Saturday, December 16, 2006

I'm okay!

It's all right, I'm okay. I'm just having some serious difficulties getting to my computer.

Had a really, really good idea today. Can't wait to see what happens with it!

Hope you're all well. Happy Holidays!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

T'is the season

I've just gotta tell you all (especially Sara, she'll get it) that I just made my very first ever butter tarts and THOSE BABIES ARE PERFECT!!!!

They didn't overflow or burn and the pastry is golden, crispy heaven. The insides aren't runny, or tootoo sweet. (S)

Preheat the oven to 325.

you'll need either store-bought pastry shells (I've always found those to be too greasy, but maybe the ones in your 'hood are better) or you can make whatever pastry recipe you normally use (mine's on the Sno-Flake bucket) Roll it thin, and use approximately 4" rounds in your muffin tins.

The filling:
1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup butter
2 tablespoons heavy cream
pecans, a few handfuls

So, spray your muffin tins and pat the pastry in, and scatter some pecan pieces in the bottom of each. Cream together the other ingredients and spoon over the pecans, no more than half full. Bake 20-25 minutes, watch out, they can burn easily.

I don't know how many pastry shells you'll need, I had enough pastry for 19 but the filling would have made maybe two dozen. Luckily, the filling will keep in the fridge for a few days. These ones aren't going to make it to the freezer, I'll have to make them again.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006


All right, here's a snippet. Our lovers are only just acquainted in this bit.

Copyright me, 2006

Copper was passing the door that led out to the bailey when it opened, the draft extinguishing her candle. She jumped, squeaked and swore. This part of the castle was not often used at night, and no torches had been lit. There was a shifting sound in the darkness as whoever had opened the door paused, then pushed the door shut with a soft thud.

“Who’s there?”

A deep chuckle was the only answer she received, and a pair of impertinent fingers pinched her on the buttock. She squeaked again, but in surprise this time, more than alarm.

“Kieran Gordon!”

The chuckle filled the air around her, warm and infectious, and a broad hand closed around her upper arm, guiding her through the darkness.

“This way [little mouse], I’ll get you a light.”

“What are you doing, creeping about in the dark?” She scolded, heart still rattling against her ribs.

“Coming in from the loch. Step up, here.”

“Ah.” Now he mentioned it, he smelled of water, fresh and dark and cool. He kept his hold on her arm as they mounted the steps. She was uncertain of her footing, and more than once the backs of his fingers brushed the side of her breast. She tried to ignore that, but the heat that rushed up inside her at his touch was distracting.

“Last one,” he thoughtfully warned her, but she could see now. A short distance down the wall a torch burned, and he stepped away from her to light her candle from it.

He had been swimming, and the reason why he’d crept in the back way was now obvious. He was dressed only in his breeks, and they hung damp and carelessly fastened from his hips, threatening to slip with every movement. His skin was still wet, and the light glistened on his chest and the wide, solid angle of his shoulders.

Taking her arm again, even though they were now surrounded by yellow candle-glow, he turned her back toward the stair and up to the next floor. They went down a corridor and around the bend to her room, but she didn’t want him to leave. The nearness - and near-nakedness - of him was making her warm. He chatted, casually unaware, and paused at her door to finish whatever it was he’d been saying, something about a missing calf.

A droplet of water fell from his hair and streaked down his chest to hide in the soft fuzz on his belly. Her eyes followed it, enchanted, and the soft rhythm of his voice faded. His eyes had darkened by several shades when she looked up, several heartbeats later.

“I’ll be saying goodnight, then, Lass.” Now, her eyes fastened on his lips. She heard the husky warning in his voice, but her fingers drifted of their own accord, lightly brushing up along the path of the droplet, up to the soft curve of his bottom lip. At her touch his shoulders stiffened and he froze, eyes locked on her, fire (was it really from the candle?) flickering in their depths. A small sound came from his throat, and he caught her fingers, kissing the tips before pressing the candle into her hand. He disappeared around the corner without a word of good e’en.

Smiling, Copper let herself into her room, and went to bed.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

We have snow!

Well, it was a bit of a surprise. We were expecting rain, but alas. Snow!

You'd think after centuries of being, you know, Canadian, we'd have the hang of this winter thang. Apparently not, somehow it always catches us off-guard. The roads become jammed with commuters who looked out the window of their cozy office jobs and saw a white fluffy excuse to leave early sailing down. It was taking people three and four hours to get home. Probably because half of them don't have snow tires and the other half don't know how to drive.* I'd like to scoff, but:

"Mom! Our truck is touching Donna's truck!"

Oy. Apparently, when you don't actually put the vehicle into 4-wheel drive before parking it on a hill, the math looks like this:

gravity + ice = dent

I'm such a clever bunny, sometimes.

I will be playing Mrs. Mitty's game of posting a snip, hopefully tomorrow. Where's yours? (C'mon, all the kids are doing it...)

*Disclaimer - Author realizes this is a gross exaggeration and is only trying to be funny.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

I'm it!

The last time Susan tagged me, I had no idea what that meant. Now I get it, so here goes!

1. Egg Nog or Hot Chocolate? Eggnog. With rum and ice, please.

2. Does Santa wrap presents or just set them under the tree? Santa wraps almost everything unless it's silly to bother. Most presents are from Mom and Dad.

3. Colored lights on tree/house or white? Same answer as Susan: No lights on the house, but colored twinkly lights on the tree. I have fond memories of the big ones, but we use the little mini-bulbs. I miss those big bulbs.

4. Do you hang mistletoe? Yes, in the office door at work, because it's fun to see the men blush when you threaten to kiss them. They're not supposed to be peeking in the office anyway.

5. When do you put your decorations up? Second week of December. We take them down after the first week of January.

6. What is your favorite holiday dish? I love love bread stuffing with cranberries, apples and pecans, with gravy on it. Turkey, and cranberries.

7. Favorite Holiday memory as a child: I got a pony for Christmas when I was eleven. I was both paralyzed and speechless - it's never happened since.

8. When and how did you learn the truth about Santa? It was so gradual, I don't even know when the truth finally settled in for good.

9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve? When we were kids. My Auntie Marian always gave me a new nightie and a book, so I always opened hers. It was the only time I remember wearing something new that hadn't been washed yet.

10. How do you decorate your Christmas Tree? Lights, some colored balls, some Hallmark ornaments, some homemade stuff. Gave up tinsel when the cats ate it - found it trailing out the bad end of Rudy and quit it right there. (shudder)

11. Snow! Love it or Dread it? Love it until it's dirty, or until the end of February.

12. Can you ice skate? Yes, at least I think I still can.

13. Do you remember your favorite gift? That would be the pony. Hard to top that, really. Oh, um, I supposed I did get engaged on Christmas Eve. (G) I can't pick.

14. What’s the most important thing about the Holidays for you? The family, the lights, the whole atmosphere. The food, being cozy inside with Christmas carols when it's cold out. The magic.

15. What is your favorite Holiday Dessert? Pecan pie, I think. But in our family we don't choose one dessert, my aunt makes five or six and we have some of everything. Then we lay on the floor and groan. Just kidding. We sit in chairs and groan.

16. What is your favorite holiday tradition? Opening presents, and Christmas dinner.

17. What tops your tree? An angel, lit from within and holding two candles.

18. Which do you prefer: giving or receiving? Giving.

19. What is your favorite Christmas Song? Hmmm. I like silver bells the best, I think.

20. Candy Canes! Yuck or Yum? Meh. They're nothing to do with chocolate, after all.

Ok. passing this on to Renee, even though she's awol. And Jenny.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

And life goes on

DH came upstairs at around 11:30 last night, to find me wearing a few weary tears and a seven-month-old baby on my shoulder.

