Friday, 30 August 2013

Genre Prompt...Mystery

                                                                      
Continuing with genre prompts, this time it's mystery. A story in which one or more elements remain unknown or unexplained until the end of the story.
 


Night Moves
 



There was no moon and the night was one long dark shadow.

In my black attire I blended well with the soot-stained brickwork of the building. I cautiously made my way up the metal fire escape; any misstep, any noise, and my nefarious activities would be revealed.

When I reached the fourth floor I eased the window open, confident in my knowledge the apartment would be empty. In my daytime persona I had visited this apartment with the realtor, as just another prospective tenant.

I had wandered about, making all the appropriate responses, checking out the closet space and looking at the view out the window. When he was distracted I had quickly released the window latch in anticipation of my night time rendezvous.

Carefully, I climbed through the window and silently shut it behind me. In the dark, I stood and let my eyes adjust to a different darkness. A city night is never total black, but is made up of shades of grey from reflected light. I stepped into a room of deeper shadow and moved along the wall. Easily, I made my way to the inside door, for the layout was simple and there was no furniture to hamper my path.

My questions about building security had gleaned valuable information. There were cameras in the lobby, but the elevators and halls were lens free. I could move about freely, needing only to avoid the tenants, hoping they were safely tucked in their beds, asleep at this time of night.

They were not my concern, my only interest that night was one specific tenant. I left the apartment, making sure the door was left unlocked behind me, for I would need an exit that was as unseen and undetected as my entry.

With my back against the wall, alert, listening for the ping of the elevator or the opening of a door, I made my way to the stairwell and opened the door. I passed through to the landing, holding the door, closing it and releasing the handle in whisper silence. Quickly I made my way up the stairway, my footsteps making no sound on the concrete stairs. I paused on each successive landing to listen, always cautious.

At the eighth floor I stopped. Almost there, I thought, and took a deep calming breath when I could feel my heart beat faster in anticipation. Slowly, I released the handle on the door and eased it open, just enough to glance down the corridor to ensure my presence was still undetected.

I entered the empty hallway, easing the door shut behind me and crept down the passageway. The doors were staggered for the privacy of the tenants, each door opening to face the wall of the corridor rather than the door of another unit.

Wasn't that convenient I was thinking. My activity at the door to apartment 802 would not be seen or heard by the tenant in 803, whose door was further down the hall.

Drawing the key from my pocket, I inserted it in the lock, the click of its release sounding loud in the tense silence of the hall. Again I opened the door just enough to listen to the silence from within; there were no voices, no late night television, nothing but sleepy oblivion.

I made my way down the familiar hall to the bedroom, his bedroom, and stood in the doorway. I hesitated for just a moment, quickly shaking off any doubts.

As I approached, I could see his naked form spread across the queen size bed, the sheets barely covering him, and my heart broke once again with the surge of memories. No, I thought, I will not be deterred by emotion, it was not the time. Tonight it was to be cold and calculated. Later, when my job was done, I would let all these feelings loose.

I pulled the gun from the waist of my jeans, and used it to jab at his chest, over again and over again, until he was looking about for what had awakened him and saw me standing there. “Hello, Robert,” I said.

He would only suffer for that one moment of awareness, when he knew what was to come. He would not suffer, as I had suffered, but when it was done, I would have my retribution.

I quickly picked up a pillow off the bed, laid it across his chest and fired my gun into his heart. The sound was muffled and yet it seemed like an explosion of noise in my head. I turned my back on him and silently retraced my steps, locking his door behind me, and left the building as I had entered it, alone and undetected.

As I made my way along the city streets, heading towards home, I tossed the key and the gun down the sewer, and considered my night's work complete.

With his death I had my revenge.

 

 

 

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Genre Prompt...Fantasy


I thought I would share some of the short stories written from genre prompts.
This is fantasy. A story involving imaginary beings in the real world or in an alternate reality, and assuming a suspension of disbelief about magic, and/or supernatural powers. 
 
