Tuesday, March 29, 2011


I've always dreamed of being a rock star, so when I landed the opportunity to hang out with Crash and Mars for 11 days, I figured my time had finally come. I mean, Crash's debut CD, Under my Covers, has produced such amazing hits as Bonus with Hay.

But my talents are limited. I can't sing, not even back-up. I'm a terrible whistler. And although I once could play an entire song on the recorder, I have no formal training as a musician.

Which pretty much leaves writing lyrics.

Until last night, I haven't been inspired. But as we launched into the second week of 102.3 Now Radio's Living with Crash and Mars challenge (and it IS a challenge), I found myself dodging Blackberry and iPhone flashes as dozens (maybe HUNDREDS) of people chased me in hopes of a snapshot of my new BFFs. (Apologies to last week's BFFs but when you spend every. waking. minute with two people, you tend to share...a lot.)

As I whirled around pillars, hid behind cars, and ducked under park benches branded with the NOW Radio signage, I composed a little song I think Crash should add to the Under my Covers set list. I like to call it Papa-Paparazzi.

* clears throat *

(Sung to the tune of that Lady Gaga song, Paparazzi...)

Here comes the crowd
They’re all coming out
Got their flash on it's true
Need that picture of you
Radio star Crash is magical
And Mars is so fantastic, oh

Crash’s plaid shirt and jeans
Mars looking so glamorous
Not sure what it means
But this photo of us
It does have a price
Get ready for those flashing lights
'Cause, NOW you know that

They’re your biggest fans
They’ll follow you until you love them
Crash and Mars are stars
You know that they’ll be your-

Promise I'll be fun
But they won't stop until that $100 bucks is won
Maybe NOW you'll be famous
They’ll chase you down until you love them

They’ll be your girls backstage in your garage
Under my Covers can only get you so far
Yeah cause you're their rockstars on the radio
Living with you both is fantastic, oh

Crash and Mars are stars
You know that they’ll be your

Real good, you’re dancing in the studio
Snap-snap, to those hits on NOW radio
Don't stop, for anyone
You’re cardboard but you STILL HAVE FUN

They’re your biggest fans
They’ll follow you until you love them
Crash and Mars are stars
You know that they’ll be your

I sincerely hope that song sticks with you ALL day...

- Dawn

Hey young writers! Want to learn how to write lyrics WAY better than these ones? Why not check out WordsWorth, the camp for young writers who believe in the power of words. Check out the line-up for this summer's sessions (week 2) for ages 15-19. (Including Brendan McLeod from the FUGITIVES!) Not 15? Our first camp is geared to young writers 11-14. Find out more at the Young Alberta Book Society website.

Monday, March 28, 2011

More like String Bridge

Eager to show off my short story Adventures with Crash and Mars, I met with Edmonton Public Library writer-in-residence Marty Chan this weekend.

I admit, my palms felt a little sweaty at the prospect of putting my work "out there" and in front of such a celebrity author. Marty has published many books, and when the kids aren't lining up to hear him speak, a large contingent of writerly hopefuls are looking for advice.

Including me.

"Who are these Crash and Mars characters?" he asked, as I settled in at his makeshift desk.

I pointed to my 102.3 Now Radio pals, leaned close and dropped my voice to a whisper. "These two here."

"Do they have last names?"

I shifted uncomfortably in my chair. "Do they need to? I mean, there's Madonna. Beyonce. Prince."

Marty wrinkled his nose. "Yeah, you're going to want to change that. I'm not feeling the celebrity vibe here."

Inhaling a deep breath of courage, I stretched my lips into a smile. "Ok. I'll change the names." I jotted on my notebook, mentally disagreeing with Mr. Writer-In-Residence. Why would I change their names? "Anything else?"

"What's the plot?" he asked. "Where's the action?"

"Well, we've been to Galaxyland," I said. "Went on a few rides."

Marty pressed his lips into a grimace. "I see. Did anyone die?"

"Well, er, no, but..."

"No screaming?"

"Well, Mars did scream on the roller coaster," I said, remembering how her voice scratched against my ears as we looped around one of the ride's giant circles.

Marty jotted something on his pad of paper. "That's a start. How about romance?"

