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.

Writing Workshop at the Cloverdale Public Library

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James in his Jeep Getting Java-the Vacation Edition

IMG_20160506_202419I live in one of the most incredible places in the world. Of course, I can’t say that from experience as I haven’t travelled the world, but I have been told by people who have that I should feel very blessed to live here. So, it should be no wonder that when my vacation time comes my first thought is, ROAD TRIPS!!

This week I took a couple of familiar trips to Edison and Desolation Pass. As day trips go, this is my current favourite. I’ve blogged about this before, but what makes these trips unique is that one I took solo and the other I brought along a friend.

Not a lot of people understand the solo trip. It’s a lot of time to spend on your own, exploring new places where, if something tragic happened, the chances of someone knowing you were missing is bleak. There are steps to take: make sure someone knows you’re gone and for how long until you return. I make Facebook updates along the way when I find places with WiFi. That way friends can say, “He last posted at XX at such a such time.” You get the idea.

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Recognize this?

What a solo trip does is it allows me to get completely lost in my thoughts and to not feel rushed or pushed from going places I want to see. It’s a little selfish and narcissistic, really. And you know what? Sometimes in life that’s okay. Once I started school part-time and combined that with a full-time job I realized that there were going to be times when I needed to let my mind refresh and the only way to do that would be to go somewhere that felt like a complete escape. A solo trip allows me to recharge.

Two of my favourite spots to recharge are in Langley, Washington on Whidbey Island. Useless Cafe for lunch (best burgers anywhere) and an iced-cold brew coffee at Kalakala Mercantile Co.. I normally stay for a time at the latter to write and get my thoughts out that build over the course of the drive there.

 

 

 

This week one of my long-time friends, Sarah, decided to accompany me on my road trip. I took her through the Chuckanut Drive to Edison route only to discover that on Mondays almost everything in Edison was closed. Thankfully, the Bread Farm was still open and I was able to buy my loaves of sour dough!

From Edison we travelled to La Conner, which I’ve discovered I enjoy on off-tourist version of La Conner far more than it was during the Tulip Festival. A less stressed out town means easy parking and friendly people in the cafes and restaurants. I was glad that I returned to see this version of the town, as my last visit didn’t leave me with a very good impression.

Travelling with Sarah can be a challenge when one of the things you want to do is visit a cafe. She’s celiac, and therefore has special dietary needs (no gluten) which can make food choices scarce. We went to the Calico Cupboard Cafe and Bakery that I had gone to once before during the Tulip Festival. My previous experience was a long wait (over an hour), a terse complaint to me that they didn’t normally seat singles on the balcony but would in my case, and rushed service at a table beside their dumpster.

This time, the cafe staff were in good moods and super friendly. There was no wait, and immediately I knew my previous experience was simply an unfair time on which to judge this cafe. I had a regular coffee with a lemon meringue slice, and Sarah discovered a whole variety of gluten-free choices. (She had a muffin and cookie.) I highly recommend this place if you are ever in La Conner.

La Conner

Since the Slough in Edison was closed, Sarah and I wound up with a lot more time in La Conner than I’d expected. We took a walk through the streets and the waterfront, and then drove the bridge over to the island and took the road that lead us to Fidalgo Island and Deception Pass.

This is another area that I have driven through many times and stopped at the bridge to take a look and a few photos. I’ve always remarked to myself how unnerving it is to stand on the bridge with traffic whizzing by–especially when you see the posts dividing vehicle/pedestrian traffic smashed by vehicles. Below is the view of Deception Pass from the bridge.

What I’ve never done in the dozen or so times that I have stopped on this bridge is to take the time to wander down the path onto the beaches below. Since we had lots of time and weren’t planning on travelling farther than this, Sarah and I took the short walk down to the beach.

This wound up being my favourite part of the trip. While a solo adventure is all about that meditative state of filling your memories with new scents and views and memories to heal the toll put on us by an overly-scheduled lifestyle, being on a road trip with a good friend was all about discussions of what great friends we have in common, where our lives are headed, and how amazing the world we live in is. This was a good reminder that neither the solo trip nor the companion trip is more necessary–they each have their own intrinsic value. Below is an assortment of views I would not have seen had I been travelling solo. All taken from the beach.

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Now, just look at the faces of these travellers in the photo below. Deliriously happy, or super-caffeinated? I think I was on cup three…maybe four?

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And the theme song from the trip was decided during a conversation where Sarah remarked how easy it is to read signage in the StatesĀ  I mentioned it was like that Ace of Base song, and she’d never heard of it. So, Sarah, here it is, just for you:

Writing the Zombiepocalypse

Came across this article I wrote in 2012 while working on a draft of what would later become Rise of the One-Eyed King.

James in his Jeep Getting Zombified? Rise of the One-Eyed King

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One of the great things about having friends who are writers, is that they do a wonderful job of offering advice when it’s needed. My original title, “One-Eyed King” has been recently over-used and so I wanted to change it.

kc dyer, one of my earliest readers of my novel, suggested, “Rise of the One-Eyed King.” As soon as I heard the suggestion, I knew that was it. That was the title.

