Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Countdown to the Year of Yi Chou

I had to chuckle. Here's the Beatles cartoon attempt at success writing books not music:

paperback writer

2009 - the year of the ox and signs pointing to prosperity. So will it be a good year all around? - the signs are there. Numerology, astrology or just plain wishful thinking - any way you look at it it's going to be good - I've put the vibe out there.

Happy New Year!!


Monday, December 29, 2008

Miracle in the Home Stretch

Like hoar frost on a tree, time is so fleeting. And every once in awhile we're reminded of that at least as far as our goals and ambitions and the daily time constraints we wrestle with to get it all done.

It's as 2008 runs out of steam that I realize my goal for the current WIP is heading into a time vacuum. Despite early mornings and meeting my write every day goal, it's going to be nip and tuck to finish the final draft by year end. Fortunately, it was a tentative goal, a goal really only made to self. One of those over-ambitious goals where there's a larger chance that an extension might be needed rather than a shout of "goal met!"

But - it's not over yet. There's still three days left in 2008 and it's back to work, if not to finish, to at least make a noticable dent in that WIP.

But like Nanowrimo last month - anything is possible!

How are your end of the year goals? Accomplished them all - or like me - looking for miracles in the home stretch?


Sunday, December 28, 2008

He Cried

I have to admit I have seen very few of the men in my life cry. I've never given it much thought until today. As I struggle with how the hero and heroine in my current story will ever resolve the impasse they are at, it came to me - Jon cries. I know that sounds simplistic but you've got to know Jon. He never cries - ever! This is huge and emotionally binding for the characters.

And then I went through my life and the men who have passed through it or are still in it and through all the heart-wrenching moments I remember few tears. I remember only two events ever and they were a long time ago - my grandfather and than once, my father. And that's it! And both times it was short lived unlike any of my female relatives or friends. Most of the women I know are criers given the right circumstance. But for the men in my life, unbelievably I remember no other tears.

Can that be possible. Do men just not cry? Has our society been that restrictive? Or worse, do they cry but that's why there's a lock on most bathroom doors.

Seriously, is a man that shows emotion to the point of tears, sexy - or just too much?

From the Dust

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Flatliner Alert - Said is Dead

Today I'm wearing my reader hat and I envision that it's lettered in pink with the word "ANNOYED." Because for more times than I want to count I'm ready to throw a book to the side before I've reached the end.

No blood!
No guts!
It's mid book and I have no connection with either of the main characters.

I've read a lot of writing advise while wearing my writer hat and one thing I read was that said should be sprinkled liberally as a reader just skims right over he said, she said. And apparently it keeps the poor fools on track. Okay, it didn't actually say that but it implied that a reader couldn't follow a conversation.

Wait - let me change the hat, to the one that says reader "ANNOYED."

Not true!

There is nothing more distracting than the liberal use of; said, stare, felt or any other verb that is so blandly generic that it says - well, nothing about the character. And yet that's what I see much too frequently. That and words that explain what the action already has. You know of what I speak. "She waved in recognition." Hold the phone people. Waved? Didn't that mean she recognized? Did I really need to be told that it was in recognition? I hear the distant nails screech down that imaginary chalkboard as I'm yanked from fantasy land.

So where was I? Right - I'm forcing my way through the latest flatliner. Yes, a book with no depth - a flatliner. The writing allows me to only skim the surface without ever getting to know a character. But I forge ahead and it's the slowest read of my life. Every word has become a painful plodding sort of torture, yet this is a romantic suspense. Worse, this is no beginning writer. The book is a bestseller and I expected more. Nor is it the first of its kind that I've felt like tossing before the end and sadly, probably not the last.

Do I expect more because of big name reviews, author status and the publisher? Probably I do. And if that's the case, why are flatliners happening with disturbing regularity? As readers have we lowered our collective bar? When I'm leaving more books unfinished than finished there's something wrong.

So what's wrong with this latest literary fiasco? Well - a little delving and it's not too hard to find for it's on almost every page. There's more telling than showing and as a result the characters feel lifeless and directionless and almost to compensate, there's a whole lot of repetition. Worse, there's no feeling at all for the antagonist and the story's all about the horror he/she is inflicting on the characters. It's as if the author never knew the antagonist either or maybe that's harsh. Whatever the reason, the omission has literally pulled the heart from the book.

Now don't get me wrong - it isn't all bad. I have my fave authors that deliver over and over again with a good read. And don't forget the up and comers that have sweated over every word to deliver a good product in a tight market.

Yes there's good books out there and they populate the bookstores in well-deserved glory. And than there's the others...

As a reader what's recently bugged you about a book?

