Poll: You Decide Who Wins The "Bee's Knees" Book Prize!

bee-bumblebee-insect-macro-large Dear Reader...you have the power to change lives!

Ummm...that is if you think choosing a winner of a book contest will change someone's life.

I have so much fun putting my newsletter together and each month I have a contest. I try to be creative. But I tell you, the people who subscribe to the newsletter are ten times more creative than me. So this time around I asked them to come up with their own explanation of the origin of the phrase "the bee's knees" (I'm writing a book set in the 1920's so that's why I chose that saying). Your job is to vote on the winner. The prize is a signed collection of The Hunchback Assignments books. The poll will close on Sept. 14th.

Ummm...I forgot to put a word length in the contest details. So I had several  entries that were too long for the poll. They are posted below, but they will be represented in the poll by the first sentence. I wish I was half as creative as these people.

So vote today. Vote often. You'll be helping someone get free books. And you're welcome to join the newsletter yourself. It's the bee's knees. Just click the "fun" button below: Click Here.

Contest closes Sept. 14th, 2015! Contact Form

[polldaddy poll=9047500]

Extra long excellent entry#1:

You might think the term “bee’s knees” originated in the 1920s but actually, it originated thousands of years ago by ancient North Americans and found out about in the 1820s. But the discovery of this original use had been recorded but in storage for many more years.

In 1822, an archaeologist by the name of Nevada Jones (no relation to Indiana) was digging in a remote part of Utah in search of artifacts from ancient Native villages.  He had a theory that North America’s first people were descendants of ancient Egyptians and their chiefs were buried in round caves constructed originally in the shape of pyramids, but winds over time eroded these North American pyramids into rounded buttes as they appear today.

Now, it is a little known fact that ancient civilizations like the Egyptians were beekeepers, and so were these ancient North Americans. In the largest and only tomb that Nevada Jones ever discovered, there were clay pots with fossils of dead flies nearby. Little flies as hard as rock.  Since honey attracts flies, Nevada deduced these to be honey pots. Being near the pots also made Nevada break out in big red spots, and since his only allergy was honey, which gave him hives, it was a safe conclusion for him to make.

Cave drawings on the walls of this ancient tomb discovered by Nevada Jones in Utah depicted strange writing and drawings. Once set of pictographs showed small people (obviously children) compared to other people in the pictograph in what appeared to be round costumes that one could think looked like pumpkins if it were not for finely etched stripes on the round costumes and little etches of insects around the small, costumed people. These costumes covered the children from neck to below the knees.  All that could be seen in the drawings extending from the round-shaped, striped costumes were a short neck and head, two short arms and short legs.

However, in one particular drawing a tall person (obviously an adult) was wearing one of these costumes and it did not fit well.  It was too small. The legs shown below the round costume showed bent legs below the costume (the knee joint).  Short people (children) drawn around this adult had their arms stretched out and their mouths open – as if they were pointing and laughing. Could it be?

Nevada Jones recorded everything he saw in the tomb. He copied out all the writing on the walls. He drew the pictographs to the best of his artistic ability. Some of Nevada’s earlier art work looked like stick men, but with this discovery, he spent time and was as precise as possible.  His artistic ability was improving.

For the next two years from 1822 to 1824 Nevada Jones spent many an hour trying to decipher the writing on the wall. Finally he made a break-through. It was simple. What he had originally thought were letters were actually numbers, and musical notes and. He diligently made new notes and when he deciphered these number and musical notes and converted them to letters, this was what he determined what was written on the wall:

“Sing about trees, Sing about bees, Sing about knees

Knees on trees, bees in trees, knees on bees”

It all made sense to Nevada now.  It was a poem, maybe a song, slightly musical. A very old song. Bee’s Knees.

In late 1824, Nevada Jones was having turkey supper on Christmas day with his sweetheart and choked on a turkey bone. Alas, she did not know the Heimlich maneuver as it was not to become common for another 150 years.  After his death, all of Nevada’s papers and notes were put in storage and passed on to one cousin then another cousin, and passed down from one generation to another until it all fell into the possession of a man named Theodor Geisel, who is better known as Dr. Seuss.  When writing his book I can read with my eyes shut in 1978 Dr. Seuss had recently read through the notes Nevada Jones had written about the writing on the wall and in this book you can read: “You can read about trees… and bees… and knees.”

And this explains how the term bees knees was used many, many, many hundreds of years ago and discovered about almost 100 years before the 1920s, but not known about because it was all boxed up until the late 1970s.

By Lane

Extra long excellent entry #2:

One night before bedtime, a little bee prays,

"Dear God, give me knees, and I'll give you praise. With knees I can pray for hours every night. And during the day, carry pollen in flight."

God hears the prayer and when little bees Wake up the next morning, all have their knees! At first they walk funny, then learn what they're for And hundreds of little bees fly out the door.