 
The Lady in the Lake

The world went silent. In that last moment before the hurricane hit, everything went still.
At the bottom of the sea, Annalise could sense the change. Trapped, she raised her hands to the glass wall that separated her from the sea, and looked out at the aquatic world that surrounded her.
Nothing moved. Usually, a variety of fish would be darting around her with a daring curiosity, but the fish were nowhere to be seen. The glass orb that was her chamber, and her prison cell, sat motionless on the ocean floor. Her ‘bubble’, that forever swayed, keeping time with the dance of the coastal tides, had ceased its rhythmic movements.
A sound like thunder roared over her head and her bubble shook with the resulting wave.
Annalise banged her fists against the glass. “What’s happening?” she screamed, suddenly afraid. “Is this you, Liam? Are you changing the tides to scare me?”
The words were barely spoken when the earth began to vibrate, and the orb started to move, not an easy rocking, but a rolling full circle across the sand. Practically running in place, she tried to keep up with the erratic to and fro motions of her previously settled prison. To maintain her balance, she kept a hand on the glass wall and watched the way the water changed around her.
The great waves swirled, heaving her world up and down, sending the orb spinning and twisting all through the water. Annalise felt herself fall, tossed from side to side with each roll of the orb. Was it never going to end, she wondered. Was this the Faerie King’s doing because she consistently rejected him?
The sea dragged the orb down and just as suddenly threw it up again, hitting the rocks along the craggy shore with a terrible crash. The abrupt stop had done much damage and water seeped in the cracks that spread along the surface of the orb.
Annalise, stunned by the harsh landing, shook her head and took stock of where she was. She could feel the water pooling at her feet and quickly looked around. Water had surrounded her for months, but never had there been water inside the orb.
Looking up, she could see the sky, dark and ominous, the winds blowing, and then the rocks. The crack in the orb was spreading, the water rushing in, but all she cared about was getting out. Fighting against the wall of water to gain her freedom, she grabbed the jagged edge where the rocks had broken the orb open and hoisted herself up and out of her prison.
It was freedom she felt when the wind swept across her face. The waters calmed, come to rest after the storm, as she jumped from the orb in to the water. She waded to shore, hands held high above the water; and settled on the sand to bask in the sunlight.
Liam, the Faerie King, would search her out, she knew. But for now, she was free.

 

 

 

 

Monday, 26 August 2013

Creativity is Essential



It’s early on a Monday morning, the skies are gray and the rain is a gentle and constant pitter patter outside my window. The coffee maker has gurgled its last and I can smell the aroma of what will be my first cup of the day.

Who would have thought that quiet mornings could be so comfortable? I’ve always been a night owl, staying up half the night when I have a project on the go, unwilling to give in to sleep when I’m in a creative mindset.



Since my move I’ve been plagued with back pain and sciatica, which has made standing, and eventually sitting, difficult. I’ve been forced to find the comfort of my bed earlier than was my habit. There is something to that old saying…early to bed, early to rise.

I love being inside, all cozy and snug, nowhere to go and nowhere to be, as I listen to the rain. The gardens need this gentle soaking, more than the occasional harsh downpour we’ve experienced this summer.

It’s been just over two months since I moved, and I’m feeling restless and out of sorts. I think it comes from frustration, from not being able to do the things I want to do.

The gardens were overgrown with weeds, the perennials gone wild. I knew exactly what I wanted to do, but bending and such has been beyond me. At least I have my potted containers at the door, though they have been looking a bit unkempt of late, from neglect I assume.

I did finally get my drapes hung. I love those drapes with their flowered print, and they give the room some warmth and a nice spot of colour. I had yarn, saved from the purge of craft supplies at the other place, and have made myself an afghan in lovely shades of cream and dusty rose.

That handmade afghan, and my paintings on the wall, along with all my bookcases have given the new place a feeling of home, and I am happy here…but….









I think my restlessness comes from not being creative. I have a small worktable but it’s covered with things I need to deal with before the space is free. Drapes I’m not going to use to be returned to my daughter, new knobs for the kitchen cupboards that I need washers for, pots I bought for the window sill that I never got plants to fill, and a few things I need to find spots to store.

This table is my work space for anything other than writing, or the crocheting I can do while sitting comfortable in my chair.

When a friend came by the other day and asked if I could make her sister’s kids a couple of crocheted hats, I jumped at the chance. It only took me that evening and a bit of the next day and the job was complete, so now what?

I need to write, but told myself this summer was all about editing. Well, you know what?

I’m sick to death of editing. I want new characters, new conflicts, new stories, and I’m going to have to wait. NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month is in November. If I plan to participate, and I do, I need to heed the lessons learned from last year.

