Monthly Archives: April 2013

My Writing Life: Laura Shabott

Here’s the latest from KOBO WRITING LIFE.

My Writing Life: Laura Shabott.

I am a travelling man…

Here’s a couple of the visits I’ve got planned out for this May thanks to the Hackmatack Program.

May 7 8:50-9:50am I’ll be visiting the kids at Parrsboro Elementary.

Same day from 1-2pm I’ll be visiting the kids at River Hebert.

Then, next day on May 8 9:30 to 10:30am I’ll be visiting the kids at Cyrus Eaton Elementary in Pugwash.

Same day, from 1 to 2pm I’ll be talking to the kids in Amherst.

Then, that evening at 7pm I’ll be talking with guests at the Amherst Public Library at 7pm.

On May 9 I’ll catch a bus to from Amherst to the Halifax Airport where I will catch a plane and fly to Thunder Bay.

Can’t you hear Tommy Hunter singing out – “I am a travelling man…”

I’ll fill you all in on my Toronto activities in the next day or so.

 

yours in storytelling,

Steve Vernon

FREE ON KOBO!

Are there any Kobo owners out there?

I hope so – because I am offering Book One of my three book trilogy – THE TATTERDEMON TRILOGY – for absolutely free on the Kobo network.

So what is the book about?

Well, it’s about scarecrows. And voodoo. And ghosts. It’s got a backhoe and some gunplay and a firetruck and a witch’s broom. It’s got some incest and a peeping tom postal worker and an ex-circus fat tattooed lady who is attempting to diet down in a MOST unusual fashion.

It’s got a homemade self-crucifixion.

It’s got battered ex-marine.

It’s got a power mower and some more gunplay and naked hoodoo chicken dancing.

You got to read it to believe it and – like I said before – I am offering the first volume for ABSOLUTELY FREE – just like the first jolt of crack cocaine.

Book one is free. Book two and three cost. So – test your will power. Read book one – which is about 12,000 – and then pick up book two – which is about 25,000 words – and then just SEE if you can resist picking up Book Three – which is about 50,000 words.

This here is a pyramid scream if I ever saw one before.

Just check out these covers!

BOOK THREE

BOOK THREE

BOOK ONE

BOOK ONE

BOOK TWO

BOOK TWO

Another fan letter…

Back on April 16th I told you folks all about a fan letter that I had received – asking about where I found my inspiration.

Well – let me tell you about another fan letter – one I received way back in February.

DEAR MR. VERNON,

My name is Aiden. I take life plain and simple. I am a huge fan of you and your books! It’s some of the most interesting stuff that happens here in New Ross. You may have heard of our town. We are in the middle of Nova Scotia. We have one or two tales of our own you may want to hear. One is about a young boy that disappears when he goes fishing.

There are probably more.

I was wondering if maybe you would come to our school and give us a presentation. We are just over 100 people at our school and located in the middle of Highway 12. If not, then don’t worry about it.

Your fan,

Aidan.

That was, as I mentioned, back in February. Some of you more calender-0riented folks might have noticed that this letter actually came before Lucy’s letter.

I should warn you that I am a writer of fiction and am chronically prone to the wholesale fudging of numerous details.

Bluntly put, I get paid to fudge things up.

I immediately e-mailed the school principal and made arrangements to get out there for a visit. It took two months to line things up but I am leaving this morning for a visit to the New Ross Consolidated School.

I want to throw a BIG tip of the fishing cap to the good folks at the Hackmatack Committee who helped to make this visit a reality – namely, by providing a drive to the school and back.

I love visiting these small rural schools. There is such a close-knit sense of community and commitment. The kids there are ALWAYS eager to listen and learn. I anticipate a fine morning and I am looking forward to hopefully meeting plain-and-simple Aiden and handing him an autographed copy of one of my books.

I get home this afternoon and will rush off to a night shift at my day job and most likely come tomorrow morning I will lay upon my couch and make small quiet breathing sounds while the weariness weeps out of my bones – but it’s worth it just to get out and visit those schools.

Here I go!

yours in storytelling,

Steve Vernon

 

How a Writer Visits a School

I’ve got a Hackmatack school visit today – a double header.

I’m travelling to the South Shore to visit with the kids at the Newcombville Elementary School and the North Queens Community School in Caledonia.

I’ve already had breakfast – a pan full of fried mushrooms, a couple of eggs, two slices of ancient grains toast accompanied by one slice of whole wheat organic ham – (I swear, it’s the high-vitamin calorie-free ham) – one large mug of black coffee and two small chocolate bunnies.

I’m ready to roar!

