Saturday, 22 December 2007

A Christmas Greeting

As I put away groceries and put up my feet for a few moments, I reflect on this past year and realize I've been very lucky. True - money has been tight and I didn't see family members as often as I would have liked. But we remain healthy, we didn't lose anyone and the only black spot in the past week was my Escort breaking down last night. DH is gaining a good reputation with his placement agency which might garner him a full time IT position, my son has finally found his zone with schoolwork and my daughter is developing a good work ethic by handling two jobs in order to save for college.

I had a novel published, I have another one accepted and my first royalty cheque arrived a few days ago. True, it was for $9.75 but I'm framing it anyway.

I look forward to 2008. I'll finish one of my WIPs - either The Yearbook or The Weeping Woman and I'll get an agent.

I wish every one of my 'blogging buddies' (to coin a phrase from Stephen Parrish) a very happy and peaceful Christmas and a prosperous and healthy New Year. I'm grateful that I've made so many new friends in the past year. You've all done wonderful things for my confidence, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Now, I have to get back to work - driving the kids around in our remaining car, writing a 2000 word chapter for a challenge and thinking about a quick and easy supper. Merry Christmas!

Sunday, 16 December 2007

Cider With Rosie

Years ago, I picked up an illustrated hardcover copy of Cider With Rosie, Laurie Lee's recounting of his early days in west country England just after the First World War. Originally published in 1959, my copy was released in 1984.

I don't know how I came by the book - I think I got it because of the illustrations. It sat about the house for a few years before I read it.

It took me to a place and time I wish I could have visited, with its hardship and beauty. One particular passage comes back to me every Christmas. I hope I'm not breaking any laws by inserting this excerpt, but I feel I must share it with you on this day of unrelenting snow.

The boys set out on their annual caroling trek, visiting the various manors around their little village. Their last stop is Joseph's farm.

We grouped ourselves round the farmhouse porch. The sky cleared, and broad streams of stars ran down over the valley and away to Wales. On Slad's white slopes, seen through the black sticks of its woods, some red lamps still burned in the windows.

Everything was quiet; everywhere there was the faint crackling silence of the winter night. We started singing, and were were all moved by the words and the sudden trueness of our voices. Pure, very clear, and breathless we sang:

As Joseph was a walking
He heard an angel sing;

'This night shall be the birth-time

Of Christ the Heavenly King.

He neither shall be borned
In housen nor in hall,

Nor in a place of paradise

But in an ox's stall...'

And two thousand Christmases became real to us then; the houses, the halls, the places of paradise had all been visited; the stars were bright to guide the Kings through the snow; and across the farmyard we could hear the beasts in their stalls. We were given roast apples and hot mince-pies, in our nostrils were spices like myrrh, and in our wooden box, as we headed back for the village, there were golden gifts for all.

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

I Won! I Won a Major Award!

Stephen Parrish has awarded me "A Roar for Powerful Words" from the "Shameless Lions Writing Circle." I truly didn't expect it. When I read his posts, I'm reminded of how much I still have to learn about writing. His articles are poignant and thought-provoking.

Compared to most of my blogging pals, I'm a rookie. When somebody comments on my posts, I'm freshly surprised and pleased every single time. It's like going to a party full of popular people and almost dying of shock if one of them talks to me or laughs at my jokes.

Now I'm supposed describe three things I believe are necessary to make writing powerful, and I must also choose five others for the award.

What makes writing powerful?

1. Passion. If you're a technical writer, a poet, a romance novelist or a newspaper columnist, the writing has to come from the heart or it won't come alive for those who read it.

2. Reading. If you don't read a passage that brings tears to your eyes or a feeling of longing or nostalgia, how will you offer others the same gift?

3. Accepting criticism. If you can't allow others to help you make your writing stronger, you will wallow in the mud of mediocrity. There's no point in being static -- you have to move forward, even if you already have a best seller.

I'd like to pay this award forward by honouring some of my critique partners. They crack the whip, pushing me to be the kind of writer I want to be -- one who transports my readers, who makes them laugh and cry, who makes them want to remember me.

Gina Ardito, Debora Mills, Penny Azar, Terri Pine and Zee the Challengemeister. Girls, visit The Shameless Lions Writing Circle to pick up your badge. And thanks for being there for me.

Saturday, 8 December 2007

Pavlov's Theory Gone Wild

Chester is no fool. He knows how to sit, spin around and speak on command. He knows what a treat is, and understands "Wanna go for a walk?" and "How about a beer?"

No, he's not my husband. He's my dog.

He may be bright, but lately he's been taking the Pavlov theory a little too far. When he was young, he got lost in a storm and thus wasn't thrilled with the sound of thunder. When the park down the street started hosting the July 1 fireworks, he became increasingly nervous at the sound of booming and screeching. Canada Day weekend had him hiding under various desks and tables, and he's not a little guy.

The smoke alarm beeps when the oven is too hot. I can't find the broom handle fast enough to disarm it. Chester heads for the front door and promptly pees on the floor. By the way, he pees like a girley dog and doesn't lift his leg. I've lost a lot of doormats this way.

Nowadays, I can't even open the oven door without him getting jittery. Just to be safe, I put him out the back door when I have to turn food over in the oven. He also paces like a prisoner when something beeps on television.

Because we have a bug zapper shaped like a tennis racquet, he freaks out if someone plays badminton in the yard. Bubble wrap? He can't even look at it -- he's out of the room in a flash. God forbid anybody should pop the damn stuff.

The damn dog has too many rules.

Saturday, 1 December 2007

Dance, Baby, Dance

I love to dance. I can't help moving to the music. I'm especially addicted to Footloose. Every time we go to the company Christmas party, I request the song and go nuts. Once I even accidentally hip-checked the publisher off the dance floor.

I just got home from this year's dinner and dance. I flew solo because my husband opted out so he could pick up our daughter from work. I had a nice dinner, won a cute cake plate with a snowman on it, and thought I'd hang around long enough to burn a few calories on the dance floor before beating the snowstorm home.

We had a live band this year. A blues band with saxophones, trumpets and the like. They started off with "Doin' It Right on the Wrong Side of Town" and my feet began tapping while I was still in my chair. A trio of people hit the floor and my feet slid out of their shoes. In an instant, I joined the dancers.

I usually dance with abandon and sometimes attract a little attention. I probably look like an idiot but heck, I'm having fun. However, this time I was upstaged by a little lady in red. She was probably about ten or fifteen years older than me, but she danced like a twenty-year old. She twirled and gyrated with enthusiasm, prompting shouts and whoops of encouragement from our co-workers.

I ran out of gas halfway through the song, and it took every ounce of energy I had just to stay alive until the end. My legs became rubber, like a hockey player's when he's been on the ice for an extra long shift.

By the time I reached my table, I was gasping for air as if I'd just run a marathon. I'm obviously out of shape. I called it a night and didn't dance anymore. Not due to exhaustion -- I probably could have gone another round after a short rest.

Some Depends would've helped, too.

Friday, 23 November 2007

Love At First Sight?

Tonight I sit with a lovely salmon dinner, all by myself. Hubby and oldest daughter are at work, and teenage son has gone to a friend's house, possibly overnight.

I'm watching Men In Trees, and the theme is: How long before it matters? Patrick has lost his memory, and the whole town attempts to trigger a breakthrough by giving him a slide show of his life. His fiancée is concerned that she was only a blip in his radar, and not longer registers on the memory scale.

As romance writers we usually take the instant love approach, but we also take the long road to love. I haven't read Love In The Time of Cholera yet, but my impression is that it takes many years for the lovers to be together. Correct me if I'm wrong.

I remember the day almost twenty-five years ago when I first saw my husband. His eyes first caught my attention -- big, brown and deep set. He wasn't tall, but he was intense and intelligent. A cute geek, really. He was unlike any young man I had dated up until then, and he captured my heart within a few months.

As you can see, love grew. Perhaps it was instant attraction, but it took a while for us to decide that we belonged together. Through 23 years of marriage, and a lot of joy and heartbreak, we had to make new decisions, but we're still together. And he's still a geek who can't fix a faucet to save his life. But I love him anyway.

How long does it take for one to make an impact on another person, and thus be the love of his or her life? An hour? A few days? Years? Tell me about the love of your life.

