Saturday, 28 February 2015

Leonard Nimoy, Spocktoberfest, and how I survived middle school ...

Original Star Trek episodes, 1966-1967

The wonderful Leonard Nimoy died this week: poet, musician, artist, and of course, actor. I rarely get too involved or swept up in celebrity lives, celebrity deaths, and I've never posted about an actor before, but this is my blog. My party.
So ... a few thoughts about Leonard Nimoy.

The truth is, Mr. Spock was my secret ally all through middle school. I was the youngest by a few years in a gifted class (I'd skipped a grade), and it wasn't easy being 11 years old when everyone else was 13. I'd get home after school each day and lose myself in Star Trek re-runs on TV (no youtube or internet in the late 1970s). As the only alien on a starship, Mr. Spock knew how it felt to be an outsider, and so did I. He was my hero, the first one I ever had.

Star Trek was my secret obsession until I went to university and discovered that I wasn't the only person who loved it. My friends and I went to our share of opening night screenings of Star Trek movies, and although I never attended a conference, I did scare the neighbourhood one Halloween when I dressed up as a Borg (that was a great costume).

I was a devotee of The Next Generation in the 80s, and wrote two screenplays for that series (both rejected). Somewhere around that time, I also bought this tricorder case filled with DVDs of the first season of the original series, pictured here.

In homage, I wrote and performed a hilarious song for Mr. Worf called Klingon Love Affair, which I still dust off and play for close friends now and then. Here's the first verse: Love your forehead/gives me chills/your halfway back, wild hair/lock me in your crushing grip/it's my Klingon Love Affair. Ready photon torpedos, Mr. Worf ...  campy and fun and that's enough of that! You get the idea.

In the 90s, my friends and I went to "Spocktoberfest" in Toronto a few times, to watch The Chumps spoof episodes of the original series and laughed until it hurt, although the pints of blue Romulan ale probably helped.

When I heard last week that Leonard Nimoy was in the hospital with "chest pains," I decided to watch the new J.J. Abrams ST movie, Into Darkness, which I hadn't yet taken the time to see. It was thrilling! Zachary Quinto makes a great Spock, and his moment on screen with Leonard Nimoy was a wonderful hall of mirrors, looking into the future, into the past, into the future, and so on. Due to the magic of Netflix, my 17-year-old son is methodically watching the entire Star Trek franchise. It's good to walk into the basement (where his bedroom is), with an armload of laundry and hear Patrick Stewart's silky voice arguing with Q.

But until hearing of Leonard Nimoy's death, I hadn't spent much time thinking about Star Trek in recent years, it's just been a constant in my life, always there in the background. Now I will. Like the night I watched the original airing of Arena in 1969 (I was 5 and I still remember it), I'll spend some time in the weeks to come, getting inspired on the bridge of the Enterprise with my alien ally and lifelong hero. I'm hopeful that ST will continue to prosper and inspire future generations, like it did me. I have no doubt it will. Truly, LLAP.

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Tips for writing a series from 3 YA authors

Susan Hughes, a wonderful children's author, has a great kidlit blog on OpenBook Toronto. This month she talks to three authors about what it's like to create a YA series: Caroline Adderson (early chapter book author), Moira Young (teen author), and ... me, a middle grade author.

Here's the link to our thoughts about writing a series.

I'm really honoured to be asked to share my thoughts, although the honest truth is that when I wrote the first book, The Gargoyle in My Yard, I was just focused on getting it published. That seemed like such a huge hurdle, that the possibility of a series didn't even occur to me until later.

A series was several steps down the line. Publish first, then dream even bigger! I guess if you're a published author before you attempt a series, then you might have the skill and time to have your series more planned out from the start than I did. Still,  I may have had beginner's luck since it wasn't that hard to turn book one into a series. The character of a 400-year old gargoyle had so many possibilities that when I finally got writing the next book, the problem was figuring out which part to tell first.

And  ... the idea of a fourth gargoyle book keeps popping into my head. The beginning of the next instalment in the lost gargoyle series, I wonder?? Stay tuned ...