Bard on the Beach 2015

A different configuration for the stage this year, but still simple, and able to represent numerous locations.

A different configuration for the stage this year, but still simple, and able to represent numerous locations.

Last year’s Bard on the Beach was a bust for us – we were ready to go and be entertained on Sunday morning, but it turned out we had tickets for Saturday afternoon. Oops.

This year we almost missed the boat completely. With visitors throughout the summer, it was always an option, but superseded by other events. Lucky for us, Middle Weasel asked about it with just days of performances left, and we ended up booking tickets for the final performance of the season.

The play we booked was “A Comedy of Errors”, one that none of us had encountered before. The production had transformed the setting into Steampunk, and we were all excited to see how that would work. As the photo shows, the set was all brass and cogwheels, with steam and clanking, grinding sound effects from five minutes before the start of the show. The characters wore great outfits – goggles, metal-accented limbs, eyepieces, Victorian styles.

The story concerns two pairs of identical twin boys, who are separated in a shipwreck, and are then amusingly mistaken for and by each other... over and over again.

The story concerns two pairs of identical twin boys, who are separated in a shipwreck, and are then amusingly mistaken for and by each other… over and over again.

It’s no surprise that the performance was excellent. The production values are high, and this was the final performance of the 26th Season of Bard on the Beach – you don’t get longevity like that with mediocre work. But it felt like the last night was giving the performance some extra zing. The actors were clearly having a lot of fun with their roles, and there was more than a hint of in-jokes being played throughout.

The Weasels try out a Steampunk look.

The Weasels try out a Steampunk look.

As always, I was mesmerised by the fact that a simple set – in this case a walkway above and two side entrances plus a central doorway – could be so many locations. I wanted to film the proceedings and post it on the Lazy Bee website to show other playwrights what is possible with a minimal set and a wild imagination. Of course, the person I should be reminding about it is ME.

The evening closed with a brief ceremony to mark the end of the season, with the Artistic Director inviting all the cast, crew and volunteers onto the stage. Each brought a candle, and the AD recited Prospero’s closing speech from “The Tempest” – the lights went down, and the candles were blown out.


We’ll be coming back next year – Romeo and Juliet is on the schedule, and Middle Weasel is studying that this year. Come along to Vanier Park and see it with us – there’s no better way to see Shakespeare!

Reading the Last Discworld Novel – The Shepherd’s Crown

The last Discworld book completed by Terry Pratchett.

The last Discworld book completed by Terry Pratchett.

When Middle Weasel was nine years old, we read her “The Wee Free Men“. It had been around for seven years at that point, but the main character, Tiffany Aching was nine years old too. She is a determined young girl, looking to make sense of the world, unwilling to take at face value the nebulous explanations offered by adults . In this way, she and Middle Weasel were very much alike. In the book, Tiffany decides that she wants to be a witch, and when the Baron’s son goes missing, Tiffany goes off to save him. She knows that in the “real” world, it’s boys who do the saving and girls that get saved, but no one can give her a good reason why this is so. Armed with a frying pan, she defeats the Queen of the Fairies and restores Roland to his father, earning the respect of the senior witches along the way. She also learns a lot about herself.

wee_free_menThe Wee Free Men is supposed to be a children’s story, but it’s by Terry Pratchett and it’s got a lot to it. There’s comedy, certainly, provided by the titular blue heroes, who generally help Tiffany. But there’s a lot of philosophy too, a lot of musing on the reality of life, and why we see things a certain way. Terry Pratchett has always flipped genre stereotypes, and here he takes on the massive task of inverting the old prejudice against the old woman who lives on her own in the woods with only her herb garden and cats for company.


Middle Weasel liked the book, primarily for the comedy, but enough that she took on the subsequent Tiffany Aching Stories. Either with us or alone she read “A Hat Full of Sky” and “Wintersmith” and “I shall wear midnight“. Along the way, Tiffany grows up, sometimes a little faster than Middle Weasel. She learns that being a witch is more about not using magic, not because you can’t, but because you can. It’s about doing the job that’s in front of you. It’s about helping everyone in a million tiny ways, and not expecting thanks. It’s about learning that when you dig a hole well, your only reward is a bigger shovel.