Sunday, 18 November 2007

Speaking of Memories

Kanani tagged me with an "Earliest Memory" meme. It's interesting how early memories can be. My sister swears she remembers lying in a baby carriage and recalls the little pom-poms that lined the hood.

My earliest memory was when I was about three years old. My family was temporarily stationed in Trinidad while my father supervised a construction site. I remember playing in the backyard when my feet started to sting, then burn. I screamed and ran into the house through the kitchen door. Mildred, our housekeeper, scooped me up and practically tossed me into the large kitchen sink, turning on the water full blast. I looked down at my little sandaled feet and saw hundreds of little red ants swirling down the drain. Fire ants. Nasty.

In other news, I received a Google Alert this morning. Apparently, The Space Between was on the top 50 of "Most Gifted Contemporary Romances" on Kind of amazing, considering they've been listing the book as 'out of stock' for the last two weeks. Buy some more, Amazon!

I did a screen capture where it is today, Page 3, Number 53 between a J.D. Robb and a Danielle Steel. Hee hee hee hee! I won't do a link because it probably won't be there tomorrow. Unless you all order one as a gift! Let's get me on, too! (Too many exclamation points, I know...)

Let's see if some of my friends at Romance Writers Unlimited have some Earliest Memories. I tag:


Sunday, 11 November 2007

Blast From the Past

I've been trying to get back into my current writing projects. One of them is The Yearbook, inspired by a year I spent in Spain in 1974. I found the old yearbook and started flipping through it to gain some motivation. On impulse I decided to Google a couple of the teachers. Well, I came up with two hits:

John Pharms had a difficult childhood and obtained a scholarship from West Michigan University due to the assistance of a mentor who believed in him. He spent a couple of years as a student teacher at the American School in Mallorca. I remember him as a big man with a huge smile and a voice that struck fear in us all. He taught us Phys Ed and one of our tasks was to clear a vacant lot of branches and rocks so we could play baseball. That wasn't the fun part; it was even more challenging finding the baseball when it rolled into a patch of prickly pear cactus.

He was thrilled to hear from me and will be happy to help me jog my memory about that incredible year at the American School in Spain. I went to his website and discovered that one of my classmates who was very close to Coach committed suicide shortly after I left. Coach had taken him under his wing and made him manager of the basketball team. He was devastated by his 'little brother's' death and made it his life's work to encourage young people to pursue their dreams. He's a motivational speaker for disadvantaged youth, based in Michigan.

The principal Peter J. Foley once served in the Peace Corps. He is now vice president of an incredible private boarding school in Thailand. He was an unconventional principal in a time and place where discipline didn't seem to exist. He seemed more like one of the students, and everyone treated him like a pal rather than an authority figure. He also sent me an email, and wants to hear more about my books. He says he's been working on a manuscript for the last five years, and needs a kick in the butt to finish it. He could probably fill volumes with his wealth of experiences.

Chatting with these two gentlemen has definitely given me a kick in the butt. The memories are flooding back and I hope I can weave them into this novel with some measure of success. Stay tuned for more developments.

Image: Rear view of The American School circa 1976.

Saturday, 3 November 2007

Not Just Tires Anymore

I dropped my daughter off at work this morning. It's her second day at her second job and she's nervous, but that's another story.

I decided to stop on the way home to pick up some window insulation kits for our leaky 50's windows that haven't had storm inserts for a couple of decades. If I don't put the shrink wrap on the inside, we're doomed to icy drafts and foggy windows for the next six months.

I had a choice of stores - Home Depot or Canadian Tire. Of course I chose Canadian Tire because I'm loyal to Canadian-owned retailers. Don't get me started about Wal-Mart, because that's another story, too.

I like Canadian Tire. You get special Canadian Tire Money if you pay by cash, and can exchange it for anything, just like cash. I once had a boyfriend who saved enough to buy a whole bicycle. The bills come in 5, 10, 25, 50 cent, and one and two dollar denominations, each with a picture of Sandy McTire.

As I entered the store, the smell of motor oil hit me. It's not as gross as you think, considering the vinyl smell of Zellers has me running for the hills, due to a three-week stint as a waitress in their restaurant (yet another story).

I purposely chose a hand basket instead of a cart because when I hit a Canadian Tire store, I can't stop shopping. There's so much to see: stainless steel pots and pans, canoes, hockey tape, windshield wiper fluid, camping gear, lighting fixtures, toys, Christmas decorations, televisions, flashlights, hunting rifles, fish batter, doorbells, lawn mowers.... you get the drift.

I found what I needed, plus a furnace filter and a new rubber thingy that goes under the door, then decided to cruise the other aisles in search for a new dish drainer... uh, dish rack? You see, our old Rubbermaid was getting a bit grungy. I could no longer scrub off the calcium deposits, no matter how much vinegar I used. It was pretty gross, really.

I searched and searched. I found fancy stainless steel electric kettles, strainers, toasters, garlic presses, but no dish strainers.

We had a dishwasher once. We had it for twenty years. It was one of those types you roll out of the dining room into the kitchen and hook up to the kitchen sink. Our 50's kitchen doesn't have a built-in dishwasher. After all those years, our dishwasher stopped circulating water in the proper order. It filled, but didn't drain. Our dishes looked worse coming out than they were going in.

After several attempts at repair, we wheeled it to the end of the driveway and I delegated the dish duties to the family. The result is pretty much the same because my kids don't want to do the dishes and they think I'll take away the privilege if they do a lousy job. Ain't gonna work.

I guess Canadian Tire doesn't think anybody does dishes by hand anymore.

Friday, 26 October 2007

When Disaster Strikes

I have to admit I live in a place where nothing momentous happens (that is, if you don't count the escaped elephants, of course).

In the light of recent news reports of the wildfires in California, I'm astounded by the resilience and bravery of the human beast. People helping each other, firefighters bravely risking their lives, and some homeowners foolishly risking theirs when they refuse to leave their homes, fighting a gargantuan blaze with a garden hose.

I read about generous people like Lyn Price, who dropped off a load of books at a local high school so evacuees could hopefully take their minds off the looming disaster. I worry about on-line friends who have family in the area.

When I read about people displaced by disasters like fire, hurricanes, tornadoes and even volcanoes, I can't possibly imagine the stress and fear they go through. To be forced to take your family to an emergency shelter, wondering if your home will still be there when the authorities sound the all-clear... well, it boggles the mind.

At the same time it makes me wonder what writers do when faced with such a situation. Do they sit on their cots in the middle of a school gym and fret? Do they try to take their minds off their situation by observing the people around them? Do they feel the urge to ask questions in order to use the acquired knowledge for future works? Or do they simply find that their experiences stay with them after the horror is over, and unknowingly fuel their writing?

Image: The skeletal remains of the Okanagan blaze during the summer of 2003, a few miles from my father's house in Penticton. We got lost while driving to Kelowna (wrong side of the lake) and came upon this scene).

Saturday, 20 October 2007

CSI... The Literary Way

Lynn Price, a talented writer and editor, offers an amusing analysis of submissions. New writers make common errors and some can be fatal. But it's not too late to learn from our mistakes!

I got to know Lynn through the Absolute Write Water Cooler. She's cool.

Thursday, 18 October 2007

Thursday Thirteen - HALLOWEEN!

Weeeelllll, it's that time of the week when we all try to think of thirteen somethings we like to something about. This week, I've been trying desperately to come up with an idea for a Halloween costume. It looks like it's gonna be down to the wire again. Last year I was Edith Prickley from SCTV. The year before that I was a kickass Jack Sparrow, and before that I was Boy George. Don't get me started on the Star Wars costumes.
I love Halloween, and all the trappings that come with it. Movies included, but not the gross slasher films most people are so fond of. I like to lean toward the quirky stuff, and sometimes the macabre with a little less blood.
We have a nice little collection of DVDs that bring us into the spirit of spookiness. Here are some of my favourites:
1. Young Frankenstein - (What knockers!)
2. Edward Scissorhands
3. It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown
4. Bedknobs and Broomsticks
5. Murder By Death
6. The Shining (okay, that teeters on the edge of slasher)
7. Sleepy Hollow with good ol' Johnny Depp
8. Sleepy Hollow by good ol' Walt Disney
9. American Werewolf in London
10. The Mummy - either one.
11. Interview with the Vampire
12. Magic with Anthony Hopkins. Creepy.
13. Practical Magic
Now, back to the costume dilemma. Any suggestions? Keep in mind that my inner actress screams television or movies.

