Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Light

Whether you're celebrating Jewish Festival of Lights, Hanukkah; the return of the Sun, Winter Solstice; of the birth of the Son and the Star that heralded His arrival, Christmas -

May all that you consider holy, bless you with Light and warmth throughout the dark, winter nights

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Ebooks

As you know, I don't have an e-reader.  I've looked at three which are owned by different friends.  None of them thrilled me (the readers, not the friends).I think it might be the e-ink.  I've come to expect a certain level of brightness from handheld devices. I installed a pdf reader on my phone but the screen was too small to accommodate my need for larger font.  I spent several hours at the airport scanning the pages back and forth while I tried to read an e-book.

In the end, I've resorted to reading on my laptop.  Not ideal but it has a tad more flexibility than the desktop computer. My laptop is six years old and weighs as much as a small child.  It's not exactly conducive to a quiet read in bed before sleep.

If it's all that much hassle, why bother with e-books, then? Because both Bob Mayer and Christine Merrill have books available in that format only. As their books are well crafted, exciting page-turners I refuse to let technology keep me from my entertainment.

The links take you to two books that have kept me in front of my computer screen, jonesing at work and suffering eyestrain in the airport because they were compelling reads.  Isn't that what all readers want, regardless of format?

Happy reading!

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Actively listen

A couple of weeks ago, I posted a challenge on Facebook to all of my friends. Spend the day listening to someone with a differing opinion from your own. Sit quietly and actively listen to what they have to say.  Get a solid idea of their position and reasoning.

As long as we focus on our differences, from petty to significant, we'll never find a way to resolve our issues.  That includes personal and global.

I see so many people arguing or ignoring another opinion or suggestion simply because of the person who is speaking. They're missing out on some valid arguments that way.

I received more feedback about my experiment in real time than I did online. My DB and DN had an amazing conversation without its usual loud sighing or verbal blasts of incomprehension.  It was healthy and respectful.  Other people told me they had engaged in similar conversations, read newspapers with a different political slant than their own or observed a religious practice with which they were unfamiliar or a culture that made them uncomfortable. Someone even suggested we try to make it an International Day of Observing How the Other Side Lives but the title was too unwieldy.

I'm throwing that challenge out to the blogosphere. Spend the next few days listening to what people say. Throw aside your prejudices and preconceived notions.  Ignore your expectations.

Listen.

You don't know what you will hear but it might change the world if we all do it.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Farm Memories

I had a brilliant post written in my head for today but with all of the computer issues I've had, I decided to share this photograph with you instead.  It's the view my great-grandmother would have seen every single day of her early life.  Those aren't the same sheep but the tree to the right is far older than she would be if Granny was still alive. 

Many thanks to Theresa for taking me there a few weeks ago

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Love

I've been thinking a lot about love lately. We have a tendency to quantify and qualify our love. We rate it. We love our kids more than our spouses who we love more than our parents who we love more than our pets.We'd die for them in one order or another dependent on how we value their status in our lives. 

Love is love.  It grows, expands, fills holes, heals wounds and enriches our lives.  Who are we to say how one should value those we love? Why do we evaluate it? I might save the dog and kid before the spouse but only because I have an expectation that the adults can save themselves.  I don't love my niece more than my nephew because she's a girl or consider Stashaholic* a better friend than McB* because I've known her longer. I love all four of them. No qualifications or comparisons necessary.

Do we love based on gender, religion, politics?  I love my friends whose politics who send me recoiling in fear.  I love my friends whose religious beliefs demand they convert/kill/ostracize me for my different beliefs.  I love the dog who turns himself inside out with joy whenever I enter the room. I love the cat who draws blood when he skitters away in fear. Mutual affection clearly doesn't influence my ability to love another being. 

I continue to love my grandparents and great-grandparents long after their deaths.  I continue to love friends and lovers who are no longer part of my life. Their love and mine for them continues to fill my heart regardless of their presence. 

Love is eternal, not constricted by physical limitations, convention or even the act of living.

Love is everywhere.

Plants and animals grow and thrive in healthy, loving environments. The same is true for humans. But love survives and grows in environments where conditions are less than ideal.  How many abused children grow into loving parents?  More than convention would suggest.  Time and again I've watched abused animals respond to patience and love.  It exists inside them all.  The only lesson required is how to express it.

Hate and fear are no excuse for responding in kind.  I used to tell my nephew a story about defeating monsters with a kiss.  It was a nice little fairy tale to deflate the monster beneath the bed. Then Monsters, Inc came out and suddenly I was a genius.

A recent episode of MI5 featured an asset turning the terrorist away from his "destiny" by focusing on the love in his life, in his culture, rather than the hate he'd been fed.

Both examples are of fiction but they were timely reminders for me. The world is not black and white, love and hate, good versus evil. There are many shades of all in each of us. It's the choices we make to honour one over the other that make us. 

I choose love - in all of its many forms.

*To prove my point about qualifying, I feel the need to mention that I picked those two because they both have their aliases out on the Internet not because they come to mind faster than any of my other friends :)

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Thinking

Join me on this delightfully weathered bench while I sit and contemplate life in Nea's birthplace.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Nothing beats onsite research

A time or two in the past, I may have mentioned the importance of walking the terrain.  Characters come alive when you can visualize them in the exact setting.  Your ability to describe that setting is greatly enhanced by actually walking that ground, inhaling the scents, feeling the breeze, listening to the ambient sound.

As you know, I've been busy for some time with my schooling, Casey's therapy and the book about that.  Hell to Pay was put aside. I'll be digging it back out very soon so that I can polish it up and send it out.

Yesterday I went for a walk along the Hermitage in Dunkeld, Scotland. Yep. Scotland.  Bracken and Nea are both from there.  I've been drawn to that area for many years and a friend's photo of the terrain surrounding The Hermitage inspired a major turning point in Alex and Nea's relationship.

As soon I put foot on the trail, I was back inside that story. I could picture Bracken peering at me from behind the rocks.  At one point, I felt hundreds of eyes staring at us.  The gentle shush shush of our boots through the fallen leaves seemed to whisper thank you at one point.  The roar of the falls gave way to the splash of water drops upon the trees.

Our journey through the woods yielded many bits of information I would never have gathered without using my own senses.  The bracken and birch didn't grow side by side as often as my research had suggested.  The paths and viewing benches may have been man-made but the forest had painted them with all the colours in nature's pallet.  Moss danced across the forest floor, over the rocks and up the trees.  The air was fresh,  bracing in its purity.

And through it all the story played out in my head.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween

I always wanted a baby elephant...



this was the best Ky the long-suffering dog could do about that.  He was just a baby at the time

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Mystery pic

Oops.  I was busy making memories with my darling niece this weekend and forgot all about the time.

Can you guess what this is a  picture of?















It's a glass construction block. You could build an entryway, counter or patio with them.  My nephew was selling some for us on kijiji and needed a good picture. Then I started playing with them to make some interesting effects. We didn't sell a single one but I had fun.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Chilean miners disprove Lord of the Flies Theory

A great deal of fiction (The Stand, Lord of the Flies, The Experiment, Survivor) purport that in the face of catastrophy or bare bones survival, man will turn on himself until only one remains.

I think the 33 men stuck in the Chilean mine for 69 days proved that all wrong. Not only did they work together to ensure the group's survival but they surpassed their individual abilities to emerge triumphant in spirit as well as body.  Apparently, they've hired an accountant to create a fund in which to place the profits from the telling of their experiences so that each man, from the quietest to the most exuberant, will share the wealth.

Take that William Golding.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Attraction

A few posts ago I mentioned watercolours and Miz Elen said they were one of her favourite art expressions.  Go look at her header then come back and compare it to this splash I created twenty years ago. 


