Life in progress


The Plan

As many of you know, my epic work-in-progress (my novel The Great Dagmaru) is a paranormal romance about a magician and his assistant. As many of you also know, I have great fun doing research in the interest of making the book as believable as possible. This research has in the past included staying in the haunted mansion in Kingston that inspired the setting, and traveling to Ottawa to spend an afternoon backstage at the National Arts Centre, where one of the performances in my novel takes place. (Check out the links. There are pictures.)

Now I have a new and exciting opportunity ahead of me. This time it’s a little more nerve-wracking. Last weekend when I was again visiting Kingston, I met a magician. And he’s agreed to let me interview him! A real live magician! *ahem* Once the interview is complete I plan to make an article out of it and sell it to a publication. Depending on the slant I put on it, I may pitch it to an online magazine for kids, a parenting magazine, or even as a general interest piece for the Huffington Post. At the moment I’m still coming up with questions. I have quite a few already, but I don’t want to miss anything important. Some of them will pertain to background information that might not even make it into the novel, but they’re things that are necessary for me to understand. Most of the interview will, I hope, shed some light on what makes a magic show fun to watch and what makes a magician want to perform. Not too much light though… it’s the mystery that makes watching worthwhile.

An awful lot is going into the making of my novel. With this article, not only will I have the benefit of the knowledge of someone in the business (a real live magician! *ahem*), but I’ll have something extra to add to my resumé. One way or another, I’m having a blast. It’s all adding up to an experience that not a lot of people get.

Go me!


Likeable Villains – Opinions Wanted

I’m back home from my weekend in Ottawa where I had a chance to do some writing. With the work I accomplished, I’ve arrived home with a question for all my followers who are fiction lovers. But first a little information.

I have a new villain in the sequel to my novel and I’m finding I like her. She’s as sharp and witty as she is rotten to the core. So far, 40,000 words into the novel, she has yet to show how bad she can be. My question to you is, have you ever loved a villain despite the fact that they’re cruel and horrible people? Is what I’m doing a no-no?

In the comments, please let me know if you’ve ever read (or seen in a movie) a villain you’ve liked – who you’ve been excited to see when they turned up in a scene.

P.S. I’ll be answering all the comments from the weekend and reading as many of the SoCS entries as I can after I put Alex to bed. Thanks to everyone for your contributions to both!



How far would YOU go?

Since I’m hip deep into the novels today (and by hip deep I mean I’m trying to stick to my laptop rather than run to the kitchen every half an hour to grab a snack that will inevitably go straight to my hips) there are a few issues on my mind that need a little sharing. Foremost at the moment is research.

I’m discovering that there is only so much that can be done whilst sitting on my rear end in front of the computer. Wikipedia is great, but sometimes you just have to get out there and see what’s going on in person. To this end I’ve spent a fair bit of time in the city where most of my novel takes place, which is as you probably know, Kingston, Ontario.

There are some things I am having a more difficult time researching, however. My story is about stage magician, Stephen Dagmar–meaning that apart from the novel’s main plot, which is a paranormal romance/horror about a man who must battle against a family curse in order to live happily ever after with the woman he loves, it also contains the stage. And a talent agent. And, most difficult to research in person, the backstage areas of some major venues across Canada. I’m thinking that before I actually publish this thing I’m going to have to find a way to talk to/interview both a magician and an agent. But getting backstage might be a different story.

If there are any magicians or talent agents reading this, I’d love to talk to you. If there is anyone who has access to a live theatre I’d be forever grateful if you’d leave some tips on how to get backstage. I’m not looking to meet celebrities, I just want to see where they hang out and get a feel for the process of setting up a stage.

For everyone else reading this, how far have you gone to get research? I’m not only talking distance. Would you have the guts to try to get into places the public doesn’t normally get to go? To what lengths would you go to get there?

Suggestions are also gratefully received. 😀


Method Writing

Writing characters who are vastly different to ourselves is something many of us do, or at least strive to do. It’s not easy to extract one’s personality completely from the page – we can only write what we know, after all. Yes, imagination is a far-reaching avenue, but how do we make it stretch as far as it can possibly go?