Tiffany faces challenge after challenge in the series, and each time the challenge is brought about by who she is, and resolved by it too. The other witches support her, but never do the job for her. By the time we reach “The Shepherd’s Crown“, Tiffany is in her teens and working flat out as the only witch on the Chalk – the downs where she lives, not terribly unlike Wiltshire, where Terry Pratchett made his home.


I felt guilty when I heard that Terry Pratchett had completed this last book before he died – guilty because I was pleased. When Douglas Adams died, I eagerly bought the collection “The Salmon of Doubt“, because it contained seven chapters of an incomplete Dirk Gently Novel, but reading those chapters and knowing the story would never be finished was terrible. The introduction to “The Shepherd’s Crown” explains that Terry Pratchett would probably have revised this version of the book a few more times before publication had he had the chance, but I’m glad it was published. Other stories and outlines that were incomplete at his death will never see the light of day, something I am simultaneously sad about and glad for. His daughter recently said on Twitter that she might work on tie-ins or spin offs, but the books “remain sacred to Dad”.

Some fans have read all but the last page of the book, so that the Discworld novels will never end for them. I couldn’t be that way, devouring the book in a single night. The story is classic Pratchett, and I found it more satisfying than the last Sam Vimes outing (“Snuff“) or the final Moist Von Lipwig story (“Raising Steam“) even though I’m a big fan of both of those series too. The story does leave one thread loose, but not in a way that will bother most readers. I won’t go into the story itself, because you should read it – and if you haven’t already, start with “The Wee Free Men” and work your way through, learning about Discworld witchcraft along with Tiffany.

Quite early on in the book, Death comes calling. Death is a frequent character in all of the Discworld novels, and actually is the central character in more than one. As anthropomorphic personifications go, he’s a kindly reaper, and in this instance he says more than he usually would about the nature of the life led.


(For those who don’t know, Death always speaks in all caps.)

It struck me, on reading this line, that this was a worthy aim for all of us. Instead of trying to change the whole world, instead of raging and demanding it change to conform to our view of right, perhaps we should do the job in front of us, help those around us, and do it because it’s the right thing to do, not because we expect to benefit.

Life isn’t binary (or “Why I’ll probably like Star Wars Episode VII AND Star Trek 3”)

Binary Code. Thanks to WikiCommons.

Binary Code. Thanks to WikiCommons.

Since the late 80’s there’s been a vogue for things to be digital. Starting with watches and spreading throughout our lives; we watch digital tv, listen to digital music players, even make the tea with digital kettles.

But digital is a binary thing. On or off. Ones or zeroes. Life isn’t binary, but we like to pretend it is. If you don’t believe me, argue with a US Republican on the internet. They will reason as follows:

“Argument ≠ Republican THEREFORE : Liberal (insert insult)”

(This is, of course, a gross generalisation, and I apologise to the Republicans I have had reasonable discussions with. You both know who you are.)

There’s no degree of political engagement considered, it’s a digital, binary state of on/off, yes/no. And it’s not just politics either. This binary attitude crops up in the important things too.



and within these there are binary choices too:

Star Trek                                                                             Star  Wars

Did you like the reboot?                                            Did you like the prequels?

Often we use this binary reasoning to find our tribe, clonking down the branches of a flow diagram where each path has only yes/no choices until we find ourselves at a point where there are no more questions to ask, and we know the people around us are sane, clear thinkers, because they agree with us on everything.

But lately I’ve been noticing the analogue side of life more and more. As the Weasels shuffled themselves into tribes (Whovian, Sherlockian and Merlinian), I felt bad that they felt there were areas they couldn’t go, fandoms that were closed to them because of their choices.