They're not exactly the twins I thought they were but it's hardly a surprise we're drawn to similar looks.  Just as Stashaholic mentioned she was researching e-Readers at the same time as I wrote a blog about them, these coincidences can only mean one thing. We are attracted to people through common interests. Admittedly, I didn't know Elen liked Motown and watercolours when we first began our interaction but as the friendship has developed we've introduced each other to new things (Mad Men) as well as sharing others (MI5). The more you get to know someone, the more you learn you have in common. 

I'm going to try applying that homily to random strangers who pique my interest.  I wonder if instant attraction can be attributed to a deeper understanding of individuals that is intuited on a cellular level...


Sunday, October 03, 2010

Spinning

Sitting down behind the wheel can be very therapeutic and meditative. It can also be frustrating as hell when you fight the fibre. That's easy enough to do when the brain cells are spinning faster than the wheel.  Still, there's something about the shape and wood together that always makes me smile.





I came across these three lovelies at the Pioneer festivities yesterday.  They were tucked into the corner, almost an afterthought while hand-painted glasses and dried flowers had bigger displays. That's okay.  Spinning isn't for everyone.

For those who do enjoy working with fibre and yarn, I'm happy to say The Fibre Garden celebrated their first anniversary.  Stashaholic and I are doing our best to keep them in business for many years to come.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

E-books

At the beginning of August, the publishing world was a-Twitter over the news that a major publisher had dropped mass market publishing in favour of e-books.  Apparently ebooks account for 12% of their sales and that number is expected to increase dramatically.

Let's just see if I, a financial imbecile, understand this correctly.  They threw away 88% of their market in order to increase 12%???  Is there a good reason they couldn't do both?  How much does it cost to produce an e-book?  Why does it cost almost the same to purchase an e-book as it does to buy a paperback?

Then there are the e-book readers. One of my friends loves her Kindle.  The convenience of several books contained within the lightweight and portable mechanism is important to her.  Most of her traveling is done with a backpack.

Another friend likes her Kindle well enough.  She was one of the people who had a book deleted from her device when Amazon chose to no longer do business with an author.  While it's true that no one who buys an ebook actually purchases the book, just the right to read it, that practice alone makes me think long and hard about e-readers.  Digital rights are not the same as print rights. Borders and Chapters don't come into my home and remove books off my shelf when the author is de-listed.  Without my personal information, they don't recommend other books to me either.  I don't want my reading habits to be scrutinized by anyone other than myself.

The e-book readers themselves are confusing. They all seem to follow different rules so if you buy an e-book from one place, you might not be able to view it unless you have a specific device. It's like iTunes. It took me awhile to be able to play music I purchased there anywhere other than my laptop. I have since figured out the conversions but why did I have to?

Don't get me wrong. I have several .pdf files of books from authors I like who publish in that format. It seems to be a very creative branch of publishing with a lot of editors willing to take a chance on new authors.  I would likely try more new writers that way if I could read them more comfortably.

For now, I'm going to stick with my trusty paperbacks.  I like the rustle of the pages being turned, the slight scent of pulp and the heft of the spine.  Just to prove I'm not a complete dinosaur, once I find the app for my Blackberry, I'll download it so I can read e-books on that format.  It doesn't require a major expenditure on top of the book's purchase price.

Until such time as it becomes more convenient, comfortable and a loss less expensive to convert, I'll remain one of the 88% still reading mass market.  What about you?  Convince me.

****There is some great information in the comments. Some helpful stuff.

I was able to view my pdf files in my browser window on my phone. That's great for her but won't do me much good on the plane when I need to turn it off so I'll likely take a trusty paperback.

Our library ebook software only supports three readers so that didn't seem like a good source for me to pursue.

My other concern is my propensity to spill things.  Paper can be blotted. Electronics get fried.

I really don't understand the price of ebooks.  Why aren't they significantly less expensive?

I'm not in one camp or another. I think there's clearly a market, and place, for both.  But to bail on 88% of your customers makes no sense to me at all.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Creativity

I always wanted to be a dancer.  My mom used to load the stereo with 5 soundtrack LPs and we'd dance around the house while we cleaned. It was productive if not exactly efficient. I can remember re-enacting the Sharks vs Jets from West Side Story all by myself with hay bales standing in for the concrete jungle.  Alas, my ankles weren't built for that kind of movement.

I went to art school for three years. Our focus was oil painting but I loved the soft flowing lines of watercolours. A couple of my pencil sketches won first prize at the local art show but there are days when I can't even draw a stick figure. It's a fickle medium for me.  How does the talent disappear suddenly one day only to reappear several years later?  I couldn't count on it to make a living.

So I turned to photography. Cinematography actually. I aced all of the photography courses but somehow still got shuffled into "female" production roles. I'm a good organizer and wasn't afraid to keep everyone in line and on deadline. Every once in a while I'd manage to sneak in a few shoots operating the camera but less often than I would have preferred.

I wrote all the time. I may possibly have been born with a pencil in my hand. I wrote stories about my paintings, narrative for the films and built worlds around photographs. I wrote short stories, plays and eventually novels.One day I decided to focus more on the words than the pictures.

There's been an internal shift the last couple of years. I've continued to write ( notes and scenes on the sweater book still pepper my desk) but it's lost a lot of its joy. I've lost my joy.  Stuff has happened and I'm not shaking it off the way I used to do when I was lo so much younger.  Nothing earth shattering ,just a mild erosion that I only started to notice when my toes were dangling off the edge of the cliff.

I'm taking a few steps back. Allowing my creativity to flow in other forms. I still think like a writer. I still take notes and make observations. Narrative runs through my head constantly. I'm just not wrestling any of it into a defined format. 

I'm allowed to do this. I don't have a contract. I don't have a deadline.  The only goal I have write now is to breathe - slowly, surely and repeatedly.  Once I'm centered and secure, I'll give all that creativity a form and let it loose again on the world.

In the meantime, you might be stuck with random thoughts, a few photos and who knows, perhaps even a sketch or two.  Enjoy

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Social Networks

Yesterday a friend of mine asked me to explain Twitter to her. I failed miserably.  So many of my writer friends use it, not only to promote their books but, also to keep up with the latest publishing trends. I've tried following along but get hopelessly lost. Nor have I mastered the art of commenting on a link I post.

Add in the fact that I haven't got much to promote, and nothing different or unique to say abou the latest publishing trend, I remain silent.

Facebook, on the other hand, is my network of choice. I know my audience, it's personal, and I can share photos. I can follow not only my comments but those that come after mine.  I'm always aware of the multitude of relationships and keep my privacy settings to friends only.  Still, nothing gets said there that I wouldn't want the rest of the world to know about.

So many dear friendships have grown through the use of the comment window on blogs that I will always have a deep fondness for that medium.  I've learned a great deal about writing, perseverance, and life through the blogs I follow.  Some of them have truly surprised me.

What's your preferred method of communication and why?

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Connect the dots

August was a very social month for me.  It started with a wonderful group of online friends who came to visit for an extended weekend. I never thought I could fit ten people in my living room but we did it. Yoda was a fairly quiet bird during that time. I think he was soaking up all the conversation because once the company left he chattered for days. 

One of the recurring conversations we had that weekend was about storytelling versus craft. While not all of my friends are writers, they are all big readers who know what they like and why.   There are some big name highly successful writers out there who are a lacking in the craft department but can tell a tale like nobody's business. We are all willing to forgive many flaws if we're entertained.

Last weekend I was visiting Miz Elen and had a similar conversation.  We're both of the opinion that good writing only improves good storytelling.  She introduced me to season one of Mad Men.  It's sharp, witty, has great dialogue and is a tad less paranoid than my beloved MI5.

Stashaholic came for a visit on the last day of the month. Because we started our viewing with MI5 we expected a character on Mad Men to resolve a conflict with a gun.  Not the most relaxing way to wait out a tropical storm.  We switched to a  WKRP in Cincinnati marathon.  There were moments of sheer hysteria. I couldn't catch my breath from laughing so hard. Perhaps it's the fact that Stash and I met at broadcasting college or the fact that we knew a few Herb Tarleks and Les Nessmans or maybe the writing is that good but we laughed til our sides hurt. It was a touch disturbing when Yoda laughed through the Turkey Drop episode.

