Monday, 25 August 2008

If I Could Be Like That

I'm watching the closing ceremonies of the 2008 Summer Olympics. We won 18 medals, and local resident Eric Lamaze won individual gold and team silver in Show Jumping, a sport I had followed since I was a teenager. He shed a controversial past and more than one tear as he listened to the Canadian anthem during his medal ceremony.

As I watched the the joy in the faces of the winning athletes during the final montage, I wondered if I could achieve the same absolute feeling that all is right with the world.

Then I realize I already have.

I experienced it with the moment Father Paul announced my marriage to my husband twenty-four years ago today. As I kissed my new spouse, Father Paul touched his shoulder and murmured, "Down, Boy." I resisted the urge to laugh and kissed him all the more deeply.

I felt a similar bliss the moment my children were born. They were both absolutely beautiful, and they still are.

Every time I finish a painting, I sigh with satisfaction, knowing I did the best job I could.

I giggled with delight when I saw an actual ISBN number that validated the existence of my first book. I'm experiencing a similar warm and fuzzy feeling, seeing that my second novel Bad Ice is number 86 among 8000 romance releases on Fictionwise. I know - it's the only indication I have of sales. I don't know if the rating represents five or fifty sales, but I'll take it.

--Photo: Canada's Eric Lamaze rides Hickstead to a gold medal Thursday at the Beijing Games. (Susan Walsh/Associated Press)

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Just when she was getting interesting...

My oldest is about to start college. The next ten days will be a flurry of shopping, packing and assurances that everything will be okay.

She's studying for her BA in Arts and Animation at one of the top schools in Canada, Sheridan College. Someday you'll see her work at Pixar! We managed to find her a nice place just across the street from the school, and if she wants to come home for the weekend, she's only a couple of hours away by train or bus, and we can always make the 1.5 hour drive to get her. After all, she'll want a decent meal at least once every couple of weeks.

I have mixed feelings about my oldest youngling leaving the nest. Like any parent, I've been frustrated, infuriated, enraged and worried. She bickers. She swears, calling her brother every name in the book. She won't eat a meal with food touching each other. Shes keep me up at night, yapping in the hallway, slamming her door and complaining she's cold. She doesn't clean the cat's litter box without being hounded for three days.

She says things in a quirky way that doesn't fail to make me laugh. She introduces me to movies and authors I never would have discovered if not for her appreciation of the really funny stuff. She got me hooked on 30 Rock, Arrested Development and The Office. She walks the dog.

I'm a lucky Mom. Many of my peers have complained about teenagers who stay out late, are lazy, unappreciative and belligerent. Some kids smoke, drink and do drugs, either in the open or on the sly. They get into fights, talk back to their parents, and barely scrape by in school. They treat their home like a hotel, expecting their laundry to suddenly appear, all washed and folded in their drawers. Not my kids.

The biggest disagreement I have with my son is his stubborn habit of composing his school essays in Lucida Grande instead of Times New Roman. (I know... first it'll be fonts, then it will lead to cocaine OMG!)

The thing that worries me most about my daughter is that she worries too much. That being said, I have nothing to worry about, except to stop her from worrying.

Will I feel that tug and snap of the apron strings when we finally say goodbye? Will I sit in her room for all of Labour Day, crying into her stuffed toys?

More likely, I'll be turning her bedroom into my writing room. Or not. She'll probably be back for a visit within a couple of weeks, already tired of living on peanut butter sandwiches.

That's okay. I'll welcome her back with open arms, then shove her out the door again.

Illustration: Dog Spacedog in Space - used with permission from my daughter, the creator.

Thursday, 14 August 2008

The Big Dark

Today marks the fifth anniversary of The Big Blackout.

"At 4:11 p.m. ET on Aug. 14, 2003, Ontario and much of the northeastern U.S. were hit by the largest blackout in North America's history. Electricity was cut to 50 million people, bringing darkness to customers from New York to Toronto to North Bay." - CBC online news

I usually work a half day on Thursdays and on that day I was in Toronto with my daughter, shopping at a specialty store for her new school uniform. After our transaction, we left the store and got in the car. I think that was the exact time the lights went out, because when we left the parking lot the traffic lights were out. I thought it was just a localized problem, so we inched our way through and proceeded north.

Every light was out! Obviously, treating a downed intersection like a four-way stop is great in theory, but much harder in practice when dealing with six lanes of rush hour traffic in each direction.

