The Platinum Ticket by David Beynon

The Platinum Ticket by David Beynon
Shortlisted for The Terry Pratchett Anywhere But Here, Anywhen But Now First Novel Prize

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

It's starting to look a lot like...



The atmopsphere is very festive.  A pair of kids are eager for Santa's annual visit and are currently bouncing off the walls.  The tree is lit and decorated and a multitude of gifts are crammed beneath.  In the spirit of the season we are snowed under.
Last night I took Willow out for her midnight constitutional and snapped a few pictures.

I actually find myself not minding the snow...too much. 
 This morning my wife and I were shovelling out when the most musical Christmas noise imaginable drifted on the wind...our neighbour with his borrowed snowblower heading across the road to clear the end of our plowed-in driveway.  Ahhhh - like a choir of angels!

I've been under the weather this past week or so.  Unfortunately Gerry won't be done in time but I plan to secretly work on it while we visit the in-laws over the Holidays.

We have been entertaining visitors - friends from Vancouver - my mother before she left to spend Christmas with my sister in Newfoundland - and I even had a nice little chat with the local Jehova's Witness guy before wishing him a
 Merry Christmas and sending him on his way.

As the holiday descends I, Santalike, am making a list.  I currently have nine items on submission with various publications.  I am in the midst of preparing an application for an MFA Creative Writing 
program.  I have several stories in different degrees of completedness that will need to find homes in the New Year AND I have two kids, a dog and a wonderful, patient wife who all need some extra special attention at this time of year.










Merry Christmas to all.

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Here There Be Giants!

It has been a while since the last post but I haven't been idle. I'm continuing to chip away at Root of Evil and revisiting The Witch every now and again but for the past few days I've had something spinning in my head that needs now to get down on paper.

Years ago, when my daughter was a very little girl, I was about to read from one of her story books at bed time when she asked, "No, Daddy. Tonight I want a made up story." I was surprised how easily a story gelled in my mind and how effortlessly it spilled from my lips. That story was Gerry the Giant and for the past few years I have been promising to write it for my daughter but I just couldn't find the right beginning.

Well, yesterday, just as Root of Evil was about to take a turn for the grisly, those thoughts that have been rattling around suddenly fell together. I am happy to say that Gerry (the new title of the story) is off to a strong start and with any luck will be ready to present to my target audience by Christmas or, at least, by her birthday.

Time to get back to Gerry.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Well, it's here...

Winter arrived on the weekend blanketing my part of the world in about 4 inches of snow.

There was a time that this first real snowfall would bring tears to my eyes - and not tears of joy either. I used to have to drive at least 250 kms each and every day and white knuckled winter driving that kind of distance slants a fella's perspective on this whole winter thing.

Two things have changed - I no longer need to drive in crappy weather AND I have kids. Having kids is the big thing. They reintroduce you to winter and all the fun things that are just waiting out there for the properly bundled person.









I can now appreciate something like this...










And especially something like this...












Winter's a long old haul...you've gotta make the best of it.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Lest We Forget


This morning I will be travelling to my kids' school at around 10:35 to watch the Remembrance Day Ceremonies. Today my son's class will be performing All You Need is Love before the 2 minutes of silence.


This poster is from the Veteran's Affairs website and I encourage a visit. I am currently working on some background for the main character in my story Old Timer. He served in the Korean War and the website is a wealth of facts about the war but what really interests me are the personal accounts peppered throughout from the soldiers who were there.

On a day like today it does us all good to spend a few minutes reflecting on everything we've got and the price tag attached.

Monday, 10 November 2008

Bonfires, Poetry and Fireworks

A lot has happened since my last posting.

Let's see...

Hallowe'en was a joy as always. It's my favourite holiday and always has been. Unfortunately our street is one of the oldest in town with large spacious lots so the number of steps between houses create a poor distance to candy ratio for the trick and treaters. We got about twenty or twenty five visitors before the older kids started showing up in their teenager costumes.

I submitted a collection of poems - yes, poems - to the CBC Literary awards collected under the title Sign Post Deep in Snow. I've never really been much of a poem writer but I am pleased with wjat I came up with. Now it's wait and see.

During the weekend to family attended a Guy Fawkes celebration a few days late hosted each year by some ex-pat brits we know. There was of course a bonfire and fireworks - our host told me that the fireworks were technically illegal as Victoria Day and Canada Day are the only two days you can lauch fireworks in Canada without a permit (don't know if this is true or not but I'll take the word of the guy with the lighter and mittful of explosives). The location makes the annual bonfire an event to be attended. The house is large and was built for entertaining. It is litterally a stones throw from a small lake (more of a pond really - you can walk around it in ten minutes) with a cleared torchlit path around it. The fireworks were set off over the water so you got the double effect of the reflection. The kids loved it. When we got home we even got a chance to catch a bit of V for Vendetta before retiring to bed.

Currently I am working on finishing Root of Evil - before returning to The Witch.

Friday, 31 October 2008

Happy Hallowe'en!




It's that time of year again!

All the ghouls and ghosties and witches and princesses and superheroes and werewolves walk the earth tonight.

It's a funny night for parenting. Consider - we all, as parents, spend a considerable amount of time teaching our children the perils of taking candy from strangers and then for one night only we throw that all out the window and encourage it. Guess that just adds to the scariness of the night!

I have finished my collection of winter related poems and submitted for the CBC Literary Awards (deadline is tomorrow). Now I can move back to the scary story I was working on - kind of fitting, this being Hallowe'en and all.

Have a safe and scary day!

Monday, 27 October 2008

Holy Crap!!! I'm writing poetry today!!!

It's true!

Last week I was reading over one of my posts and it struck me as ever so slightly poetic. I cleaned it up a bit and what you know? It really was a poem.

After that I wrote another and today I find myself struggling with yet another poem. All of them share a common element and so I've decided to keep plugging away and write a few more to enter into CBCs annual literary awards.

A common element they share is snow or wintertime. I know it's hardly original but for the CBC awards the more Canadian the better. I haven't yet written anything about lesbian Inuit heroine-using interpretive dancers - I don't know if it needs to be that Canadian - but hey, the day is still young.

