Thursday, June 26, 2014

Thank You BBQ

Tonight I went to a BBQ/Thank You Party.  Who was being thanked and why, you ask?  Well, in the spirit of doing new and different things, for much of May and June, I was a campaign volunteer.  This is the first time I've ever volunteered for or gotten involved in politics.  It was a great experience and I met a lot of cool people!

The candidate for whom I volunteered is Arthur Potts (Liberal, Beaches-East York).  It was Art's first time running in a provincial election, and it was a tough riding to run in.  The incumbent Michael Prue had held the seat for many years (too many!)  

I don't know Arthur all that well, but I have known him for many years (we first met in 1998).  When I found out he was running, I immediately volunteered.  I knew instinctively that he'd put up a heckuva fight for the riding.  I also felt from the get-go that he'd do a fantastic job if (when) he won.  Arthur has endless energy and his enthusiasm is infectious!  He also has a knack for connecting with people.  

The election was on June 12th, and waiting for the results was something of a nail-biter!  It was a very tight race, but we all knew that Arthur and everyone involved in the campaign had given their all.  The hard work paid off:  Shortly after midnight, the ballots were tallied and Arthur won by 431 votes.  I'm so glad I was a part of this process and I am truly happy for Arthur.  And yes, I will definitely volunteer again in a future campaign (maybe municipal? maybe federal?).  It was cool getting involved.  

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Broadway Binge

I love seeing live shows, whether it's comedy, music or some other type of performance. I especially enjoy theatre (plays and musicals).  I've been to New York five times in the last two years, and the reason for the trips is solely to indulge in Broadway shows (and some off Broadway, too).  This time around, I saw four shows in two days (2 matinées and 2 evening shows).  

I think I'm getting tired of formulaic, clichéd musicals.  I can handle thin storylines, and I can live with predictability.  But what I disliked about this (and other recent "must-see" musicals) is the music - particularly the lyrics.  The lyrics were repetitive and seemed to be exclamation points for a theme or emotion.  I kept thinking "Yeah, I get it, move on already..."  The songs didn't seem to advance the narrative - or at least not enough to justify the length of a given number.  There were some funny lines though, and the actor playing Lola was delightfully over the top.  

Cranston was great, but the play itself was meh... Maybe it's hard to build suspense and to sustain tension when you already know the ending (will LBJ get elected???)  I kept looking at my watch.

I really liked this one!  I got a last minute rush ticket to see it.  I've never seen the movie and had no expectations about the musical (I'd not read any reviews or anything...) Terrific!  Zack Braff does a great job in the lead.  The actress playing Olive was a hoot, and Cheech was wonderful.   The story, music, set design, acting, costumes and the rest were really good.  A lot of fun - go see it if you get a chance!!!!

Another last-minute ticket purchase, and again, I had no idea what to expect...  "The music is Tupac, the story is now" - great slogan, but I don't know (didn't know) Tupac's music.    

This was great!!!!  I thoroughly enjoyed it!  Holler If You Hear Me was edgy, angry, hopeful, honest... It's about inner-city gang bangers trying to turn their lives around. It's quite a departure from the usual Broadway offerings - definitely worth seeing if you're in NYC.  An all-round talented cast.  

I should also note that Holler doesn't rely on fancy-schmancy costumes and zillion dollar set designs.  It's raw and simple, and that's part of what makes it so compelling.  It's simply a talented cast telling an interesting story set to great music.  Check it out.  

Thursday, June 19, 2014

I'm Bored... So...

You may have noticed that I haven't done very much blogging in the last little while, and perhaps you're wondering why that is.  The short answer is that I'm bored.

I'm not exactly bored with stories and ideas, but I do feel a bit of ennui with some of what comes as part and parcel of writing: being sedentary, being solitary, being silent.

Don't get me wrong: I do have several works-in-progress, and I will indeed finish them sooner or later, but for now I need a break.  The break isn't just from writing, but also from the auxiliary tasks that writers must attend to, such as tweeting, promoting, etc.  In short, I've been spending  too much time chained to my desk/smartphone.

So, what I plan to do over the next while is try a whole bunch of stuff/do a number of things that are new to me, or that are different from my usual routines and milieux.  

A few years ago, when I was going through some big changes in my life, I decided to try something new.  I took Fencing lessons, Belly Dancing classes, and I did several courses in Improvisation.  I had a lot of fun doing them all, but what I particularly liked was waking up a different part of my brain, tapping into different talents and skills (or lack thereof.)  I may do them all again someday, or not - who knows?  And maybe some of the things I try out over this summer will eventually work their way into the next Sasha Jackson Mystery, or will provide inspiration for a short story.  

* Apropos the above: Two weeks ago, I broke my foot and sprained my ankle, so methinks Fencing is not in the cards for the time being. 

Monday, June 16, 2014

Guest post from Lorne Oliver, author of THE CISTERN - Just Released!

It isn’t always what’s in the dark that you should be afraid of…

When Chrys asks her brother Spencer for help to clean a foreclosed house for the bank, neither expects their lives to be on the line.  It’s supposed to be a simple Sunday: take pictures…clean out the house…collect the cash.  Chrys and Spencer are plunged into a fight for their lives when the house reveals unspeakable horrors.