From the Dust

Friday, December 26, 2008

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Yesterday, my maternal grandparents sat side by side on the couch and softly sang a Christmas carol in long-wedded unison. My bachelor uncle, a lone wolf, an independent with incredible stories and great life advice, recounted the story of riding on the top of a boxcar looking for work and laughed at his youthful folly. My paternal grandmother chuckled at the mention of playing another board game and leaped to her feet to be the first one to the table.

That's how I remember them, at least how I remembered them yesterday. They're all long gone now but, whether we realize it or not, the memories they left shaped those of us left in one way or another.

You can see the past in each one of us left. A mannerism similar to a great grandparent. An eye color that isn't like anyone else in the family - except - anyone remember great Aunt Mable? You get it. We're not as unique as we'd like to think and not just genetically. It's not just about relatives gone, it's all those that have crossed our paths or even some that haven't. It's all been done before by those that came before. And maybe the past isn't as quiet as we'd like to think.

I know it's not so quiet when I write. When I'm searching for that illusive emotion, the moment when the questions arise.
How is the character affected?
What are they feeling?
How will they react?

And when there's nothing in my experience to grab, one of those voices from the past speaks up and says, "Remember when..."

Because it's all been done before; the bad, the good and the just plain ugly.

But does the past blend with the present or is it a collision of wills?


Thursday, December 25, 2008

Rain or Shine

I've promised myself that I will write every day. And beginning today, Christmas day, I write. I'm feeling rather smug with myself too. After all I managed to write today the busiest of all days for many people. Of course, I have to consider the advantage I have. The bulk of festivities for our family are Christmas Eve and again later this afternoon and this evening. The morning, for now, is mine. So much for being smug, that just slid into the bucket of undesirable emotion from whence it came.

Today, I was out with Rourke, going for the inevitable dog walk. Rain or shine, cold or heat, with the exception of a few very cold days, we walk. Why? Because although some days I don't want to go, once I'm out there I enjoy it. And we both need the exercise. But it takes motivation to do it. And even a dog can be an effective motivator, of course Rourke isn't an ordinary dog, did I mention he's Irish?

Today what motivates me is the Doors Greatest Hits, one of this year's Christmas presents. I know Jim Morrison died before I was old enough to even appreciate who he was but his music is so earthy it's almost erotic, and I think timeless. What better background music to write a romance by!

And while it may be a tad sappy there's alot of truth in these quotes - Click here for a dose of perseverance.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said it best:
"What you persist in doing becomes easier. The task hasn't changed...
Your ability to do has increased."

What motivates you to persevere?


Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Is Regret Really Just an Opportunity?

Do you have any regrets as 2008 closes?

I have a good life and even my regrets are going to appear trivial compared to what others endure.

But here it is - what I've got.

I regret not traveling up the Irawaddy River in Burma on our trip there early this year. And while we spent a few weeks there, I regret not spending more time in Burma.

Although, that's a regret I can turn into a plus. Burma becomes a side trip on another journey and a chance to catch up on ground not covered.

And you know, now that I've considered it - this isn't a post about regrets but instead it's about opportunities.

How do you turn your regrets
into opportunities?

Happy holidays and a joyous Christmas!

From the Dust

p.s. stay tuned for a guest blogger who will be featuring a post after a recent trip to China. Life really is a journey!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Winter's Here!

The temperature yesterday was -27 Celcius and the equivalent in Fahrenheit still isn't safe for man or beast. So yesterday, the dog walking ended. We're intrepid souls, me and Rourke but -27 is our limit. Instead we donned winter gear and ventured into the backyard where even the thermometer ran out of mercury to record the freezing tempurature.

As the temperature dropped and the calendar stated that we officially hit winter, I had to ask myself - what have I been missing? Didn't winter set in some months ago. Why do we need a calendar date to state what has been going on for months; freezing temperatures, ice, snow, blustery winds - well you get it, just darn bad weather. And to prove it, out here on the prairies, it's been bitingly cold for weeks. But despite all that this afternoon we bundled up, dog boots, people boots et al and ventured into the frost bitten north. Okay - let's be truthful, after all you've read the above - our backyard, and seriously it's not that entertaining.

So what better opportunity but bad weather to embrace a learning opportunity. Stuck indoors for most of the day is a good chance to not just deal with last minute holiday flurry but I decided a good chance to learn. In writing what works, what doesn't, why? Why do you love one book and remember it long after you turn the last page and immediately forget the next book or just don't finish it because the story doesn't catch you? So with a stack of books and a highlighter I begin.
Now before you e-mail me in horror, these are
second hand books in a condition where their shelf life is shorter than the time it took to write this blog.

It's a joy to read the opening of "The Stand" and see how subtly it all works. I consider whether a story that works is a more subtle beast than one that doesn't. That question remains unanswered as I grab a second book for a quick comparison and my highlighter works overtime. But there's good highlights mixed with the bad and I begin to see a pattern in the writing but it's the inconsistency that jolts me from the story. Yes, I think this may be an unorthodox and good learning experience.

