Tag Archives: #atozchallenge

Z is for Zombies (AtoZChallenge2018)


Be careful who you hang out with …

You known how it works… you get nibbled on by a zombie and, some time later (I think that part depends on the zombie variety) you develop symptoms. Itchy spots, heat, swelling, palpitations followed rapidly by open wounds, limbs falling off, brains spilling out of your ears… Actually, I don’t really know (which will be clear as blood to the legit zombophiles out there…)


Despite the fact I don’t know much about how it works, I recently took part in a day of zombie shooting with Theatre Canmore… not as in loading up my weapon and taking aim at the living dead but becoming one with my inner zombie and being shot… by a camera.


The initial intent was to create a zombie-themed #getconsent series of public service announcements, but the client decided zombies were too scary and we won’t use the footage for that after all. Stay tuned for a Canmore Town Halloween Special at some point… The talented Candice McMullin has reworked the scripts, which now involve mountain climbers instead of zombies… the hair and makeup should be much simpler! I’m hoping I’ll be able to take part in that shoot, too (kind of a dream combination of activities… climbing and acting).


As for Canmore Town – the launch of the pilot and the web series will take place later this month. If you haven’t already (and if you are cool, you should) please sign up to the CanmoreTown YouTube channel. That way you won’t ever miss an episode and, when the time comes, you can watch the zombies in action!


The worst part of the zombie experience was not eating a bunch of brains (frozen Jello) or making awful retching noises or dodging hostile Canmorons who were fighting back… the worst part was trying to bush my hair later (ow!). That was bad, but even worse was peeling off that wound. It looked so cool (hats off to the talented creative crew behind the makeup!), but oh my, it was really stuck on there well and I hadn’t realized that was going to be part of the makeup/costuming so I didn’t prepare by shaving all the fine little hairs off my forearm or prepping my skin with some sort of lotion that might have made removal a bit easier. As it was, when I ripped that sucker off it took along all my arm hairs and brought tears to my bloodshot eyes!


Theatrecanmore.com is where you’ll find all the latest info about Canmore Town… I don’t think zombies will be regulars on the show, though they have been around in film for a long time, apparently. White Zombie dates back to 1932 and was directed by Victor Halperin – I feel like I should track it down and watch it to see where all this began What’s your favourite zombie movie? As a zombie newbie, what are your must-see recommendations?

Y is for a Year (or so) of Travels (AtoZChallenge2018)

Yesterday I started my post with a clip from an old song… I’ll do the same today with this old chestnut, I Was Born Under a Wandering Star.


My mom was the one who used to sing this to me (in not quite as low a register as Lee Marvin does, mind you) every time I said I was yearning to hit the road and go travelling. I don’t know where that need to roam comes from, but for some of us, itchy feet have nothing to do with athlete’s foot.


The past year and a bit have been really good for finding myself in far-flung places. Strangely, though I lived there for many years, Vancouver Island has become a destination. Last year I had the pleasure of taking a couple of sailing trips with my daughter and her husband on their lovely sailboat, Easy Rider. 




It was a little chilly lounging around on the foredeck in February… But that didn’t stop me from trying. That’s what those lovely survival suits are for, right? 



Had a great road trip through the mountains in March and stopped (of course) at Grizzly Book and Serendipity Shop in Revelstoke where, it turned out, they were filming a Christmas movie (hence the Christmas decorations in March…)



After arriving back in Canmore (home, these days) I basically unpacked and re-packed and went off to Paris. But not before a late night ice climbing expedition:




Our neighbourhood. For most of our stay we hung out in the 15th, a five minute stroll from this bridge. 




From Paris, I took a quick trip to Montreal, Toronto and London as one of my books was nominated for a Silver Birch Award in Ontario. 


Then, back to Paris. Where, among other things, I ate frog legs.


Eventually, we returned to the mountains, but only briefly, just long enough to climb a mountain or two.


The weather was good on the coast and I was longing to get back on the water…



I’m fastening on the ‘don’t lose the dog’ netting on the boat before we set off for a few days of puttering around in the Gulf Islands. I have no more photos of this trip because I dropped my brand new phone overboard as we approached Nanaimo Harbour! Note that the weather had improved dramatically so no survival suits were required. 


Once back in the mountains I played about with my replacement phone and enjoyed a bit more climbing



before heading back to Europe.

There was a day in Paris…



quick visit to the Centre Georges Pompidou…


… and then on to Madrid, where I met my daughter and Dad in Madrid…


From there, a train to Sarria where we began a very slow walk 120 kms or so to Santiago de Compostella as part of our Great Camino Project. (If you haven’t already found it, check out @lastlegbook on Instagram for lots of photos of our journey).



