Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Friends, Feedback and a Final Revision

The completion of a novel, for the writer, is not ‘The End’ (play on words), it’s just the beginning…of a demanding cycle of rewrite/revise and endless editing. Many of the books and articles on writing will say, put it away, distance yourself, take the time so when you’re ready to start the revisions, you have a fresh outlook.

If you have trusted readers, this is the time to share, knowing full well that when you hand your manuscript to someone else to read, you’re asking for feedback, for suggestions to make the story better.

In the beginning, my readers were friends and family. The problem, most of these readers were not writers, and knew nothing of the writing process. They’re readers, and as such, know what they like, even if they don’t know why.

My first readers were my brother and his wife. As my brother was also a writer, he understood how fiction worked and gave me a lot of constructive feedback. His wife is an avid reader, with a sharp analytical mind. She gave me honest opinions of what worked, what didn’t, who she liked, and why.

My other readers at the time were friends, who were excellent at finding grammatical errors, misspellings, repeated words and such, but were terrible in giving plot and character feedback.

I say were, for as I’ve grown as a writer, they’ve grown as a reader, and I get more from them now than ‘It’s a nice story”.

My best reader, also an excellent editor, is an old friend, and fellow writer. We share excerpts back and forth, a sort of edit as you go kind of thing. As most of our sharing is done by E-mail, there’s an honesty in what we share that might not have been comfortable in a face to face discussion.

Sometimes I need to step back, from what might initially be taken as criticism, to give my emotions a chance to settle. I’m the first to admit that once I take the time and calmly think about what she had to say, I can see her point.

Her voice is in my head now as I write. I’m more aware of how I tend to change point of view in the middle of a scene, and how I need to break up long narratives with some dialogue.

A few times I’ve shied away from a difficult scene, and let the plot move forward in back story, instead of dialogue. She calls me on it every time. “You copped out” or “You missed an opportunity here” and I’ve gone back and done the rewrite. Sometimes I just needed a bit of distance, before the scene could be written. Distance and a kick in the ass.

Books ONE and TWO I never shared with anyone, other than friends and family. They were written and put away in the drawer. Now that I’ve pulled them out into the light, so to speak, my friend is giving me the benefit of her time and experience and I see some more editing in my future.

Book number THREE, was my murder story. I shared it with other writers in my writing group, and received some excellent feedback. I was told when a character’s behaviour didn’t seem realistic, and where I needed to beef up the action. This was Death by Drowning, and by the time I did the final revision, I was confident enough to self publish with Amazon, for Kindle.

I’ve made some sales, which is great, but more important…I finished a book, all the way from A to Z. From an idea, to a finished piece of writing that I can be proud of, and am confident enough to share with the reading public.

I’ve started too many projects, and left them unfinished.

Old manuscripts may be hidden away in a drawer, out of sight, but they are never out of mind. At least writing is easier to store, a simple flash drive will hold everything I’ve ever written and more.

I have too many canvases and framed works of art stored in the closet, taking up room and collecting dust. I’ve been at this so long, my friends and family have run out of available wall space.

What do you do with it all? It’s frustrating, this need to create, and having to deal with the ongoing accumulation of work.

And yet, as creative people, we have this need to have our work recognized, appreciated, and to feel that we’re growing as an artist, as a writer. We may be solitary in the completion of our work, but once it’s done, we need to share; the process, the struggles and the final triumph.
There’s an excitement in knowing that creation, whatever it may be, came from our hand, our imagination.

And isn’t that a hell of a thing?

Friday, 26 July 2013

Book Number THREE, continued, the Murder Investigation

Everything I knew about how to investigate a murder, prior to writing Death By Drowning, I learned from watching television and reading books. Not the best authority, I’ll admit, but a beginning.

So, I was back to the internet for some information. I found an excellent article called Police Procedure-Elements of Murder, by Tracy Hawkins. You can find it at;

I looked up the local police services website, which gave me the members of the investigation team. The titles may be different in other provinces and countries, but I think the basic set up would be the same.

First, you have the investigating officers, often part of a Criminal Investigation Branch, and then there are the crime scene investigators, CSI like on television, or locally SOCO, Scene Of the Crime Officers.

I got familiar with the terminology, things like warrants, affidavits, and autopsy. Then there are the short forms: TOD for time of death, DNA for, well, DNA, and CSI for crime scene investigation.

