Céad Mile Fáilte — Yes, welcome!

Although I’m a second (third?) generation Canadian, on St. Patrick’s Day I always enjoy taking advantage of my vaguely Irish roots. I haven’t been spending much time here on the blog, so no “new” post today, but if you’d like to catch up on some of my earlier Irish-hued entries, you could click back into the archives:

2009 and again in 2014 – A Green Moment in Time

2010 – Spreading the Green Around

2011 – The Luck o’ the Irish and Other Blessings

2012 – An Irish Recipe and a Blessing

2013 – Going Green?

I apparently missed posting anything last year, but there’s enough now to keep you reading for a while, if you’re so inclined. And if you needed a little Irish song (with men in kilts, no less) to set the mood, you might like this…

Go n-éiri an bóthar leat

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A taste of flash fiction

Writers are always writing something. I have another novel in the works, and my long-suffering critique partners have been reading through each chapter as it rolls out of my brain. First drafts aren’t fun to read, believe me, and mine can be especially brutal when I’ve been short on writing and preparation time.

Christmas is always one of those ‘too much to do, and not enough time in which to do it’ kind of seasons. As the date for our working lunch meeting approached earlier this week, I finally had to acknowledge I wasn’t going to have a chapter ready for my peers to critique. So I took pity on them and did a reading instead. It was pretty silly, short and sweet, and nothing like my usual writing…a bit of flash fiction entitled A RUINED RELATIONSHIP, originally written for k.c. dyer’s blog.

In her countdown to Christmas, author k.c. dyer undertook a writing project — twenty-five days of ‘festive flash fiction’. Each day on her blog she presents a short piece — something light and entertaining that usually contains an abundance of a single alphabet letter and doesn’t exceed 250 words. At her invitation to contribute, I chose the letter “R“.




Rosslyn bent over, hands on knees, gasping for breath. Running regularly hadn’t rebuilt her stamina as her husband had suggested it would. She wanted to lose weight, to look better for Christmas, so each day she tried to run a few minutes longer, pushing her limits, but she hadn’t yet made it all the way ‘round the block. Half way there and her legs were rubbery…. [If you care to read the rest of my bit of whimsy, I’d be obliged if you’d hop on over to k.c.’s blog, HERE. Many thanks!] 

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Father’s Day Family Things

“You don’t choose your family. They are God’s gift to you,
as you are to them.”

Desmond Tutu

Our son and grandson arrived here Saturday evening after a five-hour drive. On a trailer behind their truck they towed our 1946 Willys CJ2A Jeep which has been residing in their garage for several years. It was the start of a three-generation Father’s Day weekend, something they’d been planning since last June when they surprised my hubby by arriving from Ontario with his deceased brother’s 1930 Ford Model A. (You’ll find that story here if you missed it last year.)

With a few rattles and the odd puff of exhaust, both vehicles started up on Sunday and sedately rolled the miles to Fraser River Heritage Park in Mission, BC, where they were displayed at the annual ‘Old Car Sunday in the Park‘ event. This is advertised as “one of the largest shows of vintage, antique and collector vehicles on display in Western Canada.”

For my hubby, it was the perfect Father’s Day gift. It was a day of making and sharing precious family memories as well as checking out hundreds of very cool cars!


I don’t really have a writing application to offer from this, unless it’s to remind you that special family dynamics can enrich both real life and that of the characters about whom you write.

Do you include such events in the settings of your stories?


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Finding the Missing Bee… er, Word

The bees are busy around here this week. There is a very fragrant lilac bush at one corner of our back deck, and I can hear the buzz whenever I approach it. They like the new columbines, too, and the rhododendrons. I get that. After all, the fragrance of lilacs, rhoddies and columbines is appealing. But garlic chives?

Chive Closeup

Apparently pollen is pollen, and the bees aren’t put off by the garlic smell. They’re fuzzy, but not fussy. (Sorry… my brain is running on coffee, Diet Coke and hot chocolate. Too much caffeine!) For whatever reason seeing this bee reminds me of another one, and the ludicrous scene from the movie ‘Best In Show‘ where Parker Posey and Michael Hitchcock get into a screaming match over who’s responsible for losing their show dog’s stuffed toy, named (you guessed it) Busy Bee.

In searching for a replacement, Parker is shown assorted toys by a bemused clerk who can’t envision that a dog would be fussy about the colour or shape as long as it’s a stuffed toy. But by then Parker is rabid and irrational.

There are occasional moments of writing when I sense the edge of reason that she clearly passed. I’m driven to exasperation by words I can’t reach. I know them. I’ve used them before. But at the very moment when they are most desired, they disappear. When that happens I am beyond frustrated. I know it’s not reasonable to fuss over a particular word or phrase, especially since it can be added during later revisions, but for whatever reason the storyteller in me wants That. Specific. One. Right. Now.

Yes, I’m talking about a moment of writing despair yesterday. Need I say that I didn’t find the word? Like Parker Posey I snatched at an inadequate substitute and will have to make do for now. But it’s maddening. Absolutely maddening!

Tell me I’m not alone in this! What do you do when what’s on the tip of your tongue is stuck there and refuses to slip off onto the page?


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Going Green?


Leafy greens

Ecologically green

Greenhorn cowboy

Greenstick fracture

Green apples


No matter what version you favour, come mid-March there’s really no other green except an Irish one. It was St. Patrick’s Day yesterday. I wasn’t particularly innovative, but I wore green, and my visiting daughter baked a batch of green cupcakes for her girls.


There was a time — my children will vouch for it — when there was green porridge in the morning, green milk and green cream cheese sandwiches in the lunch kits, and probably green mashed potatoes at the dinner table. What can I say? I’m Irish, but in a ridiculously Canadian kind of way.