"It'd be nice if you could sleep during the day," he commented, taking the baby from me. It would be nice, but I've always found that idea to be just that - a nice idea. In practical terms it doesn't work.

"It's not about sleep," I told him, "it's about free time. That fifteen-minute bath is the only time I've had to myself all day."

So he's gone out to run some errands today - and get groceries! - and little boy is with him. Baby girl is asleep. And later, he's taking them both to Karate, so another hour alone for me. Yay!

I'm engrossed in Robert McKee just at present, so I'll I think I'll spend a precious half-hour on that. Then I'll write a bit. Why am I blogging? Greasing the joints, I think. Cheers!

Things I'm grateful for today:
  • It's sunny.
  • I have time alone. Wahoooo!
  • I chose well, and we made some beautiful kids.
  • Christmas is coming!
  • Last night, while Baby had her bath, little boy sat beside me on a heap of dirty laundry and looked at a book about the solar system. It was one of those moments that I know I'll remember, even though it wasn't important, exactly.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006


Baby seems to have added a new nap to her day, from 8 pm until 8:30 pm, at which time she awakes refreshed and ready to charm the pants off her tired mother until 11 pm. In the last three days I have spent zero time soaking in the tub, about one hour reading, and about half an hour writing. I feel a little tantrum coming on. (S)

Since she's asleep, I'm going to do something pointless and restful. Dunno what yet, but it's fer sure going to be useless, and I'll probably eat some of Little Boy's Halloween candy.

Hope y'all are doing well. I'll make the blog rounds later on. After the dentist and winter-boot shopping and...oh, nevermind.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Spent the morning nap so far futzing with my blog, and yes, I know it looks the same as it did. I'm going to make my own header, though, and I want to change the background, too. I'll figger it out, just you watch.

No writing. None. I've now got a contemporary paranormal and a historical paranormal in the works, and I'm feeling a little excited about the historical. That's the one I've been slogging for five years. And yes, I'm supposed to have given it up, but it won't go away. It keeps talking to me. I woke up the other day and realized that the MC is a trifle, well, dull. Too nice. So I'm going to give her red hair and a temper, change her backstory, her name, and her attitude. It ain't about the nice girl who learns to stand up for herself any more. Now it's about a spirited lass (named Copper, of all things, who names their kid Copper, anyway???) who flies in the face of peoples' expectations - and she won't say sorry, either. She still needs to learn to control the powers she was born with. She still has to make peace with her mother's rejection of her. Was her parents' death really an accident? She still thinks Kieran is hot. And hey, can't blame her. He is.

So, I'm feeling good. Will I fall on my face again? Probably. Do I think I'm an idiot going back to this WIP again? Yep. Just following my nose. See where it goes...

Things I'm grateful for today:
I'm alive, I get another chance.
Somewhere in this house there's a hot cup of tea, if I could just remember where I put it.
It's room temperature. Outside!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Mediterranean Chicken and Sausage Stew

All right, fine. Here's my secret recipe for chicken and sausage stew. I think it might be even better left over.

4 big sausages (mild italian is nice, you could go spicier if you want)
2-3 chicken breasts, cut in 1" cubes
1/2 each red and green peppers, chopped
2 large potatoes, peeled and cut in 1" cubes
2 cups sliced mushrooms
1 large onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
2 large cloves garlic, minced
2 cups chicken broth
1 28 oz can diced tomatoes, with juice
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried basil - or 1/2 chopped fresh
1/2 cup ketchup - I like the broth thick and just a little sweet, omit ketchup if you don't
salt and pepper

Slice sausages and brown in biggish soup pot, set aside. Brown chicken, set aside. Stir-fry peppers, mushrooms, onion, garlic, celery until tender. Add meat, chicken broth, oregano, tomatoes and ketchup (and basil if you're using dried) and simmer 20-25 minutes. Stir occasionally. Add basil last if it's fresh, plus salt + pepper if you need it.

I often serve this with garlic bread and cold milk, but biscuits are good too.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

I have a tendency to be a doormat. I’m a nice person, sometimes too much so. I love to be and do what the people around me need at any given time.

Thank heavens I come from a generation in which that quality is neither expected nor particularly admired – because if the giving and being and doing goes on too long, I begin to harbour secret resentments and frustrations. Then I go back and forth between feeling sorry for myself and wanting to stand up and holler. I eventually do the latter – usually over something petty and/or bizarrre – leaving the unlucky recipient of my sudden wrath both bewildered and hurt, and me feeling like a right proper ass.

Don’t get me wrong – I am loved. My needs are important to my family, and my husband will go any distance to meet them. Trick is, I don’t like to say what those needs are. I feel guilty asking for time to myself when I know the house is dirty and he’s tired and the kids are cranky and there’s laundry piling up in all the corners. As for any mother, there is always some little thing I could be doing, I’ll just do that and then I’ll sit down, but then Baby’s hungry, and I’m fine, it's okay, I’ll just put this laundry in…



So. Something for me to work on, and I suspect y’all are guilty of this too. So sometime this week, bat your eyelashes at the man who loves you, pass him the youngest child, and tell him you’re taking a bubblebath and then having a date with your keyboard. I’m going to.

Things I'm grateful for today:
The grocery stores are open Sundays now, so I can go buy a potroast for supper.
It's nice out, and Boy is getting some fresh air.
Baby's asleep, and I can have a quiet lunch - alone.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Oh, how the mighty have fallen.

I have a killer immune system. I’m never sick. The whole family can be hacking and wheezing and retching all around me and I stand healthy, the bearer of Puffs and the occasional bowl of chicken soup. Or an empty bowl, if that’s really necessary.

But oh, we’ll not be bragging about that today.

I have a sinus thing, and a runny nose and I’m cranky. The grocery store had no ginger, and I’m running very low, so soon I won’t be able to make my I’m-sick-and-I’m-going-to sulk-about-it-now-tea. Insert huge, pained sigh here and let’s move on.

Hearing test for Little Boy turned up with mild bilateral conductive hearing loss again. It should be treatable, it looks like it’s just fluid in the inner ear. Or too much fluid, I mean, I think there’s fluid there in any case…So, back to the family doctor and perhaps a specialist.

I’ve cleaned my desk and I’ve cleaned the hamster cage and the baby will be up soon. My poor, whithered mind, deprived of sleep and entertainment lo these past two weeks, is starting to stir and stretch. I miss my mc, and though I’ve only known her a short while, she wants me to get on with her story. Her mother needs me, too, and so it looks as though I’ll be having two protags this time around as well.

So, it’s back to the land of the writing. See you there.

Things I'm grateful for:
My slow cooker.
Baby's having a nice long nap.
I've got a little work done this morning.
I've still got a few minutes left for me.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Dusting myself off...

I hope November is starting out well for you!

I know at least a few of you will share my pain when I say that the writing thing has just not been working this past week or so. With some sleep issues and stress from work, plus the usual stuff we have to get done, I haven't written at all in over a week.

So yesterday I decided to let Baby Girl have a little cry. The gentler ways to encouraage her to go to sleep on her own just seemed like tearing a band-aid off really sloooowly, for both of us. So sink or swim, little fishy! It took an hour the first time for her to fall asleep - and three minutes the second time. Whew. And this morning, about five minutes. I think we're going to be all right.

That said, it's a new month. A new start, and back on the horse for me. 500 words a day. Amazing how I've lost touch already.

I'm fighting the urge to rewrite as I go. I know the scenes I've started are so very sketchy that my plot leaps forward at a lightning pace with not nearly enough words to describe what's really there. I'm already geting stuck, even thought I know what happens next! So I'm forcing myself on to the next scene, just to keep going until I get to the end. I will rewrite once I've written! Maybe the whole thing will come out to 30K. C'est la vie. At least it will be whole, and I can fix that.

Monday, October 30, 2006

I'm thirtysomething, hear me roar.