Last summer, a friend from my writing group who writes fantasy, challenged the group to write a story from a prompt she provided. I managed to complete a short story and found it fun, writing out of my genre. I decided to try a novel that involved altering time. I was about 20,000 words into it at November last year and set it aside to write my NaNo novel.

Needless to say, I’ve never written another word of that story. I don’t want that to happen again, and given everything that’s going on can’t be sure if I start a book now, I’ll complete it by the end of October. So, I’m editing. ****

It’s all Pinterest’s fault. I have boards of art inspiration, zentangle, gifts to make, and knit and crochet. I’m inundated with inspiration and need to pick one project to try. I don’t have the space, or the energy, to have multiple projects in the works at the same time.

I don’t know what I would have done without the blog. It’s provided me with a forum for writing, and an opportunity to be creative. I just hope it’s been entertaining.





I’ve gotten into a schedule of Monday-Wednesday-Friday when my intent in the beginning was to post only on Wednesday. Midweek Musing, should have known I couldn’t leave it at that.

Thanks for being there.

 

Friday, 23 August 2013

Mending, Ripping out and Editing...Birds of a Feather


As I’m sitting here in my comfortable chair, my feet on the ottoman, my laptop resting on my legs, I’m trying to get my head into the editing job I need to complete. I’ve already laid my head back and dozed for a few minutes, so I know the editing is just not going to get done today.





Editing reminds me of equally burdensome chores with other hobbies of mine.









Take sewing. I love the feel of new fabric; it’s so fresh and full of possibilities. It’s fun to plan what I going to sew, and see it to completion. I’ve made quilted doorstops, rag quilts, curtains and probably way too many totes for the kids.

I love sewing, I hate mending. And as much as I hate mending, I hate picking apart seams when I’ve made a mistake and need to start over.

I crochet like a demon, but there are times I need to undo what I’ve done, and go back to the beginning. In crochet there’s one hook, with one stitch on that hook, so ripping out is an easy thing, just a waste of time and effort.

And then there’s knitting. I’m a show don’t tell kind of person, definitely a visual learner. My knitting is self taught, and it’s taken me years to get the hang of it, so long as I keep to the KISS principal, Keep It Simple Stupid.

A few years ago I took on an onerous project. I was going to make everyone in the family a knitted ‘something’ for Christmas. Knitting was more popular with the younger folks who associated crochet with granny wear, and therefore thought it unfashionable.

I found a nice and relatively simple pattern for my daughter, a cardigan with a shawl collar, perfect for a spring or fall day. I bought a heather tone yarn in purple, her favourite colour and started in February, giving myself lots of time to finish before Christmas.

The back was simple, just a matter of reducing stitches on each side for the raglan sleeve. Piece of cake, I thought, wondering why I’d been afraid to tackle a project like this. I even got the one front piece done, which was more of a challenge. I worked the ribbing, started the body, added the pocket and kept the front edge border neat with its different pattern of stitches.

The hard part came when I had to reduce stitches on the arm side, something like one stitch every four rows. At the same time I had to add stitches to the front edge to create the shawl collar, maintaining the pattern of the front border, and do it at a different rate than the raglan sleeve edge.

I like those simple patterns that are increase or decrease at both sides, at the same time. The only way I could manage was to write out the pattern, row by row, and cross it out as I’d completed a row.

Any expert knitter, like my sister-in-law, would laugh at such a thing, but whatever gets the job done I say.

So, I had the back and one front piece completed and was on a roll. On to the other front piece. Buttonholes! What do you mean, buttonholes?

Working from the bottom, ribbing first, then stockinette stitch, keeping the pattern on the front edge, but now I had to allow for evenly spaced buttonholes. Then I came to the part where I had to decrease on the sleeve edge and increase for the collar, and was finally done with the buttonholes.

After that the sleeves were nothing. I had all the sweater pieces finished and sat down to sew it all together, and voila, a sweater that even my fussy daughter would love.

 
As I pulled the leftover yarn from my bag, I found a completed square knit from that same purple. What was this? Oh no, I couldn’t believe it. I laid the completed sweater out on the bed, and realized the piece in my hand was the right side pocket lining. So involved with the buttonholes, I’d omitted the pocket.

 
 
I never did fix the pocket, but gave it to her as is. I didn’t have the heart to rip it all out and do it again, once was enough. She’d never notice, would assume it was just the style. She didn’t sew, crochet or knit, so what did she know?