Tuesday, 9 October 2007

It's Here! It's Here!

Actually... They're Here! On the same day, my contract for Bad Ice and my author copies of The Space Between arrived in the mail.

My book is shiny. It's petite yet not flimsy. The paper inside is bright, with easy to read type. If you look closely at the braided grass on the shark tooth necklace, you can't tell I drew the grass myself. Can you?

If you're in the mood for a plane crash, a hurricane, a crazy used car salesman and a bit of kissin', order it from or today. Also available in the States at Borders and Barnes & Noble.

If you're in the Newmarket or Toronto area and you want me to sign your book, I'll throw in a shark tooth necklace for free.

Sunday, 7 October 2007

Tag, I'm It

Wordtryst has challenged me with a bookish meme. It took me a few minutes to figure out what a meme was, but I'm okay now. Just in case anyone out there is as clueless as me (doubtful) I'll explain what a meme is: A unit of cultural information, such as a cultural practice or idea, that is transmitted verbally or by repeated action from one mind to another.

It's sorta like that hair product commercial - You'll tell two friends, and they'll tell two friends, and so on, and so on...

Anyway, here it is:

Total Number of Books: They're all over the place. Let's see... ten in the dining room, five in the living room, ten paperbacks scattered in the bedroom and about fifty on the shelves in the rec room.

Last Book I Read: Mad River Road by Joy Fielding. I wanted to see how she handled romantic suspense and I enjoyed the book a lot.

Last Book I Bought: A Boy Scout handbbook printed in 1957 as a gift for my brother in law's fiftieth birthday.

5 Meaningful Books:

Lord of the Rings by You Know Who: Since I was a teen, I went back to this book (or books) every five or six years. Each time I read it I understood a little bit more of Tolkien's world. I like stories where I can trace the characters' ancestries back to the beginning. It satisfies my crazy imagination.

The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy: Written in 1905 after the success of the stage play, Baroness Orczy wove a story of romance and adventure set during the French Revolution. It was the precursor of the 'super hero' story. I picked up my first copy when I was sixteen, and loved it so much I searched for another copy at the used book store. It's currently on my bedside table. Maybe I should read it again.

A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L'Engle: I felt like Meg Murry when I read this book. I often wished I could be swept up in an adventure on a faraway planet. I'm still trying to get my daughter to read it.

Life of Pi by Yann Martel: This novel touched something deep inside me, forcing me to rethink the foundations of religion and the role it plays in society today. It also made me think about how a human mind can alter reality when under duress. It's my favourite maritime tiger novel!

Anything by Dick Francis: It's like chips; I can't just read one. His books are a perfect mix of horses, adventure, a little romance and mystery. I'm so glad he's writing again, even if it's with the help of his son. Keep it going, Felix!

I enjoyed participating in this challenge, but I'll spare my fellow bloggers and let someone else spread the wealth.

Thursday, 4 October 2007

Thursday Thirteen - Singles Ad

I'm sure everyone's seen a certain 'Companion Wanted' ad floating around the cyber world. Here's an ideal ad I'd like to see in the local paper. Of course, you know where this is going so there's no point in being coy:

1. I have thick platinum blond hair with no sign of oncoming baldness

2. I'm single, never married

3. I'll listen when you talk to me

4. I take instructions without arguing

5. I enjoy a nice stroll after dinner

6. I don't smoke

7. I don't drink beer (well, not much)

8. I won't go out with the boys but would rather spend time at home with you

9. I have no desire buy large screen televisions or motorcycles

10. I have no aversion to kissing your feet

11. I have no emotional baggage

12. I'll eat anything you put in front of me, and enjoy it

13. I'm willing to defend you from the bad guys with my life
Image: Yukon Jack

Thursday, 27 September 2007

I'm On Amazon!

I received an email from my publisher inviting me to order author copies of The Space Between. This prompted me to click on Amazon to see if it was available.... and there it was! I even have a review!

I'm planning a little 'launch party' at work, offering treats and homemade shark-tooth necklaces to promote the print release of The Space Between on October 5th. Perhaps I should offer the necklace to those who buy the book and give it to me to sign....?

I hope my author copy arrives before next Friday. Keep your fingers crossed!

Saturday, 22 September 2007

My Son's First and Last Career Goal

Most of you know by now that I'm a bona fide hockey freak. Imagine my delight when my son begged me to let him play hockey. There's nothing like getting up at 5 a.m. to load stinky equipment in the station wagon, driving in snowy darkness to a drafty community centre rink and watching a bunch of boys slapping the puck against the boards, while trying to warm your hands on a paper cup containing vile arena coffee.

I had misgivings, too. You see, at eleven years old, my son was small for his age and he had never strapped on a pair of skates. Why in the world would he want to play hockey?

Perhaps my enthusiasm for the game rubbed off on him. Anyway, I relented, dug up the cash and enrolled him in House League. After all, I'd be the perfect Hockey Mom, right?

He looked tiny and lost in hand-me-down padding and huge helmet with its cage that hid his round face. When he stepped on the ice for the first time, he went down like a little pile of bricks. It wasn't the first time. My heart squeezed every time he fell and got back up again, like a toddler learning to walk for the first time.

The other boys skated circles around him, occasionally helping him up and encouraging him. When shooting practice began, he took a puck on the back of his arm and crumpled, crying.

The assistant coach took him aside and sat on the bench with him, talking for a long time. Apparently they made a deal, that my son should at least show up for one more practice. He agreed to give it one more try.

Well, he showed up for every game and practice that year, improving slowly and even providing a few assists. His team won the championship, which was a good way to end his first year. He got the 'Happy Face' award for being the funniest kid on the team.

The second year wasn't as magical for him. He wanted to be on the same team, but he'd been picked up by the second place team from the previous year. He didn't quite connect with his new teammates, and I had to press him to finish out the year. I didn't want to waste my three hundred bucks or the new equipment he'd received for Christmas.

Was I being harsh? Maybe. He was unhappy, but I stressed that it wasn't a good idea to give up just because things weren't going his way. He knew he wasn't going to be the next Gretzky, but he reluctantly pressed on.

The final game day arrived, the Consolation Final for the Bronze trophy. He had wormed his way into the hearts of his new teammates and their parents. We all shouted encouragement when he was on the ice plugging away at half the speed (and half the height) of the other players. We were ahead by a goal, with only a minute or so left on the clock.

The other team (his 'rookie' team from the previous year) pulled their goalie for a chance to tie. Coach put Andrew on the ice. As the players streamed toward the opposing goal, Andrew's wing mate carefully steered the puck onto Andrew's stick. He pushed it ahead of him, lost his balance, and slid into the goal with four seconds to go. The puck went in with him.

The place went wild. Players from the opposing team crowded around him with his own mates and clapped him on the back. Coach gave him the puck at the end of the game. I mounted it with his card and had a plaque made with the date of the goal.

He retired from hockey at the ripe old age of twelve.

I've got the whole thing on tape.

Image: Waiting for the Ice • 11x14 Watercolour

Tuesday, 18 September 2007

The Anatomy of a Query Letter

Let me say first of all that I'm no expert on query letters. I'm only telling you what worked for me.

Waaaaayyyyy back in the spring of 2006, I sent my first query letter to Evil Editor for an online critique. I was prepared for a detailed deconstruction, but I didn't expect the hilarity. Some aren't ready for such a blunt evaluation for all to see, but I saw the logic squeezed between the gasps of laughter.

Here's a repost. The stuff in yellow are Mr. Evil's comments:
Dear Agent:

Please allow me to introduce my novel, entitled Bad Ice. [Pleased to meet you. And may I introduce my reaction, Bad Title.]

After a bullet narrowly misses professional hockey player Jason Peterson during a game, [Evil Editor knew all that fighting in hockey games was going to escalate, eventually.] he finds himself torn between Christina, the beautiful young widow who saves his life, and his ex-girlfriend Sheila, who will use any means to reclaim him, including attempted murder. [I can see his dilemma. It's sort of like when the waiter brings you the dessert menu, and the only two items on it are chocolate mousse cake and arsenic custard.]