"We went on a hot air balloon ride," I said, excitement causing my voice to reverberate. "That was romantic."

I threw my hands upward in a Victory V. "And, we went through the haunted house. That was scary, right?"

"Predictable," Marty corrected.


"Your characters are too cardboard cut-out," he began.

"Two coroplast cut-outs," I amended.

"And your plot is flat," he said, ignoring my correction. "Two dimensional. Use your five senses! I want to smell the action...


"I want to feel your character's emotions," Marty went on, jotting furiously on a notepad. "Where's the passion? The great writing? The..."

I glanced away from the intensity, locking eyes with Crash and Mars. Two-dimensional? Flat story line? Emotionless? The kiss of death for a writer.

You were supposed to be my muse, I mouthed at Crash.

"Dawn," Marty said, placing a comforting hand across mine. "You're just not there yet. If only you could be more like..."

"Like who?" I asked, a myriad of names flashing across my eyes. Stephen King? Nora Roberts? Sandra Brown?

"... more like Jessica Bell."

Indeed, if only I could be more like the incredibly talented and amazingly beautiful Jessica Bell. Congratulations to a very good friend and amazing writer for launching the trailer to String Bridge, Jessica's debut novel to be published by Lucky Press this November. Super proud of you, hon! To watch the trailer (where Jessica SINGS her own songs) and to learn more about Jessica, click here.

- Dawn

PS - Want to win an autographed book by Marty Chan - who is actually amazing, talented, and not at all mean? Check out the Young Alberta Book Society website and send me a "fact" about Marty for a chance to win a copy of True Story.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Tour de Edmonton

I'd dreamed of relaxing this weekend, taking time to finally shake this lingering cough, chillax with the family (and Crash and Mars), maybe catch up on some reading and writing.

My 102.3 NOW Radio buddies had other plans.

You'd almost think they were NEW to Edmonton, or something, but the station has been on the air for more than a year. Surely they'd visited the city's key landmarks, right?


We perused the Old Strathcona Farmer's Market, where we (mostly) resisted the lure of the market's vast sampling of delicious products. Mars couldn't say no to the Cajun spice though, where a local man offered Mars a kiss and some of his product.

We hit the Alberta Art Gallery next, keeping warm within its fancy walls (Crash and Mars REFUSE to dress appropriately for the weather.) I admit, I hadn't checked out the gallery myself yet. Impressive!

In the spirit of keeping warm, we ducked into the Chapters on Whyte Avenue for a latte (I paid, again) and a visit with the beautiful Bronwyn Storm / Natasha Deen, who was flogging her new romance. (Want a copy? Check out the Young Alberta Book Society website and send me a "fact" about Natasha/Bronwyn to be entered into a draw...)

Bronwyn actually rendered Crash speechless (a twist for sure), and he begged to just hang out in the bookstore for the rest of the day.

Mars had other plans. Shopping, of course. We hit Little Italy first...

Before heading to West Edmonton Mall for a taste of Chinatown.

And a little more shopping...

We relived our youth at the Disney store - and I ended up buying Crash and Mars something to remind them of the experience. Crash offered some story about his pants being too tight (or his butt being too flat) to comfortably carry a wallet. 

And then he had the audacity to whine about hanging out in the mall. To appease his sporty self, we headed to the giant baseball bat for a game of roadside ball...

And then donned our Oilers jerseys (well, I put mine on...not sure where they left theirs) for a visit with the Great One before heading into the game.

It's after noon and the duo are still sleeping. Maybe today will be less eventful?

- Dawn

Saturday, March 26, 2011

A literary bonanza with Crash & Mars

Illustrator James Grasdal signs copies of Fields of Home.

When I picked Crash & Mars up from the 102.3 Now Radio station Monday morning, I warned them I'd planned a full slate of activities. They didn't say too much about it then, but I can feel them dragging their feet with each day.

Especially at Story Avenue, a two-day event that pairs local celebrity literary artists with school kids who might otherwise not have an opportunity to fall in love with reading and writing. 

Although several of the kids were fascinated by the (usually) dynamic duo, the focus of the day was all about the kids and the importance of literacy.

More than 300 Grade 5, 6 and 7 students gathered in the atrium of the education building before heading off to their individual sessions. Crash and Mars seemed to fit right in. 

