Category Archives: Writing Life

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.

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.

Conan, 2000-2016

I haven’t posted in a long while since there haven’t been any great days for road trips. In other words, I haven’t had much to say, and I don’t like posting just for the sake of posting.

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A few weeks ago, I said goodbye to my pet and friend, Conan the shih tzu. I’ve been debating if I wanted to post about this, or if I wanted to keep the blog light and fluffy. It was during Christmas festivities, when a friend started asking questions about my decisions because he will one day soon also have to make the same decisions, and then when other friends who lost pets recently messaged me telling me about the comfort they took in my openness, that I knew I needed to make this post.

For months while I was trying to make that final decision, I googled for advice and found help online. So, for all those who have pets, I will pass on what I have learned.

1) The Natural Death

475When we think of this concept, we imagine our pets passing painlessly in their sleep into the next realm. That’s what I was hoping for since the day that Conan was diagnosed with liver disease in 2014. The truth is, this concept just doesn’t exist. Conan’s liver disease was probably cutting the air off to his brain, and it was starting to cause his lungs to fill with fluid. If he was going to pass naturally, he would have died in pain, probably when I wasn’t home, and filled with fear. Don’t consider the “natural” option. Natural sucks.

2) Where You Say Goodbye

I considered saying goodbye in our home. It seemed like a place where he’d be most comfortable, and perhaps that would have made it easier. However, that would have meant finding a vet I didn’t know, and there was always a tiny part of me clinging to the notion that someone was going to say to me, “Are you sure about this? He’s fine. Look at him!”

I chose the vet we’d been going to for the last seven years. In the end this was the healthy decision, because the vet had a chance to say goodbye, to tell me that he was going to miss the two of us, and to remind me that I had done more than most would have done. He was amazed that Conan had stayed healthy for so long.”He’s a fighter, that one. You should have no regrets,” is what he told me.

As for Conan’s comfort, his place of solitude was anywhere I was–just as it had always been. Cradled in my arms, his gaze staring up at me, his tiny body completely relaxed.

3) After

I spent so much time preparing for the event, that I didn’t think much about what I was going to do after. I chose to be in the room with him alone, which was a mistake. Take someone with you. I had plenty of people offer, but for some reason I thought it needed to be a moment for me and him. And maybe that moment did–but the moments after was when I knew I needed someone for me the same way Conan always needed me there for him.

When asked if I wanted the ashes, I initially thought no. But thankfully I understood how final that decision was, and decided to say yes in case I changed my mind and wanted them. I did change my mind, and am now very glad I have them.

img_0139-1Grief will come in waves. I can’t tell you what to expect or how to prepare as it comes to everyone differently. I cleaned up and put away his things immediately as having them out just made me sad. However, I keep going on our walks and I say goodbye to him each day when I leave for work as I always did. Sometimes I cry when  memory hits, and sometimes I just smile and remember him.

4) Memories

What I came to understand is that although I loved him no matter what, I was missing him long before he died. I was missing that happy puppy that wagged his tail at the sight of other dogs, who chased my feet when we walked, who jumped onto the couch to sit on my lap, who sniffed out the crumbs when I dropped food, who ran to the door to greet me every day when I came home. That’s the Conan I miss, even if it wasn’t the Conan I loved and said goodbye to.

511I take comfort in remembering the many good times we had together. I may blog about that for a while, because Conan was a part of my life for a very long time–from when I was 28 until 16 and a half years later. We had a lot of really great times. And that is my last piece of advice: don’t fear the memories. Sometimes they may make you sad, but mostly they will bring you comfort.

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Godspeed, little buddy.

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:

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 Muddled Brain

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I’ve been doing a lot of homework lately. As most people who know me know, in September of 2014 I went back to school part time at Langara College to take the Library Technician course. This was a HUGE decision for me that took about five years to fully commit to doing, but once I did my life changed in ways that I have never regretted. However, being that I am nearly done I am now ready for that chapter to be over.

Today I was all set to work on reading a couple of chapters so that I could take my quiz tomorrow and be set and prepared. Instead, I woke with what I call the “muddled brain,” that is a feeling in your head as though you are stuck in a fog of smoke from which you cannot find your way out. Two things occurred to me: (1) I would retain nothing that I read today, and (2) I can do my homework anywhere.

I left my home just after noon, and headed south towards Bellingham to have lunch at one of my favourite spots: the Colophon Cafe. I’ve blogged about them before. My hope was that a drive and change of scenery would refresh my brain and un-muddle my Muddled Brain.