Jason is at the crest of his stellar career when Ian Pollard smuggles a gun into the arena and attempts to shoot Jason. Christina Mackey is a bystander who inadvertently thwarts Ian's attempt, [She accidentally spills her nachos in his lap while he's aiming his rifle.] becoming injured in the process. Stricken with guilt, Ian turns the gun on himself. [Guilt because he missed? Guilt because he injured Christina? What kind of injury are we talking about? Did she get shot?] [The ravishingly beautiful widow thinks, I've been in mourning long enough, I gotta get out and start living again. So she goes to a hockey game, and before the first period's over, she's lying in the aisle between sections 102 and 103, in a pool of her own blood, with the corpse of the guy who shot her sprawled on top of her. It'll probably be three years of therapy before she goes out in public again.] [Wait a minute, Ian goes to a hockey game to commit murder? Couldn't he shoot Jason outside his house, instead of in front of 20,000 people and ESPN, with the Jumbotron camera trained on him?] [Ian has no qualms about committing murder, but injuring someone is enough to make him kill himself?]

After Jason discovers that he was the original target, [Ian being dead, how did he discover this?] he visits his rescuer in order to thank her. They strike up a friendship which quickly develops into attraction. He is also enchanted by Christina's daughter Mishayla, six years old and already a budding hockey star. [She plays left wing for the Boston Bruins.]

Sheila Duffy is making life a living hell for Jason. [That should be the topic sentence of the next paragraph, not this one.] Their tumultuous relationship had come to a dramatic close when she confessed that Ian had been her lover. Jason assumes that Ian had tried to kill him out of jealousy, but eventually discovers that the dead man's motives were twofold. A secret that Jason had kept hidden for many years was the actual reason for Ian's rage. [Apparently Jason isn't the only one keeping this secret. What is the secret?!!]

Sheila uses lies, threats and manipulation [All the things men find attractive in a woman.] in an attempt to recapture Jason, but with no success. In a fit of jealous anger, she causes his demotion to a minor league in a distant city through a malicious fabrication. [At the crest of his stellar career he gets sent down? How is this explained to the fans and sportswriters?] [That must have been some fabrication. My guess: Sheila announced that Jason was sleeping with the owner's wife.] Aware that he is seeing someone else, Sheila is determined to drive herself between Jason and his unknown saviour, using his secret as a weapon. [At least someone knows the secret.]

Christina insists on obtaining proof that Sheila is behind Jason's demotion, but Jason tries to keep them apart, fearful that Christina will discover his secret and ultimately reject him. [If only Evil Editor could discover his secret. Can I have three guesses? Is he a serial killer who wears a goalie mask? Does he have a pink butterfly tattoo on his thigh? Wait, I have it! He's a hockey player; he has no teeth!] His selfish omission puts Christina and her daughter in peril. [What did he omit? Who are they in peril from? Christina? Has Jason moved to his new city? If so, how is he trying to keep Christina and Sheila apart?] [Your omission of what the secret is, in case you haven't noticed, is bugging Evil Editor.]

Bad Ice, a novel of approximately 58,900 words, is a romance laced with intrigue that revolves around ice - the fast paced world of hockey, the tranquility of a frozen pond, and the danger that lies beneath the surface. [Sharks. That's what this book needs. Sharks devouring a Zamboni driver. Seriously, think about putting in some sharks devouring a Zamboni driver.]
According to your submission guidelines, I have enclosed with this letter a synopsis, the first three chapters and a self-addressed stamped envelope. You may recycle the material. Thank you for taking the time to read this material. I look forward to further correspondence. This is a multiple submission.

Best Regards,

Revised Version

Dear Agent:

Jason Peterson is at the crest of his stellar hockey career when someone smuggles a gun into an arena and attempts to shoot him during a game. Luckily for Jason, a bystander inadvertently thwarts the murder attempt--though becoming injured in the process.

When Jason discovers that he was the gunman's target, he visits his rescuer, Christina Mackey, to thank her. They strike up a friendship which quickly develops into attraction. Jason is also enchanted by Christina's six-year-old daughter, Mishayla.

Sheila Duffy, Jason's ex-girlfriend, is making life hell for Jason. Their tumultuous relationship had come to a dramatic close when she'd confessed her adultery--she'd cheated on Jason with the gunman who later tried to kill him! Sheila uses lies, threats and manipulation in attempting to win Jason back, but with no success. Aware that Jason is seeing Christina, Sheila determines to drive herself between them--even if it means putting Christina and her daughter in peril.

Bad Ice is a novel of approximately 60,000 words. In accordance with your submission guidelines, I have enclosed a synopsis, the first three chapters and a self-addressed, stamped envelope. You may recycle the material. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Hilarity aside, he had some valid points. I used many of his suggestions for a while, even changing the title, then back again. In the end, I still used a great deal of his ideas plus what I learned from agents, editors and my critique partners. Can you spot the differences? Here's my final version:

Christina Mackey loves everything about hockey. Except the players. Left alone and pregnant by an aspiring pro, she vows it'll take more than a few muscles to change her view on jocks and their exploits.

During a rare visit to a game, she inadvertently foils a murder attempt by a man who smuggles a gun into the arena. When star winger Jason Peterson discovers that he was the target, he visits her to thank her. They strike up a friendship that quickly develops into attraction.

Christina's six-year-old daughter Mishayla immediately accepts him, prompting Christina to let her heart take the lead, albeit with caution. She figures he'll soon come to his senses and move on. Surprisingly, he doesn't. Maybe he's normal after all.

Jason is tired of the dating scene. He'd entertained a succession of beautiful women since his rookie year, but none were a substitute for his first relationship, which had ended in tragedy. Christina's gentle spirit reawakens him, and Mishayla reminds him of the child he could have had.

Shiela Duffy, Jason's ex-girlfriend, refuses to let him go. He had ended their tumultuous relationship when she admitted she was involved with the man who later tried to shoot him.

Her devotion to drugs and alcohol are second only to her obsession with Jason and his lifestyle. She uses lies, threats and manipulation in trying to get him back, but with no success. Aware that he is seeing someone else, she drives herself between them, recklessly putting
Christina and her daughter in peril.

BAD ICE is a contemporary romance set against a hockey background. Using MS Word count, the manuscript is 75,000 words.

Thursday, 13 September 2007

Thursday Thirteen

13 Things My Family Does To Stop Me From Having A Rye and Ginger Ale On My Half Day Off:

1. "Mom, when we go to pick up Andrew from school, let's go to Home Hardware so I can check out the Corner Gas merchandise."

2. "Oh, while you're at it, Honey, can you pick up a light bulb for the fish tank?"

3. "Mom, I'll love you forever if you put NHL 08 on your credit card, and I promise to pay you back. Can we go now?"

4. "Mom, can we see if it's cheaper at Wal Mart?"

5. "Oh, let's see if it's cheaper at Future Shop. You get a free hat."

6. "Darn, it's five dollars more. Not worth the free hat. Can we go back to Wal Mart?"

7. "What's for dinner?"

8. "Bark! I have to go pee!"

9. "My shoulder's killing me and we're out of Advil. Oh, and ginger ale."

10. "Can we come too? We want to buy candy."

11. "What's burning?"

12. "Bark! I have to go poo!"

12.5 "The cat threw up in the bathtub. Should I clean it?"

13. Snap. Glug. Fizz. Ahhhhhh.......

Sunday, 2 September 2007

An Offer for Bad Ice

My hockey romantic suspense novel, Bad Ice, has a home. The contract is in the mail, so I'm jumping the gun a little. But I couldn't wait to tell you!

I'd been submitting this novel to agents for about a year. As time went by, the 'rejections' became more personal and encouraging. No one offered representation, probably because the hockey theme didn't have a wide appeal in the U.S. agenting world.

However, Champagne Books was interested. After all, they're Canadian, a romance publisher, and they understand how every red-blooded Canadian girl can't resist a hockey player! I sent a query, J. Ellen Smith requested the partial, then the full a mere eight hours later! After only a few weeks, I received the email offering a contract.

It'll be released in electronic format and if sales are good it will go to print. I chose this publisher because if it goes to print, my book will appear on the shelves of a major Canadian bookstore - Chapters Indigo. It'll also be distributed in the States. So.... when it 's released, all you hockey fans who believe in love should buy an e-book first!

