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