Tuesday, 30 June 2015

International Connections

I had a couple of international pen pals when I was growing up...from Germany and Mexico. I never met these people, but made a connection with them through the Girl Guide and Boy Scout Organizations. Given that this was a good number of years ago, we corresponded by ‘snail mail.’

Young people today can communicate so easily, where in my day, in addition to walking all those miles in the snow to school, we had to make the time and effort, (and bear the cost) of writing and mailing letters. To keep the postage down we used a special air mail paper. Blue in colour, it was thinner, therefore lighter than regular paper and some even allowed you to write a one page letter that folded to create its own envelope.

It was so exciting to find one of those blue envelopes in my mail.

When I got involved in all this internet and E-mail technology, I really wanted new pen pals; and hoped to make friends with people that lived in all different corners of the world. But it didn’t happen.

One of the things I liked about Austin Briggs and his 55 Word Story Challenge is that a large number of the people submitting to it were the same each month, and we corresponded, in our way, through the Comments section. And it was a very international group as Austin was based in Europe.

From the beginning, when I started this blog, one of the aspects that fascinated me the most was the international scope of it. Every day I check the world map on the Blogger Dashboard to see where my readers live.

So many countries represented, and it makes me wonder. Who are you? Where do you live? What is your occupation? I would love to know all about you.

This month, on three different occasions, I offered free books, copies of my E-PUB novels. I was excited to see readers from seven countries took advantage of this offer. European countries like the UK and Spain, not far from there was Denmark. Across the other side of the world there was Japan and Australia. The bulk of the readers were from the United States, and then Canada.
Thanks for all the support, with the blog, with the free books. If you wanted, feel free to drop me a line using the Comments section, I’d love to know where you live. If not, I’ll keep checking the map and live in wonder.

Friday, 26 June 2015

It's All Connie's Fault

Connie, Connie, Connie, what have you done to me?

I had lunch with my friend, Connie, last week. As she’s a fellow writer, we bounce story ideas off each other, share the woes when are stories go cold and basically share our experiences trying to put words to paper (old fashioned concept, I know).

I started a new book last January, and it went cold on me, dead and buried cold, for months. Actually the story was still there, but I was struggling to get it out of my brain and into something concrete.

Just before our lunch, I began working at it again. But, I didn’t have the story line well thought out, didn’t know what the end game would be. Not my usual approach to writing.

I thought the story was about a woman struggling to find her way after a terrible accident. I planned that she would meet a child that gave her back her love of life, etc. But was that enough?

My friend suggested a romantic interest. Everybody loves a Happy Ever After kind of story. But I was almost 20,000 words in, and the unwritten rule for romances is that the lead characters should meet, and the groundwork laid for the romance, by page ten. Oops.

I thought about it for a few days. The romantic lead she had suggested was another character’s brother, and I saw that could work, with some changes and major adjustments.

I made a copy of what I had written, and went back to the beginning. I introduced the brother’s character and have spent days and days, writing, rewriting, doing some cut and paste, some delete. I have played and played with what was and have now reached a point of going forward, with  28,695 words written.

This was hard work, and a real challenge. But, I think it might have been simpler to start over at the beginning, but what a waste not to use what I’d already created.

The brother’s name is Luke. Thanks Connie, for bringing this tall dark and handsome man into my life.

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Hey, I Got No Bananas

I saw a video on a friend’s Facebook page that showed a very ripe banana and then a spider erupted from the peel. I hate spiders, and shock, fear and worry, have three bananas ripening on the counter.


The first day I opened the peel with a great deal of caution, ready to kill whatever might pop out.

Then I was reading Alex Kava’s new book, Ryder Creed, and lo and behold, there was a scene about a tiny spider web found on...you got it...a banana. Out of this web came hundreds of white poisonous spiders. I tell you, I’ve kept a close watch on that yellow fruit on the counter.

So now I’m left with two very ripe bananas, because...you got it...I’m afraid of what might pop out. When I decided to write about this I went to the internet to get the video. After all, why should I be the only one with a banana phobia?

