Monday, September 6, 2010

Catching Up

Since my husband left once more for Afghanistan, August has been telescoped in to both fast events and the effect of rushing emotions pushing me every which way. In other words, this month has been bizarre! We're now at Labour Day weekend and although the kids and I have been alone for the long weekend we've managed to have fun shopping for school supplies and renting movies to pass the time.

This is my son's graduating year for high school, so two weeks ago we began the daily football practices at 8 a.m. My daughter's shown too great an interest in black and purple eye-make up (curse those YouTube vids given by girls with more time then talent!), so we've been practising make-up lessons every day to bring it down several notches to what mom's comfortable letting her out of the house in.

As far as writing, I've found a fabulous critique partner and she's helping me overhaul my current project while I get the enjoyment of reading her first draft of her current MS.

I'm taking an online course with John Foxjohn, who many of you already now. The course is "Scene and Sequel" and it's a great example of the fact that we can never stop learning our craft. I'm enjoying myself thoroughly!

And, I'm busy reading the six books I bought from Carina Press. These books are helping me get through having to suddenly put down our beloved golden retriever, Tessa. We had no idea she had inoperable cancer until she went in to organ failure. Holding her in my arms while she slipped away was agony. I still feel as though she'll be lying in the hallway when I turn the corner. Sometimes I put down her food bowl to call her for supper, then feel like an idiot when I realize she's never going to have supper again. I'm so glad the kids go back to school tomorrow and will be back with friends who've been away over the summer. (although I'll be searching my daughter's purse for that "midnight plum" eyeshadow! I wouldn't mind it so much, except for the "midnight black" shadow she loves to put around her lids till she looks like a racoon. Curse you, Twilight!)

I know I promised an excerpt from my medieval. Well, I'm re-writing it with the new things I'm learning in John Foxjohn's class, so please stay-tuned! And enjoy the rest of your long weekend. I love the beginning of school days, the crisp air, the new clothes and notebooks. In Canada, I think Autumn is the best season of the year.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

A Review of SEA OF SUSPICION by Toni Anderson

Sea of SuspicionSea of Suspicion by Toni Anderson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Sea of Suspicion

The best thing about this book is not just the well-drawn hero, Det. Insp. Nick Archer, or the heroine, Susie Cooper, a marine biologist, it's the well-drawn setting of St. Andrews, Scotland and the Gatty Marine Lab. It's not often in a romantic suspense you can learn so much about another country, marine biology, and feel you're intensely "in the action".

Toni Anderson has made her setting of St. Andrews the third character in this engaging romantic suspense, her first with Carina Press. I love gothic settings, and while Ms.Anderson might not think she's pegged her setting this way, I found it reminiscent of Mary Stewarts older gothics such as "Wildfire at Midnight".

Secrets, revenge, a sexual attraction that won't be denied, and a dead University student, are a potent mix in this romantic suspense. Nick Archer is flawed, but not broken, and Susie is at odds with her past but proves she has the inner strength to match her hero.

Here is a shortened quote from one of my favourite scenes: their first true interaction with each other:

"Bloody hell." He pulled out a cell phone, adjusting it to read the display in the poor light. Swearing, he looked at her with an apology in his eyes. And regret. Because she was a sure thing. "I've got to go."

...She dashed inside and closed the door. Locked it. He could have her car, no problem. But he couldn't have her. She wanted a relationship, a future, a family. Nick Archer was a lousy bet for anything except orgasms and heartbreak, and not even the orgasms were guaranteed."

If you like dark, edgey, and sexy, this book is for you. I look forward to more from Ms. Anderson, and I'm sure after reading SEA OF SUSPICION, so will you.Toni Anderson

View all my reviews

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Joy of Writer Friends

Today I had lunch with a woman I met through my writer's class last fall. We had a lot to catch up on! If you've read to the end of my blog, you'll notice I've posted several times on the difference between "live" writing friends, and "internet" writing friends. It's great to have both kinds, but nothing takes the place of talking over lunch and discussing your writing projects and everyting writing related. It's easier to learn from each other when you can take some time to get to know the other person and what thrills them in their writing journey.