She loved it, and actually wore it, a sure sign of success. But as I write this I realize the sweater I’m knitting my granddaughter is the first thing I’ve knit in two years. This pattern has straight edges, no raglan sleeves, no buttons and no inset pockets. It’s a pullover, worked in garter stitch with one large hoodie type pocket on the front, applied after the sweater is done.

I guess that knitting nightmare still haunts me. Maybe if I finish this sweater I'll be ready to tackle another knitting project. But not for Christmas, I’ll plan ahead, get a jump on 2014.

I’ve had my break, done some writing, something new and fresh, now back to the damn editing.

If I ever get it done, I’ll celebrate. I’ll have earned it.

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Golf's Tour Championship FORE!


My friends and family just shake their heads when I start to talk about golf, for I am an avid fan.

 
 
My interest came about on Father’s Day, 2008.

I was home watching television, bored, and flicking through the channels when I came upon the final few holes of the US Open. It seemed appropriate to stop and watch the end of the game, as my dad had played and been a fan. He’d been gone twenty years by then, and I watched in his memory, and had my own private Father’s Day celebration.

Rocco Mediate was in the clubhouse, anxiously awaiting the final scores, for the last two players might challenge his lead. Lee Westwood, came away with a par and had to settle for third place. Tiger Woods birdied the last hole, to force an 18 hole playoff with Rocco on Monday.

Tiger Woods had recently had arthroscopic surgery to his left knee. He played in constant pain, for he had two stress fractures in the tibia. There had apparently been speculation throughout the weekend as to whether he would be able to finish out the tournament.

What can I say? I got sucked in by the drama. If Rocco won he would have been the oldest player to win the US Open, so there was a lot of sympathy going his way. But you have to admire the stamina and determination of Tiger Woods.

Unfortunately for Rocco, the two remained tied after 18 holes, and he lost to Tiger in a sudden death playoff. Tiger had further surgery immediately after, and was out of the game for the rest of the year.

I continued to follow golf, but I was just biding my time until Tiger came back. Then I discovered the Fed Ex Cup.

During the regular season, January to August, players can earn points with each event they play. Points are awarded, 500 for a win, 600 if it’s a major, and lesser points on down the ranks. After the final tournament, in August, the Fed Ex points are tallied and the top 125 players are eligible to play in the Fed Ex Cup Playoffs.

A playoff win is worth 2500 points, which are added to the season’s points. There are four playoff tournaments, and the field is reduced after each one. 

The Barclays is the first playoff event, with a field of 125 players, and it starts tomorrow, August 22.

Next is the Deutsch Bank Championship, with the field reduced to the top 100.

The BMW Championship follows, with only 70 players, and at its completion, the top 30 vie for the PGA Tour Championship. The prize to the player with the most Fed Ex points is TEN MILLION DOLLARS. Unbelievable, look at this again, $10,000,000.

This year is the 7th time the tournament has been played, and Tiger’s won it twice, in 2007, and 2009.

The tournament starts tomorrow and I can’t wait. Most of the big name players rested last weekend, for the final tournament is more of a last chance for points, for standing and/or qualification to the final championship.

I love the constant speculation, if So-in-So wins he’d be in first, but if Joe-Blow wins he’ll be in contention. It’s like the round robin tournaments my son played in hockey, you gotta win if you wanna stay in.

I’m still a number one Tiger fan, despite what happened at the end of 2009. He has an incredible talent, and he’s persevered, fighting his way back, suffering through slumps, surgeries and scandal.

Tiger’s had 5 wins this season, alas no major, but in consolation he’s top of the Fed Ex Points Standing, and number one on the money list with earnings over $7,000,000.

I can’t wait to see how the year plays out. Who thought golf could be so exciting?

 

 
 
 

 

 

Monday, 19 August 2013

The Ever Blooming Hibiscus






The occasion was my father’s sixty-fifth birthday. We went from planning his party, to planning his funeral with a suddenness that was shocking.

He started that day as usual, with his coffee, a cigarette and the paper, before he was to meet friends for a game of tennis. He collapsed on the tennis court, and despite every effort, died from a heart attack.

The following morning my brother and I accompanied my mother to make the plans for his funeral. There was a florist shop, very conveniently located on the same block as the funeral home. My mother asked me to see to the flower arrangements and I set off, the responsibility wearing heavy on my heart.