Watch the video, it has a surprise ending. Not to give it away, but today I’m making banana muffins with the last of my bunch.

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Growing Up

Yesterday was a day for primping, in preparation for a night of celebration. My granddaughter’s Grade 8 graduation.

Fancy dress, high heels, make up and a fussy hair dos, what girl doesn’t like a dress-up night when she can feel like a princess?

It’s a time of transition, and next year there will be new challenges as she moves into a new phase of her life.
It’s a happy time, and yet it’s also sad. There is still so much of the little girl I know and love inside of her, and now she’ll be facing more adult responsibilities and situations, be making decisions that will affect the rest of her life.

Oh, how we wish we could keep them young and innocent for just a little bit longer, keep them safe, keep them home. Is she ready for this adult world, and just as worrisome...are we ever ready for our little girls to grow up?

Monday, 22 June 2015

Velma's Ailing

Let me start off by saying...Velma is my car, not a person who may have caused some concern when I say she’s ailing.

Two years ago Velma and I went through a rough winter. She was a cantankerous old soul and became unreliable, wouldn’t start her engine in cold weather and threatened to leave me stranded.

I bribed her with a new battery and we were good buddies after that, or so I thought. Last winter she decided I didn’t need to see through the windshield in bad weather, like snow and rain. She just needed another token of my affection and I had her Uncle Brad outfit her with a whole new windshield wiper motor and assembly (not sure if that’s what it’s called but it sounds good).

Some people, my kids who will remain nameless, think I hear car noises, that I’m always suspecting something is wrong. This time I was right.

Velma had developed a bit of a...squeak or a hum, not a thump, not a knock. It happened at different times so as to confuse me, and of course make others doubt my word. I was told the noise could be from moisture that collects, somewhere, someplace, and since I don’t drive the car on a daily basis, sometimes not even on a weekly basis, that moisture can accumulate and cause that noise.

Well, I like to think that Velma and I have reached a better level of understanding than that. I don’t think she’d worry me over a bit of accumulated moisture. She was telling me something and I was ignoring her.

So, on Saturday when I went out, she threw what I would say was the equivalent to a toddler having a very public tantrum. There was a truck in the court for a neighbour moving out, her family and friends standing around, other neighbours out visiting and working in their gardens, so...an audience...and Velma had her tantrum of noise for everybody to hear
I got the message, Velma. Are you happy now? My son drove her out to Uncle Brad’s and he gave her a quick check up. Apparently she has a hole in her whatchamacallit or was it a thingiedoodle? Whatever, he’s ordered her a new one.

I’m so sorry, Sweetie, I’ll listen to you better next time. And shame on all the doubters out there, those naysayers who didn’t believe. We old girls have to hang together, getting old and worn with rusty parts is one of the downfalls of aging. 

Saturday, 20 June 2015

Attending to Business...Free Book Offer

It is one thing to be creative and spend time writing, painting or whatever, it’s another to treat that creative endeavour like a business.

There is so much non-creative work involved in being successful. I read an article in the newspaper about a woman who took up painting after she quit work and she made a supreme effort sending her work to galleries, entering art shows and so on. And it paid off for her.

A different way of managing one’s work than anything I’ve ever done. I have only entered the annual juried show in the local gallery, and it’s a point of pride for me that my work was never declined. Most of my artwork is packed away in a box, what I haven’t given away.

When I turned to writing I laughed because if I was going to amass a collection of words, it was easier to store...a flash drive takes up so much less room.

But I needed that ‘art show’ feeling of accomplishment and turned to self publishing. I wrote a book, polished it through a series of edits, got my talented brother to do the cover and published it on Amazon for Kindle readers. There, a project completed from start to finish.

I now have four books written and put out there for Kindle readers. It’s a risk, as anyone could leave a review, good or bad. But at this stage in my life I need to feel productive. It was worth the risk.

But the business end, promoting the books, promoting myself is difficult. I took the easy way out and in one day of seeing to the business of writing, set up a schedule where I offered books for free. But I forgot to note the dates on my calendar.