What those televisions shows had in common with wonderful visits with good friends was stimulating dialogue. On all three weekends I had the opportunity to take part in conversations that ranged from how to save the world ( mandatory naps) to the price of yarn in Jordan (who cares! it's gorgeous, take two) and all points in between.  It's interesting to see how a variety of disparate political views can be heard and respected when there's affection between all the parties.  I lay in bed one morning after an interesting evening discussing the state of the world with Elen.  My mind alternated between how to resolve the holy wars and designing a shawl.  Somehow I don't think knitting prayer shawls for the religious leaders would do it yet it's fascinating how our minds connect the dots sometimes.

As a writer we do that all the time - take random events and connect them.  It's a big rule - if it shows up in one part of the work, it better show up somewhere else. I think that blows the punchline sometimes.  The world is random and full of coincidence. Life does not always make sense.  I suspect that's the appeal of MI5 for me.  Characters die, disappear or are fired as would happen in real life.  While most fiction is an escape, and I want such over-the-top silliness as WKRP provides, there needs to be an element of realism.  I recognize those characters.  Every radio station has a Dr. Johnny Fever, and Andy Travis and a Mr. Carlson.  The world of advertising is creative and cut-throat. You never know when the Intelligence Services have done their jobs and kept the public safe.  Good storytelling breaks a few rules.

The only rule when it comes to great conversations is to listen to each other and see where that takes you.  If you're blessed with friends like mine, they will make you laugh, tilt your head in confusion and most of all consider another angle entirely. Prayer shawls for everyone.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Muse

If you're "waiting on the Muse to strike" you're not going to get much writing done. Inspiration happens in a flash then it's all hard work from there.

You sit your butt in the chair and write a little bit every day. The words accumulate, the story appears and the editing makes it all pretty.  A Greek Goddess does not swoop down into your office and using a peacock feather hand write your novel in lovely flowing script.  The best you can hope for is that she will whisper in your ear as she occasionally breezes through your life.

While I've never had writer's block (thank the Goddess) I have experienced burnout.  Too many things going on, too many deadlines and not enough real life experiences that are vital to a rich writing life.  I've taken a break or two, once a project is completed, to recharge.  The longer I take to get back to the desk, the longer it takes to want to go back to a desk. I've learned to take a notebook and pencil out into the garden, carry one in my purse and utilize the voice recorder feature on my cell phone for those times when I'm driving and inspiration strikes. 

There are other times when Real Life is so demanding that the writing suffers.  It is physically impossible to make a day any longer than 24 hours.  Choices must be made, and as writing doesn't currently pay my bills, it's going to have to take the infrequent back seat. 

When that happens, I feel guilty as hell. Like I'm playing hooky from grade school, or smoking out back with the other 12 year olds.  It's a knee jerk reaction that has to stop.  Those breaks from writing are necessary.  I need to renew my enthusiasm or gather more information, or address other concerns in my life.

I'll get back to the desk. Sooner rather than later because I've built up a good backlog of story ideas, filled several files with research, and created a strong writing routine that is dependent upon discipline, deadlines and chocolate.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Bingo

I have so many thoughts juggling in my head right now it's like living inside the bingo machine on Thursday afternoons at the Senior Center. 

I'm dreaming about the assignment that's due tomorrow for the adult collection course for the library certificate. Once that's done, I have to make a reading map for the other course.

The pond has a critical leak and needs to be taken apart and repaired.

Bathroom plumbing needs to be addressed. It's something that can be done casually and over a beer but still it's run on too long.


It's mid-August and Christmas presents need to be started.

Most of the feedback is waiting for me to implement it in Heal, Casey.  There's a small window between these courses and the next in which I can finish that up and get it out. It's not going to get published from my desk.

Was it only last week that I was sitting beneath Nea's tree beside the falls and showing off Alex's haunts to some good friends?  That was a fantastic day and really helped bring Hell to Pay back to the forefront of my mind. I tossed the revisions in a drawer months ago and never looked back.

How does that happen?  See the above list. That's not the half of what needs to be done.  How do some people do it all? I need to clone myself or find a second job so I can hire out the household stuff.

In the meantime, I'll do what I can, make notes of the random thoughts that might make good stories down the road and get back to it.

Just so you know it's not all drudgery and stress, this is one of the bingo balls.  Sorry for borrowing your Richard, Miss Merry but MI5 is one of my latest obsessions.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Time Travel

I was too exhausted yesterday from all of my time traveling to put up a post when I got home last night.

It started within ten minutes of waking up when my nephew called and asked for a ride home from the campground 40 minutes from my house. I finished my breakfast, grabbed a towel, and headed out. First I drove through the little community that took me back six years when my friend and I would walk through Bubblegum Alley (so named after the colourfully decorated shops) and then down to the beach where we observed Mars one dark star-laden night.

Just a tad further down the road and it was more than 20 years ago where my boyfriend used to ride the wooden roller coaster that shot out over the lake. We'd go listen to bands in the crystal palace and I cried when they tore it down

I barely recovered from that trip when I went back two years earlier when my friend and I, with barely two nickels to rub together between us, would pile in the car and drive to the beach.  Singing our lungs out to Bela Lugosi's Dead, (not exactly easy to do), Strange Animall and Somebody . I dove into the Quarry and lost my $300 prescription sunglasses on the second day of owning them.  No matter how often we went back, or how deep the guys dove, no one ever found them but somewhere I still have a great sketch of a red fish wearing pink glasses.

I picked the nephew up and asked him if he'd found my sunglasses all of these years later. The story only amuses him because it didn't happen to him.  From there we drove twenty minutes towards the river and memories that are only 15 years old.

My apartment was so hot in the summer that I'd pack up a lunch,some water, fruit, the dog and my manuscript. We'd park ourselves along the river for the day. I'd attach the dog's chain to the cable that stuck out of the concrete slab at the water's edge. She'd bite the waves while I wrote. Sadly, both the dog and manuscript are long gone.

No more time traveling until after I dropped off the nephew and headed to my friend's further down the river.  Despite the fact that I drive by the house repeatedly throughout the year, as I came up to my great-grandfather's house, I turned into a seven year old child - playing tiddlywinks on the dining room carpet and sucking on a butterscotch candy. The musty smell of the attic invaded my noses as we trudged up into the echoing cavern.  We left with an old hatbox that to this day contains manuscripts.

As I drove into the village, time spun away from me. I could picture Grandpa arguing with the Parks employee who was appropriating Grandpa's land. Even though I wasn't even born for any of that,  I could hear his firm voice and quiet chuckle when he won that battle and kept his land. Wily old fox.

I drove down into the village past the old general store, past the printer's and the barn where Sir Isaac Brock died.  Surrounded by modern conveniences and antiques in my friend's historic home, the past and present merged to give me a headache.  Her husband pulled out some treasures he'd recently discovered while metal detecting; buttons, pins and clasps. I marveled at a teacup designed to keep a man's moustache dry. Then time swirled around as I read the document legalizing a Mr. Owen's indenture to a Mr. Lloyd.  Written on sheepskin and dated 25, June, 1812, it was in mint condition. 

The mind is an interesting thing; the way it works. Because there were times during the day when those memories were stronger than my awareness of my current surroundings.  I suppose that's part of what makes good writers; their ability to blur the line between imagination and reality - when characters come alive before your eyes; their thoughts and feelings as real as your own. 

Time traveling wasn't on my agenda for yesterday but it was interesting. Even if I have some 80's song lyrics stuck in my head -and absolutely no idea the name of the song or artist. then we danced/shared a little romance/then we ??? You see the pitfalls.

Thanks to Me, I found this video for another 80's classic And we Danced

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Even when it isn't, it's always about writing

I've read a few blogs lately that suggest writing blogs can't be about writing forever. There's only so much you can say about writing; readers don't want to hear about the process; it takes away from creating the book about which you're blogging.

