Saturday, December 31, 2011

PARIS - Apartment Rentals and Booked Tours

Eiffel Tower framing Trocadero - by DGH 2010

Paris is an intriguing city, offering something unique to each person who visits. This post details a couple of ways to enjoy your trip and perhaps save time or money. We had two weeks, a rental apartment, an itinerary, Paris guidebooks, French phrasebooks and maps. We wanted to walk the streets where so many historical and literary figures have gone before us, we wanted to see the museums, the palaces, the artist hangouts, and the local cafes. Our favourites: the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre Museum, Monet’s Garden, the Seine River and its many bridges, the Isle St. Louis, Montmartre, and the Marais. It’s hard to pick just one.

View from our Paris Rental Apartment  - by DGH 2010

Rental Apartments

Our rented apartment was in the Marais, 4th Arrondisement, right on the Rue de Rivoli. This area has many townhomes and manors which have been converted into combined private residences/designer rentals and boutique hotels. Renting an apartment in Paris is highly recommended, but do your research well. Some places are suitable for students and groups of friends on a budget, others for couples or families looking for a bit more. We selected the company A La Carte for several reasons. They were offering the types of apartments that we wanted in the areas we wanted (on the Right Bank, near the Marais and near the Louvre Museum). Costs vary by size of apartment, high or low season rates and location.

A La Carte’s website provides all the information you need including availability for booking. What we saw online was exactly that in reality, and the location was perfect for us. The costs are comparable and in some cases better than equivalent hotels in the same area. Our apartment was between the Louvre and the Place De La Bastille, a few blocks over from the Seine River right on the famed Rue de Rivoli. We booked a one bedroom with a tidy kitchen/dining area, living room, shower, wifi connection with flat screen TV, microwave, and apartment size laundry. Being on the fourth floor we knew the view would be great, but we made sure there was an elevator. We just didn’t know it was truly a petite Parisian elevator. Cozy.

The rental agency supplied their own customized guide in the apartment (suited to that particular area). It was a lifesaver. The rental company also left a complimentary bottle of wine and a bowl of fruit to welcome us. We enjoyed being able to locate the small grocery nearby that had everything we needed, finding the local boulangerie (bakery) where we bought our first and daily baguette (or two) and discovering the many local bistros and cafes nearby. The sounds of Paris drifted up to our window every day as soon as I opened the windows. September is a great time to visit with mild weather and fewer crowds. The only time we left Paris was on a one day coach tour to Monet’s Garden and Versailles.

Our taxis, with English speaking drivers, were booked by our rental agency for our arrival at CDG airport and for our departure. The cost was 80 Euros one-way. We were driven to our apartment in large comfortable European sedans. Luxe. The drivers contracted with A La Carte escort you and your luggage up to the apartment and carry your luggage to the taxi when you depart. So much better than my expected visions of haggling with the taxi drivers. For someone used to hauling her own luggage, it was nice.


Monet's Water Garden, Giverny - 2010 by DG Hudson

Booked Tours

All of our excursions were booked with Viator Tours - Paris.  This company offers an excellent selection of tours, and friendly staff. The office we visited was near the Tuilleries.  Our tour guides were well-informed, multilingual and managed their groups well. Very professional.

Tours we selected:

Monet’s Garden, a day trip by coach to Giverny, includes a tour of Monet’s house, with access to his famed Water Garden and the flower gardens. Included are two additional stops. Lunch at Le Moulin Fourges, an old mill location that provides a seated lunch with a pre-planned menu served by staff. This is a welcome break in the coach trip between Giverny and Versailles. 

Versailles, France, Hall of Mirrors - by DG Hudson

Later, we arrive at Versailles, the golden palace. The grandness of the estate cannot help but awe those who see it for the first time. In 2010, the gilt was fresh and the palace was crowded, but our intrepid blue leader guide led us through the Hall of Mirrors, the royal bedchambers, and some of the galleries. From the natural to the gilded, the French celebrate both.

Paris - Bridge over the River Seine 2010 by DGH

Paris Illuminations Tour (Group access to 1st level of the Eiffel Tower, an evening  Seine River cruise on the Bateaux Parisiennes with the return City Illuminations tour). We had plenty of time on the Eiffel Tower for photographs and the gift shop, but no meals. If you want to eat at the Eiffel Tower or while cruising, look for casual or formal dinner cruises. There are many variations to suit everyone’s taste.

Paris - a Montmartre Cafe 2010 by DG Hudson

Walking tour of Montmartre starting at the Blanche Metro station. We walked past the Moulin Rouge, on our way to meet up with the group of about 12 people. The tour took us past Van Gogh’s house, a hidden Montmartre vineyard, the famed Bateau Lavoir, Tertre Square and ended at the Sacre Coeur. I detailed this one in Paris Walks.

Getting Around: Hop-On Hop-Off Bus

Les Cars Rouges - (the Red tour bus) the stop nearest us was on the Isle St. Louis near Notre Dame, you can buy the tickets online or on the bus, get on and off for two days @ 24 Euros per person, good value, great orientation to the city on arrival. They stop at all the major tourist sites and allow you to get on and off with your pass. A fellow traveller recommended it over the Metro. It’s nice to see where you’re going aboveground, and it’s much easier going around the L’Etoile when there’s a French driver at the wheel.

Paris - Arc de Triomphe 2010 - by DG Hudson

Whether you prefer an apartment or a hotel, the right accommodations can make or break a vacation. Location, cost and the personal touch are important. We were located in the middle of Paris, but the apartment was as quiet as could be when the windows were shut at night. We leaned out our 4th floor apartment on October 2, 2010 at midnight, gazed down the Rue de Rivoli and watched the celebrations of Nuit  Blanche  (a Paris street party) promising ourselves that we’d be back.

Paris -Nuit Blanche, Oct 2, 2010 - DGH


A La Carte Paris -- Designer Rental Apartments in Paris

Viator Tours booking site


Have you ever rented an apartment in a city you’re visiting? Which city?