I washed my hair this morning, but I refuse to put on any makeup. I asked the baby and the hamster, and they both think I look just fine, so the people at the grocery store will just have to be all right with that.

There was a time when I wouldn’t leave the house without everything just so, as far as makeup and hair went. I think it was my teens and twenties. You know, I wouldn’t go back there. I’m not thrilled to be thirtysomething, but there are good points. And hey, it ain’t so bad, I know.

One thing I’ve noticed about my thirties is that I’m much more confident. As I said to my Mom earlier, when I described an encounter with a very rude customer, people like that just can’t touch me like they used to. My kids are healthy, my family loves me, and I’ve learned that I don’t have to let that kind of poison get on my skin. There’s an incredible amount of freedom in that – the freedom to be happy and at peace even when people are jerks. The freedom to face adversity with confidence and a smile. The freedom to sit in my own driver's seat, and go my own way - and not to ask what others think of my decisions. Somehow, somewhere along the line, this people-pleaser has grown up.

And given birth to a baby who does not sleep.
Gotta go!

Saturday, October 21, 2006


Week one is over, and I’m at 2590 words – 910 words shy of my goal.

I knew when I set the goal that 500 words a day might be steep for some days – let’s face it, there are days when the words don’t come easy. But then there are others when they flow like water. Overall, I think it’s an average worth trying to maintain.

I will make two changes to my plan, though. The idea being to grow into a writer, I’ll file these under “learning”, and just get on with it. First, I need one day off. So I’ll now aim for 3000 words a week, with my “treat” still at 4000. Two, I will start fresh at the beginning of each new week, and not carry with me the debt of any unwritten words from the previous week. It’s a bit slower than I thought, but I do have other commitments that are important – crucial, actually. I guess aiming to write a novel in six months might (cough) be a bit of a stretch. But I’m not giving up, I’m just saying. There will be good days and weeks, too!

I learned something else about my style this week. When I first sit down to write a scene, what comes out is very shallow, pale. But if I write it anyway and walk away for a bit, it soon occurs to me what Lauren said next, or what happens then, so I scurry back and put it down. And repeat. At first I was grumpy about it, but then I saw a pencil drawing of my DH when he was little, and I realized what it is I’m doing. I sketch the scene as in pencil, drawing the bold strokes and shapes first, and only then can I even see what’s there.
This contributes to the trouble in meeting a word goal, to be sure. It’s a very stilted process. I suspect that when I’m more accustomed to using the outline I’ll develop the muscles I need to power me through. I’m going to start working on more than one scene at a time, that will help.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Keeping up!

Well, this writing to an outline is a very different process. Slower starting, I suspect, because I'm so used to just letting my fingers do the talking. This way, I need to focus on the precise purpose and mood of the scenes, and it does cramp my flow a little. Later on I think it will be more helpful. When I get to those inevitable crossroads - where I normally stand baffled - I'll have a map.

I'm on track with 1531 words. Today looks like a busy one, so I'd better get cracking!

Jill Barber's new CD is out

Yeah, I know. You've never heard of her. She's a (sort of) local musician, we go see her whenever we get a chance. Here's her website:

She's folksy-country, I'd say, more country this time - which is not really my thing, but I try to keep an open mind. This CD, FOR ALL TIME, has a beautiful version of Goodnight Sweetheart, but you can't hear that from the site. Go listen to the other songs, though!

Monday, October 16, 2006

Day Three Begins

It's the beginning of day three, and wouldn't you know it, I'm already behind. Only by 200 words or so - I did force myself into this chair last night when I might otherwise have not. So it's all good.

Did have a beautiful walk with some family around the museum park in my hometown yesterday. (Ok, it's not a town, but we do have a Robin's Donuts now.) Fall colors, forest and lake trails, my little sister pushing baby asleep in the stroller, boy galloping ahead and back. I had my hands in my pockets - something I never do any more, but I wasn't holding either child or their stuff. I let myself fall behind and watched some of the people I love most walking together down the forest drive and laughing: Mom, Brother, Aunt, Uncle. I took long breaths of the dry scent of fallen leaves, and nobody was talking to me.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Ready, set, GO!

I’ve begun writing. The outline is there but not really really set in stone, there are empty areas that will have to fill themselves in as I go. I waited a few days beyond the strong urge to start, to settle in my mind the opening scenes and what best to do with those. I’ve decided, and I’ve begun.

I’m about 400 words in, and feeling good. Here’s my plan, officially stated:

Write 500 words a day, or 3500 words a week if that doesn’t work. That’s an absolute minimum. If I exceed 4K in a week I get a treat – something chocolate, a bubblebath, a scented candle. Take-out. Something like that.
Follow my outline, unless I get better ideas as I go. Start at the beginning and write through – I may skip ahead and back, but the point is NO REWRITING until the sfd is done.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Goodbye, sweet little Lamb. I wish we'd had more fun.

Had one of those days yesterday, you know the kind I mean. The days when you're awake at 5 am, and from then on everything you do is for someone else, and then your hamster dies and people just can't understand why you're so damn moody.

But the kids were both in their beds by nine, bless their little souls. House wasn't on, so I compensated by eating a bowl of ice cream with chocolate syrup, and then some potato chips. Good eating habits be damned, it was resuscitation by caloric overload. Get that "I can do this" feeling started again. Then I took a bath and went to bed. I coped.

Today we'll exchange the poor dead hamster for a live one and see if this one's destined for a long and illustrious career as a D. family pet.

In writing news, I've been running Juniper through the prewriting machine to see if I can make anything of it. I'm learning a lot, particularly about what's wrong. At this point I'm more interested in the other story idea I have, though. Now that I've given myself permission to start something new, I feel like that's the right choice. I was a long time getting here because I was so guarded about letting my nature take over - I'm a great starter and a terrible finisher. I lack temerity. I give up too easily. However, after five years on JUNIPER, I think I've proven I can hack it. Now I need to let that sucker go.

I should probably wash my hair and do some laundry while baby is asleep. Happy writing, ladies!

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Starting over. Again.

Well. Here I was minding everybody’s business just like I always do, and working out a new plan for my writing. It’s in its infancy, but it looks like this:
- Take an idea.
- Ask it lots of questions, and don’t take the obvious answers.
- Make an outline.
- Write 500 words a day, every day, no excuses.
- Start at the beginning, write through to the end, no stopping to rewrite.

Then people start talking about NaNoWriMo, and Kelley Armstrong’s Outlining 101 method. So I can’t help but be nosy and check it out.


Hey, this I can understand. This I can do. So I took a little idea and ran it through the system to see what would happen, and I’ve got a pretty fleshy idea for a paranormal. Together with my New Plan, I could actually have this written in 6-8 months. At least the SFD, I mean.

So, I’m psyched. Eventually, I’m going to run JUNIPER through this baby. If I had done this before I started writing JUNIPER, do you have any freaking idea how many problems I could have avoided? Thank you Vicki for bringing it up.

Happy Thanksgiving to you all, maybe early for some.

Oh, and I got a new hamster yesterday. (Munchie, the cat, caught Nibble unawares last week, after yours truly left the side off the cage. :o( Poor Nibble.) So this one is called Lamb. She’s beige, short-haired, shy and quiet, very cute.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

I'm the Writer

Half my life ago I, together with my classmates, left our small junior high school and moved on up to the (slightly) bigger high school. It was a Huge Thing, as I’m sure it is with everyone. New teachers, new faces, new environment. You remember. One can get lost in a situation like that, but I got found.

It was math class. My new teacher caught me scribbling something on looseleaf in the back of my binder. He asked me my name, and I told him.

“Oh,” he said, “you’re the prolific writer.”

I was fifteen, and to tell you the truth I had to look up “prolific” later on. In any case, I was pretty sure it didn’t mean “terrible.” So what I heard was “You’re the writer.”