Never stop learning, never stop reaching.

What did you learn today?


Monday, December 15, 2008

Bad Weather Vibes

Today on the radio I listened to a freelance traveler writer living in Hawaii who sought out cold weather, but hadn't been any further north than Maine. I never thought of cold weather as a travel destination, I guess because I never had to go further than my own backyard to experience it. I listened to the commentator tell her that Maine's winter thermometer did not plummet anywhere near what the prairies do and she needed to come to the prairies to experience real cold. Wait - was that a note of pride I heard in his voice? Was he bragging about cold weather?

With the cold settled in for the next few days, I remember other news programs and weather reports where again that sense of pride rang through as commentators discussed sub zero temperatures and minus 50 plus wind chills.

It appears that the colder it is the better the bragging rights. Why is that? I remembered when I was in Malaysia in 2000. The ma
in question about Saskatchewan was how cold it got and how much snow there was. So I considered, if I met someone from the Artic what would be the first question I would ask? So honestly here's my answer:

I'm fascinated by lifestyles and that would be one of the top, next wildlife of course - seals, herds of caribou, polar bears - how could you not ask?
but, I said that I was being honest, so I must ad
mit - the first question would be the weather. How cold is it really? And how do you tolerate it? And... And... And...

What's with that? Why is it that we're not interested in being in the midst of a cold snap but we seem to be fascinated by extreme freezing temperatures at a distance? I mean there's storm chasers, they chase tornadoes all the time but you never see a blizzard chaser or a cold snap chaser or....

Is the attraction a combination of both the ugly and the beautiful side of nature and of us?


Sunday, December 14, 2008

A Journey on Square Tires

Today the car moaned and metal creaked in the cold. And then we were off, limping along on square tires. It's minus 22 Fahrenheit today or minus 30 Celsius. The first temperature converter I tried told me that entering minus was an invalid entry! What? Was that calculator from the Bahamas or what? Welcome to the frozen north and the beginning of hibernation and the best time to write.

Okay, I wish, about the hibernation part anyway. Hibernation no - square tires or not there's still places to go and people to see. But it is the best writing time because on weekends sometimes you're just a little more apt to cocoon, grab a pair of your favorite slippers and a cup of tea and head to the cubby to write. Yes, that is the advantage of a basement cubby aka office. When the wind howls and the temperature sinks, all that chilly weather well, it's all out of sight and out of mind. I can't hear a thing and my characters could care less as they galivant in some tropical paradise or at least in places where a snow shovel is not immediately necessary.

Square tires - you ask? Or maybe you didn't - I'll tell you anyway. When it gets cold enough the part of the tire resting on the road remains flat for a time so when you drive there's this clunking like the whole tire is flat rather than round giving more the impression of a square tire. As you drive, the tire eventually rounds out.

Should you have time or the inclination, head on over to The Romance Studio and enter for a chance, today only, to win a copy of "From the Dust".

I promise it was written in warmer weather - no square tires or frozen buggy wheels!

What's winter like in your neck of the woods?


Friday, December 12, 2008

Win a copy of From the Dust

The Great Depression, the dirty thirties, was tough but it wasn't all grim. Eva Edwards and Tate Prescott Brown prove that sometimes when you least expect it, there can be love. Enter to win a copy of Eva and Tate's story "From the Dust".

One day only, December 14, at the Romance Studio click here to check it out and on the 14th enter for your chance to win.

The dirty thirties wasn't all hard times. Check out some of these past posts where I interviewed some of the people that lived through those times:

Life is a journey.


Saturday, December 6, 2008

Winds of Change

This week has been one of change. Unexpected events, some good some bad, have pushed me to do things I normally would never consider. For example, the Canadian political drama pushed me to e-mail my first politician. I was angry, frustrated but man that e-mail felt good! Other events, personal challenges, have spiraled around that bigger drama and resulted in the overall feeling that Monday just crashed into Saturday. And here we are, the end of the week, with no idea what might have happened to those days in the middle.

And the winds of change are still brewing.

Earlier this week I had a suggestion from my agent to provide three good chapters and a synopsis for proposal before completing the full story. Good idea except after that conversation I realized that that changes my entire way of writing. I'm a seat of the pants writer. And despite what I have said in the past about the muse and its existence or lack there of, it messes with the muse darn it!

So while wrestling with the winds of change I caused a five day spell where little writing occurred. By Friday I was out of sorts because a writer has to write and this writer wasn't doing anything at all.