I made copious notes, from numerous websites, about investigating a death, particularly a murder. In my reading I gained an understanding for the intricacies of the legal system, and a respect for the officers conducting an investigation.

Here’s some of what I learned.

Coroners are called to the scene, and may or may not be the Pathologist who conducts the autopsy. The who, when, and where of the autopsy varies as to the location of the murder, urban or rural, and of course, if urban, the size of the city and its resources.

There's the Miranda Warning, given to suspects when in police custody, or before the suspect is interrogated. That’s all that ‘you have a right to remain silent’ stuff. It has to do with what can and can’t be used in court. Without the Miranda Warning, police can act on information learned, but can’t use it to incriminate the suspect.

Questioning people, who may be involved, as a suspect or a witness, is tricky. You’ve all seen TV examples where the police are questioning someone, a suspect most likely, who decides not to cooperate, and says to the police, ‘Arrest me or I’m out of here’. Everyone has rights, until proven guilty, of course.

Miranda deals with testimonial evidence, and then there is the physical evidence gathered at the scene of the crime. This might include handwriting, voice exemplars, fingerprints, DNA, hair samples and dental impressions. This is where you see the TV crime scene techs swab for blood, or other bodily fluids, and gather evidence into plastic bags or bottles. Everything is dated, timed, and initialled for…Chain of Evidence.

Chain of evidence is to prevent any tampering, to ensure the evidence will hold up in court. Evidence can also be gathered away from the crime scene, and is perfectly legal if it’s from, say, garbage at the roadside, or in plain view. Otherwise the police need a warrant.

You know, if you watch crime shows, how many times the police call for warrants. Search warrants to, of course, search, a suspect's home, car or office. Warrants can also be obtained for financial records, phone records, or any other place the police might gather information, information that might not be readily handed over. There’s that sticky area, called confidentiality, usually pertaining to medical records. This might also include hotel guest records, membership lists and such places where the client has an expectation of privacy.

Here’s another term I found interesting, Fruit of the Poisonous Tree. This refers to evidence that is excluded from trial because the evidence came from an illegal search.

Are you bored yet? And I haven’t even mentioned what’s needed to get an arrest warrant, what an affidavit is, or a subpoena.

Any investigation begins with the nucleus of people around the victim, and moves out in a widening circle as evidence is gathered.

As I learned during the writing of my book, there are a lot more details involved in a murder investigation than are immediately apparent. I had my murder victim, a plausible motive, and a group of suspects. And, of course, I had my detectives, discovering clues, gathering evidence, and identifying the murderer, by the end of the book.

I added in some elements that I hoped would make the story more interesting, the witness’s troubled history, the threats against her, and the immediate attraction between she and the detective.

I’ve said before that I like to reread books, same as I watch the same shows or movies over again. If you ever thought about writing a murder story, I suggest you read one, and then reread it. Second time around, pay attention to how the author discloses information, that, at the time given, seemed to have little or no importance, but later proved vital to the investigation.

Writing this book was an interesting experience. I felt I grew as a writer, for this book required more planning, more attention to details, and required research outside my comfort zone. I think the story has credibility, even though I never interviewed the police personally. The internet offers endless information, on any subject; it’s up to the researcher to know what’s true and trustworthy.

Death by Drowning is published in E-format, on Amazon, for Kindle readers.

Now, for my fourth book, I really got into the research. A story about how a young woman, and an old man, both alone in the world, meet and discover you don’t need a blood connection to be a family.


Book Number THREE, Researching my "Who Done It?"

A Who-Done-It? Where do I even begin? Then, I decided to go with 'write what you know', kind of.

I remembered a frightening incident when my son was about four years old. He was out with his Dad, looking for a pair of lost hunting dogs. On the edge of town, they pulled into a dead end street with a large turn-around. Seeing no sign of the dogs, they moved on with their search. There were two cars parked in that same area, with a man and a woman sitting in the one car. Another man, up the street, was shovelling snow from his driveway. It was a beautiful winter’s day.

Sunday, I was reading the paper and came across the story of a murder, reported to have taken place in our town the day before. When I read the details to my husband he was shocked, for he had been there, close to the given time. The article stated the police were looking for the driver of a blue, half ton truck, and, of course, that was my husband.

Nut shell version, an angry boyfriend, not willing to be an ex-boyfriend, stabbed his heart’s desire, multiple times. He tried to make it look like he was also attacked, by stabbing himself, before he drove his car into a snow bank up the road.

