Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year!

May 2013 be filled with a plethora of delicious books and incredible adventures.

Celebrate in style

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas memories

Stream of consciousness memories:

Waiting behind the closed kitchen door in while Erich lit the candles on the tree. 

Unwrapping the traditional gift of Scottish shortbread from Grandma and Grandpa Fenton

Arguing over who was going to brave the basement in order to retrieve the ornaments

Stirring the batter for Christmas cake and wishing for a horse (never came true)

Toddler lying beneath the tree and staring up at the lights in fascination

DNe whacking his dad in the head with a putter - by accident of course

Dad telling the story of the tree skirt to the dogs

 Frog Man Bradley and other K-Tel sensations

Getting drunk on Christmas pudding, gravy, and stuffing (not all in the same year)

Too many embarassing family shenanigans tied with an equal number of endearing family moments

Dark night, bright stars and breathtaking cold in Wawa

Snow falling gently down

Feeling the truth of O Holy Night  at church on Christmas Eve in PEI

The Grinch, Charlie Brown, Burl Ives, Fred Astaire and Ralphie - classics one and all

Roger Whittaker, David Bowie, Bing Crosby, Heinje

Skip the advertisement and enjoy - Merry Christmas to you all

Stille Nacht

Sunday, December 16, 2012


My 11 year-ol niece came over yesterday to help me prepare for Christmas.  We strung lights on the front porch, added some garland and a bow. We put up the tree, strung lights and decorated it. Her older brother climbed up on a chair to straighten out the branches and place the angel on top.

Then we baked. We played Charlie Brown's Christmas CD and sang as I taught her the family recipe that has been handed down through generations.  Grandma Fenton always baked it for us and Grandpa took over when she was no longer able to continue. He always used whole wheat flour which was a different texture from hers with the rice flour. My niece promised to keep the tradition flowing to further generations.

It was a good way to spend the day.  We felt joy and appreciation for each other and the long line of people who came before us.  I cemented my role in the continuum by handing the torch over to the next generation. She's a bit young but my niece soaks up tradition and stories like a sponge cake with tea.  And her very first attempt at shorbread melts in your mouth.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

TBR Pile

I keep taking books and reading them but the TBR pile breeds while my back is turned.  At this moment I am currently reading

Operation Orca - Springer, Luna and the struggle to save West Coast killer whales by  Daniel Francil and Gil Hewlitt
On the edge of the Wild by Audrey Tournay
Actor and the Housewife by Shannon Hale
Rapture by JR Ward
True Strength by Kevin Sorbo
Zeitoun by Dave Eggers
Puppy Love by Frauke Scheunemann
The tower the zoo and the tortoise by Julia Stuart
Standing in the rainbow by Fannie Flagg

I am within pages of finishing the first two on my list and actually stayed up late to finish the Actor and the Housewife.  It was a refreshing change from my usual fare.  Although there was one predictable subplot that annoyed me immensely, the author stayed true to her characters and I was so very glad.

Operation Orca is about the whale who broke my heart. The good news is that I wasn't completely delusional about him finding his way back to his family. There were two orphaned whales at the exact same time. One had a happy ending while the other had a tragic death.  What made the difference?

Zeitoun has been put down so many times I'm fairly confident sheer boredom will be the only thing that leads me to finish reading it.

But all the others grabbed me and I've had to switch them up so that I don't devour them in one sitting. I don't have that kind of time.  Standing in the rainbow is easiest to put down because the nature of the writing lends itself to small breaks.

Puppy love is told from the daschund's point of view. I need a break so I don't expire from the cuteness.  It's light and fun. So far. The recommendation came from a literary blog so I wouldn't be surprised if someone didn't contract a terminal illness and die while the puppy helped them all to heal and find their way back to life. Yep, I'm cynical about literary books.

Kevin Sorbo's story fascinates me. He was a young man when he took ill yet he overcame everything.  I always appreciate an overcoming adversity story. Though it occurs to me that the daschund is also known as Hercules.  Hmmm

I'm only two pages into Rapture because the title is a good reflection of my experience with JR Ward. As with Karen Marie Moning's books, I get sucked in, can't look away and read straight through. I don't have that kind of time right now.  But tomorrow after work...

What are you reading?

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Quick update

Funny how things work out sometimes. I'm working crazy hours for thirteen days straight at a time. I don't have time to think let alone write. Yet, somehow, I'm carrying around a sheet of paper on which I'm compelled to throw some words.  It's a very creepy horror story. I think it's my way of decompressing from the two jobs.  It's about an object.  It only appeals to people who are disturbed on some level. I don't know much about the people but, the object lies at the end of my bed and taunts me with the horrors it has experienced. 

So, that's what's going on in my world.  What's going on in yours?

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Lest we forget

It is not about glorifying war or exalting the military. It was originally intended to mark Armistice and acknowledge the terrible losses felt by all during the Great War.  Today, we remind ourselves that numbers and casualties are actually human beings and we remember them all.  It is a solemn moment at a solemn hour that marks  tragic losses over the years. I've highlighted the most relevant line of John McCrae's poem as that, to me, is what we lest not forget.

 In Flanders fields the poppies blow
      Between the crosses, row on row,
   That mark our place; and in the sky
   The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
   Loved and were loved,
and now we lie
         In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:

To you from failing hands we throw
   The torch; be yours to hold it high.
   If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
         In Flanders fields.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Head cold

My brain is muffled so lots of interesting things don't make their way out.  I'm not apathetic, merely incoherent.