Although a few kids were eager to pose with the celebrity radio morning show hosts, the students were mesmerized by the authors.

Even Crash and Mars were captivated by the beautiful storytelling of Edmonton literary artist Tololwa Mollel.

The event seemed to perk up my coroplast buddies, because at the end of it all, the two spent time with the authors, bonding over reading and writing. I think they even got to go home with a few books signed by the celebrities themselves!

- Dawn

Hey Alberta young writers! Want to win a trip to WordsWorth, the camp for youth who believe in the power of words? Why not enter the Martyn Godfrey Young Writers Award? Better hurry - the deadline is May 6, 2011.

Pssst. Want a leg up on the competition? Check out www.fieldsofhome.blogspot.com where Chase Duffy shares his writing tips and how to include the colour yellow. 

Friday, March 25, 2011

An out of this world adventure

This is one giant leap for mankind...and a HUMUNGOUS step for Crash & Mars.

After two looooong days volunteering at a casino to help raise money for the Young Alberta Book Society and its programs, my 102.3 Now Radio buddies had begun grumbling about a vacation.

Vegas? I suggested.

Apparently someone else is taking them there.

How about Mexico?

Too predictable, Mars kind of mumbled and gave me a thin smile.

Honestly, I'm having a hard time connecting with her. I tried the soap opera angle, but she isn't a fan of Days of Our Lives. (Story line too flat? Uh...hello...look who's talking!) We hung out at the mall, but we don't have the same taste.

To crack her coroplast armour, I knew I'd have to do something to blow her mind.

Not a task I could do on my own. So I recruited Joan Galat, author of the Dot to Dot In the Sky series of books for young readers. If there's anyone who could offer up some out of this world suggestions, it's Joan.

"Mars!" she exclaimed.

"Yes," I replied. "It's Mars I need on my side. Crash is easy."

"No, I mean, let's go to Mars."


Joan just happened to have an extra suit around -

- and being so thin, the hosts both fit!

Joan suggested Mars close her eyes, tap her ruby slippers together and repeat: I just want to go home.

And when we opened our eyes again -

We were ON Mars. (Not skinny, mute Mars...the planet Mars.)

See, Alberta literary artists aren't just talented, they're MAGICAL.

- Dawn (reporting from Mars)

Hey! Want to win a signed copy of one of Joan's Dot to Dot in the Sky books? Check out the Young Alberta Book Society website and send me the title of one of Joan's books. 

The Book In My Bag Today: Radiant Shadows, Melissa Marr

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Crash and Mars are "magically delicious"

True story.

The Young Alberta Book Society was in desperate need for a couple of people to work a double casino shift. With flu season in full swing, our volunteer numbers had dwindled.

Lucky for (some of) us, I'm living with Crash and Mars for 11 nine days (not that I'm counting down or anything) - two nimble, eager volunteers, right?

Perhaps in the role of lucky charm.

It took Crash a nano second to spot the "opportunity."

"Kiss us for luck" he said, or rather mimed.

And to my utter shock, people did! For almost 16 hours. Waitresses, gamblers, security guards - all waiting in line to kiss Crash and Mars in hopes of an extra ounce of lip-smacking good luck. Even Alberta author Karen Bass got in on the action...

Until Crash suggested they get a little more comfortable...

I rescued Karen from Crash's advances, only to find him hooking up with an old friend - the manager of the Yuk Yuks, who was a little worried the 102.3 Now Radio hosts wouldn't recognize her.

Doesn't look like Crash is having a hard time recalling, huh?

But all that kissing (rather than working) gave the annoyingly popular ingenious duo dry mouth, so we headed to the Casino Grill with local writer (and angel volunteer) Donna for a bite to eat.

We barely had enough time to finish eating before Crash spotted this pretty waitress...

And the kissing started all over again.

"Don't knock it until you try it," Crash said, inbetween lip locks.

But I couldn't do it. I mean, what would my handsome husband think?!

Mars suggested we try a different lucky charm (which was amazing since she hasn't spoken to me since the recycling bin incident...)

Sadly, the previously smitten waitress didn't appreciate the old salt-over-the-shoulder trick.