My meal was what will become my usual since I am a creature of habit. A half sandwich, the Turkey Village Club, and a small bowl of clam chowder. That’s a latte just above it. It was delicious and worth the drive.

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The day was warm and sunny, with clear blue skies and all sorts of pleasant scents along the drive. Leaving when I did, being that it’s the autumn season, gave me a different perspective of this drive that I take quite often. The sun shone differently, shadows cast in new ways, and the trees had all begun to change colour.

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A short walk through Bellingham after getting my chapters read at the Colophon Cafe was just what my muddled brain needed. The colours were vibrant, and there was a freshness in the cool breeze that made the warm rays of sunlight seem out of place.

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It was clear that autumn had just begun, and there would be more changes in the green trees as the weeks go by. This will be a trip worth taking several more times to witness these changes.

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As I wandered the streets, I checked the time and decided I needed more of a drive. I wanted to see where else autumn was blooming.

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I headed towards the Chuckanut Drive, which I absolutely love to travel. I had set up my camera to video the drive, but unfortunately the camera stopped recording after only a minute and I didn’t get any of the gorgeous bright-coloured trees. I did take a few photos, which you’ll see below.

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At the end of the Chuckanut Drive, I turned right into Edison and was surprised at how busy it was. I didn’t stop there, though, and kept driving towards La Conner. I decided I wanted some dessert from the Calico Cafe, and then I would return home after that.

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When I arrived in La Conner, it was late in the afternoon and the quiet town was closing up shop. The Calico had just closed, and even the chocolate shop wasn’t open. I did find the Waterfront Cafe, which was open until the evening. So I stopped there.

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The mud pie was the “chocolate special of the week,” so I had that and a cup of coffee. This was a nice spot right on the water, and by now the afternoon had reached 18C which felt quite warm. The waitress was friendly and told me stories of how the water below us was once used for smuggling, and I asked her if she had ever heard of Fish Town. She said no, and we exchanged tales of the area that each of us had learned. I relaxed for a spell here until my brain was able to enjoy the moment rather than that muddled fog it had found itself in earlier in the day.

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Below are some of the photos I took before heading back for home.

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The drive home was fast, and since it was just after rush hour there were no delays on the highway. When I got home I felt ready for my quiz tomorrow, with a brain that was relaxed and able to retain what it had read earlier in the day.

Not sure what song to offer as the theme, so I’m just going to add one of my favourites. Enjoy!

The Colophon Cafe; Fairhaven, WA

11427759_10155736117565341_1115954290909891726_nToday was one of those days where it started off cloudy and rainy and cold, so I chose to stay home. As it so happened, when noon arrived so did the sun–and it left me wishing I’d gone somewhere and done something.

I’m not opposed to staying home and relaxing for the day. Sometimes, that’s what we need to recharge and I don’t feel as though I’ve wasted a day if all I’ve done is nap/read/binge watch Suits. However, when that sunshine hit me so did a desire to be on the open road with music blasting.

But it was noon. Too late to go anywhere or do anything. Road trips always start at 8am–and then I wondered why I’d ever agreed upon such a stupid rule. New rule: Road trips begin when they begin.

I wound up driving down to Fairhaven,WA, which is a spot I go to often. I have several places I adore for coffee or lunch, and my first thought was Avenue 16. Love the food and I have never been disappointed. When I arrived in Fairhaven, there was a sidewalk sale going on and the little historic part of Bellingham was packed. I was lucky to even find parking (which, coincidentally, was right outside Avenue 16).

I decided to walk the streets before deciding on a place, and wound up behind Village Books at the Colophon Cafe.

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I’d seen this cafe many times over the five years that I’ve been visiting Fairhaven, but I’d never given it a try. The inside is substantial, and there’s a host who will seat you. The decor is casual and comfortable with tables and some spaces with couches. It’s a bit of a hybrid between restaurant and cafe.

I ordered a half sandwich–turkey–with a bowl of clam chowder. I also had a coffee, and the waitress brought be water without my having to ask. The service was fast, friendly, and even though the place was busy and I stayed a little longer to finish my coffee I was never made to feel as though it was time for me to go so they could turn over my table. (I think that’s the correct term.) And the meal? Extremely tasty.

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The setting in historic Fairhaven is bustling and friendly. It’s a family-oriented neighbourhood (lots of children running around) and people walking their dogs. I loved it.

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Of course, eventually I had to return home. Thankfully, there was still ample sunshine and I returned to the pond in my complex alive with bullfrogs, ducks, and turtles. It occurred to me as I walked my own neighbourhood, that this is what is meant by living a life you don’t need a vacation from.

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