And I haven't forgotten my excerpt! I'm fine-tuning my opening and strengthening my heroine in a different way then making her the "kick-butt" heroine so in vogue the past couple of years. Elise is strong and determined but I want to go back to being in tune with who and what women in medieval times were like, the roles they played (and yes, some went to war and some defended their castles and estates while their men were absent), and what mattered to them as women. So, the excerpt might not be the opening of the book, but it will be up next week.

In the meantime, here's my "working photo" of Elise to keep me inspired and on track with her personality. I have no idea who the actress is, but I love her "look".

Now, back to revisions!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

July 1st - New Years 2010

Not only is this CANADA DAY in our country, but I'm making it my personal New Years start-over. I've refurbished my site to reflect a new colour palette in my life, new interest in my stories, and a new yearning to obtain my goals. I'm re-working a medieval story that excites me and makes it easy to pound out those daily words. I've fallen in love with history again. I've fallen in love with this man as my hero....
except he's flawed, selfish, driven, and arrogant. He'll be redeemed against the backdrop of the Third Crusade, a fiery crucible of unimagineable horror between the clash of the dark, superstitious Western Europe, and the united tribal warlords of the Arab world.

I hope you'll enjoy the excerpt I'll be posting in a week or two.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Knowing When It's Time To Quit

You’ve slaved over your novel for months, perhaps years. You’ve re-written it, polished it, and your beta readers have thrown in their comments.

What happens when it loses its luster? What happens when you read it and find it flat, boring, repetitious, even pretentious in places?

This commonly happens when you’ve cobbled pieces of your WIP together, re-written your characters so often you don’t recognize them anymore, and forgotten what the theme of your book really was when you began it.

And, you know what? It’s okay to throw it out the window, under the bed, box it up to recycle, or use it for compost.

Just because you’ve invested countless hours, days, and months of writing to a project/manuscript/WIP, doesn’t mean you can’t toss it.

Knowing when to quit and start a new story, that takes courage. Pounding away on a story that’s dead or dying fast is like killing yourself slowly with cigarettes. So, take the Nicotine challenge with your book and quit! You can start again, one word at a time, one page at a time. Your new story will take shape under your fingers and you’ll fast forget the clunker you just rejected. You’ll wonder why you ever spent so much time on it in the first place. And, that’s okay. It was time to quit.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Canada's Olympic Heroine

Joannie Rochette suffered the greatest loss of her life this past week. Her mother died suddenly of a heart attack last Sunday morning, after arriving at the Vancouver Olympic Games to join her daughter and family. There was no warning, no hint of illness, before she arrived. It shocked everyone on Team Canada and skaters from every country.

In her mothers’ honor, Joannie skated in the Short Program Tuesday night, putting her in third place going in to the Long Program last night. She held her focus and concentration under unimaginable stress. No other athlete at these Olympic Games faced such a tragic event so close to their performance. Injuries, squabbles, and politics – all pale in comparison to having to skate shortly after your mothers’ inexplicable death. By all accounts, Joannie was extremely close to her mother. Mme. Rochette would drive hours to Montreal from their home in Ile-Dupas, Quebec, to watch Joannie train. Joannie knew her mother would’ve wanted her to compete, although it would have been so easy to exempt herself from the Games.

Last night, she skated a near perfect performance with only a slight bobble going in to her Triple Lutz. She grabbed the Bronze Medal, finishing only three points behind Mao Asada of Japan, who took the Silver Medal. Her father, Norman Rochette, was in tears in the stands. This was a personal victory of courage and strength. This was a performance in true Olympic spirit – overcoming adversity, pushing herself to her limit, and sacrificing her personal life in order to reach that height of every athletes’ dream: a spot on the Podium. In an interview after her Medal victory, Joannie said, “I felt so much love…to get here for myself, for my country, and for my mother.”

