Sunday, December 28, 2008

Show and tell

One of the most difficult things to do as a writer is balance showing versus telling. If there's too much action and not enough interaction the reader doesn't connect with the characters. Too much introspection and the story doesn't move the reader along. They get bored.

It's the same with men and women. I have this theory that men hold tight to their emotions because their anatomy expresses their interest as soon as awareness passes through them. The female anatomy is not as easy to read so women tend to verbalize their thoughts. Men show, women tell.

Men are generally action oriented. They're in a near constant state of movement, even when just sitting around; pages turn, channels surf, and worlds are invaded. Women talk;about their day, how they feel, what they wore. Men eat. Women discuss the menu.

These are generalizations truly but for the most part the hero makes the plan and enacts it. The heroine discusses the plan, the emotional ramifications of said plan and then talks all the way through it to make sure that the plan has not changed.

Oftentimes men and women encounter a few difficulties in their interactions because of these generalizations. It makes for great fiction but rocky relationships. I'm exploring new characters in two different projects. In both cases the heroines are more introspective than the heroes. There's a lot of analysis on their parts as they explore all of the changes in their lives. The heroes picked up stakes and moved to explore new worlds when they couldn't fix what was wrong with the old ones.

It's not that men are incapable of talking about how they feel. They are more comfortable with showing. They bring flowers and chocolates, build a potting shed, or drive to the dentist. Women say "I love you".

If you're struggling to understand the opposite sex watch the man, listen to the woman. You never know what you might learn.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Merry Christmas

It's been three weeks since I finished reading The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein. While I don't think you need to care for motorsports, I do think you need to appreciate dogs as the entire book is told from the dog's point of view. I don't need to tell you why it resonated so strongly for me.

Subject matter aside, it was beautifully written. A nice clean writing style that used every word. Nothing was wasted or extraneous. I was impressed with the way the author carried the racing metaphor throughout without overdoing it.

"Your car goes where your eyes go." Every driving instructor tells you that in driver's ed and it's true. If you're looking to the left, the wheels will drift in that direction. I've been looking forward with Casey and it's paying off. (thank you all for the words of encouragement) In racing winning is important but so is finishing the race. You never know when you'll need those points further down the road to the championship.

Right now my eyes are on my family and friends. The car is parked for the next week and I plan to enjoy the holidays. I wish you all the opportunity to do the same.

In that vein, Merry Christmas

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Opening sentences

Nathan Bransford, an agent with Curtis Brown literary agency had a contest in which people posted the first paragraph of their novel. There were 1364 entries.

I had a difficult time deciding between Alex's story and Gabriela's. They're both good. Her's had a better opening but his was more recent. I tweaked the heck out of Alex's beginning.

I've always loved the opening sentence. It's rhythm, word choice and energy sum up Alex's mood and set the tone for the book.

By the time the Niagara River rushed northward, spilling over itself and careening off rocks in its haste to crash against the base of the old power generating station less than a mile from the crest of the Horseshoe Falls, its anxious roar was the perfect accompaniment to the mental state of the building’s lone occupant.

The other thing it did really well was slow down the action and jar the reader when the second sentence was from Alex's perspective. I cut it.

In the end, I was entry number 11-something.

Sunday, December 07, 2008


Writing non-fiction has it's own set of challenges when the subject is on-going. It's difficult to set writing goals when I don't know what each day will bring. I haven't written much in Casey's journal this week because I've been too busy experiencing it all.

Wednesday's vet trip took the wind out of everyone's sails. He suggested the atrophy in Casey's shoulder is too severe to be overcome. Suddenly the entire healing team deflated. Everyone was depressed and defeated.

I was angry. We agreed to give it one month of intense daily therapy. Swimming, acupuncture and chiropractic. Not to mention daily massage. The plan was to throw everything we had at the problem, surround it with positive energy and get the job done.

Yet everyone was talking like there was no point in continuing. It didn't help that he'd had his vaccinations and was unable to swim that day. The next day we were overwhelmed with vermin and had to resolve that issue. On Friday he was dry-heaving so three days of swimming were lost.

It was suggested to me by several sources that perhaps it was time to quit. What happened to giving it a month? It's a lot of work for Casey and I. Battling negative energy is a drain we don't need right now.

It's taking a toll on both of us. On our enthusiasm and strength. It's below freezing outside right now and the trip to and from the hot tub in the garage is an endurance race. Our swim today was lacking.

As I was stepping out of the hot tub I heard a man's voice. "You're not giving up already. Why are you giving up so easily?" I quickly realized it was my neighbour's boyfriend talking to her not me but that was the full extent of the conversation I heard. Timely.

Every published author I know got that first contract, and kept it, because they refused to listen to the naysayers. Their personal vision of holding their own published book in their hands was stronger than those who dismissed that belief. They were positive, committed and determined regardless of how "realistic" that was.

I've been struggling this week to hold on to my personal vision of Casey running along the canal with Ky. I've given in a time or two to the edited vision others have of three legs instead of four.

This isn't about whether he'll adapt to that vision. It's about the commitment we all made to reassess in a month. The first week of January. That was our goal. Sometimes you have to continue, climb obstacles, find alternate routes and stop being realistic. The impossible is possible. Commit to it and follow-through.

If the expectations of others are holding you back, just bite through those restraints. Or get a friend to help you.

Casey's commitment to Beowulf's freedom entertained obedience class

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Fine line

Every time I take Casey to the chiropractor she asks me if I've figured out why he's come into our lives. I have several answers; he's healing us, he's not limited by his disability,he doesn't recognize he even has a disability, not to give up even when it's hard.

As writers we show that which serves the story best. I don't know the end to Casey's story. I hope it's triumphant - with four legs running along the canal beside his brother Ky. When I write in the journal the victories that lead to that happy ending are the ones I record. The hiccups and obstacles that could lead to the loss of his leg are glossed over; not even written until they are hurdled.

Today was different. And I'm recording it here, without edits and as few slants as I can manage, for a variety of reasons. I'm no longer sure that my optimism isn't delusion. I'm no longer certain of his commitment to the battle. The big picture is still influenced by my will.

He cried in the car all the way to the appointment which isn't like him at all. He's great in the car, neither his bladder nor bowel needed emptying. Once there he sniffed around outside then jumped up to hug his beloved healer with both front legs. Inside her office he lay down on the adjustment table and whimpered. His shoulder hurt. A thorough examination revealed that on top of everything else, Casey has slipped his rotator cuff(that was not the technical diagnosis). A specific massage was added to the rest of his therapies. And this time when asked why he came into my life I answered, "Because he teaches me not to give up."

On the way out to the car, we were approached by a woman who does quantum healing from a distance. While I have little idea what that is, we agreed to let her work on Casey. She didn't need our presence, only his name and we're grateful for every positive thought sent his way.

Driving home, he started to cry again. I glanced in the back seat to see him lying on his injured side. "Silly dog. Get up and lie on the other side. It will hurt less," I told him. He immediately did as I suggested and stopped crying. Smart boy! I was so impressed he listened.

At home I changed, clipped him into his life jacket and jumped into the hot tub. This was the first time doing it on my own. I couldn't reach the jets and hold him. I forgot the timer. So he swam while I counted. Slower and slower until he just stopped.

No matter what I said, he wouldn't swim. I lifted him, turned him, stretched my arm to reach the jets. Nothing. He hung there limp and stared at me.

I sank to my knees and let him drift his weight onto my thighs. He tucked his head on my shoulder and we sat on the bottom of the hot tub. And I wondered if maybe he wanted to quit after all.

So I asked him. I told him there was no shame and that it was okay. That if he was tired, we could stop. If he wanted to give up the leg and run fast with three that we could do that too. I told him it was his body and up to him how we proceeded.

With just each other in the relative silence we sat together and I let him decide what to do next. I have no idea how long we sat there while the water boiled around us, bubbles popped around his chin and my arms. Mist hung over the garage and tears blurred my vision.

With a tentative kick, Casey slid off my knees and started paddling. Slow at first, then stronger, steadier, faster. I stood up and supported him. Cheered him and praised him.

There may be no quit in Casey but today he reminded me that there are times when you need a little break.

