loremaster line by line, word by word. I guess it was last Friday that I first met my new friend. I was typing away, wearing a t-shirt, shorts and sandals, when I heard a scuttling noise to my right. It seemed to come from a slightly overgrown flowerbed. I glanced over but quickly dismissed it and got back to work. The next thing I knew I heard the scuttling again but then something scurried over my sandal and bare foot. I screamed like a little girl and nearly shat myself. (I find it wonderful that Blogger's automatic spell checker doesn't take issue with "shat")
After I regained my composure I saw that the culprit was a very cheeky chipmunk.
Since Friday he has made daily visits and yesterday the kids and I fed him peanuts. Today he showed up less than three feet from me and seem to shrug his little shoulders as if to say, "Hey man, where's my peanut?"
Of course I went in the house and got him one.
On an added note - went to see Fantastic Four - Rise of the Silver Surfer. If you're thinking of going - don't bother. I went really wanting to enjoy it but the timing was bad (poor editing, perhaps) - there was no chemistry between the actors and the story, while having a lot of potential, fell flat. There was even something weird going on with Jessica Alba's make-up. If the makeup team was going for peroxide-blond California Tan-in-a-bottle whore, then they succeeded in spades. It wasn't completely bad. Special effects were pretty good. The reason to rent it when it comes to video is the best Stan Lee cameo yet.
Thursday, 28 June 2007
Yesterday I submitted my entry for the Bridport Prize, one of the UK's most prestigious writing competitions. I actually submitted two entries. Since the competition is British I was able to submit my entries electronically which is a huge advantage for someone on this side of the pond.
My entry into the short story competition was From My Father's Hands. This story was tough because it is fairly autobiographical and there were lingering issues with my father's death that needed to be dealt with. In the end, after a lot of reflection and rewriting and honesty, I think I dealt with those issues rather well.
My other entry was a poem. That's right - a poem. Now, Dave doesn't write much poetry, but after listening to Mike Freeman at the recent Elora Writer's Festival and reading his collection of poetry, Cigarette Salad, I have rethought my position on poetry.
I looked at the Bridport categories and decided I should enter something into the poetry side of the competition. I retreated to the basement and blew the dust off a old notebook that has followed me around since my University days. Most of the stuff in there stems from an angst-filled, black turtle neck time of my life(older woman, love/lust confusion, a transatlantic separation etc) and is utter crap ie. the reason I stopped writing poetry in the first place. There was more pap in that notebook than in a gynecologist's waiting room.
Amid the angst - riddled scribbling's I found a single gem. Yesterday I polished that gem a bit, spat on it, rubbed it on my sleeve, then sent it out into the world. The poem's name is Morning Walk and I think it's kinda okay.
The Loremaster revision is going well. Hopefully it will be done and polished before the end of next week. I'm very pleased with the editing and fleshing out of characters and situations. The rewrite has added a lot to the quality of the story and I want to thank Bruce and Roy for their great help and insights.
That's about it for today. I'll be changing the "What I'm Reading" section later today and I might add a little review of the books I've recently finished.
Sunday, 24 June 2007
My wife bought some tickets to support the Shriner's Hospital and the great work they do with kids all around the world. I kept telling myself I could do it but as I closed in on the big-top all of the psychological gauze came unraveled.
Let me explain.
When I was a kid there were still traveling carnivals and circuses that wound their ways across southern Ontario. Whenever one stopped in the little town closest to where I lived it was a big deal.
I was just a little kid and the circus was fascinating. There was the tent. There was a rickety midway with the usual assortment of deathtrap rides. There was brutally unhygienic cotton candy and the toothrottingest candy apples to be found anywhere.
There were the carnies. God in heaven, who doesn't love a carny? With their tobacco-scented breath, gold tooth smiles and squinty invitations to "go for a ride." With the friendly, unclean menace in their every word and action. With the 20 pack of smokes rolled into the sleeve of a stained t-shirt. How can you resist?
We did the midway thing, my dad lost the requisite amount of money at the fixed games of chance and then we went into the big-top for the show of shows. My palms are sweating as I type this...
The clowns were fun, I guess, in all their racist glory. The chick with the horses was fine. But then there came the act that still makes my blood run cold.
Tumbling, rolling and swinging into the centre circle came a half dozen fully dressed chimpanzees. Cute and non-threatening in their little suits and top hats and bowlers. One of them, I recall, was dressed like a lumberjack complete with a little hatchet.
They danced and played around a bit but they became progressively rowdy and non-responsive to their trainer. Eventually the trainer lost all control and that's when all hell let loose.