So today I went to my cubby downstairs, formally known as the office, and began to write. Thank goodness for Jon. My current hero is very organized, unlike his creator, and he took charge of that pen and began to dash off some thoughts of his own. Pretty soon that first chapter was clean, now to chapter two. And while this story is rough draft finished, I'm feeling pretty confident that the next story in line really can start out as a synopsis and three chapters. Still, ugh synopsis - I'm hoping synopsis is Jon's forte as well. If so, I'll keep him around for awhile. But for now, I'm diving back into the mess I've created for Jon in Burma.

What do you do when the winds of change threaten to blow you away?


Sunday, November 30, 2008

Mission Accomplished!

NaNoWrimo is over for another year. I didn't realize the effect of these 6 a.m. mornings. While I admit weekend mornings are my time to write, 6:00 a.m. is a tad early even for me. And this morning one look in the mirror and the red eye syndrome made me take a step back. Sleep, I need sleep! But I'm happy to report that I also reached my personal goal of 60,000 words!

It's been wild and crazy and my fingers hurt but I did it! And even Rourke is exhausted. I think I just heard him begin to snore from his new place of importance, a two blanket bed behind my chair.


Friday, November 28, 2008

NaNoWrimo - We Did It!

Today is the day I broke through the 50,000 word barrier and made NaNoWrimo 2008!! 
Whoo Hoo!!!!

Now if we can just replicate today's word count, 60,000 words by the end of the month may be doable.

To add to the good feel of the day, I found a new penny in my boot after today's dog walk. Hmmm - anyone believe in omens or just good luck charms? Or maybe we just make our own luck.

Either way - how was the luck in your day?


Promises Along the Way

Promises are sometimes hard to keep. Even promises to your self and sometimes, especially those. The other day I thought I could write 60,000 words by the end of this month. Now, I'm considering if this is possible with 15,000 words to go. I'm not saying I'm not going to be able to make 60,000 words by the end of Sunday but the possibility is looking more and more distant. There's been some bad days, good days really, but socializing on a time budget takes a big chunk of writing time. So it's 7:30 a.m. and the internet is about to go to the off position!

I may need all hands on deck and a little help to accomplish this goal. So I've upgraded the music to Tchaikovsky - time to call in the big guys!

What do you do when the goal seems to exceed time and will?


Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Juggling Paper

You know how it is when you've gotten so involved with something that the clutter surrounding that project begins to obscure everything?

Suddenly the path you were moving so confidently forward on has become filmed with - well stuff. That's what became of my office recently. Actually this is a recurring event rather like the seasons. The culprit? Besides the current WIP - Paper.

Too much paper. That's normal for a writer isn't it? I mean there's all those scraps of notes, the research, the remnants of stories past. But now there appears to be just too much. When my elbow rests on the keys and nudges gently against a newspaper that I must respond too - something is out of whack. Too much paper, too many projects, too many files. Research on one book that must be kept indefinitely, a list of contacts, a pile of bookmarks, it goes on and on. While trying to juggle a full day that combines family with a full-time job and writing I forgot to pay attention to the clutter. Or maybe I forgot to file! Could it be that simple? Whatever the reason - my peace is rattled. It's too much. It has to go!

Because now there's a herd in my path. Okay, not really. The picture is from Cambodia earlier this year and then there literally was almost a herd in the path.

And that's how I feel as NaNoWrimo winds down for another year. Tired, almost exultant and cluttered, and the clutter has fallen on the path.

So the garbage bag is out and the file drawer is open.

What do you do when a project threatens to swallow you alive?

Monday, November 24, 2008

Back to Normal - Almost!

Well, the interview is over and it was fun. Thanks Jeff! The draw is just nicely completed and an e-mail is off to the winner. It was a fun day. Thanks to everyone who stopped by and especially to those who commented.

NaNoWrimo is in its last week and my word count is on track. Except for one thing, I've decided in the waning days of this contest to surpass 50,000 words and make it a personal goal to hit 60,000 this month. Can I do it? I'm tracking my daily count on the sidebar - follow along and maybe even cheer me on.

After all, I'm serious. No, seriously I am! There aren't many days and now with ideas churning in my head it's all about speed and accuracy. As a pianist, I'll tell you a trick. When you mean business, you trim your nails. Why? Better traction on the keys - computer keys, piano keys - let's get down to business!

Here's to smiles in your day!


Saturday, November 22, 2008

Win the book - Meet the Author - Jeff Rivera

Jeff Rivera has a unique and incredible story from childhood poverty to self-publishing and onward with that same self-published book to commercial publishing success! It is quite the journey. "Forever My Lady" is firstly a romance and secondly the result of the determination of one man to succeed. Today I'm excited to present an interview with Jeff Rivera and offer a chance for every reader of this blog to win a copy of Jeff's book "Forever My Lady". How do you win? Enter a comment any time before the end of today, November 23 and you'll be entered to win. I'll make a random draw at the end of the day and contact the winner! Good luck everyone!