When I saw the orange Tiger Lilies, a favourite of my father’s, I felt they were the perfect choice.

But my mother was an artist, so I couldn’t make the final decision without her approval. I didn’t want her to be further stressed because the selections didn’t suit her sense of colour and balance. She approved all of my decisions, though given her frame of mind that day she might have said OK to dandelions and daisies.

As we were leaving the store she stopped to look at a basket of hibiscus sitting on the floor, her eye drawn to the vibrant red blooms. I motioned my brother ahead and quickly made arrangements to have the basket sent to the house, and signed the card from her children.

That plant meant a lot to her, as it was sent to her specifically, and not directly associated with the funeral. She kept just those blooms; and sent all the funeral flowers to local nursing homes and hospitals.

Months later, Mom planned a trip to Florida. She and my Dad had a home there, close to my grandmother, and there were matters that needed her attention. I was given the responsibility of caring for the hibiscus in her absence.

I have to say, there is absolutely nothing green about my thumb. I had silk plants, and blamed my lack of any real greenery on the cats, not owning up to the fact that I killed every plant I had with the drought/ flood syndrome.

That means I’d forget to water the plant until it was desert dry, and then I’d flood it in an attempt to bring it back to life. The hibiscus died a particularly bloomless death in my care.

Shortly before Mom returned from Florida, I went back to the florist and bought another hibiscus, they all looked the same to me, red blooms and green leaves. I put it in the original basket and proudly, and quickly, returned it to her.

 
The next fall, once again, I was given the care and responsibility of The Hibiscus. No, no, no. Not again. Why did this plant thrive and bloom for my mother, and wither and die for me? OK, regular watering might be a factor, but really, I did water it, occasionally, not regularly, but sometimes.

 
 
 
So, in the spring, I ventured out again, and bought my mother another damn hibiscus. Keeping up the charade that it was the same plant, good daughter that I am, I gave it back to her with grace and good riddance.

That next fall, when she was planning her trip south, I could only shake my head. I might as well have thrown that plant out the minute she’d left; the result would be the same.

We had dinner the night before she was to leave, when she said there was something she needed to talk to me about. She started off with a serious tone, but couldn’t stop herself from laughing. “You don’t have to buy another plant,” she said, “much as I appreciate the thought and effort.”

“You knew it wasn’t the same plant?” I asked.

“Of course, I knew.”

Yes, of course she knew, the way mothers always know.

 

I think of her whenever I see a hibiscus. When I saw one today, it brought back this warm and wonderful memory, that I just had to share.

Love you, Mom.

 

 

Friday, 16 August 2013

Revise, Rewrite, and Reconsider?

copied from Pinterest
 
Revise, rewrite and reconsider…what, throwing everything back in the drawer?
 
How many edits does one book require?
 
It’s very frustrating to think that the edits are endless, ongoing and forever. Just joking. Sort of. Maybe. Not really.
 
My frustration is due to a recent editing binge. My friend, and personal editor, sent back my book with her usual expert edits, and after a day and a half, I finally have the book more reader ready.
 
My friend is very good at picking out my most common mistakes. All I need to see is her note ‘shift in POV’ and I grimace. Again? I’m getting better. I should be, after all she’s pointed it out to me often enough.
 
And then there’s tense. All that past, present, future crap. I play, I played, I will play. Or I write, I wrote, I will write. I screw it up by going I’m writing, I was writing, and maybe on some future day I will write…good, better, best.
 
‘I writ it down’, how’s that for good grammar?
 
Because I’m still in a learning phase, I read books and articles on writing.
 
Writer’s Digest has a newsletter with interesting articles written by their online editor, Brian Klems. A recent article was titled “3 Easy-To-Use Revision Techniques”.
 
Yeah right, Brian. One thing I do agree with is his comment that the “revision process can be brutal”.
 
So here are his revision techniques.
 
Number One: Start on page one.
Follow your story the same way your reader would.
 
Number Two: Circle passive voice words and eliminate.
Passive voice slows down your work and makes it less exciting for the reader.
Words such as was, were, are, is and have been.
 
Number Three: Delete all clich├ęs.
 
So, I took my recently edited book, Number TWO in my roster of books and tried his easy to use number two technique.
 
This is easily done on the computer with that neat little feature called FIND.
You can do FIND, FIND AND REPLACE, or FIND AND GO TO.
 