Perfect situation of wrong place, wrong time. It gave us a few bad days, something you don’t easily forget. By the way, the guy had a violent history, and caught in a lie, he eventually confessed.

So, back to my story. I’m thinking, a witness to a crime, her being on the scene is just happenstance.

But who is my victim? Here I needed to diverge from my reality, and thought about another murder in our fair town. This time a body was found in the lake, a young woman from the city, whose identity was not immediately known.

I don’t want to give you the wrong impression about our usually peaceful, small town. These violent episodes were thirty years apart, though it's an unfortunate sign of the times, crime and violence can happen anywhere.

I had my beginning. A woman sits by the lake on a winter’s day, witness to a couple having an argument, she leaves the area. Days later, a woman’s body is found at the edge of the lake, her identity unknown.

Here was where my research began. I searched the archives of the local paper, plus the city paper where the real murdered woman lived. This gave me an idea of how the investigation proceeded, by what the police reported to the media.

I admit I use places that are familiar in my writing, as I like a visual in my head, so everything falls under the disclaimer…

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events or locales is entirely coincidental.

My murdered woman lived in the city, so she needed a job and a place to live. And there had to be a tie in to the small town. In my web search, I found downtown hotels that cater to out of town businessmen. I viewed maps, read all the promotional material and finally decided on the Delta Chelsea Hotel. Within walking distance to the downtown core of hospitals and the U of T, it was large enough to offer a sense of anonymity.

For a place to live? Not the real estate ads this time, but the rentals, my victim was not affluent enough to buy in the city. I found her a lovely rental on Yonge Street, steps from shopping and the subway.

My witness also needed a place to live, and I gave her a rental apartment in a converted triplex, loosely based on one that I had been in a number of years ago. She also needed a career, something in the medical field, I thought, but not a nurse.

I decided on Medical Transcriptionist. I researched the education requirements, and the daily job description. I had reason to be in the hospital, and wandered up to the Medical Records Department, and actually spoke to one of the staff. I also talked to a nurse I knew about computerized health charts, as I’m an old time, old-school nurse, and computers were after my time.

A word of advice, don’t waste your time, or  the time of someone you’re hoping to interview for their expertise, by being unorganized. If you have questions that, up to that point, you've found no answers for, write them down. Think it through, figure out exactly what you need to know before any interview. Like the Girl Guides, 'Be Prepared'.

As we’re in a hospital setting, you know there’s going to be a doctor. But what’s his specialty, and for what purpose would he be in the city?

I searched the data on several large teaching hospitals and learned how the physicians have their specialties, and their responsibilities as Clinician, Educator or Lecturer. It was very interesting, and just what I needed to develop one of my characters.
I had pages and pages of notes, a slew of print-outs and added everything to my story binder. You will always have more research, more information, than will ever make its way into your book, but it's all important for you to understand who and what you're writing about.   

So, I have my setting, my precipitating incident, and a cast of characters, what was I missing? Oh yeah, the police and their investigation.

Next time.




Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Book Number TWO, Better Research

I liked the character from my first book, and decided to go with another female, fighting through some conflict and coming out stronger, more sure of herself.

Yeah, I know, a little bit of the ‘I am woman, hear me roar’, kind of thing. But at that stage in my writing career, I still had to go with the female perspective.

So, Rebecca, called Becca by family and friends, came to be.
Becca was young, just starting her career, but what career?
Nursing, teaching came to mind, but then I drove by a country veterinary clinic, and I had it.
Now, to do the research.

Veterinary Assistant or Technician. I found all the information on the internet, what the job entailed, the education requirements, even found a course description for a local college.

I gave her some conflict, had her moving from that small town to a city, not too far away. Using my own small town as reference, I looked up the cities both east and west of me for possible locations I could use for inspiration. You have to love the web sites designed for any town or city. They are a wealth of information.

You can get a map of the city, a list of all the services available, plus businesses, such as hotels, malls, and restaurants. And veterinary clinics, if you were looking for such a thing.

So now I had home town, new town and was writing away. New character entered and he needed a career and a place to live. Big city this time, so Toronto. No end of material available on line about Toronto.

Decided my guy was educated in a small city, not the same one mentioned before, and relocated to the city after graduation. I made him an accountant. Who knew the education process was so complicated, and that there was an internship involved? The things you learn when you’re writing a book. Now I’m keeping a file on careers, never know when I might have a need for an accountant again.