Another friend of mine, fellow writer and storyteller Susan Cormier, worked with me on the summary (and my author profile). Again, she is an early reader and knew the story. And I loved her brilliant suggestions. Check out the link to her Vancouver Story Slam Page.

Want to know more about the book? You can pre-order a copy here:

A physical copy of the book.

A Kindle copy of the book.

If you are a blogger and would like to review an advance reader’s copy (in .pdf form) please send me an email.

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:

James in His Jeep Getting Java – Snoqualmie Edition

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My 2014 Jeep Wrangler.

A few weeks ago, I was in an artist’s store and had a conversation with the proprietor who seemed a little down. We spoke a lot about what she was doing, and the art in the store, and after a few minutes she asked, “What is it you do?”

“I travel from place to place reminding people that they have purpose, and what they do matters,” I said to her, meaning it as a joke, but in a really serious tone. (Blame it on my dry sense of humour.) There was a silence for a few seconds, and at that moment I could just tell that she really did need to hear exactly that. She needed me to be that person who travelled from place to place reminding people that they have purpose. And so for her, in that moment, I was.

“You have purpose,” I said to her, “and what you are doing matters.”
Then came a big smile, and a really sincere thank you. I nodded and smiled back, and told her it was time for me to find my next place. And I left, thinking that this was probably the strangest encounter I have ever had and yet realizing that this is exactly what this world needs. (My theme song at the end of this post relates to this very incident.)

I’ve been thinking a lot these days about Purpose, and what it means to matter and to have a desire to matter. So this week, as I travelled to Snoqualmie Falls, I had a lot of time to ponder this very thing. It’s a three hour drive from Canada to Snoqualmie, with beautiful countryside that is just starting to bloom. The flowers in the fields, and the many colours that are painting across the landscape, is nature’s way of reminding us that no matter how dark and dreary the past may have been everything can be made fresh and new again.

My first stop was Fall City, a population of just under 2000 and a centre that exists right on a very busy highway.

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Fall City

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Fall City

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Fall City

I found a burger shack called Small Fryes that was quite busy, so I figured that would be a good place to stop for lunch. I ordered a cheeseburger, fries, and drink special for $5. It was very greasy–and perfect.

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While on one side of the highway is the town business centre, on the other is the Snoqualmie River. There are benches and tables and places to rest, so I brought my food there (it’s a two minute walk from Small Fryes).

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Me at Fall City.

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Snoqualmie River.

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He wanted my lunch.

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Snoqualmie River.

A few more photos of the town:

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The elementary school.

It’s a twelve minute drive from Fall City to Snoqualmie Falls, and by this point it was just after noon. What I hadn’t considered on my way here, was that this was the Easter weekend and so there were HUNDREDS of tourists at the falls all scrambling for parking. It was seriously insane. I took one try around the lower lot, chose not to cross the highway and die to get to the upper lot, and headed for Snoqualmie City.

This was not a disappointment.

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Along the way, there’s an old train that sits on unused tracks adjacent to the highway. Immediately when you enter the town, you see a train museum and the history of Snoqualmie City. It’s amazing!

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I was about ready for some coffee, so I found a place called The Bindlestick Coffee and Beer House. They were really busy, with regulars phoning in orders and only the owner behind the bar making food and serving drinks. But she greeted me straight away, was polite and cheerful, and it was obvious by the way she interacted with her patrons that she loved them and they loved her. Even though I had to wait ten minutes before she could serve me, it was kind of a pleasure to watch this mutual respect happening right in front of me. If I hadn’t just had lunch, this would be a great place for a meal as well as a coffee.

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Bindlestick Coffe and Beer House.

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After I had my latte (it was very good and well worth the wait) I sat outside on a bench and watched the town. Snoqualmie City has over ten thousand people, so it is by no means a small town. However, it is a very picturesque and historical city–with the Bindlestick situated right across from the train museum and a park.

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I took a walk down to Sandy Cover Park. There were a few families there enjoying the warm day (at this point it was plus 17C and sunny) plus…Amee. (Yes, I am spelling that correctly.) She was with her family, and when she saw me it was love at first sight. In fact, she knew immediately that I had purpose and I mattered. Once our eyes locked, she ran straight for me.

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Sandy Cove Park.

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Snoqualmie River.

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Snoqualmie River.

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Snoqualmie River.

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Snoqualmie River.

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Snoqualmie River.

Her owners shouted, “Sorry! She never does this! She’s friendly!” and I kneeled and scratched her head. Amee knew that I was the kind of guy who would love to give her some attention, and so of course she ran right for me. Her owners were pretty cool, too.

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Amee.

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Amee.

When I felt it was time to head back, I decided to give Snoqualmie Falls another shot. I was situated in the right direction to check out the upper parking lot, and I did manage to find a spot. The crowds, however, were not diminished by the amount of time that had passed.

I’m glad that I got to see the falls since that was my main reason for heading this way. Had I not seen them, I would have just as gladly returned another day.

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That was my road trip to Snoqualmie Falls. My purpose that day: to bring a dog happiness. Today, it was something new. And tomorrow, it will be something else. Each day our purpose changes, whether we know in that moment that we are affecting someone’s life or not. What you do matters.

(In case you don’t get the significance of this song, click here.)