He smiled at me, and in that moment I felt a little ‘click,’ like something had just fallen into place. And he probably had no idea that his words, and his smile, would be forever added to my secret definition of me. I’m the writer.

Apparently, it was a matter of Permanent Record, or he wouldn’t have known. I was pretty sure I knew who had put that in my file. It was my English teacher, the one who believed in me. She was the one who seemed excited when she read my stuff. She was the one who was never surprised or disappointed on the days when I came up empty. She helped me to know this about me too, I’m the writer.

Then came university and my twenties. I learned a lot about the world in those years, but not much about myself. I found my husband, started a business, married, had my son. It was busy, and my writing just…went away. It was still a part of me, of my definition of myself, but I neither thought about it much or actually did any writing. I just figured it would be there when I was ready.

So, after my first baby I started to feel like it was Time. I sat down at my keyboard and I started to write - after all, I’m the writer. I got a horrible shock.

Writing is hard. Writing is frustrating, and I’m not anywhere near as good at it as I thought I’d be. Where’s my gift? Where’s my talent?


I let it go.

I didn’t feed it, and it wandered away. I didn’t exercise it, and it grew weak. I didn’t give it water, and it dried up.

But still, I am the writer. And now, even knowing what that means – knowing it’s not just something about me, not just a talent, an attribute – I choose it. Being a writer requires action, effort. Work.

It’s been almost six years since I made the choice to BE a writer. I don’t see it as something I was born with any more, and I’ve been trying to coax that talent back like a neglected kitten hiding under the sofa. I don’t know if I’ll ever realize the potential that my teacher saw, but still I take heart in remembering her, and her faith in me. And now that I’ve grown enough to know that it isn’t free, I’m willing to work at it. I’m willing to fail and learn and try again.

Because I’m the writer.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Great Big Books

If you're like me, then depending on the day, a massive novel looks like either chocolate fudge and a bubblebath or a three year calculus course. I started one yesterday, it's called Aztec, by Gary Jennings.

"Ah, well," I thought, "If I like the main character I'll stick it out." And so far, I do like the guy. The story is engaging, the historical detail is captivating, and there's humour. And pain. So I think I'll hang in there for now, even if the mc's superb command of the english language does seem a trifle unlikely.

It makes me wonder, though, how other people feel when they pick up a huge book. Do you feel anticipation, or dread? It would depend on whether you already know and trust the author, to some degree. So, when you're faced with a REALLY big book, what else affects your decision to invest, or not?

Monday, September 25, 2006

Justine Larbalestier's method

Just for fun, I followed a link from the Compuserve forum and read a bit by Justine Larbalestier here:
and because I wondered how it would turn out, I did the spreadsheet-thingy. Interesting. It does help me put things in the right places in my mind, and hopefully keep them there, because they do tend to wander around.

Otherwise, it's still a challenge getting to the keyboard, what with everybody in the house getting sick (except me, I hardly ever get sick - knock on wood!) But this too shall pass. I'm seeing my beginning in much more detail, and I'm anxious to get back to it. I've decided to develop my MC's character with a few more scenes before I take her out of the secluded mountain valley where she grew up.

I have lots of things tumbling around in my mind about writing, but no time to post them here just now. Maybe later!

Justine Larbalestier's method

Just for fun, I followed a link from the Compuserve forum and read a bit by Justine Larbalestier here:
and because I wondered how it would turn out, I did the spreadsheet-thingy. Interesting. It does help me put things in the right places in my mind, and hopefully keep them there, because they do tend to wander around.

Otherwise, it's still a challenge getting to the keyboard, what with everybody in the house getting sick (except me, I hardly ever get sick - knock on wood!) But this too shall pass. I'm seeing my beginning in much more detail, and I'm anxious to get back to it. I've decided to develop my MC's character with a few more scenes before I take her out of the secluded mountain valley where she grew up.

I have lots of things tumbling around in my mind about writing, but no time to post them here just now. Maybe later!

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

One Step forward

All right, that's done. I had to be a bit more ruthless than I imagined, hacking a total of about 14K *cough cough* but it had to be done.

Here's what I know: (Too much Glen Beck)
1. My characters sigh too much.
2. I have this bizarre problem with attaching the wrong action tags to people.
3. I did not write what I thought I wrote, I hold things back because I hate it when people repeat themselves repeat themselves.
4. My beginning needs work.
5. My middle needs alotta work.
6. I'll need to come up with some sort of ending.

I am waaaay back from where I thought I was, but then, I used to be writing a different novel. This is a fresh start (she reminds herself.)

Next: Go through this thang again. Make notes about what needs to go where.
Write. New. Words.
Eat, sleep, tend to family, and repeat.

Monday, September 18, 2006

My new life

It's been quite a week. We're adjusting to the reality of elementary school and what that means for our family. I'm officially a working Mom again - ok, it's only one morning a week, but it's regular. And it's the only the beginning. Baby Girl rolls over now, and she's so proud.

Little Boy was having anxiety about getting on the bus in the morning. It's almost the last stop on the route, so there aren't very many seats left, and I could see how that would be uncomfortable - remember getting on the bus? Everybody's watching you, waiting for you to sit down. But then on Friday, we discovered another reason for Boy to be intimidated. The bus driver was driving away while the kids were still walking toward the back of the bus!

So I called the company, and the woman said that's a major safety rule and they'd talk to the driver. I know at least two other moms called, as well. This morning, the guy DID IT AGAIN! So I called again, and I think maybe that's It For Him. I'm sorry if the guy loses his job, but if he's not prepared to put my son's safety first, I'll make sure his boss does.

I'm learning to get by on less sleep, which is a little tricky for me because I have anxiety about that. I'm not the same when I'm tired, it makes me feel rattled and crabby.

As for writing, there's been very little, but I'm using all the time I have - and that's all I can do, isn't it?

Monday, September 11, 2006

Writing the final draft, the first time around

Last night I was sitting here at my computer, lucky enough to have an hour or more to myself before bed. I wrote one email, and then I opened my WIP and stared at the screen.

At the end of the hour I had written 200 words, and I felt annoyed as I tripped the power button and went to feed the hamster. What's with me? I asked. Why can't I get the words right? I know the purpose of the scene. I know what I want to say, why can't I say it?

It often happens that if I go to bed with a question, I wake up with an answer, and today I have one. I'm futzing too much with the words, trying to get the ideas in a line, using the right images, shining up the details - instead of writing. Today I'm going BLAH all over the screen, and it's working much better. You can't edit what you haven't written.

And the thing is, I'm sure I knew this already. I know I've had this thought before. Must just be the sleep thang. Anyway, onward!

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Sleep wanted

Baby Girl's having her second good nap of the day, and I'm grateful for that. OTOH, I deserve these naps, because that little monkey got up at 4:17 am this morning. Can't really blame her, really, her big brother woke her up when he fell out of bed. Our bed.

And it's raining.

So. Twice now I've tried to drink tea out of the baby monitor, but we made a fish tank out of a Q-tip box and a shiny gift bag. The guy came to fix the sofa, and the Boy has a caterpillar building a cocoon (is that spelled right?) in the bug house that he got for his birthday. (DH caught Boy taking said caterpillar to bed, in his hand, but that's a tale for another time.)

Anyhoo. What with one thing and another, the WIP is stalling. One thing I'm having a lot of fun with is designing my own castle. (Which I get to do now, since I'm not using the real one I had in mind any more Actually, it sort of popped into my head already finished, and I've been having a bit of trouble with the description (how much is too much, you know that thing...) but it's fun. I also think I have a new climax for the story, something a bit more graphic and emotional, which I think is better. (But I'm not making any big decisions until I've had more than two consecutive hours of sleep.)