I disagree for several reasons. This blog has been invaluable in helping me clarify plot points, characterization or meet deadlines.  I receive plenty of emails about how sharing that process has encouraged readers to keep coming back (think special features on the the DVD) But the main reason I think writers can blog about writing indefinitely is that no matter what we're talking about, it's writing related.

We're writers. Everything in our life is filed away for future use. That doesn't mean that I mentally record every conversation or confidence so that I can plagiarize your life.  I notice the body language that accompanies those confidences. I remember the cadence of your voice.  I notice how weather, colours, food, music and scents evoke certain responses in different people. I listen.

When I'm out walking Ky or doing Casey's exercises, or swimming with the kids or exploring the gorge, my brain sorts through plot ideas.  A perfect day with Stashaholic bred a book.  I've put that project aside but it's interesting how many times a day I think of something to add to the ever expanding notebook I have for that particular book.

Writing takes place in our minds.  We take our consciousness with us everywhere we go throughout our day.  It's an essential requirement for all of our interactions. We can't get away from our own thoughts. Therefore no matter what I discuss on this blog, you can be sure in some way shape or form, it's related to my writing process.

Random posting about friends visiting from out of town - how do my characters interact with their communities? Do they hide from friends and coworkers, preferring to keep to their own company? Why? Are they gregarious, the life of the party, trying to drown out the screams of lonliness?

Random post about Yoda the Quaker Parakeet - do the characters have pets? Do they work with exotic animals? Do they empathize with the caged bird who refuses to come through the open door? Are they afraid to take control of their life?

Little of those thoughts end up spelled out so clearly in my final projects but they are all part of the process. Of course I steal from my own life when possible - Heal, Casey is an excellent case in point - but I also have a wicked imagination.  My brain takes a little bit of this,(a photgraph taken by a friend) mixes it with a dash of that (a lifetime of listening to Scottish mythology), adds a soupcon of spice(the light and shadows in the photograph)  and voila nymphs and demons in a pivotal scene from Hell to Pay.  I grew up believing in nymphs, fairies, little people and magic. It didn't take much for me to extrapolate a story out of all that.

My blog will always be about writing - even when it reads like rambling about the weather (HOT! and HUMID) this summer, a review for BB's Robin Hood or junk drawers

Enjoy

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Writer insecurity

I finished Heal Casey this week and it's out to readers. 
My stomach is queasy and I think every single word is crap.

That is normal.

The only control writers have over their work is the actual writing of it. After that, there's a score of people who take over; readers, agents, editors, more readers.  It's scary to let go and trust others to recognize the brilliance of your creation. It's scary to pour yourself heart and soul onto the page for the world to read. It's scary to be so exposed and vulnerable knowing that not every word is perfect or golden. Someone somewhere is going to want some of those words changed. How many is my biggest concern.

I don't truly believe I'm a lousy writer. I'm simply nervous. I want to do this story justice and tell it in a way that moves people.

As I was writing this blog, one of my wonderful readers called to tell me how much she loved this book. Yes, it had a few problem areas but nothing that couldn't be easily tweaked.  She cried all the way through the book, even though she knew the story and how it ended. I was able to move her, but what thrilled me most about her call, was that this story, on this day, helped her cope with some serious issues in her own life.

Yet again, Casey heals.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Stuck

I'm having some tense trauma.

In the last post you may have noticed that I used past tense all the time I discussed Sir Guy's past experiences. But when I switched to what he was going through in season 3 my tense use switched as well. Past/past present/present.I was aware of it and left it alone on purpose.

But now I'm stuck with Casey's story. Most of it is told in first person, present tense. I'm using journal entries as the basic format. I've filled in the blanks or expounded on ideas, described techniques and therapies in contemporary past tense. I've added photos in this draft as well but that doesn't involve as much hindsight as the narrative asides.

When reviewing it the other day, it read strange with the back and forth of the tenses.; So I switched to present tense for the narrative and used italics for the journal entries. Perhaps, I've read it both ways too often but, neither one feels right. The first chapter is all narrative and past tense so it's possible that's what's throwing me off. It feels wrong to use present tense there as none of us had the understanding and awareness in the beginning that could only come from looking back at the consequences of our actions.

Here are two examples. The first is present/past:

As this was going to be a team effort, and to keep her both aware and involved, I asked Mom to keep a journal of the pup’s progress.His healing was her project, her idea and she’d fought hard to get him to us.I was concerned that she would feel left out once we’d gotten into the practical application of his therapies.Besides, he lived with her. She would be able to record more of his behaviour.

Mom’s Journal September 10/08
Casey joined us on September 9, 2008. He had his first appointment with Dr. Susanne Langdon who did an assessment and an adjustment. Dr. Langdon suggested that we contact Dr. Lisa Burgess, a veterinarian/acupuncturist for treatments which might improve the nerve damage in his leg. There is no feeling below the shoulder and Casey walks on his leg rather than his foot, with the leg bent upward. Moosonee Puppy Rescue’s vets decided the foot was fused backwards but Dr. Langdon says not so. Bones have not developed yet. The walking on his foot is a result of nerve damage to Casey’s leg. Dr. Langdon feels this may be correctable. Good news.

The second example is present/present:
Mom asked about his progress, mentioned Lisa’s prognosis of floppy foot forever. So Susanne brought out her reflex hammer. No real response. Out came the pizza cutter. He was so laid back – until she got to his baby toe (or that’s what it would be on a human foot anyway). The outside toe was sensitive. She ran it over that toe again and again from every angle and direction. It was the only toe to react but she felt the tendon contract every single time. He wasn’t all that aware of it but she said it was HUGE progress. Tomorrow we swim :)

Dad’s primary input into Casey’s therapies comes as the occasional driver, money man or hot tub assistant. The latter means he coaxes Casey out to the garage and the hot tub. Once I’m settled in the water, he hands the struggling pup over the side and into my arms. He also turns on the timer, hits the button for the jets and yells encouragement. Most of the time, he’s telling Casey to swim across Lake Ontario, chase the geese or head for shore. 

So which do you prefer?

Sunday, July 04, 2010

More reasons for good back story

Several years ago, my friend Sage shared her obsession introduced me to the sheer entertainment that is BBC's Robin Hood. We're a year behind over here in North America but we've been buying the complete seasons when they've become available on DVD.  It's good clean fun the entire family can enjoy together.

There have been times when the writers have dropped the ball, or completely rewritten the legend so you never quite know what you're going to get.  Much has been made on the Internet of the Robin/Marian/Sir Guy love triangle.  For some strange reason I was always rooting for the most heinous Sir Guy. Partly, no doubt, because of the brilliant acting and nuances that Richard Armitage brought to the role. Partly, also I think, because there was so much more to Sir Guy in this version than just the Sheriff's lackey.

SPOILER ALERT below:

You may remember my fascination with backstory and all the history behind a person's action. Never was that more evident than in season three as Sir Guy's motivations and life history were revealed. I always suspected he was not all bad, some of his scenes with Marian in season one hinted at his social ineptitude. His obsession with her was at times creepy and others oddly sweet.  He truly loved her.  I knew there had to be a reason that he could so easily twist her kindness towards him as a proclamation of love. Of course, she manipulated his emotions for her own well-being so some of his confusion, and inability to keep up, stemmed from her actions.

Finally, in season three, his past is slowly revealed, a sister returns, the existence of a brother is discovered. All that he thought he knew about himself and the world around him might all be wrong. As we see how past events shaped his decisions, and he experiences the truth of those events, he is faced with decisions about his future.  While he can never atone for all of the lives he took, he can now see how far-reaching and wrong his actions were.  He will never be trusted, his redemption incomplete but he moves forward armed with better information and a desire to if not right some wrongs then at least minimize any future damage. 

