Monday, 28 June 2010


I used to hate the word, "conceit," as it would conjure up images of people who thought they were better than they were, especially people like the kids I went to school with. But then I plunged into writing, and discovered that "conceit" could have a different meaning, a nobler meaning, that of an image or idea that is extreme or unrealistic, but is absolutely necessary for the construction of a particular story. Or script, because I dabble in writing for the screen as well.

The conceit is the Holy Grail, it is the cookie that satisfies you after a long day of struggling and pondering. It is what separates the men from the boys, the shit from the brilliant, the prize winners from the wasteland of slush.

I spend my time pondering the next brilliant conceit. I think about it when I'm driving my car, or in the shower, or while I'm exercising. So far, I've been occasionally clever, and somewhat insightful, but no moments of pure this-will-make-me-famous.

When fans ask the infamous question of their favourite big-time author, "Where do you get your ideas?" what they're really asking is, "Where in the hell did you come up with that conceit that was so amazing that it put you in the running with the Stephen King's and John Grisham's of the world?"

Aside from selling their souls to the devil, I'm sure they simply came up with the ideas randomly, or from some reading or research that interested them or sent them in a particular direction.

This is the part where I ask the fates for a bit of a shove in the conceit direction, because I have no interest in selling my soul. I need it for later. And the only direction my research has pointed me is on the boring, it-has-been-done-already heading.

Thursday, 24 June 2010


Security is an illusion. A thousand cops with Kevlar vests and riot helmets won't stop a mob. Only slow it down, give it something to bite into, spit out, and piss on.

When I was in my teens, I felt secure. My parents took care of all the big stuff, like mortgages and taxes, heat and food. My friends, my posse, would hang with me, always ready to diss whatever bored us that day.

But middle age is a far cry from the teens. About as far as Iqaluit is from Toronto, in size, geographical location, and cosmopolitan-ness. The ages in the middle have found me, gripped me, and turned me into a combination of a cynic and a paranoid freak.

Every night, before bed, I check the locks. Sometimes a couple of times. Whenever I park the car, I go through a whole process of putting all the "good stuff" in the trunk, checking windows, the locks, even the parking brake. Worst, though, is when my two almost-adult-kids decide to take the car, or go out with a pack of friends. I practically bind myself to my cell phone, awaiting their text for a ride home. Better that than a trip to the police station to bail them out.

Or worse.

Yeah, I think of worse. I ponder it, stress it, allow it to blossom into mutated versions of the-absolute-most-terrible-thing-that-can-happen-does scenarios.

All the alarm systems, and radio response units, and body guards won't help me. Because it's what I can't see, what they won't anticipate, that's what scares me the most.

Thursday, 17 June 2010


Henna spent a great deal of her life in a state of panic. Of all of her emotions, this one was the easiest, quickest, and most intense. Combine this flaw with her exceptionally bad luck and she was a walking recipe for disaster stew.

If only one car was broken into in a parking garage it was hers. If lightning were to strike only one house, it would find its way onto her roof. If a pickpocket decided to rifle through only one purse in a large open market, her purse would call out to him to make himself at home.

So on a Wednesday in March, with a cold, brisk wind blowing from the north, and rain heavy in the clouds above, Henna decided she would be smart to stay home from work. After all, more accidents happened during poor weather. Her car, which she affectionately named "Bruce," would not appreciate being smashed to bits simply because Henna didn't want to waste a sick day that morning.

She spoke some reassuring words to Bruce in the driveway, just to be sure that he wasn't being replaced by a bus ticket, and then she slowly and carefully climbed the stairs to return to bed.

When she rested her head on her pillow, she could feel her heart pounding. Had she taken the stairs too quickly? Or was the panic creeping in. Would her boss be angry that she was away? If she called and changed her mind, would the weather cause her grief? Would Bruce be put in harm's way? What time was it?

She glanced at her alarm clock and at that very moment, the power failed. Gripping her blankets with white-knuckled urgency, she crawled further under their safety and tried to scare the panic monster away.

He was too hungry. Instead he devoured Henna's serenity like a starving dog attacking an unprotected store of meat.

Monday, 14 June 2010


Megan's favourite fantasy characters were elves. Something about the pointy ears and the immortality spoke to her need for more in her life.

Every night, once she had settled into bed and turned out the light, she would close her eyes and imagine worlds where she was an elf, and she would speak to the forest and run with her friends for hours without tiring. Her clothes were made of gossamer spun by fairies and her hair was long, soft, and straight.

While she played out the illusion in her mind, she would drift off, hoping that her dreams would bring the world alive and she would feel it, know it, live it. But her subconscious mind never cooperated. Instead she would dream of missing the bus or forgetting an exam and wake exhausted and miserable.

Elves knew how to live. Elves deserved more in life than a cubicle, quarterly reports, and the endless commute in gridlock back and forth every day.

And so, Megan brought the day dreams into the workplace. With a spreadsheet on her screen and her fingers randomly typing in numbers, she would live adventures with cloaks and daggers, arrows and wings, and soar above her mundane reality.

Thursday, 3 June 2010


Billy Russet asked me the same question every single day of our sixth grade year. Didn't matter if the weather was cold or hot, if the teacher was in a good mood or mean, or if I was in my prettiest dress or ugliest, most worn-out clothes.

"Say, Donna, what's the worst thing you've ever done?"

I don't know if he was expecting me to try to out-do myself each day, maybe come up with a better "worst thing" as often as possible. Or maybe this was some kind of convoluted flirting. Or better yet, maybe his mind was wired differently than everybody else's brain.

I had heard rumours, from the other kids, about Billy's Dad. And how his Mom wasn't in the picture and he didn't know where she was or when she'd ever be back. Stuff like that has got to hurt. Maybe he wanted to know how bad other people were just to put his own life in perspective.

Funny how I thought about Billy today. Maybe because the headline in the paper talks about some lunatic who got jail time for setting puppies on fire. I mean, who sets puppies on fire? You've got to be some twisted kind of you-know-what to do something like that. It definitely qualifies as a "worst thing."

Or maybe, the guy is Billy.

No, the paper named him Jack.

I think I'll go back to eating my boring breakfast and thinking about people for whom a "worst thing" is running with scissors or borrowing your Dad's car and forgetting to put gas in.

That's a good one for today.