Life is Better With Plans, Right?

My first meme!!!

It’s been a while since I blogged and to my six fans out there, I apologize.


I have a plan.

I’ve spent the last six months working on my novel, Yager’s War, a historical mystery set in 1940s Holland (about a Chicago detective who must find his missing sister before the Germans invade) and that has distracted me somewhat from sitting down and ramble-writing. AKA blogging.

All fair and fine.

But I’m back, baby.

Time to restart blogging, again. But time to kick it up a notch.

So this month, I’m going to look at revamping the website (which means an old dog like me will have to learn some new tricks.)

I’m going to look at changing up the content of the blog.

I’m going to try and make it a billion times better.

And maybe attract one more reader (see, proper goal setting is about making the bar so low that you’ll easily vault over it and not twist a metaphorical ankle.)

So put down that video game, pause season 5 of Homeland on Netflix, put supper back in the oven or move date night to tomorrow.

Cuz I may need your help.

What would you like to see in the blog?

I’m thinking some funny memes. Some advice from people who know what they’re talking about (and not, you know, me). A few guest blogs. Less selfies of me trying to look like Brad Pitt going insane.

Inner Harbour, Victoria, BC.

But first up, our trip to Victoria.

This year, we won’t be able to manage a proper vacation. You know, pack 20 bags, yell at the kids to hurry up, to stay together, to stop picking your nose in public, then spend 2 weeks somewhere that only I want to see (“What’s the deal with this Grand Canyon thing, Joe?” “Hello! It’s grand! And a canyon!”) and engage in Bataan death marches around exotic locals to see things we’ve never seen before (“Wait, Joe, I’ve seen the Eifel Tower on TV, so why do we need to see it in person?”)

Don’t get me wrong, next year, we are totally doing those things, but not this year.

This year, it’s short trips. Hit and run vacations. 2 days here. 2 days there. No planes. No borders. No strip searches (sadly – Apparently, they’re supposed to be done by professionals, not me.)

So this year, we’re going to try to do more things by… ack, I can’t even say it…by… by the seat of our pants.

Without a plan.




Grand Pacific in Victoria, BC.

Well, that’s not entirely true.

We’ve got a bit of a plan.We’ve booked a hotel (the fancy–smancy Grand Pacific) and we have arranged to visit family, but nothing like, 7am, breakfast, 7:35 go to bathroom, 7:50, get into car, 8:30 (have you ever tried to get kids into a car quickly???), head off to see something, 9:00 see something and take lots of pictures of it. 9:10 yell at kids for complaining there’s no wifi. 9:40 head off to see something else that may or may not be cool…. Etc, etc.

Nope. We’re trying to be more flexible (and by ‘we’, I mean, ME.) It’s me growing as a human being while devolving as one at the same time.

Friday night, we’ll take the ferry and sort out what to do when we get there. Saturday, brunch with family, then, THEN, sort out what to do afterward, then the evening, see fireworks, but make no plans where to see them from or what food to eat or ….

Wait, I need a moment.

Ok, hyperventilating over.

Then, Sunday, totally playing it by ear. Maybe see a friend. Maybe look around town. Maybe relax in the pool.

At the very least, it could be interesting.

Likely, I’ll be drinking more than usual.

At least, that’s the plan.

And hey, thanks to all my readers who followed me. I hope you’ll return, make a few comments below or on Facebook, and help me create a better blog. Text me, email me, respond in the comment section. Let me know what you think.

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Success @ Surrey Writers’ Conference?

real-life-schoolOddly enough, I am more comfortable talking about my failures. I mean, hey, failures make for better stories, while successes, well, who wants to read about a hero who just succeeds? But sometimes we writers forget to celebrate our wins. So, please, indulge me…

With all my pitching done, that left Saturday to actually learn something, maybe even have some fun. And there was one workshop I didn’t want to miss. SiWC Idol.

