Sunday, December 18, 2011

Casy update

I was in the process of putting Casey's package together to shop around when a new development occurred. He wore a hole in his brace right through layers of fiberglass and rubber. I took him to Pawsability to see if Janice could repair the prosthetic. The hole was the back of his heel as if he was scuffing instead of lifting his foot. I was concerned that meant his leg had turned to an angle that was three steps backwards. Because of unavoidable and unrelated circumstances, Casey hasn't been swimming in some time. Had that resulted in irreparable damage to his recovery?

With the brace off, Casey walked around the studio to show Janice his gait. Approximately seventeen out of twenty steps came down on his foot instead of his carapace. We were astounded.

Did walking with Ky's Sporn harness account for the difference? It might have given me more control so that Casey didn't gallop up and down the floor but it wasn't responsible for his foot striking the surface.

Janice suggested both the damage to the existing brace and Casey's gait were indicators that his leg had healed closer to his body in a more natural position. She feels that he no longer needs the support of a toe-to-shoulder brace. Tomorrow we go to pick up his new brace, one that immobilizes the area above and below the carapace so that he is forced to use his foot all of the time. He's a bit flat-footed so we've been doing toe-strengthening exercises for the last two weeks.

This is one time I don't mind going back to a project and re-writing the end. While it's true his therapy will be ongoing, Casey continues to amaze us with his improvement and natural joie d'vivre.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Winter projects

Heal Casey is done and ready to go out. Publishers or agents first?

When writing non-fiction, things can be a bit trickier as fact is indeed stranger than fiction. One occasionally wonders who is going to believe a word written. As it pertains to the lions, how do I tell the story accurately and truthfully without being sued? It was not a good time in my life and revisiting has turned out to be more painful than I expected.

Fiction is more fun as there's a guaranteed happy ending. In my romantic world there is!

Right now, I'm surrounded by projects. There are some shawls and jackets that need to be knitted, dog hair to be spun, quilts to be sewn and scenery to be photographed. I want to paint again. My nephew has been spray painting on canvas and his creations have inspired me to drink from that well again. I bought some purses from a thrift shop and am currently giving them makeovers. Right now, that's all on paper because all of my brushes seem to have disappeared...

What are you working on? Do you find immersing yourself in one medium opens up your creativity to others or locks you into just one?

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Changing the names

I'm thinking about writing about my experiences with lions in my garage. It's a great story with great characters, a little danger and some suspense. A few of the characters were complete and total morons. There could be a lawsuit in my future if I use their real names. Although, it's not defamation of character if it's true, enough time has passed that proving it would be more difficult. Those people have held me back from writing the story. Most of it is about my experience, about my interactions with the big cats but the morons do appear from time to time.

If I change their names to protect myself, I must also change the names of the lions as well. Any suggestions? What would you name a bunch of big cats - lions, tigers and cougars?Oh my.

Sunday, November 13, 2011


My nephew has been painting with spray paint. It's not graffiti. It's art. It's not on the sides of buildings. It's on canvas. And it is truly some incredible work.

He calls them sprayntings. He occasionally mixes mediums but the foundation is always spray paint. A local art gallery has several on display. He sold two in his first week.

This one is my current favourite - Celestial Waterfall

To see more, go to


Sunday, November 06, 2011

Autumn along the Niagara River

The sun is shining. No rain in sight. A lot of leaves on the ground. It smells wonderful out there. Go. Enjoy the day. We'll talk again next week.

These were some of the images from a walk along the Niagara River.

Don't they make you want to take a deep breath...

Ahhh. That's better.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

A book judged by its cover

I was putting some books away at the library a couple of weeks ago when this one caught my eye.

The dog obviously caught my eye. Nice clean graphics made it easy to remember book title and author. The back cover copy piqued my interest.

A German Shepherd police dog witnesses a murder and if his owner--an Iraq war vet and former cop-turned-thief--is convicted of the crime, the dog could be put down. Few rival Andy Carpenter's affection for dogs, and he decides to represent the poor canine. As Andy struggles to convince a judge that this dog should be set free, he discovers that the dog and his owner have become involved unwittingly in a case of much greater proportions than the one they've been charged with. Andy will have to call upon the unique abilities of this ex-police dog to help solve the crime and prevent a catastrophic event from taking place.

I checked our catalogue and discovered another book by the same author. But this was a series and we didn't have the first book. We did have the first five books in e-book format. The Sony reader saved the day and I've been hooked on the series ever since.

David Rosenfelt's voice is light, amusing but with a conscience. The books don't take themselves too seriously but entertain me with the mystery and a modicum of suspense. They're perfect for boosting me out of my current funk.

Sunday, October 16, 2011


I've got nothing witty or insightful to say. My brain is still reeling from the loss of two good friends in the space of a month. The fact that both of them came to me through writing kicks my creativity into a corner. I cannot write a single word without thinking of either one of them.

Both of them would kick my ass for wallowing in the anguish and using it as an excuse to miss my deadlines. Kate, in particular, would demand I make another deadline and stick to it. She was always good about staying on point no matter what the distractions. Some of her best writing came when she was on chemo and in need of a different focus than her health. Bryan was more laid-back and trusted the love of writing to bring us back to the process.

Last night, after staring at my open document for an hour, I took a deep breath and got my head back into the synopsis. It's done now. I'm in desperate need of an editor and Kate is no longer here to provide me with sharp insight, clear logic and straight truth. Kate's legacy is stronger than ever. We formed a writer's group together and over the years we've all grown closer, honed our skills and sharpened our focus. It may take us a beat or two longer to see the fix but we can do it. We rely on each other.