Disclaimer: The businesses mentioned in this post are recommended based on our experience. We were satisfied with their service and would use both again.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Rainforest Pickings #7 - 11 Writing Sites for 2011

Four Guys named Santa. . .

Here’s my pick of the writer sites that I’ve found helpful, and those that keep me coming back. Lists can save time, and most writers can use more time. In 2011, many bloggers assessed their blogging schedules and social media management. The result appears to be a move away from daily blogging, a change that makes it easier for readers to keep up with reading and writers to do more writing.

The following blogs offer a diverse selection of newsletters and email notification, forums, humour, blog events, and discussions of the ongoing changes in publishing. Read on and when you have time, browse the links. You might discover something new.

Alex J. Cavanaugh, author, movie reviewer, Science Fiction

Guide to Literary Agents

Hope Clark, author, & FFW

Jane Friedman, Media Professor, & Speaker

Konrath, J. A., Author & Self-pub Advocate

Nathan Bransford, author, MG

Rachelle Gardner, literary agent

The Alchemy of Writing Blog - flash fiction, humour, book reviews

The Quintessentially Questionable Query Experiment - query analysis, creature analysis & blog events

Writers Beware Blog (watchdog for writers/supported by SFWA)

Writer’s Digest

Do you have a particular site you find helpful for writing? Please share in the comments.

Enjoy the Season!  Both of these photos showcase a friend's talent for making felt Santas and paper Angels.  I just took the photos.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Surrey International Writer's Conference

DG’s Review - SIWC 2011

Vancouver City Skyline - by DGH

Starting on October 20th, I attended a local writers conference - the Surrey International Writers Conference - in its 19th year. SIWC offers a selection of conference packages which you can select to fit your own time commitment and budget. There was no time to take photos, so I've substituted photos of the Vancouver area. These photos show that we do have a few sunny days in the British Columbia Rainforest.

Brockton Point, Vancouver, Canada - by DGH

Cost vs. Value

This conference delivers great value and flexible options.  SIWC tries to keep the costs fair and reasonable for the attendees. Check the rates on this year's registration page.

There are several options to choose from:
  • full 3-day, Friday - Sunday conference package (meals, workshops, events)
  • conference basic - 3 days of conference workshops and keynotes, no meals or evening events
  • one-day only Friday, Saturday, or Sunday.
  • Master classes are not included in the conference costs, and they are offered the day before as an adjunct to the conference. 

Master Classes:
These advanced 3 hour classes are presented by well-known literary agents, authors, or editors.  The morning, afternoon, or evening sessions are presented in conference room format with a short break.  Bring a notepad or a laptop to record your notes as the instructor takes you through exercises that will improve your writing.  In the evening class I attended taught by Donald Maass, there were approximately 130 people.

For my money, it was well worth the cost.  I'd like a smaller group size, but affordability is more important.  This class covered the three levels of story construction, and included on the spot writing exercises to improve your characters, setting, and plot.

Vancouver - Trolley bus on the right - CP Train Station at end

Critique and Pitch Appointments

I booked my appointments in June 2011 when registration opened.  One pitch and one critique is included with your registration, but subsequent bookings for agent/editor pitches and author critiques must be done at the conference to ensure everyone gets a chance.  There were lineups for bookings at the conference on the Friday that I attended. Best advice:  Get there early for a better selection.

  • Pitch - 10 minutes.  The process of getting from the lineup to the waiting area and in to see the actual person works better than I expected, thanks to the organization of the many volunteers.  I had enough time to pitch the novel, ask a few questions and discuss a few items.
  • Critique - 15 minutes.  In same room as above pitch appointments; one critique with a new Fantasy author and one with a very well-known science fiction/fantasy writer.  Both offered insights with their crits as to saleability, and tips on formatting and construction.  Exactly what I was looking for.

Included with the conference workshops and panels, are the Trade Show, the Book Fair and Signing, and Writing contests.  I've only commented on the parts of the conference that I participated in, which was a sampling of the offerings.

More details are available on the site of the Surrey International Writers' Conference


Anyone else had any recent experience at a retreat, conference, or workshop?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Halloween Blog Hop!

Starting Friday, and continuing over the Halloween weekend October 28-31, Jeremy Bates is hosting a Halloween Blog Hop. All the details are at his site (or you can use the Linky list at the bottom of this post):

Join in the fun and discover a few new blogs.  You've got four days to browse the list and see who's who. . . in between the fireworks and pumpkins and little ghosts and fairies.

Participants are requested to:

Visit as many of the other blogs as you can in the Linky List below

Follow the site or comment when a blog appeals to you

Tell us your favorite monster movie or book

Share what your Halloween costume will be

My answer to Jeremy's blog hop requirements:
  • Fave monster/Book: God Emperor of DUNE - the part human, mostly sandworm creature of Frank Herbert's DUNE series who tries to 'become' the Worm.
  • The Lady in Black costume (this covers many variations:  the deadly black widow, the dark witch, the French Existentialist, the retro Beatnik, the vampy Goth, you get the idea. . .)

Have a look around at either of my blogs (they're on the list), and follow if it appeals to you.  Hope you have a great weekend!


Thursday, October 13, 2011

Pay it Forward Blogfest - October 14, 2011

BLOG HOP!   Blogfest day has ended, but you can still check out the links below if you haven't yet.   If you have time over the weekend, keep hopping about.  Who knows who you might discover?

I'm participating in the Pay It Forward Blogfest hosted by:

Matt - The Quintessentially Questionable Query Experiment


Alex J. Cavanaugh

The linky list is below, as well as on the host sites shown above.

From Matt's blog:

"Here is how the blogfest will actually work: The idea is to introduce everyone to everyone else. We want this to be an easy post that allows you to meet and follow as many other bloggers as you can. In your post, we would like you to please list, describe, and link to three blogs that you enjoy reading, but that you suspect may fly under the radar of a lot of other bloggers. Or they can be famous blogs, as long as they're awesome.