By the end of 16 hours, we were all tired. So I hailed security to walk us out to the car. And well...

*Note to Handsome Husband: Please close your eyes.*

Buff security dude comes over and says, "Whoa. You look so tired. Let me carry you out to your car."

And I'm like, "Dude! There's three of us."

And he says, "Check out these pipes."

To which I reply...well, nothing because I was pretty much speechless.

Now that's going out in style!

Hmmm. I wonder of cute buff dude will be working today as we head back for another day of casino work....

- Dawn

PS - Want to win a signed copy of Karen Bass's amazing book, Run Like Jager? Email dawnmius@gmail.com with something you learned about Karen from visiting her profile here.

The Book In My Bag Today: Radiant Shadows, Melissa Marr

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

"Dawn"ing my superman cape for Crash and Mars

You'd think "Living with Crash and Mars" would be a full-blown 3D event, but I'm flat-out tired after spending most of last night chasing the 102.3 Now Radio hosts halfway around the city.

In a case of mistaken identity, Crash and Mars found themselves tossed into a cardboard recycling container - the cut-outs are actually coroplast. Who knew?

I had no choice but to climb in and rescue them, but the experience must have put Mars in shock. She didn't say a word to me ALL day.

No sooner did I drag their skinny butts out of the recycling bin than did they try to fly the coop. Again.

Listening to them on the radio, I'd never have guessed they'd be so...flighty. 

I tucked them into the backseat to keep an eye on them, threatening that if they didn't stay put, I'd crush them, along with my pop cans, milk cartons and other recyclable goods. I must not have used enough force in my voice, because Mars convinced Crash to check out the MyTech Framing crew who are building a training centre for autistic children on the West End.

Since my charity of choice is the Young Alberta Book Society, and MyTech is clearly working on a project geared for kids, I couldn't get too upset. So, I decided to work out my frustrations at the gym.

Sadly, despite my best efforts to cheer on the dynamic radio duo, I had to carry them for most of the racquetball game.

And it was like their feet were stuck to the pedals or something during Spin class. 

Byt the time the night was over, I was grateful for their continued silent treatment. Something tells me it's going to be a long 10 days. *sigh*

- Dawn

Hey! Want to win a FREE signed book? Head over to the Young Alberta Book Society website and look up the author featured in the last picture. E-mail dawnmius@gmail.com a "fact" about her and you could win a copy of The Hippie House.

The Book In My Bag Today: Radiant Shadows, Melissa Marr

Monday, March 21, 2011

A-MUSE-ing cardboard characters

Cardboard characters...the bane of every writer's existence, right?

Not for me this week.

I've entered a contest whereby I'll spend the next 11 days with Crash and Mars, the morning show hosts on 102.3 Now Radio. 11 days. Every. Waking. Minute. *gulp*

I picked them up this morning, along with 49 other hopeful contestants - apparently Crash and Mars like to spread themselves pretty thin. Stiff paper thin, actually.

As we drove to work, I kept the conversation light. I guess Mars is going on just a few hours of sleep (inconsiderate neighbours playing loud music), which explains why our dialogue was a little flat.

 I'll just have to get creative.

It's tough to tell in this picture, but Crash is not a bad looking guy. I know my weekly muse is often shirtless, but I felt uncomfortable asking him to bare his chest - despite working out with his trainer, Crash is a lot thinner than I expected.

Still, muse worthy.

He's got his work cut out for him. I spent the weekend in my cave, blissfully working on a number of writing projects. The "big" deadline looms, and my work slate is jam packed. Maybe living with my muse - and his really skinny co-host - will help me keep the momentum.

- Dawn

P.S. - Want to win a signed book by a really cool Alberta author? Every day, I'll post pictures of my Crash and Mars adventures. Check out the book's author or illustrator and head to the Young Alberta Book Society website (www.yabs.ab.ca) and email a fact about that artist to dawnmius@gmail.com. I'll choose a random daily winner.

P.P.S. - Why bother with this contest? The most creative entry wins $1000 cash and $1000 to the charity of their choice. If I win, $2000 will go to the Young Alberta Book Society, an organization devoted to fostering a love of literacy amongst young people through reading and writing.