Kizzy and book 008

 

So what all do I do in a school visit?

Well, I start out by telling them how I got started as a storyteller – back when I was about three years old, growing up in Northern Ontario. Then I go on to tell them how about my first day at school and how being a good storyteller actually saved my life.

Then I tell them the very first story ever told in the world – a touching yarn called “Caveman Steve and the Mammoth”.

Then I tell them about the story tree and how every story in the world has the same basic shape – just like a tree.

Then I tell them about choosing a voice. I tell them about homework and teachers and flame throwers. Then I commence to tell them about business men and bandit queens…

(Have you got all this so far? Should I talk slower?)

Then I tell them about good luck and bad luck.

Wild horses, stallion kung-fu and more bandits, please.

Then – I wind it all up with a capital-G GHOST STORY.

Or, if the kids are younger than I just tell them a small-g ghost story.

All of this in one hour flat or forty-five minutes if I talk fast – with a little time left over for questions and answers.

If you liked what you read then send $89.95 plus tax and handling to Steve Vernon, Incorporate and ask for my 20 dvd collection of how to tell a good story. You send me the money in unmarked bills and I’ll throw in a free set of ginsu knives – only slightly used, four or five hundred times.

Yours in storytelling,

Steve Vernon

My first piece of fan mail…

As I’ve told a lot of you folks – I’ve been fortunate enough this year to see my middle-grade novel SINKING DEEPER: OR MY QUESTIONABLE (POSSIBLY HEROIC) DECISION TO INVENT A SEA MONSTER has made the short list in both the Hackmatack and the Silver Birch Award.

Which means my book is being read by kids all across the maritimes as well as the province of Ontario.

I was VERY happy to receive my VERY first piece of fan mail for SINKING DEEPER just yesterday.

deeper_cover_Jan_24th

It came from a young girl named Lucy. She lives in New Brunswick and the letter was sent to me through her local library.

This is what it said.

DEAR STEVE VERNON,

My name is Lucy. I belong to the Hackmatack book club. How were you inspired to write this book? I really like sea monster books, especially this one. Most of them I read are from Halifax, N.S. I am from Halifax too. I love your book so much! Are you going to write any more books? Bye.

Love, Lucy.

This is what we kids writers write for. The gift of being able to touch a young person’s imagination is absolutely precious and rare and wonderful.

So I sat down this morning and wrote Lucy a reply.

I thought I’d post it here for you folks to read.

April 16, 2013

Dear Lucy,

I want to thank you very much for your kind letter.

I’m very excited to be a part of the Hackmatack Award Program and I am glad to hear that you enjoyed reading SINKING DEEPER.

You asked what inspired me to write this novel. Well, I’ll tell you. Inspiration is a little like that nagging little brother who will sneak up and grab you by the ear and start whispering words into it. Inspiration will pester you until there is nothing else to be done but to get up from wherever you are comfortable and to go out and create the thing.

Whether you are a writer or an artist or just a talented jump-roper figuring out how to jump over that big old green neon jumping rope in a brand new and exciting way – like maybe with one arm tucked behind your knee-cap and your eyes closed tight shut – inspiration is what will wake you up in the morning and get you started through the day.

Inspiration is something that grows in your imagination. You grow enough of it and your heart and spirit will just inhale it on up just as natural as somebody breathing in and out.

You don’t need any kind of encouragement to remember how to breathe – now do you?

Inspiration works the same way as breathing does.

We all do it – kids and adults alike.

The only real trick is to learn how to recognize it.

So how is that done?

Well – recognizing inspiration is easier for kids like you than it is for old grown-ups like me.

Recognizing inspiration is a little like seeing cows.

Let me explain.

Think about the last time your parents drove down the road out to the country – most likely going somewhere. And there you are sitting in the back seat looking around for something to see.

And then you see it.

Parked behind a big farm fence, chewing on a cud the size of Wisconsin.

A cow.

“It’s a cow!” You’ll say. “It’s a big freaking cow!”

Odds are the grown-ups did not see that cow. They were way too busy watching the road and thinking about income tax and talking about baseball statistics and chewing on their own grown-up cuds.

Their imaginations were cluttered with the rattle of newspaper and time clocks and gray old ink.

But you spotted that cow – right out there in the green field. Maybe you gave it a name – called it Georgina or Murgatroyd or Lumbago. Maybe you gave that cow a set of cow-wings and sent it off to the moon to look for moon-pickles.

Maybe you sang it a little cow song or dressed it in a moo-moo or honked its horns real loud.

That’s imagination talking.

That’s inspiration talking.