In other news, the Old Timer story that I was pretty sure had found a home was very kindly and apologetically rejected over the weekend. The publication where I submitted Old Timer is moving to a shorter fiction format. They now have a firm 5000 word limit, with preference for stories between 3 - 4000 words. Old Timer, at 6700 words, was just too much for them to accommodate. I have today submitted it to a different market where I am certain it will find a home.

The Witch, is brewing. I've put that story on hold for a little while so that the elements can simmer while I work on something else. The something else is another horror story told from a unique point of view. I also have something else rattling around in my head about a demon and a glassblower. Should be fun.

Thursday, 16 October 2008

Just plain scary...

Yesterday I posted some great pictures of a spooky moon and a ghost that seems to be looming over my son. Today I thought I would post something truly terrifying.


The photo below was recovered by my friend Stuart while going through old pictures. I am surprised that such a picture still exists. There was a purge in the early 90's to rid the world of such unfortunate abominations but this one slipped through. I must warn you all - this is not for the faint of heart but in the spirit of Hallowe'en I thought I'd share.

Note: This is not a fetal pig, an alien in formaldehyde or an octopus in a jar of brine. IT IS MUCH WORSE AND FAR CREEPIER!!! This is your last chance to navigate away from the page but if your curiosity needs to be sated - scroll down but fairly warned be thee, says I!



















My God! It's 80's Dave!!!!

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Spooky....

Last night a full,ripe moon hung in the sky forever...




Just in time for Hallowe'en a full October moon drew my son and I onto the front yard with camera in hand. My son asked me to take a picture of him in his favourite tree, lit by the light of the moon. Below is the result:






Please note the ghostly 2nd image looming over him...

God, I love this time of year!

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Mark an "X" in the box

Today Canada votes. Lately in this country it seems we get to vote every year - we're not quite Italy yet, but we're working on it.

Later today my wife and I will take the kids to the local polling station to show them how to cast a vote. We believe it is important to instill the value of a vote at an early age so that they don't grow up to be disinterested and powerless citizens. We want them to know that citizens are never so weak as when they abdicate their ability to choose and let someone else do it for them.

In a country chock full of privileges and rights, voting is one of the few responsibilities asked of Canada's citizens.




Get out there today and do it!

P.S. I think I'm voting for Laura...I find I'm kinda sweet on her.

Sunday, 12 October 2008

I am thankful...to all my primate friends

So many things for all of us to be thankful for on this Canadian Thanksgiving weekend.

Earlier this week on a trip with my daughter to the Metro Toronto Zoo I was lucky enough to see the exchange below between two baboons and snap a picture.




Today I am thankful that I live in a world where I am related to wonderful creatures like these.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Friday, 10 October 2008

Whacked


It's been a wild and crazy week and finally, on Friday, I seem to have recovered.


On Tuesday I accompanied my daughter's Grade 3 class to the Toronto Metro Zoo. It was a fantastic outing that afforded me some great daddy-daughter time. We traveled from Pavilion to Pavilion, taking in animals from all over the world. It was especially good for my daughter because it was her first day with her brand-new glasses. She marvelled at how much clearer the world appeared through a pair of prescription lenses. I had an amazing time but a day of corralling children takes its toll. After we finally managed to manoeuvre the kids onto the bus I sank into the seat next to my daughter and breathed a sigh of relief. Despite my aching lower back and my worn-out knees I slumped into the uncomfortable, too closely spaced schoolbus seat and nodded off to sleep. I awoke sometime later to a pounding headache, the screaming words to "This Is the Most Annoying Song in the World" being sung at tooth-shattering decibels from the kids in the seat behind me and to the delighted smiles of the two little girls in the seat in front of me who had been watching me sleep. My daughter, who had been reading a book beside me gave me a look that said, "Don't fall asleep again, Daddy, you're embarrassing me."


On Wednesday was Wordfest III, presented by the Elora Center for the Arts. It was a collection of local writers, poets, storytellers and spoken word artists to celebrate... well, words. It wasn't really my cup of tea and I'm not entirely sure that I'll be attending Wordfest IV, slated for April 23, 2009-William Shakespeare's birthday. I did have a good time but it seemed a fairly closed group and I felt like a bit of an interloper. After Wordfest I headed out to the little pub in Elora for my usual Wednesday night Philosophers Club meeting. The Philosophers Club meets every Wednesday night and consists of a number of local artists, entrepreneurs, craftsmen and businessmen. It's usually an all man sort of thing but occasionally we are graced by the company of one of our spouses. During these weekly meetings to discuss matters grave and mundane, political and environmental, grand and small... and sometimes, maybe, we'll talk about something philosophical. It was an especially late night with the Philosophers Club this Wednesday and when I arrived home-closing in on midnight-the dog still needed to be walked.


On Thursday-a day I really wanted to knuckle down and get some writing done-I had a commitment with our local Heritage Committee. The meeting went far longer and at times was far more tedious than I had anticipated. By the time I was done and I'd come home and walked a not so happy dog it was time to pick up the kids.


Today, Friday, was to be my heavy-duty writing day-and it started out that way. I did revamp a story for submission to Cemetery Dance Magazine before the call came in from school. It turns out that my son was not feeling so well on this Friday before a long weekend. I went and picked them up and detected the merest hint of a smile-it was almost as if he had gotten away with something. I had the sneaking suspicion that he had pulled one over on his Grade 1 teacher-and he knew it... Well, since he's upstairs fast asleep, I'm going to assume that he really was sick... but they're still that sneaky little smile.


After I post this entry, I'll go up stairs and check on him and if he's still asleep I'll let a little more to The Witch.

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Awesome

Well...she's here to stay.

My last post talked about the lovely Willow and how if she adjusted to life at the Beynon house she would be a welcome addition to the family. I'm happy to report that after a few nailbiting days where she wouldn't eat her food, Willow is comfortable and happy in our home. We are all so very pleased.

With Willow adjusting to life in the house, I haven't been getting as much writing done as I would like. I made a little bit of progress on The Witch. I also reread Patriot in preparation to flesh it out to novel length. In addition, I have been mapping out a series of stories centered around the main character in one of my short stories, Old Timer. Another project that has been on the back burner is Middleman Acquisitions and it seems that a crossover between Old Timer and Middleman Acquisitions is inevitable. It's great to have tons of material, but now I need to knuckle down and get it on paper.