Some may wonder why I don't just wait for the "big one". Why pick small publishers? Am I selling out? I don't think so. Not every novel finds a place in mainstream publishing, but it still deserves to be published, especially if an editor believes in it enough to take it on.

The Space Between has mature characters and The Wild Rose Press has a special line just for that purpose. Bad Ice is a romance, but with a hockey background. Not quite a thriller, but a good dose of suspense. Champagne Books is a good fit, and I think they really believe in this book.

It seems that every novel I write is a little different. Perhaps it's because I'm a new writer and haven't found my niche yet. My work in progress, The Yearbook is different again. It's more introspective with two points of view in two different time periods. It's not a romance, but more like a love story, or women's fiction if you have to give it a label. Perhaps that will be the one to snag an agent.

My other WIP is a romantic thriller set in the Pyrenees, with car chases and stolen paintings. Definitely commercial appeal in that one. At least, I hope so.

So, there won't be any book tours or appearances on Letterman (yet), but I think a few people will enjoy a little "hockey, jealousy and passion - a hat trick that could lead to danger."

Thursday, 30 August 2007

Thursday Thirteen

My friend Gina has been bugging me to participate in Thursday Thirteen but I have a hard time thinking of thirteen things in common.

In the spirit of the use of words, I'm going to try to think up some unusual oxymorons. Bear with me, I'm on vacation and my brain is already half-fried (is that an oxymoron?):

1. Genuine Imitation Naugahyde - I imagine a herd of naugas roaming the plains, sporting a variety of pleather pelts.
2. Clean Fill - It's dirt, isn't it?
3. Daily Special - What's so special about it if it's served every day?
4. Gourmet Hamburger - What's the big deal? It's a ground up cow slapped between two slices of bread.
5. Same Difference - I'm sorry, but I HATE that expression.
6. Going Nowhere - Uh, that's just standing still, isn't it?
7. Head Butt - Where exactly is the head?
8. Legally Drunk - Either you're drunk or you're not.
9. Low-Rise - 'Nuff said.
10. Veggie Dogs - Ew.
11. Numb Feeling - I guess we writers had better avoid this one.
12. Pet Cat - Oh, no... he's the master.
13. Poor Little Rich Girl - Yeah, right.

Tuesday, 21 August 2007

My Nephews in The North

When my nephew Travis was a toddler, I didn't know how to deal with him. The poor little guy was burdened with problems. His lenses were removed because of a congenital eye condition when he was only three months old, and had to endure eye drops and contact lenses. Try putting contact lenses in a screaming baby's eyes. Gosh, I felt sorry for his mother. Later, he developed peanut allergies and then his parents discovered that he was autistic.

Family visits involved scrubbing down the house, being careful about what foods to serve, and fielding complaints from my young children and the other nieces and nephews. They had no patience for the giggling, wiggling child who just wouldn't stop.

A couple of weeks ago, we hit the road for a long overdue visit to Travis and his family in North Bay. Travis is now almost ten years old, and his brother Jay is a precocious, bright and articulate eight year old. I must admit I felt a little trepidation. I didn't know how I should behave around a child with autism. Even we non-autistics and non-aspergians fear the unknown.

The boys waited on the front porch of the house in the woods. They looked so excited to see Aunty Sandy and Uncle Mark, but were disappointed that their cousins chose to stay home. I impulsively hugged Travis, and felt him stiffen in my arms. Oops, bad idea. He quickly regained his composure and showed us inside, chattering all the way.

Travis is very interested in photography and I think he took a zillion pictures of me. I showed him how to use the self timer and he ran to his brother to try it out. He also peppered me with hyothetical questions that made my head spin.

John Elder Robison first made me curious about the little nuances of communication with an autistic person. I kept John's blog posts in mind as I listened to Travis. My nephew's questions mostly involved situations that would probably never happen, but he really wanted to know what I would do if my car caught fire. I'd get out of the car as fast as I could and call the fire department. What would I do if my camera got hot and smoky? I said I'd take the batteries out. What would I do if... if... if? Every answer prompted another question. It felt a lot like those endless 'Why' questions a young child asks, but these were specific questions and I tried to answer them as accurately as possible. I knew he would take me very seriously, and flippant remarks were not a good idea. I figured he would retain this information for a long time, processing every detail.

I also noticed his eyes while we conversed. He placed himself in my line of sight and spoke earnestly, listening to my answers with rapt attention, but his eyes would not meet mine. They rolled around in his head like little lottery balls. Now I understand the title of John's book, Look Me In The Eye.

Little brother Jay welcomed the respite from being Travis's 'babysitter', and spent most of the weekend on the computer. He took a break to help me pick raspberries and climb hay bales. I was amazed by his mature attitude and his patience with his big brother. He obviously benefited from Travis' special education program. He is also a gifted artist.

I'm glad we went. I don't claim to be a new expert or anything, but I now understand autism a little bit more.

Photos: Jay on the hay bale, and me and Travis.

Thursday, 16 August 2007

Let's Go To The Ex!

Light takes on a golden hue as the sun takes a little side trip to the south, crickets compete for our attention, and the grass gets crispy... it's Exhibition time again.

Since 1879, the Princes' Gates have opened every August through Labour Day, treating us to cotton candy, sunburn, and a guy who shouted "Doggy Doggy" through a loudspeaker. It's a showcase of agriculture, industry and the arts.

The last time I went to the EX, my kids were little. We ate our way through the Food Building, watched large families from the Maritimes fiddle and clog their way to fame, and rode the Merry-Go-Round again and again.

My earliest memory of the EX was the day my sister was allowed to go earlier with friends and spend all day on the rides. I had to wait until later to go with my parents and little brother. I had these free tickets to the David Cassidy show. I was in the fiftieth row, and my sister was in the second row. All I saw was this little pinprick singing "I Think I Love You" with everyone screaming and bawling around me. I was bored, and angry that I couldn't go on the rides like my sister. When the show was over, my parents collected us (along with my brother who got to go on all the rides -- do I sound bitter?) and we drove straight home.

A few years later, I did go on the rides. My one and only real live view of the Osmonds was from the top of the double decker ferris wheel. I remember a long row of guys in white bell bottomed spandex and Elvis collars adorned with rhinestones.

Still later, I indulged in my love of horses and watched countless rounds of show jumping. I spent most of my time in the Horse Palace, petting velvet noses and dreaming of owning a horse someday.

Back-to-School sales aren't the harbinger of the end of summer. It's the EX.

Saturday, 11 August 2007

Now Comes the Hard Part

Last weekend, my husband and I drove three hours north to Corbeil (near North Bay, Ontario) to visit his brother's family. On the way, we stopped at Weber's on Highway 11.

Weber's is famous for its burgers. I don't think there's a single moment that there isn't a lineup outside the door. Traffic got so snarled they had to build a walkway over the highway to accommodate extra parking.

The Webers staff is very efficient. They take your order while you're still standing outside, and you hand over your money and receive an order slip two minutes later, while shuffling forward, closer to your goal. I took this picture just inside the door.

Their burgers are so damn good, it's a crime to pass them by while heading to the cottage or returning home, even during off hours.

I'll update you about our visit to the north country in another post. Today I'm going to talk about self-promotion.

I still don't know how my book is selling because I haven't received my quarterly statement yet. I haven't received a single review, so I don't know how The Space Between is being received. My publisher sent out copies to various reviewers, and I sent a couple myself. Heck, it's only been a month or so, but the lack of feedback from total strangers is really bugging me.

I'm sure I'm not alone. As much as I love writing for its own sake, a little validation doesn't hurt. It gives me the motivation to keep going.

Now that the print release of The Space Between is looming in the distance (October 5th), I must begin thinking about promotion in my home town. I plan to send a copy to my colleagues in the editorial department of the newspaper where I work. The chances are excellent that they'll do a story.

Last week I ventured into a privately owned bookstore that sells both new and used books. I like the store -- it's full of lovely old books and comfy couches, too. I like the informal, personal attention, too.

I waited for the lady behind the counter to finish with her customers and worked up the nerve to introduce myself as a local author. To my surprise, she yelled, "Hey, Sandra Cormier!"