That's nothing to complain about these days. Lots of people are sharing their gratitude every day this month. I assume it was prompted by American Thanksgiving. While I agree we should pay more attention to the things for which we are grateful, I don't think it should be confined to one month a year. It's pretty sad if we have to make it an assignment.

It's been gratifying to see the way people have banded together in the wake of Sandy's path. Those that have power are sharing with those that don't.  Few people are complaining as so so many are in the same situation. 

I wonder what skills in which we'll see a resurgence.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Low tech

It's supposed to be a challenging week ahead as far as weather goes.  Everyone is being warned to stock up on water, non-perishables, batteries, matches and candles.

I've sharpened all of my pencils.

It will be a good opportunity for me to get back to writing by hand on lined paper.  It's always been an effective way for me to focus and connect with the story. No Facebook pokes, Twitter rants, email cartoons or blog connections to distract me.  Just the story and the scratch of lead on paper.  I even have a notebook, the old-fashioned kind not the computer, waiting for me to open it up and begin.

It may be a low tech week ahead. I look forward to it.  Provided all the amenities are taken care of and everyone is safe.

Do you sometimes miss the good old days before computers made life so much easier?

Sunday, October 21, 2012


I have been grieving in one stage or another for over a year.  I know that death is part of life and that grief is a necessary part of healing.  I've been working on it.

Today is the memorial for a good man. He went missing in August. His body was found in September, right smack between the anniversaries of losing Kate and Bryan. Now I have a trifecta of grief.

But people are sick of me being sad, unhappy, full of sorrow.  I'm working to see the joy in those lives, to celebrate all that I learned from them. I mourn the experiences we won't have.  I see-saw between remembering every single detail of all our interactions, and wanting oblivion from memories.

This past week, I turned to movies and books to give me strength and distract me. I read non-fiction, watched documentaries.  The architect's mistress was brutally murdered, the activist was eaten by bears and the whale was killed by a tugboat.  The latter was the final straw.  I stared at my DNi in horror when the film ended.  The first two weren't a surprise but The Whale? That was my cheering movie.  That was my happy ending reward for surviving the week. 

It occurs to me as I write this that there similarities between my entertainment choices and my friends.  I suspected Kate and Bryan had finite time here enriching our lives.  Darrell was big and playful like the whale, intent on forging friendships and erasing boundaries, preconceptions and the way the world interacts with each other. 

Instead of therapy, I talk to my friends, process over here and try to make sense of that which simply is. Grief can't be explained, understood or rationalized. It takes its time, does its thing and cannot be ignored.

Resistance is futile. Grief will find its way in. No matter how I tried to avoid it this week, it found me.  Today, I embrace the sorrow, revel in the good memories and mourn the ones we will not make. 

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Character revelations

Brynja has been frustrating me, somewhat.  That's good news in that I've been playing with her. But she's been behaving like a TSTL (too stupid to live) heroine from the '80s.  After a great deal of discussion, she acknowledged that she had indeed behaved in such a manner. It perplexed her as much as it did me, and she vowed to never do it again.  Usually when a character says never, they mean until the next time.  I'm going to have to watch her closely. She's reckless. At least, I now know why. 

Bracken is not at all reckless, despite his recent act of pulling up stakes and moving halfway across the world. He was driven to do so by forces beyond his control.  He's pretty pleased with how that's turned out so far.

It seems that no matter how much I plot, I continue to learn things about characters and stories as I go along. That's essential if I'm to stay interested in writing. A big part of why I write is to see how things work out.  Editing isn't as much fun as I already know the story. Then it becomes a game of words.  That's a different kind of interesting.

How's your week been?

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving

We have a tendency, most of us, generally speaking, to appreciate things most when we no longer have them.  It's Thanksgiving weekend here in Canada so for three consecutive days, I tend to focus on all the wonderful things for which I am full of thanks.

Today, I am grateful that my Internet connection is wonky so that I will spend more time outside enjoying the cool Autumn weather.

I appreciate the people who have shared my life, even briefly, and taught me about living in the process.  Through them, I experience great conversations, good books and entertainment that stimulate my brain cells so that I'm always learning new things, reaching for better understanding and enjoying myself in the process.

I live in a country that fills all of my needs - physical, emotional, spiritual and mental.  There is no need to want for anything here. 

Go enjoy your day and give thanks for every thing and every one you appreciate.  Have a slice of pumpkin pie while you're at it.

Sunday, September 30, 2012


I did write this week. H/h are no longer stuck in a doorway together. Non-fiction project has one more section completed. Dog was brushed, several times. His fur has filled a bucket so I need to wash that, blend it, card it and spin it.  yeah, that will wait. I worked on the latest quilt.  I picked up the Tunisian crochet and figured out where I went wrong.  I sorted through some photographs.  I went for a few long walks and took more photographs for the tree blog. 

I grieved for three lost friends. Two are hitting first year anniversaries, the body of the third was found this week.  All were too damn young. 

There are not enough hours in a week for me to accomplish all the tasks I've set for myself.  So day by day, one task at a time, I work on them.  For the most part, they are joyful endeavors.  It's easier to remember that when I'm not trying to cram everything into my day because my friends don't have the option of letting things slide.

Overwhelmed. It's pointless yet somehow I feel it.  What do you do when that feeling hits you?

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Good habits are easy to break

I wrote every day for fifteen years. It was a good habit. It kept my mind sharp, my skills honed and my writing vibrant. Then a bunch of stuff happened and I was burnt out so I stopped the daily habit.

