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!