One last little note-about a week ago I was watching the Discovery Channel - someone who writes speculative fiction does well to watch the Discovery Channel -and I came across this little gem below.

Enjoy-I really did...

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Willow

Soooooo....

See - there's this kennel and there's this dog - actually a bitch - she's like six years old and...well...she's looking for a new home...so...

It looks like the Beynons have a dog. We went to see her last night and everyone immediately fell in love with her. Now all that remains is to see if she's going to fall in love with us. She's always been a kennel dog, seldom been on a leash and never lived in town so if she can make the transition and still be wagging that big, bushy tail - well, we'll have a dog. If she has difficulty then, as sad as it will be, she'll need to go back.

Keep all fingers crossed - she's lovely.

Monday, 15 September 2008

A little something new


I posted something over at the Fiction Notebook that I wrote a little while ago for Waterstones in the UK. Waterstones is the United Kingdom's leading bookstore, think of it as the British Chapters. A while back they ran a contest for some very short fiction. The online version was very short indeed-600 characters only. If you follow the link to the Fiction Notebook and click on Short Stories, you'll find it there. It's called, The God of Parallel Parking. The Link to the Fiction Notebook is just over there to the left...

I'm also glad to report that I had an encouraging e-mail regarding one of my recent submissions. Although I knew that the piece exceeded the magazine's standard word limit I submitted to them because the idea for the story was generated by some constructive criticism by one of their editors. She had rejected a story of mine, but had taken the time to supply some editorial insight and suggestions on how to improve the rejected story. A very different story took root. She very much likes this new story and has forwarded it to her senior editor. Because of its length, it looks like it might be a tough sell but I am very much encouraged by this editor's enthusiasm. I’ll keep you posted.

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Eden Mills Writers Festival




Over the weekend the Beynon family attended the 20th Annual Eden Mills Writers Festival. We donned our rain gear and made the 25 minute drive to picturesque Eden Mills.

This was our first visit to the festival, although my wife and I have talked for years about attending. What really attracted us this year was the impressive lineup of children's authors. The one that cinched it and made it a must attend event, despite the rain, was Dennis Lee. If you don't know who Dennis Lee is you will at the least know his most famous poem, Alligator Pie.

For a complete listing of all of the authors that attended, please follow this link. Most of my time was spent with the kids listening to the children's authors and illustrators, but I did manage to slip away to listen to a reading by Robert J. Sawyer, Canada's self-proclaimed Dean of Science Fiction. Having seen him interviewed on television, and listen to him on the radio, his performance was everything I expected. Loud, energetic and enthusiastic. He read from his recent novel, Rollback. I recently read the novel and listening to Sawyer read his own words, it was interesting to note the parts he chose to emphasize that I, as I read the novel, would not. This experience really underscores how important it is for a writer to have a second set of eyes - and ears - going over his work for a feel and understanding of how others will approach it.

While enjoying the day in Eden Mills I noted that our local Conservative MP, Michael Chong, was also in attendance with his young son. This doesn't surprise me as it has been my experience that Michael is very much concerned with local issues and very supportive of all events of note in his constituency. What interests me is that on the morning that our conservative Prime Minister - who has recently announced $40 million worth of cuts to the arts - called an election, our local conservative MP was attending the Eden Mills Writers Festival.

It was an enjoyable day with the entire family in a picturesque community and I would wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone interested in reading or writing...or spending some time in a lovely little village.

On a different, but related note, I received an e-mail last Thursday from PRISM International, the University of British Columbia's literary magazine. It was a call for submissions for their literary nonfiction contest. I've chosen to blow the dust off the Long Ride Home. After some cleanup and increased perspective, the manuscript is ready to be sent out.

I've also become aware of a Master of Fine Arts Program in Creative Writing offered through the University of Guelph. I find myself interested. This bears further investigation.

I'll keep you posted

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Labour of love

Well, the Labour Day weekend is behind us and that means autumn is just around the corner. Labour Day usually marks a few things around the Beynon household.

The first is, of course, a return to school for the kids. My wife and I made the long walk up the hill to their school this morning. Although there was the usual anxious "but I don't want to go to school today" and "why do I have to go to school anyway?" but once we were on our way the anxiety turned to excitement.

The second thing that Labour Day usually marks around my house is the conclusion of the 3-Day Novel Contest. Normally today I would have crawled into bed right after dropping off the kids and slept until it was time to pick them up. Normally I would have spent the entire weekend writing in longhand, hyped up on caffeine, lack of sleep and creative energy. This year I gave the 3-Day Novel Contest a pass. Good luck to all who participated. I will likely join the insanity again next year.

As I stated in my last post, today also marks the start of a whole new writing routine. With dropping the kids off and picking them up as the beginning and end of my writing day, I need to figure out how best to fill the time between. A very small portion of the time will be spent putting together these posts which should be shorter, although more frequent. I also have a lot of rewriting to do on my major works-The Platinum Ticket and Patriot-as well is continuing to shop around Loremaster to publishers and agents alike. Short fiction will also be a major part of my writing. More and more stories are revealing themselves to me and need to be written down and sent into the world. All of this takes time and I will have to feel my way through it as September progresses.

Anyway, back to work...

Monday, 25 August 2008

Routine

Howdy, all.

It has been a while but I'm finally getting around to putting together a post. Settling back into routine proved to be a little harder than expected upon returning from vacation but while I'm not yet in the groove, at least I can see it.