So – what inspired me to write SINKING DEEPER?

Well, it might have been a cow – but actually it was a real life sea monster that inspired me.

I wrote that novel thinking about Old Ned – the Lake Utopia monster in New Brunswick.

I was also thinking of the Miller Lake monster here in Nova Scotia that was originally nothing more than a torn-up tree stump that somebody painted to look a sea monster – mostly because they were inspired. Then a group of Boy Scouts got together and started painting that lake monster even fancier. Then, when somebody decided to steal that old sea monster’s head – (and the thought of a headless sea monster is pretty scary, don’t you think?) – then somebody else made another sea monster head.

And it all started with the gift of inspiration.

So that’s what inspired me. The idea that some little kid could actually create an entire sea monster out of nothing more than a single wistful dream.

Y’see, I remember what it was like to be a kid.

Kids are a way lot more powerful than people want to believe.

Kids have a firm grip on the key to their imagination.

Kids believe in monsters.

Lastly, you asked me if I was going to write another book.

Yes I am.

I’m writing one right now.

Yours in storytelling,

Steve Vernon

(if anybody is interested in reading SINKING DEEPER you can pick it up on Kobo right now or hunt it up at Chapters or at Amazon or get your local bookstore to order you a copy. I guarantee a good read – and a generous helping of inspiration.)

Bringing Back The Mammoth…

I just read this article in the latest National Geographic Magazine.

The idea of bringing back the mammoth is a pretty cool and seductive notion. I include a “Caveman Steve Meets A Woolly Mammoth” story in EVERY one of my storytelling workshops – so I have a kind of secret geeky connection to those big shaggy extinct tuskers.

Solar flare, nothing. It was the orthodontist bills that killed the mammoth…

But still, I kind of have to wonder.

The article talks about all of difficulty and the resources that have been poured into the hunt for a viable woolly mammoth cell.

I mean – just think about it.

These scientists are trying to unearth a living viable cell that has SOMEHOW survived TEN THOUSAND FREAKING YEARS of extinction!

That’s long odds, brother.

What I want to know is why these scientists aren’t taking a look at cloning the elephant.

I mean – how hard would it be to find themselves a living elephant cell?

Why not rescue something before it reaches the point of extinction?

Just think about it. Poachers and ivory-hunters are killing off the elephant – bit by bit – every year. Why not re-invigorate their population with a few genetically-engineered clonal replacements?

Heck – the lady elephants might even find the insertion of a few bionic pachyderms to be a little stimulating to population growth.

Might break a few hearts of them comfortable old bull elephants.

“I’m sorry, Harry,” the lady elephant says. “But I’m running away with cyber-dumbo. Love and all is nice – but that dude’s trunk has a pair of die-hard D-cells in it that don’t EVER run out of go-juice.”

Think about herds of re-invigorated smiling lady elephants.

Think about Ronald McDonald hawking a whole new line of elephant burgers.

“Kids – every new Dumbo-burger comes with fries and a trunk!”

Let’s face it.

Elephants are freaking cool.

I had the good fortune to ride on one – many years ago – at a travelling circus and it was something amazing. It gave me a real perspective and a sense of what an elephant REALLY is. You can watch all of the Youtube elephant videos – strung ear to ear to ear – and you aren’t going to inhale one half of the sense of awesome I felt riding on top of that big gray wonderful beast.

I know some folks will tell you that’s wrong – that we shouldn’t be taking these animals out of their natural habitat; that we should be leaving them in the untouched African wilderness to be shot by local poachers; that it is a cruel and unnatural practice and such.

And you might even manage to convince this old bearded writer who actually has “circus roustabout” included in his thirty-five past jobs resume…

But I can still smell the dusty gray scent of the amazing animal. I can feel it’s warmth in every living cell of my body. I can feel the heavy side-to-side shoulder roll – like riding on top of John Wayne’s shoulders – only with a whole bigger nose.

It is a wonderful memory of mine that I will never forget.

But as my imagination leans that way I’ve got to wonder if mankind is even ready for this bit of meager progress?

I mean – let’s face it. Let’s say we invent ourselves a herd of elephants – OR EVEN a herd of woolly mammoths?

How long before some knuckleheaded moron with a brand new Webley-Vickers .80 caliber assault rifle – (and I’ll give a solid-Steve handshake to the first person who can tell me what famous story Webley-Vickers .80 comes from) – walks up to the herd of bionic mammoths and starts seeing meat.

Ten thousand years.

Caveman with clubs and wooden spears.