Where could he live? The real estate ads were extremely informative; location, services, proximity to subway, and sometimes, a virtual tour.

I found my guy the perfect condo, on Yonge Street, with a shopping complex and access to the subway from the lower level. Just the spot for a young, career oriented bachelor who works downtown and wants to live near by.

I printed all this information for my story binder, added photos from a decorating magazine that looked perfect for my condo, I mean his condo.

When my characters need to go shopping, I can find everything they need, with a detailed description of each item, on the store web site. In the first book I sent Katie to La Senza, this time my male character shopped at Tiffany’s. Too bad it was only virtual shopping.

I was still following the theory of ‘write what you know’ with some added internet research. I haven't ventured too far out of my comfort zone.

But, I've seen the acknowledgments in books I've read, usually the author thanking people who have helped in the research. I read them, and understand the author has talked to them for their expertise, maybe for their career or hobby or for their specific knowledge, such as medical data or weaponary.

I don’t know, being one out of a great sea of unpublished authors, if I would be brave enough to seek out others for research information. What credibility do I have, that they would give me their time and attention?
I have a problem calling myself a writer, yet writing means more to me than just a hobby, it’s something I think about constantly and feel a need to do. What would it take to make me confident enough to make that claim? Publication? That’s a tough one.

The first book I wrote for me, to prove I could do it. I sent it to Harlequin, and it was rejected. I took the advice they gave me in their kind rejection letter, and wrote the second book, more romance than the first, full of inner doubt and conflict, and was again rejected. Back to the drawer it went for years, until this heat wave had me confined to home and I pulled it out for a rewrite, a further edit.

Now, for the third, I went for something a little different, a murder story. Out of my comfort zone, so lot’s of research. More later.





Monday, 22 July 2013

Book number ONE, Reality and Research

I’m not a joiner by nature, but a few years ago, notice of a new writing group in town caught my attention. I decided to give it a try, though I had no experience; and no confidence in myself as a writer.

We did a lot of fumbling around in the beginning, trying to find what worked, and fell into writing 150 words, on a given topic, sharing our efforts with the group.

I wrote poetry and stories for children, so writing adult fiction was new for me. Soon I was writing short stories, abandoned the 150 word thing, and let my story go where they needed to go, ignoring word count. I discovered the joy of fiction writing and wanted to write more and more, to challenge myself. I wanted to write a book. Imagine that.

It’s been four years since I wrote that first novel and I recently pulled it out of the drawer to give it another look. Amazing what you find to do during a heat wave when you can’t do anything else.

I’ve learned a lot about writing in these intervening years. I’ve read articles and books on writing, and it’s often said, write what you know, and that’s exactly what I had done. As I worked my way through that first book I was amazed at how much of ‘me’ was in those pages. The story was pure fiction, but my female protagonist and I shared many life experiences.

I didn’t do any real research, but kept to what was familiar. The internet gave me a map of the village I had in mind; and a country drive with a friend gave me the visual for my story’s setting.

This is a photo of the house I used in the book for the lawyer's home and office.

I set up a story binder, for all my character notes, maps, floor plans and photos. As I go along I add notes and ideas. Once the book is done, it all goes in a file, just in case.

Apparently I used a technique in that story that a ‘How To’ book, said never try for your first effort. Unfortunately I read that after I wrote the book.

My story was third person, from the female protagonist’s point of view. I felt her back story was important and wanted to give it more impact. I took the reader back, not in a flashback, but in a time shift.

I put this part in italics, gave the date, and wrote it in first person. I wanted the reader to understand what this woman had gone through, and what could be better that reading it from her perspective, as she lived it?

I thought I’d done everything to show the difference between past and present. There was the change to first person, the date, and the damn italics. My first beta reader was confused, thought it was a journal entry. ****

Okay, on second look, I guess that could be the first thought, but who writes dialogue and such description in a journal. I did a rewrite, but was not willing to give up the time shift idea; I kept the italics, the date, and changed it to third person like the rest of the book.

Each time shift was a natural flow from what was happening in the present. Each journey back gave the reader more of the character’s life story until the past and present merged, and the reader was fully aware of why the character felt and behaved as she did.

I think it works, and it must have been clear as, once the changes were made, there was no more question of it being a journal entry.