But don't stop there! Certainly visit and follow all the blogs that are featured in people's posts the day of the blogfest, but those don't have to be the only blogs you visit. You can visit everyone who enters in on the fun, and signs up on the linky list. In the interest of time you don't even have to leave comment. You can just follow, and come back another time. After all, we all know we don't have time to visit every blog we enjoy every single day."

Check out these 3 writer blogs:

The Alchemy of Writing  features short flash fiction one day of the week, has excellent custom cartoons and great photographs.  This is a great blog to visit often.  Owner: Bryan, aka INK likes to surprise.

Funds for Writers  offers something for everyone from the freelancer to the fiction writer with a dash of southern spirit thrown in. Info on grants, contests, and submissions in her newsletter.  Even more info resides on her website, Funds for Writers.  Owner: Hope Clark

Raising Dogs and Training Children  looks at the practical side of both.  A young writer mother explores what to do to keep a toddler learning and to give herself time to write.  Join her as she learns how to balance it all.  Owner: J. Burroughs

Have fun, and drop in again soon.  

Paris Bistros and Sidewalk Cafes 

Thanks again to Matt and Alex!!

Linky List follows:


Sunday, October 2, 2011

Paris - Bistros and Sidewalk Cafés of Interest

Iconic Paris photo-Eiffel tower, Seine River, bridges, streetlights-DGH

In October 2010, we were in Paris, France, trying to immerse ourselves in the City of Light as much as two Anglophiles can. I was also gathering material for a future novel based in Paris. This city surpassed my expectations. It draws you into its charms. One of those charms is the local food, the tiny bistros, the many choices of places to eat.

We walked, or used the Hop-On Hop-Off buses (Les Cars Rouge). Cost = about 24 Euros per person, and covers two days of use.  Here are some of the places we discovered.

Cafe Louis Philippe, Paris, Right Bank by DG Hudson

Cafe Louis Philippe - Right Bank, Paris, France

What we had:  Andalusian sausage, Lamb rib chops, frozen nougat with raspberry coulis.  Great service, and the place was well-filled with locals (always a good sign).  We were never rushed and due to the rain outside, we sat warm and cozy under cover.  A very pleasant experience.


Bistro Marguerite, Right Bank, Paris by DG Hudson

Bistrot Marguerite - on the Right Bank across from Hotel de Ville and next to the lovely Seine River.  A favorite.

What we had:  Baked cod dish - French style with onions and  potatoes, grilled salmon, steak and frites, French onion soup with cheesy toast salad.  The waiters were friendly and helpful.  We went back three times and were never disappointed. Average cost for two people with house white wine, entrees or plats and cafe lattes=48 Euros.

Update April 1, 2015:
The video of this bistro which previously was here was removed as it was no longer a valid link.


Le Voltaire Restaurant, Paris, by DG Hudson

Le Voltaire Restaurante - Left Bank, Latin Quarter

What we had:  German beer, Quiche and salad, and raisin pie (for those with a sweet tooth).   A real old world atmosphere.  Voltaire used to hang around here.  That's per the plaque on the building in the photo above.  No link for this one, but many reviews can be found.  We were there for lunch so meal cost about 50 Euros.  Use what French you know in this one for better service, it helps as they get lots of tourists in this area.  We had great food and enjoyed it.


Les Arts and Metiers, Left Bank, by DG Hudson

Les Arts and Metiers - Arts 'n' Letters  Left Bank, Latin Quarter. 

A great people watching restaurant where we spent a very pleasant couple of hours.
What we had:  Fluffy omelettes, chantilly custard, macarons, coffee, and wine with water on the side.  We had a lunch break while walking in the Latin Quarter looking for 'Shakespeare and Co.', Les Deux Magots, and Cafe Flore.

Other Notable Eating Establishments: (mostly in the Marais and Latin quarters/arrondisements)
  • Resto Med (Cafe Med), Ile St. Louis small family run cafe with excellent food, friendly staff, and cozy atmosphere; found on a side street tucked between small shops
  •  La Pause Beaubourg - in the Marais district, just down from the Hotel de Ville, on the Right bank
  • Pizza Le Valentino - in the Marais, across the street from La Pause Beaubourg, Excellent meals; local families sat next to us, very attentive service, tolerant staff
  • Pizza Sant'Antonio  - in the Marais, in a small square off the Rue de Rivoli.  A variety of plats (meals) and fresh pizza.  UPDATE: Refer to A Pizza Place in Paris, for more information about this excellent spot to eat. Feb. 2013.

Important notes
Prices can vary by high and low season.  We found eating out at the local restaurants gave us a chance to sample the fare that the Parisians were eating. This is easy to do in the Marais and on the Ile St. Louis, where many family owned restaurants prosper in the small side streets. 

Reference:  Immerse Yourself in the Moment (A sensory tour of Paris)

Additional posts on PARIS - Refer to DG Hudson's 21st Century Journal for a post on Paris Walkabouts:

Do you take notes when you travel?  Has any particular location or city found its way into your heart?


Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Right Place - Must Have Been the Write Time

Dragonfly and Fuschias - DGH photo collection

Serendipity = the ability of making happy and unexpected discoveries by accident, good luck or good fortune

Odd Happenings = when something unusual happens that would be hard to duplicate for the same effect

This post will explore some of those moments where we feel lucky to be where we are, at the right moment to see a unique event. It is preferable that these events are non-life threatening.


The Spawning of the Grunions

(San Diego, Mission Bay area, California)

Grunions do a twisting beach dance (by the hundreds) to further their species, and it happens at night on beaches along the California coast from Monterey Bay to as far south as Baja California. The fish can remain stranded and flopping about for several minutes and there are lots of them. Spawning peaks between March and June.

