13 Reasons Why

When my friend told me to watch the new Netflix hit 13 Reasons Why I asked him for one reason why I should. He told me it was the best thing he’d ever watched. When a 16 year old says that you need to listen.

His brief summary sold me, “A girl makes 13 tapes and sends them to the people that are responsible for her suicide.”

A few days later, a friend and extensive reader said, “The Netflix show is really good, but the book was better.”

Nothing more was required; I sat down for a 13 hour binge.

As I watched the closing credits I sent my friends each a thank you note. They were right.

13 Reasons Why has restored my faith that people can make shows that matter. This Is Us, the NBC show that debuted this year, gave me hope that we would go back to making shows that didn’t rely on fluff. 13 Reasons Why crossed the finish line.

The story covers many topics as it delves into why Hannah would make the ultimate decision. Bullying, rape, the social media frenzy, neglect, words left unspoken. I think most people can see a glimmer of themselves in one of the 13 scenarios. It’s hard to watch. Yes, devastating in places, but I have recommended it to everyone I know.

What shocked me were the media reports about the Vancouver School Board coming out with a warning about the series. The airwaves were filled with experts talking about how the show glamorized suicide. I yelled at the radio, “Have you even watched it?” I could tell most of them hadn’t. I read the VSB message to parents; it said the show should be a part of a conversation. Talk to the young people around you. Watch the show together. Talk about the Reasons Why.

The show reminded me what is was like to be 16 years old again. Did my parents know anything I was doing? The big difference between then and now, when I was young we had no social media. There was everything else, but we had no way to flame the fire into an unstoppable frenzy.

Thank God. I may not have survived.

Here are 13 reasons why I want you to watch…

1.  The writing is perfect.

2.  The actors become the characters. You will never forget them.

3.  The simple devise to indicate the flashbacks is clever and pure genius.

4.  This is happening with teenagers right now.

5.  The violence is not gratuitous.

6.  You can watch the series and then read the book.

7.  You can read the book and then watch the series.

8.  My young friend will know his opinion matters and I’ve told everyone.

9.  The soundtrack is brilliant.

10.  The characters are diverse without trumpeting the fact.

11.  You never know what will change someone’s mind.

12.  Because kids are dying and we can do something about it.

13.  Stop reading this blog, go watch the show, then talk to someone.

Talking About Rebus

When I finished Ian Rankin’s latest Rebus novel, Rather Be The Devil, all I wanted to do was chat with my Dad.  The book ends with a twist I know he would have loved.

Funny how our minds work…  I had completely forgotten about the endless lunches Dad and I spent talking about our mutual friend, John Rebus. We both loved Ian’s books. It gave us a connection and the shared reminiscing was a gift.

Dad would have loved this one!

Then I got to thinking about how books can do that. How stories can bring people together. How they can be the basis for your tribe.

There’s nothing like being with people that enjoy the same books you love!

I met with many members of the Outlander fan club at the Surrey International Writers’ Conference this past October. Now there’s a tribe that has fun! (Maybe that has something to do with the book’s central character being a handsome Scotsman in a kilt!) It was a great reminder how books can be the focus for a gathering.

Reading is usually a solitary act. It’s almost meditative. Your mind can be transformed to a one-pointed focus. A great story can take over your whole world. For that stretch of time you are transfixed.

To finish a book and be able to share the journey with someone else is magical.

Just look around at how many people belong to book clubs.

A shared love of a book can be a touchstone.

When Dad died I went back and re-read all the Rebus books. I was reminded of the genius of Ian Rankin and how he’s created a man Dad and I both loved so dearly. It was a way to connect with Dad even though he was gone. It was a way to mourn the loss and rejoice in our time together.

What a gift Ian gave us.

As I read the last page of this latest book I would have given anything to know what Dad would have thought.

Thank you Ian.

 

 

Road Trip

If you believe that getting your book published means a road to fame and stardom then stop reading this blog right now.

