Monday, May 30, 2011

Western Speedway Race Track - Bad for My Pores

The roar was deafening. With my heart racing, and my pulse barely able to keep up, my eardrums numbed with every pass. I coughed and spluttered through the smoke, still managing to scream, gasp and panic. I was on the edge of my seat, watching as the car careened into the sideboards, losing a fender here, bending an axle there, and watching as a wheel caved in submission against the force of the speed.

“Oh my God! He’s gonna crash!”

When it was over, I turned to my sons, stunned and alarmed, unable to make sense of my racing emotions. My earlier moans of exhaustion and sore back long forgotten. It was all too much for me.

“Calm down, Mom, they’re only qualifying right now. Ya know - to see who gets to race first?” He rolled is eyes, his brother echoing his actions, a smirk hinting somewhere in their exasperation.

Oh, right.

That’s why there was only one car on the track.

I missed that part.

We were at Western Speedway, in the City of Langford, 15 minutes from downtown Victoria, BC. Despite the track being surrounded by forest, the trees didn’t protect us from the breeze coursing through the grandstands we were in; I needed more hairspray. Between worrying about my hair and the guy, both equally important, I was a tad…flummoxed.

His now dented car – well, it already had enough dents so another few wouldn't matter, anyways – limped it’s way back to the pits; center-track. 14-second Nascar pit crew teams had nothing on this driver’s pit crew of one. It was something to be reckoned. The guy ambled his way over to a pile of tools and spare parts, grabbed a sledgehammer, and gave the fender a few wacks. When the pit crew of one was satisfied, and with one final kick, gave the thumbs up. Another driver was on the track ready to go, so there was no real urgency I realized, anyways.

My oldest son won tickets to the event, and despite my protestations of being tired, having a sore back, and being cranky, I went with my family – in the name of fostering family unity.

And was I ever glad I did. Talk about bringing out the woman in me!

Demo cars and trucks, all refurbished in the owner’s garages, had seen better days. ‘Hit to pass’ was where it was at, I would soon learn. A simple tap, or ‘crunch,’ from the trailing guy’s car on the leader’s rear bumper would send the leader spinning out of control – the trailing guy now gaining the lead. Every crunch of metal on metal, every car advancing to yet fall back, would send the crowd into a frenzy, taking me right along with them.
The driver’s momentum as they came ‘round the backstretch seemed to hydroplane the beasts, and as they struggled to gain control, I was wishing I had mainlined Alka Seltzer before I got there.

True, we’re not talking shiny, billion dollar Nascars, here. But to these drivers, their beat-up demolition cars that had seen many races, better days and one to many sledgehammers, were even better. Everything from Monte Carlos to mid ‘80’s Toyotas were there. Honda Civics, Mustangs, and hatchback Ford Escorts all graced the track in all their fender-trailing glory. Heck, I even owned two Ford Escorts when my kids were small, both cars sounding and smoking a lot like these racing machines – burst transmissions and all! Go momma!

But the best was the ‘76 Chevrolet Camaro. I teared-up a bit as I watched it race around the track, the same canary yellow machine as my first car was – minus the huge scoop and number. My boys were most impressed with their muscle-car maniac mother.

There were smash-up derby’s on the front straightaway, followed by figure-eight racing around tires, all involving MORE loud revving and more metal-crunching-metal. Then full-on racing around the whole track had me screaming for more - the need for speed and destruction was coursing through my veins. What had I become?

Smoke from barbequing hot dogs and hamburgers competed with the combination of car exhaust, burning rubber, oil and God knows-what else. The breeze that was ruining my hair had no affect on the mixing fumes. All that, combined with grease from French fries and onion rings, and I knew I was going to have some major deep-poor cleansing when I got home.

I couldn’t keep track of what was going on, and I tried to keep up with all the different races and events in constant action. Everything was so big and LOUD that trying to get a word in edge-wise to anyone to around me to was impossible.

Race after race, they readied at the starting line, revving their engines, smoking their brakes. By the time they got the green flag, you couldn’t see any cars at the starting line, so masked they were by smoke.

A receptionist by day, writer by night, I am just a city girl who, despite all my screaming, yelling, and panicking about drivers and my hair, still had her purse perched primly on her lap through the whole thing.

