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

Friday, 25 December 2009

Yes, Virginia....

Merry Christmas.

Can`t spend too much time today.  Just want to say that we have had a wonderful Christmas and that Santa was very good to us all.  In the spirit of giving,  here's my favourite little Santa snippet:

Merry Christmas - more to follow in the days to come.

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Unobtainium...really? 300 million and that's the best you can come up with?

This afternoon I went to see a really expensive movie.  AVATAR is James Cameron's latest movie and is reportedly the most expensive movie ever made.  It shows.  The movie is a spectacular feast for the eyes.  I watched it in 3D and really can't imagine watching it any other way.  Apparently the landscapes are entirely computer generated and I've heard that they rendered over 150 different varieties of plants.  Visually - it was stunning.

The CGI characters - so well rendered and such fluidity of motion that I fear Hollywood actors should start reining in big egos because, frankly, they aren't needed anymore.  I know that this movie used a new motion -capture technology to build the images, but really, any old face will do for that - you don't need a star or starlet.  True - you will still need voice actors - for now.

The one part where the movie fell apart for me was the story.  There were some holes, but not many.  The problem was predictability.  There were no surprises.  The characters were stereotyped card-board cutouts.  There was not an unexpected plot twist to be seen.  My friend who accompanied me to the theatre dubbed the movie "Dances with Cats" and he's pretty close to the mark.  Did I enjoy the spectacle - absolutely.  Would I encourage other to see the movie - yes.

Just don't hope to be blown away by the unexpected ending - there isn't one.

Monday, 14 December 2009

Honourable duties

There are very few things in this life to which, when asked, you simply cannot say no.  All you can do is nod and ask where and when you need to show up.  This is one of those things:

Yeah - that's me.  When the director of the local BIA called me up and explained that they needed someone for what will become the Annual Pancake Breakfast with Santa, well, how do you say "no" to that?

It was just a couple of hours in an ill-fitting red suit with a scratchy synthetic beard and it was one of the most rewarding things I've done in a long time.  I highly recommend it.

If you look closely, I swear you can see a twinkle about the eyes.

On the same morning I snapped a couple of pictures of our Heritage Committee's little park covered with a blanket of snow.

After playing Santa, it was time for this to go away:

Yes - the beard that began as three day's growth for Really Raggedy Andy is now gone - but that didn't mean we couldn't have some fun along the way...

Here we are with goatee and massive sideburns.  I came down and asked the family what they thought.  The two little ladies didn't like this look at all.  The boy, however, loved it.

So - I went upstairs and tried again.  "How about this?" I asked.
"No way!" said my daughter.
"Too Amish." said my wife.
"Awesome!" said my son, who really didn't want me to shave the beard at all.

My final attempt arrived downstairs to an almost uniform reaction of, "Hey, that's kind of cool."

The last bastion of facial hair - the soul patch, though to be fair, this patch was a little more soulful than most.  The only problem was I didn't really like it.  I mean, hey - I'm 42 years old - I'm way too old for a soul patch.  

So I shaved it off.  Then I went outside and built this with the kids:

Too old for a soul patch?  Maybe.

Too old to build Snowmen?  Never!

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Are you ready for this?

I've spoken about our new, used Hyundai Elantra Wagon.  I've mentioned that it is the perfect height for a now eight year old golden retriever to easily hop in the back.  I've talked about the gas mileage and the superior used car ratings it receives.  I don't think I've mentioned the trailer hitch (bike rack!) or the roof rack, but those are both good.  Yesterday I mentioned the repairs needed to make the car roadworthy and all along I've mentioned just how damn ugly the paint job is.

Well - if a picture is worth a thousand words then here comes your 4000 word essay that can only be entitled,

"What The Hell Were You Thinking When You Picked Up The Spray Paint Gun".

And for extra credit, can someone please explain this:

Monday, 7 December 2009

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


One day you're remembering your nation's war heroes and the next the man in the red suit is getting set to squirm down your chimney.   I looked at the calendar and sure enough, it's only eighteen days 'til the big event.  The kids are right - it is time to decorate.

Last night we cleared a spot and hauled the tree up from the basement.  Now. the whole tree decorating thing has never been a big thrill for me, but when I see the kids actually cooperating toward a shared goal - well, you've just got to love that.

So the tree is up and, weather permitting, I imagine the outdoor lights might be going up tonight.