I have a theory that is probably not all that unique, but I’d like to share it anyway.

When I was in high school drama class, I learned about something called the Stanislavski Method, or, Method Acting. For a full description of what it is and how it came about click here: In my own words I can tell you it’s a method of acting where the actor studies the motivations of the character and makes use of empathetic observations in order to “become” the character. Its a way of bringing about realism and believability.

This is the method I have striven to bring to my writing. To “become” the character I’m writing makes my dialogue and my character’s actions come to life. To do so I need to be able to concentrate and to empathize with what they are experiencing. I often try on their expressions and imagine, as though I’m watching them on a screen, moving in the ways that their emotions dictate. There are times, therefore, when I must go through a scene twice or more times in order to get the nuances just right from each perspective, but by doing so my scenes are much more lifelike and full of what makes my readers able to envision them.

I believe empathy is something that is essential to a writer. It’s why we people-watch; to gain insight on how people emote, their body language and what causes it. Without empathy, we can only write characters who are cardboard cut-outs of stereotypes.

I realise this is hardly a groundbreaking idea, but the Stanislavski Method of Acting is certainly one to pay attention to for a writer. The more we know our characters and what makes them tick, the more our readers are able to sympathize with their plights. We want our readers to love them or hate them. For this to happen our characters must display passion, and for them to display passion we as the writers must feel it first.

Do you ever imagine yourself watching your scene play out before you? Are you able to put yourself in your character’s shoes? I’m very interested to hear what other writer’s methods are.



V is for … Vocabulary

Vocabulary is a topic that is close to my heart. From a very early age, speech and its nuances have been a major point of interest: although I was born and have lived in Canada my entire life, I was (I used to say) born with a British accent. My parents came to Canada eight years before my birth with their best friends another couple with whom they chose to emigrate from London. I was taught to speak by the four of them, and so even when I started school I sounded like I’d just gotten off the boat. I was teased relentlessly. To this day I retain some of my accent.

Through my school years, I paid particular attention to the English language. Grammar, even in speech, is a big deal for me. You won’t catch me saying ‘anyways’ or ‘ain’t’ unless I mean to, and never shall a double negative be uttered when I mean ‘no.’ And so the problem I encounter when writing dialogue is having to pay attention not only to what my characters say, but also to how they speak.  Speech patterns vary from background to background, depend on education (sometimes) as well as geography, not only taking into consideration the setting of the story but where their parents lived even before they were born.

It dawned on me while I listened to a cashier in a store that though we come from the same province, ‘she don’t care what her grammar’s like.’ And I have no example of this in my novel. Vocabulary isn’t just the use of big or small words. It’s not even just about accents. Grammar is a huge part of who we all are.

I must study speech patterns more.


The jig is almost up on my fiction blog. Head on over to read the next part of the gripping saga of Jupiter and Xavier:


S is for … Survey – Fictional Characters

The first arguably most difficult thing about creating characters, is avoiding writing about yourself. This argument is based on the fact that you know no one better. Your experiences, tastes, and even your most used expressions are bound to creep in – sometimes you don’t even realize it.

The second arguably most difficult thing about creating characters is making them believable. It’s easy to write a one-dimensional character. So we write back stories, which may or may not show up in the final cut. But how detailed are those back stories? And how rounded do they make your characters?

The difficulty I find in writing a back story is that it tends to be about the big stuff. When I’m writing one, I’m looking for what motivates my characters to do what they do. Because a character with no motivation is the worst kind of cookie-cutter character. So I go back to their childhoods to discover what made them who they are. What are the huge events that shaped them into the person my readers will see when I plop them down in my story and ask them to react?

It’s not just the big things that shape who we are in real life though, is it? It might be where we were when someone else’s big event happened. It might be a piece of music we heard. Any number of trivial things make us who we are. And it’s those little things that make people care about us. Truly care. Which is another MAJOR if not the most MAJOR thing in keeping a reader reading our story.