Bryan's faith in the art has been proven true over the past week. I find myself using other creative forms to express myself. I'm writing in photographs and paintings and simply breathing the experiences.

The best way I have to honour and cherish both of them is to allow all that we've shared together continue to shape me as a writer, a photographer and a friend. It's time to stop wallowing and get on with it.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Worth the drive

Raising a glass of the best scotch to a good man, a talented man, a friend who I will miss terribly.

Bryan J. Weitzel June 2,1964-October 8, 2011

Thank you, Bryan. It was all worth the drive

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

It's been a rough year full of lost and I've been drowning in sorrow for months. Yet as I think of my blessings on this weekend of gratitude I am filled with hope and appreciation.

I have a job I love.
Live in a great house that easily accommodates three generations.
Am surrounded by fur, fin, feathers and scales that teach me every single day that humans are not the only species of value.
I am gifted with amazing friendships.
My time is spent with people and in activities that lift my spirit.
I know that my presence makes a difference in people's lives.

And all that loss reminds me how valuable those individuals have been in my life. I have been blessed to have loved and been so loved that the loss is felt to my core.

Thank you.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Next step

The reviews are in from the beta readers for Heal, Casey. Apart from some misplaced commas and a title discussion, it appears the book is ready to be sent out.

Now the fun part - writing a synopsis. Despite the fact that I won a synopsis-writing contest a few years ago, I'm not looking forward to the process. One of my critique partners gave me a mug that reads, "What's worse than writing a synopsis? Nothing" which contributes to my dread.

Then I started thinking about the process. I have to encapsulate the story all the time for people who are asking me about my latest project. Agents and editors aren't going to publish the book just because there's a cute dog on the cover. They want to know why they should care about the cute dog.

Tawna Fenske wrote a great blog about query letters. Her points can also be applied to synopsis.

Plus, writing the synopsis is good practice for when Casey and I go on the Ellen DeGeneres Show.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


How do you sum up a lifetime of memories in just a page?

The movie montage of images runs through my mind teasing me with the promise of Kate. Tobogganing on the hill. Mulled wine by the bonfire. Racing the squirrels to the strawberries. Meandering through the hosta gardens. Picking up seashells and stones along the shore. Watching her sign her winning Beetle story in the back of Duets at an RWA convention. Watching the dogs play with sticks. Listening to frogs by the pond. Feeding chipmunks while on a writer's retreat. Pondering character names and plot-lines. Celebrating. Laughing. Crying. A quick smile. Swimming with squid. Watching the hummingbirds. Fireflies. Writing at the Butterfly Conservatory.

So many more images than I can ever share. Words can't sum up a person's soul, their impact on another. That's something to be felt.

For everyone who has ever been touched by Kate's soul - we were privileged.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

A small reminder

Write with passion.

Write over-the-top. Use all the adjectives and active verbs you've ever heard.

Pour your heart and soul onto the page.

Edit later.

Just W.R.I.T.E.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

We can change the world

I'm in the midst of losing two people I love deeply. Losing the Leader of the Opposition was hard for me, if for no other reason than that. Yesterday's televised funeral was truly a celebration of Jack Layton's life. I want that for my friends. I want the world to know how precious they are, not just to me, but to everyone who was ever lucky enough to know them.

Layton left a letter to Canadians. Regardless of your agreement with the man's politics, how can disagree with his closing statement? There's a reason it has gone viral. It's not just a rallying cry to his political party, to Canadians, but to people everywhere.

My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.

All my very best,

Jack Layton

We can change the world.

Bryan and Kate, you have changed my world, and made it better, by sharing it with me.

Thank you.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Ugly Eyes

I'm often accused of seeing the world through rose-coloured glasses. I only see the good in people, places and events. That's not entirely true. I'm aware of the ugliness in the world. I don't focus on it. I do focus on the positive.

Of course there are times when I have my ugly eyes on and nothing is rosy. Everything is nasty and depressing. I only see vindictive behaviour or cruel intentions. I see oppression, depression, and obsession. Ugly eyes only see ugliness no matter what else is around, or what is true.

How you see the world is dependent upon your expectations. If you expect to see only the negative, that's what you will see. You look for it. Ugly eyes block out light and colour and throw things into shadow.

It's difficult to swap out that view when you're looking at the world that way. You can't hand rose-coloured glasses to someone with ugly eyes. They will think you're trying to scratch out their retinas. Ugly eyes have a strong survival instinct. They expect everyone else to conform to their world view.

I usually take my rose-coloured glasses out of their line of sight and play with all of the colours until Ugly Eyes get tired and fall asleep. That's when dreams can give some perspective and restore vision to a more balanced view of the world.

If you have Ugly Eyes, or know someone with Ugly Eyes, don't despair. The world won't stay this dark and nasty forever. Pain will subside and beauty will slowly creep back in.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Good reads

I've been slowly going through my TBR pile. Every single book has been a keeper. That's not helping me make room for new books but I don't mind. I've been enjoying every single read.

I've already mentioned When stars go blue by Caridad Ferrer.

but equally worth savouring, I recommend:

Backseat Saints by Joshilyn Jackson. That woman has such a wacky, and insightful, way of looking at the world. Her characters are unusual in expression but at heart they are the same as each of us. I love her voice. You don't have to have read Gods in Alabama to understand Backseat Saints but as they're both great books, why not?

The map of true places by Brunonia Barry. I can never quite figure where she's going with her characters but am never disappointed with the ride. Her voice has a dreamlike quality that fits in well with the character's uncertainty.

Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen also has a dreamlike quality to it. I loved the tree that was sentient being, the little girl who knew where everything belonged and the adults who didn't.

Then there was Blackout and All Clear by Connie Willis. It's hard to believe that 1100 pages were infused with such fast-paced urgency. Incredibly well researched and full of detail about WWII England it would be easy to imagine Willis was a time traveler herself.

I cared so much about the welfare of the characters in all of these books. The settings were great and diversified, as were the story-lines but well-drawn characters were the common denominator.

Go get yourself a copy of each of these books. You can thank me later.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Dog tears

I've been lax with writing the last few months as you all know. There's no real excuse but plenty of reasons. However, now that my writing group is meeting every two weeks, I have to have something to share. That means that Casey's story is back out of the drawer.

Two things I've noticed. 1) Writing non-fiction is the same as writing fiction. You need to have lots of drama, emotion and a hook. Casey has that. 2) I forgot the emotion in all of the facts. The reason we stuck it out through everything was the emotional aspect of having Casey in our lives.

A simple thing to remember yet so essential. How did I forget that? Even for an instant?

I took the laughing dog to the hospital to see my mom last week. They've been separated for fourteen weeks. While he doesn't understand what's going on, he did seem to grasp the idea that there was something wrong. Or at least something that required him to be gentle and cautious around her. None of the wild enthusiasm he's noted for was on display.

He sidled up to her chair and sat down beside her, on guard and protective. She petted his head. They were together. And when we separated them again, he cried.

Emotion. The motivating factor for so much in everyone's life. It's time to put it back in Casey's story. He certainly feels it.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Love Letters

I was going through an old trunk filled with photographs and found an envelope from a very dear ex. He was the Love of my LIFE (I was in my 20s and the teenage exuberance was still very present) A few years after we'd broken up he mailed me copies of family photos and some love letters I'd written. Copies. Despite the fact that he'd been the one to end things, he kept the originals.

I started to read them last night and was embarrassed. Partly because of the content, there was so much love on those pages it was hard to read. Partly because I felt like a voyeur, so much passion and a window into my soul. Yes, I wrote that but it's such a younger version of me that it felt like I was intruding on someone else's private correspondence.

But what really embarrassed me was the language and structure of the letters. Wow. The internal editor really never shuts up. Instead of appreciating the honesty of emotion, I was critiquing the word choices. So flowery and unimaginative. No wonder I never got a book contract back then.

The most important thing about those letters truly is the feeling I had when writing them. I couldn't hold all that emotion inside. I didn't want to jump on a couch but I knew if I tried to contain it I would explode. So I used the tool with which I was most comfortable and wrote.

Words, even cliched ones that have been overused, are evocative, powerful and can take one back in time.

I'm glad I found those letters. I'm going to burn them because they really were private and written only for us. We've both evolved since then, changed and matured. But it was nice to take a quick glimpse at the past me who believed LOVE was everything. She's still in here. Perhaps it's time to invite her out for a glass of wine and see what happens.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

An author worth savouring

You all know of my love for The Art of Racing in the Rain. It's a book that has stuck with me for three years and one that comes to mind often. It's not just the storyline but the rhythm, cadence and voice that have embedded themselves into my psyche.

Last week, I read something else that is destined to linger. When the stars go blue by Caridad Ferrer. The prose is as visually stunning as the cover. I finished the book earlier in the week and haven't been able to read anything else since. The characters have lingered in my reading palate and I want to savour them for as long as I can.

Caridad Ferrer's writing first came to my attention several years ago when she guest blogged on a blog I followed regularly. I made a comment and won a copy of her debut novel, Adios to my old life. I was hooked. Her strong characterization and evocative description drew me into a world with which I was completely unfamiliar(teenage Latina musician trying to make her mark on an American Idol type reality show). Bear in mind that I'm a middle-aged tone-deaf Caucasian woman to understand how surprising is my connection to that book.

Caridad Ferrer's writing captures the culture and flavour of that world while making the reader a very real part of it. You cannot teach that ability.

Do yourself a favour. Whether the cover copy appeals to you or not, read this book. The writing alone will make the journey worth your while.

Thursday, July 14, 2011


Don't keel over from shock.
I've been writing again.

It started with a commitment to write for ten minutes a day. I blew that off for two days in a row then sat down and wrote until that draft was done. Yeah, I don't know how to ease into things at all.

I'm at the point where I need to input all of the notes, edits and maps into the computer. I've re-read all of the comments from my beta readers and contemplated their suggestions. Only one thought that the book should really have started at page three. The other four readers felt the context was important so that the significance of that starting point was stronger.

I'm torn. I tend to agree with the one lonely reader. Your book starts with the first step of the journey. However, an argument could be made that the first step occurred when my mom fell as opposed to when Casey arrived. A strong argument, because if all of our living conditions hadn't changed so radically we wouldn't have been capable, let alone receptive to Mom's desire for another dog. In this instance, I think context is vital.

On the other hand, that backstory can be told throughout the first chapter.

I'm great at playing devil's advocate for both sides. Making a decision about which is the better choice is a lot harder for me.

Do I start with the hypothesis - Healing takes many forms
the action - His calm steady gaze looked through the monitor's screen and straight into my mother's heart

Which grabs you more? Yeah, I thought so. That's a lot more editing.

Next week's blog - how editing makes a much stronger story.