Sunday, November 30, 2008


It takes many forms. Right now as I revise one book and pre-write the next, I'm letting my brain free flow. I'm working on some knitting and crocheting because the textures open my mind up in a way that is beyond visual. I don't create patterns or stitches but the twist and turn of the yarn around the needle reminds me of story lines. Right now I'm using yarn that has a plethora of knots in each ball. I'm forced to stop, untie the knot then weave the ends in as I pick the shawl back up. As you know, I prefer to write in layers, clean up the loose ends when I'm finished. It's the same for yarn work. It's a personality trait, I'm sure. It's made me look a bit more closely at the two writing projects to see what I can work in as I go along.

Casey as a writing project is also moving along. I'm writing in the journal more often and with a deeper slant than merely reciting his therapy. The poor boy has one challenge after another and I can't help but learn from his response to all of it. There is no quit in Casey. As I'm the one jumping into the hot tub with him every day and holding his fifty plus pounds above the water slightly so that he doesn't touch bottom(puppies grow inches overnight)I'm directly affected by his determination. And it adds to mine. We've had to get quite creative to keep him in the hot tub that is not big enough to accommodate his length. I'll post pictures next time we take some. We're quite the sight. We're going to increase his acupuncture treatments as cutting back coincided with a step backward in his progress.

He's still such a happy pup. Full of energy and joy.

I have my hands full of creativity these days. And I am incredibly grateful for it all.

Sunday, November 23, 2008


Just when I figure out Bracken and Kelli's theme is betrayal, I get back the critiques on Alex and Nea's. I sent it out to several readers before I submitted to the editor. I want Hell to Pay to be the best possible piece of writing it can because the characters deserve that. And after the fifty-eighth read-through I'm no longer objective.

In the meantime I critiqued two full manuscripts for other writers. It's hard to shut off editor brain and read simply for joy sometimes. Every nuance and word choice is studied like it contains the recipe for gold. Characters are put through rigid examinations worthy of parole board hearings. The entire process can take as long as writing the original draft.

Three of the four readers who had Alex and Nea have returned them along with comments. Thank goodness they all liked the story. The most interesting aspect of the suggestions were how each person interpreted the story-telling. Two loved a particular technique and the third was lukewarm. I'm revisiting that to see if I can keep the elements the two loved while strengthening it to excite the third reader. It's all about what serves the story best. It's not like I can enter into a dialogue with each individual reader once it's published and explain what I meant in that scene.

Constructive criticism is invaluable. It's great to reach the reader and involve them within the story but when that fails to happen, the criticism is one more tool for unearthing the gold.

Writing, like life, is a never-ending journey full of adventure.

Sunday, November 16, 2008


I had a burst of brain storming this week. I know where the story starts and where it ends. I know who both characters are and what they want. I even know how they oppose each other. The old Gift of the Magi conflict. I'm really psyched about these two. When Bracken stepped out of the forest into the scene with Nea and her mother in Hell to Pay, I knew his story was next.

I still don't have my setting. While I was location scouting in my brain, I got tangled up in some entertainment. When I followed them the plot took shape.

It started with Gerard Butler. As you all know, an interest in that fine actor led me to the brilliant documentary, Wrath of Gods. That film hooked me up Jon Gustafsson's blog Live from the Arctic Circle.

I've been playing over there for months, losing track of time in his photographs and running through his blogroll. None of it is research. It's all been for fun. I've been particularly fascinated with the genetics link, deCODEme. You might not know anything about yourself or personal history yet your DNA can reveal all. And what it reveals could save your life.

While I was researching Bracken ferns last week, I was focused on its environment and physical properties. Almost every hit on google mentioned it's carcinogenic component. Hmmm, aren't fiddleheads a delicacy? Seems a bit of a contradiction to me. More research is required.

Meanwhile, I've always known that Kelli was adopted. Last week I discovered it had something to do with her nymph ancestors who posed a very real threat to her.(still working on that part) So much so that her father had her sent to live with friends of his above the treeline - in Iceland. I wasn't trying to use Iceland as a jumping off place for the story but it made so much sense. Once I accepted that premise it naturally followed that she work for the genetics company as she knows nothing about her heritage. When she learns the truth about her origins, at the beginning of the book, she leaves all that is familiar (still not sure where she ends up) to search for her own truths.

All of this was running around in my head, bumping into ideas and themes but nothing stuck. Until I was driving home from work, listening to a CD by an artist I discovered through Jon's blog - Damien Rice. The song? Rootless Tree And with that all the pieces fell into place. Now it's just a matter of sitting down and writing it.

I celebrated by completing the circle to watch Mr. Butler in his latest flick, RockNRolla. Life is good.

Thanks Jon.

Sunday, November 09, 2008


My friend Stashaholic is visiting. It's a wild weekend of wool. We're playing with a variety of fibre then spinning it on spindles. Very old fashioned.

She brought me a book about natural dyeing to use as a reference for a book I'm writing about a spinner. I'm not writing a book about a spinner. According to a dream she had I will be. I would have laughed except that as I played with the fibre and loaded the spindle I lost myself in the interplay between the two. Colours and textures changed in the spin and I could feel a character take shape.

We're on disc four of Most Haunted Season One. It's hilarious yet creepy at times. I could so set a book in that environment. So far there hasn't been a single haunted spinning wheel but lots of hooded figures. Last time Stashaholic was here we watched Wrath of Gods countless times so she could get a still shot of Sturla's sweater. She hasn't recreated the pattern yet but I'm sure that's simply a matter of time.

It's never a dull moment around here. My brain is circling closer and closer to the conflict between Kelli and Bracken. Both of their internal conflicts are shaping up. No one is a spinner in that book either, but they're both very tactile so we'll see how that works out.

You never know how one creative act affects another. Happy spinning to you all.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Never Surrender

When I was in film I wanted to make a movie that would change people's lives. Not a giant blockbuster that would bring me fame and fortune but a quiet little flick that had a profound impact on individuals. And I did it with my second documentary which is a good thing because making that film changed my life in a variety of ways; one of which was that I had to get out of that business due to health reasons.

It was a half-hour documentary about multiple sclerosis that came out at a time when the disease was terrifyingly misunderstood. The drug treatments were as debilitating as the disease itself and a diagnosis led people to despair. The film was entitled Never Surrender and showed three individuals and their families who were living successfully with the disease. Don't google it. You won't find it. The section with the state-of-the-art testing is hopelessly out-of-date and the film is no longer available.

I met one of my closest friends while making Never Surrender. I met a really cool band,just starting out, who agreed to provide music for the soundtrack. As their career grew so did their involvement with the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada. There were no websites, no google,no positive resources and very little awareness of the disease. My film came along at the perfect moment. It garnered a lot attention, won awards. But most importantly, it gave people reason to believe they could manage the disease and go on to live full productive lives. I still have letters from people thanking me for that.

So when I was diagnosed this week with a plethora of ailments I couldn't help but think of Never Surrender. The attitude behind that film came in handy. I've read up on things, talked to people I know who manage the ailments and done a fair amount of research. There are so many more resources today than when we made that film. And what influenced my outlook wasn't a film at all.

It was a book that had nothing to do with any of those things. It was a work of fiction about a woman whose coping skills were so self-destructive I knew that I'm doing well. I'm older, wiser and my situation is neither dire nor severe. It simply happened to be the book I was reading this week. Yet it changed my perspective.

I want to write fiction that changes people's lives...

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Photographic memory

This is how I spent my week, with my camera in hand.

Autumn is still here in all it's glorious colour.

And I have a thing for trees.

So while I try to figure out where Bracken is going, and why Kellie can't allow that, I've been focused on Casey's therapy.

Today it was the hot tub. He's growing. I'm not sure how much longer he's going to fit.

How was your week?

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Comfort zones

As I've mentioned before there are some authors - JoAnn Ross, Greg Iles, Maggie Shayne, Lisa Gardner, Jennifer Crusie and Susan Wiggs - whose works I buy as soon as they hit the stores. There's another author I've been reading since she was first published - Karen Marie Moning. You don't have to be a romance reader to enjoy these writers. They are all gifted as well as skilled when it comes to the written word. They never fail to enthrall and entertain me.

I'm savouring Faefever, the latest from Ms Moning. It wasn't a series I was expecting to fall into so completely but I have. The next one won't be out for another year so I want to take my time to enjoy the characters for awhile. The fast pace and constant danger don't lend themselves well to that plan. It's almost impossible to put down.

The thing is all the above mentioned authors can suck me into their worlds so completely that I feel like I'm part of the story. They're all known for brilliant characterization as well as intriguing plots. I was thinking about how they manage to make me care so deeply about the growth and well-being of their characters. The emotions are real and messy, not romanticized or polished.