The Book In My Bag Today: Radiant Shadows, Melissa Marr

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Longing to "Linger" a little longer

I know I must be one of the last people in the universe to hold out on buying an e-reader. I've read all the publishing trends, listened to the wise advise of best-selling e-book authors like the incredible J.A. Konrath, and checked out every product on the market.

But when the time came to lay down the cash, I simply couldn't do it.

Just before Christmas I stood in the bookstore holding a Kobo, money in hand, trying hard to remember all of the e-reader pros while a hundred thousand print titles whispered my name. I ended up purchasing a half dozen novels instead, immeasurably satisfied by their weight, their smell, their tangibility. I loved the feeling of adding them to an already towering TBR pile.

A sliver of regret came last week, when not a single Edmonton book store had the new Chelsea Cain novel, The Night Season, in stock. Desperate for my Gretchen Lowell fix, I put out the Facebook SOS - which was answered by Karen and her ever-faithful Kobo e-reader.

As I zipped through Cain's thriller on my borrowed and unfamiliar electronic gadget, I didn't think much about the smell, the weight, the tangibility of the book. I read each word with breakneck speed - because that's how Chelsea's thrillers should be read. Fast. Breathless.

By the end, I'd almost convinced myself that I *could* buy an e-reader, that perhaps my *need* to own a hard copy of every book I'd read was unrealistic, if not annoying to the rest of my family and our groaning bookshelves.

But then I read Maggie Stiefvater's Linger.

Linger is not a book that should be read at breakneck speed, though it may leave your breathless. After each chapter I wanted to caress the cover, stare at it longingly, and dream of writing with such brilliance - somehow making goo goo eyes at the Kobo screen didn't net the same effect.

During last year's 100 books in 2010 challenge, I discovered Shiver, the first in Steifvater's mesmerizing love story of Sam and Grace. I'd heard it called "Twilight, but well written." That description doesn't even scratch the surface.

If Shiver is the story of Grace and Sam, Linger is the story of Sam and Grace. Their love is so raw, so real, so absolutely beautiful, it's easy to forget Stiefvater is writing for a young adult audience. Her prose is flawless, her pacing brilliant, and if I gushed about Chelsea Cain's ability to write raw emotion, I have no words to describe the intense feelings Linger evoked.

Linger is literary at its best.

Though captivated by Grace and Sam's Romeo and Juliet-esque romance, I was equally smitten with the sub story of Cole and Isabel. The bad boy rocker trying to escape his past; the good-girl-gone-bad teenager forcing him to remember. Their relationship is so twisted, and yet, I couldn't stop reading. With every chapter I would say, "Just one more" until there was nothing left but a lot of tears.

If you've said you'll never read another werewolf story. If you've declared war against the paranormal genre. If you've sworn off YA novels. 

Then I dare you to read Shiver. And then I challenge you to resist Linger. 

The Book In My Bag Today: Radiant Shadows, Melissa Marr

Monday, March 7, 2011

A week's worth of aMUSEment

I love vampire movies - well, vampires in general really, except the sparkly ones. But until this weekend, I'd never seen Blade.

I don't know how I felt about the movie as a whole, but I suspect when it came out, it was fairly unique. Wesley Snipes plays a convincing vampire slayer, and the girl - whose name I've already forgotten - was pretty good. There were some scenes, like the blood shower, I kind of wish I'd written, and there were some cheese-ball moments I'm glad I didn't.

But (not suprisingly, I'm sure) I absolutely loved STEPHEN DORFF as Deacon Frost.

By now it's obvious I lean towards the bad boys, and in Blade, Dorff does a fabulous job of being the handsome creep in search of world domination. Well, until he turns into that ugly blobby thing at the end.

I choose not to think of him that way, but rather as pictured above.

Nice, right?

The flu, chased by a cold, kept me bed-ridden for the weekend, and I'm home sick today with little hope of accomplishing anything more than a few e-mails. From my - *cough* - extensive research, it doesn't look like Stephen has been doing too much of anything as of late, which means he has time on his hands.

Time enough I'm sure to star in the role of this week's muse avatar.

When I finally kick this evil flu/cold I'm going to have to work extra hard to catch up - on everything. Work. Working out. Writing. Blech. Here's hoping Stephen can hold it together long enough to help me out...