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Reading formats

I've spent a ridiculous amount of time in waiting rooms over the last two months. While they are usually loud rooms with lots of people talking or demanding answers, I observed an interesting trend. Cell phones, tablets, books and puzzles were all in use. One family of 27 (I'm assuming it was extended) talked amongst themselves as well as to others on their cell phone. A woman in her late 70's was texting someone while a young man approximately nine or ten years old was reading a 39 Clues book.

At another table a young woman in her 20's was on her cell phone. The three year old beside her was putting a puzzle together.

A different family group was playing a Solitaire tournament on their ipads. Again, it was the youngest group that was reading a book.

We all had paperbacks but my brother and I were texting each other about the family of 27. If only 2 visitors were allowed at a time, how long would they take to all see their loved one. It was 11pm at the time of our texts. Five more people came in to join that family. Too much math for me.

That was just one particular night. In the time I've been consciously observing the trend, it is the older generation using electronic devices while the pre-teens are reading books. It's not hard and fast, empirical data, just my observations.

It gave me hope for the future of books. In multiple formats.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Guest Post - Nursery Crime writer Karen Mauck

Karen Mauck is my guest today. There has been a LOT of buzz the last year or so about self-publishing. I thought it would be nice to hear from Karen about why she took this route and how it's worked for her so far. Nursery Crimes is her fourth book.

When you hear someone has self-published a book, what’s the first thing you think?

I might know your answer, because I’ve heard it before: some people think self-publishing is for lousy writers who couldn’t get an agent or “real” publisher to give them the time of day. And believe me, I have seen some self-published books that fit into that category. But not all of them. Ever heard of Amanda Hocking? You will.

So you may ask, knowing that I admit there is ongoing debate about the value of self-publishing, why did I choose that route with my latest book? Or, for that matter, all four of my novels?

Oh, I tried the traditional route, querying agents and attending conferences. I was always rejected. But that doesn’t mean I am a lousy writer. (I hope.) The few rejections that were not form letters but were instead directed at my material mentioned things that I consider personal preferences, such as “It’s not long enough for what I’m looking for” or “There are too many stories with cops.” I’ve heard from other writers who received rejections that were not so nice, so I’d go as far as saying those are good rejections.

Another reason for the rejections, in my probably underinformed opinion, is that so many people are trying to pitch a novel to an industry that lately somehow seems to be both oversaturated and in flux. Everybody and their sister thinks they can write a book (Snooki, anyone? And yes, I am including myself as one of the sisters), and yet bookstores are in bankruptcy and publishing models are being debated (paper vs. e-book, traditional vs. independent, which is what I am).

There were several hundred people at just one regional writer’s conference I attended, all hoping to be published. Multiply that by however many other conferences, regional and national, in a given year, then multiply that number by genre – thriller, romance, mystery, childrens, biography, literary fiction, etc. – then divide by how many books a publisher releases in any given year, and that’s a lot of rejections. I’m not alone.

Even if I were lucky enough to get a contract with an agent, who was then able to successfully pitch it to a publisher, my novel wouldn’t see the light of day for a couple years. A book accepted today might not make it to print until 2014. And one thing I have learned is, life is short. Doing it my way means I have an actual book with my name on it in my hot little hands in less than 4 months.

This reminds me of another reason I chose to self-publish: my recent release, Nursery Crimes, has been completed since 2007. It sat, forlornly languishing, in the bowels of my computer since then (long enough that I had to update some technology references I made). I figured that was long enough. It was time to do something. I spent all that time writing it, I might as well let someone actually read it.
And why not now, when self-published books are losing the less-than-stellar reputation they had when I first started publishing this way 10 years ago. There will always be people who deride them, but others are giving them some respect, national best-selling authors with recognizable names, no less. Just ask JA Konrath or Bob Mayer how well sales of their self-published novels are going. (Hint: Very well indeed.)

There are now a great many companies that offer various levels of self-publishing services, many more than when I started out. Back when the rejections were piling up on my first book (Scraps), someone pointed out to me one of these then-new companies, iUniverse. I checked them out and liked what I saw, so I tried it out. I liked it so much that this is now the fourth time I’ve used them.
I like them because they do a lot of the work for me, and I am inherently lazy. I could have done it all myself, applying for the ISBN number and asking retailers to carry it and designing the cover and all that. I know someone who did that, and after several years of good selling she has yet to break even, plus she has a few thousand copies of her book in her basement. The company I chose did it all for me, for far less money that what she spent going it alone, and I don’t need to stockpile anything. They did an editorial review and made suggestions to help me make it better. I told them what I wanted the cover to look like, and they did it. They listed me on and other Web sites like Barnes and Noble and Borders, plus Ingram’s Books in Print so anyone can walk into any bookstore and order it. They formatted it in both paperback and e-book. They also provide me with opportunities to advertise in magazines, newspapers, and e-mail blasts, if I so choose. I couldn’t figure out how to do that (well, I probably could, but you’ll remember that I’m lazy), let alone afford the rates I’d be charged if it did it myself. They handle the orders and the shipping for me, and deposit a check into my bank account at the end of the quarter if I’ve sold anything. And if a “real” publisher somehow stumbles across my stuff and wants to publish it themselves, I am free to accept their kind offer. (Other companies offer similar services at various costs; if you are interested in doing this yourself, I suggest you do some research to see which one is right for you.)

Now, there are other, newer services I could have used that would have cost me less, much less; if I had wanted to create my novel as an e-book only, I could have done it for practically free with services such as createspace. But I am admittedly technophobic – I will carry my flip-style cell phone until either I or the phone die – and still prefer the traditional paper book to e-book (although I do read e-books – mainly authors who publish e-book only). Using this option allows me to offer the book in both formats. Plus it was a known entity; I’d used them before and knew what to expect.