Sir Guy was always a tortured and troubled soul. That doesn't change but he no longer subscribed to the life path that misery loves company.  Had his back-story not been revealed, I doubt the viewer would have accepted the changes that took place within him. 

The following video from episode nine is long, fan-made compilation but was the episode in which Guy's transformation solidified.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Motown Momma

Carlo is a 72 year old black man in a 20 year old white boy body.

In the more than five years I've known him, he's been a walking encyclopedia about Motown.  From its biggest stars to more modest songwriter, Carlo can tell you who's who and why we should know them.

It's great fun to work with Carlo.  We both have the 25th anniversary of Motown album. Mine's on vinyl and I bought it when it first came out.  We both have Mary Wilson's autobiograpy Dreamgirl:My life as a Supreme. His is autographed.

A couple of weeks ago, we went to see Smokey Robinson in concert.  Smokey's voice has only gained in strength and range over the years. He's added to his songlist, both as a singer and songwriter. He pulled off contemporary pieces that put the original artists to shame. I was deeply moved by his version of "Don't know why."


Watching Carlo at the concert though was its own experience.  He was in his element. Element.  There was nothing awkward or strange about his connection to the music or to the performer.  I felt like I was seeing Carlo where he not only belonged, but thrived. 

He's the poster boy for reincarnation.

His knowledge of Motown is well-known and recognized by other fans, most of them two to three times his age. When Mary Wilson was looking for someone to manage her website, she was given Carlo's name.  He wasn't a complete unknown to her. She'd been looking for specific photographs several years ago, and Carlo had helped her find exactly what she was looking for. He took it out of his own collection. 

I tell you all this,not only because I adore Carlo, but also because as writers it's all too easy to fall into stereotype.  We hope our characters don't become two dimensional or cliche but we rarely look beneath the exterior to see what makes them truly unique. Not only is a Carlo a thoughtful, generous young man, his soul vibrates with the music of another time.  Yet he's fully engaged in the here and now.He's found a way to make his passion contemporary.

Carlo is the webmaster for Mary Wilson.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Perseverance

We have a bad habit in this household of misjudging time. 

We thought it would take a day or two to lay the sod and paving stones for the sidewalk. It took a total of six days spread out over three weeks. 

We thought it would take months to adjust to all living together and it only took several weeks. I suspect it helps that we have separate apartments and can get away from each other.

We thought it would take a month or two (ok, only Mom was that optimistic) to heal Casey's leg. It's been 16 months and he's still in a brace.  He's running around like a fool, chasing Ky, leaping for the ball and generally acting like a normal dog.

About a month ago, we hit a snag.  His foot slid around in the brace. He limped all the time and held his leg up more often than not. We trained him to put his foot on the floor on command but the rest of the time there was a few inches of clearance between paw and ground.  He couldn't seem to put it down unless it was a conscious effort.

I worried that the ligaments or tendons had shortened.  It seemed like we had finally received good news about the strength of his shoulder muscles only to have balanced it with bad elsewhere.  His brace was falling apart. The sole had to be glued on every other night because he scuffed it so much. 

During one of his weekly swims, he hopped over to see Janice at Pawsability.  Her initial assessment was that his leg hadn't changed. Once she watched him walk without his brace, something he does with increasing frequency, she realized something important.

The little brown dog with the turned in foot had grown into a large brown dog with a straight leg.

After 16 long months, Casey's leg has straightened. It still turns out from his body, due to some weak muscles below his elbow but it's straight. Straight!! 

 Let me remind you how it looked when he came to us
See how his foot is turned completely under. It was like that for a very long time. 

This is how Casey looks today
He wants out of the car to swim

Oh wait, you'd like to see his paw.  Apart from the picture above, he's always on the move.  I'd like to have a word with the veterinarian who thinks Casey would be better off with three legs.  How is that even possible?  This dog knows no limits because of his orthotic brace. 

But the ultimate proof of how well he's doing now comes from this action photo.  He ran past me through the kitchen.
It's a crappy photo but perfect all the same.  Note which paw is taking all of his weight.

16 months later. Proof that perseverance pays off.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Doors, windows and wishes

You know that old adage, "Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it".  Last week's post was full of activity and commitments and I wished I had more time - for friends, for family, for writing, for gardening, for relaxing, for fun.  I don't know about fun and relaxation but on Monday one Door slammed shut so hard that the house is still reverberating. The aftershocks popped open three windows. They're small windows. I'd have to go through all three simultaneously to get to the same place that door afforded me but it's nice to know I'm not trapped inside without an emergency exit.  I still have the smaller door I've been using all week. All is not lost.

On the upside, I have all that time on my hands. I can finish my courses(once I stop staring aimlessly into space or fighting Ky for the dark chocolate peanut M&Ms that seem to be a primary source of comfort -the chocolate, the dog and the scrambling)  I plan to systematically clean and purge every single room in my house - even the haunted basement that Stasholic and I never got around to exorcising on her last visit.

But first, to finish Casey's book. We've had some positive developments in that area and I'm just waiting for the pictures to come through before I share next week.  I'll take it over door number one every time.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Goals, goals and more goals

Okay, I didn't reach last week's goal by any stretch. I did get a lot done. 5,000 photographs are a lot to sort through. I think I looked at 361 and my eyes crossed. The good news is I can chop 1700 off the list, as soon as I find them in the unnamed folders, because Casey did not go to Scotland with me.

This week is a heavy work week and I start two more courses.  Apparently, there is a box of plants in the garage that needs to make it into the ground, too.  Ky's water therapy was derailed by an injury to both left legs. He got tangled in the ramp when he went after his ball in the pool. He's on steady massage therapy this week.  I'm a busy woman.

I've amended the goal to inputting a minimum one page per day.  It doesn't sound like much but if you could see the chicken scratch all over the current pages you'd realize that amounts to possibly 1,000 words a day.  Except for page 7. It has five words.

How does your week look?

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Goals

I finished the penultimate draft of Casey's story after a push from Miz Elen. In one of those odd quirks of life, it was actually Casey's second birthday when I lay down my pen.

I'm pleased with it so far.  There are some details that need to be added, some research to verify and photos to go through before I send it off to Readers. Next week I work ten days straight and start two new library courses so I want to get as much done as possible this coming week.  The whirling dervish's path of destruction in the yard has been repaired so I have some time.  He can't exactly be left unattended out there as he treats the new sod like a salad bar but I can fact check and eyeball him at the same time.

My goal is to send Heal Casey out by the middle of June.  It's nose-to-the-grindstone-time, people.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Back story

I love back stories.  Whenever I hear something on the radio or tv, I immediately want to know how or why it happened.  I can spend hours(days, weeks or even years) trying to figure out how a rumour started, if subject A is really telling the truth and why is subject B a pathological liar. Why are some people extreme and others midline? Who took the cookie from the cookie jar? And why won't they share?

An entire episode of LOST was devoted to back story last week. I enjoyed it immensely, but most people did not. I think we may have all been confused but that's alright. At some point it will make sense.  I'm okay with waiting until that time.

There are exceptions to my back story interest.  I read a book yesterday, non-fiction, that was half back story and the other half a recitation of facts. It never really took me where the book jacket suggested it would. I suspect the writing style is what put me off more than the content. A dry list of who went where and with whom. No interesting details or conversations. I would love to take my dog out for a walk in the Highlands but it's the conversations(between him and I, or the ones in my head) that anchor those moments.  Ky always investigates the flora, fauna and wildlife that I point out to him on our walks.  If another human accompanies me, those are the times we discuss the "important" details of life.  We invariably solve all the problems of the world.

Yet in my own writing, I usually forget back story. I jump right into the moment and barrel forward full speed ahead. I have to go back in subsequent drafts and fill in motivation.  I know it all, but rarely include it because I figured it all out often several months previous to the actual writing. Back story conversations are a cornerstone of many of our walks.

Motivation not only propels characters forward. It is rooted in back story. How or why a person behaves is usually in response, positive or negative, to an event or way of life that happened in the past. Five minutes ago or five centuries in the past matters not. It happened off-screen, and most importantly, shaped the character. 