"Hi, how are you?" I responded with enthusiasm. Problem is, I couldn't remember her right away. I have a tough time remembering someone I met five minutes ago.

She asked about my family and I happily updated her, waiting desparately for a clue. When she mentioned her son by name, it all came back in a flash. We hadn't seen each other for twenty years. Can you blame me? Sorry, Fran...

She was married at the time to a local musician and they had rented my mother's basement apartment before he hit the big time with his eighties rock band. So here's a big Hi to Fran; it was great to see you again!

We finally got around to the subject of my book. She informed me that the owner was responsible for purchasing new books, and didn't usually feature local artists. But since mine is a romance, she might make an exception. I took her business card and promised to send the information.

Now I must buckle down and create a press kit with all the pertinent information about my book and its availability, ISBN number, distributor contact info and all that wonderful stuff. I also have to learn about the subtle art of book signings. Fun, wow.

In the meantime I have at least two other novels simmering on the back burner, and one completed manuscript on submission. No, I haven't touched the garden or even ventured into the back yard, which is crispy from the drought.

Happy reading and writing!

Sunday, 29 July 2007

Hook e'm, Danno

Bad Ice is on submission. A small press in Calgary requested the full manuscript last week. I'm stepping away from it while I wait to see what happens next.

For those who are curious about the plot, I think I finally came up with a hook that describes it: "The Natural meets Fatal Attraction, except with hockey instead of baseball."

I managed to crank out a thousand words for The Weeping Woman last night. I still don't know where the heck the hero and heroine are going, but at present they're arguing in a pencione in Andorra. I've been having lots of fun with guns and car crashes, but I think a little dialogue is in order!

Do I have a hook for this one? So far: "When Basque freedom fighters take Amanda on an impromptu tour of the Pyrenees, she wishes she'd taken her toothbrush."

Time to make a custom-made breakfast for my son Andrew, who turns 16 today.

While I'm slaving over the grill, how about telling us your hook?

Photo: Maori mother of pearl fish hook pendant

Wednesday, 25 July 2007

It's Not Funny, Not Even Close...

A young woman waves at the video camera, her white teeth flashing. She grips the handle of the tow line and makes sure her feet are firmly entrenched in her water skis. The boat motor roars, the tether takes up the slack, and she is unceremoniously jerked off her feet, doing a double gainer over a parked rowboat, smacking her head in the process.

The audience swells with uproarious laughter.

While aimlessly flipping through channels, my husband paused at one of those 'Funny/Outrageous/Hilarious/Shocking' video shows. You know the ones -- babies hosing themselves down, puppies chasing their tails in countless adorable ways and brides and grooms fainting at their weddings.

Okay, some of the clips are indeed amusing. I especially like the pets and kids. But I don't see the benefit of watching people fall off docks, flip from swings on their heads, miss the edge of a trampoline, or ride a bike into a telephone pole. I've seen enough drunk wedding guests slamming into the table and taking the cake down with them. I've seen enough ATV riders flip their vehicles on top of them. It's not funny.

The only message I can see is: "Don't be stupid like these people."

Or maybe the message is: "Do something completely asinine and catch it on tape, and we'll give you ten thousand dollars."

Play safe this summer, everyone.

Thursday, 19 July 2007

When People Watching Ceases To Be

While driving to pick up my daughter from work, I found my self studying the clouds. They bloomed upward into a brilliant blue sky and glowed with pink highlights from the setting sun. They looked almost solid, not like a collection of water vapour.

That got me thinking -- how often do I catch myself describing what I see?

Sitting in the mall, waiting for the kids to finish browsing in Electronics Boutique -- I scan the people who pass by and take note of shape, clothing, eyes, hair. I try to imagine what they're thinking.

Sights, sounds, smells... they're all translated into words. I don't just have feelings anymore. They must break out into prose. The internal words flow over me like a breeze. I don't write them down, I just hope that I'll recall them later.

Does this phenomenon strike all writers? Am I making any sense?

Saturday, 14 July 2007

I've crawled out of my hole

My blatant self promotion has played out its first stage and I'll pop my head up to say thanks to all who have downloaded my novel so far. A few updates:

I got my first fan letter! A nice reader emailed me to say that she thought my cover was great, and that the blurb was interesting. She said my book is definitely on her wishlist and did I have a website or newsletter so she could keep up with my endeavours. I thanked her and directed her to this blog, which in my opinion is as good as any website. I printed her email and I intend to frame it, along with the cover and maybe a copy of my first royalty cheque. Maybe someday I'll have a 'writing office' in which to hang it.

Another interesting tidbit: I'm Number Two! Okay, it's out of 23 in my subcategory, Last Rose of Summer in The Wild Rose Press, but I'll take it. After only a week! My aim is to hit the top ten on the main page.

And lastly:

Pink Elephants on Parade! Local emergency services received several 911 calls concerning a pair of pachyderms that escaped from the visiting Garden Bros. Circus. Apparently someone tripped over the cord that supplied power to their electric enclosure. Two of them went for a stroll through the neighbourhood, sampling the crispy, underwatered lawns and munching on young trees. One of them left a nice gift on a lady's front step and then ate her lilies.

They were returned to their pens without incident. Boy, I'll bet a lot of bottles of Jack Daniels went down the drain that night!

Friday, 6 July 2007

E-Release of The Space Between

It's here! It's here! My first novel, THE SPACE BETWEEN, is released today by The Wild Rose Press.

Edited to add: It's an e-release, with the print release on October 5th. So if you download it by accident, enjoy it and THEN buy the print version, send it to me and I'll autograph it (if you like it, that is....)

Here's the Blurb:
To save their marriage, Margaret and Jeff embark on a trip to New Zealand, but their aircraft is wrecked on a South Pacific island. Jeff perishes, and Margaret is left alone with David, a popular actor.

As they meet the challenges of survival, their experience pulls them together. Margaret's sensuality is reawakened, but she fights her desire since David is married, albeit unhappily. She believes his attraction for her is merely inspired by the beautiful island.

Once rescued, they resume their former lives, attempting to put their shared experience behind them. They soon realize their passion can't be denied.

Here's the excerpt that won hands down with my RWU writers' group:

He coaxed the fire back to life, ready to lay the fish on the coals.

Something caught his eye. He straightened and squinted across the distance to the end of the spit. Yes, there was definitely something else in the water. A dark speck intermittently popped up between the undulating waves. At first he thought it was Margaret surfacing and dipping down again.

His fingers splayed and he dropped the fish in the sand. Horror filled his heart and lungs and he shouted hoarsely, "Maaaargaret!"

"God, no, no, no..." He snatched the other makeshift spear that poked out of the ground beside the campfire and raced to the end of the spit, scrambling and almost tripping over the pitted boulders. She was about thirty feet offshore; face down, scanning for fish. She didn't see the triangular dorsal fin cutting through the surface another thirty feet away from her, zigzagging, searching for the source of the irresistible scent of blood.

He shouted, "Maggie!!" as loud as he could, and her head poked out of the water, turning toward the sound of his voice.

He screamed, his voice breaking with the effort, "Shark!!" He frantically pointed behind her and waved her in, swinging his arms in wide arcs. She swung to look over her shoulder, and then turned to kick furiously toward him, abandoning her spear.

The triangle ceased to zigzag and sliced straight through the water toward the splashing. She was still about ten feet from his outstretched hand when the shark struck.

Saturday, 30 June 2007

Critique or Criticism?

Look up 'critique' and you'll see such words as evaluation and assessment. Look up 'criticism' and you'll see disparagement and disapproval.

As new writers, we eventually find it necessary to offer up our work for critique. This isn't the same thing as asking friends and family to read your book. Your family will love it no matter what. Your friends may like it. If they don't, they'll merely tell you they were too busy to read it. Maybe they were too busy. Maybe they couldn't choke it down because your writing wasn't up to par.

The truth is, you're not getting an honest critique of your work. If you jump the gun and start querying and sending partials willy-nilly into the publishing world, there's a good chance you'll be disappointed by the results. Rejections will likely pour in with the regularity of an electric bill. Maybe you'll give up, convinced that you suck. Or maybe you'll realize that there are people out there who can really help.

So, you join a writers' group or forum. You get tips on making your work better. You discover flaws like passive voice, showing not telling, info dump and wooden dialogue.