Anybody tired of parenthesis? (I am.) (G)

The bottom line is I'm anxious to get back to writing, but I don't seem to have the Stuff right now, so I'm writing about writing instead.

Now I'm going to go and read about sleeping.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

The Path

Renee asked me if I'm a scene writer. And since it's got me thinking, and I don't quite have the time for a proper post, here's what I said: (and I just noticed that it doesn't really answer her question!)

I started out as a chunk writer, but the chunks I wrote were mainly from the first half of the book, not all over the place. Then I put those together, then I got soooooo stuck I didn't write much for quite a while. It wasn't until I realized what the problem was and eliminated it that the characters started talking to me again. Now I'm cruising through from start to finish, rewriting what needs it as I go, and then I'll continue in a linear fashion. Unless that stops working! (G)It's like that lady said (can't remember her name): "There are three rules to writing a novel. Unfortunately, nobody knows what they are."Everybody, everybody has to find their own way, and millions have failed because they gave up. I'm a book learner, I can sit in a class and remember what I've been told. I can memorize things out of books. So this gritty, teeth-gnashing process is a new experience for me, and my instinct may always be to want to ask someone else how. But I feel better - stronger and smarter - for doing what needs to be done, even if it's my own messed up way. I feel more confident, whether I succeed or not. I'm doing it...look mom, no hands!

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Trucking along...

Well, I'm working at it. If either of the Little Ones would sleep I think I'd be in better shape. Boy is feeling stress over starting school, I think, and not sleeping well. Girl is growing and needs her calories.

Me? I'm writing down everything I eat. Did you know that a measley 2/3 cup of ground beef has 450 calories and a whopping 30 grams of fat? And that's lean ground beef! Yikes.

As for the writing, I want one of those progress-meter-things. If I cross-multiply and divide, seems I'm something like 65% done. That's cool.

Off to write a bit. *yawn*

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Family Therapy

This afternoon I was in a bit of a funk (see previous post), and so I decided to do a little baking. That’s my secret, the thing I love to do that actually looks like work, so people leave me alone while I’m at it. It’s therapy.

Venetian Chocolate Fingers looked like a fun recipe, so I tried it. A light chocolate biscuit, it said, dipped in semisweet chocloate. The dough was piped, so it was a fancy little morsel. I enjoyed making them, though I must say they didn’t really look like the picture. Not much.

Supper came, and look at that, no time. So I served my boys hotdogs and french fries, and for dessert, Venetian Chocolate Fingers, of course. “Cookie, hon?” He gave me a sceptical look that revealed his doubt as to the proper classification of those frilly numbers on the counter. “No, thanks.”

And hey, I spent two hours on those things, and he was having one. So I pretended I didn’t hear him. He took the proffered Venetian Chocolate Finger and dutifully popped it into his mouth. And chewed. “Mmmmmm” He said, pretending to savour it. Then he looked longingly at his empty water glass.

Wait a minute, I realized. He’s not savouring the cookie, he can’t swallow.

In the meantime, Little Boy wanted what his father had. So I gave him one. His speckled little face lit up when he saw the chocolate dip, and he nibbled the corner.

“No no,” said DH, his voice a little muffled, “just put it all in there. It’s ok, this once.” So, of course that’s what Little Boy did.

I watched his expression change from glee to consternation to dismay. Then DH started to laugh, and little boy did too, and there were bits of light chocolate biscuit flying all over the table.

So I took one, and cautiously bit it in half.

“No, that’s cheating.” DH informed me. “Eat it all at once.” So, in went the other half.

That little bugger sucked all the spit out of my mouth in 1.5 seconds. I parted my lips, I think I was hoping it would absorb some moisture from the air, but in the end I had to get a glass of milk. Light Chocolate Biscuits, dipped in semisweet chocolate, yes. And completely inedible.

Oh well. So I didn’t get a scrumptious dessert, but I had a good laugh with my boys. It was worth it.

A really, really bad day

It was a beautiful day yesterday. Blue sky, pleasant back-to-school fresh air. I’ve got to learn not to let that fool me, because yesterday kicked my ass.

I should probably begin with the $2.00 an hour parking, and the lot by the ferry terminal had this funky system that made you pay first, print the ticket and leave it on your dash. How the heck do I know how long I’m going to be? I just fed it all the coins I had, and it told me to come back at 2:01 pm. Allrighty. So I loaded all our stuff into the stroller, and marshalled the Boy into the building to meet mom and my sister.

Ferry crossing, no problem. Gorgeous. On the Halifax side we stopped to take a look at St. Pauls, the oldest church in Halifax. Beautiful. Then we went outside, and I felt something wet land on my arm.

Surely not. Surely it isn’t….yes, it is. Bird poop. Terrific. Well, that’s supposed to be good luck, isn’t it? I asked Mom as she Kleenexed me the best she could. Look on the bright side, and all that.

The thing about the Citadel is it’s a bloody big hill. With stairs. I mentioned the stroller, didn’t I? Mmhmm. And it’s a nice one, very sturdy and safe. So we’re carrying this thing up a bazillion stairs, and I’m remembering to be grateful for the little landings every so often. And then it happened. I picked up my end, and Mom wasn’t ready. Baby Girl slid right out onto the bricks. Mother of the year, that’s me. She was angry but intact, no scratches or bruises, thank you God. So I put her in the sling, wondering why I hadn’t done that in the first place, and upward we went, shook up but otherwise fine.

The 78th Highlanders, complete with drums and pipes, were going on a jaunt through the downtown. It was breathtaking, and as usual, I had to blink back tears as I watched them parade around the square and out through the gate. Pipes make me emotional.

We were eating sandwiches when my cell rang.
“Hi,” says DH, “How’s it going?”
“Well, I got pooped on by a bird, and then we dropped the baby. Now we’re sharing a tiny little $4.00 sandwich. How’s your day?”
“I think maybe you should go home now.”
I laughed. “Oh, I think we’re good now.”
“Ok. So anyway, I looked up that rash.” He’s talking about the one that’s on the back of Little Boy’s neck, behind his ears and slowly spreading across his cheeks. “It could be a lot of different things, allergic reaction or some fevers I won’t bother trying to pronounce.” Together we figured it was probably an allergic reaction, maybe to something in our new bottle of Looney Toones vitamins. Whatever.

So we had a quick boo around the museum and then figured we’d better hoof it back to the ferry, or else I’d have a parking ticket on top of everything. We were just in time, except we were about to board when Mom realized she didn’t have her purse. So her and Little Sister headed back up the hill, and I got on the ferry with my two kids and the stroller. (Halifax is the place to leave your purse in the bathroom, in case you're interested. Security had it.)

Good news, we got back to the car at precisely 2:01 pm.

Supper, chicken casserole. Mediocre. Afterwards, Little Boy gets up from the table and says to his Dad, “Look at this!” And pulls out the front of his pants. DH looks down there.
“Um, I think you maybe should go have this looked at. Show Mumma.”
The rash is spreading.
“Ok, I’ll take him in. They’re open until 9.” Oh, look. It’s Know-It-All-Mommy. Haven’t seen her since she slinked away after DROPPING HER BABY.
So of course the clinic closed at 5, and we were too late. We went to the Emergency Center, because by now I’m thinking of a certain McDonalds Birthday Party scheduled for the following morning and wondering if this maybe isn’t an allergic reaction after all.

The nurse looked at it, and she said,
“Well. That’s really different.” Which is, of course, just what I was hoping to hear. She told us we could wait, or we could scurry over to the after hours clinic Right Quick. So we tried to scurry, but the way out of the parking lot was blocked by a computerized arm-thing that wasn’t working. Eventually, we got there.