Of course that realization took place in the shower and suddenly I was reaching for my bathtub crayons. Bracken's first scene took shape right there on the back of the shower wall - full of action that showed all of his emotion. He's leaving his comfort zone(thank goodness because I have yet to travel to Scotland) with a ticking clock bundled within his cloak.

I have yet to figure out how Kelli prevents him from reaching his goal or even why for that matter but I'm not too concerned. Once I look at her and how she feels I should be well on my way.

I write in layers. Every book is different from the one before. I suspect this time I'll be writing the emotion first, then the setting and finally dialogue. I have no idea where Bracken is going to end up but I think I need to write outside my comfort zone so it won't be here. My roots are in Niagara but it's time to pull up stakes, fictionally speaking, and check out somewhere new. I just have to figure out where in the world best challenges Kelli and Bracken to grow.

Monday, October 13, 2008


It's Thanksgiving weekend. The leaves have turned orange, red and yellow. The fish in the pond are sluggish. The tomato plants are leggy and ragged. I sat outside with Hell to Pay yesterday and started the final read-through. I didn't get very far. It's so warm outside and the dogs wanted to play ball. Or dig in my garden. Or share chestnuts with me. They were so active that I decided to take a cue from them to live in the moment and enjoy the bonus nice weather while I could.

At dinner later that night, my nephew informed us that he'd like to go work in Australia for a year. This is not the first time he'd said that. It's a plan I heartily encourage. By traveling a great distance to leave home and all that is familiar, he'll truly learn his strengths and desires. The experience will be life changing. I was only eight years old when we moved back to Canada from Germany but those three years taught me valuable lessons that still hold true today.

Living so close to the border, we are heavily influenced by the United States. Our cultural identity can be overwhelmed at times. Listening to my niece's interpretation of Thanksgiving was one of them. Ultimately whether the holiday was started by the Pilgrims and Indians or as a celebration of the harvest isn't as important as giving thanks for all that we have.

I've been particularly blessed this year with great friends and a good family. There have been some tough times and these are the people that have helped me keep perspective or brought me back from the brink of insanity. These are the people who inspire me to keep going when all I want to do is lie down for a month or two. These are the people who point out the irony of injuring my back while setting up a hot tub. Who fly across the country for a house-warming party. Who remind me that spinning and knitting are valuable talents. Who show me the world through amazing photographs and brilliant films. Who bring different cultures into my awareness. Who spend most of Movie Night sharing their own healing trials so that I can benefit from their experience.

These are the people who bring laughter and sorrow, wounds and healing, challenges and rewards, anger and love into my life. These are the people who bring out the worst and the best in me so that I'm as well-rounded as I am.

These are the people for whom I give thanks. You are these people.

Thank you.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Autumn colours my world

There is something about Autumn that has always appealed to me. I suppose the vibrant colours are a huge part of it. Perhaps it's the beginning of the school year. Or maybe the fact that we always moved at the end of September(the military wasn't worried about dependents or their education) It's been a long while since I was a kid getting a hair cut and a new wardrobe to impress the kids at the new school, but the smell of wood and lead as I sharpen pencils is as important today as it was back then.

I like to start new projects in Autumn. It's the season of pre-writing for me. I go out with my camera, play with the colours and lighting and think about the new characters. I imagine how they'd be spending the day, how they feel about the crisp Fall air; the scent of apples, grapes and decay. I wonder whether they enjoy the quiet or abhor it.

It's a season full of opportunities, beginnings, and reflection for me. This is the time of year I fall in love, start fresh with my exercise regime and celebrate the harvest. I try new foods, listen to unfamiliar music, play with textures. I absorb Autumn through my pores and my senses are sharper than at any other time of year.

We bring in the summer's harvest, fill our storehouses and prepare ourselves for the long months of dark to come. While the plants become dormant, the animals hibernate and winter winds keep us indoors, it is Autumn that provides us with the tools to survive. Mulch the flower beds; carpets of leaves and nutrients leach into the ground to feed the roots.

My roots, both literal and figurative, are sustained by the excitement and vibrancy that is Autumn. I stretch and grow and breathe deeper now. I suppose some would consider me to be in the Autumn of my life. Great. This is when I feel most alive. Alert. Exhuberant.

I have no desire to fly south.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Tangental thinking

My brain is all over the place. Not literally. No need for shovels to clean up the mess. But my thought processes are not linear. I don't think they are at the best of times. It seems worse at the moment largely because I'm between writing projects. I'm unraveling from Nea and Alex. Bracken and Kelli don't have their hooks in me yet.

Casey's physiotherapy is a full time project in and of itself. When we're not actively engaged in massage, chiropractic, acupuncture or hydrotherapy we're reading, researching or playing with him. He's a puppy and full of energy who hates his new splint. It means he can't sleep on his back with his front legs over his head. He likes to dig. He likes to pounce on Ky.

I managed to squeeze in some reading time this morning and whipped right through the latest Tess Gerritsen. It was brilliant as usual. Archaeology is a fascinating subject and I'm enthralled by the ancient past.

It's an interesting contrast to the Hadron Collider. It's an incredibly complex machine that hopes to recreate the milliseconds after Creation. It's also fascinating and fraught with opportunities for disaster. Conversely, the possibilities for knowledge are incredible.

For some reason both make me think of my great Grandpa Fenton. He came to Canada with all of his worldly possessions in a trunk which now holds my craft supplies. He had a sharp mind and a strong curiosity. At least we know who to blame for my constant questions about the past and the future. Sometimes I'm even interested in what's happening right now.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A good day

Elen posted a great picture of a puppy with a stick. It reminded me of a good day with Nikka and Ky this summer. Maybe this will tide Merry over for a few days while we scramble through Autumn preparations.

Sunday, September 21, 2008


I was just going over the ending of Hell to Pay the other day when it promptly disappeared in a puff of logic. Five points if you correctly identify the source of that quote. Fortunately the answer was right there in all of the contradictory and confusing dialogue. This is a heavy work week for me so I'll be lucky to get that straight-through read I want before I pass it off.

My brain has been busy problem solving several things this week. Casey is responding well to his treatments. He's now aware that he has a paw on the end of that leg even if he hasn't got the strength to stand on it. It is now officially Autumn in Canada and it's too cold for us to continue swimming in the unheated outdoor pool we've been using up until now. Pity because he's actually paddling with that paw. I'm working on a way to continue with hydrotherapy without risking hypothermia.

Kellie and Bracken are doing the pre-writing dance. I have a good sense of who they are and how they interact. I have absolutely no idea in what context they meet or how their goals exclude each other. I'm working on the Conflict Box that Crusie/Mayer discussed in their online writing workshop last year.

The house renovations are finally all done so that's one less distraction. I've figured out how to use the gorgeous new camera so pictures should show up on the blog while I contemplate all my writing options.

Autumn is one of my favourite seasons. I love the smell of the earth as it tugs the blanket of decay over itself in preparation for the ice and snow. Colours are both vibrant and subdued at this time of year and everything is so crisp. The crunch of apples, crackle of leaves and snap of wood in the fireplace.

It's a good time to gather everything together for the coming winter. Plot ideas, characters and conflicts are necessary to the story I plan to tell around the hearth while the cold winter blows. Metaphorically speaking of course.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

My new project

I've got three projects to choose from. An old manuscript that needs a major overhaul. Bracken and Kellie's story which has a major question mark as to conflict. It's strange. I have internal but not external. I even have an inkling as to resolution so I'm working backwards from that.

Right now, I'm working on a non-fiction project. It started quite suddenly last Monday (did you hear the whoosh?) and derailed my last deadline. Life doesn't always play fair.

I'm documenting the care and rehabilitation of this little guy.

Casey is undergoing extensive alternative therapies to save his damaged leg from amputation. He was seriously injured after being hit by a car and suffered severe nerve damage in the front left paw. As he's less than six months old, and has deep nerve response, we're guardedly optimistic about his prognosis.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Deadlines and committment

One of my favourite quotes comes from Douglas Adams. "Deadlines. I love the whooshing sound they make as they go by." I just like his irreverence. Deadlines make me comfortable. I need that goal to work towards. Otherwise, I'd spend all my spare time on the couch listening to the rain and reading. That's not entirely true but it's accurate today.