We saw this phenomena on a visit to San Diego years ago, but didn’t know it was a natural cycle until we read about it. It’s a vivid image, and would have been hard to plan for. Unfortunately, I didn’t have my camera with me that night.


Sleek beauty at Air Museum - by DGH

Chased by Hurricane Ivan 2004

While visiting Atlanta on personal business, I heard storm warnings about Hurricane Ivan, on its way to Atlanta. Planes were being grounded, and flights delayed. I managed to rebook my flight time to leave before Ivan hit later in the day. Things went downhill from there, with the flight I was booked to fly out on being delayed until the winds died down enough for them to land. After the plane unloaded then reloaded, we left late with no promise of making the connection in Chicago.

Arriving in O’Hare, I ran up one terminal arm and down another to arrive at an empty loading area for the airline I was on with one attendant standing there. I went up to verify that I had indeed missed the flight. He confirmed that the flight had taken off on schedule, but (he said) they had come back and were repairing a problem in the braking system. My seat had not been filled, he asked if I wanted to get on board when it left again, expected to be within 15 minutes.

A plane with a problem, hmm, but it was also an opportunity. I boarded, dressed in my usual black travelling outfit, and faced all those rows of staring faces looking at me as if I had been the problem. Not a friendly face in the whole lot. Someone was in my seat, so I was ushered to one in the back. As I settled in to my middle seat between two strangers, the woman on my left leaned over and said in a low voice, “Well, I guess we came back for you.”

I felt a little more relaxed after that, before I saw the title of the movie they were showing -- The Day after Tomorrow (in case you haven’t seen it, it’s about extreme weather conditions causing superstorms and hurricanes all over the world).

My flight reached its destination about an hour and a half late.  The opportunity had paid off, I was home. 


A Mother Bear and Cubs at the Dump - DGH collection


Bear Scare

Beware garbage dumps in remote areas, since they represent a supermarket to the wild bears. While coming back from the recreation centre on one side of the small company townsite in north central British Columbia, I took the channel that had been cut in the 21 feet of snow in order to get back to the staff house. Unfortunately, a Grizzly bear had the same idea. I turned around going back to the rec centre, but now another bear was coming toward me from that direction. What to do? Make snowballs of course, hard ones.

“I threw the snowballs first at the bear closest to me, attempting to discourage it without actually hitting it, my main concern being to throw as many as I could while shouting to scare it. The first bear turned and ran, and I followed at a safe distance behind running towards the staff house. He ran past, I went inside. I don’t know what happened to the other bear, it wasn’t in my best interest to wait and find out.”

(Note: this incident happened to a friend who had grown up in the big city, where bears don’t roam free.)


Owl at Midnight on New Year’s Eve

Owls can be aggressive and especially if you’re near the nest. We’ve been swooped by owls before when walking through one of our natural parks in the Vancouver area. One incident occurred on New Year’s Eve exactly at midnight one year, when an owl sought respite from the noise by landing in a tall tree in our backyard. He sat staring directly at us from his perch, making us wonder what he saw. Food? Humans?

Just in case he was hungry, I hid my cat.


Rue de Rivoli, Paris - Blanche Nuit - Oct 2/10 - DGH


Everybody Turn Around

Gridlock on the highway, gas pipeline leak, police officers stop all traffic - just what you want to have happen when you’re out for a drive. Traffic behind us began to accumulate at a rapid pace as nothing moved. The gas leak had to be shut off first.

In the meantime, a few young determined males driving small cars got out of their cars and yelled at everyone to “Turn around, everybody turn around.” What?? The smaller vehicles might have a shorter turning base and be able to wiggle their way around, but no semi or big truck is going to be able to do that.

As about forty of the little cars turned and made their way over to the shoulder, heading back the wrong way, we moved to the front in the space just vacated. Just a couple of minutes after that, the officers cleared the barriers and traffic began to go again.   Bad timing on their part?


Write it down, analyze it later.  It might be the seed for a writing project.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Rainforest Pickings #6 - Book Reviews

NEW MG Fiction and Writing Instructions - photo DGH

This month, my reviews will focus on a new book for MG readers and two more writing instruction books that will help you improve your manuscripts.

JACOB WONDERBAR AND THE COSMIC SPACE KAPOW, by Nathan Bransford , well-known blogger; published by Dial Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Penguin, May 2011. MG fiction

Young Jacob Wonderbar, always in trouble at school, gets the offer of a lifetime -- a corndog for a spaceship. Curious, he accepts. He talks his two best friends into going with him on a quick ride around the solar system. The ship blasts off with the three friends inside taking them past all the known planets and beyond. Jacob makes a quick decision which goes awry, when a big planet appears in the path of their spaceship. He breaks the universe instead, and blocks their way back home through the Milky Way. As they attempt to find another way to Earth, the three become separated and entangled in their own adventures. Jacob learns many things about his friends and himself as loyalties are strained.

This action-oriented story will appeal to those MG readers who like science fiction, and the idea of exploring space. The complexities in relationships are seamlessly woven into the story as the three main characters realize that their friends might not be there to cover their back when they expect it.

The art work was an unexpected plus, and stayed true to the character descriptions. With NASA looking at Mars for more understanding of the planets, we may soon be on the verge of a new period of space exploration. Jacob Wonderbar and the Cosmic Space Kapow will help fuel that interest. Let’s hope that a new generation of science fiction writers will be inspired by reading books like this one. Highly recommended.


Authors:  Nathan Bransford, and Donald Maass

THE FIRE IN FICTION, (passion, purpose, and techniques To Make Your Novel Great) by Donald Maass, literary agent and author; published in 2009 by Writers Digest Books, an imprint of F&W Publications.  Writing Instructions.