As the fireworks display started later that night with accompanying music vibrating through the bleachers under my feet, and the drivers long done for the night, I was glad I came and stood out like a sore thumb to be with my family. Sore back, dirty pores, bad hair, stomach ulcers and all.

But I knew I wouldn’t – shouldn’t - be coming back; I don’t think my psyche would be able to handle it.

Unless I was racing…

Sunday, May 22, 2011

My Life In Orange

A rapid-fire of orange foam bullets shot from an equally orange plastic machine gun just miss me as I dive-roll my way to the safe zone – the couch. In this blinding sea of orange, I am the observer and the minority. And I love it.

'Cease fire!’ echoes through the house as Nerf® guns are reloaded; the chaos escalates.

Games like cops ‘n robbers, ‘Hunt’ and ‘War,’ as well as good old fashioned shoot-until-dead games are always on the agenda – the higher the body count, the better the game. Thank God for orange foam – no broken windows; no holes in the walls.

I better not speak too soon.

On a regular day in my too-small house, the four of us constantly trip over each other; easily done when two are fast-growing teenage boys. Add in another teenager (of course taller than I), and I huddle in the corner of the couch or hide in the kitchen. Unfortunately, the two areas are separated by enemy territory, so any chocolate and tea required for my refuge isn’t going to happen.

Many are likely shaking their heads in disgust, gasping in disbelief – ‘How can a mother, in this day-in-age, allow guns and violence in her home, with boys at such an impressionable age?’

Who cares, I say! They, the military personnel who run around my house, are safe, secure, and under my watchful eye for fair play and equal participation. ‘Sharing’ is ever-monitored, even with teenagers, and any foul language is immediately admonished by the General –me.

They aren’t hanging out at the mall; they are drug and alcohol free.

They aren’t on the internet looking up things they shouldn’t. They are interacting with each other face to face, practicing proper social skills, as opposed to texting or Facebooking all day.

And in a weird way, they are getting exercise; their flushed faces and stops for water are telling. Numerous corners and countless stairs requiring stealth twisting and turning would challenge any army recruit in basic training.

At an age where they are typically more concerned with hair-gel, over priced clothes, and anything electronic - never mind their ‘female’ enemies/allies - it’s refreshing and endearing to see them still be kids, doing what they should be doing for as long as they can; playing, laughing, cheering, and sometimes screaming in terror.

An orange foam bullet whizzes by me. Apologies ensue, and not only from my own two boys, but also from their too-tall friend. Manners are still in check when re-loading their Tommy guns.

I know I will find stray foam bullets in my shoes tomorrow, and I will tune out barked commands of ‘Freeze!’ as I stir their lunch of orange mac’n cheese. I am the minority in this testosterone-riddled, orange plastic and foam world; I wouldn't want to be anywhere else.

Now excuse me – I need to reload my Uzi. It’s stashed behind the couch.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

My Next Husband - Michael Hauge

I’m in love, and I just found my next husband.

Current husband’s aside, this next husband has everything I want.

A sense of humour that would keep me giggling right through days spent sitting in our rocking chairs in the retirement home, generosity, kindness and patience…oh, and he’s tall.

Oh and did I mention the best part? He GETS fiction writing and what makes a good story. He knows everything there is to know about making a story elicit emotion in a reader or viewer and – AND - he is a Hollywood scriptwriter – so he KNOWS people. Maybe he would hook me up with Brad Pitt.

I met him in a smoky room, our eyes met across the throngs of people clamouring for his attention. Everyone wanted a piece of him….but I had dibs on him first. He’s mine.

In the end I had to share him with 90 other women.

Scriptwriters, writers of every genre and, specifically on this occasion, romance writers, all want him. He is a wanted man, and I, being the girl of adventure and living on the edge, LOVE a wanted man.

I sat in Kwantlen College, Richmond, BC, at the Write On, Vancouver conference hosted by the Greater Vancouver Chapter of Romance Writers of America. Already having gorged myself on bagels and cream cheese and a few pieces of token fruit (to ease the guilt from all the cream cheese), I raptly listened to a Q&A panel with editors from Harlequin and Samhain Publishing. But I was anxious to see what Michael Hauge had to say for himself.

And by the end of the day, I was in love.