Sometimes self-publishing is called Print-On-Demand (POD) or even “vanity press.” I find that last term somewhat dismissive, but on the other hand, perhaps it fits. Because I printed my books just for me.

I guess that’s not entirely true. I asked local bookstores to carry my books. I made bookmarks and postcards and gave them to every person I knew, and a few I didn’t. I bought a fun shirt with Velcro letters that I used to spell out “Ask me about my book”, then actually wore it in public. I put up signs on coffee shop bulletin boards. I set up tables for book singings at art shows, book fairs, and garage sales. I’m posting about it on Facebook and various blogs.


I don’t expect to sell a lot. I don’t delude myself into thinking I am the next Nora Roberts, or even the next Snooki, for that matter. I’m not doing this to get rich. I’m doing it because I like to write stories. And if I make a few dollars in the process, that’s just an added bonus.

All this is not to say I won’t ever publish the traditional route. I still have one completed manuscript and a couple languishing works in progress up my sleeve, just waiting for the right time, the right stage, the right platform to publish. Maybe I’ll go with the same press, or try one of the many other companies. Maybe I’ll finally embrace technology and try this new-fangled e-book-only route that’s been so successful for Miss Hocking and others. Or, who knows? I may yet have a shot at the big leagues the traditional way. Maybe one day I’ll be rich and famous despite all my best efforts to the contrary.

Karen Mauck writes sexy romantic suspense and is the author of Scraps, Pomp and Circumstantial Evidence, Last to Know, and her latest release, Nursery Crimes. She lives in southeastern Michigan.

With only twisted nursery rhymes as clues, a tough, dedicated cop puts his life, and his heart, on the line to protect a schoolteacher and her young students from a killer calling himself Father Noose.

Jillian Hobart is passionate about teaching and devoted to her class of kindergartners. But someone else is showing a more deadly interest in her students, leaving eerie nursery rhymes behind as her students begin to disappear.

Deputy Sheriff Peter Dack is attracted to Jillian's quiet intensity even though his job requires he keep her at arm's length. But working together to stop the killer brings them into close contact, increasing the heat even as it becomes apparent that the intended target may not be Jillian's students — but rather Jillian herself.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Children's Movies

Last week, I was going through the movies at work and marking them as one of the AFI Top 100 movies. Two were children's movies. I got to thinking that there should be a list of Top 100 Children's movies. There is but I don't agree with it. A significant portion are from the original list.

So I thought about what I consider a great kids' movie. My criteria were simple. The movie had to entertain, engage and linger. It had to stand the test of time. Was I still thinking about those characters/story/plot for months or years afterward? Would my niece, who is ten years old, be as thrilled/entertained/entranced as I? I've only been able to run the last test by a few of them but one surprised me by not making her cut. ET bored her to tears. ET! While a singing Sean Connery amuses me no end, she found the effects on Darby O'Gill and the little people to be too clunky.

My brief list includes, in no particular order,

The Railway Children
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
Napoleon and Samantha
Mary Poppins
Bedknobs and Broomsticks
Chicken Run
Nightmare before Christmas
Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
Lilo and Stitch
Monster's Inc.
How to train your dragon
Swiss Family Robinson
The Princess Bride
Finding Nemo
Bridge to Terabithia
Herbie the Lovebug (the original)
The one and only Genuine original family band
The Parent Trap(Hayley Mills)

There are some great classics in that list, and others to see in the trailers. I feel like spending the afternoon with some old celluloid friends. Which movies would you add to this list?

Sunday, June 05, 2011

One format, multiple ereaders

I've complained about them before. I'm still not satisfied that any one reader is going to do what I want it to do. My request is simple - read the books I buy.

I don't want to be tied to Sony, Amazon, Chapters, Barnes and Noble. I want to buy books from whatever store I want then read them on whatever device I prefer. I don't want to be tied to one reader and one reader only. There's a hardcover book I've been reading from the library, Harmony. It's a coffee table book full of weighty issues. I could use it as a tray table, it's so big. I'm enjoying it immensely but am exhausted from carrying it. I was going to buy the ebook version but was stopped by the need to commit to a particular reader.

Right now, I'm reading pdf files on my laptop and smartphone. I have a Sony PSR-350 Reader that freezes all the time. It may have been run over by my mom's wheelchair when she was rushed to the hospital a few weeks ago. I'm not sure as I wasn't with her but her purse has a big tear in it. Regardless, the Sony Reader is frozen. I cannot reset it. I cannot power it down. I've been staring at the same page for the last two days trying to figure out how to fix it. I've followed along on all the Sony forums looking for a solution. So far, nothing has worked.

All of the books are saved to the laptop but they were purchased from the Sony store. I can't transfer them to my phone and read them there. I can read from the laptop but who wants to lug that around everywhere? If I replace the reader, I'll have to replace it with another Sony so that I don't lose all of my purchases. That doesn't seem right.

So I ask, why aren't all ebooks in the same format? They've done it for CDs and DVDs. Why not for books?

I've purchased several items from Who Dares Wins Publishing for several reasons. One, I like the way both Bob Mayer and Jenni Holbrook write. They provide entertaining reads. Two, and equally as important for me, I can buy their books in pdf versions. This means I can read them everywhere I want, on whatever device I choose.

They dare. I win.

Why doesn't everyone else offer that option? It's clearly possible.

Sunday, May 29, 2011


Despite the fact, that I have had absolutely nothing to do with it, I'm very proud of my friend, Jon Gustafsson. His footage of the latest volcanic eruption in Iceland has made news around the world. It's been voted one of the top videos at several different sites.