They fly over land, over acre and hectare. They fill all their knee sacks with pollen and nectar. They gather all pollen and nectar in sight, Then party hardy long into the night.

The first little bee parties hardest, it's true. And he forgets to give God what is due. God says, "Little bee, don't you remember your praise?" But the bee is passed out in a honey-filled daze.

God ponders on this, and decides all the bees are better off now, carrying pollen on knees. Except this little bee, forgetting his praise Will be kneeless for all the rest of his days.

So God takes the bee's legs and throws the knees far, So high in the sky that they strike a small star. The reason the 'bee's knees' are so great, boys and girls, Is that little bee's knees are out of this world!


Extra long excellent entry#3:

Bee’s Knees

“S... s... stop!” The girl in the cotton, paisley dress stuttered as she clutched the black leather bag to her chest.

“C’mon now. Give over kid,” cajoled the tall man as he gave the handles of the bag a tug. “I ain’t gonna hurt it none. I just wanna see inside.”

“No! It’s Duc’s stuff.” The girl wrapped her arms tighter around the bag.

Laughter broke out among the few people sitting around the stained bar counter that afternoon. A light, rose colour dusted her cheeks as she looked down at the floor for a moment. Then she lifted her chin and glared at the barkeep in his bright red patterned vest who continued to laugh.

“Ducks stuff,” he repeated with a wide grin shaking his head.

“I mean... Doc’s... stuff,” she enunciated carefully. Two painted ladies and a cigarette girl twittered at the end of the bar.

“That’s all right,” said a man as he walked into the room behind the ladies. He slicked back his graying hair and replaced his dark brown pancake hat. “I’m here now,” Doc said, walking around the curve of the bar towards the girl. “Leave her be,” Doc ordered the man in the checkered vest.

“Easy Father Time.” The man released his fingers from the bag and held up his hands. “Just razzin’ the tomato is all.”

The girl in the paisley dress was jarred back a step at the sudden release of the bag. Doc steadied her by the elbow before taking his seat on a red bar stool in front of a half-drained beer glass.

“Don’t give him no never mind,” said a moll dressed in the latest flapper fashion as she sashayed past checkered vest to stand beside Doc. “Ducky here can touch my stuff any time,” she chucked him under the chin.

“Mr. Bertrand wouldn’t like that too much,” Doc said with a lopsided grin before turning his attention back to the glass and tipping it up.

“That reminds me,” she gave Doc a playful pat, “I better get a move on. Bertie’s bringing his new jalopy by for a show.” All the men in the room watched her walk around the curve of the bar.

“Hey kiddo,” she threw over her shoulder. “When Bertie gets here, tell him I’ve gone to powder my nose.”

“Sh... sure, m... Miss Mattie.” The girl’s eyes still shone with adoration as she handed Doc back his black bag.

“Kid,” the barkeep pointed to the far end of the counter. “Don’t you have a date with a broom?” She scuffled over to where a straw broom leaned against the back storage room wall. The barroom’s back door swung open.

“B... Bertie!” The girl’s eyes lit back up as she bounced in place. “M... Miss Matie said to t... tell you sh... she’s gone to p... powder her nose.”

The dapper man in the three piece suit doffed his pancake hat and answered her smile with one of his own. “That right?”

She peered around him and gave a little squeal of delight. “Is ... is that it?”

He glanced behind him out the open back door. “Sure is.” He straightened up to his full height before he smiled down at her. “Drove it here straight off the factory lot.” He reached down and brought up the girl’s hand. Dangling a set of keys between two fingers, he dropped them in her palm and carefully closed her hand around them. He tilted his head in the car’s direction. “Go on. Bring my bag in.”

She raced out the door taking huge lunging strides.

“Don’t scratch the paint!” he yelled after her. Chuckling, he made his way along the bar nodding to the patrons. He paused long enough to make a brief bow to the three women stationed at the end of the bar. “Ladies.”

He continued on his way out the side door in search of Miss Mattie.

“Did ... did you see it Doc?” The girl asked as she wrestled a large suitcase in the back door.

“That’s the cat’s meow all right,” answered Doc before he took a long pull from his glass.

The suitcase bounced off her knees as she ganged her way along the bar to where Doc sat. There was a tinkling sound like a beer glass shattering on the floor. The man in the checkered vest made a quick bob then held aloft his prize.

The suitcase thumped to the floor. The girl charged at him reaching for the keys held in the air. “Bees needs them!” She wailed in a panicked voice.

“Bees knees!” hollered the barkeep before slapping his thigh and doubling over with laughter.

“Bees knees. Girl, don’t nobody know what you’re on about,” said one of the well-painted women in a satin dress at the end of the bar. The other woman and cigarette girl joined in her laugher.