There was also a birthday around here and it was one that we almost missed.

That's right - the lovely Willow is now eight years old.  The kids insisted we do it right and get her treats and a new toy.  Unlike this particular picture, she was thrilled with her birthday gifts.

This weekend my wife and I attended a murder mystery dinner party hosted by our local BIA.  It was well-attended with local merchants, restaurateurs and even a local council member and the township's mayor.  I am glad to report that I neither murdered nor was murdered through the course of the evening.  My wife cannot make the same claim.

I know that I promised some pictures of our new, used car, but the safety discovered some invisible issues that are being dealt with.  I should get the car back today and pictures will follow.

I need to get back to writing so I'll leave you with this picture.

And yes, that is the beard.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

So...what's new with you?

I was reminded yesterday that we are into the Christmas season now by both my children.  They were telling me I'd better get it in gear and get the lights up, the tree decorated and the presents bought.  Well - it just didn't feel like Christmas - until this happened:

Yes - our first real snowfall.  It will probably all be gone by this afternoon, but there was enough on the ground to get the kids - and the dog - excited.  On the way to school this morning my son bombarded me with snowballs while Willow rolled at every opportunity.  There are a series of "doggie-angels" in the snow right along St. Andrew Street.

When I got back to the house I snapped these pictures:

Since we've had another snowfall, I've posted another of the winter-themed poems over at the writing notebook.  You can get there by clicking this link.

There are a few other new things.  I am now sporting something that has been described as anything from "distinguished" to "scruffy".  Yes - following the Really Raggedy Andy stint at Hallowe'en, I decided to let the beard grow.  I'll post a picture soon.

Another new thing - we have decided to once again become a two car family.  My lovely wife discovered a sweet deal on a used Hyundai Elantra Station Wagon and we just had to take a look.  The car is in excellent shape, is very fuel efficient and has a low enough profile that a middle-aged golden retriever can hop into the back unassisted.  And the price was truly unbeatable.

What gives?  you might be asking.  Why so cheap?  If there's nothing wrong with it, why such a great price?

Well, I didn't say there was nothing wrong with it.  Mechanically it seems fine.  In fact the car is at our local garage being safetied today, otherwise I would have taken a picture to show exactly what is wrong with it.

Let's just say a paint job is in order - the sooner the better.
(Picture to follow - probably tomorrow)

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

The Wisdom of Raymond Chandler

I love Raymond Chandler.

A few years ago I was fortunate enough to find a first American Edition of the The Long Goodbye.

I grew up on movie depictions of Philip Marlowe, his always just getting by private detective.  I like Marlowe - a fellow far too human for the line of work he found himself in.  It's Marlowe's humanity that separates Chandler's writing from a lot of the detective stuff of the same era.  Chandler's stuff was crisp, emotional and moving and it has been largely ignored by those who study literature, relegated to the catch-all bin of pulp fiction.

Yesterday, while my daughter was at her piano lesson, I took a walk to a local book and video store and I came across a skinny book titled, "The Notebooks of Raymond Chandler".  I had to pick it up.

The very first section of the book - right after the introduction  - is a quarter of a page called "Great Thought"

"There are two kinds of truth:  the truth that lights the way and the truth that warms the heart.  The first of these is science, and the second is art.  Neither is independent of the other or more important than the other.  Without art science would be as useless as a pair of high forceps in the hands of a plumber.  Without science art would become a crude mess of folklore and emotional quackery.  The truth of art keeps science from becoming inhuman, and the truth of science keeps art from becoming ridiculous."
                                  Raymond Chandler  Feb 19th 1938

Pretty philosophical for a mere pulp writer, I think.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

What is it about a synopsis?

So... In order to submit book length manuscripts to agents and publishers more often than not you need to supply a synopsis of the story.  The synopsis needs to run through all of the major threads of the story so that whoever ends up reviewing your submission will quickly know the gist of the tale and know whether it is the sort of thing they will want to develop or represent.

A synopsis shouldn't be that daunting.  For Gerry - my children's story about an orphaned giant - a synopsis is a straightforward affair because all of the action follows Gerry.  From the mountain top beginning to the reunion at the end, Gerry is the character we follow around.  With The Edgeling (formerly titled Loremaster) things are a little more complex.

You would think that having written the damn book, the synopsis would be easy.  Not so.