I blew off two deadlines this week. One was for the library course. I thought the registration deadline was Friday. Instead of confirming that date, I signed into the website Tuesday night, three hours after the deadline passed. The good news is I'll have lots of time this Fall to work on my next project(still trying to decide which to go with), send out some queries and play with my new camera. The bad news is I'll have to take two classes in January in order to complete the certificate within five years.

The other deadline was to finish inputting and polishing Hell to Pay by Wednesday. I really worked on it. I could hear Wednesday whooshing up behind me. I ducked and wove but it still pushed past. I tired to catch it but no luck. It's frustrating. This Wednesday looms in my rearview mirror but I think I'm far enough in front to win this race.

No one has given me the deadline. It's self-imposed. I am committed to finishing this book. Dedication. Persistence. Commitment. They're all catch words of success. Everyone wants to know that you can deliver regardless of what life tosses your way. No one wants to hear the excuses, although they can be entertaining.

Mine aren't. There are only so many hours in a day and I spent too many of them on Monday looking for songs by Damien Rice and drooling over other people's photographs. Procrastination is a very bad trait I possess in equal parts to the persistence, dedication and commitment.

The real reason I dallied that day was my reluctance to let Alex go out into the big bad world without me. We've been together a long time. I'm going to miss him. But it's time to let him go. I have no doubt he'll do well. Maybe he'll drop me a postcard from time to time. I've enjoyed traveling the world with him.

Sunday, August 31, 2008


There's a huge difference between conflict and excitement. In fiction, there's supposed to be plenty of both. In real life it's nice to have plenty of the latter and little of the former. The odd thing is how often we mistake one for the other.

I'm inputting and editing as I go. By this time next week I should be done and floundering around for a post. I tripped across a scene that was heavy on conflict and not all that exciting. Too much drama and not enough substance so I broke it up, twisted perspectives and allowed the conflict to generate excitement through the internal turmoil as the characters played out the action.

Nea is conflicted just by breathing. That's not always interesting, let alone exciting. She's drawn to situations that feed her combativeness.

Alex has a strong sense of adventure. Everything to him is exciting. He rises to the challenges that are part and parcel of those adventures. Until recently, he wasn't particularly conflicted.

Reconciling the two of them is fascinating to me. All too often in life, we're attracted to people and situations that keep our blood pumping. We seek adventure and conflict thinking that we have to overcome in order to be either exciting or excited. That's where all those Bad Boy Heroes come in. The more dangerous he is the more exciting.

Oddly, I've never been drawn to write dangerous bad boys. My guys usually end up in conflict between doing their job and the heroine's goals. Sometimes his values are challenged by hers but I don't think there's been a badge-wearing, gun-carrying, motorcycle-riding, black leather jacket in the lot of them. They've all been strong men drawn to strong willed women.

It's a good thing I've been around to teach them all the difference between conflict and excitement so that they all get their requisite Happy Ending.

Sunday, August 24, 2008


A friend of mine made the observation the other night that there's a fine line between optimism and delusion. She illustrated that with the idea that meeting Gerard Butler was optimistic but expecting him to instantly fall in love with her was delusional. He'd have to go out with her a few times. Which made me laugh.

It also dovetailed nicely with my recent thoughts about fans. Not the ones that blow around air and make you feel cooler, although that description could apply. I'm talking about the people who make it possible for artists, authors, musicians, sports figures and film people to make a living from something they love.

There's a strange love/hate relationship between those two groups. They each satisfy a need in each other, and seem to carry a great deal of resentment for it. I don't quite understand it. Admittedly the Keziah Fenton fan club is small at the moment and I'm not getting hate mail deriding my penchant for the colour purple(the actual colour not the movie or book of that name). There aren't a lot of expectations built up around my behaviour, personal life or productivity.

People sometimes mistake celebrities for the roles they play(even musicians and authors play at a public persona). It's easy enough to do I suppose. I certainly joke enough about the aforementioned gorgeous Scottish actor. I do realize the man has a private life that should be all his own and not fodder for speculation from a bunch of people who don't know anything about him other than his job.

My major concern about fans is the way they've been handled in all the NASCAR books I've been reading. Yes sports fans love to embrace the fanaticism aspect of their moniker. They decorate their homes, cars, clothes, kids and pets in their team colours. Some of them tattoo their bodies or shave logos into their hair. But I watched the cash flow at the track a couple of weeks ago and the disdain TV announcers, authors and sometimes crews had for the fans irritated me.

I wasn't feeling well that day and inhaling exhaust behind the pits didn't help so I spent a lot of time wandering the park observing people. Pit crews ogled the sweet young things in their tight tank tops and skin tight jeans then punched each other in the arm whenever one of them got a phone number. Vendors rolled their eyes at the guy with Die Cast cars glued all over his ball cap. The TV hosts re-read the same page thirty times rather than interact with the crowd in the audience. There was a definite us versus them mentality.

People lined the gate back to the driver's RVs hoping to catch a glimpse, maybe even obtain an autograph, of their hero. Some drivers obliged, some ducked. A couple even sent out decoys and slid out the side. It must be difficult to be in such demand.

I'm not being facetious. When I get home from a long day at work, I can go upstairs, pet the dog and relax. I don't have to run the gauntlet of people congratulating/commiserating/clamoring/waiting/expecting. I can wear sloppy clothes, no make-up and a messy ponytail. I don't have to fulfill anyone's expectations.

As someone who admires another's work, I try to remember the fine line between fan and fanatic. I can appreciate one driver's skill over another. One actor's style, look, persona. I can even share that admiration with other people. I'm not sure at what point that makes me an object of ridicule.

Actors need an audience. Drivers need to fill the stands. Authors need readers. They are symbiotic relationships and as such shouldn't be taken for granted nor mocked. They deserve each other's respect and until we've been on the other side of that relationship we would do well to remember that.

I know I'll do my best. I trust you to remind me if I slip up.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Writing Olympics

My friend Me drove in from Detroit, S the Ky-ropractor(so called because she adjusts Ky's spine) came from Niagara-on-the-lake and I came home after work so that we could participate in the first annual Writing Olympics.

The Opening Ceremonies and lighting of the orange pillar candle(for creativity and success) were followed by a nice glass of Italian wine and homemade spaghetti. We had tortilla chips and salsa as well as sushi for appetizers, which we didn't end up eating, in keeping with the International flavour of the weekend.

It took a while for us to settle into writing. The athletic Olympics were on the television as background noise mostly because we wanted to watch Michael Phelps win his eighth gold medal. I'm not really used to a writing marathon that full of distractions.

We talked a fair amount about our individual projects. While writing isn't a team sport, it can certainly benefit at times from external input. Our genres are vastly different. Me is writing romantic suspense, I'm writing paranormal and the Ky-ropractor writes non-fiction. Some very interesting parameters and writing styles to choose from. There are times when another perspective can help clarify a scene for you.

We had a very productive night. Three gold medals in all.

Me for Distance(self-explanatory), S for gymnastics(there are a lot of mental twists, flips and jumps that she has to go through to write this book)and a Gold in the Decathalon for myself as I'm usually doing nine other things when I write.

Today was a great day. I finally figured out how to destroy a forest, trick a demon and save two souls in the process. I talked it through with Me to see if she bought my machinations and it worked for her. This sticking point has held me back from the last five scenes in the book. It was a major turning point for all of the main characters.

We watched the NASCAR race from Michigan while I wrote a fight scene then we took a break with Wrath of Gods. Again. Because it's brilliant and I want everyone to see it even if I have to show it to the world one person at a time. It makes me want to be a film maker again.

However, I took that creative spurt and poured it into Nea's breakdown. The Ky-ropractor has left the Games to do more research. Me is in the other room working towards her ending. I heard her curse at a character awhile ago so that was entertaining. One more night then she goes home tomorrow. I plan to have this draft done by then.

These have been excellent Writing Olympics. I think we'll do it again in two years for the winter games and see what we can dream up then.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

More kissing

A lot of people are reading my First Kiss post. Which is interesting because kisses have been part of my thought processes a lot lately. I'm having quite an interesting dream relationship with a man I've only met online. All of whom are now wondering if it's him. Unless you're quitting your job, cutting your hair and going off to Connemara to play a lawyer on television, it's not. At least that's what you did in the dream.

There was some good-bye kissing. But that was also the first kiss. There was no kissing until the latter half of the dream. To be perfectly honest, it wasn't that good. Too awkward, too much pressure, too quick. The second kiss was better. The third was a real kiss and the fourth was so wonderful that I can still feel it hours after waking.