Canada does love you, Joannie. Never doubt it.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Internet Friends and "Live" People

Articles on the value of being in a critique group have been flying around the blogosphere. My critique group sustains me, although they're often too prolific to keep up with! They're the first emails I read with my coffee in the morning. Although none of us have ever met, we chat daily about our lives as well as our WIPs, successes, and failures.

Last Thursday night was the first actual "live" writing course I’ve taken in a long time. I've taken many online courses over the years, and even taught one myself, but it's been years since I sat down with a bona fide writing teacher and class of students, all clutching their binders, notebooks, and water bottles. One man only used pencils and had a large bunch of them secured with a heavy elastic. One woman was colour-coordinated with a huge purple water bottle, purple notebook, and purple pencil case. Purple is actually my favourite colour but it's never occurred to me to fashion coordinate my writing tools. I started to wonder if years of sitting behind a computer monitor has been stifling my creativity. Maybe I should start writing long hand in green ink?

The teacher actually made us write for two hours. It was fabulous. I haven't written exercises for two hours straight for years. She made us write with our eyes shut so we couldn't see the words forming long hand on our pages. This was to help "shut off the inner editor" and I highly recommend it if you're having problems in that area. Even shutting your eyes while typing on the keyboard frees up your mind. (I know, I tried it when I got home) She gave us homework - ack! I hadn't expected that, and I was turning my weeks schedule over in my mind as I packed up my gear. I'm behind on crits for my group, behind on my volunteer work for my writing chapter, behind on my contest entry, behind on my WIP, and she wants homework?? I shuddered as I got in to my truck to head home.

This morning, instead of doing my homework, I headed to the library for my first visit with the local County Writers Group. They were warm and welcoming, but my first reaction - as horrible as it sounds - was that they were all senior citizens. I'm just past the glow of my 50th birthday and refuse to give in to thinking of myself as "middle-aged". When you hit these age milestones it definitely makes you take stock of your life and where you're at with your goals. I was the youngest one there and felt as out of place as a runway model at a Weight Watchers meeting. My reaction was shot down, however, when they began reading their "homework" from last month - most were witty, had double entendres (especially the men!), and colourful.

They have a network already set up for contests, submission calls, and short story publishers. The only ripple came when we were talking about marketing opportunities and I mentioned blogs. They all looked at me as though I'd turned in to a blue Na'vi from Avatar. I had to explain the concept to them, falling over my words, and vowing inside I will never age without being on the cusp of technology and what's going on in the world.

There's a lot to be said for making friends with "real" people who can support you in your writing. I live in a small town (the military Base practically IS this town) and had despaired when we moved here of finding even one person who actually wrote - anything. I've relied totally for the past year on my Internet friends and wonderful critique group for encouragement and support. Thinking back on the past week and my return to "live" groups of writers, I'd have to say the two styles go hand in hand. The "live" ones will force me to do homework and come up with something every week, and once a month. My critique partners will force me to look at my WIP and make it better. And better. And hopefully, better still.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Writing Prompts

I came across a unique writing prompt that challenged me to compose something short and to the point. I hope you enjoy it!

You return home to find a “Dear John” letter, only it’s from a piece of your furniture.

I came in from work and kicked off my shoes at the door. Picking up the mail, I headed to the living room to flop on the couch. I’d only gone three feet when the bright blue background of my 52” TV greeted me. Not only was the TV on, a printed email was displayed in capital letters. In complete shock I read:

