Jim’s Course: The Process

blogThe question that I am most frequently asked by readers is, “How long did it take you to write Jim’s Course?” Here’s the answer.

I began writing Jim’s Course in a creative-writing course with Andrea MacPherson while I was working on my BA at the University of the Fraser Valley. During the semester, the task was to complete the first four chapters of a novel. Andrea urged all of us to write what we knew and to write something we would want to read ourselves. I had been working in a warehouse for a few years, so I had my setting. I was also reading a lot of Tom Perrotta novels, which dealt with young men struggling with female companionship (something I could relate to) so I had one of my themes. Over the next semester, I hammered out part one of Jim’s Course and had it edited and critiqued by Andrea and several peers in class.

At some point in the semester, I had the idea to finish the novel in the following semester through an independent study with Andrea. She agreed, so I drafted a proposal and submitted it to the department head for approval. There was a minor concern that it would be denied on that basis that creative writing wasn’t academic enough, but thankfully that wasn’t the case. The independent study received the thumbs up from the top brass and I was my way to completing my first novel.

A number of students in the creative-writing course heard about my independent study and asked if they could join. When all was said and done, we had a small group of five students (all with very different novels) under Andrea’s mentor-ship. The structure was fairly simple: we would each write a chapter per week and provide feedback to each student’s chapter in turn. Based on the number of weeks in the semester, and that I had completed four chapters already, I planned to make Jim’s Course a four-part, 16-chapter novel. Before the semester got started, I drafted a synopsis for chapter five through 16. I don’t remember how much time I spent drafting the storyline, but I do remember being thankful that I did.

So, in the first semester I completed part one, in the second semester (the independent study) I somehow cranked out parts two, three, and four, and in the end I had the first draft of Jim’s Course – edited and critiqued by Andrea and five of my peers.

I made the appropriate changes and gave the second draft to two friends for further feedback. After their feedback and another redraft, I began trying to get it published. I sent it to every publishing agent and publishing house in western Canada and received mixed feedback. One agent told me that things were too obvious in my writing – another told me that my writing wasn’t clear enough. The big challenge, of course, was that I was an unknown writer. I spent over a year shopping it around and eventually ran out of potential buyers.

A few years later, I met Dave Burdett, author of The Map, A Logan Nash Adventure. Dave self-published his novel, which was an option I hadn’t considered. But Dave seemed to be selling his novel, and claimed self-publishing was fine as long as a person doesn’t mind putting in his or her own money and a lot of hard work. I bought a copy of his novel from Chapters, read it in a couple of days, and felt confident I could do the same with Jim’s Course. That was four years ago.

Two factors prevented me from self-publishing sooner: money and time. Self-publishing isn’t cheap, but the real challenge was waiting for a point in my life where I felt stable enough to financially invest in something personal. I actually had the money saved in the fall of 2013, but a sudden lay-off at work forced me to tap into that nest-egg. A year later, in the fall of 2014, I called Friesen Press, and put the wheels in motion to get Jim’s Course published. Prior to submitting it, I went through it again (the first time in years) to give it some touch ups. With Friesen Press, it went through an additional three editing sessions.

Writing time for the first draft: call it five months.

Redrafting and redrafting: call it a week per redraft, not including the waiting time for people to read it and the years it sat dormant on my computer.

Friesen Press: six to seven months.

Lessons learned: be careful who you ask to read it. Some people are passionate readers, but shitty editors.



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Jim’s Course. Warning: Adults Only.

Being born and raised in Abbotsford, British Columbia, and attending school with the notorious Bacon brothers, I felt compelled to create a novel set in a small town that was impacted by a growing crime rate.

Jim’s Course, a work of fiction, is centred around a protagonist with more human qualities than most traditional main characters. Jim is no hero, he’s no genius, and his self reflection throughout the story is flawed at best. Using a small, gang stricken town, similar to the Abbotsford I remember, as the setting allowed me to explore themes that confused me as a teen and young man, and still confuse me today. The pace at which crime can grow, and rise from background to centre-stage is something I will never understand. Jim is faced with the same confusion, along with personal problems in his own life.

Jim has opted for a mundane life in a union warehouse and given up on a post secondary education. When he discovers a dead body one morning, his life is sent into a downward spiral of paranoia, anxiety, and self doubt.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Jim is his trend of acting first and justifying his actions later. This book examines a man who is very human, in that he doesn’t think about every decision he makes, but reacts to a situation, often irrationally, and comes up with reasons why he was correct in doing so after the fact.