I'm sure the whole kissing aspect of the dream was inspired by a conversation with a young friend of mine who has never been kissed. She's built the First Kiss up to such an ideal that she knows she'll be disappointed. I told her there are so many kinds of kisses, and rarely is the first one the best. Awkward, brief, too wet, nose bumping, glasses locking together, does-he-really-like-me? thin-lipped, over-analyzed first kisses are not unheard of. Once you get that behind you and relax the fun begins. But not for everyone. Some people don't ever like kissing.

Nea has never seen the appeal. If she wanted to spread germs, she'd send in thousands of rats to affect more people in one swoop. Demons are not noted for their sense of romance.

I'm in the home stretch of editing, should get it done this weekend provided the sore throat doesn't develop into anything more brain-fuddling. The very thing that saves both Alex's and Nea's souls is a kiss. A life-changing, True Love kiss. The perfect kiss of which I dreamt last night. That kind of kiss. I should go write it down right now. Except I don't want to share that kiss. I want to savour it, enjoy it and keep it for my own. Even though it wasn't real and came from my imagination. Strange, huh?

PS If you're a man who knows me online and you woke up with a sore throat and the imprint of lips on yours, let me know cause that would be strange.

Monday, August 11, 2008


My love affair with motorsports is an apparent contradiction to the rest of my life. I was a tree hugging environemntalist before it was cool. My idea of heaven involves lots of trees, a lake or ocean and an assortment of wildlife. Doctor Doolittle and Swiss Family Robinson were my ideal living conditions growing up. Now I want to live on Nim's Island and not just because Gerard Butler is her father.

Yet, the one sport I have more than a passing interest in is the least environmentally friendly one out there. I don't have the statistics at my fingertips but I'm sure that one weekend of racing does more damage to the environment than I do in a year. Yet the sound of all those engines makes me crazy. I completely lose my mind. Where does that passion come from?

When I was little, my grandmother watched Formula 1 on Sundays. I can remember sitting on the arm of her chair cheering for one driver over another because that's who she told me was best.

Bright lights changed the dark track to a daytime setting on several excursions to stock car racing with my parents when I was a kid. We didn't go too often because the roar of the engines hurt my brother's ears. Spilled fuel filled my small lungs and I was hooked for life.

When my nephew was seven or eight years old, I took him to Toronto for the Molson Indy race. Nothing like spreading the addiction. The grin on his face the first time he heard the call, "Gentlemen, start your engines<" was worth every penny. We went every other year until three years ago.

That's when we went to a NASCAR race at historic Watkins Glen. Last year, he insisted on buying his dad a ticket to the race as a Father's Day gift. Now we are three.

I didn't take too many photographs as my camera decided to crash at the track. Maybe it was the pictures I was taking of the television cameras and photographer's lens. My envy made the little point and shoot feel inadequate and quit. My nephew used his cell phone so we have lots of pictures of the scenic setting. And some cows. No sheep. Sorry Stashaholic.

As I was flipping through the photographs I do have, I realized why I adore a sport that is so unlike the rest of my philosophies. Many great bonding moments have occurred with several generations over the scream of engines, whine of air guns and through a thick screen of tire smoke. Sunday is Race Day. I usually go downstairs to my parents' apartment to watch it with them, not despite my father's rants at the TV, but because of them. Racing means family.

Next time you give a character a characteristic, passion or hobby that is so alien to their personality, think about my example and root it well. Make it believable. Give it a history that defies convention. People are more complex than we tend to write.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008


I was up an hour earlier than usual this morning so that I could take the rescued Quaker parakeet to the vet. Yoda spent six months of his life in a custody dispute before he ended up coming to live with me almost a year ago. It was supposed to be temporary. Stop laughing. I knew what I was getting myself into. Or so I thought.

He's been attack parrot the last couple of weeks. No one has been safe from his vicious beak. I had a sneaking suspicion about what ailed him but wanted confirmation from a trained professional. And to be completely honest, there is so much more I don't know than what I do know about birds. I could have been wrong.

The little demon has reached sexual maturity. It turns out he's two years old instead of the three I thought he was. Should have read his band.

Driving home I took Highway 8 along the base of the Niagara Escarpment. It was beautiful and if Yoda hadn't been abnormally subdued I might have stopped and snapped a couple of quick photographs to share here. I felt the stress of the morning drop away as I drove past orchard after orchard. I had forgotten how much I love the western part of the region. Alex has kept my focus in the Falls. I don't enjoy all the developments. It's all grape vines, wineries and monster homes, the occasional sheep or Highland cattle notwithstanding. For those of you not from this area, the old homes, stone outbuildings and ancient trees are exquisite. They soothe me.

With a demon bird in the cage beside me, I couldn't help but think of my fictional demon. We're getting to the end of our journey together. I wondered if Nea would have identified with her nymph heritage more had she been raised in amongst all those trees. It's more likely she was responsible for all the plum pox that destroyed so many orchards. She makes no apologies for that. I hope that given all she's learned she will make different choices in the future.

Driving always makes me think. I've been accused of over-thinking things. Isn't that part of being a writer? One has to view each scene, action and emotion from every perspective in order to understand the characters well enough to tell their story. I don't think I'm the only one who does that.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Perfect day

Have you ever had one of those perfect days that defies description?

My friend Stashaholic is in town for the long weekend. We've known each other too long to count and while we're vastly different in our approach towards life, we're eerily similar. My parents call her their other daughter(they have several).

I didn't sleep much the first night as she felt the need to tell me(the person who never watches the news or reads the paper) about a horrific murder that has made headlines around the world. Canadians don't have much a violent history but when we do commit murder we make up for it in spectacular ways.

The horror hit me repeatedly throughout the night. When I woke up in the morning I wondered what I was doing with a fictional demon who was no where near as gruesome as this real life person. I ended up writing dialogue all over the back of the shower wall addressing that issue.

A few cups of tea later, Stashaholic proposed we go to a yarn store in Fonthill. I was lukewarm. We had been invited to a friend's house for Sushi and wine later and it was going to be a rush to get from one place to another before the winery closed. My sense of adventure was challenged (perhaps even mocked) so off we went.

Google maps let us down consistently throughout the day. The store doesn't have a website and I had forgotten to write down the phone number but we found our way. Eventually.

Stashaholic was thrilled with all of the variety in wools. Possum, corn and milk were all new to me but by then I'd decided to embrace her addiction to texture. It was fun. The darling man who followed us from room to room kept the shop open a bit late to accommodate our dithering. She bought some gorgeous stuff and sent me home with a hank of plant dyed wool.

We meandered from Fonthill to Niagara-on-the-lake to check out Frog Pond,an organic winery. More wrong turns, messed up directions and much laughter. We passed sheep. Twice. The same sheep. I'm not sure if this is when Stashaholic's plan to get some Icelandic fleece was born but it took root as we drove the countryside. At some point I'm going to have two pounds of fresh fleece in my spare room so we can clean it, card it then spin into wool for sweaters. She's already done plenty of research on that subject.

We tasted the wine, purchased a couple of bottles and began the journey to my friend's house. More country roads, a rainbow, and a Quest for hairy beasts(Highland Cattle)and more laughter. We stopped at an Irish tea shoppe and sat out the torrential downpour. Too bad I left the car window down for some air.

At one point I'd seen a man standing beside a metal sculpture of a man that looked like a great picture. Stashaholic kept asking if we were going to go back to see the alligator which threw me off because it was clearly a man. Another circuitous route and we pulled into the driveway to realize we were each looking at something different. The sculptor came out into the yard and shared his creations with us. The details were incredible. Personality glinted in metallic bugs' eyes. An iron dragon shimmered and clawed his way up a tower. And the artist himself stared at us from Don Quixote's face. He was a character.

By the time we got to my friend's house for sushi, I was savouring the day's adventures. I'd been so reluctant to embark on anything that morning but as the day unfolded I discovered so much pleasure in all that surrounded us. Every day things that so many of us take for granted.

We reached each of the destinations but the journeys defied structure. Most of my joy came from rolling with the experiences as they occurred. We talked about life, about writing, knitting, spinning and wool. Relationships, friendships and careers. Our conversations were as linear as my driving, yet they always made sense to us.