“Dear Laurie,
I have had it with our constant fights and your attitude that I am not even part of this family, when I’ve done everything I can to be part of your lives. I know your husband bought me over your extremely vocal objections. ‘It’ll be the end of our family time,’ you cried, ‘we hardly spend enough time playing REAL games as it is!’ You have taken every opportunity to disparage my extra features – such as downloading free game demos and movie trailers. You harp on and on about the hours your husband and children spend playing Batman, UP, and Call of Duty. And yet, it gives you so much more time for your WRITING, something you claim you don’t get enough of - how can I be such a constant irritant when I am actually helping you achieve your golden dream?
I have tried to encourage you to try and play a video game on me. You gave up in frustration because you cannot seem to work my controllers and your hand-eye coordination stinks. Have you ever wondered how your children can be so adept and challenged by these same games? It is called practice…practice, practice, practice!
I simply can’t take your continual whining and stony-eyed stares at your husband when he brings home yet another $70.00 game to while away his hours while you’re bent over your keyboard. At least his pastime brings immediate gratification! Can you say the same about your writing? All this time and you are still not published, and yet evening after evening I’ve given you hours of free time.
As you are completely ungrateful for my years of service to this family, I have decided to move on to the single guy down the street who has been lusting after me ever since your husband had him over for a few beers. Good luck with the children – I can’t imagine they’ll be very impressed with you. Have fun trying to replace their addiction to my heart-warming welcome when they come home from school and decompress in front of the TV with me. As for your husband, you will be back to his continuous pleas that you spend every night watching CSI re-runs. Have fun getting your extra writing time in then!"

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Post Valentines' Day

There was a year when we were first married where my husband forgot Valentines Day. Literally. In spite of being in the malls nearly every day for lunch, he missed the huge card signs, chocolate displays, 40% off Sales on name it, he missed it! I was (innocent bride that I was) crushed. Where did my romantic, chivalrous, dating guy disappear to?

Fast forward about twenty years. Not only is he far away in another country, but he had a huge bouquet of flowers, with a single red rose in the middle, delivered right on time. In fact, I've had four huge bouquets of flowers over the past six months, but the fact he remembered Valentines Day made that one red rose all the sweeter.

Did he grow up? Did I? Is the hype about "having" someone to share Valentines Day really just rampant commercialism? Well, yes, and yes. And a big "yes" to the hype. I spent many a Valentines Day alone before I met my husband. It never bothered me back then.

Would our relationship survive without flowers from across the ocean? Yes, but it's true that it's the thought that counts. Cliched, but true. Somehow over the years, he shifted his focus to what matters to me - some personal attention during a stressful time. Which explains his "care packages". Giving your mate some personal attention pays off in big dividends - beyond just one night of dinner and roses.

I say Valentines Day is just an annual reminder of that fact!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Murder Among Us

Today a top military officer was charged with two first degree counts of murder, two counts of break and enter, two counts of forcible confinement, and two counts of sexual assualt. The murder charges were for two women who died in November 09 and January 10. The other two women suffered horribly but were left alive.

We write murder mysteries, suspense thrillers containing murder - we devote a lot of time to researching forensics. It's still a shock to find it actually happens in real life, and to people you know. I feel deeply for the families of all involved. It will take years to overcome what this man allegedly did - although with three police departments on a Joint Task Force and a Crown Attorney agreeing to prosecute, it seems to be a pretty tight case.

To Marie-France and Jessica - Rest In Peace. He'll never take another life again.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

The Great eReader Debate

You've all doubtless been reading the over-whelming articles on the launch of the iPAD, what it means, and what it doesn't mean, the MacMillan and scrimish this past's almost as overdone as the The Tonight Show shark scrimmage a few weeks ago. I won't bore you by throwing out links to blogs and articles you've already read.

However, here's a thought for all our publishers, online and offline retailers, and makers of Kindle, iPAD, and the Sony eREADER: get with your demographic and you'll find everything falls in to place! The industrys already tried to hit up commuters, agents, publishers, and reading afficionados who want their entire library held in their hand.

This is just my opinion, but they're all missing a huge target market, which would resolve the "what format are we using?" and "what the heck's DMR anyway"? questions.