When I came back from North Carolina, I was enthusiastic again. I wrote every day. Then I stalled out.  Another idea was swirling around in my brain. A fresh idea. But it was completely different from what I usually write so I tried to ignore it. That didn't work.  I stopped writing all-together because the new project wouldn't wait its turn and the older project was stuck in the doorway uncertain about which direction to go.  I entertained the thought of combining the two storylines but ack that was ugly. Did I mention there is a third project?  Non-fiction and two-thirds done. I need to send some of it off to the cover designer. She's in the middle of a major life transition so I've held off  in order not to pressure her. I think we both need to get back into it and be productive.

Back to a schedule, back to a goal and back to writing.  That's the only way out of the ridiculous position in which I've found myself lately. I am a writer who doesn't write. That's not entirely true as my brain is overactive but words are not making it to the page.

Check back with me next week and see how I've made out.  I will write every day - for a minimum of one hour. I will send off the samples to the cover designer for the other project. I will get one set of characters out of the doorway. And write down the outline for the new ones who are demanding to be heard. 

What's your goal for the week?

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Battle for Queenston Heights

Here's the view from Queenston Heights.  At one time much of the park land was owned by my great-grandfather.  When my dad and uncle were little, they were hiking up the back of Grandpa's property and ran into a Parks Canada guy staking the top of the hill.  It seems the government has never been very good at reading boundary maps.  Grandpa sold the land to the park for a tidy sum that supported two generations right into retirement.  Whenever we walk along there I think of that story.  It's a park rich in Canadian history as well but my thoughts always start with that canny Scot.

Sunday, September 09, 2012


I'm not a geomtry-cist (I made up the word, indeed I did, blame the head cold)While my Celtic background leans me towards lovely curving lines, I have to admit angles come in handy.  Nor is one type of angle better than another.  Cylinders, squares, rectangles and triangle are all equally important. Can you imagine a turret made like a square? It would be a courtyard.

Triangles though are often used as plot devices and they make me crazy. It's my own personal belief system that if you haven't chosen one lover over the other by book nineteen, you are not the type of person with whom I wish to spend time.  That's selfish, and cruel, behaviour.  At some point in time, your feelings towards one person are stronger than they are for the other person.  Rarely do all three form a perfect equilateral triangle.  As a plot device, they are the more common, and cliched, scalene triangle which has no equal sides. It's unbalanced from the beginning. Walk away.

What plot devices most annoy you?

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Life as a television show

Lately, I've been watching a lot of dark, gloomy paranoid television. It's entertaining and stretches my problem-solving skills. I'd never last ten minutes in any of those scenarios.  I wouldn't want my life to be anything like them. I like Suburgatory.  It's funny, cute and no one dies. I can't think of a sexy rom-com. Hmmm, that could be the problem at home.

If your life was a television show, what would you like it to be?

Sunday, August 26, 2012


I had an interesting conversation with someone the other day about meeting famous people. She's thinking of taking to the streets of Toronto for the Toronto International Film Festival because she's never met a famous person.  I don't understand wanting to meet someone based solely on their celebrity.

My grandfather was the head of PR for the CNE so celebrity doesn't have the same meaning for our family.  Because we've been exposed to interesting people who are famous for one thing or another, we quickly learned that what makes people fascinating is personality and behaviour as opposed to persona and fame.

There are several famous people I'd like to meet. I've seen them in documentaries or on talk shows and been intrigued by their experiences or perceptions.  I want to talk with them about those things. Last night, I dreamt that Robin Williams, Dennis Quaid, Nancy Herkness and I were talking about raising kids. We were a group of people united by our frustrations, pride and love for the children in our lives.  It was a good conversation (and entirely imaginary but I blame the actual conversation that started this blog)

Somehow, I doubt that will happen by standing behind a rope to watch someone walk down a red carpet.

How do you feel about fame?

Sunday, August 19, 2012

More distractions

My little world is more chaotic than usual. I write to comfort myself. And I read a lot. Right now, fairy tales with a twist are very popular in the young adult market. That makes sense to me.

Oh, how I long to escape back into the world of fantasy that I alone create. I miss writing. House repairs were done today - until I had the first shower in my own bathroom in over ten days. It leaked. Just a tiny puddle at the corner by the tub but it came from behind the tub surround. ACK!

I haven't finished the quilt, been busy with the bathroom repair which had segued to the living room floor as we used the laminate from the middle of the living room. The varnish nearly killed me but didn't bother the birds. I protected them much better than I did myself.

Now the shower leaks. Again. We were so sure we'd got it. Nothing leaked before we reinstalled everything. It has to be the showerhead.

I'm anxious to return to the suburbs of North Carolina so that Nymphs can battle each other. I control all the variables there and rarely, not never, but rarely, does something happen in that world that takes me by surprise.

Sunday, August 12, 2012


Closing Ceremonies of London 2012 are over. I feel bereft. 17 days of believing in the best of sport, and the best of humanity. Someday, we'll hold onto that energy longer.

I didn't finish the quilt. I was derailed by emergency bathroom renovations. I had a couple of bad days feeling sorry for myself. Olympic athletes put that back into perspective. No matter how disappointing their day, or their finish, they pick themselves back up and complete their task.

Think of my quilt as a marathon. I may finish last but I will finish.

And once the floors are replaced, I will return to writing. During the Beijing Olympics, we had a Writing Olympics. Many words were written, pages turned in. Maybe that could be my paralympic gold.

What about you? Are you going to continue to enjoy London 2012 and cheer on the para-athletes?