Santiago… that way… 


Because we were working on a book about the project, after our time was up in Spain, we jumped on a cruise ship in Barcelona and wrote 65,000 words or so… One of these days we will get the rest of the manuscript done and, with any luck, will eventually see a book. If you’d like to have a look at a few of the posts written along the way, here are a couple of links…

That Way!

The Kindness of Strangers

Once back at home in the mountains, I lost a bet and had to jump down Main Street wearing a pink bunny suit…

(and no… I didn’t… pass wind, that is… I did jump through town while singing the Happy song by William Pharrell… )

When all that was over, it was time to pack our bags again and head back to the coast for Christmas with family.



The gang in Vancouver… 


You might think all that was more than enough packing and unpacking, but what did we get for Christmas? Yes!! Allegra and I received tickets to go on a cruise together! So off we went again to explore the Caribbean… but not before a little ice climbing…



It’s kind of nice you don’t need seventeen layers crampons and ice axes to have fun on the beach… (this one in Jamaica).


And then, home again just in time for spring break and (this is getting a bit ridiculous) another trip to Paris!


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It was a wet spring in Paris – the Seine is threatening to overflow her banks… 

And finally, back home to the mountains for a bit more ice climbing…

IMG_2126.JPGYeah. It’s been quite the year, or so… I couldn’t have imagined all those many miles being logged had I tried to look ahead at the beginning of 2017. Who knows where this next year will take us?





X is for Xavier, Xanadu, Xi, Xlotl, and Xul… and, yes, X-rays (AtoZChallenge2018)

Thanks, Dad! Xavier Cugat is not a name I’d ever come across, but Dad, who has been following along as I’ve worked my way through the alphabet for the AtoZ Blogging Challenge this month, sent me a note this morning saying I should include Xavier and his Waldorf-Astoria Orchestra as they play this 1943 song, Brazil. While you are playing that in the background, I’ll keep going with the letter X.

As it turns out, this month I’ve actually had three sets of X-rays – two on my jaw (sadly, the result of those eXplorations will be removing a root canal and installing a new one… that does not sound in any way like it’s going to be fun), and the other on my hips. The findings there were that yes, my left hip is basically shot – arthritic and rather exuberantly sprouting bone spurs, perhaps in a misguided effort to replace the cartilage which seems to have gone missing. Using an ultrasound (sort of a watery X-ray…), we managed to shoot the hip full of cortisone and some weird lubricating gel stuff and the pain is much relieved. Good news, as I should be able to keep hiking and climbing on it while I wait to get old and decrepit enough to qualify for a hip replacement.





Hm… this map doesn’t include the red dot showing exactly where Shangdu town (near where Xanadu used to be) is located… Curious? Click here…


I love to travel, but one of the places that’s been on my wish list for the longest is one I have yet to get to; Outer Mongolia. Turns out that Xanadu, in Inner Mongolia, was once the summer palace of Kubla Khan. One of these days I will get to Mongolia… no plan yet, but that seed was planted so long ago it has grown into a serious old oak and such a large tree is a bit uncomfortable to keep lugging around.

While vaguely in the neighbourhood (and speaking of trees), here’s a painting by Guo Xi from the Northern Song Dynasty (920-1126).


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Trees by Guo Xi, a long time ago in China



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The Love Embrace of the Universe, the Earth (Mexico), Myself, Diego and Señor Xólotl by Frida Kahlo (1949)  I have to say that’s one of the longest, most intriguing titles I’ve come across… But it does contain an X. Thanks, Seńor Xólotl!

For those who are biting their nails and wondering how the manuscript/deadline race is coming along, here’s the update. I’ve finished a rough and tumble draft, which is a bit long. I’ve got that printed out and am going through it searching for the 2500 or so extra words that seem to have snuck in there. If I keep going at the pace I’ve been working, all things being equal I should have made the cuts (on paper) and entered the edits into the digital draft in time to send it off to my editor by Sunday midnight. That’s a day ahead of schedule, technically, but I’ll be heading to the airport on Monday and I really don’t want to take it with me, so that’s the plan.

This is the first draft my editor will have seen, so I fully expect that not long after I get back I’ll have my draft and a set of notes back to work on. But, that’s getting ahead of myself. There are a couple of things I already know I want to change in the next draft, but that’s what the revision process is all about. Modifying and refining. As always, I’ll be pretty excited to see what the editor has to say as her wise insights always make the books better…

I’ll leave you with this final image by an Argentinian painter, Xul Solar. It was cooking hot here in the mountains today, so it feels appropriate to celebrate the sun!


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Pegaso de Sol by Xul Solar, 1922

Until tomorrow! Ciao!






W is for Weary, Work, and the Wonders of the Web


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April by Martiros Sarian, 1947 Oh, April – what a speedy month you have been! In, out and yikes! May is just arond the corner!


