Saturday, November 21, 2015


I grew moustaches and beards a couple of times in my twenties and thirties, but I’ve now had a beard continuously since 2001. Yes, I keep it trimmed - often brutally so - but it’s been a part of me for the last quarter of my life.

So it was quite a shock all round when it came off for Movember.

For those of you who may not know, Movember is a global charity aimed at improving men’s health by funding programs in areas such as prostate and testicular cancer.

My group at work has registered an official Movember team - the Service BC Sidekicks. Check out our team’s fundraising progress here:

Meanwhile, here is a quick view of my facial progress:

At the start of November - who said Halloween was over?
 One week in:
And today. Yeah, I know I look drunk. I'm not, but maybe the camera is trying to tell me something:

Normal service will be resumed in December.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Chrys Fey - 30 Seconds sale

Chrys Fey is visiting today to tell us about the limited-time sale of her romantic thriller, 30 Seconds.
Take it away, Chrys...

99 CENT SALE on 30 SECONDS by Chrys Fey!!! 

Sale ends Nov.
20th so take advantage now!


When Officer Blake Herro agreed to go undercover in the Mob, he thought he understood the risks. But he's made mistakes and now an innocent woman has become their target. He's determined to protect her at all costs.

The Mob's death threat turns Dr. Dani Hart's life upside down, but there is one danger she doesn’t anticipate. As she's dodging bullets, she's falling in love with Blake. With danger all around them, will she and Blake survive and have a happy ending, or will the Mob make good on their threat?


She had no time to react when a strong force bowled her through the doorway of her apartment, and a large hand plastered over her mouth. The man she had bumped into on the stairs had a firm grip on her as he kicked the door closed behind them. She struggled to get free, but his hold kept her back pressed against his chest.

“It’s okay. I’m a cop. My name is Blake Herro.” He hauled her into the living room. “There are six armed men coming up the stairs. We need to hide. Where can we hide?”

Her mind went blank, she even forgot about the ice cream.

“Where?” he demanded with a quick shake.

She pointed to the six-foot long, three-foot high handcrafted cedar chest she used for a coffee table. Officer Herro pulled her to it and flung open the lid.

“Get in,” he ordered.


Sunday, November 1, 2015

Introduction to the Critique Survival Guide

I’m posting the draft introduction to the Critique Survival Guide.

This is all new to me, so I’m happy to hear your views on what works and what doesn’t. Yes, I will be putting this through the full critiquing wringer, but right now I’m interested in your gut reactions.

My first attempts felt dry and “preachy” so I’ve tried adding in a few sections of dialogue to help get some of the points across. The introduction starts off with dialogue then slips into exposition. My questions to you are: (1) Do you think this approach works? (2) Any suggestions for how to convey the switch to and from dialogue, especially for people viewing in an e-reader? I’m used to laying out things like this with careful use of fonts and formatting to help, but these things need to be kept to a bare minimum in an e-book.

The Critique Survival Guide

“I’ve done it!” Ernest Hummingbird hopped excitedly on his perch. “I’ve done it. I’ve done it. I’ve done it.”

His old friend and mentor, Sage, cocked a beady eye, twitched his tail feathers, and settled his spectacles more comfortably on his beak. “Done what?”

“Finished, of course.”

“You mean ...”

“Written those two magic words, ‘The End.’ ”


Ernest gave Sage a sharp peck. “Didn’t you hear me? I said, I’ve finished.”

“What? Oh, yes. You’ve finished the first draft of your novel. Yes, well done. An admirable achievement, something indeed to be proud of. Let me see, it was a tale of love and betrayal in a Parisian boulangerie. What was it called again?”

The Bun Almost Rises.” Ernest gave Sage a suspicious look. “You don’t seem all that impressed.”

“As I said, my hopeful young friend, completing the draft of a novel is a big step. Something most people, even those who set out as writers, never accomplish.” Sage squinted at Ernest, who clung to one end of the perch, gazing out the window up and down the street. He hooted softly to gain his friend’s attention. “So, what happens now?”

Ernest sidled to the other end of his perch, where hung a faded photo of a hammock slung between two palm trees overlooking a sun-drenched expanse of white sand and cerulean seas. His eyes took on a faraway look. “Well, it gets published, of course. I can retire from my job at the nectar factory and spend my days writing. In between book signing events and writing conventions, of course.” His gaze flickered from the window to the telephone. “And maybe the occasional speaking engagement. I’m sure I’ll be too busy for many of those, though.”

“Soohoo,” Sage hooted, “do you have a publisher then?”

“I let all the big publishers know I was about to finish.” Ernest glanced uneasily out the window once more. “They should be here any moment with advances and contracts.”

Sage sighed. “Ernest, my ambitious young friend, I think you and I need a little chat.”

Popular myth versus reality

The popular media has a lot to answer for. There’s a deeply-ingrained stereotype of writers, bolstered by numerous TV and movie portrayals, where rich and successful authors spend all their time doing anything but actual writing, where writer’s block is seen as a glamorous rite of passage. These shows skip the tedious bits between ‘The End’ and actual publication, the bits that in real life represent ninety percent of the effort, because they don’t make good viewing.

As a result, many writers start off, and a significant number continue, blissfully unaware that this thing we call ‘critiquing’ even exists. They may have a vague recollection of this mysterious thing called ‘editing’, that presumably happens in a back room somewhere once they’ve graciously deigned to sign up with one of the publishers tripping over each other to ply them with offers.

