Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Twas the week before Christmas & a dark and storm night

Well, okay, it was the week before the week before Christmas. But honestly, it was a dark and stormy night. As in, hurricane force winds. I was holed up in my cabin on a small island trying to finish my novel. Rain and wind whipped around me, making me wonder when a tree would fall on the house. But I had only a few chapters left to write, and no people interruptions, so easy, right?
First my back went.
Okay, been there before. Just means I pull out my headphones and dictate through Dragon while lying in bed.
But no, the windstorm puts the power out, and my computer memory is almost gone.
Okay, no problem. With my remaining battery power, I’ll just print out my last chapter (by flashlight) and carry on by candlelight and pencil. And recharge the computer when the power comes on in the morning.
But no, the computer memory dies just as I push “print.”
Okay, go to bed, recharge the computer in the morning and carry on.
Meantime, crawl under a mountain of quilts as the cabin goes chilly, flashlight under my pillow. (The cat crawled under the mountain of quilts with me.)
But no. Upon waking, I learn that my power cord has died. Totally died. So I have no access to the novel in my computer. (Remember, I’m on a small island, must book a ferry and drive into the city to buy a new power cord.) 
Had I backed everything up on a stick, I could have used my stick to plug into the library’s computer, or a friend’s. But no, hadn’t done that.
So, I carry on in pencil (in shorthand, for those of you old enough to know what that is, since it goes faster and saves on arm weariness), and now that I’m home with my new cord and a working laptop that is willing to reveal where I left off on this novel, I’m good to convert the scribbles to type and bring her on home: finish up those last few chapters. Right?
Except it’s the holidays. Maybe I’ll finish it after the holidays?
Happy holidays to everyone!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Calling all young Canadian writers & poets

Calling young Canadian writers and poets!

Announcing the Book Week 2015 WRITING CONTEST for Kids & Teens
Do you love to write? Young writers from across Canada are invited to submit their stories and/or poems to the *Book Week 2015 Writing Contest for Kids & Teens. Judging is done by noted writers from across Canada. Students from Grades 4 to 12 are eligible to enter and one winner fromeach grade will receive a $250 gift certificate to the bookstore of his or her choice!
Winning entries will be posted on the Book Week website – www.bookweek.ca http://www.bookweek.ca

Entries must be postmarked by January 31, 2015. They do not have to be received by this date.
Entrants must be in Grades 4 to 12 at the time of the contest deadline.
Entries must be written in English and must not exceed 1,500 words.
All entries must be original content and are limited to two entries per person.
All entries must include a fully complete ENTRY FORM. The form
is available at www.bookweek.ca under “Book Week 2015.”
Please staple one entry form to each story/poem being submitted; do not use paper clips, binder clips, folders or duotangs.
Entries may be handwritten or typed. No faxed or emailed entries will be accepted.
Due to the large volume of entries, we cannot acknowledge receipt of entry.
Contest open to residents of Canada only.
For more information on the Writing Contest, contact sandra@bookcentre.ca.
Winners will be announced on May 6, 2015 during TD Canadian Children’s Book Week 2015.
Organized by: The Canadian Children’s Book Centre Supporting the reading, writing and
illustrating of Canadian books for young readers since 1976.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Beautiful whitewater kayaking

In twenty-five years of whitewater kayaking, I've seen and paddled many rivers, and enjoyed many films of whitewater kayaking. But this series takes my breath away. It's what I can only call "beautiful kayaking."

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

First snow

The only thing more fun than the season’s first snow, is having a kitten who has never seen it before. First she ventured out and stopped dead in her tracks. Then she gingerly ventured onward to stick her face in a plant pot that normally has water. She emerged with a faceful of snow. Then she turned around and tried, ever so hard, to step in her own tracks on the way back to the door, shaking each paw as she lifted it. Finally, she collapsed by the fire and gave me a look that I interpreted as, “Huh? What’s with the cold white stuff? Weren’t we in sunny California last week? Not sure I like being back in Canada!”

Friday, November 28, 2014

Wake’s Edge: The Story Behind It

[The eighth in my stories-behind-writing-the-books, which I offer intermittently here on my blog.]

Since the Take It to the Xtreme series got launched, 15-year-old best friends Jake and Peter have survived whitewater rapids, an avalanche, a forest fire, movie stuntwork, killer surf waves, perilous rock-climbing, and much, much more.

In this latest installment of the series, Jake and Peter are junior instructors at a noisy wakeboard school that is attempting to share a remote lake with a community of save-the-earth society dropouts (otherwise known as hippies). Jake and Peter love performing their own tricks behind a powerboat driven by the school’s founder, a macho young wakeboard fanatic known as “The Party Animal.” Then, Peter decides to encourage the wild streak in a rebellious hippie girl across the lake. She runs away to hide in a nearby abandoned sawmill, only to discover it’s not as abandoned as it looks. Soon, community tensions erupt, and the boys get more action than they bargained for.