It all started with the chimp in the top hat. That I could swear on a stack of bibles. Let's call him "TopHat" - I do, in my nightmares. Well, the trainer had this cane that he would motion with and the chimps were, I suppose, meant to do something with the object he motioned toward. There was a a climbing apparatus that the trainer kept jabbing at with the cane and TopHat would take a step in the right direction but stopped. The Trainer jabbed again, with more force and intent. TopHat actually took a step back. Now the anger was showing on the trainer's face and he stabbed vigourously at the apparatus. At some point I think the trainer must have bared his teeth because TopHat, for lack of a better term, suddenly went apeshit.
Have I mentioned that TopHat had a walking stick of his own? He did. It was a short little hickory thing with a glass knob to hang onto and a little brass foot at the other end. Well, TopHat flung the thing with great force at the trainer and struck him squarely on the arm that held the cane.
There was a gasp from the audience, myself included, but we had no way of knowing that we hadn't seen nothin', yet.
TopHat bared his teeth and tossed away the top hat. He next pulled off the tuxedo jacket he wore, then pulled off his short trousers with the grey stripe that ran down the seam. Underneath he wore a diaper. This was the next to go, flung into the first row of the audience with more than a hint of disdain.
It was then that TopHat finally mounted the apparatus. He climbed swiftly to the highest point of the apparatus - one must assume it was his usual post - and, hanging by his hands, began to masturbate with those dexterous feet of his. Both feet, rubbing with the frenzied vigour of... well, of a furious chimp.
The other five chimps - all male - followed suit. Each tore off his costume and joined TopHat on that hanging pyramid in an orgy of primate self-gratification.
By this time a few more roustabouts had appeared and were, with no success, trying to coax the glaze-eyed chimps down before things got messy.
Guess what - they don't just fling poo.
That is the horrific little tale of why I don't go to circuses, but today's event passed without incident. My children had a great time but it was too hot so we left at the intermission. Who knows - maybe there were chimps slated for the second half.
Thursday, 21 June 2007
Lately I've taken up an exercise program that involves a stationary bike and some free weights and am basking in the Atlas-esque results. In the past I've read while on the bike. There's a problem with that, however. If I'm interested with what I'm reading I'll keep going forever, but if I find my mind wandering I'll bring a premature end to the work out.
In an effort toward consistency I've taken to watching TV shows on DVD. I hooked up the little DVD player we bought for long car trips into a dusty little corner of the basement close to the bike. I went through the first (and only) season of Firefly - a great series that was canceled and followed up with an equally entertaining feature length movie, Serenity.
I found that I was getting a decent workout at 45 minutes or so per episode, so I decided to go looking for another TV series. I thought about Carnivale, a lovely little freakshow (pun intended) of a series about a bunch of traveling performers in the Depression Era United States. I've seen the first season and loved it but my local video store doesn't have Season 2 on DVD.
I settled, instead on Deadwood. I'd heard about this series and have been pleasantly surprised. It's an old west epic with a great assortment of characters. The first thing that grabs you in the first four minutes of the series is the excessive use of foul language. It's like repeated slaps in the face to begin with but eventually you get used to it - I am refraining from the spousal abuse parallel that's running through my head right now.
The problem with such exposure to colourful language on a daily basis is that it takes increasing effort to keep that colour out of my everyday language. This morning for example - I had to get a few items from the grocery store so I went early on the false assumption that there would be no one there. I guess Thursday must be a senior discount day because there was a sea of grey hair. I gathered my items then checked the lines. Everything stretched on forever except for the express lane.
Dammit - I had nine items. Looking at the stuff in my basket I shelved an item then headed for the express lane. Just as I got there this old fella spryly slipped into the line ahead of me (He must have a new hip or something and was showing off for the other old folks - usually I'm faster by far than the old guys - especially since I've been working out).
I watched with growing ire as he unloaded 11 items onto the conveyor.
I grabbed him by the shoulder, spun him around and jabbed a finger into his chest.
"Listen here, you fuckin' cocksucker!" I said to him, then pointed to the sign. "It says '8 items or less'. Not nine fuckin' items. Not ten fuckin' items and most assuredly not eleven fuckin' items, you withered cocksuckin' whore-son!
"Now are you gonna shelf a couple of those fuckin' things or are we gonna have ourselves a goddamn situation over here?"
I'm not allowed in our local Zehrs any more.
Wednesday, 20 June 2007
The basement network computer is ticking along without locking up. All of the computers are networking nicely together, the printer is sharing and the internet is accessible to all. Technologically, everything is great.
The kids and the missus are downing liberal doses of antibiotics. I, once again, dodged the bullet.