The reality is that writing sometimes feels like the labors of Hercules. Just when you think you’ve reached the finish line and you’re over the worst, new obstacles loom, each more intimidating than the last.

You slog through the swamps of the first draft. You write those magical words ‘The End’ and breathe a happy sigh, thinking you’ve finally mastered this writing lark.

Yes, ‘The End’ is a tremendous landmark, especially first time around, but then reality sets in and you realize you have to face the critiquing and editing jungle. You plough through it, or maybe are tempted to skirt around it, until your way is barred by the precipitous cliffs of publication. These cliffs you scale, through blood, sweat, and shredded fingernails, and finally launch yourself into the airless interplanetary void of promotion.

Out in those cold wastelands you realize it’s true. Nobody can hear you scream.

There are plenty of books and articles out there on the craft of writing, the mechanics of publication, and the arcana of promotion. Backing up to that critiquing and editing jungle, there’s endless advice on editing techniques. It’s even easy to find advice on critiquing, but mostly how to give critiques. Not so much on how to receive them and make them useful to you.

That’s where this booklet fits in.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Critique Survival Guide

This time last year I was preparing to give a talk at my local library on how to handle being critiqued. Most of this was drawn from my own experience of receiving some pretty blunt critiques over the years, and the talk presented tips and techniques for getting past the pain, achieving balance and objectivity, and sifting the wheat from the chaff.

Back then, I felt this would be good to turn into an e-book to reach a wider audience. This is aimed mostly at newcomers who’ve drafted a book and are wondering what the next step might be. All too often, writers hitting this part of the journey are fearful of getting critical feedback, or don’t even realize how important it is. And, let’s face it, until you grow armor-plated skin the critiquing process can be darned painful!

This booklet is intended to help people through that hurdle.

Of course, most of this year has been taken up with getting Tiamat’s Nest out the door, but in between times I’ve been plugging away at this next project. After making good progress in the last month I’m close to finishing the first draft.

This is exciting for me because I’ve not tackled a non-fiction project before.

How has critiquing or professional editing featured in your writing? How important do you think it is, and how do you handle those painful truths that you really didn’t want to hear?

Monday, October 19, 2015

A vote against apathy

Canada goes to the polls today and the results are coming in. Regardless of the final outcome, today was a major milestone for me.

At the age of 55, despite living all those years in a western democracy, this is the first time in my life I’ve been able to take part in a national election.
Until we moved to Canada I lived in the island of Guernsey, a self-governing Crown dependency. Sure, we elected out own government, but with a population of 60,000 in global terms it was the equivalent of a municipal election. And although we relished our political independence, the truth is that many aspects of our lives were under the influence of Britain. Even so, we had no representation in Westminster, so played no part in British elections.

Since moving, we had to wait several years to become citizens before being able to vote. Now we’ve passed that hurdle, I finally have a voice - however small - on the world stage.

This is significant. The right to vote is an important part of our way of life, a fact that too many people take for granted.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Happy Canadian Thanksgiving

We are coming up to our 11th anniversary in Canada, and this weekend is our 11th Thanksgiving.

I’ve always thought of this celebration as Canada’s secret holiday. It’s hard for an outsider to appreciate how big it is.

People talk about it, but apart from extra prominence of turkeys for sale there’s no obvious commercialization.

Unlike the noticeable decorations at Christmas and Halloween, the only outward clues are here and there around the neighborhood, where cars spill from driveways onto the verges signaling a large gathering at one household or another.

In our years here, we’ve been privileged to be invited to a couple of such gatherings, so we have some small insight into the part this celebration plays in our adopted culture. A few other times, we’ve played host to a few friends. Most of the time, like this year, it’s a private time of reflection for the four of us.

For North American readers, how is Thanksgiving celebrated in your neck of the woods?

Regardless, here’s wishing you a happy (Canadian) Thanksgiving.

Monday, October 5, 2015

The Day of The Fruit Flies

We’ve been host to an increasing number of uninvited dinner guests this summer.

It started off with having to fish the occasional six-legged connoisseur out of my red wine of an evening, which I’ve come to accept as a normal summertime hazard.

This summer, though, it started to escalate. Instead of the odd one or two, they seemed to be planning their swimming expeditions in threes or fours. Then they invited their extended families along for the ride.

Recently, I’ve poured a glass, re-corked the bottle, and turned back to find they’ve already beaten me to the first sip! They must know the routine by now and be hovering somewhere around the light fittings waiting to pounce!

Then, this weekend, Fruit Fly Armageddon!

I’m pretty sure Drosophila melanogaster is not one of those species that genetically times its emergence into the world to the last stroke of midnight on the fifth Tuesday after the Feast of Our Lady of the Out-Of-Tune Harpsichord, whereupon they hatch in their millions for seven minutes of orgiastic fruit fly pleasure before carpeting the ground three inches thick with their spent corpses, but it darned well felt like it.

It was time to Take Measures.

A quick consultation with Dr. Google yielded some consistent recommendations in terms of trap design. I’m normally skeptical of such things until they prove themselves in combat, but so far this little beauty seems to be working.

Yes, that’s a rolled-up paper cone in the top of a juice bottle. The trap is baited with a scientifically-concocted blend of cranberry juice and red wine vinegar. Don’t ask me why, but it seems to work. And just so’s you can share my primal revulsion, here’s a close-up of the little critters.

Fruit flies of the world take heed: when it comes to red wine...
I do not share!
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