Not everyone cares about the why, especially in action adventures. Good guy chases bad guy is enough information for most. The books and movies that satisfy me the most are the ones that make me think about how or why the good guy became so devoted to his path while the bad guy blew his up.

What about you? Are you a fan of back story or does it annoy you?

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Circle of Healing

Casey is my parent's dog and he lives downstairs in our house. My boy is a six-and-a-half year old Australian Shepherd Border Collie cross who was born at a local shelter. Kyanite was named after the stone that brings balance into one's life. He's very good at keeping my energy up when it's low, and calming me when it's too high.  I've known him since he was a week old. One of nine pups, he was born with a twisted spine. At first we all thought crooked running was an optical illusion because of his markings.
Other issues presented themselves so he went to see Dr. Langdon, and has been going for the last five years.  She helps keep him straight.

It was because of Ky's experiences that we thought we could  help Casey heal.  He started with Dr. Langdon then moved onto Pawsability, then Canine Wellness.

A few weeks ago, during one of his usual chiropractic sessions, Dr. Langdon noticed a problem with Ky's knees.  She recommended swimming.  It was still cold down in the lake at that point so we dragged him up to Canine Wellness when Casey went for his weekly swim.  Casey thought it was a lot of fun to race around the center and show Ky all the cool things in there. When it came time to swimming though, he was distracted as they went their separate ways - Casey to the pool and Ky to the rehab part of the center.

Tania assessed Ky's knees and thighs.  I had forgotten about an old injury he suffered when he was about a year old.  A clothesline had cut right into the muscles on his inner thigh when he got tangled with another dog. It was a deep cut and caused him a lot of pain for some time. As it healed, I forgot about it.  A lot has happened over the intervening years.  One thing that lingered was Ky's inability to lie his leg flat when he lay down.

While his chiropractic issues are the realm of Dr. Langdon, Tania gave us some good exercises to help relax the muscles.  She also showed me how to massage that area to loosen it up.  Then we tried the wobble board.  None of us had great balance but it didn't faze Ky. He went back up.  The more we worked with him,  the more apparent it became that chiropractic and massage go hand in hand. Both trained professionals told me the same thing about his issues, from slightly different perspectives. I know from my own body that a chiropractic adjustment lasts longer if I schedule a massage for the next day.  That way the muscles are more relaxed and not trying to pull the spine back out of alignment.

Ky came home with a sheet of instructions as well as a second suggestion to swim him.  Because of the lake's temperature, he needs to be warmed up then cooled off after a swim. A fifteen to twenty minute walk before and after would do the trick. How convenient that's about the time it takes us to walk down to the lake.

Yesterday, was our first real attempt at swimming. Ky has never particularly enjoyed the sensation of the ground going out from under him. He likes all four paws firmly planted on the earth. It can be wet, squishy earth but swim?

It was a rousing success. I took his favourite green ball, which floats, and off we went. He sniffed the painted turtle along the side of the road, barked at the swan and dove right in after his ball. Repeatedly. Most of the time, he'd bring it back for me to throw out there again. 
A few times he came out of the lake at a distance from me then spit the ball in my direction. I had him on a 40 foot lead so that he couldn't get spooked and run out onto the road.  There's a fair amount of traffic along that lake.  He did raise his head as the man fishing on the other side of the road came back to this car.

But more than anything, he kept going back into the lake. Over and over, he swam.
Walking back home, then massaging his thigh, I couldn't help but think how the dogs' healing had come full circle. Ky went to a chiropractor which helped Casey. The chiropractor recommended Pawsability for Casey which in turn led to Canine Wellness. Casey's appointments led to Ky's swimming and now I have two dogs in therapy helping each other heal.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Another week goes by

Still had a fever and cough but at least I was finally able to read this past week. I went through 80% of my TBR pile. Not sure how much I retained, which is why I didn't do any of my own writing; though I did think about Bracken and Bryna for the first time in many months.

I read, in no particular order, books by:
Jill Shalvis
Karen Rose
Susan Wiggs
Kerreyln Sparks
Maggie Shayne
Kristen Higgans
a lovely book about a Toronto suburb The Beach by Glenn Cochrane
and The Knitter's Book of Wool because it has such pretty patterns. And sheep.

I just spied Alex and Me by Irene Pepperberg on my shelf. I should read that next. It might give me some insight into life with Yoda, the Quaker parakeet blessed with an abundance of personality. I should have had a look at my own shelves before I begged a ride to the bookstore...

I did some of my reading, wrapped up warmly, on a lounge chair by the pond. It doesn't look like any of the fish made it through this past winter.

I just realized yesterday that I still have the third, and final, season of the BBC's Robin Hood. Something to consider as I work on building my strength back up this week.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Stream of semi-consciousness

I've been a lot sicker since I got home than when I last blogged, hence the lack of communication. I've barely been coherent. Sadly, I haven't had the attention span to read or write at all this week. It took me four hours to watch The Blind Side because my brain could only process so much at a time. I'd turn it off. Let the dog outside. Try to catch my breath from all that movement. Let the dog back in. Get another glass of orange juice, ginger ale or popsicle then start all over again. Four hours. One movie. Not a great week.

I watched:
Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution
2 episodes of Lost
2 episodes of V
The Guardian
The Invisible
Crossing Over
Post-Grad
Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist
Taking Woodstock
Lots of volcano footage

all of which led to strange questions -
why do they call Kraft Singles Processed Cheese? Isn't all cheese processed? It doesn't come out of the cow as a large block of cheddar.

Why does Ray Liotta always play scumbags? He has a reputation of being a really nice guy but as soon as I see him walk on screen I know he's a sleazy character.

If the Coast Guard flies when everyone else is grounded, does that mean helicopters are less susceptible to weather than airplanes? Why does Ashton Kutcher always look so smug, no matter what he's doing?

Why was Taking Woodstock labeled a comedy. It wasn't funny. It had amusing parts but overall it wasn't funny. It was poignant, well-done; but not funny.

How old is Michael Keaton? Remember when he was Beetlejuice? He's still funny. And I like Jane Lynch. How did they cut that casket down to make the boxcar? That made no sense. What kind of tools did the guy have in his garage??

How did she save him? She'd seen him before so that whole sequence, the climax of the movie was completely lost in translation. Perhaps if I'd read the Swedish book on which the movie was made. Okay, it was interesting right up to that point, I had suspended all belief. Then they blew it.

Is Where's Fluffy? a real band? Won't her father hunt them down with a shotgun when he hears that recording. Two movies in one day where Jimi Hendrix was an invisible, unseen, off-screen IMPORTANT character. Three if you count the Purple Haze that's flying over Europe these days.

Who the hell are the good guys on Lost? I'm so confused.

Remember the original V? Freddy Kruger and the mouse? I preferred the campy original.

Those questions, and many more, are the reason I should stay off the Internet when I'm not firing on all cylinders. Not even close.

Hope you all had a better week.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Plan B

I'm sidelined with bronchitis and unable to enact Plan A - learning to snowboard. Instead I'm sitting in a Starbucks in Whistler, watching all the boarders and skiiers come in from a great day on the slopes. Maybe tomorrow, with inhaler in hand, I may be able to join them. In the meantime, I'm engaged in Plan B - working on Casey's story. I miss the dogs a great deal more than I do the humans(trust me, they will all understand that) so it's nice to review the last couple of years with Dad's "little brown bear".

My nephew and I drover nine hours on Saturday to have Easter dinner with my aunt and uncle, cousin and her family. Not only was it fantastic to see family in their own environment, we shared genealogy stories and I got to pet dogs. Spending time with family while so far from home was wonderful.

We also had an incredible drive.


I fly home next Sunday. I imagine the blog will be a couple of days late next week as well.