If you’re interested in novel with elements of suspense, psychology, and dark comedy, be sure to check out Jim’s Course.


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Spinnakers Northwest Ale: A Copper Knockout

If you’re in the mood for an extremely balanced ale, something with lots of hops, and a solid malt body, then it’s time to try Spinnakers Northwest Ale.
It’s brewed similar to other ales from the Cascade region, with plenty of hops. This little gem sits at 85 IBU’s, so at first glance, some beer drinkers might suspect it’s only purpose is to annihilate your taste buds. Thankfully Spinnakers has balanced this ale with a fair amount of malts.
It’s a beautiful copper colour, with a citrus hoppy aroma. The first taste, and even the first swallow are primarily dominated by its hop flavour, but the finish is more subtle. This ale goes down surprisingly smooth considering its high IBU rating, so those additional malts prove to be a fine addition.
Some ales boast a complex flavour, but Northwest Ale definitely has a balanced one. It pairs nicely with most BBQ chicken or pork dishes, and works like magic with anything that has a bit of spice or kick to it.  Curry, southern BBQ, or even Mexican foods would all be decent contenders.

It’s available on tap, in cans, and in the big 650 mL bottles.  So, if you’re craving something hoppy, but balanced, an ale that stands out from the hoppy herd, pour a pint of Spinnakers Northwest Ale.

Photo by Brianne Adams

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Driftwood Brewery’s Fat Tug IPA: A Shwack o’ Hops

Water, malt, yeast, and a shwack o’ hops make up this IPA drinker’s dream.  It’s Fat Tug IPA, from Driftwood Brewery.

For a number of reasons, Fat Tug is one of the top IPA’s currently available on the west coast.  It’s a northwest style India Pale Ale, with beautiful colour, great head, and best of all, a barge load of hops.

According to Driftwood Brewery’s website, Fat Tug has an, “intense hop profile.”  It’s definitely an ale for the IPA lover, and it’s already popular amongst craft beer drinkers.  The hop flavour is almost constant while drinking Fat Tug.  Other IPA’s may be sweeter or have a cleaner finish, but Fat Tug is rich, crisp, and leaves a wonderful hoppy flavour on your palate after every swallow.

The off white head resting on the amber orange medium bodied ale gives it an intriguing appearance.   And when the floral, citrus, hoppy aroma get within smelling range, it will be a challenge to put down this 80 IBU bad boy.  Perhaps the best thing about Fat Tug is its price.  More and more craft beers, in a 650 ml bottle, are creeping past $7.00 a bottle, and even cracking $10.00.  Fat Tug is an out of sight IPA, and it’s only $5.50 a bottle in government liquor stores.

This IPA is wonderful with a spicy dish, or any pungent cheese.  It has a 7% alcohol content, and it’s available in private and government liquor stores, as well as on tap at select pubs and restaurants.

So if you’re craving something hoppy, pick up a bottle, or ask for a pint of Driftwood Brewery Fat Tug IPA.
photography by Brianne Adams

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Ruby Da Dawg: An Ale Worth Drooling Over

For fans of ales like Innis and Gunn, and Old Speckled Hen, here’s Ruby Da Dawg, from Red Truck Beer.

Named after Ruby, “da brewmasta” Sam Payne’s dog, this is a strong and very delicious ale.  And with an alcohol content of 6.9 %, and a distinct flavour, this is certainly the sort of ale that can sneak up on you.

Red Truck calls Ruby Da Dawg an, “English Strong Ale, or English Old Ale.”  Like other English ales, it boasts a bit more alcohol than standard beer, a malt flavouring, with just enough hops to balance it out.  It’s a dark amber colour, with aromas of caramel, vanilla, butterscotch, and bourbon.  The flavour is mostly of a caramel malt, and on the finish you’ll taste a bit of booze.

Ruby Da Dawg was aged in French oak barrels for three weeks, so it has an oak flavour not often found in beer.  Again, if you like Innis and Gunn, another barrel aged beer, you’ll easily love this.  Between the aroma, flavour, and finish, it’s a more complex beer, and it usually requires a few pints to properly analyze.

There are loads of pairings with this beer, like Chinese style pork, or Southern BBQ pork, so take a look at the Red Truck Beer website, to get some ideas.  The Red Truck website also has a map of all the establishments serving their products.