It's incredible footage. Fantastic. Awe-inspiring. Beautiful. Maybe a bit scary.

Go look at it. If you're not impressed, well then, I don't know what to say. Mother Nature is something else. She has a way of putting life in perspective.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Alex's home and Nea's tree

I popped by the site of Hell to Pay last week to remind myself of that book's existence.

Spring has bloomed around Alex's place

The wind that tore across North America a couple of weeks ago did some damage to Nea's tree

It's not bad by most standards but she did lose several limbs. They'll grow back.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Mother's Day

Apparently, this is the day I'm supposed to honour my mother. Huh. I thought I was supposed to do that every day.

My mom is ill and has been for some time. For the last few years, I've been treating our time together as precious. My parents moved into the apartment downstairs. My day begins with a hello to and from Mom and ends with a kiss goodnight.

In the last ten years, several of my friends have lost their mothers. We're not old enough for this but who ever is? When my grandmother died two years ago, my dad became an orphan. It doesn't matter that he's a grandfather. He no longer has his parents to turn to in those moments when only your parents truly understand how you feel/what you need.

When I was a kid, I'd whine because there was a Mother's Day and a Father's Day but no Kids' Day. My dad said every day was Kids' Day. Oh, how right he was. In turn though, we should honour our parents and grandparents every day, not just on the day designated by greeting card companies.

There are some people who don't have parents, who grew up without the comfort and certainty of their mother's love. They didn't hatch in the cabbage patch but they didn't have moms either. The hype and commerce of today's fake holiday is a bitter reminder of what they don't have. It's bad enough that the rest of us feel like inadequate slackers because we didn't buy Mom a diamond necklace, a houseful of flowers and angels singing her praises. The brilliance and necessity of mothers is everywhere right now. It can be overwhelming.

I'm not a mom. This is not my holiday. I'm okay with that. I have a mom I do adore. I have children who I'd fight tooth and claw to provide for and protect. I have the best of both worlds.

I realize it every single day, even if I don't tell them how blessed I am. I do my best to show them how much I truly love them each and every day, not just once a year.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Heal Casey progress

I actually did a fair amount of editing last week. I worked on Casey's story every night. I even made a google map, or tried to, of Casey's journey from his birthplace on the reservation in Northern Ontario to our little town in the Niagara Region. Google couldn't handle it. As the only way in or out of the reservation is by air, the Mighty Search Engine was unable to calculate the trip. I was able to estimate the distance to the nearest town and determined the mileage from there. Score one for the human. Score another one for the dog who took a plane, train and car for over 2,000 kilometers to reach us. No wonder he's such a good traveler.

There are just a few more chapters to edit. Then the opening has to be made far more dynamic followed by another read-through and a polish.

Holding myself accountable on this blog does keep me focused and productive. I'm less distracted by,

oh, gorgeous man in chain mail.

What was I doing?

Sunday, April 17, 2011


My nephew has being staying up every night writing. Like me, he does it in layers. Unlike me, he's actually writing.

Last weekend was spent with some very creative people in my life - filmmakers, spinners, designers...people who inspire me on many levels. I came home fired up to finish Casey's story. (And to get back to Sturla's Sweater as the sweater book is called) Neither impulse lasted long.

Heal Casey is just in need of polishing edits. So why do I continue to ignore it? Part of the problem is that the story of how he healed my mom and vice versa is no longer true. She isn't healing. She's been going through a really rough patch. Not even Casey's antics can help her at this point. It's hard to revisit optimism and enthusiasm in the face of reality. As that's not going to improve any time soon, I need to suck it up and finish. For the first time in months, Casey is going swimming on Tuesday. I will use his joy to propel the editing process. I promise to check back in here with a progress report.

Stasholic is coming for a visit next week. There will be much wine, wool and more than a few freeze frames of Sturla's Sweater as we enjoy another viewing of Wrath of Gods. It's spectacular. If it doesn't inspire me to hit the keyboard, nothing will.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Labels - not a fan

I mentioned the other day to a friend that I'm not getting along with writing. She suggested I redefine myself - spinner, knitter, caregiver. I didn't like those definitions. For one thing they don't fill my life(okay, maybe the last one does)like writing did and none of them feed my soul. Or pull my brain out through my eyes so perhaps that's not a bad thing.

I'm not a fan of labels. I find them limiting. We're told to claim our identity, embrace it. Own it. I am a writer. I am a knitter/spinner/crocheter/photographer/painter. I am so much more than all of those things. I'm definitely creative but as previous posts would suggest, I don't exactly like to be tied to any one thing. I follow the Muse wherever she may take me.

I'm also reliable and meet deadlines. I can be practical. I have a job that pays me enough that I can indulge my creativity without stressing over whether it will pay the bills.

I'm a tree hugging conservationist. Who happens to love auto racing in its variety of forms.

I love animals but still eat meat (though I'm one of the few chicken-eating vegetarians out there)

As soon as you stick a label on me, regardless of what it is, I feel stifled/confined/restrained by that label. I'm a contrary bitch who will cut off my nose to spite my face(not literally, I'm too vain for that). It doesn't make sense but I've learned that about myself. I'm a rebel at heart. Yet I'm not an anarchist either. Some rules are there for good reason. It's the labels to which I object.