Just ain’t that far away from today, now is it boys and girls?

yours in storytelling,

Steve Vernon

(and if you enjoyed this entry you might want to take a look at my weird western LONG HORN, BIG SHAGGY – A TALE OF WILD WEST TERROR AND REANIMATED BUFFALO – now available in Kindle, Kobo, i-tunes and Nook! )

Filling the Tank…

Just a half an hour ago I read a blog over at THE WRITERS GUIDE TO E-PUBLISHING.

The author of that blog – David Slegg – was talking about how his personal responsibilities – including a cattle farm, calving season, and a big family Easter gathering – were getting in the way of his creative journey.

He compared it to a wonderful movie – a movie that I truly loved to watch – THE STRAIGHT STORY.

 

David asked if any of us felt the same way as he did.

This is how I answered him.

David, are you freaking kidding me?

I’ve got a day job that’s pretty well full time. I’ve got a house that needs keeping. Snow that regularly needs shoveling.

Throw on some family crisis over the last year. Three siblings who are battling the reaper – two of them younger and one of them run to critical.

On top of that I’ve been taken a paying gig as the editor of a Canadian anthology of speculative fiction. Means I’ve had to read about four hundred manuscripts in the last three months. Right now I’m hip-deep in the final selection process – heavy, heavy editorial work and dealing with numerous authors.

On top of that I’m dealing with three book tours that are coming up. These are all paying gigs – which is great. Means I’ll be making appearances in schools, libraries, bookstores and auditoriums.

Now – none of these activities compare to the amount of work that is involved in actually running a farm – as you do.

(I know that for a god-given fact – I actually dated a lady farmer briefly and worked on her farm and it definitely lives up to that whole “working from sun to sun” motto – farming is damn tough)

And – several of these activities – especially the book tours – are REALLY freaking cool and a chance in a lifetime that I intend to have a blast with.

BUT – each one of these activities takes time away from my writing.

Each one takes energy and prep-time and a certain amount of commitment and focus.

So yes – I do sometimes feel like Alvin Straight – the gent who drove his John Deere tractor from Laurens, Iowa to Mount Zion, Wisconsin.

(And I’ve watched that movie several times and loved it. Amazing that it’s a true story. Amazing that Alvin Straight was played by 82 year old Richard Farnsworth who actually was dying from terminal bone cancer while he was making that film – and knew it!)

It’s a wonderful flick that tells a wonderful story.

The truth of the matter is that life is built to get in the way. It’s supposed to get in your way. It plays a VERY important role by getting in the way.

You see – every time that a personal commitment and/or responsibility gets in the way of you putting words down on paper – it is serving a heck of an important purpose.

You’re output has been suffering – but your emotional content hasn’t been.

Remember this, David.

Repeat it every morning that you’ve got to get out of be knowing that you’re about to spend the next twelve hours – maybe shoulder deep in the wrong end of a difficult calving – or shovel deep in a heap of manure.

Remember these four words.

LIFE – FILLS – THE -TANK.

Life – and the living thereof – is what keeps your creative motor humming. It’s what keeps the muse wet and juicy. It’s what keeps the words flying off your fingertips while you dance them across a willing keyboard.

Life – in all of it’s manifold formats – is what we writers write about.

Whether you’re writing science fiction or hot steaming romance or blood and guts battle – ALL of the stories you write are stuffed cram-full of characters. And if you want your reader to buy into the tale that you are spinning you’ve got to make sure that these characters are freaking believable – which means that you’ve got to grab a fist full of personal experience and cram it shoulder deep into that character and stuff him cram-jam-full of hot stinking life!

So – don’t beat yourself up over not getting anywhere to fast.

Do just what you are doing. That ain’t a keyboard – that’s a John Deere 110 ride-on tractor.

Keep it straight and you’ll get there by and by.

I put so much effort into writing that answer that I figured my own blog followers ought to read that entry – but you likewise ought to check out and follow the WG2E (The Writer’s Guide to E-Publishing) – which is a wonderful website that I set out last year to write regularly for – but then life and a whole bunch of roadblocks – got in the way of me accomplishing.

You see – life will get in the way of EVERYTHING you want to get done.

Doesn’t mean you need to stop trying.

Here’s a link to David Slegg’s original entry at the WG2E.

And if you haven’t watched THE STRAIGHT STORY – go now and hunt up a copy and watch the darned thing. It’ll definitely help set you straight the next time you are wondering about just you are really going – and just when you actually expect to get anywhere in this life.

yours in storytelling,
Steve Vernon

My Writing Life: Edward W. Robertson

A great Kobo interview.

 

My Writing Life: Edward W. Robertson.