With this in mind, I came up with an idea. What about those stupid surveys you see all over facebook and the like, which teenagers love to fill out? I looked one up. My mind was blown. This is only one of thousands: so if you don’t like the questions here, google “100 question survey facebook.” If I answered only a third of the questions on this survey, from the perspective of my characters when they were teenagers, I would know everything I could possibly want to know in order to create the best characters I can come up with. Because the problem with writing just a back story, is the lack of spontaneously coming up with your characters quirks, opinions, and thoughts. Why? Again, because your own seep in.

As soon as I have the time, I will take this survey for at least four of my novel’s characters–two main, and two supporting. I honestly believe this is the golden key to rounding out their lives, and making my readers–and myself–care about them and what happens to them.

Do it. And really put some thought into it. Remember what it was like to be a teenager, when all of these questions mattered. Then let your character’s experiences seep in to your story and not your own. I can almost guarantee that it will give you a better story.


Stranger things have happened! Or have they? Click here to go to my fiction blog and see:


R is for … Real Life Villains

There’s a contest going on at a local radio station at the moment to promote the concert and to give away tickets for the band Wheatus. You might remember them – they sang the song “Teenage Dirtbag.”

(great video)

To win the tickets you must write about your own experience with a dirtbag and send your story in to the station. This got me to thinking (as things do) about how one doesn’t really need to resort to watching “Criminal Minds” to find a villain for their story. Most of us, if not all, know people in real life who would make perfect villains. All that’s required is to amp up their faults either a little or a lot.

Take the jock in the video, for instance. He pisses off his girlfriend when he throws something at the nerd. Bullies like this are everywhere – not just at school.

True story: A couple of years ago, my mother was in the parking lot of the local mall when she grazed another car going around a corner. She was supposed to meet up with me inside the mall that day, and she didn’t know what to do, so she came to find me. Someone, meanwhile, witnessed the accident and wrote two notes; one they left on my mom’s windshield and the other on the windshield of the person she hit. I don’t remember exactly how it went down, but I contacted the owner of the damaged car. Luckily, I didn’t let my mother deal with the asshole.

He told me he wouldn’t put in a police report if I would agree to pay for his repairs. I said fine – it wasn’t much damage.  He was going to get it fixed right away. When it was done, he called me to say it would be $300. This is how it went from there:

Me: Okay just send me the receipt for the repair.

Him: No.

Me: I’m not giving you any money unless I see the bill.

Him: Don’t you trust me?

Me: (thinking, no  I don’t)  It’s not that I don’t trust you, I just want it for my records.

Him: What do you need the receipt for – are you a bookkeeper or something?

Me: Yes I am.

Him: Well maybe I’ll just call the police. You don’t want this to go on your mom’s record, do you?

Me: Not really, but I still want the receipt.

Him: (getting angry) Look, I’m giving you a deal here. You should be paying me more than $300 for my inconvenience. I had to go without my car for two days. Doesn’t my time mean anything to you?

Me: No.

I hung up on him and took my mother to the police station to report the accident. Her insurance paid for her damage and his paid for his. And that was that.

Classic bully. What a villain he would make.

Have you crossed paths with a villain? Please share your experience in the comments!


For the continuing saga of Jupiter, Xavier, and the gang, click here:


A Huge Resource for Writers!

I don’t know why I didn’t think of this before! Here I’ve had this amazing, fantastic way of studying the human condition for years without realizing it.

I’m always going on about body language and facial expressions, and the importance of them in writing not only to fill out a story with what is believable, but in finding characters in the first place. It’s by observing people that we get our ideas, and if we can read people’s body language, we can often see what they’re thinking. Scenarios abound!

There’s a good reason that this is one of my Deaf son, Alex’s favourite shows on TV. People in it are genuine and there is no speaking. The language is universal. What is it?

Just for Laughs Gags.

Here you can find any range of spontaneous emotion: surprise, outrage, confusion, bewilderment, joy, disappointment, fear… the list is almost endless, and every single bit of it is spontaneous.