The value of having good beta readers who will give you honest feedback cannot be measured. That same reader, who thought it was a journal, also told me the ending sucked. Well, he was nicer, said he felt disappointed, wanted more.

I did a rewrite, again, because he was right. I was so anxious to get the book finished, done, over, I rushed the ending. Lesson learned.

I was proud of that first effort, and did submit it to ONE publisher, and received a very nice rejection letter in return. Hence the book in the drawer thing.

Now that I’ve taken time to read it again, I can see how much I’ve learned in the last few years. The writing group evolved into a group of book and short story writers, and we are constantly sharing information, giving feedback and challenging each other to do more than the 150 word prompts.

I completed the edit/rewrite, and think it’s a better read now. I like Katie, the main character; she’s a woman I can respect, we’ve become very good friends



Friday, 19 July 2013

What does your Bookmark say About You?

Patience is a virtue.

I think people who read find it much easier to be patient, for as long as you have a book, you have something to do while you wait.

I read a lot, and not only do I read, but I reread. If you read a book and enjoyed it, immersed yourself in the characters, their lives, their conflicts, then rereading that story is like a visit with old friends.

When I read a new book by a favourite author, I jump in and read it right to the finish, in a hurry to see how it all ends up. But by doing so, I may lose some of the finer details. So, about 6 months later, I’ll reread that book, at a more leisurely pace, and see the things I may have missed the first time through.

I usually have a book in the car, just in case, and one in the bathroom, most often rereads. I know I can pick up this book at any time, read for a few minutes, and put it down. These books will not suck me into a night of reading that has me at The End when the sun is starting to shine in my window.

Having so many books on the go requires I have numerous bookmarks to mark my place. And when you’re known to be a reader, people give you bookmarks, so I have quite a collection.

I once had a red leather bookmark, a gift, a souvenir, from a friend’s visit to Scotland. It was stamped with a map of the country and a piper in full regalia. I didn’t use it much as it was too thick and long for paperbacks, better for a large hardcover.

I collect angels, and when you’re known to collect something, you get gifts on that theme. I was given a beautiful pewter angel, with blue stones, on a blue satin ribbon. It was too pretty to risk losing I thought, and have it hung on the door of my curio cabinet.

My granddaughter gave me the book mark that came with her Blueberry Cupcake doll (part of the Strawberry Shortcake line of dolls), another friend gave me a butterfly clip type bookmark. And last Christmas I received a lovely hand made crocheted bookmark.

As I was planning this post, I tried to remember where I put all my arty bookmarks,some things are not so readily found since the move. I’ve collected a few bookmarks just for the inspiration of the art work.

But, my usual bookmark is a treasured one, a gift from my granddaughter. It came with her school pictures, and I’ve had it since 2007. I’ve lost it a few times, due to my tendency to stick a bookmark in the book I’m reading, rather than setting it on the table.

I would pick up a book to read, yet again, and the bookmark that I’d stuck in the book the last time, and forgotten when I finished the book, would fall into my hands. I’ve taken better care, having lost it a few times, as I love opening a book and seeing her beautiful smiling face. It’s a 2for, in my mind. I get that warm and fuzzy feeling, and can mark my place in good read.

What do you use to mark your place?

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Coffee or Tea, Anyone?

It’s been a rough week.

The weather has been hot and humid, not a good combination for those with living with Multiple Sclerosis. I’ve kept a low profile, trying to beat the heat. Pain is not something one usually associates with MS, and I admit most of my pain is arthritic in nature, but the combo this week has laid me low.

So, I’ve read a few books, and watched a lot of television. And I’ve noticed a continuing theme with these fictional characters. Coffee and tea.

I love crime shows and am particularly fond of NCIS. Gibbs is the grey haired leader of a team of federal agents. He is frequently seen holding a cup of coffee, or sending someone out for coffee. As I’ve watched many of these shows in syndication I can remember the ongoing joke about Gibbs drinking his coffee black, and his disgust at the other team members’ choice of fancy lattes.

It’s an ongoing theme, and gives the viewer a sense of familiarity with this taciturn character.

I also read the latest in JD Robb’s ‘In Death’ series. These are a favourite and I’ve read and reread them all. Eve Dallas is a cop in the year 2058. In the first book, “Naked in Death’, Eve meets her future husband, the billionaire, Roarke.