“You,” peered the doctor, a very kindly Middle Eastern man, “you got to be different, eh? What is this?” In the end, he decided on Hand-Foot-Mouth. Super contagious, if you haven’t had it at your house yet. Perfect for a new baby. “But this,” he waved a hand at the stuff on Boy’s neck, belly and waist, “This I don’t know. Another viral infection maybe. If it doesn’t go away in a week, see your doctor.”
“So, no birthday party?”
“No birthday party.” He ruffled Boy’s hair. “Next week, your friends come. No problem.”

I watched, I waited, certain that It was coming. But the tired, itchy boy with the cancelled birthday party handled it fine. He listened to me scrambling on my cell, calling parents at 9 pm the night before, postponing the festivities until next week. Then I explained to him we had to try not to spead it around. That’s when the tears came. All right, I thought, let’s talk about how sometimes we’re disappointed, and it can’t be helped. But that’s not why he was crying.

He was crying because he realized he wouldn’t be able to kiss his baby sister.

And this morning, when we gave him a present to offset the shitty deal he was getting, he gave the paper to the baby before he even looked to see what the present was.

We are blessed. We really are.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Cindy's Guide to Personal Happiness, Tip #5

Marry a man who can fix stuff.

That way, when he voids the extended warranty you purchased for all the more expensive things you own - by taking them apart - he at least has some hope of making it work himself.

For the record, DH can fix just about anything. He'd want me to say so, I think. (G)

Monday, August 21, 2006

JUNIPER, revisited

Went back to JUNIPER on the weekend. I've touched up the beginning, and I'm taking a quick run through to get my bearings. It's been a while since I've read it, so I'm on the lookout for things that need to be improved, pinched out or bashed to bits. I've grafted two characters into one, now I just need to decide whether she's a sister-in-law or an aunt to my second protag. Is she a right nasty piece of work, or just a smart woman looking out for her own interests? Both? Hmmmm.

I'm also watching for ways to enrich both the setting and the characters to get more pull. And I'm being less fussy with what I throw in there, a good tip from Vicki.

Off to work!

Friday, August 18, 2006

Lead me not into oblivion

Well, I turned on my computer at 10 pm last night, I checked a few blogs, then I turned it off and went to bed. I just couldn't, too tired. I was supposed to make some notes on the new, emerging structure for JUNIPER, detail story problems and character motivations, maybe make an outline. I have to decide whether I want to salvage the 53K I've got, or if I ought to start over from scratch. Writing FOR KEEPS, I've learned that I'm a bit better than I was five years ago, (cough), so I just might clip out a few of the scenes I think are the best, and rewrite. It's not the writing that took five years, after all, it was the learning and getting stuck and rewriting and learning some more. I think this story is still alive, and I'm not ready to let it go, but I need to shake these people up. They're as bored as I am.

So, last night wasn't the six hours of uninterrupted zzz's I was hoping for. I was up five times, and awake from 3 until 4:30, so tonight's not looking like prime writing terrain either. Maybe a good night to snuggle on the couch with that man I've been feeding for ten years (next month) and finish watching The Fog. So far, it's disappointing, but it might get better.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

How children learn through disappointment

The Boy is in the tub. His mother, passing by the door with a load of laundry, hears a thunk, and ducks in to investigate.

Her cherished Strawberry Body Scrub is lying on the floor, a good five feet from where it lives, on the shelf in the tub. The Boy is scowling at it. His arms are crossed. She bends to pick it up, hiding a smile in her cheek.

"You tasted it."

The scowl now belongs to the mother.

"Um, I think you did."
"NO, I didn't."
"Then why are you mad at it?"
"I just. Don't. Like. It."

So, it's true. It really does taste like soap. Good to know.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Scenes, Set Pieces, Sequels, Segues


I've been reading Elizabeth Lyon again, and I'm trying to gain some insight into what she means by these elements of storytelling. I write using all of these elements, but perhaps a closer inspection will improve my understanding of just what it is I'm doing. Maybe you want to ponder them, too.

I tend to think of stories and writing in terms of scenes. Long or short, busy or quiet, conversational, pensive, descriptive. Everything is a scene, regardless of content or what it is intended to show. So these terms really just refer to different kinds of "scenes".

By Ms. Lyon's definition, "scene" refers to action. To her, a novel or story is a patchwork of Scenes (action) strung together with other segments, ie Set Pieces, Sequels, and Segues. (Also Subtext and Shortcuts, which I'm leaving out.) The idea is that you use each element as needed, of course.

I'm not quite at my Eureka moment with this, as you can see. But here's what we know:
"Scene" refers to an action sequence.
"Sequel" is a section that shows a character's reaction to a scene, in terms of both emotion and thinking, and winds up with another action based on whatever decision is reached.
"Segue" is a transition between two time frames or two types of action.
"Set Piece" is a moment of high tension, which seems to occur at a turning point in the story.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Cindy's Guide to Personal Happiness, Tip #4

Well, now you're a Mom and you think you can clean anything with a casual swipe of the thumb.

Today's tip:
The thumb-swipe is not the best way to remove burning brown sugar from your stovetop. If you should make this mistake and the inevitable happens, that is, the burning sugar adheres to your screaming flesh, DO NOT stick said digit into your mouth, you'll burn your tongue.

If you wanted, say, to invent new curse words, following this procedure might be a good idea.

Friday, August 11, 2006


The momentum I had on this new WIP seems to be slowing, but I'm still here at my keyboard as often as I can be. OK, fine, I did finish watching the second half of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone last night when technically, I could have been writing. But aside from the occasional hour spent half-conscious in front of the TV, I've been working. So the slow-down isn't caused by me, it's my life.

Today I didn't even try to write during the day. I did crafts and stories with Little Boy, had floor time with Little Girl, made a stew for supper, folded some clothes. Cleaned a few feet of bathroom floor. Baths. Dishes. Days like this make me wonder how the heck I ever fit any writing in, which brings me to my point. Or rather, the thing I'm still mulling over.

There is no question that the time I spend writing while the kids are awake detracts from the time I spend with them, from the quality of their day. An hour, an hour and a half, whatever passing moments I'm able to corral - I could have been teaching Little Boy to read, or ride his bike. So am I wrong to take that time? Is it truly mine to take, or did I forfeit that time to him when I had him?

Yes, sometimes I feel guilty. Sometimes.

Dr. Phil - God love him - would say I can't give away what I don't have. This is the balm for my guilty conscience. Yes, the time might have been spent with a child who is growing up too fast. Or it might have been spent cleaning the floor. So I walk a line, perpetually negotiating with my conscience, always weighing my priorities. Play dinkies, bathe the baby. Forget about mopping, write instead. Throw a load in the washer, read a story. Stick a frozen meal in the oven. Write.

I think a lot of writing moms must do it this way. It's gruelling - what it lacks in actual sweat it makes up for through emotional conflict. Two for them, one for me.

The thing is, regardless of the gnashing of teeth, this lifestyle meets all my needs. I need to be here for my kids, and I am. I need to write, and I am. I hate to mop, and I don't. I want to set an example to my kids that you can do what you dream, but it probably won't be easy. It's work.

At the end of the day I take a deep breath and let the guilt go, and smell their hair as I kiss them, sleeping. Tomorrow, depending on the day, I will either feel guilty for writing or for not writing. It's just a part of the job.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Cindy's Guide to Personal Happiness, Tip #3

Never buy a 1 kg bag of chocolate covered raisins unless you intend to eat a 1 kg bag of chocolate covered raisins.

See Tip #1.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Cindy's Guide to Personal Happiness, Tip #2

It's ok to say "Neato, Mosquito" to a four-year-old. It's not so much ok to say it to a grown-up. Don't do it. You'll be embarassed, and the other grown-up will know you're a dork.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Cindy's Guide to Personal Happiness, Tip #1

Never look at your ass in the mirror. Ignorance is bliss, ladies. God put that back there as an act of kindness, step away from the mirror, er, tree of knowledge. Nothing to see here. Just move along.

