Friday, 9 November 2012

I Promised Something Last Week, Didn't I?

Hi Gang,

Last week the floodgates opened. No... bad choice of words. What I'm trying to say is that after long gaps between posts, I'm ready to start blogging again on a semi-regular basis. Being a virgin empty nester has its perks if you set aside the "missing your kids" part.

I've been working on a murder mystery for a while, and I'm ready to dive back into it. If you're a member of Book Country, you might have seen a pretty big chunk of Mallet as it was being developed.

I'm a Certified Pantster, so whatever you read today might not be the same tomorrow. I decided to post a sample of the book, just to whet appetites - yours and mine.

Now, where to start? The Beginning, according to all agent rules? Or a little piece in the middle, just to keep everyone guessing? I'll let you guess, since I'm still guessing anyway.

Saturday dawned hot and hazy. I blew the dust bunnies off my navy blue pumps, cinched myself into a steeply discounted designer sundress, and headed for the polo grounds on the Montgomery farm in Gormley. A few signs with red arrows pointed the way to the venue, and I scanned for the entrance.
A long line of cedar fencing bordered the farm to my left, and out of the corner of my eye I noticed a rail had snapped in two, leaving a gap. Someone should fix that, I thought.
I returned my attention to the winding road. In the same moment, a huge reddish-brown object filled my view in front of my car.
"Shit!" I slammed on my brakes and struggled to keep the Toyota from spinning out of control. Gravel spit in every direction. I managed to bring the car to a halt on the soft shoulder, facing the way I had come.
I gulped and gasped, gripping the steering wheel. When my heart and the dust settled, I searched the roadside, wondering if I'd hit the deer.
It wasn't a deer. It was a horse.
It shuffled back and forth in the ditch on the west side of the road, doing a little pirouette on its hind feet before trotting in the opposite direction.
With a deep breath, I undid my seatbelt and opened the door. I stood on the gravel shoulder for a moment, wondering about my next move.
The horse stopped for a moment and pricked its ears before flattening them and resuming its dance in the ditch. There was no sign of a limp, and a quick glance at my bumper reassured me I hadn't made contact. Thank God.
I had no idea how I was going to catch it. I looked around for help, but for the moment the lane was empty. No freaked-out farmhand came running from any nearby property, so it looked like I was on my own.
"Come on… girl?" Or was it a male? I didn't have time to peek at its undercarriage. I just kept my eyes fixed on a pair of flared nostrils while I slithered into the dry ditch.
The horse gave me a look that said, "Oh, no you're not," and flattened its ears again.
It wore a leather halter, but I knew from experience it wasn't a good idea to try to lead a nervous horse without a rope of some kind. One toss of the head and I could end up under its hooves. I crept closer, speaking softly while unbuckling my navy blue cotton belt. I slid it from the loops on my dress and held it to my side.
The horse snorted and nosed the sky, eyes rolling, but briefly stood still.
I stepped forward, and it stepped backward. I tried again, and it retreated.
I remembered a move I'd learned back in college when I took care of the school horses. I turned my shoulder and walked along the ditch, ahead the horse. I extended my closed fist as if I were holding a lead.
The trick worked. It followed me and I slowed my pace until it strode alongside. I looped my belt around its halter and hoped it wouldn't rear up, as I didn't have quite enough slack to keep the horse from hauling me into the air.
We scrambled out of the ditch, my genuine imitation patent vinyl pumps slipping on the flattened grass, and my arm almost yanked out of its socket as the horse unceremoniously assisted me to higher ground.
A car approached and slowed, its tires crunching the gravel. I raised my free hand and the driver rolled to a stop.
"Need any help?" The guy asked from his open window.
"No – I got it." I struggled to keep the bay still as it danced about, trying to jerk the belt out of my grip.
The driver set his hazard lights and got out of his car, halting the increasing lineup of vehicles that had built up behind him. He waited until we passed through the gates of the nearest driveway, and then returned to his car with a friendly wave.
By now the horse had finally decided to cooperate, and clopped calmly beside me. I hoped this was the right farm. This property was either on the polo grounds or adjacent, since the line of cars had turned into the next driveway.
A voice drifted through the trees from a loudspeaker, calling out the itinerary for the day's festivities. The first game was due to start just after lunch. I pictured Dionne sitting with the chairpersons and polo players' wives, sipping mimosas and making excuses for my absence.
 At this end of the grounds, silence surrounded me except for the occasional sleepy tweet from birds high in the pines that lined the driveway. A whinny drifted from a gargantuan century barn, and as I got closer, I heard angry male voices.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

The Prodigal Writer Returns

Hi, everyone! I know I haven't been around much lately, for a variety of reasons. Some would call them excuses, but I'll stick with the former.