He tries to win her over, not with diamonds and gems, but with coffee. In the future, coffee made from real coffee beans, is a luxury of the rich. Eve is a typical cop, addicted to coffee, but has only tasted the soy based imitation, never the real thing until she meets Roarke.

There is another ongoing theme in this book series. It seems food is, for the most part, man made. The real thing is too expensive or just not available. Eve and her team of cops sometimes meet in her home office where Roarke provides the nourishment. One young cop tasted real bacon for the first time and asked, “Is this real meat, like from a pig?”

In the off shoot to NCIS you have NCIS Los Angeles. They aren’t big coffee drinkers on the West Coast, seems tea is their beverage of choice. Hetty is a tea connassoir, determined to teach her agents the way to brew the perfect cup of tea, from tea leaves, of course. She scoffs at Callen, with his dip-the-tea-bag-in-hot-water method of making tea. “Can’t you taste the paper?” she asks.

On the show The Mentalist, Patrick Jane is a consultant to the CBI, the California Bureau of Investigation. He is constantly seen with a cup of tea, (see, it is a West Coast thing), and often asks if he can make a cup of tea while the police are interviewing witnesses or suspects. And of course, while making that tea, he snoops around and finds important information needed to solve the crime.

I have another favourite series, the Maggie O’Dell books by Alex Kava. Maggie is a profiler with the FBI. She drinks neither coffee nor tea, but is addicted, in the same fashion as coffee drinkers are addicted to their brew, to Diet Pepsi.

It’s an ongoing theme again, where others keep a supply, or get one for her instead of the usual hot, caffeinated beverages more frequently supplied.

I like these ongoing themes. They offer insight into the characters, give the characters an opportunity for more personal interaction, and often, add a touch of humour in a story line that is serious and deadly.

Personal touches can make a character more memorable, after all, look what the martini, shaken not stirred, did for James Bond.
Have a good week everyone.

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

My Car is Making a Strange Noise

My car is making a strange noise.

It’s old, like me, so I understand its need to whine and groan at times, but this sound makes me think there’s a construction crew in the engine running a buzz saw and, well, that’s new and a little disconcerting.

I have a great fear that one of these times the car is going to let me down but good, and I’ll be without transportation, or paying a repair bill that will end up costing me more than the car is worth.

I don’t want my car to have any more problems. I had planned for the car to run as long as I was still driving, and that we would end our driving relationship together. And damn it, I’m not ready yet to give up my independence.

I’ve heard this car noise before, in my friend’s car, and they’re both older than me and mine. She told me it was dampness, moisture that collects because we live by the lake and we don’t drive every day. It only happens in reverse, and only the first time I back out of my parking spot. And circumstances being what they are, I’m driving even less than before.

I was told once that my kind of driving is really hard on a vehicle, especially in winter. Because I usually drive locally, just running errands, with a lot of stops-starts, the engine never gets a chance to really warm up.

I was told to take it for the occasional drive on the highway, where we would be out longer and get up to a greater speed. So now I’m thinking, these monthly lunches I do out of town, once with my friend and then with my brother, are therapeutic, for me and the car.

Which leads me to another issue, modern rock music. When I’m listening to music in the car and some song comes on with that repetitive sound in the background, that mechanical, techo-rock sound, I think it’s the car.

I turn the radio down and listen, and no noise, thank goodness, so it’s just the music. I have done this so many times now that if the car could talk it would chastise me for having so little faith.

Women need a reliable vehicle. Being stranded somewhere, alone, is a scary thing. Let me tell you about being stranded, at least I wasn’t alone, and it wasn’t my car.

I was out on a country day trip with a friend, in her brand new car. I mean really brand new, less than fifty kilometres new. We were travelling along when we noticed a strange noise from the rear of the car, on the passenger side, and pulled over to the side of the road to investigate.

We were on a fairly well travelled country road, but it was raining and traffic was sparse. I got out of the car, seemed logical as the noise was on my side, and discovered we had a flat tire.

A flat tire! It was a brand new car. So, there we sat, on a country road, surrounded by farmland, not a house in sight. My friend turned to me. “Do you have your cell phone?”

“I don’t have a cell phone,” I told her. “Don’t you have one?”

So there we were, two middle aged women, neither who had embraced the new technology, both wondering what we were going to do next.

But, I watch television…I’d seen all those car commercials about accidents and the OnStar people responding to the emergency. And, I saw the red OnStar button above the rear view mirror.