In the meantime, I plan to take it easy, work on Casey's story and breathe deep - as deeply as bronchitis will allow. This fresh mountain air is amazing. While Plan A may take a few days to be realized, Plan B isn't too shabby. You can't beat the view I have right now.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Finish line

I finished a couple of things this week:

This Fun read that I've been waiting for two years to reach my eager little hands. Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer never fail to entertain. Go read the prequel. You'll be hooked.

I completed all of my assignments for both library courses and started the exams. I know technically I didn't finish them but I'm in the home stretch.

This is a rug made from plastic newspaper bags and the Maid of the Mist capes. I've been working on it off and on for two years. I really like to reuse stuff.

What do you think?

I figured out how to make Casey bear weight on his left leg. That is a task that will never be finished but it's still an accomplishment. The other day at the store I ran into a customer whose little dog had a severed tendon so I'd told his owners about Casey's brace. Now their little dog is now running out and about in his own tiny brace. He's so much happier. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the whole reason for writing, and finishing (which I have yet to do) Heal, Casey. We have a talented animal chiropractor in the area, Dr Langdon, animal rehab at the Canine Wellness Center, and prostheses through Pawsability. Surgery is not the only option. While these alternatives won't work for every pet, the information and options should be known. Just look at how well he's swimming now. He's a happy dog.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

I got nuttin

My personal life is insane right now, hence the lack of blog last week. My apologies, I will try to better.

Writing is not the comfort it has been in the past. My days are full, my brain is empty and I've got nuttin. Casey is learning to retrieve a floating toy so that swimming can expand to include our local lake. I think the toy needs to be on a rope as he doesn't always care if it comes back with him. His chiropractor would like him to swim every day. I don't want to freeze my butt off so we're trying to teach him to be independent. On a 30 foot lead (for safety's sake and my peace of mind) He also has a new set of exercises to increase the muscle mass in his shoulder. That dog has a team of healers that rivals my mom's - and that's saying something. I signed up to take an animal acupressure course in the Fall so that we can add to the list. While it's unlikely he'll ever walk without the brace, he can use that foot. Last night we played tug-of-war with his rope and he dug in with both forefeet. The brace was off. He walks on the foot if you remind him too but doesn't do it subconsciously. Still, it's a vast improvement from the early days when the foot was bent under him.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Old love letters

I've been cleaning out old drawers, boxes and rubbermaid containers. There's too much paperwork breeding in my house. I don't really need the old gas receipt with the outline of Heaven Coming Down written on it. I have the actual book.

We've moved a lot so things do tend to get weeded out but the other day I found copies of two old love letters I'd written, one when I was 15, the other 20 years later. Setting aside the maturity factor and life experience of said love, I found the writing differences astounding. Back when I was 15 and in love with my best friend, I poured every romantic cliche onto the paper. While the affection was mutual the intensity wasn't but we remained close even after his dad was transferred to Nova Scotia. If I remember correctly it was our move to Ontario that finally ended things. Reading my interpretation of that youthful yearning was entertaining;not for the sentiment so much as the way I expressed it.

I used phrases like "trifle nervous" and "heart hammered beneath your hand". Silly juvenile words full of youthful anticipation. I had forgotten how innocent that love was, even if it was sweet enough to induce a diabetic coma. I put that notebook back into the box.

The other love letter was full of passion, smart phrases and brilliant analogies. I'm pretty sure I kept it because I liked how well written it was; funny, playful, cute and light. It really was well-written but, there was no passion, no yearning and most of the sentiment, while brilliantly crafted, was a lie. Maybe not a lie, but a definite misdirection. My emotions for that person ran far deeper than suggested by all the splashing the letter did across of the surface of that pond. I shredded the second letter.

Sometimes, I think too much, try too hard for the right phrase, look too hard for analogies. All the clear, true emotion gets lost in the clutter of expression. It's something to remember as I input all the revisions in Hell to Pay. It's something to keep in mind when I start the next project, and all the projects to come.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Hockey is our game

I'm writing this on the eve of the Olympic Gold Medal match-up between Canada and the United States. This is a big deal for us. It's a big deal for them too. Hockey is a great sport played, and highly valued, in many countries around the world.

For Canadians it's our national sport. We play it all across the country and every province has it's own championship. Entire states in the US haven't a clue what the fuss is all about. To be fair, not every single Canadian is a champion of the sport either.

It's a lot more personal for me. Growing up in the military and moving from community to community; hockey was a constant. In Germany, we'd go to the arena and watch my dad play teams from all over Europe. At Christmas, Santa brought us hockey sticks so that we could play in the lane with Dad. We were young kids living in a foreign land staying connected to home through a game my father grew up playing with his father and three brothers.

In Kingston, we were old hands at road hockey. Glenn Holland made me play in net because I scored more than he did. If only I'd known then that some day women would play hockey in the Olympics. I was a fairly sharp goaltender, as much for self-preservation as through skill. As a family, we'd go to OHL (Ontario Hockey League) games and watch young stars of the future.

In Summerside, PEI, I only dated hockey players. That wasn't saying much. I think every young man in our community played that sport. We drove all over the province with the Away team. My favourite rink was the one that had live trees as the corner posts of the building. On our way home we'd stop at the one and only McDonald's on the Island for a milkshake. To this day, I can't believe the machine never once worked. We'd laugh and sing all the way home. Because the military was such a small world, one of the forwards was a young man I'd played road hockey with in one of our German postings. I loved hockey so much I tried out to be a referee. I cannot tell you how many hours Dana and Gerald Walker spent trying to teach me to skate as fast as the boys so that I could keep up. I never mastered that stop without toe picks. Who knew then that balance was so far out of my control? But I aced the written part of the referee test.

We moved to a small Northern Ontario town when my dad retired from the military to become a teacher. I was a teenager and had no point of reference with these new kids. Most of them had grown up together. But they had an arena. The entire town supported that team and I made friends through a sport I knew as well as I knew my own name. The articles I wrote for the local paper helped me get into college.

I studied Broadcast Journalism at Niagara College and fought hard to be one of the first years lucky enough to cover the local hockey games. Arenas were my comfort zone. I grew up on the sport. I'd watched Tony McKegney play as a junior in Kingston, long before he hit the NHL and Buffalo. While I wasn't a stats junkie, I still knew my stuff. I convinced the teachers to give one of the cameramen and I the same hockey test. Whoever passed could do camera for the next game. I won - by a huge margin. In my second year, I was doing colour commentary for the local cable channel and getting credit in school. Two years later, crew was being determined by knowledge of the game, not gender, as it should have been all along.

I'm not sure where that passion for hockey went. Over the last few years, other things have taken precedence. I haven't been to the arena in far too long. Thanks to the Olympics all the memories of hockey in all those towns has come rushing back. This is OUR game, in large part because of geography. We play it on ponds, on roads, in lanes, arenas and television. We connect over this sport. No matter how far from home,or where our travels take us, strangers become friends and we bond over this game.

While I know the following is merely a commercial selling a product, the music at the 48 second mark perfectly illustrates how I feel where hockey is concerned. Enjoy. And no matter who wins the Olympic Gold Medal, hockey will remain Our Game. It's a lot more fun now that the rest of the world plays with us.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Casey heals

Last week, as declared, I finished editing Hell to Pay. Some of those pages have layers of ink, and arrows to other pages but it's done. I'll input it next week and send it out.

Because I always travel with manuscript pages in my purse, I was able to get a lot of work done on Heal, Casey this week. You never know when there will be time to kill in a line, or while waiting for an appointment. I tend to do a lot of editing on my lunch and work breaks. I used to have days in which to write without distraction. Now my schedule is much busier and I take every opportunity I can to work on Casey's book.

I have a very strong vision, not only of the book's format, but also of its marketing. It helps that he continues to improve with every swim. Last week, he was running around the house without his brace on - four feet on the floor. Then my dad, Casey's entire reason for being, moved. The dog spun his head, then pivoted on his left foreleg. The bad leg. The one he uses for balance but doesn't trust. That's the leg he shifted all his weight onto and used to turn his body to watch His Boy's movement through the house. That was a Big Moment in the evolution of his healing.