In The Edgeling there are eight major characters and the flow of the story goes from one character to the next as they all scramble off in varying directions.  Layer onto that a politically complex world and a smattering of racial bigotry, a Cain and Able sub-story, a resurrection and a gypsy-like band of travelling folk and a synopsis begins to get daunting.

At 502 revised pages and just over 163,000 words, The Edgeling is a long story.  Attempting to give a fair synopsis in the standard 5-10 page treatment is asking a lot.  Because of the novel's length and complexity, I'm afraid the synopsis may run as long as 15 pages which may in itself be a reason for an agent or publisher to reject the manuscript without reading a single word of the actual text. I am therefore trying to be brief, but it is difficult.

To compound the problem - the weather has been terrific.  Sunny days with mild temperatures have me wanting to be anywhere BUT the basement writing the synopsis.  The last few days I've brought the laptop into the front porch to take advantage of the sunshine and still work on the synopsis.  That's the plan, anyway.

Because I don't really want to write the synopsis, I am find a thousand little things to do other that get the damn thing typed and polished.  Things like dishes, laundry, yard clean up, winterizing the carport and ...well...updating this blog...

Okay - enough  - back to it.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Remembrance Day

I know what I'll be doing at 11:00am.

Before then, take a few minutes and have a look at this:


Monday, 9 November 2009

Tear Down This Wall...

It's hard to believe but it has been twenty years since the Berlin Wall came down signaling an end to the Soviet Union.  There are some great images here.

I try not to be preachy, but here's the exception that makes the rule...

It's kind of nice to be reminded that sometimes really bad ideas eventually get recognized and corrected.  There are too many bad walls still standing.

Like this one.

We should take a lesson from history and start getting rid of them, too.

Friday, 6 November 2009

Spooky handwriting analysis, Batman!

Since it snowed several times yesterday and there was another wee blanket of the white stuff this morning, I decided to post another of my winter themed poems over at the Notebook.  You can get to the Poetry  - yes, that's right - poetry page by clicking here.

I have been rebuilding my Edgeling synopsis this morning and needed a little break. (The re-writing of the synopsis is going quite well and is, I think, better than the one that vanished last week when Windows Vista decided to update.)

I saw an e-mail notification about Stephen King's new novel, Under the Dome.  On his website he discussed the evolution of the story and has posted a PDF of the original 60 typewritten pages of The Cannibals which would grow into the current book.  I figured there were worse ways to procrastinate that to look at the working process of one of the most successful storytellers in the world so I open the document and began to read.

I marveled at the old typeface and the bluish tint to the old paper (he started this thing back in the 80's when he was still using an electric typewriter).  I was delighted to see the number of mistakes that had been crossed out and corrected.  But then I had to give my head a shake.  As I saw his handwritten corrections I was taken aback.  I pulled off my glasses, rubbed my eyes and looked again.

Mr King and I have nearly identical handwriting.

This opens up all sorts of fun possibilities - especially if I can get my hands on his cheque book.  Imagine the fun I could have with the world's greatest horror writer by sending him weird and freaky letters in his own handwriting...There might be a whole new book there for either one of us...

Oh well...back to work.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

That Four Letter Word


Tremendous, clumped-together drifting flakes of it fell from the heavens this morning and decided to stick around for a while.

Everyone got into the act.

My son - a little optimistically - got out the snowball maker.

Soon, buddy, but not just yet.

My daughter got right down into the snow and got to work.

Even Willow couldn't resist a little roll in the freshly-fallen snow.

To celebrate the first snow (which has turned to rain already) I'll be posting a snow themed poem I wrote last year over at the writing notebook a little later today. Here's the link.

And what would the first snowfall be without a snowman - courtesy of my daughter...

Monday, 2 November 2009


My favourite holiday.  Just as the air turns crisp, the leaves fall from the trees and snow starts to peak around the corner, you really need something to celebrate.  Hallowe'en has always done that for me, so today I'm talking about Hallowe'en followed by a little rant about laziness.

In what has become an annual pilgrimage for the Beynon family, we headed on the Thursday before Hallowe'en to Tim Murton's Twilight Zoo.  My daughter and I attended Tim's workshop this year and made Trixie, the albino black cat.  Each year the trip to the Twilight Zoo is a treat as we get to see perennial favourites and there is always something new to delight.

This guy has greeted us at Tim's front gate ever since we started visiting the Zoo.

