Category Archives: Workshops

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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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.

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

 

James in His Jeep Getting Java-the Cloverdale Edition

20160617_144729June 17, I was invited to present a workshop at the Cloverdale branch of the Surrey Public Library on writing action scenes. Writing action is what I’m known for with paranormal fiction involving wars between werewolves and vampires (mine was out before Twilight before your mind goes there) and secret martial arts clubs in Flying Feet.

There’s a lot of violence happening in the world right now, and it may seem irresponsible for authors to write about it in fiction–especially in books where impressionable youth are involved. However, those who believe that don’t give enough credit to just how sophisticated a tale youth desire these days, nor to the power of a story to guide youth (and grown adults) through questions and concerns they may have of living in such a violent world. My main talking points were:

  • Write responsibly.
  • Violence should move the story forward, not be a plot device nor be gratuitious.
  • If you can cut the violent scene out without changing the flow or meaning of the story–cut it.

Ten teens showed up (the entire creative writing group) and they were friendly, kind, and intelligent writers. They asked questions, they supported each other, and they made me feel welcome. I have no doubt that we are in for some incredible literature from the next generation and I left feeling encouraged.

The Cloverdale library is set in a city of just over 71 thousand people close to the City of Langley. Historic Cloverdale was settled circa 1870, and is a very cute spot to get a lunch and spend an afternoon. If you remember the TV series Smallville, you will recognize this area as the spot where the show was filmed. The theme song for this post is the intro song to the TV series.

Below is the area where the library is found. There is a museum, an old clock, plus a log cabin in this square. I arrived several hours early to explore (and grab some java) and was glad that I had. Unfortunately, I found the museum too late but will certainly make my way there another day.

What I loved most about exploring this small section of a few blocks was old signage. While the buildings had that rustic “old village” feel, the signage on the side of buildings and the shingles were what really made this place worth seeing. Below are a few of my favourites.

For you Smallville fans, you may recognize the theatre (now closed) as the Talon from the TV series.

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I wound up at the Rustic Rooster for coffee, and had their blended iced coffee which hit the spot on such a hot day. They have a small patio for nice days, and a rather spacious interior with several places to sit and enjoy their food. As well, if you are interested in crafts, they sell quite a few knick knacks worth looking at.

Unfortunately, none of my photos turned out of the cafe so you’ll have to check out their website before heading down there.

Zombies and the British Columbia Interior

In 2010, I was trying to decide what kind of book I wanted to write and a friend of mine in tae kwon do suggested zombies. At the time, I laughed and told him that zombies were not scary and maybe a little stupid. “I’m going to bring you some reading material next class, and your mind will be changed.” I’m always up for a challenge, so I accepted.

He brought me the Walking Dead comics, World War Z: Recorded Attacks graphic novel, and World War Z the novel. My. Mind. Was. Blown. This sent me on a spiral of discovering George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead (plus the remake by Zack Snyder), playing Left for Dead 2 on STEAM, and coming up with my own story that started my then named novel, Zombiepocalypse.

Clinton, BC 2012

At the time, I used to take a yearly trip from Vancouver to Williams Lake to sell books for Vancouver Kidsbooks at a teacher’s conference. This particular year, after all the literature given to me by my tae kwon do pal, I wound up stopping in a little town called, Clinton. Clinton has a population of just under 600 people and is quite beautiful. It looks like an old frontier town, and gives its visitors a sense of history. As I pulled over my rented van filled with books for the conference, I knew that I had found the place where Zombiepocalypse would take place.

First, a few highlights from the town. In a lot that’s been for sale every year I’ve visited, there are posts with shingles nailed to them. On each shingle is someone’s name and where they are from. This was an incredible sense of history to me–kind of like a library, but with carvings instead of paper books.

I started to imagine where my character might have grown up, who he was, what kind of upbringing he had. Unlike a big city where zombies would thrive by the thousands, what would small town life look like?

Clinton, BC 2012

More importantly, who would be his enemies? Who would he compete with for the scraps of what was left? As I drove down the highway wondering where his enemies might hold up, I came across Hat Creek Ranch and knew, instinctively, that this was where the my main character would find his nemesis.

Equally important, was knowing the topography of the area. While I was lucky enough to be able to drive the area (over the course of a few summers, too) I also had the benefit of Google Maps.

Hat Creek Ranch

It’s been a long time since 2010 when I wrote the first draft, and now, six years later, I have the final draft and a final title: Rise of the One-Eyed King. Over the next few months, I’ll let you know when you can pre-order a copy for your very own. It will release July 1st.

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One of the many songs that inspired the novel, and the theme of this post:

What You Do Matters

Canada Day. The beginning of summer.
Canada Day. The beginning of summer.

It’s been a long while since I last posted, and has this summer been filled with many transitions. Each time I thought, “I should blog this change,” something else occurred and I decided it best to wait. Then it was something else, and something else. It got me thinking about the importance of not giving up when things don’t seem to be going the way you planned. Or when Life kicks you so hard, that you give up on it for awhile in order to regain the strength to carry on.