Wow. What a month! It looks like I might just make it to the end having made my goal of a post a day, but sheesh – it’s been touch and go! I suppose I should have known better than to try to combine a big book deadline with much of anything else, never mind a daily blogging challenge and a trip or two!


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Woman at Her Writing Desk, by Lesser Ury, 1898 Yep. That’s pretty much where I’ve spent the month of April. 


I can’t really complain. I’m so lucky to be able to do the work I love and even more lucky to be able to do it from pretty much anywhere in the world, as long as there’s an internet connection available. I don’t know where I’d be without being plugged into the web, I must say.

This book I’m working on now, for example. It’s about medically-assisted dying (euthanasia, assisted suicide, mercy killing, murder) and all the many medical, ethical, legal, moral, and personal considerations that lie behind the decision to live or die. The Internet has proven to be a rich source of raw material. From documentaries and news clips to lengthy articles in mainstream newspapers to scholarly dissertations in all manner of obscure academic journals, as well books and audiobooks, I’ve been kept busy plowing through more sources than one could hope for in terms of finding lots of background on the subject.


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Death and Wife, by Albrecht Durer, 1510 In a strange way, Death has been my companion for the past many month and thousands of words… 


I’ve also been talking to people online – through texts and emails but also through online ‘phonecalls’. I’ve been able to use an online transcription service to record and then transcribe some of those conversations. Even ten years ago, such a wealth of information would have been much more difficult (impossible?) to access. I’ve been working on this book for 18 months or so, reading, researching, thinking, listening, watching and learning in Paris, Spain, the Rocky Mountains, the Caribbean, and on the west coast. I’ve downloaded books and articles onto my phone so I can read while I’m standing in the lineup at the grocery store or while trapped in waiting rooms or getting from here to there and back on planes, trains, and automobiles. I’ve dreamt about death. Thought about it pretty much every day since I took this project on.


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Birmingham Reference Library, the Reading Room by Edward R. Taylor, 1881 I bet this library had a card catalogue. I must be among the last humans on the planet to have been taught how to use a card catalog. Computers were creeping in everywhere when I was at university, but to find a book at the library, one still had to thumb through the soft-with-use cards.  


The problem isn’t really ‘can I find the information’? it’s, how on earth do I distill all this, organize it well, and then shoehorn it into what is actually quite a limited word count, considering the vast quantity of information I’m starting with?

Whenever I think, impossible! I need to expand the manuscript! I need more words! I think of something my mother once told me. She said that you don’t really understand a subject properly until you can explain it to your grandmother from another country. By which, I think, she meant that if you really know your stuff you should be able to explain anything, even the most complex of topics, clearly and succinctly to someone who has absolutely no background or understanding of the subject.


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Scissors and Lemon by Richard Diebenkorn Cut. Cut. Cut. That’s what I’m doing next. Which seems a bit odd since what I’ve been doing for months is add. Add. Add. Write. Write. Write. 


The other lesson I learned early (in my capacity as a copywriter at a radio station) is that you should be able to convey a complicated idea (in that case, usually about a business, product or event) in very few words. A thirty-second spot can’t last 35 seconds. Concise. Precise. Economical. Those were buzz words back then, and that early training has made me aware that cutting and paring are more fun if treated like a puzzle and a game. Just how many words can you take away and still tell your story?



Death of the Countess by Alexandre Benois, 1910. This might just as well be named, Death of the Writer as this is a pretty accurate likeness of me at the moment. 


With that in mind, I’m going to embrace my next couple of days of slicing, dicing, chopping, and cutting as I whittle away at what is currently a too-long draft. I have 72-hours before the deadline. I can do this. I can.

V is for Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands (AtoZChallenge2018)



The Baths on Virgin Gorda in the BVI – can you imagine a better combination? Bouldering, beaches and swimming in balmy waters… Oh, yes! 


One of my favourite places in the world is the island of Virgin Gorda in the British Virgin Islands. I was last there in 2015, just before I met Fabio during my fateful wander around Skaha Bluffs looking for climbing partners (you could say that worked out rather well!)



It’s shoulder season here in the Rocky Mountains – the waterfalls are melting rapidly, so ice climbing season is likewise fast running out. But at the base of plenty of crags it’s still muddy or slushy, so it’s not perfect yet for rock climbing (though, that’s changing fast as well). Solution? Snorkelling! Of course, there isn’t much of that to be done here even on the hottest days of summer, but in the BVI… different story!


You can’t imagine how delighted and excited I am to be able to say that very soon I’ll be hopping on a plane and heading back to the Virgin Islands with Fabio and Ally in tow! Yay!


For the moment, I’ll leave you with these photos of fond memories… Keep watching the blog for more photos coming soon of our next trip together!