It’s where authors submit their first page for the amazing Jack Whyte to read, then a panel of agents raise their hand the moment they would reject it. The goal was to have the entire page read, the agents not stopping the reading at all, but eager to find out what happens next.

simon-cowelSure, one year it was bad, with agents going all Simon Cowell on everyone, and even some of the good stuff was getting slaughtered in the name of making people laugh. I suspect a lot of people complained and rightly so. It’s hard to have your stuff read out. It takes courage to submit that one page, and for those agents to savage the writing and writer, well, it was just wrong.

But it never happened again, and so I was pretty excited to submit my 1 page. I thought it was decent enough, perhaps even good, so I thought, hey, roll the dice. One of the agents I had pitched to would be there and if I managed to get read, and she liked it, it might cement that idea that my book has a real chance.

However, if my writing failed, if I’d convinced myself it was better than it really was, then the reverse would be true. She’d leave thinking, my goodness he was handsome and charming and had a good idea for a book, but couldn’t write to save his life (and my book would die an ugly death in the slush pile.)

So, a lot at stake.

And all of it depended on a good bit of luck as well. See, there are about 200 people who show up for this event, and it takes 5-10 min to go through the first page and give feedback, so that’s about 20 or so pages that can be read.

I crossed my fingers.

The first ones that were pulled out and read, were hit and miss. A few good ones, but mostly they needed work. However, the agents were very respectful and even helpful, offering some greats suggestions on how to make it better.

Then Jack Whyte pulled out a submission from my writer’s group. And when he read it, he read the chapter title. It started off with a date and a place, instead of just saying chapter 1.

But the agents hated that, and before we’d gone not far past the chapter title, they’d rejected it!

On the title of a chapter!

Now I went into a panic.

That’s exactly how MY submission started.

If jack Whyte read my chapter titles, then I would be done. All my hopes of making a good impression dashed.

I shut my eyes, and now wished for my submission not to be taken.

More submissions were read. Time began to run out until only 10 minutes remained. Some total asshat submitted 2 and both of them got read. How unfair for the rest of the people. There was only 1 submission allowed. Only 1.

But that left only a few minutes for those last submissions.

And then Jack Whyte began to read mine.

He didn’t read the title.

Thank God.

He read the opening sentence. Then the opening paragraph. Then the rest. With him reading it, with his incredible voice and Shakespearean delivery, he made it sound amazing. Not a single agent stopped him from reading.

And when he was done, they were all so very nice and complementary, especially the agent I’d pitched to who said she knew who the author was and got me to stand up. Then she gave me a thumbs up.

Everyone seemed to love it and it was the best moment that I’d ever had at SiWC. That moment of validation. That feeling that maybe I have a chance at publication. That thumbs up.

But that’s the conference for you.

Ups and downs.

But this time.

On this day.

Totally up.


And here’s Jack Whyte reading from his novel to give you an idea of how well he can speak!




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Surrey Writers’ Conference – Do Or Die

It’s been a busy week, but here’s what this stepdad has been up to!

A conference where I hope someone will be interested in my writing.

What’s the definition of insanity, again? Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result?

Yeah, that’s it. Einstein, right? Or Bieber? I can’t remember. Some great mind, anyway.

So, let’s be clear, going to the Surrey International Writers’ Conference was an act of insanity for me.

It’s a conference where you can learn new stuff, meet new people and pitch your projects to attending agents or editors. I’ve been going on and off for about 10 years, and the result has always been the same. I go to workshops, listen hard, try to learn a bit, then go home and try to make my writing better.

Don Maass, one of the best writing teachers I've ever seen.

Don Maass, one of the best writing teachers I’ve ever met.

That’s all good. Sometimes, especially with the Don Maass workshops, I learn a ton and it makes my writing a WHOLE lot better. He just has a way of making me think about how I can make any story better, deeper, more entertaining.

But sometimes, I don’t get as much. Sometimes it’s just stuff I already know.

As for the ‘meeting new people’ part, well, let’s just say I’m far more comfortable sitting in the basement in a dark room and writing alone, than having to talk with people. It’s the secret side of my nature. The extreme introvert. If you want to see what it’s like when I make conversation, I have a video for you.

