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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.

 

 

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.

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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.

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With malice means evil intent.

WITH MALICE means summertime reading has finally arrived.

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Ian and Sam

It’s all so personal. What we like, what we hate.

I love reading crime fiction.

I love short sentences.

I love reading about places I love.

I love when a few words say everything.

Last week I read a book with some of the best sentences I’ve ever read. Last week I read INVISIBLE DEAD by Sam Wiebe.

Sam has become one of my favourite writers. His first book, LAST OF THE INDEPENDANTS, made me an instant fan. He sets his stories in Vancouver. His characters feel real. I can see them walking these streets. Sam covers local issues. He makes them huge but intimate. I want to know his characters. I want to drink with them, hang out with them. I mean the good guys, not the killers.

I’ll read both books again. Even if just to enjoy those sentences.

Sam is our Ian Rankin. Ian introduced the world to the real Edinburgh. Sam will do the same for Vancouver. Drayton and Wakeland are our Rebus.

It may take a few books. But I’m counting on Sam to do it.

Oddly enough, Sam is also a big Rankin fan.

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So here’s the rub.

Sam might be moving away. This doesn’t work into my grand scheme. Sam needs to be here and writing about my home.

He knows I’m not happy. But he doesn’t know he should just give up now.

Sam says he can write about Vancouver from Montreal.

No.

I have a few months to petition Sam to stay.

My default position is to cover my ears and say “I can’t hear you la la la” when Sam mentions his future. So far this hasn’t made a dent in his plans.

Plan B is to start a hashtag campaign.

I ran the wording past Owen Laukkanen. He knows Sam. Owen also writes crime fiction. He agreed with my choice for the tag but I think he was only humouring me.

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This isn’t just about me and my wants. Once you read one of Sam’s books you will be on board. Trust me. You will want Sam to stay. You will beg Sam to write about Vancouver again.

You will want to wear one of the pins.

Now if only I can get Ian Rankin to jump on the bandwagon.

Could you help us out @Beathhigh?

#SamStays

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This Day We Write / This Day I Sell

When you receive a rejection letter from an agent you’ve set your heart and hope on, it helps if you’ve been to the Surrey International Writers’ Conference. Not because they taught you all the ins and outs of getting published. Not because they’ve given you the tools to pitch again. Not because they showed you how to write a better book.

It’s because they understand what it is to be a writer and they have your back.

Yes, they have your back.

It was at a conference lunch three years ago when I bared my soul about a rejection I’d received that morning. The rallying embrace was enough to help me carry on. It made me carry on.

I still feel that embrace today.

I’ve met people at SiWC that have become my greatest friends.

During those days I’ve cried and laughed and been scared shitless.

I’ve also been inspired.

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So now it’s time to give back.

Once you arrive at the conference you’re given a brochure. It’s a map to everything that will happen. A guide to help you through the overwhelming maze of overwhelming moments.

My first year I don’t think I put it down once. It was my safety net and helped me decide what I should do next. I love looking back at the notes in the margins and stars beside the must attend workshops!

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This year I’ve been asked to assist in getting people to advertise in the 2016 brochure. OK, not the type of job I usually do, but when you think about it, I’m a person who knows how precious the pages are. And as I said, it’s a way for me to thank the SiWC Board for all the brochures that have shepherded me through the conference.

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Let’s be honest… I love to talk about things I love.

You can ignore my musings on penguins and Dairy Queen Blizzards… but if you’re a writer or want to be around writers you shouldn’t ignore my chatter about the Surrey Writers’ conference.

In fact, I bet you’ll be like so many others and thank me.

Just imagine you’re sitting across the table from Diana Gabaldon or Anne Perry or Jack Whyte. They’re about to read something you’ve written….

If you’re not brave enough for that, they always have time for a quiet little chat.

Everyone at SiWC is there to help you be a better writer.

And you will be.

Now I just wish they’d given a course in how to sell advertising in conference brochures?

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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?

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

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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!)

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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!

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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.

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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?