Not every sports expert who helps me with my novels gets interrupted in the process by becoming a new dad, but Wake’s Edge consultant Steve Hahn was one, and the person helping me with my current novel-in-progress (more about that when it’s finished, accepted and on the press) is another. In both cases, I’ve dedicated the book to the newborn.

So, Wake’s Edge was dedicated to Layla Haija Hahn when it came out in 2007, and as the acknowledgments read, “He helped me with the wakeboard action scenes while sweating it out waiting for a phone call from his wife to say she’d gone into labour with their first child. The manuscript and the baby developed and arrived at the same time!”

How did I come up with the idea for a book on wakeboarding? Well, I took votes from several classes of middle-schoolers to whom I was presenting. I remember them voting down hang-gliding and being enthusiastic about wakeboarding. When my publisher asked me, “What sport will your next book feature?” I replied, “Wakeboarding.” “What’s wakeboarding?” he asked. My answer: “Doesn’t matter if you and I don’t know the sport. The kids do!”

And so I launched into researching wakeboarding, eagles (which play a key part in the novel) and hippies. Yes, since there’s a hippie commune in the story, I read a few books on hippie communes of the Sixties. (Two facts I remember are that most children of hippies wanted nothing to do with the lifestyle after they grew up, and that the communes with the fewest rules were the ones that most quickly fell apart.)

As for eagles, luckily I have a good friend who is an eagle expert. Plus, anytime I wanted to hear what an eagle pip sounded like or baby eagle looked like, I just turned on YouTube, which was fairly new back then. These days, I hear eagle pips every day from our house on Mayne Island, B.C., and I never take the privilege for granted.

Anyway, working with wakeboarder Steve Hahn of Bellingham, Washington allowed me to name the wakeboard tricks that my characters did or aspired to do. Including double-ups, tweaked-out grabs and spins, a 720, a roll to blind, tantrums and hoochies – the latter being what the wakeboard instructor in my novel named his dog. And watching wakeboard videos inspired me to show my characters launching off a boathouse roof and doing tricks on an overturned, half-buried canoe.

Then there was the fun of naming the characters in the hippie commune: Karma, Forrest, Skye and Tao. As for the spookiness of the abandoned sawmill, I built that ambience by taking a walk around McLean Mill, a historical site in Port Alberni, British Columbia, Canada. There, I met three staffers who ended up answering some pertinent questions and later reading paragraphs to ensure that any plot twists and descriptions involving the mill were authentic.

The diesel motor grew louder as Jake stumbled through the lower maze of the sawmill. He ducked under belts that rose to the main floor. He crawled past iron wheels he could have stood inside, from toes to upward reaching fingertips. He knocked over an oiling can as he brushed past chains with links the size of his palm. Finally, he dove for cover in the boiler room.

As a child of the hippie commune (now called “intentional communities”), my character Karma is a tree-hugging, non-wakeboarding vegetarian, though my character Peter does his best to corrupt her on each count. When he finally manages to free the wild child in her – she starts doing some crazy maneuvering on the jetskis and wakeboards – I supply my favorite Jake line in the book: “What was she on, anyway? Maybe she’d eaten a fermented zucchini or something.”

Oh yes, then there’s the line on p. 125-126: “Peter flung the back door wide open and broke into a loud rendition of a song by his favorite band, Retrofire, as he sauntered toward the barn.” Who, me sneak in a promotion for an actual heavy-metal band? Well, sorry, but it was my teenage son’s garage band at the time. (Their website still exists in the archives; my son is the one in the white T-shirt.) http://www.metal-archives.com/bands/Retrofire/64426

To order Wake’s Edge through Amazon:

Thursday, November 27, 2014

When technology helps with writing

Here's a link to a story that quotes me:

Thursday, November 13, 2014

In praise of Boy Scouts

Guys who excel academically read copiously as boys, true or false? Patently false, and it’s always about WHAT particular book turned them on, if they eventually transformed from non-readers to eager readers.

Edward Osborne “E. O.” Wilson is an American biologist and two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction for The Social Conquest of Earth and Letters to a Young Scientist. He is also known as “the father of socio-biology” and “the father of biodiversity.”

The former Harvard University professor recently revealed that he read only two books cover to cover during high school, and almost never visited his local library. (“Libraries were not part of the culture in which I was raised.”)

He attributes his turnaround to Handbook for Boys, the official guide of the Boy Scouts of America. Whatever challenges the organization may still be meeting in adapting to current day issues, he says its promotion of individualism, responsibility, empowerment and the philosophy of taking hold and learning by doing, spoke to him as a youth.

The Handbook for Boys, he says, is true to the maxim, “Teach me, I forget; show me, I remember; involve me, I understand.”

A quotable quote from a former reluctant reader who has enjoyed an impressive share of success in life.

from The New York Times Book Review, p. 57, Nov. 9, 2014: “Author’s Note: A Manual for Life”