For example, a young guy in a car pulls up to a stop sign and a pretty girl crossing the street waves to him. She proceeds to write her phone number on his windshield with a lipstick and does the international sign for “Call me!” While he’s still sitting there, a guy comes up to the car and squeegees the number off. The guy in the car has gone from happy and flirtatious to panicked in a matter of seconds.

Or in this, a young boy lays down a “hole” on the sidewalk and a man falls into it. The looks on the observers’ faces are priceless.

You can find hundreds of them online at Just for Laughs Gags own Youtube channel. They are each under two minutes long and not only can you watch them with the sound off, I recommend it.

This is truly a wonderful resource for anyone studying body language and many of them are hilarious; even if you’re not looking to observe human behaviour, watch them just for laughs!

I encourage everyone to go to Youtube and watch a few. Share the titles of your favourites in the comments. I’d love to see what you think!


H is for … Horoscopes

Have you ever read a description of the characteristics of someone with your own star sign and said, “That’s ME!”? I have. I actually stood in a book store Astrology aisle for about half an hour, reading a book off the shelf with my mouth agape. At least I think I did – I remember distinctly being avoided by the other patrons of the store. Maybe they thought I’d bite them. According to this book I was reading, I might have. I enjoy doing things for the shock value, just like the book said.

Just imagine what kinds of quirks can be found for fictional characters from of one of these sometimes amazing, almost psychic books. Though it might not be a good idea to take every single characteristic from an astrological sign and use them all, a few here and there don’t hurt.


Aquarius personality is very independent, any attempt to hold them down or restrict them will cause them, to flee. They need to be free to be on their own. Independence is not just desired by Aquarius, it is essential to their well being.

That would be me to a tee. So if I was to write myself into a fictional situation, my character would have a hard time accepting help, for example.

Do you know your character’s birthday? If so, have you checked with the zodiac to see what sort of person they are? If not, you might want to – or even pick a birthday for them even if it’s never mentioned in your story. One way or another, go buy an astrology book or find a website that describes YOU! If it does, it’s probably accurate for your characters too.

Click here: for my demonstration of what it looks like when you include horoscope characteristics into your fiction!


F is for … Finding Characters

Characters are everywhere. Inspiration can be found for them in both the most obvious places and, at times, from the most unexpected.

Take for example when I was searching for inspiration for my Short Story course: I sat in the food court at the mall, alone, eating my Chinese noodles with chopsticks, (I wonder if I’m a character in someone else’s story?) and I people-watched. I do this as often as I can.

While I was slurping up my noodles, I noticed a thirty-something man, casually dressed, walking with an elderly lady on his arm. The woman was just about ready for a walker, but if she’s anything like my own mother, she probably wasn’t ready to admit it. Plot and conflict came to me instantaneously. All I had to do was look at the man and figure out what his problem might be. He became a guy with a career and a weird fetish. His elderly mother could no longer take care of herself so he was faced with the decision of either living his life the way he wanted to, or looking after his mother. At that moment the short story, “On Loyalty” was born, for which I received a mark of A+.

Settings, for me, are the light bulb that rarely flashes inspiration but when it does, it’s usually brilliant – not me, the light bulb. The main characters in my novel came from an abandoned bicycle (who left it there and where were they going?) and a burned out railroad station (a mad magician takes his kidnap victims there to experiment on making them disappear). I put the two together and ended up with a 214K word novel. The mad magician turned into a good guy, but here you can see where I got the idea from. The train station makes an appearance in the story – fixed up and turned into a night club.

Characters can be found in the strangest places. I think even non-writers get ideas for people they see – it’s part of what we do as human beings when we notice the way people are dressed and listen to the way they talk. Yes, it’s slightly judgmental, but whether or not we comment on it, our brains connect situations from past experience to what we are seeing – like it or not.

Do you ever consciously do it? Do you sometimes make up stories for people you see? And if you’re a writer, what is the weirdest place you’ve found a character for a story?

For the corresponding short fiction on the subject of finding characters, click here: