Friday, June 22, 2012

How Does Your Birth Order Affect Your Writing?

What I'm Reading: "The First Born Advantage; Making Your Birth Order Work for You" by Dr. Kevin Leman
ISBN 978-0-8007-1911-1

An excerpt from the beginning of the book:

"Guess the Firstborn - I'll give you a pair of names, and you pick the firstborn in each pair.

  1. Jennifer Aniston or Courtney Cox Arquette
  2. Harrison Ford or Martin Short
  3. Ulysses S. Grant or Robert E. Lee
  4. Ellen DeGeneres or Oprah Winfrey
  5. Bill Cosby or Chevy Chase

If you guessed Aniston, Ford, Grant, Winfrey, and Cosby, you're right. (Ulysses S. Grant not only helped win the Civil War, but he was the only general ever to get his likeness on a fifty-dollar bill."

If you're a firstborn (as I am), you're an achiever. A goal-setter, and a "can-do" personality. A firstborn, according to Dr. Leman, are "...the ones continually striving to better themselves. The ones always looking for more ways for the company to be efficient and make a greater profit. The ones constantly analyzing and searching to make sense of things. They're the movers and shakers, the ones who end up as the top managers and CEO's."   Pg. 61

This would be my husband to a "T" - he's also a firstborn, married to a firstborn, so there's often been fireworks as we've struggled to work out who does what, when, and how. Still, we're coming up on our Silver Anniversary, so things have obviously worked out!

As a writer, what does this mean if you're a firstborn? Well, I recognized all my strengths and weaknesses in this book. Do any of these sound familiar?

  1. You're a natural leader. You were born to start things - for example, I helped get a Youth Crisis Shelter operational and it's still going strong 22 years later - and you love to be in charge.
  2. You're typically well-organized. If you're not, you're likely a "discouraged perfectionist" according to Dr. Leman and I'll talk about that in a minute.
  3. You're reliable - you'll move heaven and earth to get your edits done on time.
  4. You're conscientious.
  5. You're a natural list-maker - think about all those notebooks you've got on the go, how many are lists or partial lists of ideas, characters, research?
  6. You're a creature of habit. Can't put a sentence together till after your third cup of coffee? Need your purple pen and paper to get down the first draft? You're a firstborn!
  7. You're a pursuer of excellence - often to your own detriment. This comes together with being a perfectionist.

Ah, yes, we perfectionists! How I recognized myself here! That nasty Inner Critic who tells you everything you spent the past couple of months writing is utter crap? Re-writing the same novel 4 to 5 times without improving it, just spinning your wheels? Pull up a chair,grab some purple paper, and we can commisserate with each other over that Starbucks coffee!

Being a firstborn, a perfectionist, and a writer may mean paying attention to NOT saying "yes" the second an editor or your agent asks you to take on another project. Take a day or so to think it through. Is it realistic, given your other responsibilities? Can you really make the deadline or will you drive yourself and everyone else crazy trying to do too much?

If you're a "discouraged perfectionist" then you've grown up under a critical parent (one or both) who managed to teach you that nothing you ever did was good enough for them. They may have been jealous of your skills or competitive with you over university or work. Even parents who say they want to give their children everything they didn't have, can fall in to this trap. So, if nothing was ever good enough (in my family, my mother awarded each child with $1 for every A we got on our report cards. There was nothing given for even a B+), then you need to get out of that mind-set and teach yourself what realistic goals mean for you.

It also may mean that you're not the true expert on your writing or the direction your career is going in. You need advice from a range of people who can be pulled in to a support team. Writing friends? A critique group? Your editor or agent, or someone you met at a conference? They may all be able to see the "big picture" better then you can. Learn to give up some control and let others give you advice. You can take it or leave it, but just the act of listening and considering what others tell you can make you grow in a new direction.

Writing isn't just a solitary occupation anymore. Social media, networking, friends in any guise, all take up our time and are important. Why? Because without real relationships with real people, our writing is just for our own entertainment. We need other people to feed our imaginations, bolster our confidence, help us take that next step. We need friends to root for, and who will root for us. We need to treat our readers the right way to keep them coming back for that next book, novella, or article.

If you're a firstborn writer you may have already conquered the NYT Bestsellers List, received a RITA, a McCavity, or other award, or have over 10,000 friends on Twitter. This is all wonderful! You have new goals to set for yourself. Learning how your birth order as a firstborn has helped you in your career is an eye-opener. For the rest of us, keep using your strengths and make all the lists you need to get to where you want to be!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

I'm Really Not AWOL, or trying to be a "Frankenfriend" a la Kristen Lamb's delicious blog....

What I'm reading - The Midwife of Venice by Roberta Rich

If you want to learn about social media and how to build your platform as an author, you need to check out   KRISTEN LAMB'S BLOG. Yesterday, she had a superb post on how NOT to be a "Frankenfriend or Zombie Twitterer". Which is what I've been, unfortunately, but again - I have a good excuse???

May 7th I was invigorated, happier then a clam, and buying dirt. yes, dirt, at the Garden Center of a shall-remain-unnamed-huge-retailer. And what did I manage to do? I ran my cart up the ramp to the Center, deciding in my free-as-a-bird judgement that it would be OK to walk through a puddle on the ramp.

Couldn't have been more wrong. The cart wheels hit a hidden 1.5" rise of pavement and the sudden stop hurled me, literally, over the cart and on to the pavement where I managed to smack my skull not once, but twice, coming to rest on my opposite side and lying in said puddle.

All of which led to an ambulance taking my to hospital, getting checked out and being told I had a concussion, yada, yada, yada. None of which has anything to do with writing, or being a "Frankenfriend" - by which Kristen means someone who blogs once in a blue moon, or only snags your attention when they want to sell their book, etc. Seriously, go back to that link and check it out! I was ashamed of myself for being a Zombie-Twitterer!

In my defense, my doctor told me my concussion was severe enough to warrant NO reading of any kind, NO computer work, NO television (that was hard!), NO driving (I was recently upgraded to driving around locally), NO puzzles, Sudoku, crafting (impossible!), or thinking of ANY kind. Yes, he actually said that - no thinking of any kind. I had to completely rest my brain and let it heal. My husband even took my Blackberry away for a bit, as I couldn't go cold turkey and stop texting friends.

I still have some memory issues but the concussion headache is gone and I'm here to celebrate! Having been in pain since May 7th, it is a great relief to be off the Advil and painkillers, and back on the computer again. 

I've shelved the WIP I was working through because it all looks like bunk to me now - but that may be the concussion talking so I'm going to put it away and reserve judgement for awhile. Meanwhile, I've started researching for another story and am happy to be back in cyber-space and sharing with my friends again!

Monday, March 19, 2012


I realize I've been MIA for nearly a month but I do have an excuse - if there are any for not blogging regularly! - I've been diagnosed with severe sleep apnea. And not just severe sleep apnea - the sleep doctor figures I've had it most of my life, probably since childhood, and have been "averaging" about 2 to 3 hours of sleep a night. I don't need to tell you how much that can mess up your life!

Everyone stops breathing in their sleep two, three, maybe five times an hour. Your brain sends your lungs the message to start up again, and voila! You shudder, gasp, or snort, and breathe again, with you none the wiser. To stop breathing five to twenty times an hour is moderate sleep apnea. Anything over thirty times an hour is severe: my average? Seventy to eighty times an hour. That's right - I've only been hitting stage one sleep, never stage two, and only got in 40 minutes of REM in 5.5 hrs. of sleep at the sleep lab.

The results? For the past five years I've been afraid that my memory's been "going", I've had an angina heart attack, I've struggled with putting words together on the page, and I've suffered from nearly constant migraines. I've been waking up with a constant headache even if I don't have a migraine. I've gained weight even though I've tried Weight Watchers twice and followed the program.

People with sleep apnea are at great risk for heart attacks and strokes. I can't emphasize this enough because until I was diagnosed I had no idea that sleep apnea is the second leading cause of heart and stroke problems. Sufferers also have a greater number of car accidents due to lack of focus, inability to concentrate properly, and daytime fatigue.

Here's a spot check for yourself (or someone you love):
  1. can you fall asleep anytime after 11 a.m.?
  2. have you fallen asleep in meetings or church?
  3. do you snore loudly or disrupt your partners sleep with your snoring?
  4. do you wake up gasping or feeling like you're choking in your sleep?
  5. are you groggy and have morning headaches?
  6. do you get up frequently in the night to urinate?
  7. do you suffer from depression and irritability?
It's all caused by Obstructive Sleep Apnea - the most common kind - and it's because your airway is collapsing on itself during the night. Studies say we need one hour of sleep for every two hours we're awake. Which brings us back to our school health class where the teacher told us we need to get 7-8 hours of sleep a night to function at our peak capacity.

"Sleep medicine" has only begun to get front line attention in the past ten years. This explains why literally thousands of people have been diagnosed with depression and likely aren't depressed at all - the symptoms mimic each other. Trouble concentrating? Sleeping endlessly? Tired during the day? Loss of appetite or increase in appetite? Not enjoying your normal activities anymore? With sleep deprivation you'll be driven to consume more carbohydrates to bump up your energy and your brain is literally being oxygen deprived at night as well. My own oxygen saturation rate went down to 75% - the real reason for my constant headaches and migraines.

The only treatment - and there's no cure, this is a treatment - is a CPAP machine, or Constant Positive Air Pressure machine. There're different models but they all do the same thing; they keep your airway to your lungs open by pulling air from your room in through a nose or facial mask, pushing it down your airway, and forcing you to breathe out to get rid of the carbon dioxide. The masks are pretty Draconian-looking, but chances are your partner will rather sleep with you looking like you're on life support then continue suffering with your obnoxious snoring and snorting next to them.

It takes time to get used to breathing with the machine. It takes time for your brain to start responding to dreaming again. It takes patience before you start feeling like a "new you". I'm not quite there yet, but my daily life has improved 200%. My writing's back - I thought I'd lost it forever. My memory is coming out of the fog and I haven't had a daytime nap in a couple of weeks.

If you or someone you love has any of these symptoms I strongly urge you to talk to your doctor and get a sleep study ordered. You'll sleep over in a "lab" which is a fancy word for a couple of bedrooms with a room full of monitoring equipment. You'll be hooked up to painless electrodes on your head, face, chest, and legs. In fact, you'll look like a suicide bomber by the time they finish with you, but the wires are unnoticeable once you're asleep. The room will be dark and you can talk to the technologists at any time through a two-way system if you need help during the night. They'll wake you up at 5:30 a.m. and send you home. Nothing to it!
And if you have moderate to severe sleep apnea you'll be eligible for a CPAP machine that will literally change your life. Your heart muscle will regenerate itself after possibly years of hypoxia. Your brain will come alive again. Your marriage or relationship will improve once your partner doesn't have to put up with your snoring anymore and s/he's sleeping well for a change.

I have a friend who has all the symptoms, realizes she likely has sleep apnea, but is too vain to sleep in the lab and "have people stare at me while I'm sleeping". Seriously? Your health is too precious to worry about trained technologists monitoring a computer. I'm still working on her to get checked out. Don't waste time - talk to your doctor about your symptoms. And then get back to doing all the things you love to do!

Wednesday, February 29, 2012


Today I’m welcoming Sherry Foley, debut author of SWITCHED IN DEATH, which is published by Winter Goose Publishing. Thanks for spending some time with us, Sherry! SWITCHED IN DEATH features a spectacular serial killer – quite horrific, in fact. Can you tell us what your inspiration was for this killer?

Thanks for hosting me, Laurie.  I believe everyone can relate to being made fun of at some point in their childhood.  We all bear scars. There are a few though that never rise above it. Resentment and bitterness can twist inside of them and when it festers their targets often get hurt.  Such is the case with the serial killer in Switched in Death. 

How much police procedural research did you do?

This is actually my seventh manuscript, but the first I’d shopped out so I had previous knowledge for this book. It’s the medical aspects that I had to spend time researching on this one. 

How long did it take you to write SWITCHED IN DEATH, from start to finish?

Four months. I sent it off to my valuable CP’s and they gave me their feedback, which took another month. Then I always read the final out loud because I catch things the most that way. I don’t use a story board. I’m a total panster. I like to think of a storyline and create characters to play the roles to carry it out.

What draws you to write in this genre?

I’ve always loved reading and watching mysteries.

Do you have a writing ritual?

I try to write 2,500 words a day at least. 

Do you like to edit what you wrote the day before or write the entire draft and then edit it?

I write/edit/write/’s a vicious circle until it’s done. But, by the time I write those glorious last words “THE END” it really is the final. 

This is your debut novel. Can you share what getting “The Call” was like from Winter Goose Publishing?

Very exciting indeed. I hadn’t told very many outside my family that I’d been writing so that was a special kind of fun too. Everyone was very excited for me. Winter Goose Publishing contacted me by email and I was thrilled. I have loved everyone I’ve worked with at WGP. They’ve all been so helpful and such cheerleaders. 

You mention in your dedication that your hero is named after your son. Would you want Seth to go in to law enforcement?

No, too dangerous, although he does want to be a policeman.

Tell us five things about yourself that the reading public doesn’t know yet.

I used to work in a morgue. I’m working on a detective series. I’m going to  shadow a couple of policemen for firsthand insight. I’m going to sign up for shooting practice. My next release also has two more books that fill out the series.  A CAPTIVE HEART has three men in it and they each get a book of their own. The other two are titled A HEART ON HOLD and A HEART FOR ALL SEASONS.

Can you give us a sneak peek as to what it’s about?

It’s more of a romantic suspense. Ian is working undercover and realizes his boss is the mole in the department and has set him up. To get out of it alive he’s going to have to stay more than a step ahead and in alliance with just the right woman. 

 Thank you so much for sharing your debut story, Sherry. Good luck with the rest of your book launch!

You can find Sherry at her website:
                                                Twitter:  @Sherry_Foley
               Winter Goose Publishing:

Saturday, February 11, 2012


There are two more days to Valentine's Day, and counting! All over the 'net there are cake and candy recipes, tips for making that "perfect" proposal, and ads for 5-Star restaurants. It's a bright, shiny day in the middle of winter. It's also my mother's birthday, but that's not what this post is about.

I write romantic suspense because I love spicing up a crime story with love and, lets face it, some sexy encounters. In reality though, "true love" doesn't blossom under dangerous, life-threatening circumstances. And although what I write falls under the broad genre of "romance", I don't believe in "romantic love".

There, I've said it. Start throwing those tomatoes! And here's why I don't believe in "romantic love" - that belief that there's One True Love out there for everyone, that even when you've been married five, ten, twenty years you'll still be "in love" with the same person.

Feelings like the heart-pounding, "I can't wait for the phone to ring" flutterings of the early days of romantic bliss don't last. No feelings last forever, or even for years. The forever part of love is the ability to hang in there when you most certainly DON'T feel "in love" anymore.

Your "romantic partner" is going to disappoint you. S/he's going to hurt you, intentionally maybe, unintentionally certainly. S/he's not going to look/smell/act their best the way they did when you first fell in love. S/he's going to snore, burp, embarrass you in front of your friends, drink too much at your Christmas party. Or maybe, you're going to discover that his love of spending "quiet evenings at home" turns in to being a coach potato who adores reality shows and Monday night football.

And you're not going to live up to whatever you were advertising when he first met you either. You're going to get sick, wear sweatpants to bed, forget to load up the beer fridge, or just stop wearing make-up for awhile. And lets not even talk about the week leading up to your period! There isn't enough Midol in the world to hide hormonal swings when you live in the same house.,

The real Heros are the guys who work steadily, day in and day out, to support their families, even when the job isn't fulfilling, exciting, or glamourous anymore. The real hero quietly puts aside that personal desire for another "toy" and pays for gymnastic lessons for one of the kids instead. He takes his kids to events he has no interest in, because he knows they'll learn something from a new hobby or venue. He goes camping even though he hates eating outdoors. He sacrifices his love of golf so his daughter can go to the university of her choice.

His hormones may still rage for you (let's hope so!), but even when things hit a lull between you, he's a straight shooter and would never fool around on you. He still listens to your fears, hopes, dreams, and remembers your birthday and anniversary.

This isn't "romantic" love. It's the kind of love that comes from sticking around, accepting your partner's weaknesses, and remembering that your partner's worthy of respect - otherwise, what are you doing with them?

Roses, chocolates, fancy dinners, all of these help keep the spark going. I don't deny it. But give me the day to day bliss of someone who kisses you hello and goodbye even when your hair's askew and there's baby barf on your shirt. The guy who thinks about what you'd like, what you need (neck rub? parking money?), and what you want out of life. Don't settle for less!

Monday, January 23, 2012


We've watched this tragedy unfold daily since January 13th and today two more bodies were recovered from inside the cruise ship. Many posts and news reports have gone over the why's, the how's, and the story of Captain Francesco Schettino and his ill-fated "fall" in to a lifeboat.

Years ago when the movie TITANTIC made movie history for James Cameron, 14 year olds everywhere couldn't get enough of the song ""My Heart Will Go On", sung by Celine Dion. The "romance" of Jack Dawson letting himself go from the piece of wood Rose was sprawled on and dying so she could live was the center of the movie. It pricked a nerve with me and I had a long, heartfelt talk with my best girlfriend at the time.

I asked her, "if you were on a sinking cruise ship, would you go in a lifeboat and leave (husband's name here) behind on the ship, knowing he would die?" We both had two children under the age of five at the time. We really batted this dilemma around. She reasoned in the end that she'd go in the lifeboat because she had children to raise. And that's the reason "women and children" were always put first for lifeboats or other emergency procedures in life. The preservation of the race. For myself, I dithered back and forth. I said I couldn't imagine floating away in a lifeboat and watching my husband become a pinpoint image on a sinking deck, but neither could I imagine dying with him and leaving our children behind.

Fast forward to 2003 and we took a cruise ourselves in the Caribbean. This cruise line was responsible and held the life jacket/life boat drill before leaving port in Florida. We lined up on our deck with a couple hundred other people wearing orange lifejackets. It was a long way down to the water and I couldn't help noticing how small the lifeboats appeared, given they were telling us they'd hold up to 25 people each. Women around me were glancing at each other as the employees gave us intructions on how to enter, be seated, stay calm, etc. I realized we were all nervous and we hadn't even left port. I slipped my hand in to my husbands' and got a reassuring squeeze. He has no fear of water, loves the ocean, and is adventurous. I'm afraid of water, having almost drowned in a quarry at 15 years of age, have a healthy respect for the ocean's ability to reign down terror on boats, and am adventurous when the odds are on my side.

That night in our cabin, I told him about my conversation years before with my friend. And I told him I'd realized, standing on that deck sweating buckets in a life jacket, that I'd never be able to get in one without him so he'd better not decide to be the hero if something happened on our cruise. Our children have named guardians in our wills and would be well taken care of!

It's true. I wasn't being a hero myself, I just realized in the reality of the moment that I could never leave my husband behind. And I'm sure of the 18 people still missing and the bodies of the people that've been recovered over the past 10 days, they likely couldn't leave their loved ones behind either.

And I can categorically say that falling in to one of those lifeboats, even with the ship tipped over on it's side, would be a circus act of derring-do comparing to falling off the ship and in to the ocean, given the same trajectory.

May all the lost rest in peace, and may the survivors grab their second chance at life and life it to the fullest.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Joy of a New Computer

Here we are halfway through January and I've spent every day since Christmas pounding away on my awesome, SONY, RED, laptop! My hubby surprised me for Christmas with a new wireless printer. I was ecstatic! Then, the last present behind the tree came from "Valour", otherwise known as "Wonder Dog", "the Golden Beast", or "you idiot!"

Valour, brilliant dog that he is, apparently bought me this gorgeous red laptop (it's just a bonus that it's red, my favourite colour!) when he saw it - the very last red one - in the store. And he spent the week before Christmas loading it up with software for his writer-mommy.

Now I can write in the living room, on the dining table, at Tim Hortons coffee shop - anywhere besides the freezing cold basement. But the most important thing to me, is the colour. We all know colour affects us. Well, red is my second favourite colour - I adore red cars/trucks, appliances, electronics, vases, flowers - if it's red it'll find it's way in to my house somehow. Purple is my absolute favourite colour but that's more for clothes and some decor. RED - now that's a colour that jazzes me up and gets me going first thing in the a.m.

I'd have been just as happy if hubby'd had to spring for the neon orange laptop. It's getting my creativity going and it's FUN. We often forget that writing is supposed to be FUN and not all about slitting our wrists in agony over every word on the screen. Every time I open up my laptop, I feel great.

Valour is an extremely smart dog, what can I say?

How does colour affect you for writing? Do you have your office or whatever room you write in painted to inspire you? Invigorate you? Do you write better wearing certain colours? Think about it - if you've been putting off painting your spare room/"office" maybe now's the time to check paint chips and get your colour groove on!