In an analogue world, you can just like something. Not a Facebook “like”, but a faint “It’s ok” with no more commitment than that. Not a ringing endorsement, not a lifelong commitment, not something that will trigger dozens of adverts for similar things… Just an admission that you think it’s ok.

I’m a Star Wars fan, but I like Star Trek. I like Voyager more than Deep Space Nine, but I also like the reboot movies. AND the original series. Come to that, I also like the prequel Star Wars movies, though yes, I can see where they are flawed. From a certain point of view. I didn’t like all the novels and comics, though, and I don’t think I have to.

I’m pretty sure I’m going to enjoy Episode 7, The Force Awakens, and I don’t think that’s a betrayal of anything, any more than it’s disloyal to go watch Star Trek 3 and like it.

Life shouldn’t be about binary choices, where the things you like automatically define things you DON’T like. We should be willing to stand up and be counted, yes, but there will be times when we’re not that fussed about standing up, and may just raise a hand. We just like it, that’s all.

Suddenly…. September

Summer has turned to Autumn and the leaves are falling. Unfortunately, some of them are still attached to the trees....

Summer has turned to Autumn and the leaves are falling. Unfortunately, some of them are still attached to the trees….

It’s been a long, hot, crazy summer, with visitors galore and rediscovering all the tourist spots of Vancouver and the surrounding areas.

But now the rain has returned, bringing with it lower temperatures, howling winds, falling trees, power outages and (gasp!) internet shutdowns…. It’s time to think about the winter and how much has been achieved this year, as well as how much is still to be done.

And while you do that, I’m going back to bed to pull the duvet over my head and pretend it’s not happening.

Free again!

Free until Friday! Probably should have mentioned this  earlier...

Free until Friday!
Probably should have mentioned this earlier…

Thanks to an attack of camping, I’ve been offline for the first couple of days of the free giveaway of “Tribute” my only YA novella (so far…)

“Tribute” tells the story of Lisa, who has grown up thinking that legendary rock guitarist Stone was her father, only to discover, on the day of his funeral, that she might actually be the child of the band’s frontman and long forgotten star, Pitch Blend.

Lisa struggles to bring her parents together and find her own place in the world in this coming of age story.

Which is free, on Amazon until Friday.

Amazon US

Amazon CA

Amazon UK

Free stuff for the rest of the month!

Available NOW at Amazon!

“My Cosplay Disasters” is the first of several free e-books available this month.

August seems to be galloping past, and before long it’ll be my birthday again. Instead of demanding shiny things and an outrageous party, I thought this year I would give away a bunch of e-books, one each week, and only ask people to leave reviews on Amazon in return.

To be clear, I’m not asking only for GOOD reviews – I would like honesty. If you hated the book, or thought it was childish, then say so. Actually, I don’t think anyone would be surprised.

From Monday the 17th, “My Cosplay Disasters” will be free from Amazon. Next week, I think it’s “Tribute”, my awkward attempt to turn a stage musical I never finished writing into a YA novel. Then the week after that there’s another one, but I did all this late at night two days ago, and I can’t remember what the plan was.

Leaving a review can be a pain, but it really, really matters to authors. If you’ve read a book recently, try leaving a review on Amazon, or Goodreads, or your own blog or wherever. It’s ok to be honest, as long as you’re talking about the book and not taking potshots at the author’s personality or life choices. Your words could influence someone else, maybe help them discover a book they will love for the rest of their lives. Or maybe save them from a literary disaster.

In the meantime, I’ll leave you with the thank you letter I would have to write for the presents you would send:

Dear ________,

Thanks so much for the review you left for me for my birthday. It was a lovely surprise to see the notification pop up in my email and then the live review on Amazon.

I had a lovely birthday, with a late start and then a pleasant walk in the sunshine with dog and family, followed by lunch out and an afternoon movie back at home. It turns out forty three is a lot like forty two, but with less literary connections.