The CPAP machine has been an experience. To treat my Apnea, air is forced through my nasal passage via a mask that looks a bit like a cyber-elephant's trunk. The forced air keeps the soft tissue of my throat from relaxing and blocking the airway. According to reliable sources, when I'm wearing that oh-so-attractive headgear, my snoring is a thing of the past. I haven't yet noticed the heightened energy and alertness that is supposed to follow but the literature says that usually takes about a month.
Working on Loremaster right now and have worked around something that needed fixing. I plan to have the complete re-write done by the end of June.
I need to polish From My Father's Hands a bit before submitting it for the Bridport Prize.
On the back burner right now is Nothing's Made to Last. That's unfortunate because the protagonist, Virgil Greene, is just about to have something very interesting happen to him, but I need to get Loremaster put to bed.
I just checked the time and I need to get my daughter corralled and off to school.
Wednesday, 13 June 2007
I haven't had a chance to get too much writing done. To begin with my newly restored computer ran fine...until Saturday morning. On Saturday i came down to the basement to check e-mail and lo and behold - a blank screen. Rebooted and the damn thing ran for about ten minutes then locked up tighter than my prom date's knees (you know who you are!).
Took it back Monday, begging them to just fix it.
Also throughout the weekend my daughter began to show signs of Strep infection. She's been home from school all week and MISERABLE! Man, oh man.
This evening we got the first signs that my son has Strep as well. Hooray!!
During the week I have managed a few pages on Nothing's Made to Last and have reworked a whopping whole chapter of Loremaster.
On the plus side I did get the computer back late Monday and after a little fiddling the network, printer and everything has been working ever since.
Thursday, 7 June 2007
We have a huge archive of digital photos as well as a bunch of film photo that the local photo processing centre put on disk for us before we got our digital camera. Well, I was copying pictures from when my daughter was about 6 months old (6 years ago) when something caught my eye.
There, right after a pic of my daughter holding a little plush toy, was a shot of a couple climbing a waterfall in what appears to be Mexico. It's a lovely, romantic setting but there's one small problem...it's not anyone I or my wife know!!!
What makes this story worth relating is that there was more than just one photo - in fact there are many. In a progression of photos that display a very nice resort, the couple - I'll assume they're newlyweds - are seen climbing the waterfall, swimming and standing in front of a large fountain. The guy actually pretends (let's hope) to take a leak in the fountain in another picture. All fun and games, right?
But then I came to the really interesting set of maybe four pics that got me laughing. In the first, our hero - the unknown groom - is lying in bed, still sleepy, with a plate of breakfast fruit balanced on his lap. The next shot is a little closer and the guy's awake now, all smiles and you can kind of see that there's not just fruit on that plate. There's something...well...something meaty. The next shot, closer still, makes it clear that there's sausage on the plate.
You guessed it - Man-sausage and lots of it. Yes, six years after the fact I discover that some minimum wage kid, probably with a degree in something or other by now, screwed up and tagged Fruitsaladman's Honeymoon Breakfast Plate photos onto the end of my roll of pictures.
Makes you wonder what the hell he ended up with???
Wednesday, 6 June 2007
By this afternoon they had replaced every fan in the damn machine, updated the memory and slid in a new video card and whadda ya know - it works. I also have a bitchin' new external hard-drive for backups - no more data loss for this guy.
Apart from the woes of technology I've been working on Nothing's Made to Last and things are moving in a slightly new direction. Not sure yet if I like where they're heading but I think I do.
Also, since my last post it was confirmed that I have moderately severe sleep apnea. What does that mean? Basically I stop breathing when I'm sleeping - a lot. On a randomly selected 3 minute section of my sleep readings I stopped breathing 4 times for a duration of about 30 seconds each. For two of the 3 minutes I wasn't breathing. Scary stuff, kiddies. Tomorrow I go off to get a CPAP machine to force my breathing to be more regular. I'll report back and maybe treat you to a picture.
Sunday, 3 June 2007
The event has been taking place since 1994 and this was our first opportunity to attend. It was a great way to spend the afternoon and will likely become an annual event for the Beynon household.
The winners were announced for the Writing Competition with entries from as far away as Tasmania. I entered my short story about the 1987 introduction of the Canadian one dollar coin entitled Change but, sadly, I was not one of the winners.
Oh, well. There's always next year...
Thursday, 31 May 2007
On another note my lovely wife and I will be attending the Elora Writers' Festival this weekend. I have a short story entered in the competition so let's keep our fingers crossed and I'll update on Monday.
Tomorrow I plan to get back to my science fiction novel in process - Nothing's Made to Last. Outline for revisions to Loremaster manuscript are probably in the works, as well.