How to put that fire in your story? How to keep those readers turning the pages? This is the book you need. Are you a Storyteller or a Status Seeker? It depends on how you respond to certain questions or comments. In this book, Maass has shown us how to evaluate the various parts of our novel: characters, scenes, world building, voice, believability, and tension so that we can find those turning points, and up that emotional quotient. Understanding and using the ‘fire’ in fiction is what makes one book memorable, and another just ho-hum. The Practical Tools section at the end of each chapter hammers home the highlights and provides a quick reference.

This is a writing instruction book that you’ll refer to often, if only to get the creative juices flowing in the right direction. Chapter 6, ‘Making the Impossible Real’, was one of my favourites since it contains unique advice for upping believability. That’s important for all types of stories, but especially for science fiction. Recommended for all writers.


WRITING THE BREAKOUT NOVEL, by Donald Maass, literary agent and author;  published in 2001 by Writers Digest Books, an imprint of F&W Publications. Foreword by Anne Perry, novelist.  Writing Instructions.

Maass provides writers with the tools and techniques that will make your work stand out from the crowd of other writers. He dissects every facet of the novel writing process using as examples works by authors who have mastered these skills. At the end of each chapter, checklists are provided identifying the main points. From creating stakes in your novel, through plot and structure, and finally to theme and how to pitch, he gives us an inside look at why these ‘breakout books’ become the story everyone wants to read.

The tone of this book makes it an enjoyable read in addition to the wealth of writing tips.  Maass gives us a road map, then encourages us to find our way.  This book was published a few years ago, but continues to provide good value for your money.   Recommended for all writers.


Any comments?

Monday, June 27, 2011

Writing Conference or Not?

Paris - Conference Attendees?  photo by DGH

Writing conferences are staged throughout the year in various locales in the US and Canada. If this is the year you have decided to attend one, make it a useful event by selecting one that benefits you and moves you closer to your goals. Don’t expect all conferences to be equal in value. Do your research. Some writing conferences focus on genre (like romance and mystery) or contests, and some offer a smorgasbord of things to do.

When is the right time to attend a conference?

• That answer will vary depending on where you and your manuscript are at the time of the scheduled writing conference. Any writing you plan to take with you should be in top condition, polished and shiny, preferably vetted through a reliable reader.

• Most conferences require that you pre-register, especially if you want to attend classes or specific presentations. Decide how far you are able to go (affects travel expenses), what you hope to gain by attending (master classes or critique/feedback) and the cost your budget will allow.

• Ensure you consider the past history of the writing conference, and who attends from the publishing industry.

Reasons for attending

• Define why you want to attend: to absorb the writing atmosphere, to learn something new, to meet industry professionals, to see what’s new in the industry.

• Make the conference count by stretching your abilities, take those master classes or attend that panel discussion. Ensure you get value for your money. In some conferences, you don’t have to go for the big ticket 3 day package. Sometimes, one class and one day at the event will be enough, and it won’t rock your budget.


• Determine your spending budget after you have selected a few conferences that appeal to you. Costs vary widely, depending on whether the event is self-sufficient, or supported by funding, etc. Check this out carefully as some tickets include specific meals or other registered members extras (pitches or critiques).

• Most conferences don’t offer accommodation unless the setting is in a retreat type of setting where everything is contained at the site. What is usually offered are special rates at a nearby hotel, or at times a hotel on the site of the conference.


• Pricing will be affected by the location of the conference if that location is in a city centre or in a suburban area. The number of presenters and the big names who attend can also impact cost, but again this depends on the structure of the event. Read all the pricing information in case a cancellation is necessary.

• Save money by attending conferences close to your area, or combine a conference with a vacation if that fits your plans. You may as well see the area and take photos if you’re in a popular spot like New York, San Fran, Toronto, Vancouver, or Miami.

Role Models and Teachers

Publishing professionals attending (authors, editors, agents)

• Find out about the presenters, master classes, panel members, pitch appointments and critique sessions. If there is a particular person you follow, or want to pitch to, book early to ensure you get your chance.

• Inform yourself about the person you book appointments with so that you make the best use of your time at the conference. Pitch and critique times are short to accommodate a greater number of people, so be concise.

• Be respectful and treat these as business connections, not as your BFF. (Although for some, that may apply.)

Are you and the manuscript ready?

• Preparation is an important factor in making your attendance worthwhile - take your best writing (a sample) and be confident in talking about it. Determine the amount of time you have before the conference date and find out more about the presenters, prepare questions, etc. Be aware of conference etiquette, and restrictions on what is considered a ‘sample’.

• Vetting through a critique partner or an editor service may be a consideration, but remember not to take out what you feel is the ‘heart’ of the story. You want polish, not major revamping at this point.

Conference Listings (a sampling)

The Guide to Writers Conferences & Workshops (Shaw Guides-US & Canada)

Shaw Guides - Canada - Writers Conferences/Workshops (do a search for Canada)

Funds For Writers - hosted by Hope Clark - Newsletter includes upcoming conferences, workshops, & retreats especially those in the Southeast US

Jodie Renner Editing -2011 Writing Conferences

Guide to Literary Agents - hardcopy book &/or online access on purchase -- in the Markets section, see Conferences (A-Z) This book is published by Writers Digest books, in its Writers Market line.

Novel & Short Story Writer’s Market - hardcopy book &/or online access on purchase -- check the Markets and Resources sections in this niche version. Not sure how many international listings are included. Both this book and the one listed above are published by Writers Digest books along with other titles in the ‘Writers Market’ line.


I researched a few writing conferences by signing up for their newsletter to keep informed about the activities offered, which presenters appeared on a regular basis (authors, agents, editors) and to get an overview of the conference. I’ll review my experience in a future post.

Now, I’m committed to a deadline. A target. An anvil hanging over my head.  I’m in a Wiley E. Coyote frame of mind.

Time to run. . .

Vancouver, Canada Skyline from Stanley Park

 Any writing conferences in your future?


