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?