Blarney Stones

Irish Cream Creme Brulee 

An Irish Wolfhound if you like big dogs

or a Soft-coated Irish Wheaten Terrier if you don’t

Maybe a little Irish Step-dancing

Rainbows and Pots of Gold

A pint of Guinness


Oh, it wouldn’t be St. Patrick’s Day without leprechauns, mischief and a bit of music! However you spent it, I hope you had a great day.

. .

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A worthwhile challenge: can we do it?

Yes, I know I said I was taking a blogging hiatus, but this is worth breaking it for.

Every so often I come across a very worthwhile cause. This time it was on Facebook, where I discovered singer/songwriter Jimmy Rankin had decided to do a Christmas giveaway — a personally signed guitar. He plans to give it to someone who comments on the offer, and whose comment garners the most number of “likes” before December 31st. Simple. No strings attached.

Win a signed guitar Epiphone DR 100 from me for the holidays! Just comment below and tell me why you’d like to win. Have your friends like your comment and the person with the most likes will win! Good luck everyone! 🙂 Happy Holidays! – Jimmy
What made it worthwhile to me, however, was that one of the people who commented was Kelly Yeats, the sister of author and blogging friend Laura Best, and the reason she would like to win the guitar is so she can give it to her nephew who is recovering from a devastating car accident in which his back was broken.
There are hundreds of comments on Jimmy Rankin’s post, but only two are really close to winning, with Kelly Yeats in second place barely a dozen votes behind. Lots of people would love to have this prize, but as I read through the comments last week I realized that most just “wanted” it, either for themselves or to give to someone else who would like to have it. I couldn’t see anyone else who would benefit by being physically and emotionally encouraged in his long road to recovery like Kelly’s nephew. So, I’ve taken up the cause, too. With only three days left, the two top comments are staying pretty much neck-‘n-neck in number of votes. I’d love to help rally more votes for Kelly’s comment.
This is a Facebook thing, so you have to have a Facebook account if you’d also like to help.
  • Sign into your Facebook account.
  • Go to Jimmy’s page.
  • Once there, find Kelly’s comment (you’ll have to click several times on “view previous comments”, then scroll down to find hers. It was made on December 14th at 2:37 a.m. my time (PST), 6:37 a.m. if you’re farther east where Kelly lives.)
  • Click “like” on her specific comment for the vote to count (adding your own comment in support of her doesn’t count as a vote). (There are over 1100 “likes” on it now, but she’s still running in second place.)
I hope you’ll agree this is worth the effort and, if you have a Facebook account, will click on over and vote by “liking” Kelly’s comment. I’ll let you know in my Monday post how it works out. Whoever wins, I wish her nephew a speedy and complete recovery from his injuries.
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Although Kelly didn’t win the contest, she maintained second place by about 20 votes. This morning Jimmy Rankin posted the following notice:

“You guys rock! The response to the Epiphone guitar contest was fantastic – so many great comments – wow! Congratulations to Colleen Ingraham on winning the contest! It was neck and neck right down to the wire. Kelly – if you can hang tight, I’m going to get a signed guitar to you for your nephew. Happy new year to all and here’s to your dreams becoming reality in 2012! Cheers… – Jimmy
Meanwhile, Kelly has created a separate Facebook page to collect well-wishes for her nephew, Robin Varner. What a lot of ‘coming together’ this contest has created!
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Take one character and call me in the morning…

Are you a writer who creates a cast of characters, or do characters evolve from your stories, appearing one at a time on that old ‘need to know’ basis?

Twelve years ago (can it really be that long?) I was hired as a consultant for the filming of Best In Show, a CastleRock “mock-umentary” about the world of dog shows. Co-writers Christopher Guest and Eugene Levy created a group of eccentric dog owners with a passion for winning. While there is a plot, the story is definitely driven by its characters… not one ordinary personality among them.

Movie set for dog show judging scenes in 'Best In Show.'

On the movie’s official Warner Bros./CastleRock website I am quoted:
     In considering some of the rather extraordinary characters featured as stars of the film, Garvin says, “The fact is that we [dog show professionals] sometimes laugh at ourselves, too. The competitiveness of dog shows attracts a very diverse group of people. There are definitely some eccentrics among them, but they are in the minority. This film focuses on that minority, but the film also portrays some of the really honest hard-working people that are in the dog show business, too.” 

There is disparity in the cast but unity in their goals. It is their single-mindedness that puts them in conflict with each other.

Cast and crew on day the Hound Group scenes were filmed (and yes, I'm in there). Photographer: Doane Gregory

Carefully set against the credible backdrop of a quality dog show, these characters keep us engaged in their incredible lives as each one struggles toward the ultimate Best In Show award.

We care about them, and that’s the hope of all writers… that their characters will resonate… that what happens to them will matter to readers.

I’ve mentioned before that my story ideas usually originate with the mental image of one character. From that image I am driven to explore the who, what, why, where and when that reveals plot. So, in answer to my original question, I do begin with just one character.

Those who write ‘by the seat of their pants’ may well accumulate characters as they are needed to forward the plot, while plotters and planners will have a fair idea of their cast before they begin writing.

Since the monologue and dialogue lines in Best In Show were all improvised, however, the writers had to have a clear understanding of personalities that were to be portrayed before they introduced the actors to the script. It is the diverse nature of those personalities that interacts to give cohesion to the story as a whole.

Does this suggest all writers, whether pantsers or plotters, need to know who all their characters will be right from the start, even if they let the story unfold without constraint? What’s your answer to the opening question in this post?


 Best In Show Trailer