One little vacation story to relate and really something kinda cool. On our last day of vacation while heading back toward the highway through Kingston, Ontario my wife asked if we wanted to visit the grave site of Sir John A. Macdonald - 1st prime minister of Canada. While visiting the grave we stretched our legs in the impressive old cemetery. The first thing my son noticed were a number of holes in the ground around one of the tombstones. I assume they were rabbit-holes but it was the only tombstone that sported holes around it. A little creepy to be sure but my son also spied a stick apparently dragged deep into one of the holes. Without a hint of hesitation his arm was suddenly shoulder deep in the hole retrieving the stick. It has since been dubbed "the Ghoul Stick" and is not allowed in the house. A few minutes later I was photographing an impressive family plot when my son came up behind me and said, "Hey, Dad, look at the box I found under that bush!"
I turned and saw my son with the ghoul stick in one hand and in the other he held a sealed Tupperware container completely covered with camouflage tape. Now I had a pretty good idea what was in the box but I told everyone to stand a few feet back while I opened it anyway. Inside was a stamp,an explanatory note, some markers and directions to the next box. I wish I still had the note but it has been misplaced but it explained that this box is part of a game called Atlasquest - basically a scavenger hunt on a grand scale. Check out the website - they're all over the place.

During my first week back I received a rejection letter. I have read somewhere that a rejection letter from the New Yorker is supposedly the holy grail of rejection letters - I forget where. Well, a rejection letter from the New Yorker has no useful information so like any form rejection letter it is exactly that - useless. Here's the letter - note the milky-white stationary.



Speaking of rejections - I had a useful one before going on vacation regarding my story Just Business. In the letter there were suggestions and constructive criticism and from those suggestions and criticisms a story evolved. The story is called Old Timer and I think it's pretty damn fine. It has, of course, been submitted to the magazine that took the time to offer the suggestions.

Finally - and it's funny because as I type this I just received an e-mail from them - The 3 Day Novel Contest is closing in. Each Labour Day Weekend a contest is held to see what kind of novel can be written over the 72 hours of the holiday weekend. I have entered the last 2 years and both novellas - The Platinum Ticket and Patriot - are works of which I am very proud. This year, however, I will take a pass. There are a few reasons - kids start school the day immediately following the weekend and I don't need to be exhausted for that. I am also building a routine in which writing a set amount each and every day is a crucial part of my success. I don't want to mess with the routine just as I'm establishing it. In the past I have found the exercise of the 3 Day Novel extremely rewarding - I highly recommend it to others and will no doubt do it again in the future - but just not this year.

Anyway, speaking of routines - I need to get back to mine...

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

A long and twisted road…

Well, it’s good to be home.


It was a wonderful epic vacation full of fun and discovery but when all is said and done – there’s no place like home. Throughout the trip there were too many memorable moments to list but I’ll throw out some of the highlights. A Top 10 List, if you will.


1 – Fireflies – On our first night camping in the all but flooded Rideau River Provincial Park I though my fatigued brain was playing tricks on me. As my wife, kids and I were walking back to our campsite in the growing dusk I thought I saw the occasional flash of light. My first impulse was “Fireflies!” but I haven’t seen fireflies since I was a kid. They used to abound – why I remember catching them in jars and reading by the light of their bioluminescence but sadly they’ve vanished from our local landscape. Some say it was excessive crop spraying during the seventies and eighties that did them in (I suppose it could have been kids catching them by the jarload so they could read by their light…) but whatever the reason it was with delight to parallel my children’s that I stared as hundreds of fireflies emerged over the next half hour. If nothing else had happened throughout the trip I would have been satisfied with the secure knowledge that there are still fireflies in the world.


2 – Ottawa’s amazing museums – Split time between the Museum of Natural History (where we reacquainted with a childhood friend of mine, her two kids and the fella she married – the handsdown winner of the Nicest Guy in the World award) and the Museum of Civilization on this trip and didn’t see enough but was fascinated by what I did. Our nation’s capital is packed with quality museums and as the kids grow up I can see any number of weekend trips to take advantage.


3 – The Peace Tower – a very humbling time, visiting the parliament buildings, ascending the Peace Tower and looking at the Books of Remembrance. And if I wasn’t choked up enough as we were heading back to the car what is waiting for me directly across the street from the Eternal Flame and the front steps of Parliament? You guessed it – a life sized statue of Terry Fox.

4 – Quebec City’s 400th Anniversary – Unfortunately we got rain and very little else from our short stop in Quebec City. With miserable, wet kids not entirely interested in an historic soaked city the only souvenir we came away with was a lovely orange umbrella. Ahh…there’s always next time.


5 – New Brunswick – camping in New Brunswick was heavenly, however we seemed to be rained on every day. We did, however, find time to swim in the frigid waters of the St. John River – to date one of my testicles has seen fit to descend.


6 – Dartmouth and Halifax – a lovely pair of sister cities and actually the reason for our destination. We stayed with a pair of my dearest friends who I haven’t seen in far too long. We also spent some time with my brother in law and his…girlfriend – nah, that’s not right – his..wife – sweet Jesus, better not let him hear me using the W word…ah, nuts – the woman he loves and lives with.

7 – Peggy’s Cove – I’m a moron but I didn’t know that Peggy’s Cove was a tourist spot. Okay, I’ve already admitted I’m a moron – can we move on. I loved the place – as did my son who adventured among the rocks – His quote of the day: “I’m as nimble as a mountain goat…and twice as fast!” It was spectacular and the crashing waves were really something. I’m a little disappointed that I neglected to take a picture of the modern sign warning against venturing too close to the water – basically it reads “Please exercise caution when approaching the sea etc. etc.” Very politically correct and bland – much more poetic is the old sign, cast in bronze and bolted to the rocks.

If you can’t read the inscription it goes like this:

WARNING

Injury and death have rewarded careless sight seers here

The ocean and rocks are treacherous

Savour the sea from a distance

Marvelous – fairly warned be thee, says I.


8 – Mahone Bay and Lunenburg Nova Scotia – It was never our intention to go to Lunenburg on this trip but we needed to go to Mahone Bay because of a story my daughter read in school last year. When we saw that we were only 11 kms from Lunenburg we decided to go. We were well rewarded because it just so happened that the Bluenose II was in port for 2 days only before continuing with her summer schedule. What a treat. We took in the sights of historic Lunenburg but I’m going to let you in on a little secret – Lunenburg is beautiful – but Mahone Bay is prettier by far.


9 – The province of Quebec – Normally I don’t have a lot of good things to say about Quebec but I would be remiss if I left out a mention of the Village d’Antan in Drummondville. It is a spectacular village comprised of real and replica historic buildings from the Drummondville area. You pass through a tunnel under a road to enter the village and it is like passing through a time tunnel. You are greeting by the local priest and the entire village is peopled by folks in period costume going about their daily business from 150 years ago. What a delightful look back in time.