And now let's meet Jeff:

Ryshia: “Forever My Lady” is a romance. Do you see your career as a romance author?

Jeff: I see a career as someone who writes emotional roller coasters, some of those will be romance, some will be young adult but all of them will make you feel, will move you emotionally. That's always my goal as an author.

Ryshia: From self-published to Warner, that’s quite a journey, what was the most memorable moment?

Jeff: The most memorable moment was getting "the" call from my agent at the time about Warner wanting to acquire Forever My Lady. It truly was a dream come true, still is.

Ryshia: Many latinos are claiming " Forever My Lady " as their story. How does that feel to you as an author?

Jeff: I am so inspired by the early fans of Forever My Lady. I mean it means a lot to hear people all over the world say that the story moved them to tears or that they could relate to it or that in some way it influenced their life. It’s strange in a way because these are just fictitious characters but even for me they have become real.

Ryshia: “Forever My Lady’s " main characters are two Mexican Americans. How is it that as a Black American you were able to write about the Latino or Chicano experience?

Jeff: I think most of my Latino and Chicano friends have branded me an Honorary Latino. Haha! I know it sounds strange to some people because of how proud I am of my heritage as a Black American but there’s a part of me that feels like I have some kind of past life connection to Latinos or something, I don’t know what it is. I feel very connected to them.

Ryshia: The publishing industry speaks of books sticking in a market and you’ve obviously had amazing success, and stuck. What bit of marketing advice would you give to authors to make their book stick?

Jeff: The biggest advice I would say is first write a phenomenal book (whatever that means to you) but a phenomenal book not based on your opinion or your best friend or your mom but hundreds of people you don't even know. Secondly, keep promoting even if it takes years, keep going, think of yourself as a brand and stop thinking of your book as "your baby" and thirdly, keep writing, keep putting book after book out there especially if it's part of a series.

Ryshia: What are you working on now and when can your readers expect your next book?

Jeff: I'm working on the sequel to Forever My Lady now and some young adult books that I'm very excited about. As far as when the sequel will come out? I don't like to put any dates out there but hopefully soon.

Ryshia: If your dream of flying in a private jet came true and you could only go to one place, where would it be?

Jeff: That is a a really good question. Let me think about that for a second ... I'd say, why not Australia where I could have the time of my life exploring the country with very close friends and close family members.

Ryshia: Where can readers buy " Forever My Lady "?

Jeff: Definitely my website:, or their local bookstore.

The scoop on "Forever My Lady":

For Dio Rodriguz, manhood means keeping his barrio rep stone-old - and striking back before others hit him first. The only thing he lets himself care about is Jennifer. The quiet, dark-eyed girl who believed in him when no one else would. But when a drive-by shooting forces him into a prison boot camp and lands Jennifer in the hospital Dio must learn a different kind of courage to survive. Against lies, violence, and heartbreaking betrayal. Dio has one last chance to turn it all around - fight for his new life...and prove his love for Jennifer is real.

Excerpt from "Forever My Lady"


Dio looked at his homie Spooky’s grip on his jacket. Most of his boys called Dio “Playboy” because all the ladies loved him, but those who had known him since he was a kid called him by his real name, Dio.

He took another hit off his joint. He’d given up smoking over a year ago, had to, but on this day he was more nervous than he had ever been in his life.

Thunder rumbled and rain poured, making it impossible to see. Thunder scared Dio, always had. Dio fought to keep from shaking. He couldn’t breathe, couldn’t swallow. He tried to hide his fear. His mind was set. He had to do it. Dio yanked his arm away from Spooky and pushed the
door open.

“Just keep the car runnin’, ése.”

Spooky was a big guy, tattoos up and down his arm and a glass eye. He normally would have just kept Dio from leaving at all, but he knew nothing could stop him. Nothing at all.

Dio jumped out of the car. It was a ’57 Chevy, complete with chrome wheels, slick red, with a chili-pepper-hot Mexican jaina painted across the hood. Dio had painted that picture himself. It was dope.

He slammed the door shut and looked up at the cathedral in front of him. Lightning illuminated its majestic towers, windows with an eerie stained glass. He’d spent many a night imagining this would be where he’d marry her. They’d have a huge wedding with members of their families
flying in from all over the world just to watch this event, this marriage he thought was so destined to be. He’d put his everything into this dream, his one and only dream, and now as
he yanked the heavy oak doors open, his heart pounded like a subwoofer.

He dried his soaked clothes with his hand and scratched his shoes on the mat so as not to squeak across the old wood floor. The church was jam-packed, mostly with Mexicans and Puerto Ricans, but some blacks. Probably his familia, Dio thought. How could she even think about marrying some pinche negro?

Good luck everyone!


Thursday, November 20, 2008

Book Give Away

November 23 I'll be hosting right here on this blog, author Jeff Rivera. He is the author of "Forever My Lady". Stop by my blog any time during the day and meet Jeff, enter a comment for a chance to win a copy of his book, "Forever My Lady."


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Life and Fiction

The streets are still dark and early morning frost clings to the sidewalks and streets. At this hour of the morning I imagine many to-work-drives are silent. Or maybe the conversation revolves around social activities, kids, the day's schedule. I imagine most conversations don't go something like this:

"So," I begin addressing hubbie who is a bit of a political junkie. "What do you think would happen if an ambassador was shot and killed by one of the military in a military dictatorship?" I'm referring to a "small" plot complication in my current WIP (work in progress).


The street lights are pooling glints of light onto the cold chipped pavement. With snow pushing impatiently on the horizon, we're on a rapid slide to winter snow and thousands of miles away from the balmy warmth of Asia where current WIP is set.

"If it was the British Embassy how would Britain react?" I ask because the country in question was once a British Colony and is now a military dictatorship.

"You can't do that," says my previously silent spouse. Probably fearing my next move will be to phone an Embassy. And he's not far off, although I thought I'd e-mail.

"Why not?"

"Aren't you going a little big?" he asks but it's really more of a statement.

And there's some truth in that.

In life and in fiction - How big is too big? And when is it just too much?


Sunday, November 16, 2008


Last night in a quaint little restaurant tucked into a row of some of the oldest buildings in Regina, a watermelon martini was the celebratory marker for reaching the midway count. Some days one needs a reward for reaching a word count, for pushing through that point in a story when the characters have not quite come into their own. Yesterday, they briefly both emerged and then slid back into the clay and left me, the writer on my own. That happens sometimes. Today, Jon emerged again and happily began orchestrating the story, trouble is he decided to rearrange a few already written bits until they were to his satisfaction. Today, the story has become Jon's. I imagine tomorrow, he and the heroine, Lira will be fighting over it. In the meantime, I am still savoring the thought of that delightful watermelon martini.

Here's to milestones!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Motivation and Joss Sticks

Today I only have the early morning to write. And the words were chugging slowly. Then it came to me - how to get motivated. Out of no where, like most inspiration does - the solution arrived.

Joss sticks.

For a story set in Asia, I needed the scent of Asia. For today - anyway. And the scent that so richly ties me to Asia is the smell of joss sticks. The incense that is burned in temples and shrines across much of Asia. My joss sticks are not quite as remarkable and they're definitely not temple quality, and maybe they're not really a joss stick at all. But the scent is there. I found them, if you can believe it, in a 7-Eleven in Bangkok.

But despite my incense's lowly beginnings, it got my writing going this morning. With the smell of incense wafting through the air my main characters, Jon and Lira, came to life as the ink began to flow. And better yet, they began to make demands. Now we're getting somewhere!


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

There's Always An Excuse

It's an interesting experiment this daily tally of words I've been locked into since joining NaNoWrimo. It's a sort of writing scoreboard. I see there are days where I have written nothing. Some of those days I literally did, write nothing that is. Instead, I took care of the other segments of my life; the family, friends, full-time job, the family dog... There's a potential crisis looming everywhere - LOL!

But mostly those zero writing days were days where I dealt with the business side of writing. The promoting and marketing, the mundane filing, the spreadsheets that need updates, the research that needs organizing. The list is endless, merciless and necessary.

But what I've really learned from keeping track of my daily word count is - that if I set a goal - I can meet it. Why? Because the obstacles have become clear and now I can work around them. So 50,000 words on November 30 - we're going to do it!

So, what are your goals this month?

Remembrance Day

John McCrae (1915)

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

The 11th month, the 11th day, the 11 hour. Armistice day began with hope and joy. Now it is a day of remembrance for those who sacrificed and those who continue to sacrifice. A day of respect honour and hope.

In one minute of silence at 11:00, and every day, we will remember!


Wednesday, November 5, 2008

A Novel - What Does It Take

How fast can you write a novel's first draft? NaNoWrimo pushes you to find out.


You know, that novel writing contest I spoke of in an earlier post. Writing with a full-time job is always a challenge. To be effective you must be aware of how much time other obligations take from your so-called free time and write extra on other days. You soon notice how much things like social events with friends, Christmas shopping, holidays and other things impact your writing. But when you're trying to get 50,000 words in a months - well let's say you really notice!

Last weekend it all started out great but I soon learned that I should have pushed harder while I could. Why? Because these last few days writing output has slowed to a crawl as the time allotted for writing jostles with unexpected obligations.

How was your week?

Sunday, November 2, 2008

A Guest Blogger Gives Us - Bali

A friend and fellow writer, just recently returned from Bali and offered to share some of her experiences. And, after I read her post I only wanted to get on a plane and experience it all for myself. Instead, I will share it with you.

by: Katherine Neuman

When I remember Bali, my thoughts will settle on that first sensation of heaviness. The heat, the scents, the quiet. Far from being oppressive or draining, it was a heaviness that made me breath deeper, move more deliberately and surrender the tension that I’d packed to Asia along with a totally inappropriate wardrobe.

The heat. We were told it was hot for mid-October. The rainy season was starting and one day we watched some amazing lightening storms and rainfall roll in from the Indian Ocean in the early hours of morning. But the days were hot and humid and made for cotton and linen and silk, not the spandex and lycra that seemed to be stitched in small percentages into just about every piece of clothing I own. Ryshia has promised to counsel me on adding to my new “tropic travel” wardrobe.

The scents. If there was one thing that signalled foreign and exotic above all others it was the smells. Incense and frangipani – they say that smell is a memory trigger and that will be my Bali prompt – the smell of incense and frangipani. Incense burning in every offering at the entrance to every door. Frangipani flowers falling from above and infused in the cold towels offered before every meal.

The quiet. The tourist areas we visited were bustling and loud. The traffic (which I’ll speak more about later) was chaotic. But everything seemed muted and I think much of that had to do with the gentleness of the Balinese people. The Hindu religion that the vast majority of the people of Bali practice revolves around the eternal, daily and everpresent need for balance between good and evil. The symbols of this quest for balance – peace – are everywhere – you literally need to watch every step or you’ll walk over them. Everyone we met was grounded in their spirituality in a way that you don’t come across often in Canada – and the gentleness in voice and manner of the people was memorable.

I miss it already and I can see why people return again and again to Bali. There is a heaviness but it is such a welcome weight.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

NaNoWrimo from Saskatchewan

I signed up for Nanowrimo this year.   I thought it was the perfect way to get that rough draft completed.  

For those of you who might not know what Nanowrimo is - it's a contest where writers from around the world join together in communal craziness to write 50,000 words in one month.  It happens every year through November.  What do you win?  Well nothing really.  A chance to be listed as a winner and that's about it.  But more importantly, it's a chance to be pushed to make those writing goals.  Because now there's a whole world of pressure.

My tally so far - 3,062 words and the day is still young!


Friday, October 31, 2008

Halloween Trumps Christmas

I'm sorry and I'm not apologizing, not really. I love Halloween over Christmas any day of the year. My inner child blooms on October 31. This year I decided to downsize which really, in a strange way was upsizing. I have less decorations but their size increased proportionately to their numbers.
On the upside, that eight foot skeleton drew children from the other side of the street. Never before in my known Halloween history has that happened. Sort of a case of less is more and this time around bigger is better.

Happy Halloween!


Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Saskatchewan Now, Then and Future

The silence breathes gusts of prairie winds across the highway. That's the beauty of Saskatchewan - now, in this moment. The silence. The emptiness. At least the silence and emptiness when you exit
one of its major centres.

Sparsely populated is a reality for Saskatchewan and one that has been exploited by the politicians and the economists. We need more people - we need to grow the economy is their endless cry. But right now, I look around me as we travel down the highway and I see space and room - room to breath, room to think, room to be. There are vast stretches of land where the only thing to see is cultivated fields and if you're really lucky, the occasional reminders of unmarred prairie. Truthfully, it makes a drive boring as we whip by at speeds never considered 100 years ago. But, from a standing point, with camera in hand, it's incredible, majestic and 100 years from now it will be rare. Here's to the wide open spaces of Saskatchewan!

And to add to the beauty, on last weekend's trip to Calgary we saw a wolf. She trotted down the ditch in her majestic grey splendor. And on the way home, a coyote loped a solitary figure in a vast, empty field.

And that's Saskatchewan today and I know ten years from now what I have said may just be a note in history - that other things will replace those vast fields and lone wolves. And those other things will be just as good, just different.


What's Your Passion?

Even when writing isn't your full-time job it can be a lonely business. Truly, most people understand that you're writing a book or that you published a book. What they don't get is your need to keep on writing books, publishing books, writing, writing, writing. That's why there's nothing better than associating with other writers. They get it!

That's the thing about writing, it's all encompassing. Writers can talk to anyone interested in writing for hours. Don't even think what happens when you get a group of them in a room. But the energy in that room is amazing!

So, although it's a bit of a drive - we headed out - Regina to Calgary for a writing workshop. The weekend had a bit for everyone. What better way to start a writing weekend but with something totally non-writing related! With hubbie and friend in tow we went to a wine tasting on Friday night. And it wasn't just wine - there was food, tequila, scotch and beer. It was inspiring to talk to the people representing each product and hear the enthusiasm, and share in the energy that made a concrete and steel structure come alive. There was a buzz inside that building and it wasn't just from the modest alcohol samples.