Hope you are well, and that we get to see you soon,



An (upgraded) open letter to Microsoft

Microsoft wait times

Dear Microsoft,

You may recall my last open letter to you – more likely, you don’t. I never received any form of response. Unless, of course, the hasty cancellation of Windows 9/Blue was due entirely to my heartfelt plea to return control of the computer to the User, rather than making it simply a tool for you to impose your will upon? Thought not.

I came to grips with Windows 8.1 in the end, you know, making it do as much as 7 used to. Most of my peripherals adapted or died off, and I found a way to view all the files I had stored. And when Windows 10 was announced, I was actually quite enthusiastic about the chances of interacting with Cortana, with having a PC platform that might, perhaps, make the experience of owning a Windows phone more enjoyable, or convenient. Sure, I worried a little that some of my programs (not apps, please) might not run well, but I figured I could adapt enough to counter your intransigence.

There was a long wait, here in my part of British Columbia. I watched friends around the world downloading and installing, and heard various shrieks of horror or hums of approval. I still wasn’t discouraged, and when I finally got the nod (well, strictly speaking, I never ACTUALLY received notification that I could start the download – I did one of my daily checks and found it was ready…) I hit the install button with hardly a qualm.

The installation took a while, but that was no surprise. I wangled my way through the menus, selecting and unselecting, reminding you again and again that you collecting my data was a choice I should be making, not one you make for me. Targeted advertising is not a benefit for me, you understand, it’s a benefit for the advertiser. I know I haven’t caught all the permissions. I know there are a bunch hidden away that allow you to do all kinds of data harvesting, and I know this because if there weren’t you would have put them all in one convenient place, instead of scattering them through settings and setup and a bunch of other places. Microsoft, you have become a politician, lying by omission and presenting a false face. That’s pretty bad, in case you hadn’t noticed.

Anyway, Windows 10 works. I still have all my old emails, still have my old calendar, can still find my photos, my documents. All the programs I use on a daily basis seem to work just fine. Except for one tiny, tiny thing.

When I go to save a file, the computer tells me I don;t have permission. because every day, when I turn on the computer, ALL THE FOLDERS have their permissions reset to “Read only”. Every single one. I know this because every single day I have to reset the permissions on any folder I want to use. I am the only registered user on the computer. I am, as far as I can tell, The Administrator. But every day Windows locks me out of my own folders. Why?

Well, Microsoft, that’s a good question. It’s a question I’d like to ask you. Today I went back through your “Contact me” page for the hundredth time. Look, I get it. You’re just rolling out the biggest software upgrade in History. You’re trying to help everyone get on board with Windows 10 and you’d really like to weed out the ones who just want to change their lock screen back to their photo of Miggsy the Hamster, or the ones who can’t find their passwords anymore and so on. I understand why I keep getting booted back to the same FAQ screen, but I really, really want an answer to this because it is making my working day HARDER. I have upgraded the software and it is making my work more difficult. This is not how it should go.

I have used Windows for a long time, and I am barely more than competent. I CAN change these permissions to use the folders. I know where to go to do that. I don’t know where to go to stop your upgraded OS from changing them back again. I don’t know why it’s doing it, I don’t know why it started, whether it will stop, or who can help me if you won’t. Unfortunately, I don’t ave 336 minutes to sit here and wait for your poor chat line operator to tell me he doesn’t know why that’s happening either.

I’m not giving up. I’ll keep looking for a solution, and looking for a way to contact you that will actually result in contact. If you could be ready with an answer for me, that would be cool.

Oh, and it would be nice if I’d known ahead of time that Cortana would NOT be available to Canada until some-undisclosed-time-in-the-future. It would definitely have affected my decision to go ahead with the install this early. I realised we’re not as technologically advanced as the Spanish or French here in BC, and our accents can make us tricky to understand. I just wonder if the folks in the Microsoft building downtown in Vancouver have Cortana as part of their Windows 10?

Anyway, thanks for your time. I’m sure you’ll read this when you’re sifting through my drafts folder for information to sell to advertisers.