I guess I can’t leave Quebec without relaying an observation…now I have a son who seemed to need to hit every bathroom between Fergus and Halifax, so I got to see my share of bathrooms across the eastern half of this country. Actually, I got to see my share, his share and your share, too! I spent a lot of time hanging around the men’s rooms waiting for my son to finish his business and I need to speak to the handwashing practices observed. Only in Quebec does handwashing seem to be alien to the standard toilet procedures for public restrooms. I can speak only to the men’s room practices but I did not see a single person wash his hands in Quebec and there is a lot of traffic in those roadside rest stations. In many of the roadside washrooms soap and paper towels are not supplied – I guess the attitude is – why bother – ain’t nobody usin’ them anyway. I guess washroom is a bit of a misnomer - should use the French - toilette.

Anyway – just an observation.


10 – There really is no place like home. Our vacation together as a family was priceless but all of us were more than ready to see the bridge on Scotland Street as we came into town. Although the lawn was wild and the vegetable garden was a jungle, we didn’t care.


We were home…safe at home.

Friday, 18 July 2008

Time flies...

It feels like just yesterday that I was writing about DAW’s rejection of my manuscript for Loremaster and the next thing you know it's July 18th and you're readying yourself to go on vacation.

A lot has been going on since last I posted.

Let's start with the story, The Witch. I'd wanted to keep it in the neighbourhood of 8 to 10,000 words but it just didn't want to stay there. It has grown in complexity and the characters are taking on a life of their own. I do have a bit of a cautionary tale here, though. I've been happily working on this story each day, nurturing it and watching it grow. At the end of the day I got into the unfortunate habit of simply reducing my document on the computer screen but not actually saving it. Well, Microsoft had one of their usual security updates that took control of my computer and shut it down without asking me, thank you very much. Imagine my surprise after failing to save my document to see the startup screen of my computer smiling at me one morning. "Oh well," I thought, "no problem at all. Microsoft Word has an automatic recovery system built right in and I know for damn sure that it is set to save every 10 minutes so all I have to do is start up Microsoft Word and I'm back in business." It's a really nice theory that if your computer shuts down unexpectedly Microsoft Word will step up and help you out. And you know what, most times it does... but not this time. I tried and tried but to no avail. As near as I can figure I lost nine pages of really good stuff. Fortunately, it was nine pages that I was able to improve upon during the second, forced rewrite. The Witch is shaping up to be a fine, fine tale.

I heard back from a couple of stories making the rounds. Small Town Secrets, submitted to The Missouri Review, came back with a rejection but it did have a personal note from the reader inviting me to submit other, perhaps slightly shorter work. I've since submitted Small Town Secrets to The Paris Review . I also received a rejection for the story, Just Business from Dark Recesses Press. The person who reviewed Just Business gave me a very detailed explanation regarding the story's rejection. She praised the quality of my writing but told me the story, which concerns a man with a very cavalier attitude toward human traffic, just wasn't what her readers would consider horrific or terrifying. Fair enough. I decided to submit it to Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine. Unlike the rejection from Daw, which was a form letter and as such is to be ignored, these last two rejections actually had useful information and constructive criticism and feedback. I'm feeling optimistic.

The summer is in full swing and it's a busy time with the kids. It's a little unnerving when your five-year-old has a more active social calendar than you do. I guess I can take comfort in the fact that he is a very gregarious five-year-old. One of the things that both kids are signed up for this summer is the reading program at the local library. The five-year-old's program lasts a half hour on Wednesdays before lunch. My daughter's program is on the same day but for an hour in the afternoon. I was trying to figure out what I was going to do with this floating hour and a half where I needed to be close to the library but had someone else watching the kids. The first day I use the time to run errands downtown and did a little people watching. On the second day I had no errands to run so I took a notebook with me and planted myself in this incredibly comfortable chair in a quiet section of the second floor of our local library. In the crisp air conditioning, surrounded by countless shelves of books, with the distant sound of kids on the lower level enjoying their reading club, I opened the notebook and tried to come up with something that I could exclusively write during these summer reading club times. Well, the constructive criticism for Just Business was still fresh in my mind so I decided to work on a conversation between a person who deals in very specialized merchandise and a customer. Since then the character, a British gentleman named Alastair Middleman, his family business (in continuous operation for 26 generations), his tragic past and his wayward daughter who now must be put through her apprenticeship in preparation to take over the family business have been occupying many of my waking thoughts. They promise to be an entertaining family and speaking of family...

Today, just before I decided to write this post, I was busy strapping a car carrier to the roof of the Camry in preparation for the start of our family camping vacation. We're heading out to the east coast to visit friends we've not seen in far too long. Along the way will be camping and sightseeing and generally enjoying each other's company. When I get back I'm sure there'll be a host of pictures and a great number of stories to pass along.

Till then behave and play nice.

Thursday, 26 June 2008

Disappointment... and opportunity


There is a little bit of disappointing news that showed up in the mail late last week. It came in a self-addressed stamped envelope and I have to admit that as soon as I opened it I was crestfallen. (Just on a personal note, I have always loved that word-crestfallen. I don't believe there's any other of 11 letter word that can so sum up a state of utter disappointment). Inside the envelope was a lovely letter from the good people at DAW Books. It was a rejection slip for my novel, Loremaster.


Although rejection is never a fun thing, I'm forced to remind myself that rejections are the bumps on the road to publication. Some of the bumps have useful information that should be heeded and you can adjust your course. Other bumps, like this one, are generic and you just have to put up with the jostling and continue onward. The next step for Loremaster is sending it off to a different publisher but before I do I'll need to assemble a chapter by chapter synopsis. It'll take me about a day or two to make the synopsis and then we'll be ready for round two.


In other news, my witch story keeps growing and growing. It's currently sitting at about 9000 words and I get the sense that it's only about half done. I'm really enjoying writing it but, man, it has taken on a life of its own.