Maybe a critique is particularly harsh, and you instantly take it personally. Perhaps you lash back, telling everybody you know that the critiquer is mean. If that's the case, you have a lot to learn about the critiquing process. Resist the urge to diss the critiquer. Don't flounce off in a huff because your brilliant prose didn't blow the socks off everyone who read it. The people who think they're helping you are not necessarily professionals, and not all of them know how to assess another writer's work with an objective eye.

Take each comment, positive or negative, and store them in a safe place. Take some time to cool off and look at the comments again.

Some will be inconsequential, like: "I thought that joke was in poor taste and I don't think you should use it." So what if the reader didn't like the joke? A thousand others will. Disregard.

Some will sting: "Using excessive 'there was' is the sign of an amateur". Okay, that could have been worded differently, so take it in its intended context -- omit excessive 'there was'.

Some will be extremely unhelpful: "This sucks. You can't write." Or: "I didn't like the plot." Ignore these people and move on.

Most will be helpful, and eventually their advice will percolate into your psyche if the same tips are given again and again.

Above all, whether you agree or disagree, take the time to thank your critiquer.

I'm telling you this because my writers' group was recently attacked for rejecting a potential member based on her submission. She sent her complaint to a new blog that specializes in exposing unfair treatment in the writing world.

I love the people in my writers' group -- they all helped me hone my rudimentary writing skills until I was eventually published. Now they are helping me in my quest to obtain an agent. They are the sweetest, most generous and kind ladies I'd ever met online. Together, we help each other learn, we lean on each others' shoulders when tragedy strikes, and we laugh together on a regular basis. I don't regret joining the group, and I wish it could be open to the whole writing world, but it can't. They can't accept everyone, just like a dedicated couple can't adopt a whole orphanage.

Yes, there are watchdog and resource sites out there, with Absolute Write, Writer Beware and Preditors & Editors at the forefront. They carefully research any claims against agents, publishers and writers' groups, offering both sides of the story if available. A random blog has every right to complain about individuals in the industry, but it may backfire on the owner if they don't back up their claims with facts.

There are great critique groups out there, too. Run your first pages through Elektra's Crapometer and you'll get honest and helpful opinions. Give your query letter a shot at Evil Editor's blog and you'll laugh your ass off while he picks apart your pitch in a most hilarious fashion, followed by a revised letter that will likely be 300% better. Join in the office party at the Absolute Write water cooler and you'll get lost in a whirlwind of opinions, jokes, critiques, writing exercises and just plain fun (and a little flouncing, too).

Hopefully you'll also fit in some writing, too.

Wednesday, 27 June 2007

The Space Between Release Date

I received notification today that my romance novel THE SPACE BETWEEN is scheduled for release by The Wild Rose Press on Friday, July 6th, 2007. The print release will be October 5th, 2007.
Oh, happy day!

Tuesday, 19 June 2007

When Writers Read as Writers

I used to read for pleasure -- voraciously, in fact. I'd grab whatever was on the shelf -- romance, science fiction, fantasy, mystery -- and be satisfied with whatever I scarfed down. I even raided my kids' shelves and re-read all the YA they had.

Now, I have six books sitting on my end table, each partly read. For some reason, I can't get into any of them. I keep finding little nuances like passive voice, head-hopping, info dumping, dragging plots. I'm reading like a writer, and it's bugging me. I want to read purely for enjoyment, but I can't. It seems to require almost as much concentration as writing.

Mind you, in the last few months I have managed to read a few lovely novels that held my attention to the end. I was drawn into the story and forgot all about looking for those little Cardinal Writing Sins.

Why am I having such difficulty? Is it lack of spare time? Is it the fact that I'm at that magic spot between publishing one book and trying to find a home for the next one? Do I feel obliged to pick apart every book I read in order to improve my own craft, or to research genres to see where I fit in?

Summer is upon us. I gotta relax and just read, darn it.

Monday, 18 June 2007

4 a.m. Feeding of the Mind

I got up to visit the little girls' room at 4am this morning, and when I went back to bed, my mind started churning. I saw a scene from my WIP The Weeping Woman in my head, and played it over and over in my head.

A half hour later, I figured I'd better write this stuff down or I'd forget it the next day. So I stumbled through the dark bedroom, tried not to trip over the dog in the hallway, and groped my way to the living room. I fired up my little laptop (boy, those things are bright when you're half asleep) and added the particulars to my outline for later reference.

I seem to have these little inspirational moments at the most awkward times -- while driving the car, while trying to fall asleep, or while at the mall waiting for my daughter to decide on a pair of jeans. The notebook works sometimes, but not all the time. Especially while I'm driving!

When does your muse hit you over the head? When you least expect it?

Tuesday, 12 June 2007

Broken Hearts

Must we suffer from broken hearts when we write about them? When our heroine experiences her darkest moment -- when she feels as if her whole world is teetering on the edge of disaster, do we writers have to feel the same angst?

I dunno -- I just can't manage to feel as desperate as my characters. All I can think of is the happy ending far in their future. My optimistic tendencies shine through and I urge them on... "You go, girl, he'll be waiting for you in the end. Go ahead, cry. Go home, feel your heart being torn from your breast. He'll phone/write/show up at the airport. Better yet, you'll find the cojones to go get him yourself."

My biggest hope is that my positive nature will NOT shine through as I attempt to bring my readers to tears. Those tears must be real, whether tears of misery or happiness.

The Canadian Writers' Collective is an eclectic group of writers who have contributed to some of Canada's finer literary publications. Witty, insightful and kind, their posts entertain me and make me feel a part of the writing community. Last weekend, they invited me to be a guest blogger. The post I contributed is here.

Friday, 8 June 2007

Who's Afraid of Happy Endings?

Well, I'm certainly not! My brother in law Peter Elliott took part in this upbeat documentary about the trials and tribulations of romance novelists by these two talented ladies.

I watched it on Bravo! the first time, and I'm looking forward to seeing it again. It features interviews with bestselling and up-and-coming romance novelists, as well as editors and agents in The Big Apple.

Who's Afraid of Happy Endings is scheduled to air on Bravo! on Sunday, June 10th at 6pm Eastern. It's airing only in Canada this time, but I'll be sure to give everyone a heads up when it airs in the States or beyond.

Monday, 4 June 2007

Sure I have time to paint!

I've been getting some questions regarding the paintings on my blog. Yes, I do take commissions -- mostly pet portraits. I've been known to paint the occasional house or sailboat, too. You can throw any animal at me - cats, dogs, horses, birds, even your favourite ferret. If you're interested, shoot me an email.

Wednesday, 30 May 2007

How can actors stand watching themselves?

I have my galley printed out and attached neatly to a clipboard for proofing. It's probably a bad idea to look for typos while a playoff hockey game is on, but hey... I'm good at multi-tasking.

Speaking of hockey, I regret to say that I am rooting for Anaheim, although Ottawa is Canadian and all that. But everybody knows that no self-respecting Torontonian born in Montreal will root for the Senators. Sarry...

Back to the proofing. As I go through the formatted version of my manuscript, I'm reminded of the comments actors make when they see the final cut of whatever movie they're in. As they stare at the screen in horror, they see every mistake they made and fight the urge to tell the director to reshoot the scene, but it's too late.

It's not too late for me to take care of any little typos in my final draft, but I find I must fight the urge to rewrite the whole thing. No matter how good it is, a writer will always find something he or she hopes will make the novel better. I must let this baby go, zits and all. The readers will decide if it's good.

I'm sure many successful writers would love to take back their first novels and bury them in the backyard, but in my case, I accept that I will improve my writing with every novel, and I'll build an audience with each release. That's a promise.

Gotta get back to work.

Monday, 28 May 2007

The Galley has arrived!

Wow! It has an ISBN on page six and everything! I have to check it over for boo-boos, and then send it back. Maybe then I'll get a release date. I am dancing.

Monday, 21 May 2007

Oh, darn; I've been tagged.

Clover, another Wild Rose Press author, has tagged me. I must reveal eight things about myself, and then tag eight other bloggers. This is a great opportunity for you to get to know me a little better. This is my first time, so hold on!

1. I hate phones. Really. If I have to order a pizza, I get a stomach ache. Thank goodness most of my family has email or they'd never hear from me.