This is me going to talk to someone. Only I’m less cool.

However, the big fail for me has always been the pitching part. I stress for days over what to say, how to say it, then, when I actually sit in front of someone, my nerves get the best of me.

The conversations often go like this…

“So, I have this book I’ve written, no, wait, I mean novel, cuz a book could be, like, you know, hahaha, a non-fiction thingee or anything, so uhm, yeah, I have this novel and it’s completed and it’s about this guy who does something and must solve some problems and then, at the end, it’s all resolved except for the parts that aren’t resolved. And it’s science-fiction. Did I mention that?”

Bring on the full body sweat.

Perhaps it’s not surprising that not a lot of agents or editors are interested in my stories. More surprising is that I’ve sometimes been escorted out by security or had the agent/editor look quietly away while I weep uncontrollably.

Ok, it’s not that bad, but last time I ate a lot of rejections, and that stung. I thought I had a pretty good story, a pretty good pitch and, yet, yeah, zip. Nada. Not even a pity send-me-ten-pages requests.

So why go back if that’s all going to happen, again?


Because there is always that hope that this time will be different. Maybe one day, I’ll pitch the right story to the right agent/editor at the right time.



But what happened this year was not something I expected at all.

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The Piano Man

Well, we survived the wedding, had a blast on the honeymoon, but now it’s time for real life. And something special for you-all.

Time for hockey, you ask.

Sure. That’ll come.

Time for tales about school?

You bet, but that’ll have to wait.

In the meantime, please check out The-Oldest’s latest video. Remember, he’s only been that this since April. 🙂 I wish he’d shown his fingers at work, but whatever, it’s still awesome playing.


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Wedding Advice, Anyone?

All of me, loves all of her.

All of me, loves all of her.

I know what you’re thinking.

Joe, I need to know how to do the best wedding possible. How do I do that? How?

So let me tell you some things I learned. Not like I’m going to have another wedding, but for anyone else thinking about it, read on, cuz I is gonna get out my wisdom stick and hit you with it.

  • Never eat 2 plates of food while wearing a tuxedo and vest. Or a corset-like wedding dress. Unless you’re super fit or as lean as a zombie left out in the sun for 2 years. At our wedding, we were served 2 plates of food. 2! My buttons were one wafer-thin mint away from exploding out and killing someone. So, for safety reasons, go with one plate. Of salad.
  • Delegate! Have backup to look after the kids. Have someone assigned, multiple someones to help meet and greet people. Have someone to take care of the projector. To help set up decorations. To find the groom when he goes for a long walk with a bottle of jack in his hands. Like sex, do NOT do this by yourself no matter how much you think you need to.
  • Do a rehearsal at the wedding location with the wedding planner or co-ordinator. Know where the bar is. Know where people should go. Know where the bride will come from, where she will fine-tune her dress and make-up, where the groom and his party will gather to wait for her.
  • Find a good photographer. A good DJ. A good cake balls person. Make friends with the room captain (or buffet manager). Mike did our photography. Linda was our DJ. Jes did our balls. See, these people can make the wedding so much better and help alleviate the stress. They’ve been there. Done that. And they can ensure some of the most important moving parts of a wedding go smoothly. Find people you would LOVE to work with. Check out their reviews. Take the time to get this right. Trust me, it’ll make a huge difference.
  • Plan as far in advance as you can do it. The day after I proposed, I started looking into venues and many were already booked 12 months in advance. Some were booked into 2017. Go to the places. Walk around. Get a sense of what it will FEEL like when you have your wedding there.
  • Have a dinner party before or afterwards. You won’t be able to talk to all the people you want to talk to. Maybe postpone the honeymoon by a day. Maybe have someone host a gathering the night before. We both missed talking to so many of our friends and family because we ran out of time. And there was dancing to do.
  • Eat something before the wedding. Oh, I know what I said about the dangers of bursting at the seams, but the preparation takes time, a wedding ceremony takes time, and the photographs before and after take time, and that last thing you need is to run out of energy or get a case of the hangries. This really applies if you have children. Like 2 boys. Eat well, even if you think you’re not hungry.
  • If you’re a groom, help out as much as possible. There are phone calls that can be made, RSVP envelopes that can be stuffed. Spreadsheets made. I tell you, it’s so much easier to just show up, but so much more rewarding to have been a part of the process. Not in control of the process, you understand.. A. Part. Of it.
  • “Go with your gut.” This from the bride. Pick your favourite colors even if they don’t match. Pick a theme that someone might not think is cool. Do something unconventional. Have or don’t have bridesmaids or a maid of honor/best man. Wear a purple vest or funky socks. Do the chicken dance. Don’t put baby in a corner.
  • Don’t sweat the small stuff. A bit of dirt on your shoe. One of your best men with his fly unzipped. A goofed up slideshow. Too tight underwear. Just remember people are here to share a moment with you. To be a part of something special. Something magical. It’s all about love. Not the weather or the food or even the dancing.