His workshop, Story Mastery, taught the art of eliciting emotion in a story, and outer and inner conflict in characters. And the number one thing I learned? If your story isn’t going anywhere, revisit your characters’ outer motivation.

By the end of the day, I knew what MY outer motivation was; to convince him to come for a ‘sleepover’ at my house – BUT NOT FOR WHAT YOU THINK. Man, if I could get that guy to come to my house for a nasty weekend of manuscript coaching, I would be the NEXT BIG THING.

As I write this, I am about to attend the last day of the conference and soak-up every juicy word, wealth of knowledge and experience he has to offer. I will sit up front and hope that my ever-batting eyelashes will coax him over for a coaching session, or two.

His books, Selling your Story in 60 Seconds (Michael Wiese Productions, 2006), and Writing Screenplays that Sell – 20th Anniversary Edition (Harper Collins, 2011) – are in my possession and now autographed by him (SWOON!). Accompanied by the copious notes I took, all are sure to get me on my way – to successful, publishable writing.

I am heading in now for day two of the conference as I write this, and I won’t eat so many bagels this time. A girls’ gotta watch her figure ya know, if she knows what good for her…manuscript.

Back off, ladies - he's MINE.

Check out the delectable Michael Hauge at

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Copper Socks

So…here’s the thing.

All I wanted to do was buy my dad a pair of socks for his birthday. That’s it, that’s all.

I had struggled to figure out what to buy the man who has everything – except for a Chrysler Prowler.

A worldly kinda guy who, despite the increase in age (I don’t forget that my age is ever-increasing, as well), is very hip and knowledgeable in this high-tech world we are in. He has fancy computers, high-tech cameras, and super-duper gizmos of every kind. All the stuff a semi-retired Dad needs and wants.

So I wracked my brain – what TRULY speaks DAD? What can I give him that shows I TRULY put in a lot thought?


Yes, my friend - socks. But these were not to be just ANY old socks, as I would soon find out.

Dad started a new ‘fitness regime’ some time ago – power-walking. I am extremely proud of him. And although, much to my dismay, he does not wear sweat bands reminiscent of the Jane Fonda 80’s exercise hype, he wears good walking shoes we shopped for together.

He hates shopping.

So knowing that he is likely wearing men’s dress socks during his walks, I figured HEY! I can get him PROPER sports socks!

So off to the store I went, very proud and excited of my GREATEST IDEA EVER!

I was holding a pair of high-tech looking sport socks, when a very excited sales girl came rushing up to me.

“Oh, those are just PERFECT!” (How does she know, I wondered?) “But we have women’s socks over there!”

“Thank you, but these are for my Dad.” I divulged, but then I couldn’t keep my mouth shut. “He’s a power-walker.”

She got even MORE excited. “Oh perfect then! Those are perfect as they are made with REAL copper, and are PERFECT for controlling odour and fungus! Carefully woven into the air-breathing fabric, copper has been proven to prevent fungus and odour, and these would be perfect for your Dad and his power-walking! And….” (I might have zoned out for a bit, missing some of what she said.)

All I wanted was to buy a darn pair of socks.

Even though I was giggling inside, I wanted to whack her over the head with the amount of exclamation marks she was using (but she was very nice, I have to add). I wished so bad that Dad was there to witness the conversation. He would have had a giggle – he’s just that kinda guy. We generally don’t talk about those kinds of things, but this would have been a great ice-breaker to venture into unchartered conversational territory.

“Well,” I said, trying to control myself, “I’m not sure he has those kinds of problems.” (Oh God, how I wished Dad was there!)

“Yes, but the socks are PREVENTATIVE!” Exclamation-mark-sales-clerk said, her eyes widening in excitement. I swear her eyes were about to pop out of her head.

“Well, then! I guess I SHOULD get them!”

I got a tad excited, myself; I was looking out for Dad’s health and well-being, in a PREVENTATIVE sense. How PERFECT!

Oh dear - I hope the darn things don’t turn green.

So not only did Dad get a new pair of socks for his birthday – and a three-pack, at that – but it gave us a story to talk about for years to come.

And if all else fails, he can take them to a copper recycler and cash ’em in for big bucks - he’s gonna need 'em if he wants that car.