So it was with great surprise when I saw today that 68 copies of my book Left in Sorrow had been ordered during a free give away. The free books are still available today and tomorrow, so here’s the link if you’re interested.

It’s such a thrill, (am I naive or what?), to think that that many people are reading my work. And all those copies out there with no effort on my part. It’s exciting, but I did follow up with some notes on social media, and the future give away dates are noted in my calendar.

Friday, 19 June 2015

No Sense, No Feeling

I just spent a few minutes sitting out in the bright morning sun, enjoying my first coffee of the day. I like to listen to the sounds of the neighbourhood, the birds, and the people. For some its work related, as repairs continue across the street, and for others it’s ‘across the back fence’ chatter.

I noticed when I got out of the shower this morning that I had a number of bruises. One I know I got when I miss stepped and banged my knee on the wooden bed frame, the other I have no idea.

It’s a family thing, passed down from father to daughter, and probably to son, this unknown origin of pain, bruises and sometimes blood. My Dad was famous for it.

I remember he came in the house one day and had blood dripping down his face from a cut on his head. When Mom commented on it, he had no idea he was bleeding, but apparently he’d hit his head on something. I’m thinking it was the garage door, but I could be wrong.

I can understand that he might have been oblivious to an injury; the man had an incredibly high tolerance for pain. He told me he had had his tonsils out, at home, with no anesthesia. He once played football with a dislocated shoulder. He didn’t have freezing with dental work.

There were two shoe related stories. In one he had bought a new pair of shoes but found one was not very comfortable, the fit a bit too tight. On further investigation, he had not removed the paper wad in the toe of the shoe.

There’s another story, which my brother knows better, but I’ll try and get it right. I think father and son were going golfing, and the Dad was limping, complaining of his shoe hurting. On investigation he found he played with a golfer’s tee in his shoe, where it had fallen from his pocket or bag.

Dad, Dad, Dad, so many stories. Thinking of you this week, Happy Birthday and a Happy Father’s Day, love you and miss you always.

Friday, 12 June 2015

Continuing on a Car Theme

Many years ago, when my daughter was a teenager, I got the phone call all parents dread. At least my call came from my daughter, and not the police, so I knew immediately she was uninjured. “Mom. I’ve had an accident.”

She and four or five of her friends were out in my car, one that was too small for that many passengers. She turned left, took the turn too fast and ended up driving across the front yard of the first house.(It was mid afternoon, and those passengers should have been in class, but that’s a whole other story, I digress.)

To make a long story short, the kids were okay; but my car was a write off because my darling daughter drove over a tree, ripping up the yard and the undercarriage of my car. One of the neighbours, trying to add a light note, thanked her because the tree was ugly and needed to be removed. I think that ugly tree was a blessing because a bigger healthier tree may not have let those girls walk away unscathed.

At any rate, I ended up with a cheque in my pocket and went car shopping. The first thing I realized was that male salespersons did not take a woman seriously. I had one guy who tried to unload a pink mustang on me, and my son quickly stepped in and vetoed that purchase.

I remember having a little meltdown in the 4th or 5th dealership. “I have a cheque in my pocket. Why will no one take me seriously?” Remember this was twenty years ago, and hopefully things have changed. My bias, not so much. I still prefer dealing with female sales people.

But then I did something stupid, and most likely earned the reputation women might have had for not knowing how to intelligently buy a car. I bought a car because I liked the colour...purple. Not as ridiculous as that might sound, it was a very nice 4 door Sunfire, a perfect car for city driving and a single Mom with two kids.

And purple was my daughter’s favourite colour. 

Thursday, 11 June 2015

I Don't Know Cars

I watch a lot of police shows on television. There’s a common theme amongst witnesses when questioned about vehicles associated with a crime. “I don’t know cars.”

They might say the car was dark, maybe black, or maybe blue, might even have been green. And as for the model, they never know. I would be that kind of witness. There are very few cars I recognize by shape or style, and even if I see the distinctive logo, I would not be able to say what the vehicle was beyond sedan, truck or maybe SUV.