I was running low on gas and we dodged into a gas station. The owner shrugged and shook his head. The pumps weren't working. We switched on the car radio and discovered the power was out in a widespread area. My daughter tried the cell phone but the signal was garbled and whiny.

We felt isolated although we were surrounded by hundreds of other motorists. At a rural intersection north of the city, a Hydro worker in his bright orange overalls directed traffic. It took three surreal hours for us to make it back to my home thirty miles north of Toronto. By then the car was on fumes.

Everyone in the neighbourhood dragged their barbecues to front yards, and an impromptu street party ensued. When the sun went down, the clear sky revealed more stars than I could ever imagine. My neighbour Carol brought out a bottle of Crown Royal and we sipped and talked late into the night. It was too hot to go inside anyway.

I waited Friday morning for a call from my boss before going in to work. I work for a newspaper, so we didn't have the luxury of just not showing up! At 11:00 am I got the call to go in. They had restored power at one of our offices in Richmond Hill. I told my boss I didn't have enough gas to get there, so I went to our local office and helped a colleague stuff our Classified server and a few Imac workstations into his Honda hatchback. We looked like a couple of looters.

We set up in the boardroom of the Richmond Hill Liberal office and managed to put together a decent number of pages by about 11 pm. My boss dozed on a sofa in the foyer, waiting to take me home when I was done.

One printing press that had power got the papers out for the weekend editions. What a team!

Several barbecues and thawed Popsicles later, the power was finally restored by the end of the weekend. I look back on that weekend with fondness, although I'm sure it was a nightmare for a lot of people.

Does anyone else remember their experiences during The Big Blackout?

Edited to add: Our newspaper, The Era-Banner was just awarded Newspaper of the Year (Non-Dailies, Over 37,500 Circulation) by Suburban Newspapers of America! What a team!

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Breakfast Special

I'm resurrecting something I posted last spring over at the Romance Writers Unlimited blog. I think it warrants a repeat performance (sorry, Wordtryst, you saw this before).

She shuffles across the worn tiled floor and plucks her pencil from behind her ear. "Hi, I'm Belinda. What'll ya have?"

You pluck a laminated piece of cardboard from between the ketchup and the chrome napkin holder, and notice the All-Day Breakfast Special. For only $3.99 you get three eggs, bacon or sausage, toast, potatoes and juice, accompanied by a bottomless cup of coffee. Sounds good. "Gimme the Breakfast Special."

"Fried, boiled or scrambled?"


"Bacon or sausage?"

"Brown or white?"

"Hash browns or home fries?"

"Apple or orange?"

"Decaf or regular?"

In about ten minutes, you have a satisfying plate of Coronary Club for just under four bucks.

Let's mosey down the street to a high-end bistro.

A carefully coiffed waiter approaches, handing over a leather-bound folder.

"Good morning, my name is Alphonse but you can call me Al." Your new best friend slides into the booth and leans forward with a friendly smile. "Our special this morning is the Petit Déjeuner a la New Orleans. It consists of fluffy, mouth-watering scrambled free-range Omega-3 eggs, three crisp slices of grain-fed pancetta, artisan bread toasted to golden perfection, sautéd sliced Yukon gold potatoes, fresh squeezed organic orange juice and a steaming cup of cappuccino made from Fair Trade coffee beans, roasted on the premises."

"Sounds great. How much is it?"

"Only $13.99."

Hell, when you describe it like that, it must be worth the extra ten bucks! Imaginative copy writing has raised the lowly breakfast to a culinary delight.

In case you don't know where I'm going with this, let's discuss one of the Cardinal Sins of the Novel Writer: Telling instead of Showing.

Telling: The barn was burned down.

All that remained of the century old barn was a jumble of smoking, blackened lumber surrounded by a low foundation of mottled gray stone. The singed bricks forming the silo stood alone at the rear of the mess, a few forlorn bits of insulation flapping in the cold breeze at its severed summit.

He missed his wife.


He felt the old, familiar ache lurking around the corner. It advanced until it became a sharp pain. He balled the socks in his hand and gazed at the photo, concentrating on Marion's smile and the warm look in her eyes. He looked at the socks. Normally he would have just left them on the floor, but thinking of Marion, he took the trouble to place them in the hamper.

Can you think of a way to jazz up a menu? Let's try putting a hamburger or shepherd's pie into the Hamptons bracket.

Excerpt One is from my Romantic Suspense, Bad Ice. Excerpt Two is from my WIP, The Yearbook.