It's always enjoyable to talk to people passionate about their craft and that weekend I had two such evenings. On Saturday I was at a writing workshop where I met up with members of my writing chapter who I see once or twice a year. It's always a joy to reunite with writers, some of whom I now call friend, talk shop with others and meet new members who all share that same love, writing. There's nothing that makes you want to take pen in hand and write like associating with others that have the same "affliction." So we shared a common passion and made the walls come alive with the energy of it all.

What's your passion?


Sunday, October 12, 2008

Change the Music

The last few days the new WIP (work in progress) has been giving me trouble. It didn't want to progress, the characters remained stuck, refusing to emerge from the one-dimensional cardboard state to which they had been born. Worse, the characters didn't seem to like me or even each other.

What kind of romance is that?

Not that this is totally out of the norm. The thrilling flash of inspiration that starts a story, for me, soon becomes work. That is, until the day, in the early chapters, that the characters emerge as three dimensional creatures and begin to choreograph the action. That's when the fun begins!

"Trouble Follows" was at that place but the characters refused to budge. Hiding in one-dimensional safety they were becoming a frustrating lot. Like little kids in the candy section of a grocery store, they were stamping their feet and refusing to cooperate.

Today, progress!

What did I change? Well, I changed the music. That's right. I write to music and I was using the same music that had survived through two WIPs. I can't help it. I didn't change it because mostly I didn't hear the music. It's only background noise - at least that's what I thought. But today, out went the old CD's and now, The Beatles White Album and others have replaced Nirvana, Mozart et al and that seems to be the charm.

Like everything else in life if the old tried and true doesn't work, maybe it's just that - old and it's time to change.

When you hit life's road bump do you ever change the music?


Friday, October 10, 2008

Rewind - Hong Kong

October is usually the month for changing seasons, when the cold drafts begin to seep into everything as we try to acclimatize for the relentless march into winter. This month was a tad different. This year, October has become the month to travel. And Asia appears to be the destination. My favourite shop keeper, the owner of the infamous Green Spot in Regina, is off to Hong Kong and followed closely by a good friend of mine to
hat same destination. And, as I mentioned earlier, another good friend of mine is also in Asia. But with two people I know in Hong Kong I thought it was time for a rerun - if TV can replay our favourites again and again, so can I - at least once.
So here's to Hong Kong:

Memories of Hong Kong

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

A Hiking Map of Sarawak

I laughed when I saw the link. It's amazing where research for a story will take you . I remember now that Saturday morning squinting over a map of Sarawak, Malaysia as I atempted to figure out how my characters would get out of the Borneo jungle. Not that long ago, there I was figuring out east and west, and the hike's correlation to a river. There's even a waterfall that was a little bit of creative cartography. Go figure! An imaginary waterfall but when not a mapper be, one's imagination has to play just a little along side reality.

So the Borneo jungle complete with Aidan, Garrett and crew are off to the wide world to learn their fate. Last Man Standing is finished, for now. And while I await the world of publishing, it's off to new stories and new adventures.

Maybe, that's why I felt the nostalgia of last night and tonight. New projects are exciting but there's always sadness at letting go of the old.


Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Memories of Singapore

As I write this post a good friend is about to head to Singapore and she's promised me a post or two.

In the meantime her pending journey has brought back memories of my trip to Singapore.

It was just after Christmas 1999 and it was there that I learned how good peppered crab can be. Eaten at a plastic picnic table in an open air market with the tropical night settled warm and balmy around you and a cold beer to wash it all down.

It was the first place I had seen women carry an umbrella to keep the tropical sun from their face or people queue up in precise lines as they waited for a cab. Despite the sign instructing the lineup - in Saskatchewan, that just wouldn't happen.

Singapore was exotic with orchid gardens and "a" boa constrictor, it was orderly, and as one of the few city-states - it was fascinating.

Without travel there'd be no spice.

What are your travel memories?

Monday, October 6, 2008

One of those days!

Ever had one of those days? But today good things happened in the middle of many false starts. I changed watches only to discover after I arrived at my office, sans key to same office, that the battery was dead. I came home to find the luncheon meat for today's sandwich languishing in bacteria collecting splendor on the counter. Not to add that the day was gray and cold - rain dancing on the edge of snow.

But still the day wasn't bad. I got an unexpected e-mail asking when a reader could anticipate another book. That kind of e-mail can only make you smile or outright giggle with pleasure. Then I got an assignment at work that just made me grin.

A strange day that trailed bleak weather, turned out, in the end - to be good.

Never judge a day by the weather.