We laughed about the whole situation, the lack of cell phones, the isolation, the rain, and decided, what the hell, and pushed the button.

Well, what do you know, it worked. A very nice woman answered our…summons, call, I don’t know what you would call it, and listened to our plight. “Where are you?” she asked.

We knew vaguely where we were, but it wasn’t exact enough for her. ”Do you see a cross road, or any signs?”

There was a side road back a ways, so I got out of the car again, and walked back along the road, in the pouring rain (woe is me, eh?) until I could read the road sign. Once we gave our new friend the information, she knew exactly where we were. Then the issue became where did she send help from, as we were at a half way point between two towns.

Long story short, we had the tire inflated by a tow truck sent to help, made it to the closest town, and spent the afternoon waiting for her car to get a new set of tires, as the one that had gone flat was shredded to pieces, a factory defect.

We never did get to our destination, which had been some unique shops in town, so all the day cost me was a soaking and lunch. It was much more expensive and troublesome for my friend.

Old and used doesn’t have to mean unreliable. Old and used just needs some regular maintenance and care. And isn’t it fortunate that we now have a mechanic in the family, so my wheels get some personal attention, and I can maintain my faith a little bit longer..

Maybe we’ll make it to the end together after all.

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

My Better Home and Garden

So, it’s been about three weeks since I moved into my new space and it’s definitely feeling like home.

I had coffee out on the patio at the front of my place the other morning, and enjoyed the warmth of the sun, the birds in the trees and the little chipmunk that was racing across the lawn.

It felt good. My potted planters were a colourful touch, a dash of red and green against the white brick. The garden along the wall needs some attention, but all in due time, as I’ll need some help there. Oh, but the planning.

I got onto Pinterest, and put small gardens in the search and yes, there went the morning. Amazing the number of gardens using rocks. I love a garden with the look of a dry creek bed, the layers of rock, the gentle curve that mimics a meandering brook.

I had such a garden once, complete with an arced bridge to go over it, joining the patio with the lawn. I have to laugh, as the bridge was grudgingly built, without an ounce of grace

I had a vision, something that I’d never seen done in that area, and one I had to convince my husband was going to be beautiful. The convincing was kind of sneaky on my part. I would do as much of the work as I could, and in order to get it finished, my husband had to finally give in and help, once I had the job near to completion.

Yet he didn’t see the need for the bridge, which I thought was crucial to the design. I tried to build the bridge myself, which was no easy task as I was useless with electrical tools, and was trying to hand saw and hammer the thing together.

The old boy just had to show me how it was done. He bought the wood, cut the curved side pieces and, voila, I had my arched oriental style bridge over my dry creek bed. It really was beautiful, and he had no problem taking credit when the garden was complimented.

I tried it again at another house, this time I had an arbour, with handmade stepping stones, and a small dry creek area that was more functional that decorative, as it handled the run off.

Run off seems to be a good spot to place a dry creek type garden, and tried it once more. This time I got fancy. I had a 24 inch circle of concrete, and I painted it to look like a pond, complete with a couple of Koi fish and lily pads.

I must have put a dozen coats of sealer on that thing to weather proof it. On a flat section of the garden, where the dry creek bed ran to the back of the property, I laid it down and arranged the rocks and plants around it…like a real pond.

It was a surprise, a bit of whimsy, in an otherwise normal garden. I wish I had picture to remember it.

I don’t have enough space for a dry creek bed type garden. But I noticed all those paths, in the picture gallery on Pinterest, that had the spaces between plain patio slabs filled with river rock, even glass stones for colour. My mind was racing with ideas.

At my back door is a neglected bit of space where I was going to put my bird feeders. It has proven to be too close to the window and too open for the birds I’d hoped to attract. But wouldn’t a bench be pretty there, with a big pot of flowers on one end that I could see from my window.

A nice spot to sit in an evening and watch the sun go down. Patio stones, joined with areas of rock, and maybe I could use the existing bricks for a pretty edging, yes, I can see it might work.

Not everyone can see the finished result as I can, or understands why I try to create something a little different. It’s the artist in me that wants to put my own touch to things.

After all, it’s the little touches that make a house a home.

It’s quiet now, the sun has set in a splendid show of colour, and the court is dark except for the one light post. It’s a perfect evening I’m thinking, as I sit here, with my feet up and write.

I wish everyone the same peace and contentment as I feel right now.