So when I’m writing and I need a car for my character, I’m always stuck. I end up going to the internet, or I borrow cars from friends.

For my current book, my character has suffered through some tragic events and is slowly getting back on her feet. She has a cheque from the insurance company and needs to buy herself a replacement car. Thing is, she’s never actually bought a car; it was always something her husband selected for her.

I decided her friend, fictionally speaking, drove a RAV4, and as my character liked it, that’s the car she decided to go with.

I didn’t pull that particular car out of a hat, but went with a tried and true method. I copied what other people have done. My brother just purchased a RAV4, and if it was good enough for him, it’s good enough for my character.

Only in my book, sorry Bro, there were no recall notices.

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Remember "On Golden Pond"?


Do you remember that old movie...On Golden Pond...starring Henry Fonda, Katherine Hepburn and Jane Fonda? It’s the story of an older couple dealing with the husband’s increasing dementia and his estranged relationship with their daughter.

I saw this movie in the theatre, and have purposefully never watched it again. This avoidance has its roots in the upsetting experience I had in the theatre, with the audience. I’ve never thought about it much...until what bothered me in the theatre was almost acted out in real life.

I found the movie very endearing, liked the relationship between these two old people who had been married for so many years. Their playful bickering reminded me of my own grandparents, who were married more than sixty years.

It was one very dramatic scene that upset me, well, not the scene itself but the audience’s response. The old man goes for a walk and gets lost in the woods surrounding the cottage where they have spent years of their time.

I have to go by old memories here and may not be accurate, so forgive me if I don’t relate the movie as it really is. As I remember it, the old man is in the woods, spinning around, lost because nothing looks familiar anymore and he’s frightened and unsure.

What upset me was that I was so emotionally moved with this man’s plight that I was crying...and the audience was laughing. I couldn’t believe the group of people sitting around me could be so unaffected by this scene. (I will admit that in all my years of nursing I have cared for a number of demented patients, whether the cause be Alzheimers, stroke, or any number of diseases that affect the brain, and so may have had more personal experience than most.)

Last week a friend of mine had a brain fog experience, not as dramatic as the movie, but still very upsetting. She was coming over for coffee, and was bringing some mail that had been delivered to my old address.

I was waiting, and got a sudden phone call. “Are you alright?” she asked. I was surprised because I had spoken to her earlier, but then she did know I’d been sick.

“I’m fine. Why” I asked. And then she tells me that she had been knocking on my door and no one answered, so she’d called to check. But I had been sitting here, in full view of my door and no one had been here.

It was a bad moment, because she had to realize she had been to the wrong unit, and that a place as familiar to her as my place should have been...was suddenly not familiar at all.

I watched her park, walk toward my unit, and then keep right on walking. I went out and called to her, and in my mind she still looked confused, a bit lost. She tried to cover it up, and we walked to that other unit, picked up the mail that she had left at the door, and made light of the whole thing.

But I know she’s been avoiding me, because I was witness to this ‘lapse’. We all have moments of forgetfulness, like losing our keys or missing an appointment etc., but it is hard when these episodes occur with an increasing frequency. Losing your memory, your awareness of self, recognizing it as it happens can be devastating.

I feel for my friend, and worry because this is just a small sign of what is to come.

Getting old sucks, big time.

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Fairies in the Garden

Fairy door in a stump.

Fairy houses made from terra cotta pots.

I would love to have a fairy garden, complete with fairy houses. I’d seen them done using old stumps and when they cut the tree down beside my sidewalk, I saw a large fairy house in my future. Unfortunately, part 2 of the tree cutting was the stump removal. Oh well.

Last summer I found a fairy door, but then I lost my tree. It has a hangar on the back and I was thinking of hanging it on the narrow section of wall beside my front door. A bit of whimsy, a surprise for visitors.

Now that summer is almost here my mind turns to garden art. I’ve found some great looking fairy houses and just might start a village. 

Wouldn’t you love to see some of these houses in your garden?