The Book in My Bag Today: Linger, Maggie Stiefvater

*Note to Karen: Ok, so I finished The Night Season on your Kobo (thank you!) and was too sick to return it...so I started Linger, and now I'm kind of addicted. But I promise, you CAN have your Kobo back...<3

Friday, March 4, 2011

Now that's how it's done, dawg

I've been watching a lot of American Idol this season, primarily for Steven Tyler. Love him or hate him, there's something genuinely appealing about the Aersomith frontman. If you're shaking your head in disgust, you may be in denial. Just saying.

But it isn't the (oddly) sexy Tyler I quote tonight, but rather his seasoned counterpart, Randy Jackson. I just finished reading the highly-anticipated Chelsea Cain thriller The Night Season and oh, wow, now that's how you do it, dawg.

I first fell in love with Cain after reading Heartsick - one of the most tightly written, emotionally charged and creepy thrillers I've ever read. The story centres around Archie Sheridan, a tortured cop, Susan Ward, a reporter with lots of baggage, and Gretchen Lowell, one of the most amazing antagonists I've ever seen in print. She's beautiful, sexy, and lethal.

So much about each of these characters could have been cliche, but Cain doesn't go near "amateur" with a ten-foot pole. Not in Heartsick, not in Sweetheart, not in Evil at Heart and certainly not in The Night Season.

Cain's style is enviable I want to BE her.

I've been waiting so long for this book, I was desperate for another dose of Gretchen - I fell hard for this complex villain, so much so my husband bought the RUN GRETCHEN t-shirt from the website not long after I finished the third book, Evil at Heart. In that book, Cain demonstrates the power of the media and society's need to cling to an idol - even if that idol is a cold blooded killer. Gretchen IS a pop culture icon in the books, but also off the page.

So I approached The Night Season with caution. Gretchen's role is so minor, it's almost non-existent.

I'm almost relieved, because when I gush about Cain and The Night Season I'll know my compliments will fall in all the right places. And oh, there are many.

A flood is terrorizing Portland, dredging up old bodies - and memories of a disaster from almost a hundred years prior. To make things worse, a killer is poisoning the residents, before sending them to their death down the overflowing river. Susan and Archie know the events are tied together - but each of their lives will be in danger before resolution is found.

I know, the plot doesn't sound complex. But here's the beauty of Cain's writing - the story is made non-linear by her ability to twist the status quo into something awe-inspiring.

The geek writer in me has to break it down. (I apologize if you just want a damn review...)

1. Setting - the town is flooding; it's pouring rain; fog is drifting over the water, and the killer does most of his dirty work at night. Creepy, much?

2. Characters - damn they're good. Archie is still recovering from his Gretchen torture and is finally off the vicadin; Susan has stopped sleeping her way to the top, changes her hair to purple, and finally gets a backbone against her jerk of an editor; and, the killer is just plain awesome. Not Gretchen awesome, but close.

3. Kill method - can't tell you because I'll spoil it, but let's just say I had Wikipedia bookmarked.

4. Pacing - fast. Furious. Envy-inspiring. This is what my mentors meant when they said the book should move along fast enough to keep the reader turning pages, but not too fast so they get lost. My only complaint is that it's over too fast - and goodness knows when she'll write another book. I'm thinking about starting the series over.

5. Dialogue - oblique. Spot on. Occasionally funny, but always with purpose. Study it - I am.

6. Description - Cain uses very few words to paint a very vivid picture. The Night Season isn't as gory as her previous books, but it IS creepy, and frankly, breathtaking in its brilliance. Tight writing!

7. Emotion - a little bit harder to explain, but here goes: If I'm being honest, Heartsick wasn't perfect from a craft perspective. A lot of "rules" were broken. But, I ignored most of them, because at the end of the day, those small bends to the rulebook were made up for in spades with emotion. Cain has this nailed. Her writing makes me feel. Grief. Sympathy. Love. Fear. Obsession. Anticipation. I felt it all in The Night Season - and with everything else of hers I've read. Not an easy task, friends.

Yes, Chelsea, this IS how it's done. Thank you! I don't even know what to read next...