There are times when you just have to throw structure aside and simply experience life. I wonder how that will work with editing.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Niagara Falls

There's no way I can ever top the photograph that's in my header for sheer breathtaking splendor(but that doesn't stop me from trying). I stood on the stone wall that separates man from nature to get that shot, then cropped out the trees in the periphery. The river truly roars as it dives over the edge.

We went to Niagara Falls last week and as I predicted we did discuss some plotting. I'm in the home stretch as far as editing goes so it's merely a matter of fine-tuning.(I'll be looking for delta readers soon, just so you know) Walking the terrain helps with that.

I waved at the people on the boat, with little idea that I would be down there myself soon enough.

Look at how far downriver one starts the Maid of the Mist tour. It gives you a good sense of the size of the falls themselves.

Here is the American Falls which are also breathtaking. There's no way to get anywhere near this close to the Horseshoe Falls. The undertow and back eddies strain the boat's engines as it is. I've lost a camera in the past to the spray so this time I kept mine safely hidden beneath the plastic poncho. Being at the base of the falls is exhilarating, terrifying and beyond description. It was also incredible research. Talk about walking the terrain. I rode it out. It should make the last scene of this manuscript impossible to put down.

I'm hoping I've described the falls well enough that you'll feel like you've experienced it for yourself. If not, we now have Niagara's Fury to simulate it for you.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Random thoughts aren't always as random as they seem

My company is here from Indiana. We're going to Niagara Falls tomorrow to admire Alex's house. It looks so different in the summer than the winter but I still get a great feel for the energy of the place. I've been editing every day and see no reason to stop for guests. Fortunately they're the kind of people who understand that drive. We'll likely discuss scene blocking while at the Falls. I'm blessed with my friends.

We watched Wrath of Gods last night. A couple of people came into the room late in the viewing but were sucked in right away. If you still haven't seen this film about the challenges of making Beowulf and Grendel, hound your local video store to get it or order it yourself. You'll thank me later as I did Zingera and Jon.

Yesterday was such a random thought kind of day while I was prepping for company. My stomach was upset and because you rarely see a chimp running around complaining of such ailments I started to wonder about the diet of chimpanzees and how it differed from humans. Not that I want to eat trees, leaves or small birds but there might be something to the whole fruits and veggie diet. Are chimpanzees actually healthier than humans? This articlediscussed the role diet played in evolution. Genes in the liver changed as radically as the diets the lab mice were fed. It was mostly scientific stuff but my brain went off on a tangent about altering genetics. It wasn't writing related so I left that thought process and went elsewhere.

To Jon Gustafsson's blog as he has some incredible photographs on there. I write a lot from images. While Iceland and Niagara Falls have a huge geographical distance the beauty of both landscapes inspire me.

Once there,I played in a couple of his sidelinks, even though I'm familiar with Wrath of Gods. And ended up right back at my chimp gene thought process. Too bad I don't write thrillers because my brain took the two webpages and ran with them. There were lots of what ifs and why nots and near misses in the evolutionary ladder that would have made my conspiracy driven nephew proud. The funny thing is, I can't really let go of the possibilities.

The study of genetics seems so straight forward but the variables are much bigger than any of us non-scientific folk can imagine. In a strange way, this is the basis of Nea's motivation. Her behaviour is not as much a result of her upbringing as it is her parent's identities. Their genes influence her in almost every way.

Maybe if she ate more fruits, leaves and termites, Nea could change her genetic make-up. But I doubt it. She wouldn't be Nea.

Funny how one thought just leads into another until the end of the day comes and you realize you spent way too much time on other people's blogs, websites and films when you should have been editing your own stuff. Oh well. I enjoyed the strange journey yesterday.

Monday, July 14, 2008


It's not as exciting to talk about this phase of writing. It's down and dirty, cut and paste, rewrite necessary stuff that isn't all that interesting until it's done. Right now it's simply messy. With a lot of misplaced commas.

Much like my house. I'm sorting through things, re-arranging and preparing a formerly empty room to become a sanctuary. Right now, it's all paint, rollers, cleaning material and piles of stuff. The floor has been laid. All of the materials are there. It's simply a matter of putting things where they belong and discarding what I don't need.

There's no correlation between my life and writing whatsoever. It never ceases to amaze me how often that synchronicity occurs. Does that happen to you?

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Reward of Gods

For some reason that is unfathomable, and not to be examined too closely should the magic fall off, I can write while watching motorsports. It's an incredibly productive use of my time. The love scenes for some bizarre reason are the best ones I write. Last night, I edited 30 pages while watching the NASCAR race. 30 pages single-spaced.

Today, I rewarded myself with a viewing of the Wrath of Gods DVD that arrived in the mail on Friday. Go order it. I'll wait.

Brilliant isn't it? I didn't even watch all the bonus materials. They'll be future rewards for writing goals that are met. The documentary was fascinating - like watching a train wreck without the gore. It's a testament to persistence, perseverance and dedication. It's also a love letter to film making.

My dad was in Iceland several times with the air force when I was growing up. I've heard stories about its stark beauty and incredible weather but nothing prepared me for the fury of the Icelandic Sea as it rose up to grab a jeep. Or the contrast between sunny skies one day and hurricane force winds the next. Wind and sea fill my mind even now. I wonder if the cast and crew ever did dry out.

Wrath of Gods is absolutely brilliant. Thanks Zingera for recommending it so highly. A bigger thanks to Jon Gustafsson for not only ensuring I received a copy but for making the film in the first place.

Go reward yourself with Wrath of Gods. You won't be sorry.

Sunday, June 29, 2008


I took my clipboard with my first draft out west with me last week. I had no illusions of writing while in Portland for Merry's housewarming party but I did think I'd write on the plane ride across the country. I didn't expect to have to stow my personal belongings in the overhead bin. C'est la vie.

Getting back into the swing of writing has been slow. Most of this week was taken up with Real Life and re-assimilating myself into it. Yesterday I did write a page. Today I will build on that by writing two pages before bed(could be a late night as I'm off on dog rescue duty again after a sighting of the lost dog)but it will happen. Tomorrow I'll increase the word count again. If I do that every day regardless of how I feel, this draft will be finished sooner rather than later. Persistence truly is the key.

What do you do to get yourself back from the procrastination slump?

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Excuses, excuses

I didn't write a word last week. At least not fiction. Not story fiction. Every day postcard fiction is another story. I did see Alex's house from the air. Wicked cool. Last night I dreamt I went over the falls in a caterpillar. The construction kind. I took two friends with me. Ooops. I suspect the dream had its root in a discussion about Alex kayaking over waterfalls in Oregon. Both the discussion and the kayaking took place in that state. I was on a much needed vacation with a great group of friends. Alex and Nea did come with me but stayed very much in the background while I played.

I didn't realize the world ended rather abruptly at Cannon Beach. All of my attention was focused on trying to snap the following photo. Consequently, I fell off the continent.
I think it was worth it.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Five minutes

It's been a crazy week here. More so than usual. I would take solace in writing - if I had more than five minutes at a time. I try to use that five minutes wisely. While hiding in the car while hail pinged the roof I read three of my own paragraphs. They were good paragraphs. I didn't touch them.

Another five minutes was spent ordering the Wrath of Gods DVD directly from the website. As you may recall I was somewhat irate when a previous copy turned up blank. Zingera urged me to hunt down another copy as it was a brilliant documentary about the making of Beowulf and Grendel. Jon Gustafsson, the director of Wrath of Gods was kind enough to comment on that post and invite me to the website. The Canadian distributer of the DVD dropped the ball and left a lot more customers than just me staring at the blank screen. I just have to edit the first third of the book before I'm allowed to watch it. It's a great incentive to use my five minutes wisely.

If you can spare five minutes please check out his blog and help support my friend Kirby who is participating in the inaugural Ride to Conquer Cancer June 20-22. He'll be cycling over 200km from Toronto to Niagara Falls. All money raised goes to fund cancer research, teaching and care at The Princess Margaret Hospital Foundation. I couldn't even walk that far let alone cycle but I'm happy to share his fundraising efforts with others.

Five minutes can change the world, change an individual, change a mood. How will you spend your five today?

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Whatever works

I earned this star, and several others, this week.

I started the marketing course and actually implemented the first lesson at the small community branch of the library. It wasn't part of the course but the opportunity arose and I took it. I have to hand in the actual assignment this week.