We're still in the throes of the TWILIGHT SAGA phenomenon. Until publishers and eREADER manufacturers wake up and target the YA audience, we're all going to be fishing around for formats for years. High school and college students are the ones with their technology attached to their fingertips, quite literally. What if eREADERS became the latest gadget teens HAD to have? They'd be able to toss them in their bags along with their phones and if the content was accessible enough they'd have their full years worth of English texts on their iREADER. Plus Twilight, and whatever new teen phenomenom shows up. The payoff? YA authors would be in ecstasy,and publishers could quit squabbling over prices because the teen and college market would be grabbing up everything they could download. Remember the beginning of iTUNES? I rest my case!

Reading would be "cool" again, as teens everywhere competed to have the latest book on their eREADER. They might even expand their sights beyond the "have to" reads for school, and delve in to literature that broadens their outlook on the "printed" word. Schools could insist on students subscribing to national and international newspapers as part of their studies. The possibilities are endless.

A YA eREADER targeted at this new generation (and I'm including all my nieces and nephews from grade 9 to university) would be the best leg up the publishing world could have right now. Make it snazzy, colour it up with neon covers, throw in some cool Apps, and see what happens. I'd bet next Christmas would be very merry for parents who're praying their offspring could learn something else at school besides how to hide their cell phones from their teachers so they can text that gorgeous girl in the third row.

Hello, Mr. Jobs? Methinks you missed the boat on this one. I'm just saying

Friday, January 29, 2010

Pump Up Your Creativity With Water!

How are you doing with your New Year’s Resolutions? Personally, I haven’t been near the gym all month, although I have bought a couple of Dance and Yoga DVD’s which are proving to be just as effective for my exercise resolution.

My resolution to drink more water and less coffee, tea, and soda has improved considerably. We all hear or read about the health benefits of drinking more water, but do we really do it? If you’re trying to lose weight then drinking water is important not only for proper digestion but to prevent over-eating. The body sends messages to the brain to tell it how hungry or thirsty you are, and if you don’t connect the dots and drink enough water, you may eat more to satisfy your body’s urge for water.

Most of us spend hours in front of the computer and we all have our favorite comfort foods and drinks. However, drinking water affects your brain so much it could just boost your creativity and ability to stay writing longer and more productively than grabbing another can of Diet Coke.

Why water?

“Water comprises more of the brain (with estimates of 90%) than any other organ of the body, with muscles next at 75%, and then kidneys. Under normal conditions, it is recommended a person drink 1/3 oz. of water per pound of body weight each day, with that amount doubled or tripled in times of stress”.

From “Smart Moves” by Carla Hannaford, Ph.D, Neurophysiologist

“Water is the single most important nutrient for your body. Your body loses about two quarts of water every day through perspiration, urination, and exhalation. Instead of reaching for your soda, drink pure water throughout the day.”
From “Health Coach Training”

Maintaining a healthy balance of water will ensure our brain is functioning at its optimal level of performance. Dehydration can lead to headaches and long-term neural damage sustained from elevated stress hormones. However, drinking too much water can also lead to “water intoxication”, where the body is flooded with too much water and organs start to shut down. This can lead to death and isn’t something to fool around with, however, more people are dehydrated then will ever end up in the Emergency Department with water intoxication.

Drinking water at room temperature will encourage you to drink more than if you keep your water cold in the fridge. It goes down easier and you will find it’s nicer to sip it at your computer than an ice cold Coke out of the fridge.

When I was a police officer, I had the opportunity to attend the autopsy of a murder victim. It was fascinating to see what a real brain looked like – weighing approximately three pounds, with the power to direct our bodies’ language, thought processes, emotions, and learning ability. The brain is a complex and fascinating machine, allowing us to dream up our stories, characters, and fantasies, which we bring to the written page.

If something so simple as drinking enough water every day can help us do that, shouldn’t we all have that bottle of water sitting at our elbow as we write?
What is your experience with various drinks affecting your writing? I'm open to new ideas!