Category Archives: creative writing

James in His Jeep Getting Java – Port Townsend

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Did I ever tell you about the time I stayed in a haunted hotel and time travelled to Victorian era America? True story.

March 31st I had decided to take a roadtrip to Port Townsend and found a hotel online that looks like a castle. The Manrea Castle in Port Townsend has quite a history,  even claiming to be haunted according to one website. It seemed like the ideal place to stay for a writer.

I took the Chuckanut Drive just south of Bellingham towards Whidby Island, passing through one of my favourite places for lunch: Edison. The Slough had been closed my last few stops (the owner takes a well-deserved vacation) but this time it was open. I always have their soup of the day and grilled cheese sandwich as it never disappoints.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I can’t say that I wasn’t warned to book ahead for the ferry. Not only was it on the hotel’s website, but there are a million signs posted along the highway telling you to book ahead. I didn’t listen, because I figured it couldn’t possibly be that busy on a Friday afternoon. It can, and it was.

I arrived at 2pm and was told if I wanted to wait I might make it onto the 6:30pm ferry. My other option was to book for the 6:30pm ferry, leave for a few hours, then return. My thought process: I had some writing to do, there was a cafe there, and really a few hours was no big deal. Reality: A few hours is a really long time.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Keystone Cafe was good for what it was: a cafe by the ferry. If there were choices, it would not win out. However, they did have ice cream so that was good. I spent the afternoon writing for a few hours, thinking, took a nap, ate some ice cream, drank way too much coffee (like there’s a such thing), watched two ferries arrive and leave without me (the 2:30pm and 4:30pm ferries), and finally the 6:30 ferry arrived. I was the final vehicle to make it onto the ferry. Barely. At that point, I think the ferry staff actually felt sorry for me because I was the only one being polite with them and not shouting curses.

Port Townsend is a very beautiful place. It wasn’t my first time here, but it was my first time to spend time exploring the city. I had passed through before on my way to Forks a few years ago.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

As I had arrived late in the evening, there wasn’t much open so I went straight to the castle and checked into my room. At this point, I hadn’t read any of the lore regarding the haunting, but later that night I would swear to hearing footsteps on the ceiling where there should have only been an attic. As well, that night I had one of the worst allergy attacks of my days that could only have been brought on by a ghostly spirit (or the gorgeous flower gardens in bloom around the castle).

20170331_185613

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

As a place to stay, I’d recommend Manrea Castle. It was comfortable and reasonably priced. However, because my room had a window on my door light from the hallway kept my room from getting dark enough to let me sleep. I did mention that to staff, but you may want to make sure they’ve corrected it before you book. And book ahead for the ferry. Just trust me on that.`

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

And apparently I time travelled. The next day there were people wandering the streets dressed in Victorian-era garb, which I would learn later was because of a Victorian Festival that happens every year. These were the townspeople and not actors just out enjoying the amazing place they call home. (I learned this after asking a few people if I could take photos, and one couple asking me, “You know we all live here, we’re not actors or anything, right?” No. No I did not.)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I ventured over to Point Wilson Lighthouse, which has an interesting history from when it was a working lighthouse. The lighthouse is in Fort Worden Park, which itself was a beautiful, pleasant walk. The day was sunny, and warm — and in one of the photos below, you can see the glimpse of an otter scampering from the lighthouse through the rocks to the ocean.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I found an old bunker that looked to me like the scene from a zombie apocalypse. Blame my fascination on zombies for that, and probably the book I wrote on the zombie apocalypse.

As road trips go, Port Townsend is one I will do again. It has an interesting history, a friendly town, cool architecture, and next time I’ll make sure to plan to attend the festival.

My theme song for this trip is Clannad’s Robin Hood even though Robin Hood was medieval and not Victorian.

SD73 YAC Conference May 5th!

I’m pretty excited about attending this conference again this year! Not only does it mean a roadtrip to Kamloops, but I also get to meet some fantastic authors both of the professional and aspiring kind.

2017-young-authors-conference-poster_orig

Rancor: Vampyre Hunter … Free

rancour

Hard to believe the first copy of this book was published by Simply Read Books (published as Rancour) twelve years ago. Harder to believe that when it was first published, it was considered a unique storyline and not a cliched copycat of the now thousands of vampire/werewolf/love triangle books out there.

When it was first published (just a few months before Twilight) reviewers compared it to Underworld and Constantine –only because those movies have something to do with vampires or the supernatural. Then Twilight became popular, and Rancour was only ever compared to it.

I was hired to write three novels and paid an advance for the third (which never made it to print). Vampires seem to be making a resurgence and so I am considering releasing the third, never-before-seen book. We’ll see.

