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.