I used FIND, what?: have been, and checked Highlight all items found in: Main Document. Finally I clicked on Find All and lo and behold, there were 29 places where I used the words ‘have been’.
 
All these have beens are making me feel like a has-been writer.
 
I went back to the book, started at the beginning, and eliminated 22 out of 29 of these phrases. Next time I write, I’m going to do this little exercise chapter by chapter. Maybe I’ll get the hang of it by the end.
 
If you were going to try this with your own writing, have been isn’t a bad start. Don’t go to is, it was a truly horrifying experience. Apparently I used is one thousand, eight hundred and forty times. How can this possibly be?
 
I had to look and see for myself, and was mildly comforted to see that the computer picked up all incidents of i’s and s’s, such as whisper, isolated and television. Phew.
 
I played one more time and did the Find thing with the word was. Now I’m absolutely disheartened. One thousand, two hundred and seventy four times I used the word was, and I didn’t find any words like washed or wasted to make me feel better.
 
Oh well, It’s a learning curve right?
 
 

Thursday, 15 August 2013

To Make You Smile

Borrowed from Pinterest


I once wanted to be known as that crazy old lady with the cats. When I had two, and lost them both within a few years, I had to find something else to be remembered for. Loving and losing them was too painful.










If you love cats as I do, you'll enjoy these pictures, kittens posed with books, another of my favourite things.

I want to celebrate a few sales of my book, Lost in Sorrow. It made me happy so I want to share a couple of photos that may make you happy too.




How can you look at these faces and not smile.

Have a good day.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

The Dreaded "No Signal"

Photo from Pinterest expresses exactly how I feel without my internet.
There has been occasion; with the amount of time I spend on the internet, that I worry I’m addicted. Well, now it’s confirmed, I am truly and without a doubt, hooked on the internet. My modem quit on Saturday night and I have been cut off from the all things internet for almost four days.
 
That’s no internet and no E-mail, and no posting to my blog. To make matters worse, my phone line is connected to my modem, so no telephone. At least my cable worked so I still had television.
 
I felt lost. Since my move I haven’t gotten back into other hobbies, so no painting, knitting or such, and have depended entirely on my laptop for my amusement. And there I was; no Blogger Dashboard, no Pinterest, and no PGA Shot Tracker (that’s a story for another day).
 
Saturday night I did the movie marathon thing, and watched movies on my laptop. Using the laptop prevented me from opening my book for another round of editing. Even dedicated writers need a break.
 
Sunday, while the PGA Championship played in the background (part of that other story), I went back to editing, wanting to correct something I’d dismissed earlier from my friend’s list of comments. Sometimes I’m just too lazy to make that kind of complicated change, or, as I prefer to think of it, I need to let it stew until the solution comes to me.
 
Where I would normally have taken a break, checked my E-mail, scanned Pinterest, I played Solitaire. Finding Spider was not enough of a challenge; I switched to Free Cell and whiled away a number of hours playing games.
 
I had to go out on Sunday, since I had no phone to confirm plans with a friend for Monday. I used her phone to call my service provider and got an electronic message. They gave me something to try, which of course I couldn’t try until later, and when it didn’t work, I was still without a phone to call back.
 
Today I borrowed a neighbour’s phone, called the cable company, and got to speak to a real live person. When she couldn’t reboot, or whatever, from her location, I got the promise of a service call, for that very afternoon. Wow, was I impressed.
 
I was not going to have to drive the streets, searching for a signal or a site with free WIFI in order to complete my post.
 
I feel free, I feel connected, I feel wireless.
 
All is good and right with my world.

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Writing and the Subconscious Mind


I think it’s funny how bits and pieces of my life, my memories, find their way into my writing.
 
In Book ONE, the main character, a young woman alone and feeling lost, finds her grandmother’s cookbook. It was more of a journal, recipes and anecdotes of family events. Memories.

A few years ago I started making scrapbook pages of my favourite recipes. I have the originals, but each of my grandchildren has a copy. There are photos of the kids baking with me, and notes about where a recipe came from, or when it was first served.

Kayla, Tia and Rianna, my baking buddies.
 
All the recipes are in a binder, in protective sleeves, the binder covers done with each child’s name and photo in true scrapbooking style.
 
 
The recipes were about thirty in number when my daughter and daughter-in-law presented me with a make work project.