For now, a few reviews:

“Werewolves, vampires, keg parties, murders and love: Terror and suspense rarely let up in this teen thriller” – Pam Withers, author of the popular Xtreme Series

“Vampires, werewolves, and teenage angst — the supernatural has often been worked into teen tales, but rarely in quite the way that Vancouver author James McCann has done in his first novel.” – Quill and Quire, October 2005

“An enthralling read for an action fan or a mythology follower. Reliving the motions of an ancient being, paralleled by a new kid in town. Modern acts speak in an ancient tongue that resonates for longer than anyone can fathom. A treat for all who love a good fictional story.” – Windsor Star, 2007

“The time – the present. The place – Fillmore High and the surrounding town. The cast of characters – Alix, Betty, Kharl, Simon – plus their families, friends and enemies. It all points to a typical teen fiction novel. And that’s where the resemblance ends.” – CM Magazine, 2005 (Pyre)

And here we are. Twelve years later and people are still reading it. It’s no longer available in the Simply Read Books version, but it is available under my imprint:

Plus, the Kindle version is free until the 21st.

rancor_2016

 

Below is a song that inspired the story. From a movie that inspired the story.

NaNoWriMo

For those of you who don’t know what NaNoWriMo is, it stands for, “National Novel Writing Month.” The goal is 50,000 words in the month of November, and you can track your stats by signing up on their website.

So far, I’m not doing so well, at least in regards to hitting the target of 1700 words a day that I would need in order to meet that goal. The first few days I fought a cold and a few school assignments (and yes, I would use the term “fought” in regards to those assignments). However, today I have written a solid 1,000 words and am enjoying this story that I’m creating for the project. (At this point, I would have to write 6,800 words today to get caught up to my goal.)

So why continue if I’m that far behind? This is the first time I’ve done NaNoWriMo, but since friends have raved about it I decided to give it a shot. I’ll be honest–I went into it not expecting to succeed. In fact, I expected to fail miserably of the 50,000 word goal. So, again, why do it? Because it’s not just about hitting the goal. It’s about writers encouraging writers, experimenting with crazy ideas, and mostly about creating good writing habits. That last one I have lacked since my life turned to other pursuits.

I’m feeling as though school is well in hand, as there is less time to look forward to than there is to look back on. I have my dream job–and it’s going swimmingly. And, it’s winter so there isn’t a lot of opportunity for road trips. I’m ready to start writing again and putting some of these ideas in my head down on paper. (Or on the computer, if I’m more accurate.)

NaNoWriMo is all about that. It’s about my own goal, and ending the month with a writing schedule that gets my books written. And so far, that’s going well. And if you’re on NaNoWriMo, connect with me there! I’m under the name jmez.

What is it that I’m writing for NaNoWriMo? My concept is basically Dungeons and Dragons meets Escape from New York:

Tharbadon, an elfin bounty hunter, has been taken hostage by Med Corp. They have tasked him with finding an escaped doctor who has a cure for a plague that is spreading throughout the world. Tharbadon would not normally take on such a mission, except that Med Corp has implanted in him a capsule with the virus–set to go off in 14 days. They will only remove it in exchange for the doctor.

And here are a couple mock covers for the project. Just to keep me inspired:

screen-shot-2016-11-05-at-3-53-51-pm

screen-shot-2016-11-06-at-12-13-14-am

And what music is on this idea’s soundtrack? A little Scorpions, for one:

Happy Halloween!

Halloween is perhaps my favourite time of year. Partly because it’s an excuse to eat as much candy as I want, but also because I love dressing up as a character. As a writer, I don’t often dress up a someone else’s character, so when I go to parties people have a hard time figuring out who I am supposed to be. “I’m not a character, I’m more of a genre,” I tell them.

zombie-hunter_05

I’m not sure who this character is yet, but this was my version of a steampunk-ish zombie hunter. The jacket (detail is completely lost) is Renaissance in style, the shirt pirate, the boots medieval. I found a very cool machete (plastic, but it looked metal) and a toy crossbow that, again, did not look like a toy. For future: black gloves, facial scars and a severed zombie head on my belt would have made this outfit complete.

zombie-hunter_03zombie-hunter_02zombie-hunter_01

Friend and cake-maker extraordinaire Carrie also arrived at the party as a zombie hunter (completely unplanned that our costumes would be the same genre). She also arrived with a severed zombie head, which turned out to be a cake.

zombie-hunters

Halloween Night is now just one more sleep away, so if you’re out and about tomorrow just remember to watch for those dark spaces and howls at the moon. Plus, if you are in the mood for a zombie tale don’t forget that Rise of the One-Eyed King is for sale over at Amazon!

Jeremy Tankard’s Hungry Bird Booklaunch

Last night I had the pleasure of seeing long-time friend Jeremy Tankard launch his newest creation, Hungry Bird, at Vancouver Kidsbooks. As a library tech who does storytimes with preschoolers, I’m familiar with his other books. A favourite with the kids is Grumpy Bird, as you can read the book as an interactive with the kids acting out the animals plus you can discuss how you know when someone is angry and what we can do when we’re angry.

hungry

Along comes Hungry Bird, also a familiar feeling for the young and old. “Who brought me something to eat?” is the theme of this book, and again this will be an amazing picturebook for storytimes and early education. You can buy a copy from any retailer.