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Threads of memory

My great-grandmother was a milner. She loved fabric and thread, and was brilliant at creating the most wonderful hats that suited each woman perfectly. Last year's hoopla over the Royal Wedding would have filled her with glee. I'm sure her fingers would have itched to be part of that. I've barely worn a hat since she died when I was in my mid-twenties. She was 105 and sharp as a tack for the first 100 years.

Mumma raised my mother when the latter was a teenager. That's a delicate and difficult age and massive kudos to a woman in her seventies taking on such a task. Fortunately, the two had a lot in common and the tough times were minimal. During that time, Mumma taught my mom to quilt.

Fast forward to my own difficult teenage years. My mom hauled out a box of fabric from her grandmother and taught me how to piece them together. Mumma donated a quilt of butterfly applique that she'd never finished towards my education. It was an Olympic year so we set up the quilting frame in the living room and kept busy while we watched Nadia Comaneci, Bruce Jenner and Canada's own Greg Joy. For the next few years, I sewed, embroidered and quilted through the confusing times.

Then I stopped.

I'm not sure why exactly. I know that's about the time I started knitting. I was older and my interests were more outside of the house. I was busy exploring the world.

Last year, I inherited bolts and bolts and remnants of fabric from my friend and her mother. I recognized some of the scraps from different projects but a lot of it was brand new and never been cut. I knew right then what I would do with it all. Well, as much as I could manage.

Part of the challenge lay in the fact that I'd never learned to use a sewing machine. No matter how often my mom walked me through it, it was something I simply couldn't grasp. All of that material had to be hand-sewn. I recruited a friend to help with some of it. She took half the material to cut and machine sew. I took the other half and stared at it for several months.

Then the Olympic ads started. My mom came home from the hospital and helped me organize the fabric into weights, colours and themes. My goal was to get the project pieced together in time to quilt during the Olympics.

I put it on the hoop the night before the Opening Ceremonies. Every day while I watch Michael Phelps, Gabby Douglas and the Canadian women's soccer team, I quilt. I've been posting the daily progress on my Facebook page which caused my aunt to remind me of my great-grandmother who started it all.

My mom is back in hospital. My friend is gone. My great-grandmother long gone. But the threads they have woven in my life are as strong as the thread that pulls three layers of fabric sturdy and true.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Daily Tree

My friend Theresa and I started a blog that features a different tree each day.  All of the photographs were taken  by us.  I personally have over 500 photos taken in the last three years. I'm not likely to run out any time as I'm always snapping away at trees. I love them.

I love their resilience, their strength, their vulnerability, their multi-tasking, their home-building, their scent, their food, their complete and total existence.  I LOVE them.

Theresa is the one who wanted to marry one she met in Scotland.

Neither that story nor photo have appeared on the blog yet but go over and check out the lovely trees we've shared so far.  You might recognize some.

The Daily Tree

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Music heals

As there is no such thing as a stress-free diet, I recommend you take two Motown Icons and call me in the morning.

Not only were my friends and I able to hop on stage with Mary Wilson at her concert in Detroit the other day, we toured Hitsville the following day with Martha Reeves. For a few hours I was able to forget all of my troubles, worries and cares. Do not underestimate the influence their music had on the turbulent 60's. It's easy to dismiss the happy lyrics and bubbling beat as frivolous. I know losing myself in that music, and the experience of rubbing elbows with those two incredible women, put my troubles on the back burner for a few hours. When I had to pick them back up, I had a new optimism, some compassion and a better perspective.

Motown isn't to everyone's taste but I think music appeals to everyone in varying degrees. Even deaf people feel the rhythm. (Marlee Matlin on Dancing with the Stars) What's your musical preference when you need a break from the stress?

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Many years ago, there was a quiz making the rounds about what kind of flower you are. I posted mine here, in part because it was a great way to connect with my characters. And yes, I liked the attention.

Due to circumstance beyond my current control, I am in a situation with people that are completely unlike me. (See the flower mentioned above for more explanation if necessary) I am a weed in their garden of flowers. When I said that to a friend, he reminded me that weeds are survivors. They grow in the most horrendous conditions, with inconsistent quantities of food, water and sun.

I am a thistle. I'm prickly, purple and thrive regardless of circumstance. I can wilt in great heat but a few drops of water or some shade will revive me. I grow tall and strong and proud. Oddly, I never saw a single thistle either time I visited Scotland.

Because the current project is so plant-based, I am immersed in plant-lore and surrounded by leafy greens, bright splashes of colour, weeds, flowers, flora and fauna of all kinds. It helps that so many of my friends have green thumbs.

If you were a plant, what would you be?

This is growing by my pond

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Random thoughts

If you're a plant-based life-form who eats vegetables, are you a cannibal?

Mulberry trees are condominiums. They support several different species of birds, silkworms, squirrels and raccoons. They protect the house, gobble up carbon and excrete oxygen. You can make jam from their berries. Not that I ever have. I don't get to the berries as fast as the afore-mentioned creatures.

Worry is like a rocking chair - lots of movement, no real activity. Yet we all line our porches with those bits of furniture and talk about spending our retirement in them.

Why are some poorly constructed/plotted/written books HUGELY popular? (not all hugely popular books are badly constructed/plotted/written)

On a related note, education can be entertaining and vice versa. I'm thinking of you, Museum Secrets.

There is simply not enough time in the day to work on all of the projects that are crowded into my brain and work to keep a roof over our heads. Yet somehow, I spend a ridiculous amount of time each day staring at an Osprey chick on the other side of the world.

What's your favourite form of procrastination relaxation?