He hangs menacingly off the building, sneering at all who pass through  the gates.  Inside the gates are a host of witches, sharks, skulls, mushrooms, ghouls and cauldrons.  This rock group - I'm assuming they're the Grateful Dead - makes me laugh every time.

Every year there is something new and impressive.  I was most impressed by this:

The Unicorn is my daughter's new favourite.

On to Hallowe'en.  Pumpkins and Jack O' Lanterns are always fun, but consensus on what ought to be carved can be difficult for a family of four.  Through discussion and compromise we came up with this cyclopean vampire.

We mounted him on the carport roof for better street appeal.  Here he is lit up:

Next were costumes.  My daughter loves Garfield and my son is taken with Ninjas lately.  Their little buddy looked great as a particular square-panted character.

My wife gave out candy this year and looked fabulous as the neighbourhood witch.

I, of course, had to do something with some back story.  I got to wondering...what would happen if Toy-land's happiest couple, Raggedy Ann and Andy, broke up?  How would the divorce weigh upon Andy?  How would he deal?  I figured he would leave and join a carnival and, as everyone knows, the carnival life can be a rough one.  After years on the road, filled with bitterness over the idyllic life he'd squandered, I figured Andy would look a little like this:

I present, Really Raggedy Andy.

And, yes, I did scare a few children.

Now on to the rant.  During the course of this blog post I have typed out the word Hallowe'en six times so far and guess what?  Every time I type Hallowe'en the spell checker tells me I've typed it incorrectly.  But I haven't.  The spell checker wants to see "Halloween" - look at that, no red squiggly line underneath but without the apostrophe, Hallowe'en is spelled wrong.     And where the hell does the spell checker get off telling me that "Hallowe'en",  spelled completely and correctly, is wrong?

Have we become so lazy with our 144 character text messages and our r u ok and lol's etc, that to add a simple apostrophe is too much work?  I shudder to think of the day one of my kids comes home from school with a spelling test where they've had a point deducted for including the time-tested and true apostrope in Hallowe'en.

Maybe next time I'll talk about why Pluto is still a planet, regardless of what some astronomers think...

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Angry, Angry, Angry

I'm frustrated, disappointed but mostly angry.

I'm grinding my teeth angry at a few things this morning.


Let's see.  I came downstairs to the basement this morning to check on an e-mail message I've been waiting on to see the start-up screen on my laptop.  Vista had done yet another of its unprompted updates.  I growled as I started up, but wasn't too concerned.  I had a few word documents open but surely the auto-recover feature on Microsoft Word would have saved those files every ten minutes just as it's programed to do.  Surely.

My e-mail hadn't come in.  Damnit.  Oh, well - let's open Word and recover those files.

The Auto-Recovery task pane (pain) was not there.  Okayyyyy - where the hell is it?  I searched and searched and searched but there were no Auto-Recovery files to be found.  Anywhere.

I did a little internet search.  I checked for all of the different file extensions which could possibly be attached to my errant files.  Nothing.  Anywhere.

I was fuming!  I was totally pissed off at Microsoft Word for not dutifully saving my files like it is supposed to. I was angry at Vista for not waiting for my to okay the request to restart before going ahead and doing it itself.  But I'm mostly angry at myself for relying on a software company with a poor track record to protect my work.

By now, I should really know better.

So - for today - I'm off to the gym to work off some frustration - then home to see if I can rewrite my synopsis for The Edgeling and the work I had added to Gerry.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Strange and wonderful...

It has been a week of strange and wonderful things.  I have been plodding ahead with a synopsis for The Edgeling and have been moving (slowly) forward on Gerry.

Something strange to begin with - it seems after twenty-two years good old Duffer (who lately has more than his fair share of "Bill the Cat" moments) has decided to stave off Alzheimer's by challenging himself with new skills.

He's decided to start with Beatrix Potter.  Good choice, Duff.

Now onto something wonderful.  My little time-consuming park project, BT Corner.  Most of the landscaping is done.  The wall is all but finished and the paving stones are in.  There are a few touches left for this autumn, but then I can take a break from the park (for the most part) until Spring when there will be planting and benches and information plaques to contend with.  Here's how the Corner looks today:

I especially love that red maple.

Something else wonderful - this:

Is that?  Could that be? one would ever-

Yes.  That's Nature's Perfect Food, right there.  Bacon, and lots of it.  That is a bacon, potato and cheddar tart, my friends.  I wish I could take credit for this flavour treat/ heart attack on a plate but that honour goes to PEI chef, Michael Smith.