Links are below.

Newlands – great food, honestly. A bright venue, made magnificent by the autumn colors. Christa was awesome and always seemed excited by what we were planning to do. And Lynda, the DJ, did the most fantastic job of not only playing music but ensuring so much ran smoothly. She even found where us boys had been hiding, and pinned the boutonnieres on us.

The wedding cake (a book) and the incredible cake balls of Jes

The wedding cake (a book) and the incredible cake balls of Jes

Jes (Coat the Cakes) – OMG, good. If you didn’t get a chance to try one, I’m so sorry. They were to-die-for. She made an amazing book-cake, then created an outstanding display to surround it.

Mike K Photography – Maybe it was his time as a pastor or rock star, but he was both to me on that day. He went the extra mile and by all accounts, his pictures are brilliant.

Dress from Action Bridal and Formal Liquidators. And for the seamstress used, contact ABFL for a referral, she too, did such a great job. It was such an amazing dress and made The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World look so incredibly beautiful.

For me, the wedding was the best I could have hoped for and I want to thank everyone who could be there to share it with us.

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Top 10 “Did you know?” Wedding Facts.

We had such a great time

We had such a great time

So, now follow me as I take you behind the scenes of our wedding to reveal some of the things you may not have known went on.

  • The bride-to-be wouldn’t let me see the dress until the wedding. I was banned from looking at the pictures on her phone. A whole section of the closet was off-limits to me. I would be sent out of the room when her friends came over. Like a bad dog.
  • I was on the verge of being a complete groomzilla. I blame my OCD need to control things, but the truth is, I simply wanted it to be the most amazing wedding for The Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World. Every time I came into to see the decorations people, they would wince. Or try to run away.
  • The week before, I’d spent days on the slideshow, first bothering the bride’s family for photos, then going through my own in dusty albums, then scanning them, then making a slideshow. I had a complete meltdown when 6 hours of work crashed and hadn’t been saved. I may have used bad words I was so mad, I even went for a run. A. Run. However, the next day, I was able to redo it all and have a good show for the wedding.
  • The-Oldest chose all of the classical music used in the beginning, putting his vast knowledge of that genre to good use. The dancing music…that was 99% The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World. I think that I, maybe, picked one song that was subsequently dropped. The 2nd -to-last song was the Hungarian Rhapsody, chosen by The-Oldest. His most favourite song of all time. He may have been the only one dancing to it by then, though.
  • I told The-Youngest that if he was a goofball while walking his mom down the aisle, I would go to school with him every day, give him a kiss on the forehead, go over and tell the girls he liked them and wanted a kiss from them, too. I told them we would shout “we love you snookumbums!” when he was playing goalie. We’d even make a sign. And post a youtube video. I told him we’d never buy him new pants so the cuffs would gradually creep up his legs, and the crotch would tighten on his balls slowly, but painfully. In other words, I would make his life HELL, until he got married.
  • It was a nightmare to carry the wedding dress when we made the outdoor photoshoot. OMG the photos turned out amazing, but finally, the bride gave up on me or the junior bridesmaids trying to lift her train, and she gathered it up in her arms like a baby and marched from one location to the next. Still radiant. Still so beautiful.
  • At the outdoor shoot, the junior bridesmaids and The-Boyz mistakenly took that time as play time. There was a lot of shouting things like, “Get out of the pond!” “Stop throwing rocks into the mud, you’ll splash the bride!” or “Joe, stop making faces at the photographers!”
  • img_1804

    My incredibly funny brother, Michael, making everyone laugh.