I've been busy the last few months helping my children leave the nest, just like the Cooper's hawks that went their merry way in late summer. My son moved out in September, and we rented a truck to get most of his furniture to him. He was kind enough to give me his old room, which I scraped and cleaned and converted into my own personal writing haven. Here's how it turned out:

I even found a place for my Underwood.

My son will do well. He was ready to fly. After he finishes his co-op, he'll have one more semester and will have his B.A. in Computer Security.

Last week, I got on a plane with my daughter and two suitcases, and flew to Vancouver to help settle her into her new job at DHX Media, working on the children's cartoon Pound Puppies. She will be living with a fellow graduate and together they'll explore the world of Animation.

I bought the tickets online and also made the hotel reservation at the same place the room mate’s parents had arranged. It was the Best Western Uptown, and reasonably priced at $88. We only planned to stay the one night since we were going to buy air mattresses and stay in the apartment for the rest of the week.

The two girls seem like two peas in a pod. They like the same things and have a similar sense of humour. I really got along with the kid and she got all my jokes. Yay!

Most of the week was spent careening from one big box store to another in crazy traffic. We spent most of the time in the area close to the Burnaby border – Walmart, Ikea, The Brick and a few discount stores. When we found out The Brick was going to charge $100 to deliver my daughter's $400 sofa five minutes away, we went next door to another furniture store and bought the exact same couch for the same price, and they only asked for $50 for delivery. I had a brainstorm and asked if they had cash & carry, and conferred with the room mate's dad to see if there would be enough room in the rented minivan if we lowered all the seats. It fit! We picked up the couch the next day and it was easy to lift. However, it got stuck in the elevator for about 10 minutes. Oops. We finally worked it free and re-inserted it properly, and got it into the apartment.

Thursday and Friday were spent mostly assembling furniture.

The rain fell all week. Except for a few glimpses between buildings and telephone poles from the back seat of the minivan, I didn’t see the mountains at all. We finally had a free day to explore on Saturday and we took the Skytrain downtown to see how long it would take for the girls to commute. It turns out the trip was only 15-20 minutes, and DHX studio is directly at the other end of Gastown, about a 10 minute walk from the station. Or they could take a 5 minute bus ride if the timing is right.

We split up and looked around. My daughter and I had lunch at the 131 Water Kitchen & Bar in Gastown, then poked around a few galleries and antique shops. All the patrons were friendly and talkative, which suited me just fine!

It wasn’t long before it started pouring again, so there was no point going to the the waterfront to try to see the mountains. So we hopped back on the train and went to a mall we’d discovered in Burnaby (only 5 minutes from the apartment).

Sunday was the only sunny day, but we were already scheduled to get a final load of supplies. That was the day we finally sat in a Starbucks to check in with the rest of the world. 

I hugged my kid goodbye on Monday morning. I didn’t think I’d be upset but I have to admit my throat tightened a bit. She’ll be fine. She’ll be fine.

Two hours later, I couldn’t stand it any longer and had to get moving. I took the train, with one transfer, to the airport. Easy Peasy. I felt so proud that I could check myself in, get my window seat assigned, eat my snacks in the lounge and get in line early enough to get my carry-on into the overhead over my assigned seat. Sparkly high five!

Then, when it came time to order a snack, I knew enough to say I’d like to run a tab since I was going to order a drink later. When it came, I actually managed to take one sip before jiggling my tray and dumping the drink all over myself and some on the lady next to me.

Needless to say, I kept a low profile for the next four hours. My pants were ALMOST dry by the time we landed.

Speaking of landing, I watched the sun escape behind us and the storm clouds roll in over the Great Lakes.  We had a lot of turbulence – fortunately, I didn’t have another drink with me – and I took lots of pictures of the tops of puffy clouds and parts of Montana and North Dakota. When we descended over Toronto, the wind was pretty rough, and the passengers applauded loudly when we hit the tarmac. Sandy had landed. 

I understand my namesake was much rougher for our friends on the Eastern Seaboard, and I encourage everyone to contribute what they can to The Red Cross (Canadian and American) to help in the recovery.

In other news, I'll take this moment to share that THE TOAST BITCHES are back! My friends at Musa Publishing accepted the novel for re-release in mid-2013. The girls didn't do so well at their former publisher, due to bad timing and perhaps an aim at the wrong market. It is my hope that The Bitches will benefit from their new home. Stay tuned for a cover when it's available.

I am doing my best to re-ignite my muse and continue working on my latest novel. It's been a tough journey, with my confidence lagging due to my failure to place my last novel. The title of my latest WIP is MALLET, and it's a murder mystery set in the world of polo. Next week, I'll post an excerpt.

'Til then, see you on the Twitter Machine and Facebook!