Category Archives: inspiration

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.

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Preparing for Summer Road Trips

This past weekend I decided to take a trip south to Washington. I went to Lynden, which is a favourite place of mine to visit when I need to think. There’s lots going on in my life these days, and sometimes being on the road hearing only the quiet of my own thoughts is the best medicine.

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I have a couple of big road trips coming up in the next few months. Plus, with the impending nicer weather approaching (at least this is what I hope is happening) I’ll soon be able to stay places overnight for weekend trips. It’s a bittersweet thought that I am no longer unable to stay away from home for more than a few hours.

I’ve been considering tenting as a means of travel. I could keep one in the back of my Jeep and just take it out whenever needed. But then I came across this on Pinterest:

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From Just Jeff’s Hiking Page

The hammock is kind of an ingenious idea, and after doing some research I discovered that quite a few people do this with their Jeeps. It would save a lot of room not having to have a tent, plus a hammock would be much easier to care for. (Especially if it is raining. No need to have a wet tent rolled up that could possibly still be wet the next night on longer road trips.)

I haven’t had a chance to try this yet, but before investing in a hammock I may try stringing  a bed sheet of the same size across my rollbar to get a better idea of just how cramped this is. My head would be pretty close to the roof, but would that really matter? If it looks feasible, I’ll give it a try on a couple shorter road trips before my longer ones.

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Jeep Tents at Quadratec
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Jeep Tent

There are also these cool Jeep tents that I think I’d go for if I had a hard top. The first one, from what I’ve read, requires a few installations for the frame you see surrounding the body of the Jeep. That might make taking the soft top off a little difficult.

The bottom one is more feasible, but looks like it would take up a lot of space once put away. Plus, as I have a soft top, my lock box takes up the trunk and so I can’t imagine needing (or wanting) access to my Jeep once the tent is up. These are great ideas if I had the Jeeps pictured. But I don’t.

Do you have any ideas? Suggestions? Do you own a 2-door soft top and have tried the hammock? Let me know. This weekend when I experiment I’ll let you know what I think.

Western Canada Road Trip – 1997

In 1997 I was 25 and living in Vancouver for the first time. Unsure with the direction of my life, I decided to spend a few weeks on the road to clear my head and plan. This was the first big road trip I had ever taken on my own.

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I owned a 68 VW Beetle, and drove it from Vancouver to Kelowna; to Banff, Alberta to Jasper to somewhere near Edmonton (don’t remember where) to Drumheller; to Battleford, Saskatchewan to Winnipeg (and then back again).

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In Kelowna, Westbank to be more specific, I visited my grandparents’ old home that they had sold almost a decade earlier. It wasn’t yellow anymore and the woods behind it had been cleared, but it brought back many memories of my grandfather taking my sister and I fishing on the Okanagan Lake.

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That trip I visited the Westbank museum, where I met a friend whose name I no longer remember. She introduced me to iced coffee, and we were friends for a few years. Wonder what ever happened to her.

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After that, I headed over to Lake Louise and then Banff. This was me somewhere in that area. That jean jacket was way too baggy on me.

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The journey from Lake Louise to Jasper is a gorgeous one with bodies of water that are icy blue or very green. This was one of the many moose I saw along the way.

My most memorable time in Jasper was in the campground after it had rained pretty heavily. I arrived and set up my tent —  absolutely famished. Unfortunately, my stove had stopped working, I had lost my can opener (and only had canned food), plus the firewood was soaking wet. It was going to be a long night with no food and no camp fire.

Suddenly, a guy from the campsite next to me walked over and threw down several cut pieces of dry wood. He then placed a can opener on my picnic table, and muttered, “We have a generator if you want to plug in.” Then he walked away back to his wife and kids.

Because of that act of kindness, I had warmth and food that night. Plus, I always remember that moment as one of the fondest of my trip.

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I spent a couple days in Drumheller, exploring the museum and the valley. Two days was not enough and I have always wanted to go back. If you love dinosaurs, this is the best place to visit.

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I’m pretty sure this photo was taken in Drumheller. I lived in this tent for almost four weeks and loved every moment.

That trip was the first I ever took on my own, and it was amazing. People would drive off the highway and follow me when I pulled over for gas or to rest at road stops. They’d tell me stories of when they were my age (and it was actually 1968) and they drove their Beetles on road trips. I wish I had known how amazing those stories were and had taken the time to write them down. But I thought I would just remember them forever and ever.

To help spark memories, I leave you with the theme song of one of my favourite TV series from 1990-2000.