Tuesday, 29 May 2007
Alas, the basement computer is...dead...
Our local computer guy did what he can but the hard drive is "totally pooched" as he put it. Fortunately most of the info is elsewhere and backed up but there are a few hundred photos and several documents that are gone. There is a chance that a data retrieval company could extract the data for six to eight hundred dollars.
I'll take more photos and recreate the documents.
Apart from chating with the computer guy I've spent the day recreating one of those documents. Fortunately I printed out the short story, From My Father's Hands for editing, otherwise it would have been lost. This is the story I plan to enter in the U.K.'s prestigious Bridport Prize.
In a way the recreated story is much better than the original. Maybe these things happen for a reason.
My advice for everyone today - no matter how friendly your computer seems, always back up your data.
Monday, 28 May 2007
I won't actually name my former employer but they are saddled with crippling debt acquired through rapid acquisitions, mergers and buyouts. We're talking third world banana republic debt here. Now there are just about a thousand creative and effective ways to service and eliminate debt without destroying the heart and soul of the company. Like a banana republic, my company decided to forgo creativity and bleed people.
The yes-men, toadies and sycophants are still there and if you are patient enough to navigate the poorly automated phone system you can leave a message for one of them that will likely go unreturned.
There are others still there, too. Good, decent people who might be too scared to move on, too comfortable to test the waters (must admit, 'til the axe fell I was one of these), too close to retirement to be bothered or just plain caught in the need to earn a mortgage payment with the belief that any job is a good job.
Anyone want some more sour grapes?
My job as a Specialty Graphics Account Executive entailed meeting with a variety of manufacturers (anything from beer, to batteries to petfood to boardgames) and determining their need for good lookin' boxes and displays.
The best part of the job was visiting different industries to see how stuff is made. Look at your disposable paper coffee cup. Ever wonder how they put that thing together? Of course not, but if you ever get the chance visit a paper cup factory and see how it's done. Shrink film - fascinating stuff. Petfood? Better have a strong stomach, but well worth the visit to see the tiny cans rattle by at just shy of the speed of light.
I got to meet new people every day from different departments of dozens of different companies. All of them interesting. Each with their own stories.
It was a fairly entrepreneurial job and should have been. I used to set my own hours - had a company car and other various perks that come with a job in sales. I started with excellent support staff. As the company debt grew and the need to service it became difficult the support required for me to do my job effectively was eroded as people were "restructured" out of corporate existence. As people were cut they were replaced with a bureaucratic nightmare of reporting and paperwork to keep the creditors happy. I understand the need for accurate reporting but needless reports and useless busy-work will choke a business to death as surely nepotism and corruption.
Did I just say nepotism and corruption? Thank god I didn't suggest that some people were getting promotions because they were sleeping with people in authority.
I am sure to draw upon my experiences of my former workplace as I grow my writing career. I've already done so with a short story entitled The Long Ride Home. It's a little story about the day I was fired and the hour and a half taxi ride from my office to my house. It has been entered in the Lorian Hemingway Short Story Competition. I'll let you know how it goes.
Anyway, all of that is the past. It's what's happening now that's important and now I need to get on with some writing...
Saturday, 26 May 2007
I walked in and met The Hatchetman.
He was actually a very nice man who looked like he'd rather be helping people. It was his job to tell me all about the restructuring plans that our company was going through and exactly how I didn't fit into them. Restructuring is just another way of saying that even though we say people are our most valuable resource they're actually as disposable as Kleenex if we can save a penny or two.
Well, a stack of legal documents and a $157.00 taxi ride (billed to my former company, of course) later found me on my doorstep in lovely Fergus. For the first time since I was twelve years old I found myself without a job.
So what's a guy to do when suddenly he finds himself without employment for the first time since...well, ever?
Go to Mexico, of course!
The trip had been planned for months but my company's timing was perfect. My old highschool buddy was getting married and he needed a best man.
There I was at the Paraiso Maya resort near Playa Del Carmen in Mexico sitting on the beach, drinking a frozen beverage looking at my wife and kids. It was then that after years of routine, I woke up.
For years and years I had been promising myself that should I ever find a surplus of time I would commit seriously to one of my life's great passions - writing. I had an epic fantasy novel hanging around my neck like an albatross but with a sales job that demanded way too much time and a young family I could never finish the damn thing.
When we returned home finishing that book became priority one.
The great thing about being fired without cause is that the employer needs to make nice with the money. My severance package was generous enough that they knew I wouldn't be throwing up too much of a stink. It was also generous enough that my former employers were, in essence, paying me to finish my novel.
Ahhh... I like my beer cold, my steak medium-rare and my justice poetic.