So if you’re in the mood for something a tad stronger, and definitely delicious, try to tackle a couple of pints of Red Truck Beer’s Ruby Da Dawg.

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Get Buzzed, with Killer Bee Dark Honey Ale

If you’re looking for a full flavoured craft beer to accompany you to your next campfire, or sit with you on a warm summer night, then pick up a bottle of Tin Whistle Brewing Company’s Killer Bee Dark Honey Ale.  Here’s an ale that might be difficult to track down, but well worth the hunt.

It’s dark brown in colour, and definitely loaded with flavour.  This surprisingly smooth ale contains four specialty honeys and just a bit of spice; it’s more on the malty side, but well-balanced with hops.  The aroma, like the flavour, is malt forward with a hoppy accent to back things up.  Overall, it’s an ale that stands out in today’s craft beer world.

And while many breweries are putting out excellent IPA’s, strong Belgian style ales, and even some barrel aged ales, it’s refreshing to find a micro brewery doing something slightly different.  This is a traditional English ale, great for a summer or fall evening.  The full flavour and low carbonation make it a nice partner with dark meats, heavier meals, or simply on its own. Some people can’t get enough of this ale, and others recommend slowly savouring a bottle over the course of an hour.

So pick up a 650 mL bottle of this gem of an ale, put your feet up by the campfire, and enjoy Tin Whistle Brewing Company’s Killer Bee Dark Honey Ale.

Photo by Brianne Adams.

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Small Brewery, Big Flavour: Three Reasons to Check Out Cannery Brewing Company

Naramata Nut Brown Ale

For ale drinkers who fancy something smooth, and a tad on the dark side, look no further than Cannery Brewing Company’s Naramata Nut Brown Ale.

Nut brown ales are something not widely available in liquor stores, but like any style of beer, there’s always a dedicated audience for it.  Cannery describes Naramata Nut Brown as a, “velvety soft ale.” What you’ll experience are layers of malts, followed by a smooth finish and a bit of a hoppy bitter flavour left in your mouth, when all is said and done.  The rich malts are a key aspect of this ale, so if you lean towards something maltier, keep your eyes peeled for Naramata Nut Brown Ale, available in 650 ml bottles, and 6 x 355 ml cans.

Squire Scotch Ale

Like nut brown ales, scotch ales are a beer that can be hard to come by.  Again, there’s always a crowd looking for a solid scotch ale, and Cannery Brewing Company has managed to put out a distinct product, with their Squire Scotch Ale.

Squire Scotch Ale hits two birds with one stone: it’s  an ale that scotch drinkers will appreciate, and it’s an ale that craft beer drinkers will appreciate.  Some scotch ales go for a heavy peaty flavour, which would be recognised by a scotch drinker, but not always enjoyed by a craft beer drinker.  So rather than loading up on the peated malts, Cannery has gone for an alternative classic scotch trait, by making their scotch ale smoky.  The hops are gentle, and there’s a bit of sweet flavour to it as well.  It’s smooth, with only hints of peat, and a smoky finish.  So do as Cannery Brewing Company suggests:  get your plaid on!

Blackberry Porter

Amazing, simply amazing.  The best weapon in Cannery’s artillery is easily their blackberry porter.  Other breweries may boast about their IPA, or pale ale, or stout, but how many can boast about an award-winning blackberry porter?

This is the essence of craft beer.  Five varieties of malts, three kinds of hops, and natural, pure blackberry make up this dynamic porter.  It’s the rare sort of craft beer that pretty much any craft beer drinker would appreciate and savour.  Just before it reaches your lips the blackberry aroma hits your nostrils.  The flavour is of a classic porter with hints of blackberry.  This isn’t a fruit beer by any means.  The blackberry has been added to produce a perfectly balanced, and truly unique porter.  It will surprise lager drinkers, ale lovers, and fans of any dark beer.  Cannery describes it as, “an easy sipping wonder,” and that pretty much sums it up.  With craft beer on the rise throughout North America, and competition growing, this porter is a gem.

Available in 650 ml bottles, Cannery Brewing Company’s Blackberry Porter should be catapulted to the top of any craft beer drinker’s list.  Grab a bottle, a cold glass, sit back, get comfy, and let the sippin’ begin.

More info at: http://www.cannerybrewing.com/index.htm

Photos by Brianne Adams

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