“Bert... needs... those... keys,” enunciated the girl in the paisley dress. She crossed her arms and stamped an oversized black and white oxford shoe while favouring the man in the checkered vest with a glare.

“What’s all this about bees knees?” asked a sultry-voiced Miss Mattie coming though the side door arm and arm with Bert.

Miss Mattie paused as they walked around the corner of the bar and drew in an audible breath. “My, my, my,” she gasped looking out the back door. Slipping her arm from Bert’s, she sashayed over to the checkered vest man and held out her hand. He dropped the keys into her hand with a shrug and apologetic grin.

“Bee’s knees indeed,” Mattie breathed as she gazed out the back door. Then she smiled back at the well-dressed Bert. “Bee’s knees indeed,” she purred.

By Faye




Margaret Atwood: The Prime Minister We Really Need

Screen Shot 2015-08-22 at 4.47.39 PM The Short Story

I try to find a better choice for Prime Minister of Canada and come up with one conclusion.

The Whole Story

I'm saddened by the fact that we only have three choices for Prime Minister in this Canadian election and they're all male (I do realize I'm leaving out Elizabeth May but the Green wave is more of a conscientious trickle right now). I've thought long and hard about what we can do to get more and better choices. There's a team at work in the bunker trying to defrost Diefenbaker, but he may not be ready in time for October 19th, 2015.

So my vote is with Margaret Atwood for Prime Minister of Canada. She's the woman to get the job done right. Here's how she would handle the important issues:

The Economy: Not a problem for PM Atwood. She's part poet. And poets are profusely proficient at pinching pennies. So our 1.83 Trillion dollar economy would be more than enough for room and board for every Canadian (and in their free time they could write poems). In fact our economy, being poetry based, would grow from both the heart and the head outwards.

Foreign Policy: Are you worried about Putin messing with Ukraine? Just tell PM Atwood that Putin changed the last line in The Handmaid's Tale to "and it all ended happily ever after." Her icy glare would drive him straight back to the Kremlin. In fact she can reshape borders with that glare. Presidents fear it! Prime ministers and dictators put on sunglasses to avoid it. So all of our foreign problems would be solved with just one raising of her angry eyebrow (you may be curious about the icy glare. All authors have a patented icy glare. They develop it from attending galas where people say such things as, "Oh, you're a writer--what do you do for a real job?"). You do not want to ever push her to defcan 1.*

The Hair: Face it. This is an election about hair. She outclasses all three leaders in this important department. They fear her hair.

Healthcare: Not a problem for PM Atwood. She's a senior citizen. Seniors know healthcare. Just go to your local drug store or doctor's office and ask one. Then go and buy some Q-tips because you'll have had an earful.

Terrorism: Prime Minister Atwood would not be afraid of the terrorist threat that surrounds us so ubiquitously. According to a quick calculation on Goodreads she has personally caused three apocalypses, mercilessly offed 872 characters (not bad, but not George RR Martin numbers) and destroyed twelve marriages. What? That was all fiction! Just imagine if she could rewrite real life from the PMO's office.

The Arts & the CBC & Other Leftist Troughs: She would cut the arts. After all, with our presumptiously profuse and poetic economy pumping to perfection everyone will be buying books and watching Canadian movies and singing Canadian songs left, right and centre. Hockey players will recite poetry instead of fighting. Peter Mansbridge will don a beret and do the news "beatnik" style. And Mike Duffy will do dramatic recitations of a play called MacDuff: Everyone Look At Me and My Bank Account.

The Military: PM Atwood would become our military.

So there you have it. Margaret Atwood is the best choice for Prime Minister of Canada. It's time to write a real change!  Everyone grab their pens and vote! #Atwood4PM

*Defcan 1 is not a band that plays music on CBC. It's a state of military readiness in Canada. It means hockey stick in hand and ready to perform a full out body check. Defcon 1 (in case you're wondering) is the defense readiness condition (DEFCON) of the American military.  It means nuclear war imminent. Or in layman's terms: fire all your guns and jump in your bunker. Make sure you have some good reading material while you're there.

See My Editor Tear My Work To Shreds

The Short version:

An author tries not to cry as he reads the "suggested" changes from his editor on the first page of his manuscript.

The Details

This is a page from my soon to be released book, Flickers. It's a novel set in Hollywood during the silent movie era. I've lost track of how many drafts I've done of this book. Let's just put it at more than ten and fewer than two hundred. And yet, there are still mistakes made. Places that can be cleaned up. Prose that can be un-purpled. And that's why we have editors (this post goes hand in hand with my "My Editor Says These Two Words I Use Make Kitties Cry" post).

The Edits

Just click on the image to make it bigger. Click a second time and it will grow even bigger. Click a third time and you'll be able to see the tear stains on the page.