Baby Steps

Well. I passed the 10K point on my new WIP yesterday, and I'm feeling good. I'm surprised just how much good the change-up has been for me, and I have a lot of idead as to why the other WIP, JUNIPER, hasn't been moving.

With JUNIPER, I used the chunk method. That's good, it worked for me for a while, but what it didn't give me was a sense of how to build tension over time, or how to fit those chunks together. This time I'm writing in a more linear fashion, and it happens that the scenes I'm seeing are the next ones, not something way off down the line. So it's working this way, too, but as I go I'm getting these wonderful moments where things suddenly become clear to me - all the lessons, techniques and methods I've learned and recognize are magically inserting themselves into the work. I'm still waiting for the final scenes, and the theme is not 100% clear to me just yet, but I know it's there, spinning and twirling in the dark, growing from the embryonic to the fetal stage. One of these days I will feel it will kick.

And I know now that I'll go back to JUNIPER, when the time comes.

We all know Tetris, right? That's how I feel about JUNIPER right now, it's a Tetris game going on in the back of my head. The pieces fall, I turn them, they fit. Another piece comes. There are lines at the bottom with holes in them, I fill the holes, they fall away. And the funny thing is that it was all there the whole time. The first one-third was enough. If I strip away all the things I was trying to make happen, the things that were part of real history, the sh*t I made up is the better story. Go figger.

Friday, August 04, 2006

When Little Boys Grow Big

The world has shifted this week, and it's left me unsure of my emotional footing. There are tears coming (am I moody, or what?) but I'm not sure just when they'll arrive. I might induce them with sad music in a private moment, just to ease the weight in my chest. I'm far too sentimental for my own comfort, sometimes.

My baby brother (all right, he's an engineer now, and 24 years old) moved out west yesterday. I'm feeling all sorts of irrational things about that. Like, how could he leave my kids? How could he leave the family? We were all here, parents, children, siblings and significant others - we had big family dinners every couple of weeks. Now there's a pair missing, and it matters to me. I'm worried he won't come back. I know it's his life, and it's good for him to go and do this while he's young and unfettered. Well, not exactly unfettered, he takes with him a wonderful girlfriend who is also from the Maritimes, so if anything, she may be what brings him back in the end.

Then there's my Little Boy. He starts school in a few weeks, and I can't help but be aware of how fast he's growing up. I see his long legs and hear him talking to himself as he plays, and I marvel. He takes my breath away. Who is this beautiful little brown creature who argues with me at every turn, defiant and dauntless in his quest for independance? Where is my curly-haired, short-legged, grinning toddler, who loved his mother more than anything?

I know he's there, because he visits me in odd moments. He comes to me for a hug when my hands are still, and lays his head - hair cut too short for curls, now - on my shoulder. He touches my cheek when I'm having my turn with the toothbrush. He will cuddle up for a story whenever I want. And his neck still smells so good.

Monday, July 31, 2006

Just...Loving Life

The past few weeks have been wonderful. We had a week at the beach, lots of sunny days at home and at my parents' house. Little Boy is growing tall and Little Girl is growing fat, their father is content, and I'm feeling a strange sensation creeping over me....peace.

I'm cleaning, I'm cooking, I'm writing. I'm not spending much time at my store, just enough to prevent a complete derailment. I'm happy.

The writing's coming easy, which is a big change for me. Always a new scene or idea waiting for me, and so far none of those scary blank moments. It's a genre I never thought I'd write, but I don't want to say just's my secret for now.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Motherhood and the English Language

I'm one of those people who regard the english language as sacred. Before I had kids I was sure that I would insist that they speak properly. When my little brother said ambleeance, I saw the transgression as yet another sign that he was fundamentally defective, and ought to be sent back from whence he came.

Now my beloved little boy says ambleeance, and I don't want him to stop. Because when that goes, it won't ever be back.

What will I do, when we don't see ambleeances any more? The world will be different when I stop reading the constructions when I assemble Happy Meal and Kinder Egg Toys. Right now, a hambooger is the kind of booger it's ok to eat, and you can have oatmemeal for breakfast.

These boy-isms are as precious to me as the intricacies of the language once were. Or, perhaps it was the rules, the sense of order that I loved. In that case, too, I value him more - more than order in my home, in my car, and in my language.

He'll figure it out, and he'll be as precious to me tomorrow as he is today. But a little bit of him will have gone when the day comes that there aren't any boogers left that it's ok to eat.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Chicken Casserole

Y'all have got to try this stuff.

2 cups cooked rice
2 cups cooked, diced chicken
2 cans cream of mushroom soup (cr celery or cr chicken also ok)
1 cup sour cream
1/2 large red pepper
2-3 green onions
1 medium onion, diced (feel free to adjust vegetables to suit yourself)
2 cups sliced mushrooms
1/2 cup finely chopped celery
2 cups shredded cheddar
2 cups crushed nacho cheese tortilla chips

spread the rice in the bottom of a 9x13 dish. Mix the chicken, soup, sour cream and vegetables in a bowl and pour over. Top with cheese, bake at 350 for 35 minutes. Sprinkle chips, bake 5 minutes more. Makes quite a lot of food, be prepared to eat leftovers.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Ending scenes

Starting a new WIP after years of mud-wrestling an old one is a very educational process. I highly recommend it as an exercise if you're stuck, even if you only write a few chapters. Don't, don't, don't develop a habit of always starting new things - that isn't the way to stardom, my friend! - but you just might find that the change in prespective will highlight strengths and weaknesses that you were missing while you were busy pulling out your hair. You were learning and progressing in your craft while you were on that treadmill, after all - because now you'll recognize problems as they occur. For instance....

The endings of my scenes are weak. Sometimes they just progress until the business seems to fizzle out, and I'm left with only a few blank lines to signal a change in time and place.

Elizabeth Lyon, in her book A Writer's Guide to Fiction (Perigree, 2004), discusses this. Specifically, she mentions Jack Bickham's list of possible endings for scenes (page 174):
1. discovery that a newly begun task is more complicated than expected
2. learning a disturbing piece of information
3. arriving someplace new
4. meeting someone who will significantly alter his or her (your pov character's) life

Ms. Lyon adds also that there may be a dramatic event that provides a good scene ending.

Of course these things are present in my writing, but I have a tendency to put them at the beginning of a scene: action or event - character response - fizzle. I see that I need to structure scenes this way, instead: character response - action or event. This creates momentum, as opposed to a limping, lurching pace. A resounding smack on the forehead for me. Go figger!

In addition, the first and last sentences need to have punch, impact. I knew that, but I haven't been making an effort to relate one to the other by using language to reveal parallels or contrasts. It makes a very satisfying, round shape when you can pull that off. Another thing to work on!

Now, writers who may be doing me the honor of reading this, please do add your own comments on scene endings!

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Don't think, dammit, just write!

Well, I'm always learning, but this week has been especially enlightening.

I mentioned that I started something new, and I'm now over 5000 words in and still loving it. Starting is always so easy, there's that uncomplicated lightness, the freedom of being able to go anywhere. I admit, there's a part of me that thinks all writing ought to feel like that, and maybe it would, if I was doing it right.

But it started slowing down today. I've arrived at a place where I need to start looking things up, and that's time consuming. But there was drag that I felt sure wasn't related to the tiny bit of research I needed to do. Something was getting heavy, slowing me down. What was it? And then, eureka.

When I'm not thinking too hard, I can write. When the thinking starts, the writing slows waaaay down. To test my hypothesis, I sent my thinker into the back room. Hush, I told her, you'll wake the dreamer. She can't dream with you thinking so loud. And it worked!!!

Wow. All my life I've been taught to listen to that thinker, and I never thought she could steer me wrong. But it's too early in the WIP to do that. The problem is that my thinker has some confidence issues. She's neurotic. She paces, she checks my spelling, she's always asking me if I'm sure. Of course I'm not sure.