 
 
 
 
 
 
Two more grandchildren, born a month apart, had me scrambling back to Staples for more binders and a slew of photocopying.
 
I hope, when those kids are grown, they will enjoy the recipes, and remember their grandmother with love. Exactly the feelings my character had reading her grandmother’s journal. 

My father died suddenly in 1988. I think of him often, and have to laugh as memories of him find their way into my books.

Dad’s routine on a Sunday morning was simple, coffee, a cigarette, and the crossword puzzle. He had this small pencil, which he picked up at the golf course for marking his score card, and used it for the crossword.

I wasn’t so fussy, if I saw the unfinished crossword on the table, I’d grab a pen and fill in what I could, often having to scratch over a mistake. Those were tough puzzles.

My dad had a subtle way of telling you what he thought, without making it a big issue. Like when I was a teenager and I experimented with peroxide, leaving my normally dark hair streaked with orange. I didn’t get the expected parental lecture, what I got was a simple question. “How long will it take to grow out?”

So his annoyance, at my taking a pen to his crossword puzzle, was handled the same way. “Some might say it’s a sign of conceit to do a crossword in ink.” I used the pencil after that, but I used one with an eraser on the tip.

Is it any wonder when I had an elderly man and a young woman strike up a friendship, it was forged over filling in a crossword puzzle. I liked this concept so much; I made the crossword an ongoing part of Book FOUR.

My dad was fond of peanut butter, loved it on his toast in the mornings. My mother found a wooden plaque, cut in the shape of a slice of bread, with the following motto. “Man cannot live by bread alone, he must have peanut butter.” I remember it sat on the top of the stove in their place in Florida.

In Book SIX, I wanted two strangers to meet, and strived to make that meeting memorable. The woman is in the grocery store picking up supplies for the cottage, and stops in the aisle with all the peanut butter and jams.

She had recently lost her husband, her grief compounded when she learns he’d been having an affair. She looks at the peanut butter and has a flashback to better times, remembering when her husband gave her that same wooden plaque, a joking reference to her pregnancy craving for peanut butter.

The other character comes upon this teary woman and…well, you’d have to read the book.

What gets me is all these real memories end up in my writing without any plan. I wasn’t writing only to stop and think, what could I use from my life to make this work? After writing those segments, I’d sit back in surprise, shocked that those memories came so fluidly from my subconscious, and worked so well.

Thanks Dad, love you and miss you every day.

 

 

Monday, 5 August 2013

Book Number FOUR, A Human Interest Story


For book number FOUR, I wanted to write something outside the comfort of ‘write what you know. Not that I really know anything about murder, or being jilted, I wanted to write a story with more depth, more emotion…just more.

Something, I thought, about interpersonal relationships, and how the convoluted thinking of one person, can have ramifications for others, for years to come. A human interest story with strong characters the reader could connect with, enough to want to stay with them on their journey of discovery.

By the time I’d completed the first draft, it was more than 400 pages long, double spaced mind you, and over 100,000 words.

The research was intense; the topics personal, thought provoking and, at times, emotionally draining.

One of the problems with research is the potential to get side tracked. Time spent reading articles that may veer off topic, is not really time squandered, for you never know when that information might prove valuable.

It’s like You Tube. Somebody sends you a link to You Tube, and for the next hour you’re watching all these other videos selected from the ever changing side bar. Or Pinterest, that’s just as addictive. But I digress.

For this book my research centred on adoption, and World War II. Two subjects completely outside my personal knowledge or experience.

My focus was on adult adoptees, searching for their birth parents. I found sites that detailed the red tape involved in searching sealed files for adoption information, and support organizations offering aid and advice.

But the stories from adoptees, and birth families, gave a picture of how difficult, and often futile, their searches were, in a way the government rules, regulations and forms could not.

I talked to people with first hand experience in searching for a child given up for adoption. They all felt the same frustration, had all suffered through the ongoing bureaucracy and the endless waiting.

I wanted a character to have a war time experience that fit with my plot, and was at the same time credible and based in truth. I immersed myself in the war, reading books and articles, even watching old war movies.

I had dates of battles fought, the number of troops mobilized and of course, the casualties. All the statistics of war. What brought it all into focus for me was a site I came upon, copies of original letters, written by soldiers while serving overseas. Letters mailed home, reflecting the harsh situations endured, the fear of the unknown, the need to stay connected with loved ones.