Congratulation, Jeremy, on an amazing book!

 

 

tankard

Radio Interview, Culture Days, and a Free Book!

At noon today I’m doing a reading on a pop-up radio station called Leave Your Mark FM outside the Richmond Cultural Centre. In honour of the event, you can get the Kindle version of Rise of the One-Eyed King FREE.

9780993748653

For more information on the pop up radio station, follow this link!

 

Goodreads Giveaway – Rise of the One-Eyed King

Do you like free books? Enter for a chance to win one of five copies of Rise of the One-Eyed King! (Canadian and US residents only.)

 

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Rise of the One-Eyed King by James Alfred McCann

Rise of the One-Eyed King

by James Alfred McCann

Giveaway ends September 30, 2016.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

 

James in his Jeep Getting Java–Cottage Town

2016-07-02 15.41.55
A friend commented that this pic looks like a Mad Max Road Warrior photo.

 

 

 

A couple weekends ago I took a road trip to Lynden, Washington, a town I visit quite regularly. I follow the Lynden Dutch Bakery on Instagram, and they’d posted a pic of all the fresh raspberries they’d acquired and so I knew a trek was in order.

While Lynden was my destination, I’ve always said that a good road trip isn’t where you point your Jeep but where you ultimately wind up. This day was warm and sunny, hitting a nice 25C by noon. From the Canada/States border, the road to Lynden is called the Lynden/Birch Bay road. Turn left to Lynden, turn right to Birch Bay. (The latter is where I always stop for my coffee at the Woods Coffee.)

In Lynden, a town of just under thirteen thousand, I got my Raspberry Delight as pictured below) and attempted to get a selfie of me and it. A woman was sitting at the table beside me with her newborn, and offered to take my photo for me. We wound up chatting as she and her husband had just been to Vancouver for the first time, and we compared stories of what it’s like to live where we do. She and her husband had moved there from Texas, and they were finding it difficult to meet new people.

Below are photos of my walk through the historic part of Lynden, and they can be compared to my earlier journey there from January. I did stop at a new place for lunch, and while I enjoyed the meal I had a rude comment from the manager that I had intended to blog about. But, to be honest, sometimes the best way to let people know about a bad experience is to just not give that place any advertising. Next time I’m in Lynden, I’ll stick to the Lynden Dutch Bakery since they are always friendly and the food is always amazing.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

20160702_120141After I had my lunch, it was still early in the day so I decided to drive down to Fairhaven and just enjoy the rest of the sunny day. I often go to Avenue Bread for their iced coffee and some sort of pastry.

As I walked through the town, I kept thinking about that Lynden/Birch Bay road and how I’ve only ever driven the Lynden route and never all the way to the end of the Birch Bay area. I was curious what was there, and while I could Google it nothing beats actually venturing it yourself.

The photos below are a collection of Fairhaven from that trip and a previous trip in May. The red bus is Fairhaven Fish and Chips which makes a great, greasy fish and chips meal.

I also recommend taking a stroll through Fairhaven Park.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

When it was nearing time to head home, I still had a couple hours of free time. As I neared the Lynden/Birch Bay road, I decided to turn left down towards Birch Bay and see what was there. At first it was a typical country road, but then I came across Birch Bay State Park and had to stop to purchase a pass.

20160702_15103320160702_154020

After getting my pass, I drove towards the camp grounds and found a road that wound along the bay. There were dozens of families enjoying the water, and I stopped at a picnic table by the water to finish my iced coffee that was leftover from Avenue Bread. It was a beautiful day.

 

Below, you’ll find photos of the campsite area and the road along the water. When I left, my GPS took me on a different route home than where I had begun. And that’s when I found the most amazing of places.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I saw the bright yellow from down the road and instantly had to find a place to stop. It felt as though I had stepped through a time portal and had wound up in the 70s where simple cottage life still existed. The C Shop was a cute little place that served ice cream and fudge. Birch Bay Village has a population of just under 8,500 people.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Families had gathered, and across the street were tables where people were selling their arts and crafts. Kitty corner to that was a yarn shop. As I watched the world happen (while eating my ice cream), a group of kids all rode by on their bikes and stopped for ice cream.

All of this got me thinking about a novel I have finished but have just not been happy with. There was something missing–something about where the kids live, why they have their conflict, and the reasons why they’ll never see each other after that last summer together. That story returned to me as I watched the lives unfold at Birch Bay, and many of the pieces I couldn’t figure out suddenly made sense.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I didn’t have nearly enough time to fully experience Birch Bay, so this will be a spot that I return to again when the sun is out and warm. I’ll sit in the cafe, enjoy a coffee, and be inspired by a slow way of life that sometimes feels completely lost.

And yes, as you can see below, I’ll also stop in at the Woods Cafe at Birch Bay Square to fill up my bottles of cold brew coffee.

20160607_170053

And what song went through my head when I saw the old C Shop and that cute cottage town?