If you believe you can get published and compete with the likes of Tragically Hip, well you are insane.

I believe I’m the only Canadian that doesn’t enjoy the Hip. This simple fact means most people think I’m crazy and just plain wrong.

I also believe that Gord Downie loves writers so I guess we aren’t completely at odds.

I noticed all of this on a road trip with my writer friends this past weekend. Linda L Richards, Sam Wiebe, Dietrich Kalteis and Owen Laukkanen were scheduled to do an author event at the Kamloops Public Library. I went along for the ride. And why not? They are extremely entertaining people to hang out with.

2016-08-20 20.09.20

(And yes, when you are still bandaged up you get to ride shotgun!)

2016-08-20 20.10.59

To live in Vancouver and be surrounded by so many talented writers is a blessing. I love listening to them talk about their craft. It’s a skill I want to master so the opportunity is priceless. Luckily the writers I know are willing to lend advice and cheer on every effort.

Maybe the good people of Kamloops just weren’t aware of the opportunity.

Or maybe the chance to say goodbye to Gord ranked higher on their bucket list.

You see the timing of the two events didn’t actually overlap but the prep time to lug your cooler and folding chair to the Kamloops outdoor screening venue for that last concert didn’t allow for a visit to the library. People set their priorities.

For the small handful of folks that opted for the library and the chance to listen and chat with these writers… well they were treated to powerful stories and insight. They heard ideas about the creative process.

The joys, the rewards, the time, the dedication.

2016-08-20 16.08.06

Linda, Sam, Dietrich and Owen spoke about being successful authors.

Not one of them mentioned the reality of driving four hours to speak to a few writing fans just to turn around and make the long trek home.

I believe Mr. Downie would have been very impressed.

I know I was.

 

 

 

With Malice

Wherever your summer holidays find you, take along Eileen Cook’s WITH MALICE and I can guarantee you a journey you will never forget.

This is one of my favourite books of the year, but the title rated number one. “WITH MALICE” I love when an uncommon word jumps into my sphere. I’m left wondering how I can sprinkle it into my daily conversations.

If I was a book reviewer, my headline for WITH MALICE would be “Denial, Escape and Awe.”

Denial… because for me, that is a theme of WITH MALICE. Everyone seemed to be in denial of what the characters’ true intentions could be.

On a personal level, there’s denial because this summer I’m not taking a holiday break. There will be no downtime. This means my reading will be grabbed between clients, various projects and fast approaching deadlines. I’m in denial of how important taking time off is for one’s well-being.

Luckily at the end of a packed day, I was carried along by the rush of friends from the Surrey International Writers’ Conference and attended Eileen’s book launch. Even though the book sold out I was fortunate to grab a copy. There was no denial that this was being in the right place at the right time.

Malice blog 2

Escape… because I haven’t had this type of pure escapism with a book for a long time. Eileen tells a story about a girl and her friend and what might be a murder. She makes it all so believable and so very unbelievable. In today’s world you can imagine this happening but so want it not to be true. It reminds me of that saying, “Expect the unexpected.” With my life, having a few hours to lose myself in a great story is as good as any holiday. Well almost… sleeping in then opting to start drinking at noon and then reading the great book would be a perfect escape.

But what about escaping murder?

Awe… because this book will become a classic. It is crafted so well I can imagine workshops in the future being based on the way it’s written. If you’re a writer and want to see how it’s done well, race to your local bookstore, pick up a copy, and start to read it now. The hours you spend devouring WITH MALICE will be a masterclass.

At Eileen’s book launch she talked about how she wrote the book. She’s an engaging speaker and her humble humour is deceiving. Luckily she will be speaking again at the Chapter Indigo in North Van on August 6. Go. I guarantee you will be inspired.

eileen chapters

With malice means evil intent.

WITH MALICE means summertime reading has finally arrived.

malice blog 3

 

 

 

 

Talk to Owen Laukkanen

I read the last lines of the acknowledgment and started to cry.