Then I found a search site, written by family members who wanted to understand what their father, or grandfather, had endured in the war, what was so horrible they would never, ever, speak of it.

The list was long, details of military history were given, requesting any information about the service of their relative. Most requests were initiated after the Veteran’s death, out of respect for their feelings, I would imagine.

I was moved beyond words, and in those readings I found my fictitious old Vet, my Sam.

I used only a small amount of that research in my book, but all of it gave me a better understanding of my characters, so none of it was a wasted effort. I’ll keep all my notes, all the printouts, along with a list of reference books and sites, for you never know, I might need them again, for some other story.

I gave this manuscript to a friend from my writing group, told her it was too long, and she gave it back to me with pencil notations and a large number of yellow sticky notes for where I could ‘slice and dice’.

I appreciate the effort she went to, believe me, as I have spent the last five days going line by line, looking at her suggestions, making some changes, resisting others, and initiating revisions of my own.

So far, I’ve decreased the word count by almost 5000 words. I bolded sections she suggested could be deleted, sections I was too attached to for now, and will look at the next go round.

I once read a book in which the main character was a published writer. In the book he talked about the status of his novels, at any given time. There was the one he was currently writing, a second he had just finished that was in the edit phase and a third that he had recently published and was doing promotional work for.

Sounds complicated, doesn’t it? If that is a realistic representation of the publishing business, then I don’t feel quite so bad. I’ve been so inundated with editing and preparing to E publish, I haven’t written anything but a few short stories for the year…thus far.

There’s still November, National Novel Writing Month. More familiarly called NaNoWriMo, it’s a challenge to write 50,000 words in 30 days.

I have lots of time to come up with an idea.

 

 

Friday, 2 August 2013

Friends, Both Fictional and Real


When I started my first book four years ago, to say I knew nothing about writing, would be a gross understatement.

I remember sitting in the writing group, hearing the term ‘protagonist’ tossed about, and I had no idea what they were talking about. But I wanted to learn.

I made notes at every meeting. If anyone reading this knows me, they’d be shaking their head and saying ‘of course she made notes’. I wrote down any words I didn’t understand and looked them all up once I was home.

Given this lack of knowledge, what made me think I could write a book? I don’t know, but write a book I did.

I had my brother’s notes from his creative writing course, some ‘how to’ books and a copy of Writer’s Digest magazine. More importantly, I had an idea, and I had the drive, even if I was lacking in experience and confidence.

There was something else I had in my favour, or rather someone, my friend and neighbour. She suffered through the writing of that first book, word for word and page by page, right along side of me.

I wrote the first few chapters, printed them off and gave them to her to read. After, we sat down with a cup of tea and talked about what I had written. This became a routine, the sharing, the discussion, the tea, or sometimes, maybe a glass of wine. She was my sounding board, as she listened to my struggles with plot, characterization et cetera, with unwavering encouragement.

We talked about the process of writing, almost as much as we talked about my story. I was an eager student, wanting to share everything I learned. And she loved education, her career having been spent in the public school system.

Midway through the book, I remember sitting at her place, as we rehashed the new chapters, talking about what Katie, my female 'protagonist', was up to.

I started to laugh. “Look at us,” I said. “We’re sitting here gossiping about this fictional character like she’s someone real, someone we know.”

We were invested in this young woman’s struggle, for she had become very real to us. For me as I wrote, and for her as she read, we were emotionally involved in her life, her heartbreak and her desire to start over, to find her place.

At that point in my life I was also trying to find my place, and needed something, some outlet to keep me busy and challenge my need to be creative.

For more than thirty years, I had been a dedicated nurse. A career I lost, suddenly, due to the worsening of my chronic illness.

Writing became my solace, it filled that void in my life the way nothing else could. As pain and fatigue are with me constantly, writing is something I can do even when I feel at my worst.

I would like to take this opportunity to say thank you, to my friend, Joyce. I don’t know if I would have finished that first book without your support.

That experience was unique, and was not to be repeated. I've gained confidence, and though we still discuss what I’m writing, I only give her a manuscript to read once the first draft is complete. She’s one of my regular readers now, and I prefer to have her feedback after she’s read the book at her own pace, instead of having it doled out in pieces.

She once told me she doesn’t read with the same sense of enjoyment as she did before. She reads with a more critical eye now, looking at the details and how the book has been written.

I think she’s reading more like a writer.