My dog gained 30% of his body weight in the past year. I'm appalled and have started running with him every day. Okay, he runs, I walk. I ran a little bit yesterday when he rolled on a dead fox but that was self-preservation. I didn't eat much dinner as a result. Hmmm, an extreme weight-loss program. I think I'll pass. We're running up and down the stairs tonight while a thunderstorm rages outside. You take your exercise where you can get it.

As for blog relevance, my desk is covered in paperwork. I have a spreadsheet for the growth of numerous elements in the story. I have a book about white-water rafting and two drafts of Hell to Pay, one of which is mostly point form.

I'm using a pen to flesh out every sentence on the first draft that I printed last month. It's compact, portable and the words on the page are more visual for me than on the computer screen. Sometimes just knowing the pages are in my bag keep my brain working on the scene. With the demand on my time these days, that's vital.

I edited my first chapter and part of the next one. I don't actually have chapters at this point, merely scene breaks. I'll do chapters on the last pass. Those breaks can really change the pace of the story. I have to build up to the run.

Next week, I'll have another chapter-length section done. Until then, how do you edit?

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Goals and Distractions

Sunday is Race Day here at Chez Fenton. My brother comes over to watch the race with his brain washed children. I wear a shirt, scrunchie, flip-flops and earrings bearing my favourite driver's logo. Perhaps I'm exaggerating somewhat. My niece will chant along with the parrot and I but only after she makes it clear where her loyalties belong. I'm reading Liz Allison'sbooks and reviewing my notes from the NASCAR game I wrote questions for a few years back. My favourite sport is actually research. How cool is that?

I had a look at my calendar the other day to see about scheduling a research trip to one of the racetracks. Yikes. I don't have a day off for another three weeks, at which point I'm going to the Pacific Northwest to visit with a whack of cherrybombs(fans of Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer) It will be fun but not relaxing. Then I'm back home to work seven days a week for another three or four weeks.

Did I mention I'm starting a marketing course for the library this week? I'm not sure if I'm an overachiever or a fool. When do I have time to write?

The best way for me to attain my goals is to make deadlines and hold myself accountable. That's where the blog comes in handy. I'm stating my intention right here and now to have chapter one of Hell to Pay revised by next Sunday.

It's a reasonable goal. All of the lightning/fire stuff I asked for help with won't come into play, even on a subtle level, for another two chapters. That gives me time this week to pop into Niagara Falls and do a little research on something that's a possibility for that scene.

Thank you all for your suggestions through the comments and emails. You've inspired several options,all of which involve lightning in some capacity. You're the best.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Your assistance is requested

I've started working on the next draft, scene by scene. I've just started. Now that I'm in my office and can spread papers all over the desk, it's so much easier to keep track of where I am in the story.

There's a scene in the last third of the book of which I have two versions. In one there is a fire, in another the fire is prevented. Whichever one I go with greatly impacts the last third of the book. As it stands, the fire is prevented. It might be stronger otherwise.

My question to you is how do I burn down a small cluster of chestnut trees? In front of people? With enough speed and destruction that they can't put the fire out in time? Perhaps you can see why I prevented it in the current draft.

As you were all invaluable with the bar scene, I know you'll be of great assistance in causing this fire. Gasoline and a match are not an option. I'm not sure how well flammable liquids travel through time and space.

Thank you.

To set the scene without giving too much away. Nea and Alex are in a forest. They are surrounded by nymphs as well as a variety of flora and fauna apart from the chestnut trees. I like the idea of lightning but am not sure magic can be employed. It might require plain old-fashioned human means. All of the players, including the nymph observers, apart from the arsonist are preoccupied by a bitter confrontation between Nea and her mother.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Oh the Joy

This was my office three days ago. It was convenient. I have this cool little table on wheels and I propped my paperwork up on the hingey part of the table. I could watch Yoda play to the right, observe the fish or even laugh at Ky watching bird and fish. I also watched television while I wrote. Multi-tasking is my middle name.

I spent several days replacing the main piece of glass in the door that lounged in the garage. It took some careful manipulation and lots of scrubbing to get a reasonably clean door upstairs and into the room.

While it's not perfect (several boxes beneath the door/desk have to be put away), I'm pleased with how the room has come together. Stacks of papers have already spread themselves across the top but I'm sorting through things right now so that's to be expected. At least now all those papers have homes, and will go into them just as soon as I can access the filing cabinet and shelf.

Thanks to the new level of organization my brain has been able to focus on the important things. I actually wrote some dialogue this morning that helped me get back into the right frame of mind. Thank you to Elen and Kate for your thoughtful input on my conundrum. It is about balance, as well as a time and place, not to mention purpose, for everything.

This office supplies me with all of the above. And no, that's not the same vase of lilacs in both pictures. I'm setting mood in every room. A good mood to assist me with all the crap in life and writing.

Monday, May 19, 2008


I rescued a baby skunk from certain death yesterday. He was limping as quickly as his injured leg would allow him to motor through the parking lot. He was headed for the even busier road when I got to him with a shopping basket. Poor little guy was terrified out of his wits by the time I reached him. He didn't try to spray me. He did hiss and cower. By the time the Humane Society came to pick him up for even more certain death(at least he wouldn't suffer from his injuries or die beneath the wheels of any one of the half-dozen cars I stopped in their tracks), I had repeatedly answered the question of why I don't work with wildlife for a living. For one thing, I don't have my rehab license. I also don't have the time or money required to take on rehab full time. I've done it for other people and know beyond all doubt that it's a 24-7, no vacation heartbreak.

Rather than get into all the whys and wherefores of wildlife rehab, and the fate of one little creature I crossed paths with for twenty minutes on a rainy, cold Sunday, I started thinking about how I could change the world. What could I do to ease the pain and suffering out there? Cyclones, earthquakes, tsunamis; they're on the news every day killing people for weeks and even months after the initial hit.

Nea creates those things. She does it for a multitudes of reasons, not the least of which is she's a demon. Thinking about all the real life tragedy those natural disasters cause left a really bad taste in my mouth about Nea.

Even if her tornadoes don't kill people they are still devastating. And that's her whole purpose. To make other people as miserable as she is. I understand why Nea does those horrible things but don't know if I can continue to write about them.

In the last blog, I was researching how to set a stand of trees on fire in front of witnesses. That same night, someone did that very thing at the end of my street behind my friend's house. We took the dogs for a run along there two nights later and were sickened by the huge swatch of land, and habitats, destroyed by arson.

I spent a good chunk of last night and this morning trying to reconcile fiction with reality. I have to tell you that at this moment in time, I haven't been able to do it. I don't want to write about deliberately causing a fire after seeing its destruction firsthand. The acrid smell still lingers in my nostrils.

I think about that little skunk and how we built parking lots, shopping malls and busy roads around his habitat. He literally had no where to go yesterday. He was surrounded by concrete and cars without a safe haven in sight. Not much different from the effect of Nea's actions.

I'm switching the blog to Sunday posts only for the next little while. Yes I'm a day late. Yesterday was full. I might post more often if my brain gets back into writing mode. If I can justify Nea's behaviour in such a way that The Reader believes it. And cheers when she's redeemed at the end.

I've started organizing the office today. Maybe once it's done, I'll be able to get back to work. And write my way through this conundrum.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008


I'm reading. Susan Wiggs, JoAnn Ross, Maggie Shayne, NASCAR stories and Explore! as well as a few Canadian Gardening magazines. The latter serve dual purpose. I've got some flower beds that need help, and I'm trying to figure out how to burn down a grove of chestnut trees. They have to catch quick enough that no one is able to put the fire out.

I have a heavy work schedule, am recovering from a particularly debilitating flu, and re-arranging a room into an office. Some other stuff has to happen before the office can be converted from a spare room(all that furniture needs a place to go) so it's complete and utter chaos in my house right now.

I feel completely unproductive despite the above paragraph. While I'm thinking about Alex and Nea a fair amount, no words have hit the page in over a week. Well over a week as a matter of fact. It's disheartening. On the other hand, by the time I get back to fingers on the keyboard, I should have thought through the problem areas so that the words can fly.

It's good to be optimistic.

Sunday, May 11, 2008


Nea has a less-than-delightful relationship with her mother. The nymph gave birth to her and that was about it. There was none of the nurturing, caring, guiding that most people expect from their mothers. At last meeting, Nea's mother was busy teaching Nea's alleged soul mate about earthy pleasures. Fortunately for Nea this was neither unusual nor out of character behaviour from her mother and she wasn't shocked. Even more fortunately, she didn't feel all that soul matey about the guy.