When I'm finished the witch story and have the synopsis written for Loremaster I'll need to turn to a promise I made the kids. Years ago, when my daughter was little, I created a story called Gerry the Giant. Both kids are reading now and both have requested that I put Gerry the Giant into words for them. There's another kids' story dancing around in my head about Bladd the Blampire. What's a Blampire? Blampires are creatures that appear at dusk, usually in closets or under beds in rooms where there are young children. Blampires are kind of like vampires except they get their nourishment from children's imaginations. They look a little scary, but you can't always trust first impressions. They are actually very, very nice. Enough said about that for now.


The voice recognition software, Nuance's Dragon Naturally Speaking, is working out pretty well. After a few initial hiccups (I actually just had to train the software for the word ‘hiccups’ - it thought I was saying ‘pickups’) I'm settling into the software nicely. When you're as poor a typist as I am being able to put words on paper as quickly as you can speak is a real asset.


Well, this blog entry has gone on long enough-I need to get back to that one-legged witch and the little girl that won't leave her alone.

Friday, 13 June 2008

Lucky, Lucky, Lucky.

Well here it is Friday the 13th and so far I've tripped over a black cat while walking under a stepladder in my living room with an open umbrella. I figure with the big Canadian lottery, Lotto 649, sitting at an interesting $22 million, I should really get all my bad luck of the way early.

Not that I have a lot of bad luck. I am in relatively good health - Considering some of my earlier lifestyle choices that in itself is a stroke of luck. I am married to a wonderful, beautiful, talented, intelligent and very patient wife-we should all be that lucky. And, with Father's Day coming up on Sunday, I am especially lucky that I have two precious children, who bring delight and meaning into my life.

As a bit of an early Father's Day present, I decided to push the voice recognition software envelope and purchase, what is considered the best in the field. Nuance’s Dragon NaturallySpeaking, according to most of the reviews, is the pinnacle of voice recognition software. If you visit their website they have some fairly outlandish claims, and they are exactly that - outlandish. They claim that the software is ready to use out-of-the-box - that there is no training required - that no dictation need be done for the program to learn your voice. This is not true. I tried talking to the computer immediately following installation of the software. The resulting gibberish was disheartening. The voice recognition software which comes with Windows Vista was a pain in the ass, but at least it understood approximately 85% of what I was saying. The NaturallySpeaking program seemed to lack the logic and the ability to note context that Microsoft had built into the Vista version. After spending a great deal of time reading some very entertaining bits of literature into the microphone, the NaturallySpeaking program started to get it. It began to understand the nuances of my speech, and my own particular accent. I have been dictating this blog entry with only a few instances where I've needed to correct the computer. There is also an auto punctuation feature that has yet to prove its usefulness to me – it wants to throw commas absolutely everywhere. I guess some things will always need to be done by hand. It remains to be seen if the change in software will be beneficial but I’m feeling lucky…

In the writing world, not so lucky-not just yet. So far no nibbles yet on the several short stories that are out in the world. There is also no word yet from DAW books, but that is hardly surprising considering the manuscript would have only just arrived last week. So far no positive feedback from agents yet, either. Again, that's hardly a surprise as most my queries are only a week old.

I am also beginning to realise that my Story a Week ambition was a little too... well, ambitious. I'm not complaining though. I still think it's a great target. Right now, however, the Mitchell's Crossing story about the witch has taken on a life of its own. It's very liberating for a writer when something like this happens. It's amazing to see characters that you thought were windowdressing suddenly contributing to the dialogue and action of a story. It's great when minor characters become pivotal to the progression of the plot. It's an interesting feeling when the story starts to tell itself. Waiters will understand what I'm talking about-it's something that I like to call, The Waiter's High. It is state of being that occurs when everything goes just right - when you can't make a mistake - it's just impossible for you to do something wrong. Most waiters, if they are any good at all, will, on at least one busy night in their lives, find such a state of near perfection. Your timing is flawless and everything is remembered in exactly the right order. At the end of the night the waiter finds himself physically exhausted but his mind is quicksilver until late in the night. As a sidebar - it is surprisingly easy to get laid in the wake of one of these Waiter's Highs. It's almost as if the universe is conspiring with you, instead of against you. In psychological terms, this is known as Flow. I understand that this state of total immersion occurs across a variety of fields and disciplines, athletic, academic and professional, but I can only speak to the two places were I've found it-waiting and writing.

The witch story is much more detailed than I had originally planned, and at this point, I have no idea how long the story will be, but my best guess is somewhere around 10,000 words. I suppose if I get the story done this week, then it would be the equivalent of three short stories... so I'm kinda on track with the whole Story a Week thing… kinda.

That's all for now, so until next time... be good to your fathers. After all, they only get the one day a year. Good luck.

Friday, 6 June 2008

Like a Chicken with its Head Cut Off

It’s been awhile since last post but it has been a hectic week. Busy with school-both kids went to the RCMP Musical Ride and I attended as a parent volunteer. Busy with the house-some indoor chores here, a little lawn cutting there. But especially busy with writing…

Throughout this week it been writing a rather exciting short story called The Witch. It is another story that takes place in the fictitious village of Mitchell’s Landing. My previous Mitchell’s Landing story was called Small Town Secrets and is currently on submission at The New Yorker.

I’ve also been querying agents this week. With the Loremaster manuscript completed and sent into DAW books for consideration I felt that it was time to send out feelers for representation of the novel.

Last weekend was very busy as well. On Saturday it was the 40th anniversary of my old high school, Grey Highlands Secondary School. The weekend was packed with activities but the kids’ schedules didn’t allow for anything except a brief visit and tour of the old high school. During the brief visit I ran into some good old friends and had a nostalgic walk around. Everything really does seem smaller when you go back to the schools of your youth. The school was changed over the years. A new wing was added sometime in the not too distant past but it was comforting to see that the old Geography room on the second floor hasn’t changed a bit. In fact, I’m pretty sure that the desk I used to sit in (second row from the door, four seats back from the teacher’s desk) is the same desk that is there today. An interesting thing to note was that also on the second floor across from the Home Economics room there now stands just a regular classroom. I explained to the children that when I went to school that room was filled with typewriters. My five year old son looked up at me and said, “Hey, Dad, what’s a typewriter?”… Enough said.