Sunday, May 29, 2011

Rainforest Pickings #5 - Book Reviews

One of my vices - Real books

A writer needs to gather the tools of the trade.  Reference books are a good addition, and the two writing instruction books below are recommended.  The Paris Wife was a gift, and the old mystery story by Tony Hillerman was one that caught my eye at the local library. 

From the Rainforest Reading Room: 

Writing up a Storm

Released Spring 2011

By Celia Leaman, a Gulf Islands, BC writer, originally from the UK, but now settled in the Pacific Northwest.

Celia was an instructor at Writers Digest University, an online writing school in her recent past.  She's written a play, short stories, a novelette, and a historical novel (suspense/paranormal) placed in the UK .

Writing Instructions. Self-published May 2011.  Available in print or e-book format.

This is NOT a writer’s bootcamp, but a gentle journey leading the novice through the process of creating a novel. For the experienced writer, it offers a substantial number of links for further research and practice in honing the skills needed to produce quality work. The main theme is motivation.

Writing up a Storm offers information on self-publishing and highlights points to consider before you make your decision. Other publishing options are explained briefly, in overview. The content is easy to digest and honest in its perceptions of the publishing industry. For those seeking to enlarge their TBR (to-be-read) pile, a list of writing books by various authors is included at the end.

An excellent resource of writers’ sites, writing skills and encouragement. It’s part of my own reference library and an easy read.  Check it out at Celia's site, and have a look at the delightful short stories she writes about life in the Gulf Islands with the local eccentrics. 


The Paris Wife - a Novel

Written by Paula McLain, published by Doubleday, a sub of Random House, Spring 2011 release. For all fans of the Hemingway legend.

In 1920’s Chicago, Toronto, and especially Paris, Hemingway’s first wife Hadley follows as he steamrolls ahead in his ambition to become a respected writer. From poignant sketches of the cafes and salons of Paris to the bullfights in Spain, we see what life as the wife of a struggling writer was like during the early 20th century, when the LOST GENERATION made its mark on literature and on Jazz Age Paris.

Everyone seemed to be coming to Paris, all the expatriates disillusioned by the effects of WWI, an event which turned their world upside-down. What is morality when one might die the next day? With companions like Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound and the Fitzgeralds, Hadley, Hemingway, and their circle perceived life through an alcoholic filter considered elegant and social at the time.

Then the bittersweet part comes into play. The female huntresses come for sport and for a prize, Hemingway the writer. Watching the growing popularity of her husband and his attraction to one female after another, Hadley is forced to make a painful decision. Hemingway stays true to his own principles, but the price he pays is a high one.

Paula McLain has written an empathetic story of love & loss which highlights the creative mind’s need for constant approval. It’s never enough.

If you like to read about Hemingway’s early life in Paris, this is required reading. I breezed through the book, revelling in McCain’s succinct assessments of the shallow society life that many of the Lost Generation writers led after their initial flush of success. Her portrait of Hadley helps the reader to see the marvellous woman behind the great writer. Highly recommended, in case you didn’t notice.


Revision and Self-Editing

Techniques for transforming your first draft into a finished novel; by James Scott Bell, Writers Digest Books, F+W Publications 2008, (Write Great Fiction series) Writing Instruction.

The book is divided into two parts: Self-Editing and Revision. There are twelve chapters on self-editing, each identifying the various elements of a novel and what to look for when it’s time to revise. He includes examples and exercises for practice.

In the second section on revision, Bell includes a great tool: the Ultimate Revision Checklist. This alone would have made me a fan of Mr. Bell’s if the rest of the book hadn’t already done that. The checklist is a valuable resource and helps to break the revision process into manageable parts.

I read this every day at breakfast, marking lots of important points. I love books and generally don’t desecrate them, but (for me) instruction books are meant to be used, marked and corners folded for quick access. Don’t miss the introduction to the book, which compares learning golf to learning to write and revise a novel. I golf sometimes, and he’s right. Practice is the thing.

Once you’ve completed your first draft, I’d recommend getting a copy of this book. It’s in my writing reference library and used often.


The Shape Shifter

Worth-a-second-look book by Tony Hillerman, ‘the master of Southwest Mystery fiction’ with a native twist. Mystery

This is an old series by a recognized writer of mysteries involving some of the Native Indians of the Southwest USA and since I’m researching the techniques of the mystery masters, I thought I’d check him out while at the local library. Our North American native tribes, US or Canadian, have always intrigued me, mainly due to my interest in their beliefs/spirituality and the mistreatment and injustices so many received.

In Shape Shifter, Navajo Tribal Police Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn, now retired, is confronted with news relating to a cold case from his younger years. Bored and intrigued, he can’t resist being drawn into the search for a Navajo rug rumoured to be bad luck for the owner. The rug, made to commemorate an important & painful event for the Navajos, comes to light via a magazine article on the homes of the wealthy. Thus, the chase begins. Digging out facts from this cold case, Leaphorn keeps calling old contacts while trying to dodge the person who is trying to eliminate any witnesses.  He didn't take too kindly to those who were inquiring about his ownership and acquisition of the well-known rug. Beneath all this, we have a chameleon perpetrator who keeps everyone guessing.

Hillerman weaves the native lore into his stories, while keeping us wondering at the capacity for duplicity in the criminal mind. His tolerant viewpoint comes through in his books. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed reading this book,since I hadn’t read Hillerman before. I would definitely read more in the series, in order to follow the Joe Leaphorn saga. Hillerman may no longer be with us, but his fiction and his characters live on.

Isn’t that what all writers want?

So much to read, so little time. Escape today.

Comment received from C. Leaman, author of Writing up a Storm:

"I always enjoy reading others' book reviews as each reader takes something different away from every book. As a writer, I find it interesting because sometimes a reader will see something in my books I didn't even recognize was there. So constructive reviews can be very helpful to a writer. I shall have to check out Hillerman as I haven't read him yet.

NOTE from DG:
Posting comment above received via email.  Wordpress and Blogger seem to speak different languages, not recognizing IDs.
June 1/11


Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Can I Quote You on That?