“Heck, talk to me if you want. My contact info’s on the back cover flap, I usually stay up late. Just, you know, talk to somebody. We’re all in his together.”

This is how Owen Laukkanen ends his latest book The Watcher in the Wall.

It should be required reading in every high school.

On the surface, it’s a great piece of crime fiction that follows Owen’s stars, Stevens and Windermere, through another case. A horrifying story that keeps you hanging on to find out if the good guys win.

But this one’s so much more.

Owen tackles the tragedy of teenage suicide.

I’m not a book reviewer or a counselor so I won’t pretend to speak with that type of authority on either subject. Bookpage is just one of the places where you can read about the story itself.

I am a person that has battled depression and still wages the war. I’ve come very close to taking my own life. I wish I’d read this when I was younger. I’m glad I’ve read it now.

And I’m honoured to know Owen. He’s stepped up and will make a difference.

He’s even hidden all this in a really great book!

Owen, you’re a very creative and clever man.

I got to introduce a young friend to him recently. She’s read his YA book, How To Win At High School (written under the name of Owen Matthews.) She was beside herself to meet him. Owen took the time to connect with her. He’s like that. And I could instantly see how he related to someone still in the throes of figuring out life.

Aside from the superb writing ability, the weird obsession with trains, and the love of a certain dog named Lucy, Owen is a very good man. And handsome. Did I mention that, or have you seen his pictures?

lucy for blog

Start following him on Twitter or Instagram. You will never look at trains the same way again.

owen train 2 blog

There’s a tiny bit of time when you’re thinking about ending your life and you can be turned. Too many come to that crossroad and never see a different direction. I think Owen, his honesty with his own troubles, and this book, can make you look for another way.  A small glimmer that there might be a safe path away from the pain.

I hope Owen will find himself staying up very late once more people read this book.

It will be worth it.

 

 

Finding Fraser, finding kc

Why is it so surprising when someone is kind and generous?

Back in January 2015 I got an email from kc dyer asking for my help to find a man in a kilt for a photo shoot. Well of course I know many men with kilts, but the one I thought would be most appropriate was Robert MacDonald. He even makes kilts.

Jump forward to kc self-publishing a book with a cover picture of a man in a kilt. (As you can see, Rob wears a kilt very well!)

2016-02-24 14.41.52

It’s called Finding Fraser and it’s a story about a young woman that reads the Outlander series and goes to Scotland to find her own Jamie.

I saw the book for the first time at the official launch party and was floored to see kc had thanked me for connecting her with Rob in the acknowledgments!

2016-02-24 14.47.57

Finding Fraser went on to become an Amazon bestseller.

If this story ended here it would still make for great reading. You would know how gracious and kind kc is.

But I need a longer blog post so I’ll add a little more to this story. And then tell you the best part…

kc is just one of the amazing people I’ve met at the Surrey International Writers’ Conference and my life is much richer for it. I’ve attended the conference for the last five years. When kc is leading a workshop I’m usually in the front row. Her “Beginner Intensive” master class not only gives you all the information you need to start your writing career but kc also inspires you with her enthusiasm, candor and hilarious attitude.

2016-02-24 14.51.42

Even more shocking… kc is surrounded by some pretty incredible people at the SiWC… Kathy Chung, Camille Netherton, Crystal Stanaghan, Eileen Cook, Jared Hunt, Jennifer Browne and Jennifer Striemer.

These people are the reason the Surrey International Writers’ Conference is famous for being so welcoming and generous. They make it happen.

And the reason I’m telling you this story today?

Yesterday kc announced that Finding Fraser will be published by Berkley (an imprint of Penguin Random House).

This is HUGE news! It’s rare for a self-published book to be picked up by a big publisher and kc and her agent, Laura Bradford made it happen.

I was thrilled to hear the great news as the tweets started bouncing around. Then I clicked on the link to find out the details.

And that’s when I started to cry.

kc has listed the names of the people that helped to make this happen. She included mine.

How can you not LOVE someone like that?