The other event this weekend was the Elora Writers Festival. After securing a babysitter for the afternoon, my wife and I took the long leisurely 4 minute drive from Fergus to Elora to attend this year’s readings. The writers included Giller prize finalist, Edeet Ravel, travel writer Laurie Gough, comedian Diane Flacks, poet Jacob McArther Mooney (really good, but his “spoken word” style of delivery doesn’t do his poetry justice – bought his book and I’m delighted), Helen Humphreys and Rio Youers. Youers’ novel End Time is about a heroin addict who cuts off his own fingers – not exactly family fun but then again I don’t know your family…

The Festival itself was great but the meal following was out of this world. Last year the readings and meal were at the same venue – The Drew House in Elora. This year the readings were at the Keating Lounge followed again by a meal at the Drew House. Last year my wife and I attended only the readings but throughout we were distracted by the wonderful aroma wafting from the adjacent kitchen. We vowed to stay for the meal and weren’t disappointed. Before the meals many of the attendees and all of the authors gathered in the garden for cocktails. I was rubbing shoulders with such local personalities as Chris Wiggins and Colin Fox when a server came by with the best damn sausage rolls I’ve ever had. There were perfectly prepared and had some sort of buttery glaze on the pastry that made me wonder whose mom I would need to kill for another – but they just kept coming. The meal that followed was an amplification of that heavenly appetizer. It was a buffet feast of masterfully prepared meat, salads and vegetables and the desert was an absolute slice of chocolate bliss.

Coming up next week I’ll give an update on how my Story A Week thing is going as well as some direction on where my novel length fiction is heading.

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Loremaster Revisited

So maybe a story week was a little ambitious considering my current project.…

But, I am happy to say that my current project is now my finished project! Yesterday afternoon, at about 3:45 PM, I put the finishing touches on my Loremaster manuscript. About another half hour was spent fiddling with fonts and type sizes. I ended up settling on the standard Times New Roman and reduced it from a 12 to 11 pt font. By changing it to 11 pt I was able to reduce the overall length of the manuscript from 618 pages to a much more manageable, and more cheaply posted, 513 pages. I also spent some time, actually about 45 minutes, finding and replacing all those words that are different in British spelling than American spelling. I’m talking about words like “honour” and “armour” and changing them to “honor” and “armor”. In a fantasy novel where one of the major characters is the personification of knightly conduct, there were a lot of changes to be made. At the end of it all I figure there were about ¾ of a page of “u” s that vanished from the U.S. version of the manuscript.

Yesterday, around 4:45 PM, with disk in hand, I walked into one of our local printers. This morning I returned to pick up the manuscript. There’s something profoundly weighty about 513 pages that you have painstakingly written and revised and revised again. The manuscript sits here at my side waiting only for a cover letter and a synopsis before being bundled up and sent screaming into the world. That's it in the photo up there...

Now that Loremaster has been effectively put to bed it is time for me to move on to other projects. One of these projects is to get started on my short-story-a-week program. This week’s story will be set in a little village I’ve created called Mitchell’s Crossing and center around a former ballerina with a wooden leg. Guess what her first name is...

I’m also going to get started on either the flesh-out of Patriot or The Platinum Ticket or I’ll start working again on a novel length piece of fiction I started last year called, Nothing’s Made To Last.

There are a few things of note going on in my little town this week that I’d like to pass along. The Elora Writers Festival takes place this Sunday. I understand there are still tickets available and you can follow the link to the web site for more info. My wife and I went last year and it was a great experience. If you find yourself in the neighbourhood this weekend, plan on attending.

Also going on in my township of Center Wellington is the annual general meeting of the Outdoor Writers of Canada. The membership are meeting here from Thursday till Saturday in a variety of venues. It’s nice to see our little town snagged a convention usually reserved for places like Montreal or Victoria.

There’s a lot more going on that I’ll cover in the next post but for now that dancer with the prosthetic limb wants to shake a leg…

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

A story a week...

Ambitious? Yes, but something I can do. In addition to finishing the Loremaster edit, fleshing out Patriot and The Platinum Ticket and putting together a couple of rough outlines for a few other novel length projects I have decided on a goal of one short story a week - written, edited and submitted to market. To this end I have blown the dust off a couple of books in the basement.

One - none too dusty actually - is Fiction Writer's Workshop by Josip Novakovich. In his book, Novakovich presents a complete Fiction Workshop with a good number of story assignments. Taking my recent successes from the Fiction Workshop I attended earlier this year, I can see the value of a creative springboard.

The second book is much older and has a touch of sentimental value. It is called Writing with a Purpose by John M. Bassett and Donald G. Rutledge. This particular copy of the book was published in 1958. It was presented to me in grade seven by my teacher, Mr. Ian Morrison. Mr. Morrison is also the guy who tried - and failed - to teach me how to play a musical instrument. My most vivid memory of Ian Morrison is an errant stick of chalk hurled in anger that nailed the girl sitting next to me. No - the chalk wasn't intended for little Dave Beynon - he was actually trying for the kid behind the girl but his aim was rather awful. But I digress...
Writing with a Purpose is a great all-round primer for any sort of writing you might choose to do. Essays and letters comprise a good deal of the material but there are some real creative writing gems scattered throughout.

Why a story a week? Well - I need to get some publishing credits and I need them sooner than later. In Issac Asimov's compilation, Gold, he reprinted a number of essays from the magazine that bore his name. In one of the essays he speaks about cover letters and getting published. One thing he talks about are how self-doubting most fiction editors are, himself included. He said that when an editor sees previous writing credits cited in the cover letter it makes him or her far more likely to give the story serious consideration. Those previous publishing credits tell the editor that other editors have found this author's work salable. Of course, the writing still needs to be good, but those publishing credit are priceless.

I already have five short stories making the rounds. With additional stories entering the world each week my chances increase that much more and once I can add publishing credits to the cover letters...well, the sky's the limit. Publishing credits also come in handy in finding agents and publishers for novel length fiction.

Speaking of writing, I need to edit some more Loremaster... next time I plan on talking about having fun...

Thursday, 1 May 2008

As Handy As They Come...