Rancor: Vampyre Hunter … Free

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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.

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

Road Tripping, Valentine’s Day, and Snow

The time is nigh. The sun has been out all day today, and the snow is now a faint memory of yesteryear (or yesterweek?). That leaves my mind thinking about the places I may want to point my Jeep this year as I again attempt a road trip every weekend.

Last year out of 26 weekends between March and August I believe I had made 16 road trips. You can see my summary of those trips here. This year, I have a few destinations in mind. More on that in another post.

I started thinking about road trips on of all days, Valentine’s Day. It was a beautiful sunny day and I headed to Grouse Mountain for the evening. (Was this the first road trip of the season?)

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The gondola ride up the mountain was quick and not too scary–if you’re like me and a little terrified-in-the-extreme of heights. I went at sunset, which made it a really gorgeous time of day to see the mountain. There was lots of snow, and I had a touch of a cold, so I was worried about it being freezing up at the top. But it was ten degrees and quite nice.

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There’s lots to do on Grouse Mountain, even if you don’t go to skate, ski, snowboard or snowshoe. What I do recommend, is to not forget your winter boots in your vehicle like I did, which made going for a walk on the path absolutely impossible. I tried, but it was clear after a few feet that I was probably going to slip and kill myself. Since that would put a damper on my day, I opted for something a little less dangerous than a walk.

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The sleigh ride is pretty fun, even if it is pulled by a snowplough and not a horse. I suggest sitting in the back, so you are well away from any fumes. Below you can see the photos I took from the sleigh.

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Next trip to Grouse Mountain, I would definitely prepare for a snowshoe walk through the paths. Dress a little better for it, and maybe get there earlier in the afternoon. However, since I had booked a table at the Observatory Restaurant I was dressed for dinner out.

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The meal was fantastic, and the cost of the gondola is put towards the purchase of your meal. So, if you are going up the mountain for the day (and don’t have a ski pass) it’s worth it to get yourself a really decent meal at the restaurant. I had the tenderloin, and my date had the pork. After tasting the pork, I have to say that I think her meal was better than mine (which is not to say the tenderloin wasn’t good. It was amazing!). For dessert, on recommendation, we shared the carrot cake which was unbelievably good. (It didn’t last long enough for a photo.)

All in all, this place is highly recommended.

Dungeons, Dragons, and Dreams

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Conan at four months old

It’s been a month and a half since I lost Conan. For awhile, I thought things were getting easier and I started perusing dogs on shelter sites because I miss having a dog around. Then the dreams came.

The first one I was at a party. A friend arrived (I don’t know who), and they brought Conan. In the dream, it turned out that I had given him up to a friend and they were allowing me a visit. I couldn’t stop apologizing to Conan.

The second one I was at a shelter. I was looking at dogs, when I found Conan. In this dream it turned out he wasn’t gone, I’d just accidentally left him at a shelter. I was so happy to find him again.

What these dreams taught me is that I am not really wanting a dog again (yet), I’m wanting Conan again. My searching through adoptable dogs was me looking for one that might be Conan. None of them are.

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The above photo is my party of adventurers (I’m the monk on the far right) with a spiritual guardian represented by the four-sided die. I’m not sure what connection this has to my dreams about Conan, except that Dungeons and Dragons is a place I go to once a week where I am surrounded by friends who make me smile and help me forget for a bit the world that weighs on me.

I once claimed that Dungeons and Dragons had saved my life when my appendix became infected during a game. Now, dealing with life without Conan, Dungeons and Dragons continues to save me. It allows me to be creative, to escape, and to spend time with a group of friends who make me laugh and smile.

People ask me all the time, “How are you?” and I say, “Fine.” It’s true, I am, because when grief hits again it will do so in a wave when I’m not expecting it. Such as on my way home from work, when I suddenly feel happy about walking Conan when I get home. Or first thing in the morning when I expect to see Conan at the foot of my bed. Or when I vacuum my suite and there are no dog dishes to move out of the way. Ask me then, and I am not fine. For those tiny, fleeting moments, grief takes over.

Grief isn’t always about being sad or depressed. Sometimes, grief is about appreciating the moments that made you happy when the one you lost was still with you. So, when I’m asked, I will say, “I’m fine” and that will be an honest answer. But if you do catch me when I am not fine, just remember that it is a fleeting moment. An important moment. A moment I need.

If you want to help me, grab a set of polyhedron dice, and let’s play a game of Dungeons and Dragons.

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:

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

 

 

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