Sunday, July 01, 2012

I'm not sure about my heroine's personality yet. That makes it difficult to write from her pov, or even her reactions to the hero's actions. I thought I knew her but she's more formal than I expected. And odd. She's odd, quirky odd but odd nevertheless. I blame Big Bang Theory. I watched all three seasons in two weeks and it might have coloured my thoughts about scientists. Where do I get off writing about a scientist? I failed math and science all the way through school. They fascinate me* but I do not understand them. She's very odd. I can't follow her thought processes. Yikes. I might just spend the afternoon writing down her day and stuff so I can get a handle on her.

I do know the music she likes, and what weather makes her most happy. I know what she likes about places and people. I know what motivates her. I know who she loves.

Ah, but she's in the middle of a major identity crisis. No wonder I can't get a handle on her. Any suggestions for how to write from her perspective?

Here's another tree photo. The hero hails from close by

Sunday, June 24, 2012

A few observations

This week I learned that if I make plans to write at a particular time for a specific length, then tell people, I will do it.

Peer pressure works on me.

I also learned:

I may never be done research. One thing leads to another then another and somehow everything I've written up to this point dovetails nicely with what I've just learned yet somehow I still need more information so that my characters don't sound like idiots. Although I wonder what the scientific community knows that I don't (plenty!) that they're not making the same connections I am and curing cancer.

Walking the terrain gives me a few shortcuts. I don't have to puzzle out logistics. My characters don't drive 300 miles out of their way to go for dinner. Or to work.

I do not have a large enough vocabulary to describe that awkward first meeting between two characters who will change each other's lives. The descent into cliches is swift and deep.

Some days the words flow. Other days they must be chiseled out of stone with a toothpick.

Taking those observations into consideration, what cliched scene have you read that really worked for you regardless of flaws?

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Father`s Day

My dad was posted to Egypt a month after his wedding. The man faced a lot of adjustment when he returned a year later. I was three months old.

A few weeks ago, I found some postcards and letters he wrote to his parents from Egypt. Coincidentally, my aunt came across another one Dad wrote to his brother around the same time. She sent me a copy this week.

Reading them, I`m struck not only by how young he was, 21, but also how much his tone changed. He`s always been a serious man, with moments of great silliness. The letters were much lighter than I expected given his situation. I bought a hassock the other day. Ìf I can`t figure out a way to get rid of the smell, I`m chucking it over the fence.

It was amusing to read about his thoughts on my embryonic self. Mom was convinced I was a boy. He didn`t care as long as I was healthy. His great-grandfather was unwell(in his late 90`s)and Dad hoped he`d that we`d get to meet. We did.

Reading how much he loved the country, the people, I`m reminded of the stories I grew up hearing - sandstorms, camels, and coffee that tasted like seaweed. There was one brief allusion to the Middle East in the 60`s - Everyone changes over here...I think sometimes that we all leave here a little bit crazy.

But he was anxious to come home and be a family with Mom and I.
I`m really happy about the baby. I received a signal Thursday morning at 7:30 am and a telegram at 11 o`clock. We had quite a celebration in the club. It started at 7:30 in the morning and lasted until midnight.There were an awful lot of people who didn`t go to work...I want to know all about our daughter. I`ll be home in fifty-one days. Hurrah!

Dad was stationed at home when my brother was born. As a big sister, I remember all of the excitement. Dad never cared about our gender, health was his concern.

We tested him plenty over the years in that area and many others. We butted heads about politics and house rules, yet he supported us in all of our choices, even when those same choices baffled him.

It`s easy to forget our parents were young, had dreams and expectations of life. Reading my dad`s letters written when he was a young man has provided me with a great deal of insight into his character, a glimpse of the man, as opposed to the dad.

I`m going to transcribe the letters so that my niece and nephew can add a piece to the puzzle that is their grandfather. I wish I`d thought of it sooner to give to Dad for Father`s Day.

The letters confirmed what I already knew. He is quite the interesting man, my dad. I do love him.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

True Love

The reason I write romance, and believe heart and soul in true love:

Fifty years, and many challenges later, my parents are still in love with each other

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Front door

I'm thinking of starting a blog called The Front Door. It will simply be pictures of people's front doors.

The idea was inspired by this one

What do you think?

Sunday, May 27, 2012


Life is kicking my ass. That happens sometimes. This will come in handy later when I torture my characters. I'll draw on life experience to add depth and reality to their scenes.

In the meantime, I'm plotting what lies beyond this gate...

Sunday, May 20, 2012


Spring is here. The weather is lovely, plants are growing, sprouting, blooming. I'm still contemplating all the information I gathered on my research trip to North Carolina. I have to figure out some backstory as it's essential to the why of the plot. I'm piecing together some information and looking at how certain trees thrive in multiple and diverse climates. Once that's done, I plan to sit down and write until the words dry up. Or for a minimum of two hours every day.

In the meantime, here's Brynja's home in Carrboro, North Carolina.

What does it tell you about her personality?

Monday, May 14, 2012


I was away for two weeks then sick when I came home. My head is awhirl with ideas,not only for the book I went to research but also a few that reached up and grabbed me.

Two weeks ago, I did this

That was my first time ever kayaking. Odd, considering Alex, my last hero, did that for a living. Post-book research. I'm ahead (or behind) of my time.

Last week, I did this

I drove the route to work that my heroine will ride on her bicycle. There were street signs indicating the best way to do that but sadly, I did not have a bike handy. Still, it was beautiful and I'm so glad I was able fill up an SD card with pictures of Brynja's home, work, restaurants and hang-outs. I found the perfect neighbourhood for her as well as a nice clump of ferns in which Bracken can hide his charges.