It all started when I was a wee mite in the 60's(ah, yes, that does explain so much) The idea of gender was presented to my young mind as something over which I had no control. I couldn't run around without a shirt because I was a girl. I had to swelter in the heat while my boy friends were FREE. Being a girl didn't seem like as much fun. I didn't want to be a girl(I'm not so sure I wanted to be a boy either but those were the only options presented to me at the time)

This isn't a blog about transgender, it's about labels and the idea to 3 year-old me that I was limited in my abilities because of my gender was the foundation for my hate affair with all labels. It's ridiculous to suggest that because one thing is important to me, or a part of my identity, that another thing can't be as significant.

Okay, yes I am a girl. I do not have a penis, and despite what I told my other 3 year-old friends I did not have one and it fell off. I like being a girl. I liked being a tomboy and climbing trees and wearing dresses and halters and high heels and playing goalie for the road hockey team and being defense on the soccer team and all sorts of other things that had nothing to do with the label of gender.

So while I do think it's important to acknowledge who you are (I am a writer) don't let that limit you in your experience. I'm taking some time to simply experience life instead of recording it. Be who you are. Don't limit yourself. Experience yourself to the fullest.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Alternate career

I want to run away and join an animal sanctuary. I can feed baby elephants whose mothers have been killed. I can clean lion pens. Groom camels.

I want to be a documentary filmmaker and travel the world recording everything from the mating habits of the dung beetle to the effect of granola bars on the global economy. I want to study big issues, and small ones.

I want to be a dancer - to glide across the floor with beauty and grace.

I want to be an accomplished piano player. Someone who can change the mood of a room with the stroke of a key.

I want to be a marine biologist and study narwhals. Or squid. Or plankton.

There are so many things I'd like to do with my life that I have neither talent nor training to do. That's why reading books and watching documentaries are so wonderful. They can take me to those worlds, put me in those jobs or lifestyles. They expand my narrow view of the world. And sometimes I learn something new to keep with me in this life I currently live.

What skill or talent do you wish you had?

Sunday, March 20, 2011

One Good Thing

My laptop had the dreaded Blue Screen of Death so I replaced it. There`s nothing on this new system, apart from some games that are a minor distraction. It`s strange not to have all of my photographs at my fingertips. I had backed documents up to my online accounts so that`s all accessible.

I like the shiny white newness of it all. I literally have a blank slate. A fresh start.

There are endless opportunities and possibilities just waiting for me to jump in there. With all that`s going on in the world these days, disasters and tragedies, loss and devastation, it seems frivolous to be so pleased with a new toy. I`ve had a few sleepless nights lately so it`s easy to please me right now.

I`m determined to find One Good Thing every single day and rejoice in all that life has to offer. By focusing on on that instead of all the horror is a good coping skill. It also reminds us why we should pick up the pieces and carry on.

One Good Thing. One a day. Try it. It`s a small thing with a huge potential

Sunday, March 13, 2011


So many of the photos coming out of Japan remind me of this picture I took of my friend's son's cars.

That's just wrong. Please donate to the organization of your choice. And let's not forget the people of Haiti and Pakistan who are still recovering from their respective earthquakes as well. Empathy and compassion can help rebuild communities.

Thank you.

Sunday, March 06, 2011


It's a difficult genre to master. A lot of books about specific sports focus on a particular team or player. Sometimes they're about one race, one game, one title or the difference one year made in that sport's history.

It's all too easy to fall into a litany of statistics and brilliant moves. I always struggled with the balance between describing play-by-play action and capturing the essence of the game when I wrote about the team for the local paper.

In all of the sport books and articles I've read over the years, it's been the rare author who captures the spirit of the book with their writing style. Speed, skill, colour and grace explode/dance/thunder down the pages on a variety of subjects.

Right now, I'm reading The World is a ball. If you're one of those people who thinks watching soccer is like watching paint dry - give this book a read. John Doyle is able to capture the beauty, brilliance and excitement of soccer and describe it in such a way that has me reaching for the television remote. I want to immerse myself in the sport after reading three pages.

I read along at a slow pace, absorbing every word, considering all the nuance and complexities revealed. I stop after a few pages just to think about what he's described - the sea of orange that flows through all the streets, alleys and doorways ahead of the Dutch team. The brilliance and spectacle of the Brazilian supporters. The organization and dedication of the Korean fans.

He conveys not just the mood and atmosphere of the World Cup but the significance of team movement, of supporter reaction and how everything all melds together to create a magnificent insight into national identities and international relationships.

If you love soccer, or love someone who does, read this book. It will expand your knowledge and appreciation for "the beautiful game".

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Writer's Options

While on this relationship time-out that writing and I have taken, I have kept in loose touch with some of our mutual friends. Bob Mayer is doing some interesting things in the world of publishing in the digital age. I highly recommend perusing his blog posts to get an authour driven perspective, as well as the business possibilities that abound. This article in particular discusses self-publishing. Opportunities lurk behind every corner these days. Should we all self-publish?

I've definitely given Lulu a few quick glances from beneath lowered lashes. I've got a memoir that I want to print three copies of for family use. I have an illustrated children's book that needs a half dozen copies. Lulu certainly gives me options. I've praised the heck out of a novel, Need to Know by Christine Merrill, that I purchased from that site several months ago so I know how well they do e-books.

I still have my issues with Amazon and Kindle but I've gone ahead and purchased my very own copy of Splitting the Difference by my friend Lisa Deon. When you read why she published with Amazon after reading the self-publishing blog post from above, I guarantee that it will get your writer brain pondering your options.

If you're a Reader, your world just expanded. Go get Lisa's story. And enjoy!

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Writing breakup or much needed break?

Writing and I are a taking a break from each other and evaluating our relationship. It was my idea and I may have actually used the "It's not you, it's me" phrase. Writing doesn't seem to mind, or have missed me in the slightest.I don't miss writing all that much either.