Rue d'Orchampt Graffiti - Montmartre, Paris -  by DG Hudson

Quotes are collected by a lot of people. In them we find something that meshes with our way of viewing the world. It’s all about how we interpret the words.

From My Writing Collection:

“If you do not breathe through writing, if you do not cry out in writing, or sing in writing, then don’t write, because our culture has no use for it.” Anais Nin, author.

  • Try not to annoy your neighbours while you’re getting in the mood for writing.

“I’m enough of an artist to draw freely upon my imagination. Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination circles the world.” Albert Einstein, theoretical physicist.

  • Exactly what writers need to hear. Imagination fuels our chosen task.

“There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written.” Oscar Wilde

  • I don’t agree with censorship, let me make my own choices.

“Nothing limits intelligence more than ignorance; nothing fosters ignorance more than one’s own opinions, nothing strengthens opinions more than refusing to look at reality.” Sheri S. Tepper, author.

  • How about alternate reality in that parallel universe? Or is that non-reality?

“The first draft of anything is sh*t.” Attributed to Ernest Hemingway.

  • Not the most encouraging words to hear when you’ve just finished an 85,000 word manuscript.
“A book must be the axe for the frozen sea inside us.” Franz Kafka

  • Beware of icebergs.

Bouquinistes of Paris-Booksellers by the Seine - DG Hudson

Old Indian Proverb (handed down through the male line): “If you wait long enough down at the river, you will see the bodies of your enemies float by.”

  • Not sure what has to happen up river for this to occur. That part is hazy. Could be a good plot though in the right setting.

“We all have our time machines. Some take us back, they’re called memories. Some take us forward, they’re called dreams.” Jeremy Irons

  • Are we talking fantasy and science fiction? Or Book dreams?

“Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” Barack Obama

  • This could be applicable to many things. . . like publishing.

“A clean house shows a life misspent,” because: “Children grow up and leave home, the dust & dirt will always be there.”

  • (Unknown author, but a reassuring mantra if you’d rather spend time with the kids and/or writing that book)

“Never forget where you came from and who you are.” (A native teacher reminding the younger ones of their inherited chieftain bloodline in a Native band)

  • Good advice if you’re writing memoir. But don’t use their real names.

“Non, Je ne regret rien” or “No, I regret nothing”, attributed to Edith Piaf, French chanteuse.

  • Do our regrets align with our expectations? It’s something to consider when crafting our characters.

"For an occurrence to become an adventure, it is necessary and sufficient for one to recount it."  Jean-Paul Sartre, author.

  • A great reason to write a story.

"In every author let us distinguish the man from his works." Voltaire, author.

  • Is this referring to those authors who smudge the lines between truth & fiction, or is he saying to keep the narrator in the background?

"I never said most of the things I said." Yogi Berra, baseball icon.

  • Some recent authors must have studied at the Yogi Berra School of Denial.

"I don’t write a quick draft and then revise; instead, I work slowly page by page, revising and polishing."  Dean Koontz, author.

  • A bad habit? I’m not so sure. It works for me sometimes, if I don’t let myself get bogged down. It’s interesting that a lot of authors take all that advice about how to revise with a big grain of salt.

I’m not a quote fanatic, but some things that people say (even off the cuff) have staying power. It’s always comforting to know we’re not the only ones who think a certain way. It’s also important to remember what works for one might not work for another.

Do you have any favourite quotes?  Add them in the comments if you want to share them.

***References:  Brainy Quotes:

Monday, March 28, 2011

Hemingway’s Key West Hideaway

Hemingway House in Key West - Photo by DG Hudson

Down Whitehead Street in Old Town Key West, we went searching for the Ernest Hemingway House. We entered through the walled gate entrance at #907 and purchased our ticket from the booth-tender. Past the palms framing the front porch of the Spanish Colonial style house, we walked up the front steps and onto the ground floor verandah. A gruff-voiced older man came up as we approached and asked for our tickets, while his friends waited with that island bred patience. Then we were free to wander about the rooms of the house where Ernest lived for ten years with his second wife Pauline. He would have been in his thirties during that time.

Tours of the house are available, but we chose to amble at our own pace. The Hemingway House retains strong resonations of its former tenant, an essence which is reinforced with photographs, art works and furniture selected by the couple. As a museum, it provides a snapshot of that particular time period. Hemingway’s collection of books in the hallway display cabinet, his binoculars and canteens look well-used. The garden is stuffed with large frond palm trees, wide squat palms, flowering palms, and fragrant bougainvillea blooms that lend their scent to the air surrounding the two-story house. The resident cats have their own unique drinking fountain snuggled in between the palms; it’s made of composite items unique to Key West.

Bourgainvillae Old Town Key West - by DG Hudson

In earlier days, the second level wraparound veranda of the Key West house was connected by a bridge to the author’s studio above the carriage house. Hemingway wrote here surrounded by lush tropical vegetation and the salty sea air. After the bridge was destroyed during one hurricane season in the 1940’s, it was never replaced.

As you walk through the house you see the paintings by original artists, a humorous cartoon strip featuring ‘Hem’ or Papa, and everywhere -- the cats. Photos of the wives of Hemingway and their friends decorate the dining room walls. The children’s rooms are on the second level, with gentle breezes wafting in from the trees outside.

The many extra-toed polydactyls (6 toed felines), which freely roam the house, are descendents of those Hemingway kept. They lounge about like beautiful women in fur coats, hoping for some attention but pretending aloofness. The Hemingway House website offers detailed information on the history of the house, the man who lived there and the cats.

The Conch Republic, Key West, Florida - Photo by DG Hudson

When Hemingway lived here, mornings were spent writing, afternoons were for socializing at Sloppy Joe’s or Capt’n Tony’s. Hemingway worked on the draft of A Farewell to Arms in the late 1920’s while living here. To Have and Have Not was written in the late 1930’s and is set in Key West and Cuba. Social attitudes were different then, and his stories portrayed the mores of the day.