For all those people who think we writers merely transcribe our own life experiences, let me remind you this is fiction. My mother is loyal, loving, dedicated, funny, generous and nothing remotely like Nea's mother. Despite the normal ups and downs that every two people in any kind of relationship experience, we genuinely like and care for one another. My mom is smart, strong and a good role model.

There's a good reason for Nea's mother to behave so differently from my own. Not only does it serve the story and add to Nea's growth, but her mother suffered a great tragedy in the back story. A tragedy that altered both of their lives and one from which neither will ever truly recover.

With some luck and a great deal of work on both their parts, Nea and her mother may find understanding and a way to heal. My mom would be disappointed if they didn't at least try. She's a big proponent of doing one's best. That's not a bad thing.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008


P.S. I love you came out on DVD yesterday. No, I haven't watched it yet, but I did buy it. I am listening to the soundtrack while I work on my new project. Yep, you heard right. I started a new project. Actually, I'm working up notes and an outline while I research some important details for Alex.

The universe, and plenty of writer friends, have been urging me to write a NASCAR romance. A hero came to me just over two years ago. I ignored him. I finished Gabriela's story. The hero raced back up to the front of the pack. I ignored him and started Alex's story. On Saturday, the driver roared up the line and roared his engine to get my attention. I tried to ignore him.

I would have succeeded if my friend Lou hadn't made a comment about why she disliked motorsports. Out of nowhere a woman appeared and reamed him out. She made some valid points. He made several back. The loud "discussion" was equally matched and hard to ignore.

I made notes. Lots of notes. I have goal, motivation, conflict, setting, character, growth and resolution. I have an email reminding me in that timely way that synchronicity works, that Harlequin editors are actively seeking authors for the NASCAR line.

The new project has to wait long enough for me to finish the polished draft of Alex and Nea's story. Those two have not been patient about having their story told. I revisited Bracken the other day in the course of writing Nea's Black Moment. He's too pissed to meet, or trust, another woman. It will be interesting to see which one of these new projects compels me first.

In the meantime, lots of reading, gardening and P.S. I love you. It's all research.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Hell did pay

I spent the rest of the week reading Explore, watching too much daytime television and thinking about the end to Alex's story while a vicious cold ravaged my brain cells. It's been nasty here this week.

I rushed the end of my first draft because I wanted to meet the April writing challenge. I realized it was rough but last night a solution came to me in the middle of the night. I didn't write it down because I ended up standing coyote watch for this darling dog with whom I am house-sitting.

This coming week, I'm going to go back to the last three scenes in the rough draft and make Alex's loss stronger, tie Nea's black moment into his then shove the tension over the Falls. It should be fun.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Hell to Pay

The Write off the Deep End writing challenge ends today and I reached my goal! The first draft of Hell to Pay is done. I've printed it off. Next up, I'll read it through scene by scene to flesh it out. I know where the problems are and will take care of them. It will be work but should go faster than this draft.

I'm pleased.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

What a difference a week makes

The latter half of the week was not productive. I've been working, reading and wrestling with my office. I abandoned that project until after May 1st. Our writing challenge ends on the 30th and I'm hopeful I can meet my goal. I'm house and dog-sitting for the next ten days. It's only down the street from my own home, and it has a big screen TV but it's a different environment. I've already made a mini-office in the rec room so wish me luck.

Several of us traveled to Buffalo on Friday night to see Jeff Dunham. I laughed ridiculously hard for two solid hours. At one point my head was pounding from all the laugher and I was completely convinced I was going to die from a stroke. What a way to die. If I wrote suspense or mystery, I might actually use that scenario.

In the midst of gasping for oxygen, I actually started to critique the one routine. The Christmas special is being taped in June so we were privy to a lot of new material;some of which was written on the spot. It was all funny, yet one of the characters was inconsistent in tone. He was meek, wicked, sad and maniacal all at the same time. It was like watching the rough draft of one of my scenes. All the gold is there. You just have to brush off the dirt. That was freakier than the fear of stroke.

It's one thing to hear voices in my head but to critique someone else's voices is another. Jeff Dunham doesn't exactly need my input. The laughter is immediate and accurate feedback.

How do you know you're writing contains more gold than mud?

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The mini writing retreat is over. Elen and her family were incredibly gracious about sharing their home and time with me. We found a nice rhythm of writing, talking and writing that allowed us to be social as well as productive. Elen is one of the most thoughtful people I know. She puts a lot of time and effort into everything she does; really considers the ramifications of her thoughts and deeds before she acts upon them. I learn much from her.

Having a desk to work from was more beneficial than I remembered. I could spread my papers and research notes out around me instead of balancing some on the couch and others on the footstool. Some of my comfort may have had to do with the fact that I wasn't fighting a cat for the mouse. Electronic or not there's something about a mouse that cats feel obligated to hunt, even if it's in your hand.

Back at home, I quickly assessed the odds of setting up a desk in my office. I used to have both but gradually migrated to the living room surrounded by the zoo. I multi-task while I write. That wasn't necessary while at Elen's and I suspect that accounts for a large part of my productivity. Of course I did spend a fair amount looking out the window and watching the neighbour wash his car. Procrastination exists everywhere.

Sometimes it's important to hang out with friends, even change the scenery a little bit to gain some perspective on your work. Fortunately, the retreat was a lot calmer than landing on a branch in the middle of rapids.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Escape to Nim's Island

I'm visiting with the lovely Miss Elen and her delightful family for a mini writing retreat. We've spent a fair amount of time visiting, eating delicious food and wandering through her garden. We've talked about writing and I may have even put words on the page. I know I woke up this morning to a dialogue between Alex and Nea. Too bad I didn't write that down. It's my own fault for not having paper beside the bed.

This afternoon we snuck out to the movie theater to see Nim's Island with the oh-so-inspiring Gerard Butler. It was a fun movie. I enjoyed listening to the kids in the audience laughing at the animals' antics as well as Nim's defense of her home. Elen and I were highly amused by the scenes with Jodi Foster's writer character speaking with her fictional creation, Alex Rover as amusingly portrayed by Mr. Butler. Looking at her office with posters, montages, textbooks and reference articles spread round her was like looking at the nest I've made in Elen's daughter's room.

Gerard Butler is not my Alex but of course he was great in this film as well all of his others. Actually there several similarities between that character and my own. The whole adventurer, action hero, do-the-right-thing attitude tweaked some more insight into my Alex's struggles. Watching those scenes in the writer's office as well as her conversations, even arguments, with her character will likely strike a chord for other writers besides myself.

I may have not reached my writing goal for the day but I did complete more than I would have had I stayed at home. It's no big deal that I rewarded myself a little early with our trip to Nim's Island. Any time Gerard Butler wants to come sit on the floor with me and tell me what to write, I'll be more than happy to let him.

Aren't imaginations wonderful?

Wednesday, April 16, 2008


I messed around for two days with a fairly important scene. Okay they're all important, otherwise why keep them around. I moved them up the river, then down the river. I changed the mood; playful, brooding, angry. Nothing I did made the scene jell.

Alex is standing at the base of Nea's brooding tree. He's got a lot on his mind. So does she. It is apparent to both that things are not as they appeared to be. They are not who they appeared to be. Alex didn't know how to respond to Nea because she wasn't reacting the way he expected her to.

Yesterday, I took Kate's advice and changed the POV of the scene. Suddenly, it's easier to write, flows better and is more consistent in tone. I'm finally able to identify with Nea without sending myself into my own personal hell. We understand each other better, her and I.

Poor Alex hasn't got a clue. But that's okay. Things aren't from his perspective until after they return from the forest. He's keeping a secret until then.

I suspect the key to world peace lies in looking at everything from the other's perspective. It always works for me, in real life as well as fiction.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Wrath of Keziah

Several posts back I whined about my The Wrath of Gods DVD being blank. I had set a goal of finishing this draft before the replacement copy came in. Bad news. The entire shipment was blank and there will be no replacement. I'm disappointed. Apparently I do have a flare for understatement.

On the upside, I have no excuse for not writing. I shall create my own entertainment. Now that Nea has a great perch from which to brood, and Alex has some perspective on how much his life may or may not suck, it's time to shake them both up.

Easy enough to do. Channel the disappointment and inability to change a darn thing about the coveted DVD into the wip and presto, another scene brilliantly written. Hey, it's good to have a game plan.