Nothing beats the experience of walking the terrain your characters inhabit.

Next year, Iceland!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Writer's vacation

I'm going to be offline for a couple of weeks while I tromp around the Chesapeake Bay area. I'm back to working on Rootless Trees so I'm off to walk the terrain. Iceland, sadly, was out of my budget. I have excellent notes, photographs and memories of Scotland so all that's left is the place where Brynja and Bracken land on their feet. Armed with research notes and plot outline, I'm going to park myself on the beach and writewritewrite.

But first, I plan to explore the area, stay up all night chatting with friends, and immerse myself in a completely different world from the one the characters and I are used to inhabiting.

Anything in particular you want me to take note of?

Sunday, April 15, 2012

100 years later

I've always been fascinated by the Titanic. There is something about the tragedy that has held my attention for as long as I can remember. I think it's responsible for my first awareness of our mortality. "1500 Souls Lost" was the headline that struck a chord. All the movies and documentaries, books and articles, hit at the heart of the fascination. Those souls belonged to real people with real families, real dreams and real plans for the lives ahead of them.

All of their stories deserve to be told. All of their stories need to be heard.

1500 souls, 1500 hearts, 1500 lives.

Sunday, April 08, 2012


Last week, I went to a concert. We had tickets to both the afternoon and evening shows. I spent some time on hair, make-up and dress because I knew we were going to meet the Supreme Mary Wilson between shows. I've been eating better and walking every day. It shows. Not a lot but, my goal of being healthy is definitely noticeable. I felt good about my appearance. Until I looked at the photographs taken between shows. I had no idea that I am so large. Honestly. I'm still agile, fit into older clothes and don't get winded. I was horrified that picture was out there for the world to see.

Then I remembered something someone said to me several years ago. She used to hate having her picture taken for similar reasons. After she lived in Europe for a while she noticed how happy people were to see her, in whatever form they could get. She told me that when people look at photographs, they aren't critiquing your weight, clothes or posture - they see the face of someone they love. The bigger the smile you wear in the photo, crooked teeth and all, the happier it makes the viewer. I started paying attention to how I feel whenever I see anyone's picture and my friend was absolutely correct. I see who they are, not how they look.

So when a video surfaced in which I hopped up on stage for my moment as a Supreme, I overrode my initial reaction of horror and watched it. It was fun. It was clear that we were up there goofing around and having a good time. It didn't matter that I can't dance to save my soul or that I was wearing the only splash of colour up there. Nothing mattered but the memory of how much fun it was to be up there on stage acting out every little fantasy I'd had as a kid. I was a Supreme!

Remember this next time you're reluctant to have your picture taken. You're capturing a moment, an emotion, not a look.

Supreme Joy

Blogger wouldn't let me embed the file but if you click on it you can view it on your own system's video player

Monday, April 02, 2012

Mirror, Mirror

Life can be hard. It can be full of sorrow, anguish and disappointment. The only thing we can truly control is our reaction. I've been struggling to hold on to my natural optimism. Cynicism had planted seeds, taken root and ruthlessly hogged the sun.

The other day, a good friend shared his view of me and my life. To hear his admiration, and respect, reminded me that there's so much more to my life than the stuff that's been dragging me down. I joke about our mutual admiration society but honestly, we are good mirrors for each other. We reflect the enthusiasm, talent and joy the other feels whenever we think of the other.

Everyone should have someone like that in their life - the mirror that sees you as fairest of them all.

Who is your Mirror, Mirror?

Sunday, March 25, 2012

More to the story

Passing the church on the way to work the other day, I noticed a pile of used toys and a wooden bookcase on the side of the road. A pickup pulled up to the curb and a crew of older men hopped out. One grabbed the bag of toys; another hefted the book case onto the road to shatter it into pieces. My first thought was, "Why didn't they recycle those things?" How wasteful. A few steps further down the road and I wondered if perhaps the book case was irreparable. The truck bed had stacks of broken wood. There's a place in town that pays for wood scraps. It's possible the church had generated some income. I could be wrong with any or all of my conclusions.

It made me wonder how often the conclusion we jump to is the right one. There are so many snap judgements made each and every minute of the day. I don't know what the real story is about the church belongings but for the rest of the day, I made up opposing stories about random things I observed.

The employee walking out the back door and crossing the street towards a coworker's house. Three blocks later, the severely-clad woman reappeared, turned another corner then headed back towards work. Clearly, she was out enjoying the gorgeous Spring weather, not sneaking out to meet up with someone.

The car parked in a neighbour's usual space despite the fact that everyone knew it was the only place the van could park to safely unload the wheelchair. Three days later and the car was still in the spot. Just as the van owner was about to hunt down the car owner and share a piece of their mind, an impartial third-party mentioned the car had been dropped off by a tow truck. The best anyone could hope for was that the car could be pushed forward into another space.

Minor observations but conclusions had been erroneous because there was more to the story than what was initially observed.

What's the strangest thing you've observed that you wish you new the rest of the story?

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Found treasures

My friend and I were out for a drive the other day. Headed in no particular direction we were catching up on sad news more than happy stuff. We weren't particularly distressed but both of us mentioned we were drained. We took a right turn, then a left turn and another left. The entrance to a protected woods was before us. The strange quacking call of the wood-frog beckoned us forward. We shrugged, entered and parked the car. There were comical wooden soldiers piled by the mini-putt to the left. Several families were enjoying themselves over there. To the right was a pond with little bridges that led to three separate viewing platforms. We locked our belongings in the car and strode forth. Turtles sunned themselves on a log. With our backs to the mini-putt, it appeared that we had dropped down into an enchanted forest. The frogs sang. The turtles sunned. We recharged. We looked at the other two viewing platforms. One was named Serenity (which always makes me think of Firefly, which is fun but not necessarily soothing) I've forgotten the name of the second. The space where we stood said Be Thankful. We were.