…Sometimes things in the light are even more deadly.

One of the writers I have always looked up to is Stephen King.  I will first admit that I am not a huge fan of his novels. I’m scared of the dark and scared of the thoughts that build in my head when I’m in the dark, but I have read a few and seen most of the movies based on his novels.  One thing I really enjoy about them is finding the little connections between the novels.  For instance there is an organization called The Shop which shows up in a few of his novels or is just mentioned as being the reason for whatever freaky stuff happens.  A character from his novel THE SHINING appears in a flashback in the novel IT.  Then, also from IT, the character Eddie Kaspbrak’s family used to live next door to Paul Sheldon’s family who is the main character in MISERY.  The list goes on and on so much that people have made ever growing flowcharts dedicated to it.

I accidentally started connecting my novels together with tiny tidbits from the start.  In RED ISLAND one character is reading a novel I wrote 14 years ago and will be publishing later this year.  In RED SERGE some characters listen to a CD purchased from a singer at the Farmers’ Market.  On the CD is a song called RED ISLAND.

In THE CISTERN I took the connections a little further.  The female singer who sold the CD’s in Serge is a full blown character this time around.  She is found in a cinderblock room along with the dead body of another woman.  When Spencer and Chrys find her they also find a case of her CD’s.  Back in Serge, it is also mentioned about a cook coming to work at The Alcrest Gastropub which is more than the central setting in THE CISTERN.  It is a character in itself.

As time goes on there are going to be more connections from one novel to the next.  The hardest part is making a connection to a novel that has not even been written yet.  Though I am working on it.  My thriller and mystery series will be coming together when characters from the other show up at THE ALCREST.

There are a couple other connections in THE CISTERN to my other novels, but you’ll have to check them out to find them.


Chapter Four

 Maeve Campbell’s head snapped up.  The back of her cranium bounced off one cinder block wall then another.  For one brief confused moment she didn’t know where she was.  Then the smell hit her and her body shivered with violence.  Was the smell worse?  Was the water colder?  Was that woman’s body still out there in the dark?
She had been dreaming.  She actually fell asleep sitting in the corner.  And she dreamed.  There were daisies again, only this time they were woven in and out of her long blond hair.  Her mother always said Maeve belonged in the sixties, a flower child reborn.  She stood on a beach and her bare feet dug into the sand as the ocean's waves came over them.  A strand of green seaweed wrapped around her calf.  She wore a shear red dress that flowed with the wind and danced on the surface of the water.  You could see the outline of her body when the light was right.  Her guitar hung from one hand beside her. 
The rotting smell was back.  There were no flowers in her hair, no seaweed around her leg.  She saw nothing in the darkness.
What made her waken?  There was no water dripping from the pipe.  She struggled to hear if there were any sounds, but the hits to her head made it ring from inside her skull.  Perhaps she just woke because it was time.  She longed to be back in her dream.
What was that?  There was a sound.  She knew the top of this room had a wood ceiling and above that was another.  Was it all the way up there?  Was it all in her head?  Was it Enid?  Maybe she had come back to life and wanted revenge for being eaten.
There was the sound again.  Footsteps?  It was so faint she could barely hear it over the ringing.  Her heart pounded.  It was him.  Maybe he was back to kill her.  Maybe he was back to finally do the things she feared the most.  She knew some of what he had done to the other woman.  Her body ached from the games he had played already.  She felt so week
She pushed away from the corner.  Maeve didn’t want this to go on. 
More sounds came from above, something along the floor.  Something scraped like it was dragged.  Another woman?
He’s found another.  If he had another girl to play with then this might be Maeve’s last chance.  She was going to be held under the water.
She rolled forward onto her hands and knees and began crawling through the water.  She couldn’t see, but knew where the trap door was.  She had to get under it, behind it almost so that she would still be in the shadows when the door opened.  Her hand fell on the leg of the dead woman.  Enid.  Her hand flinched away.  She gently put her hand back on the body and followed down the leg to her toes.  At the far wall she let her hands crawl upward until she was standing.  Her weak legs wobbled beneath her.  Her ankle was in violent pain.  Unless she was lucky, she wasn’t going to win.  Maeve knew her only chance was to grab him when he looked in with his flashlight.  All of the possibilities played through her mind.  Either way she was going to fight.  She was going to claw and scratch and kick and bite until either she killed him or he ended it.  She widened her stance, arms out to keep balance.
Where was he?
She felt an almost excitement growing inside her.  She had tried to be nice to everyone her entire life, but she was going to kill the next person that came through that trap door.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Recent Reads: Magical Clear Ranch

Meh.  I liked the voice, I just didn't find the content/topics consistently interesting.  

WOW!!!  This was terrific!  Stellar research, well documented.
An in-depth look - worth reading! 

I like Dorsey's writing & characters, but with this book as with others by him, I find it drags on a wee bit too long.  If this had been about 20% shorter, I would have loved it.  I laughed my head off for the first 50 pages, but as I went along, I just wanted him to wrap it all up.