When we went for his hydrotherapy treatment at Canine Wellness on Thursday, the book came up in conversation. They were curious about my motivation for writing it.

Not only his therapist was there but also the wonderful Janice who created his brace. I think if we'd found Pawsability when Casey first came to us, his progress would have been a lot quicker and less traumatic. He owes his improvement primarily to the women at those two facilities.

There are a lot of injured pets out there who can benefit from our experience. There are also a lot of physically challenged people like my mom who can benefit from having a pet with demanding needs. They heal each other.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Celebrate love

I'm not a big fan of Valentine's Day. It's another one of those commercial holidays designed to put pressure on people to spend obscene amounts of money. Nor can "they" make up their minds to whom the holiday is aimed. If it's for lovers then why are there all those cards for Grandma, cousins and co-workers? I doubt the dog cares if he gets a card or heart shaped bed, though I suspect he'd be thrilled with more treats and a belly rub.

What I can get behind is a holiday celebrating love - as long as there aren't a bunch of requirements to prove said love. Today I'm helping homeless pets find love in new homes. In years past, I've invited all my friends to drop by for a bowl of pasta, glass of wine and tons of laughter so that we could celebrate the love we feel for each other. Last night, I went out for dinner with a friend and my niece.

Tonight, I will finish writing the love story between a demon and an injured adventurer. Finally.

Enjoy your day, however you choose to spend it.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Heroes

The Olympics are coming. You're going to hear the word Hero a lot. I suspect what they really mean is role model. Someone to look up to and admire. Though there are times when Olympic athletes not only inspire their fellow countrymen but also change the way the world views them.

I've been thinking about heroes. About the strong Alpha males who grace the fronts of pocketbooks. Tough guys who lead nations to greatness, save the world, get the girl. They entertain me in the realm of fiction but I suspect life with one of those heroes would be annoying in the extreme. Extreme being the operative word.

How come accountants, garbage men and busboys rarely appear as the main character? They manage crises and get the girl. Their lives may even involve the occasional high drama. Who says their lives aren't interesting?

Basically heroes are protagonists but the word hero has come to mean so much. Our expectations of such men are high. They are well nigh on perfect. And while that's hard to take in real life, for some reason we desire it in fiction.

I wonder how many of our real-life heroes would translate onto the written page. When I think of the men I admire who have changed the world, few of them did it through sword play or intrigue. Many of them quietly and steadfastly stood their ground for what they believed in.

Hero. What does it mean to you?

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Day to day

There's an Inglis sign along the Gardiner Expressway that's been there as long as I can remember. There's always some profound,amusing - or both - statement running along the bottom. I was look forward to reading that sign when I go to Toronto. It's also a good marker for me as it usually means I've almost reached my destination. The other day it said something along the lines of Anyone can handle a crisis, it's how we handle the day-to-day living that shows our strength.

That struck a chord with me. I'm in hard edits right now. It's the day-to-day of living with his injuries that drives my hero insane in Hell to Pay. It's the day-to-day therapy with Casey that will determine his long-term recovery.

With the right resources and skills anyone can swoop down and save people from a situation. But the day-to-day stuff of living is hard. Particularly when you're so involved you can't see the challenges inherent in daily wear-and tear.

I've been exhausted, miserable and unproductive because I felt overwhelmed by all that needs to be done on a daily basis. I started making lists. Each day has a fresh list. Some things get carried over but crossing things off helps me get a handle on the day-to-day stuff so that I live instead of perform tasks. Every day I write. Might not be much, given all else, but it's quantifiable. It charts my progress but doesn't put pressure on me.

The list isn't a must-do thing. It's a reminder. LAUGH is there in capital letters. Because sometimes I'm immersed in "things" and lose sight of how funny life can be. Casey helps with that. Everything, including his therapy, is a source of joy for him.He's an attention hound. Loves it. Seeks it. Demands it. Good or bad he doesn't care. His joy reminds me that chores can be fun.

As I continue to write every day, it occurs to me I had it all wrong. I thought I wasn't writing because I was miserable. As my mood improves, I suspect I was miserable because I wasn't writing.

Or laughing as I lived day-to-day.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Pressure

It's a cold wet miserable day here and I'd like nothing more than to emulate Ky. He's lying on the bed, occasionally turning his head to stare out the window. The rest of the time he drifts in and out of sleep. Not a bad way to spend the day.

Instead I'm trying to knock a bunch of stuff off my list before I head into work. Phone calls to return,emails to answer, chapter to revise, squares to knit, laundry to do. I got both of my assignments done last night and sent out.

I didn't write my blog because I felt all this pressure from things that are not getting finished. I was afraid I'd spew little toxic clouds all over the place and they're hell to get out of the carpet. Not to mention, no one wants to hear me whine about my life. Really, it's not that bad. It's just too crowded. And before you suggest I remove something, let me assure you I've done that. Remember how I failed to write for three months? That didn't help. The tick of the clock reverberated in my belly all that time. Not pleasant.

So I took a quick trip to Toronto yesterday. I verbally erupted all over Stashaholic then settled in for a lovely afternoon at The Purple Purl . Look at these walls.

I fondled yarn, even picked some out for a sweater I've been wanting to make for some time. I watched the owners, Jennifer and Mikko move through the shop ensuring everyone had what they wanted or needed, engaging in conversation, directing students downstairs to class and refilling coffee mugs. As the crowd slowly dissipated, the circle shrank to a handful and the political discussion was neatly deflected, I felt the pressure ease.

I pulled out the project I'm working on that needs to be handed off to the organizer by Friday. When I was asked what I was doing for the Olympic Challenge, I opted for WIP wrestling. My whole life seems to be about works-in-progress these days. It feels like nothing ever gets finished.

Mikko invited me to join the year long challenge. Starting February 1st, one has to knit all the projects in one book. Stashaholic is doing a book of lace patterns. I think she's nuts. But I could feel the words bubbling up out of my throat to accept that challenge. You all know how well I work with deadlines and challenges. But as the pressure in my belly mounted with those words, I managed to decline. I said I would finish all the projects - knitting,spinning, and writing - that I currently have on the go in the next year.

Driving home, I thought of so many places to go with the Sweater Book. Names, scenarios, plot points. But none of that starts until Hell to Pay and Heal, Casey are revised and out the door.

2010 is the year of finishing. It's the only way to siphon off some of the pressure so that I enjoy all that I'm doing.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

What happened?

It wasn't all that long ago that I used to jump out of bed every morning and head straight to the computer so that I could write. No matter how long I had worked the previous day or how tired I was from the night before, I wrote every single day. And loved it.

Lately, not so much. In fact, hardly at all. Not loving it. Not writing. I'm not sure why that is. I've been busier, less focused and more frustrated and still written. My excuse tends to be along the lines of catching up, other commitments and even industry disappointments.

I went to a writer's conference a few years ago with a reader friend who is an accountant. After three days of industry talks, of listening to writers discuss their craft and their business, she thought we were nuts. There was no financial incentive for us to continue writing. I won't tell you what she thought of how publishing works as a business. She was appalled; as much as my easy acceptance as at the entire industry. Believe me when I say it was a long and interesting car ride back to Canada.

NYT bestselling author Jennifer Crusie often says that the only control you have over this business is your writing. Once you send it in, it is literally out of your hands what happens next. Focus on the writing, make it the best damn thing you've ever written each and every time.

For whatever reason, my focus is shot. Maybe it's a combination of factors. Fear of success? Fear of failure? Both? Neither? Mental breakdown?

All I know is that either I get back to it or shut up about it.

I've always worked best when I'm accountable so I'm going to use twitter for the rest of the month for daily posts on my writing productivity. By this time next week I'll either have a substantial offering in revisions or a really fantastic excuse. 'cause my imagination still works. It's just my discipline that's missing.