She's on stress leave right now. I have writing to do.

Thursday, July 20, 2006


There were tears, name-calling, gnashing of teeth, foot-stomping and a time-out. But he ate his lunch.

Thursday is grocery day, and wouldn't you know I forgot to eat breakfast. My hair and make-up are done, I'm dressed in a pair of shorts that's one size too small, the kids are fed and their little bums are clean. It was a bazillion degrees and there was construction en route to the usual grocery store, so we went to the unusual one. I hate that. I need to know where stuff is.

Note - not everybody can work three tenses into one paragraph!

Anyway, we got home and I'm starving, but I did all right - didn't make any hunger-induced bad judgement calls by that point, but never fear. I fixed that with a lunch of two chocolate cookies (with icing) and a pack of ramen noodles. In that order. (That'll take care of my sugar, fat and sodium budget for the day...phew, don't need to worry about that anymore!) Then I took a mulitvitamin - call that my perfunctory nod to the nutrition gods.

Phoned my husband to make him laugh and brag about how good the kids were at the grocery store. Fired the littlest into the crib to watch the clown mobile and sat down to fill you all in - 'cause I'm sure you need to know how my day has been, so far.

Maybe later we can talk about writing - I need another chocolate cookie.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Speaking to Strangers

Well, there's good news and bad news. The good news is, I wrote 3227 words yeaterday. The bad news is that it wasn't a part of any current WIP. New stuff, words on paper, yes. Productive? Not so much. Fun, yes. Indicative of my committment to my novel? Nunh Unh.

But it was fun, and if I can, I'll do it again today.

What happened? There was a stranger standing at the periphery of my vision. I kept catching glimpses of her, and I knew she wanted me to follow her. I don't usually do that, I can't go following every spirit that pops in to say hello. The reason I did it was that she was different from other strangers I've met lately in that I found I already knew her story. The whole outline was there from the get-go, and that hasn't happened so naturally for me in a while. I decided what the hey, let's see what happens if I just type a few words....ya never know. At the very least, it was good exercise, and I did learn some things. She's waiting for me now, so I'll see you guys later!

Monday, July 17, 2006

Changing Gears

We're back from vacation, and here I am in front of my computer even though there's tons of work still to do. Clothes to put away, cat hair to vacuum, stuff everywhere. And there's a funky smell in the kitchen. Anyway, it'll keep, and once this mess is gone there will be another one underneath it, so I'm taking naptime for writing. For me.

One of the things I find is challenging about writing is changing gears. I don't just mean the inevitable speedbump caused by the return home after a week away. I mean going from the 50 mph required from me as a mother to the full, contemplative stop that I need as a writer. For me, sitting down in front of my computer isn't enough to make the transition. So I'm doing for myself what I'm doing for my baby - developing a series of cues that help me to recognise when it's time for what. A blanket, some music and slowdancing means bedtime for baby, and for me, a cup of decaf, a deep breath, a candle and a jot in here are helping me to open the door to the room where my fiction lives.

Someday I'd like to chat about the different hats we wear and how each one makes up a part of who we are as people and writers, but naptime is short and, as Vicki lately pointed out, talking about writing isn't writing.

I'm interested to know whether there are rituals or signals that other writers use. I know Susan must have a trick or two, she wrote a novel on her lunchbreaks at work. Anyone want to share?

Friday, July 07, 2006

The Novelist and the Hare

I am not a fast writer.

I started to keep a progress journal, with daily word counts so I could track my progress, thinking this would be a good thing. Actually, it's turned out to be a little bit depressing, as it's revealed that all I've been getting down lately is a couple hundred words a day, every few days. Like, 2500 words for the whole month. (sigh)

All right, before you say it, I know. New baby, plus pre-existing child, marraige, self-employment, pets and household responsibilities do take time. (Gee, when I say it like that I want to go lay down.) So I know it's ok, it's truly my best at this time. It's just, you know.

OTOH, what I am writing feels good, and that keeps bringing me back to my keyboard. A few weeks ago that wasn't the case, so I'm grateful. I'll just keep at it, in between feeding hungry creatures and cleaning up after them.

Leaving tomorrow to go to my parents' cottage for a few days. Yay! Back at the end of next week, if you're interested.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Uh oh

She laughs at my hair and my singing.

That didn't take long.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

A Quiet Moment


The Little 'Un is in bed, she finally gave up trying to make me carry her around all day. The Bigger One has been banished to his room for quiet time after a tantrum that lasted, I swear, most of the morning. 'Nuff.

So, a few blessed minutes to write. What I'm working on right now is faith - just writing, and never mind where it will go or what the purpose of the scene is. Just listening, and getting it down. It's been a long haul and I finally surrendered - I let my ambitions, my plans and my outline fall away. I'm offering it up now, to the characters. "Ok, then. You show me how it happened." We'll see.

The other discovery I've made lately is that I'm wordy, and my word choices and style are often a bit pretentious. Which might be fine for another kind of work, but this is a historical novel set in Scotland in the 1560s. People (at least the ones I'm writing about) didn't speak or think like this:

"To an observer, had there been any, it would be obvious that he was not out for a stroll; he walked quickly and with apparent purpose, though his destination was undecided."

That's how I normally write, I think because it amuses me. It's just me. But I'm afraid it doesn't work for the kind of story this is. It ain't Dickens, lady. This is more appropriate:

"He wasn't headed anywhere in particular, he just needed to think."

So, I have 55000 words of this to go through. I don't know whether to cry because it's all wrong, or feel elated because I can see that. I'll go with elated, for now.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Fall On Your Knees - Ann-Marie MacDonald

This is one of those books that I think of as Awfully Good. By that I mean it's powerfully written - a very, very good book - but the story itself, what these people go through, is Awful. Scorching humanity, each one flawed to perfection, beloved and unforgettable. You really must read this book. It's not an International Bestseller and an Oprah's Book Club selection (which came first, I don't wonder?) for no reason. I'm not finished reading it yet, but it's a keeper.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Sugar and Spice, and Puppy Dog Tails

I was walking the Baby, waiting for her to go to sleep. Yeah, she's getting heavy, and this walking thing will only get older as she does. But when she lays her head on my shoulder, and I hold her warm, solid 12 lb body in my arms and feel her angel's breath on my neck, I will do anything. Out of love, out of gratitude for the gift of this little person who has been given to me to love. To hold. And hold her I will.

So anyway, I was walking the Baby. I was thinking about the fact that her dresser has no mirror, because the dresser was mine and the mirror got broken and never got replaced. I was thinking that I'm glad there's no mirror on that dresser, and I won't put one in her room until she insists. There's no mirror in her brother's room, and that's not an issue. She doesn't need one either. I won't teach her to place undue emphasis on her appearance. She'll have dolls, yeah, but also books, a chemistry set and some dinkies.

Now, wait just a minute, here's the thing. My daughter is three months old, and already I'm trying to figure out how to protect her from gender bias. Sexism: a nice, light topic for my first blog entry.

Do you see it? In even having these thoughts, I'm subscribing to gender bias myself. Not because there isn't a real problem with what little girls learn while they're growing up, but because I'm thinking she'll need protection. After all, there's every possibility that she'll love football and abhor makeup.

This is obviously too big a topic to cover in this little blurb, but it bears consideration. I can honour my daughter's femininity without being sexist. There's a line there. For me, it falls between soft pink cotton and itchy, frothy tulle, between pretty sandals and pierced ears. I'm guilty of wanting to put her in pretty things, but I won't hurt her so I can decorate her. Don't get me started.

What about the rest? Make-up, belly shirts and how old for the first date? I have no freaking idea. Thank heavens there's time. I'll just have to figure it out when we get there.