    Both the MC, (my brother, Michael), and the bride’s father were sick on the day of the wedding. Probably a few others as well. But mad love to them for being there, and I have to say, my brother did an absolutely incredible job as MC. He was funny, charming, and did such an amazing toast to the boys.

  • We had no idea that the bride’s mom (and official officiant) would don a bishop’s hat when it came time to read the Princess Bride Mawwage speech. We knew she’d do the speech ‘cuz we had bugged her to, but the hat was a great addition and made us both laugh.
  • It was our Great Baba that got the dancing started. Without her, both The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World and I would have chatted forever.

img_1798All-in-all, so many things happened that day that it’s hard to narrow them down to a small list. When we took our pictures outside, the photographer decided to use leaves. Pick them up, throw them into the air, he said, and so The-Youngest gathered up HUGE fistfuls and threw them at his mom, giggling like crazy, ‘cuz, you know, the photographer told him he could.

But nothing bad happened at all.

It was such a great wedding.




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The Wedding Ceremony

OMG! The bride looked absolutely gorgeous!

OMG! The bride looked absolutely gorgeous!

From the moment the bride glided in, looking so exquisite, so graceful, the wedding became something amazing.

All the stress of the day melted away when I saw her, radiant in her stunning dress, escorted by her two boys.

I could tell she was fighting tears. As was The-Oldest. And The-Youngest was doing his best to be mature.

My world telescoped just to her. All I could see was her face. Her smile. She looked so very, very beautiful.

I took a deep breath, fighting the tears of happiness that built behind my eyes.

We were officially getting married.

This was it.

The girl I knew I’d marry the moment I met her, three years, ago, Feb 26th, at 3:15 in a small coffee shop in Langley.

I felt so happy to be here. I felt so lucky to have found her.


My cutie.



She stopped beside me, only glancing in my direction. Her beautiful blue eyes shone. She was trying to hold it together. She feared a mascara disaster if she let go and just let the emotion overwhelm her. Behind her, the junior bridesmaids took up their station and, her boys – both as handsome as I’ve ever seen them – went to stand beside me.

The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World and I listened together as her mom began the ceremony.  All else faded into a blur around me.

We laughed when her mom put on her hat and recited the Princess Bride marriage speech. Her mom had been nervous about this part, but she carried it off with great humour and dignity.

It was so wonderful to see The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World laugh. I would be happy to make her laugh like that for her entire life.

When it came time to say my vows, I belted them out. Proudly. Happily. The Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World whispered hers. Nervous. In her head, she said later, she thought she was shouting them out.

Then it came time to make my vows to the boys. Not something every groom does, but The-Boyz are such an important part of my life, I wanted to ensure they knew how much I’d come to love them, too. I’d spent a night figuring out what to say, then passed it along to the officiant to whisper to me so I wouldn’t forget.

The-Oldest listened, then nodded his approval. Or just nodded ‘cuz it was over. I don’t know. The-Youngest didn’t pull a face until the end, not sure, I think, what to feel. What to say or do.

But it felt good to tell them how I felt. It felt right.

So, so beautiful!!!!!

So, so beautiful!!!!!

Then I turned back to my gorgeous bride, we exchanged rings after the boys fought to get them out of their pockets and we were pronounced man and wife.

I couldn’t have asked for a better ceremony.

I kissed my new wife like I want to kiss her every day. With passion and love.

Then we turned to the room.

A room full of smiles and cheers and applause.

Joe 3.0 had been upgraded to Joe 4.0. A newer, greyer, wrinklier version that will likely crash a lot.

I doubt there was a happier man in the world than I was at that moment.


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