Ignoring my flip flops, we opted to walk along the cleared path and breath in the fresh Spring air. Leaves had curled on the branches of the beech tree like little cocoons. A squirrel had commandeered a bird house for an afternoon nap. One particularly vocal wood-frog revealed his hiding place so that we might marvel at the small body that produced such a deep and powerful voice.

By the time we turned back towards the car, our spirits had risen, our souls been replenished and our worries eased. The external had not changed but we both drove away knowing that we were better equipped to handle the challenges we face.

Have you found some special place that fills you up when you most need it?

Sunday, March 11, 2012

The skunk at the garden party

It's hard to laugh in the face of overwhelming sorrow. It's considered disrespectful to give into the urge. I can remember laughing at my grandfather's funeral. So many disapproving faces turned my way. I had remembered my grandfather in a way that gave me joy yet my laugh stood out amongst all the sniffling and tears like the rank odor of skunk at a garden party. I am often that skunk.

Most sorrow comes from losing a loved one. The happier the memories, the greater the anguish. It seems to me the disrespect comes from banishing the good memories to focus primarily on the sense of loss.

There are so many stresses in our lives it seems silly to ignore the things that alleviate any of that for even one moment. I do believe in surrounding myself with joy, love, laughter and animals but that's because they work for me. Good friends are invaluable. Great memories a boon.

Laughter banishes negativity. It doesn't get rid of the health concerns, money worries, mounting pressures but it turns things on their side so that you can see past their huge bulk to a solution.

It always comes back to perspective for me. I need the laugh to remind me life can be full of ridiculous situations. Death comes to all of us. So does life. There are creatures in the dark, delightful creatures who remind us not all is bad or scary. Sunshine burns. Flowers heal or poison. We choose which to ingest, and when. There should be laughter at funerals, tears at birth and skunks at garden parties.

Don't you agree?

Sunday, March 04, 2012


My thoughts today are like the snow falling gently outside my window. Disjointed and scattered until they hit the ground to form some kind of mass that annoys some people while delighting others.

I've loaded my Sony reader with a couple of new books; Demolition Angel by Robert Crais and Spindle's End by Robin McKinley. They are both new-to-me authors and so far I've devoured Crais. I will definitely read more of his. McKinley came highly recommended by several people whose tastes are similar to mine. I finished A little Night Magic by Lucy March two weeks ago and am still thinking about those characters. That's a good thing.

I googled Liselotte von der phaltz. Many years ago, we saw her portrait in the gallery at Heidelberg Castle. She looked a great deal like my great-grandmother. Mumma was alive at the time and confirmed the possibility that the Prussian princess could be a distant cousin. There was an long dead uncle who'd been a bit of a roué which had led to his being exiled from several countries for impregnating daughters of the nobility. Family legends.

I'm on my third cup of tea. I usually only have one for breakfast and one in the evening. My sleep was beset my violent nightmares. I stare out the window and watch the snowflakes flutter past. They are fluffy and the brilliant white that blots out the red horrors of the night.

I continue to glance at the white infant jacket that lies on the table. Three white pearl buttons lie beside waiting for me to sew them on. A shower gift for a friend, I need to finish and wrap for this evening. Perhaps a bit more snow gazing to ensure my energy is focused on the sweetness of a newborn.

Maybe one more tea. Raspberry white tea, full of anti-oxidants and the sweet burst of summer fruit and a healthy contrast to the cool winter morn.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Book reviews?

Elen Grey and I were discussing book reviews last week. Is it a good idea for one writer to review another? Given how subjective the entire process is, it's a tough question to answer. I tend to like reviews - by people who think like I do. It takes some experimenting to figure that out.

I read a book recently that entertained me to the end. I adored the characters. The drama was real and intense. Yet one character had the ability to shut the story down halfway through the book - and the author never addressed it. I won't review the book because it's a big glaring mistake It didn't bother me until the day after I'd finished the book. I waited for the author to pull that trick out of the hat at the end of the book but the magician used other magic. Excellent, satisfying magic that dazzled and delighted me.

There are some people who would have thrown that book against the wall. The omission would have overshadowed everything else.

I couldn't review the book without mentioning that problem. If I mention it, the reader's enjoyment is diminished as they search for something that might not have bothered them in the first place.

Would it bother you? Does the storytelling supercede the plot?

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Lazy Sunday

I'm sitting at the dining room table with two dogs at my feet - Ky and his Golden friend, Gracie Allen. My friends are out for brunch and I've just had a delicious bowl of bean barley soup. The sun is shining. The air is brisk. Adele is serenading me about daydreams. The laptop is opened on a word document and the wip in question is waiting to be input.

It's a beautiful, relaxing Sunday. I'll take advantage of the peace to do some revisions before the conversations about good writing, marketing, the industry and life fill the rest of the weekend with their intelligence and enthusiasm.

It's odd to be both stimulated and serene simultaneously but I'm enjoying it.