Hemingway, a modern man of his time, wanted to offer an alternative to the existing style of writing. With fewer words, he managed to convey more. Succinct, concise, and sharp -- these are words that describe the writing of a man with journalistic field experience. His fiction seems to encompass those things he observed and often participated in -- the wars, expatriate writers in Paris, the Florida Keys, and Africa.

After touring Hemingway’s house, I had an intense urge to read those books written about or in Key West. I had the frame of reference fresh in my mind. Some of the books were hard to locate, but most were in print.  I also read The Old Man and the Sea again. In some cases, such as A Moveable Feast, which is said to contain some biographical details, your perception of the author can change.

In my case, I became more interested in reading books by the author after visiting his tropical getaway. Perhaps he seemed more real, rather than an illustrious Nobel Prize winner. He became more human in scale.

Do we understand the author better by reading most of his books? Do we get a better perspective about what he was trying to say? If we know some of the author's real life experiences (e.g., big game hunter or expatriate writer in Paris), we will sometimes see those reflected in their writing about a particular event. Of course, that's my take.

What's your opinion? Do you visit literary hotspots?

Sources:  (Hemingway House)

Monday, February 21, 2011

Immerse Yourself in the Moment

Eiffel Tower -D.G.Hudson
'Immerse yourself in the moment. Use your five senses to fully experience that moment.'

Not verbatim but paraphrased, that advice came from an author of thrillers who teaches advanced novel writing on the side. He suggested using the senses to add depth and enrich the story.

 Another author called it ‘zooming into the scene’ and using the senses to enrich the narrative or dialogue. Use the five senses to enhance the memory of the actual experience.

In this post, a place generates those images and sensory details of events. My apologies for the length, but the subject matter is lavish.

PARIS - filtered through the Five Senses


Versailles - golden spikes and gilded sun king emblems blaze atop the black wrought iron fence, square cobbled stones set unevenly cover the expanse of the courtyard behind the imposing entrance gate, multiple mirrors reflect the surrounding gallery in endless repetition

Eiffel Tower - first sighting causes involuntary intake of breath while one decides if we love it or not, elegant lines and delicate ironwork inscribe the lower portions, clothed in its bright night colours, the Eiffel decorates the evening sky

Stone Temple Pilots on guard - DGH
The Louvre - Medieval foundation of centuries old cut stones in basement, paintings from small to large wall size in dark tones or vivid washes of colour, rooms bursting with statuary, beautiful lady Mona guarded by 3 layers of bullet-proof glass and a velvet rope, Egyptian artifacts -- funerary, urns, weapons, jewellery - all lined up for review, blue Paris sky fractured by the glass pyramid above while the sunbeams warm the lobby below

Fractured sky - under the Glass Pyramid- D.G. Hudson

#54 Vincent lived here - DGH
  Outdoor displays of local artists in watercolour, acrylic, and oil with bright or pastel colours, residence #54 big blue door where Vincent Van Gogh lived with his brother, the crimson Moulin Rouge without the glamour applied, peering in the windows at Bateau L’Avoir studios (home to Picasso & other young artists), looking up at Sacre Coeur Cathedral, the bright ever-white stone commanding the mount of martyrs

The City at Large

16th and 17th century buildings with contorted, winding drainpipes in enclosed courtyards, boldly painted double gargantuan doors with brass trim -- sized for grand comings & goings

Leering gargoyles on Notre Dame Cathedral peering over ledges at the human ants below, minute sculptural detail on every side of this Gothic church; romantic couples strolling and kissing by the river, endless bridges of stone, wrought iron, and a mixture of the two crossing the Seine River every few blocks as it snakes its way through the city; a painting of grumpy aggressive steers staring at the diners in Bistro Marguerite


Fresh baguettes - everyone carries one on their way to work, or soft Nutello-Banana crepes sold by street vendors in front of the Musee D’Orsay, open produce and food markets, local bistro fare-French onion soup, curried chicken, steak and frites, fluffy omelettes, and chocolate desserts, slo-mo explosion of pepper shaker as it went cartwheeling onto the iron steps, breaking into glass chunks and sending a plume of pepper wafting up into the air at least 15 inches

Le Voltaire Cafe - Latin Quarter - DGH


Crunchy chewy baguettes, Breton crepes, chilled French wine with water on the side, dark French expresso laced with cream, broiled creamy ham and cheese sandwich called a ‘Croque Monsieur’, the caramel flavour of crème brulee, frothy beer and light quiche in Le Voltaire, French cod - a baked comfort dish of precooked whitefish, caramelized onions, and mashed potatoes


City noises - soft voices, polite greetings upon entering and exiting establishments, many languages but little English, homeless men sitting and talking in the cool morning air after sleeping over heating vents, musical language and soft laughter flowing out of small bistros with intimate sidewalk tables, the loud clear voice of the passing tour guide

Paris Traffic - No beep or honk of a vehicle goes unanswered in this rush hour cacophony of sound, screech of tires as traffic lights change, the buzz of the motorized scooters zipping between the lanes of autos, police sirens in the distance or under the window ledge


- soft, bunchable scarves wrapping male and female necks

- smooth statues in milky white, inset walls of marbled stone in burgundy, charcoal grey, or pink,

-rough stone counters, 6 foot tall double thick glass windows covered by wooden shutters in older buildings, cement stanchions in tiny side streets protect building corners

- enamel blue street signs mounted on the sides of buildings, 8 foot doors in the old town houses of the Marais district, unique wrought iron window and balcony railings

- square-cut stones form the streets in Pere Lachaise - City of the Dead; stone, metal and marble carved into unique family memorials, and cold stone benches for visitors to sit upon while studying the kiss-studded Oscar Wilde monument

. . .and the list goes on. . .


This post is a study (in part) for the Paris-based setting of another WIP.