What I really don't miss are the hours and hours spent in front of the computer, trying to second-guess the characters or agonizing over the plot. Writing - like any relationship - is a lot of hard work.

I'm not adverse to hard work. I don't even mind the lack of balance between slave labour and minimal reward. Initially, I thought the break was motivated by the complete and utter lack of reward but, now I'm not so sure.

I don't want to talk about writing with anyone. Reading is another subject entirely. I can discuss a good book for hours. If someone starts to talk to me about craft, plot, character arc or structure in my own work or theirs then I feel a very negative physical reaction.

I take encouragement as patronizing or even condescending when it's not meant that way. I get angry when people tell me how to resolve my writer's block. It's not a block. I'm not stuck. I have words and ideas. I just don't want to write, yet the whole thought of not being a writer makes me ill. It's been a part of my identity for as long as I can remember. Is that what I cling to? Is the idea of being a writer what I care for more than the writing itself?

Clearly, I'm not over writing. There's a lot of unresolved emotion there. If we have any chance of working it out and getting back together I need to examine what's turned my love to hate. They're two sides of the same coin. I am not indifferent to writing in the least.

Perhaps this time apart will help me evaluate our relationship, put things into perspective and help me find a healthier balance than the all-or-nothing attitude I seem to have these days. If not, then I have plenty of paper with which to line the bird cage.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

World Peace

This photo (it's all about content not quality, I apologize for the latter) is the reason I believe world peace is possible. Three instinctual enemies coexist quite peacefully beneath the same roof. They've learned to check their instincts, adjust their expectations and trust each other. Whenever one of them throws things out of balance, the others give him leeway and let things slide. Grievances are forgiven, injuries are rare and always minor.

I had planned to post that photo last week but life kept me away from the computer. In light of this week's events it seems all the more relevant. You might think it's cheeky of me to compare three animals to the cultural diversity in the Middle East. But I couldn't help think of my photo when I saw the one of Muslims and Christians linking arms to protect the antiquities at one of the museums in Cairo.

I believe we can all get along.

Sunday, January 16, 2011


Right now I'm working on several projects - one at a time.  There are so many unfinished creative bits of myself lying around the house.  I want to organize and declutter.  Traditionally, January is a slow time at work in a month filled with sad anniversaries. The spike-in-the-chest pain has subsided over the years to a dull ache that never goes away. I need to be productive.

So far this weekend, I've finished a hat, a baby jacket and a sweater. I've pulled out two more sweaters and a wrap that were tossed aside for Christmas projects.  One of the Christmas projects wasn't finished in time for my parents to see so that has to  be completed. I have still to input one letter my mom wrote to my grandmother when we were stationed in Germany. Most of the photographs have been scanned. I have to sit down with my parents and document the stories that go with the pictures then put them all together. Then I have to navigate Lulu so the memories will be preserved for the kids.

At some point I also need to finish Casey's revisions.  I've been carting that sheaf of papers with me all over town and on my recent travels.  Someone somewhere is waiting for that book to come out and show them how to help their own dog. I need to finish it.

I need to finish a lot of things before I start new.  I will. I always do.  I may have slowed down a bit lately but that doesn't mean I'm not always thinking about how to continue/improve/finish. I am. I will.

Finishing - an important part of creating.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Internet Friends

In the last three weeks I've either had company or been company.  At this very moment I am being company in the Crossroads of America.  I feel so social.  All but one set of friends is from the Internet.  That's still not something I admit to when crossing International borders, but other than that I'm quite proud of the fact that some of my best friends were met over the web.

Web.  It connects us.  And some of us were meant to be connected.  I was telling my friend's niece that while her uncle and I met online through a writer's blog, our connection was so much bigger than any two people.  There are many similarities in family histories, parental backgrounds, birthplaces and interests.  My nephew is friends with her cousin. My mum and her granny have connected.  Her aunts are precious to me and her uncle's girlfriend reminds me of Stashaholic.  We are two families who are essential to each other's lives and would never have met without the Internet.

I would never have gone to Scotland - twice, if I hadn't made friends online.  Same writer's blog (it was a goldmine of durable and enduring friendships), different people.  But no less precious.  My 2011 began with fresh air, lots of laughter and a powerful feeling of goodwill thanks to the 24 karat company.

My other friend wasn't actually company. We met for a 4 3/4 hour lunch in Toronto at Dessert Trends.  The website doesn't tell you how fantastic the service is, how gracious the owners are or that it can accommodate a wheelchair without detracting from the decor.  We laughed, talked fashion, friends, work, life.  With one of us living in San Fransisco(not me) we don't get to spend much time together in person but we do talk every day.

When I traveled to London, it was to help another friend unpack. Her family had recently moved there from my hometown and I wanted to help put her son's playroom together.  His four year old perspective on the world fascinates me.  These friends were made the old-fashioned way, through another Real Life friend. But I was able to introduce this friend to another one of my old-fashioned friends who already lives in London. The second friend and I had lost touch many years ago but, she found me through Facebook.  I'll be ever grateful for that as we grew up together, weathered some horrific storms together and can now lounge on the beach drinking margaritas if we so wish.

It's been lovely to spend actual in-the-same-room time with my friends from the Internet. We continue to spin out as many connections, ever leading off to more adventures and adding more strings to our web.

There's still something magical about getting a handwritten letter in the mailbox at your front door, but when friends are on the other side of the world, it's good to be able to talk to them instantly(provided you can navigate time zones).

I've been blessed to be able to bring my imaginary friends into the real world.