Sunday, February 12, 2012


I despise confrontation. It makes me incredibly uncomfortable and the anxiety makes me forget all of my good points. Rarely do two people get into those situations prepared to listen to what the other person is saying. It makes me crazy because I do listen. I do consider the other person's position. Partly because I grew up behaving like Switzerland, always neutral. I didn't pick sides in debates. Don't get me wrong, I had my own opinions. In fact, my dad and I would get into yelling matches about a variety of subjects. I lost all perspective when he opened his mouth.

It's that very dichotomy that gives depth to my writing. Unless I'm writing first person, there's always more than one perspective to every scene. I may not write from both points-of-view but I definitely need to know and feel what each character believes to be true. The more passionate they are, the more committed the arguments and the decreased possibility they are listening to each other.

The same is true for three dimensional human beings who live and breathe with contradictions. There are more sides to a story than you can ever possibly imagine. There are triggers and flashbacks, misunderstandings and focus issues. Sometimes there are health considerations as well. No matter what you believe otherwise, unless you authored all of the players (and sometimes not even then) you have little idea all that is at play in any given scene.

I listen to my dad now, even when he says something I find abhorrent. His life experience is so different from mine. On a couple of subjects he used to believe exactly what I do. Then he lived inside a situation that showed him three different points-of-view. How all the players handled things changed his belief system. I'm being deliberately vague. It's a volatile political debate within these four walls, never mind out in the rest of the world. My point is more about how we shape our views than the specific detail of that view. I still don't agree with him but we don't fight about it anymore. I understand his point-of-view, and respect it.

I imagine all of that comes across in my writing. I take characters who are polar opposites, throw them into situations and circumstances in which they rely on each other in order to survive so that in the end they have a better understanding of each other. I don't know that they change their basic differences so much as they focus on their commonalities.

Sunday, February 05, 2012


I try not to swear. First and foremost, I have a parrot that repeats most everything we say. Someone jokingly said to him, "Come here big boy," once and it's now one of his favourite expressions. The second reason I try not to curse is that swearing shows a decided lack of imagination. Or a limited vocabulary which is horrifying to a writer.

So the other night when my phone rang at 1:30 in the morning, my first thought after concern for family was relieved by caller ID was "inconsiderate assholes". The caller was a 20-something male looking for a family member who was sleeping. Some verbal abuse followed my refusal to wake them. I was quiet and polite when I took them to task for calling so late and being rude. Then I hung up.

For the next half hour, I stewed and cursed them out. Lowlife, piece-of-shit, pond scum. But pond scum is superficial and can be skimmed off the top of the water. I usually toss it into the garden to become fertilizer. That didn't seem vile enough for my opinion of the caller (whose late night call merely underscored my already bad impression of his character) I also didn't like that I'd been reduced to cursing in the dark. Scum of the earth can't be scraped off, it's internal and runs deep. Lowlife, piece-of-shit, scum of earth doesn't have the same rhythm. I played around with it, substituted lying for piece-of-shit, which made me happier about losing the swear word. Too many syllables.

It amused me greatly that my bad mood was overwritten by word play. Two AM and I'm fighting the good fight. The pen is indeed mightier than the sword. Just as I decided that lowlife, lying scum-of-the-earth packed a nice punch even with the extra syllable, the phone rang. The little shit miscreant had called again. Other than trying out my expanded vocabulary, I didn't see any point in picking up the phone. So I didn't.

Instead I thought of new descriptions:

rascal (too mild)

I could have spent hours adding to the list but that wasn't bad for a sleep-deprived middle of the night instant thesaurus. Feel free to use any of the afore-mentioned titles. I only hope you don't need them at the same God-awful hour I did.

Sunday, January 29, 2012


When last we met, I challenged everyone to do something that challenged or excited you. I needed to kickstart myself and what better way than a public declaration of intent?

In the past two weeks, I've made a couch shrink to fit inside a personal van so that no one would have to pay the delivery charge. Trust me, that was a challenge.

I made an effort to dress nicer. It's difficult to bother with hair and make-up but this post shed a new light on appearance. So I've been paying attention. Another challenge.

I'm also trying to say yes more often. Not to the people who know I don't know how to say no but to myself and the opportunities that come my way. A friend suggested we go see Mavis Staples on a school night and I accepted. This video could have been shot on the night we attended. While it's not showcased here, that woman has an amazing range. A whole new world opened up to me that night. And I was reminded of a hot sultry night by the banks of the Mississippi.

I'm back to writing every day. Some days, it's just a paragraph or two. One day last week, I went through my desk and found all of the notes to Rootless Trees and the sweater book. I already know which one is going to garner the bulk of my attention, it's been planting ideas and scenes in the fertile soil of my imagination.

Most significantly, I did something that both challenged and excited me. I sent Heal Casey off to several publishers. The gimpy little pup's story is out there for others to read. I'm making an agent list to send to next. That might be a bit backwards but it's the route I took. It was past time to send him off.

How did you do with your challenges?

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Busy living

For many years I worked and wrote. I was so busy writing that I wasn't out living. Last year I was so busy surviving that I was neither writing nor living. This year I'm determined to find a better balance. I am working. I am writing. I am living.

I urge you all to do the same. Go out this week and do something that challenges and/or excites you. I will do the same. Let's meet back here next week and compare notes.

Sunday, January 01, 2012

How did this happen?

For all of you wonderful people who got Kindles or Nooks for the holidays, I direct your attention towards this little gem

How did this happen? Lunch with Imaginary Friends and other (mostly) True Stories. This is the Amazon link.

The Barnes and Noble link.

Written by my good friend, KD James, it contains her trademark sense of humour and insight. This is a great opportunity to look back in a few years and say you'd been reading the phenom right from the beginning.

Go. Enjoy.

You can thank me later.