All the best,


Review: Clariel by Garth Nix

IMG_3819 I'm going to start by pointing out that I have a soft spot for Sabriel, the first book in Garth Nix's Old Kingdom series. Clariel, which I just finished, is a prequel to the series and I'll get right to "reviewing" the book after I explain why I have a soft spot.

Many years ago (1997) my first novel came out and I did my first reading at Bastion Books in Nanaimo, British Columbia. When I was finished, Thora, the bookstore owner, said, "I want to give you a book as a thank you." And she handed Sabriel to me (bookstore owners seem to have an ESP when it comes to choosing the right book for the right person). I fell in love with the tone, the magic, and the ability of the author to make a new and interesting fantasy world ring with truth. So that's why I have a soft spot. I, of course, I read the following two books in the series.

Flashforward to now. Clariel, the prequel, was released almost twenty years later. I wondered if Nix could return to that world and capture the same voice. I'm pleased to say that the book rings with the same believability and authenticity as the trilogy (in other words the Old Kingdom still feels real). Clariel is a strong character with stark choices to make in her life. And the story itself does not feel as if it's a retread of the other novels. In fact it's a pleasure to see the Kingdom in its more idyllic days (uh, not that everything is rosy--far from it--there are intrigues within intrigues in the palace and, on top of that, the constant threat of free magic creatures). And it's a pleasure to have Mogget, the cat who is more than a cat, come back to life again (one of my favourite characters in fantasy fiction). All in all, a tale well told.

When I was finished, I began reading Sabriel again. The two books work well together (even though the stories take place hundreds of years apart). So if you haven't read any of this series start with Clariel. Then follow the path from there... 



Shaun the Sheep is Brilliant


Brilliant! Any movie that can entertain my six-year-old (and me) for an hour and a half is perfect. On top of that, there's no intelligible dialogue--the humans mumble, the sheeps (sic) bleat, the dogs bark. The whole story is implied by facial expressions, set-up, and excellent visual story telling. As someone who has been watching silent films as research for my latest novel, this is in many ways an ode to that style of film making. The only words you'll hear are in the excellent soundtrack. So...two hooves up for this one.

Claymation = awesomeness.

Five Reasons To Go On A Writing Retreat

St. Peters The short of it: A cookie stuffed author explains why going on a writing retreat is so very helpful to writing.

The long of it:

Recently, I went on a four-day retreat to St. Peter's Abbey. There were eight other writers participating in this escape from the world (or should I say escape into other worlds?). The abbey is in the middle of the prairie in Saskatchewan (which is in the middlish part of Canada). And there are cookies. Did I mention the cookies? It may seem odd that a full-time writer needs to get away, but sometimes it's necessary. Here are the five reasons why it's important to go on a retreat.

1. Clear Your Cluttered Mind The human brain collects tweets, Facebook posts, and Hollywood star "facts"  like lint. Sometimes you need to shake all of that lint off. Going to a different place allows you to concentrate on That Which Should Be Really Important Right Now: your writing. 2. To Have Someone Else Look After You Napoleon used to say, "an army marches on its stomach." But the truth is writers also write on their stomachs. In other words: we need to eat in order to write. And a retreat centre is there to feed your body. For example: at St. Peter's Abbey the meals are served at 8AM, 12PM & 5:30 PM. You walk down to the dining room, fill your plate, eat & return to your room to write or read more. My only worry was whether or not I might trip on the stairs in my hurry to get to the dining room. Of course, I highly recommend having scintillating talk with your fellow attendees during meal time. It's like dessert for the brain. 3. Get Away From Everything & Everyone Children are lovely. They make noise. Wives and husbands are lovely. They make lists. Lists get in the way of writing. By the time you've cut the lawn and cleaned the bunions you may not have energy to write. At a retreat no one asks you to cut the lawn (unless you're at a lawnmower's retreat). Your brain and your time become your own. 4. Get Something Done The great gift of a retreat is that there are giant big blocks of time to devote to your writing. Time to think slowly. Time to dive right into that project with your brain firing on all six cylinders. One of the advantages of being with a group of writers is it felt as if I had joined a hive of creativity. A quiet one, since there wasn't any noise in the halls other than the occasional tick tick tap of computer keyboards. But I knew they were working. So I wanted to do the same. 5. Get Something Done Did I mention this twice? Yes, it's that important. And getting something "done" doesn't necessarily mean writing 20,000 words in three days. It's more about getting all those proverbial ducks in a row so that when real life comes knocking you are ready to concentrate. I went with two goals in mind: an outline for a project and a head start on a rewrite of a fantasy novel. That uninterrupted time meant that I could figure out that the outline was going nowhere, so I just dove into starting the novel and then took the time to think clearly about my goals for the fantasy novel. The energy I gained from the retreat is carrying me deeper into these projects now that I'm back in real life.

Oh, and did I mention the cookies?