 

 

 

Conan - well into recovery.
Conan – well into recovery.

Nothing so dramatic has happened to me. Unless you consider the beginning of the summer, shortly after my last post, when my dog, Conan, developed digestion issues. For those of you who don’t know, Conan is a 15-year old Shih Tzu that I’ve had since he was six-months old. Last Christmas he developed chronic liver disease, and unfortunately the medication he’s on (best of its kind) is slowing it down but not stopping it. Without going into detail, the issues he was having meant he couldn’t stop himself from making messes – every hour on the hour. Like clockwork. I was informed that I had to consider his quality of life vs. my need for him here.

 

At this same time I was starting a new job at the Richmond Public Library as a student Library Tech. It was a steep learning curve, and without the required sleep (I was up every hour to help my boy) it was even steeper. The first couple weeks into July were rough, and I was worried about being labeled “That guy who yawns all the time.”

With both Conan’s and my quality of life being affected, I had one final option (after much research): to try Conan on canned food that was easier to digest. If that wasn’t going to work, it was time to say goodbye.

Thank the Heavens that it did not come to that. The soft food helped immediately – and also on the advice of my research (notice I don’t say vet) I added a tablespoon of fresh pumpkin. (Which I now freeze in quantities of tablespoons.) His digestion issues disappeared, he started gaining weight again, and his energy returned. That also meant he was sleeping through the night, and so was I.

Add to this that I also had commitments to a creative writing program at UBC through the Writing Centre, a writing workshop at the Surrey Public Library, and I was one of the mentors at the Vancouver Public Library’s Bookcamp, and this was a very busy summer.

As I wrote, during all this I was beginning a new job at the Richmond Public Library. I must admit that I was nervous at first, because if it turned out I couldn’t do it then it meant my effort at returning to school was a bust. It was not unlike the feelings I get with exercise, or with writing. All these voices pop into my head from those well-meaning adults from my childhood who told me not to try, don’t risk failure, and accept that I’m just not capable of “that.” Following the advice that I give my students – I ignored those voices (what the Artist’s Way calls “The Censor”) and persevered. After all, I have exercised to the point where my body has changed shape and my writing has been published in three novels. Fear does not triumph over me.

One of the many programs I ran at RPL this summer.
One of the many programs I ran at RPL this summer.

It’s now been eight weeks at this new job and I am unbelievably happy. My coworkers are amazing people, my bosses are wonderful, the patrons who use the library are inspiring. I’m running writing classes for middle grade and teens – offering something to the community that will become a positive influence in children at that age when they need it most. And how does this new job affect the rest of my goals?

It makes me look forward to returning to school in a couple weeks – with the determination that I can succeed. I come home and want to exercise, because I know that (especially being a man) that breaking the stereotype of what a library tech is supposed to be is important. And all of this inspires me to create – and write – in that same way that I get to inspire all these new faces in my life.

What we do matters. What *you* do, matters. From advocating for that animal in your life that has no voice, to the every day act of being the best version of yourself. You don’t know who is listening, who is watching, and who is realizing that if you can do it so can they. You’ve changed lives today – whether you know it or not. And that makes you awesome!

Student created story from the Vancouver Public Library's Bookcamp.
Student created story from the Vancouver Public Library’s Bookcamp.

Last Class at Place des Arts

Just taught my final class at Place des Arts for the foreseeable future. While it was sad to say goodbye, it was an amazing feeling to have so many students want me to stay. Ended the semester with full classes, and rumours of a wait list for the next. (I’ll be leaving things in good shape for the next instructor!) A couple students brought gifts, but the card I received from one student who thanked me for being a “great mentor” really made my day. I even got to liken James Frey’s “agency” with summoning a Crossroads demon in Supernatural. And my students knew exactly what I was talking about. My life is awesome.

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Summer Workshops

Over the last few weeks, I taught several workshops at Place des Arts in Coquitlam. My afternoons were spent with the 8-12 year olds, working on comics that they starred in. How did I do that, you may ask?

First, the students created characters – completely independently and not as a group. (I find this is key.) They were then randomly placed into groups, with strange characters (one group had Darth Vader and a genie,) where they wrote a two-page comic.

Next, I used my green screen as background. The students then chose from a plethora of props and costumes, and posed in place as a photo was snapped. The photo is then uploaded into a program called Comic Life Magiq (unfortunately, this is a version no longer available,) and the green screen background is replaced with one of the student’s choice.

The morning I spent with the teens, and we worked on making a magazine. The students created an amazing product that they designed and wrote – and then using iBooks we created a pdf and iBook version.

All in all, it was a fantastic couple of  weeks at Place des Arts with dozens of children and teens who all worked hard at stretching their creative brain even though it was sunny and hot outside.  As for me, I found it inspiring and encouraging to see so many youth so happy and having such a great time. And yes, I even managed to get my own writing done!

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