2. I have a birthmark on my lower back.

3. I'm so paranoid about my breath that I'm constantly chewing sugarless gum.

4. When faced with a series of tasks, I say them out loud so I won't forget what the heck I'm doing.

5. Drivers who don't signal really irritate me.

6. When I was little, I was afraid of butterflies.

7. I love hockey. To be fair, everyone should know that about me.

8. When I was seven, I stepped on a golf tee my dad had left on the stairs. Now, if anyone says 'golf tee' out loud, my foot tingles and my toes curl up. It's doing it right now...

In case I tag you, here are the rules:
1) Each player starts with 8 random facts or habits about themselves.
2) People who are tagged need to write their own blog about their 8 things with a copy of these rules.
3) At the end of your blog you need to choose 8 people to get tagged and list their names.
4) Don't forget to leave them a note saying they've been tagged.

Forgive me if you've already been tagged: LaurieB, PennyOz, Tsuki, Cathy, Leslie, John, Vicki and Rebecca.

Saturday, 19 May 2007

Miss Snark has announced her retirement.

I'm saddened, but not surprised. Only the most saintly and hardened individual could possibly put up with the various degrees of nitwittery I have witnessed on that blog over the last two years and two million posts.

And I was one of them. I thought I knew what I was doing when I first started out, and I cringe when I look at my first query letters. Prospective agents must have taken one look, and thought "Newbie. This one needs to read Miss Snark's blog more often."

I don't have an agent yet, but because of Miss Snark, Evil Editor and Elektra's Crapometer, as well as my lovely friends at Romance Writers Unlimited, I was able to crank out a fairly decent novel.

I am now able to negotiate the labyrinth of the publishing world without looking like a nitwit, but I am fully aware that I have a long way to go. I will miss Miss Snark, and so will many others. I'll try to apply what I've learned. I'll go through her archives to find anything I've missed. I strongly suggest that new writers do the same. Her blog will stay up for that purpose. Here it is:

Sure, she had many snippets of wisdom, but what I'll miss most of all is her cutting humour and the way she responded to my non-nitwit emails with thanks and a chuckle that I could hear over the cybersphere.

I lift a G&T to you, Miss Snark.

Wednesday, 16 May 2007

It was a dark and stormy... well, you get the picture

Weather seems to play an important role in the creation of romance fiction, but I try to steer away from the "getting caught in the rain" kissing scenes. But that doesn't mean I don't enjoy them.

I'm fortunate to live in an area where tornadoes aren't a constant threat, so watching a good rip snortin' thunderstorm is one of my favourite activities as long as I'm not standing in the middle of it. Sometimes during car trips, I crane my neck to catch a glimpse of a particularly dramatic cloud formation or that elusive flash of lightning. Don't worry, I'm not the driver.

Last night, a thunderstorm rolled through our region. I swung the window open and inhaled the metallic odour of ozone rising to meet the rain, then kept my eyes peeled for the light show.

Chester, my husky/sheltie cross, didn't enjoy it so much. He's getting old and a little neurotic, so any cracking or booming noises now send him scurrying to the basement. Oh, well... he'll be sure to be safe if there IS a tornado! I'd probably still be hanging out the window trying to get a shot with my digital camera.

The storm didn't live up to my expectations. After the rain passed, the setting sun made up for my disappointment by illuminating the drips that fell from the apple blossoms. The sky matched the tree.

That trickling sound, along with the distant rumble of thunder, is soothing. As long as the trickling isn't leaking into the basement.

I guess I'd better go downstairs and check.

When my son saw this sunset, he told me it looked like a Barbie factory explosion.

Friday, 11 May 2007

The Cover is Done!

After a week of emails back and forth with Tamra, Wild Rose Press's artist, we finally have an approved cover. We worked together on this one - I provided the shark tooth and drew the braided grass necklace, and she adjusted the surf background and provided the typesetting. I think we did a nice job.

Now I just have to wait for approval on the manuscript and a release date. I think. Gosh, I still don't know what comes next.

I can't speak for other writers, but I feel so many levels of accomplishment while creating a novel. First, the act of stringing together a bunch of words that actually hold somebody's attention is a feat to be proud of.

Then, being told that your guinea pigs enjoyed the story makes me tingle. After that, getting the approval of a publisher (or agent) is something to get really excited about.

Then we have the little steps taken to make it all real. Edits, my name under "Authors" on the website (giggle) and the cover. Next, I'll jump up and down when I get the release date, or the final copy of the manuscript - I'm not sure which comes first. I'll letcha know when I get to it.

Every little moment seems like it's the best you'll ever feel, and then along comes another one.

Monday, 7 May 2007

Cover Girl

As a writer, I like to surround myself with images and 'draw' from them in order to enrich my story. Sometimes, a photograph I take or an image I create can be the inspiration for a story.

I've been asked to give my input on the design of my book cover. I have a couple of ideas, and plan to send thumbnails to the artist very soon. It's nice to have a publisher that gives the writer a say in cover design. I hear it's not usually the case. Chances of obtaining a cover that truly reflects the story within can be a bit of a crapshoot.

Some authors get covers they don't expect, but from what I hear, most of them are happy with the results after they recover from their surprise.

By the way, I sent my final edits back yesterday. At least, I think they're final. I guess I now have to wait for a release date, or more edits... or something!

Okay, back to work. I'm trying to draw a braided grass necklace in Photoshop. Not easy, but fun!

Photo: Staring down a cliff on Grand Manaan Island, NB.

Saturday, 5 May 2007

It's Derby Day!

If you read this blog, you know that I love horses. Horse racing is an emotional, exciting and phenomenal experience. I once had dreams of being a jockey.

I'm a big fan of Dick Francis, and I don't think I've missed a single ride with his characters. His style is spare yet delivered with a precise punch. I hope to write a horse related novel someday. Who knows, maybe it'll become a habit.

I once crawled through the grass to take pictures of a thundering finish during the Queen's Plate in the early 80's. I just kept the motor drive clicking as the horses rounded the final turn. It wasn't until the film was developed that I discovered I'd caught a seven-horse spill in excruciating detail.

This illustrates one of the downfalls to the sport of racing. Some criticise the sport, stating that it's cruel to the horses. But they love to run. look at their ears, their eyes. They love it. I say, let 'em do it. Just don't try to take the horse to the race, let him take you.

Now, to pick my winner. I like the name "Imawildandcrazyguy". Reminds me of Steve Martin in his SNL days. Also, he's a grey, just like Steve! He's 50-1, so it's a long shot for sure.

Monday, 30 April 2007

Thank God You're Here

There's a new and exciting television show called Thank God You're Here. Popular comedians test their improv skills by dressing up in a costume and allowing themselves to be thrown in the middle of a scene with absolutely no idea who they are, where they are, or what they're doing. The object is to be funny on the fly.

Improvisation comedy isn't scripted. A performer must rely on his or her wits in order to come up with a hilarious performance. This type of performing isn't necessarily better or worse than rehearsed, but it's certainly a different way to approach your craft. It's also great training.

In some ways, writing can be approached in similar ways. We can do detailed outlines and research, carefully plotting each scene with a definite goal in mind (rehearse), or we can simply throw ourselves into the middle of a scene and come up with something that will capture the reader (improv).

I'm trying both ways, just to see which method suits me. I think improv is winning.

That's me as Captain Jack Sparrow. I love Halloween.

Thursday, 19 April 2007

I've Been Kissed, But Never in New York

I heart New York. But I've never been there. I can only glean my impression of the city from the books I have read and the movies I've seen. The romance, the vitality, the architecture... I could go on and on. Alas, I may have to win the lottery or get the big advance before I witness that beautiful city with mine own eyes.

Last fall, my daughter had the opportunity to go on a school trip with her high school art class. The teacher wanted me to accompany them as a chaperone, since he knew I was an artist, too. Regretfully, I had to decline, since we could only scrape up the funds for my daughter to go.

Maybe, just maybe someday I'll stroll down the sidewalks of Manhattan, peek into the coffee shops and delis, and look up at the facades of those big publishing and agent type buildings. Maybe one of them will have my name somewhere in their file cabinets.

--Photo courtesy of the one who went. Can you see Woody waving from his window?