It is always been my firm belief that the gene for “handiness” resides firmly on the Y chromosome. This belief probably stems from my childhood observations. My father was the ultimate handyman. He could frame, string electrical work and drywall. Carpentry and plumbing were second nature to him. With the right tools he could build anything. I’d always hoped that this handiness gene had been passed along but 41 years of experience has taught me differently (for the sake of my son, I hope it has skipped a generation). All of this leads into my recent misadventures.


It is been a rather chaotic week around the Beynon household. For a long time now we’ve needed to replace the enclosure surrounding our bathtub. With peeling grout and more than a hint of mold, it could be put off no longer. To begin we tore out the strips of this laminated board product with dubious water-resistant properties. It was this board that had become moldy. As I tore out the drywall it soon became abundantly clear that our lovely old house was completely off square. It also became clear that the plumbing side of the job (the challenge I was looking forward to) was very much beyond my meager abilities. After swallowing my pride and making sure that I still had some manhood left, I picked up the phone and call the plumber.

The plumber stopped by, took a look at the pipes and the tub, and drew my attention to something I had been doing my best to ignore. The edges of the existing tub and the brackets underneath were very rusty. Chewing my lip and nodding my head, it was agreed that a new tub would be needed. A soaker tub was ordered and delivered. The plumber and his helper showed up a few days later and set to work.

I, emasculated, could only watch.

It was much later in the day, after hours of straining and reaching and fiddling on the part of the plumber and his assistant, that I knew the right decision had been made. It would have taken me a week of messing around and at the end of it all I would have had to pick up the phone and call the guy anyway.

Next came the drywalling and the tub surround. As I said before, our old house is not square. That meant I had to build up the corner of the bathroom in order to have a square corner for the tub surround. The correct term is apparently “shimming the studs”. To me it sounds like something that might happen at a singles bar in Spain – kind of like the “running of the bulls”. The drywall in itself was an adventure with many a swearword aiding in adjusting the fit. I’m really glad the kids were at school while all this was going on. The tub surround is a five piece marvel of modern engineering. We chose the five piece model because it’s more forgiving for uneven walls. After a lot of measuring, measuring, measuring again and finally cutting, all five pieces were mounted to the wall.

I have discovered a job I really, really hate. The application of silicon sealant is a chore devised by the Devil, I say. After a failed initial attempt, I ended up with a crooked snail trail along each and every seam. I am far from satisfied with the job I’ve done but there comes a time when you need your damn bath tub back. In a couple of weeks I will revisit the silicon on the tub surround but for now I have other things to do.

Those other things include doing a final polish on a total of five short stories that I aim to have sent out by the end of tomorrow. Once those are out in the world next week will be dedicated to a final edit of Loremaster.

Monday, 21 April 2008

Silly Old Cat

It's been a rough old day here at the Beynon homestead.

It started last night with a puking boy who has, I'm happy to say, made a speedy recovery and by bedtime looks much better. Even in the height of a massive hurl he would look up from the tupperware container he has dubbed his "puke bucket", wipe his chin and say in an almost cheerful voice, "Wow, Dad, that sure was a lot of puke wasn't it? I think that hunk is banana..." What a trooper. A good night's sleep and he'll be right as rain.

The other part of the rough day is much, much sadder.

Seventeen years ago when I moved in with my wife-to-be she had two cats. One was grey and white and hated me. His name is Duffer and he did not like that I had taken over the role as alpha male in the house. Immediately after moving in he systematically pissed on everything I owned, paying particular attention to a comfortable chair that eventually needed to be thrown out, so impregnated was the odour of his rank urine. Over the years DUffer mellowed and he and I are now good friends. I mentioned that my wife had two cats.

The second cat was Jesse. He was this big, fat orange cat that she had adopted from another family. He and I were instant friends. From my first night in the apartment he was sleeping on me. He would constantly find my lap, regardless if there was a newspaper, a book or a plate of Chinese food on it at the time.

He was always more of a dog than a cat. He would come when he was called. He used to greet me at the door when I got home from work. He would even chase little foil balls made from cigarette packs and bring them back for me to throw again.

Over the years he has been a constant fixture in the Beynon household. He always liked women but I was just about the only man he was ever really fond of. He actually liked to attack my brother in law and my friend Bruce should they get too close or walk past one of his hiding places.

Well, old Jesse was exactly that...old. Our best guess is that he was 22 years old - a ripe old man of a cat. In recent weeks and months he'd been losing weight and vigour and this weekend a decision needed to be made. This weekend Jesse stopped eating.

At one time this cat tipped the scales at over 20lbs but recently he felt lighter than a towel. After moments of weakness where he couldn't stand and his refusal to eat over the weekend we made the decision this morning to take him to the vet.

I placed him on the passenger seat next to me and as I began the 5 minute drive he climbed over to be on my lap. As he sat there he looked around to see the world as it passed him through the driver's window.

I have nothing but good things to say about the folks at Wellington Veterinary Services. I was holding up pretty well until I actually had to verbalize the reason for my visit. They were kind and gentle. Jesse hissed and growled (he had got into the habit of hissing and growling at strangers for good measure in recent years anyway) as they gave him the IV but he calmed as I petted and held him.

I told the vet that I was raised on a farm and that farm kids aren't supposed to be emotionally attached to animals. She said it doesn't matter. She's seen bikers in tears over sick kittens and miserable old men distraught over the loss of a dog.

One of the strangest parts of the whole affair was when it came time to take Jesse home. The doctor returned to the room with a dark blue corrugated paper coffin. I recognized it immediately. It was the same "kitty coffin" I had sold at one of my previous jobs to Gateway Pet Memorials in Guelph. Strange that my own cat would end up in something I took a hand in designing and selling several years ago.

We had a short service in the backyard this evening and tomorrow a tree will be planted over Jesse's grave. I don't know it this is a Welsh tradition or just something my dad used to do but whenever a beloved pet would die when I was growing up a tree or shrub would always be planted to mark the spot. It's a lovely tradition and what more fitting tribute to my old friend than a living monument that will grow with each season. We should all find as nice a headstone as a tree.

Goodbye you silly old cat.