Here's what it looks like inside:

Trust me - all you need with this is the salad (and maybe a defibrillator).

Now on to strange and wonderful.

I love my town.  We are blessed with hundreds of heritage homes built from local limestone by the skilled hands of masons long dead.  One of these buildings is our own Carnegie Library.  It is a stately building and last night, as I waited for my daughter to finish her piano lesson, I snapped this shot - just in time for Hallowe'en.

This really is the only way to light a building like this.

And speaking of lights...Remember Trixie, the albino black cat.  Well here she is, mounted and lit, just in time for Hallowe'en.

Monday, 19 October 2009

Leaves and wind and sun

We've had some blustery weather of late, denuding the trees and leaving us scrambling to pull the mitts and hats out of storage for another year.  I'm of the opinion that it is far too early for such things but chilled kids win the vote every time.  Over the weekend things warmed up considerably.

It was warm enough to get a few jobs done.  My workshop needs to be winterized but first things first - it had to be cleaned.  Once it was cleaned it seemed like we should finish Trixie.  Remember Trixie?  She the albino black cat my daughter and I made for Hallowe'en.

She's almost done:

Complete with scary teeth.

It was supposed to be a Cheshire Grin but didn't really turn out that way.  All we need to do is light her up from the inside and she'll be ready for the big night at the end of the month.

It was also nice enough that the crew working on the park for the Heritage Committee made some real headway.  They did a bit more over the weekend, but this is where they were at as of Saturday morning:

The Corner is coming along really nicely and everyone I've spoken to has been pleased with the results.  I have been told that most, if not all, of the landscaping work should be done by the end of the week.

Across from the park in the Fergus Market Building is a place which offers archery lessons.  My son has expressed an interest and even went as far as to build his own play bow over the summer.  I took him over on Saturday afternoon and he proved to be a quick study:

He looks pretty excited, right?  With good cause.

That's a Bullseye from about ten yards out.  We'll be going again soon, I'm sure.

To finish off a brilliant autumn day - what better than a fire...

And yes, that big jar next to the kettle on the table behind me - jam packed with marshmallows for roasting.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Hard Frost

It has been a while since my last post.  Thanksgiving has come and gone and the first really hard frost hit us the night before last.

A few weeks back the family headed out to the farm I grew up on to make a few repairs to my mother's house.  While we were there I took the kids for a walk around the perimeter of the property.  A lot has changed since I was growing up there and yet a lot remains the same.  During the walk every hundred yards or so we'd sample the ripening apples on the trees we passed that grow in the fence rows.  Apart from the tree in the barnyard with the enormous pie apples, I don't really recall sampling the fruit from the trees scattered along the edges of the property.

We were surprised at the variety and the bounty.  Some were tart but one tree has these amazingly sweet apples.  Most are snow white on the inside.  One tree has whitish flesh with red tints bleeding through.  All of the trees were heavily laden and all about was the evidence of deer.  Apparently the trees are a favourite among the local ungulate population.

Last weekend we made an afternoon trip during a break from what has seemed like constant rain to pick apples.  Here's what we came away with:

We've now sorted and stored most of these apples in the root cellar and the rest have been made into sauce and used in cooking.  The front porch still smells comfortably of apples.

With Thanksgiving came the fall colours.  Some trees are mid-change:

Others have completely changed like this great tree just down the street:

And others, like this one in our front yard, have lost their leaves completely:

In writing news, I continue to plod away at Patriot.  I haven't been writing as much as I would like.  Holidays and school PD days have been playing havoc with anything like a schedule, as has the park I am working on for our local Heritage Committee.  Yesterday I returned to a project that has been shelved for a while and since the story starts on a sunny autumn day it seemed appropriate for me to work on it while the sun shines and the leaves blow in whirlwinds among the trees.  The story?  My children's story about an orphaned giant who has to find his way in the world.

Speaking of the Heritage park - BT Corner is coming along nicely.  The stone wall is being built.  It's a joy to watch the masons work.  They're real craftsmen and I am a huge fan of craftsmanship.  Yesterday they began to lay the paving and I'm thinking today they might be in a position to level the limestone screening.

Here's where we stand as of about 6 o'clock last night:

Coming along nicely...