Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Fishing or Phishing

You know I like fishing, just not phishing.  At least I used to like fishing until I began to intellectualize or was that over-analyze the whole process.  But of course, that's a post for another time.  And this post really isn't about fishing anyway but more phishing.  You know that unwanted mail that arrives in our inbox unless we take measures to guard against it.

And it's not just phishing - although maybe they are too, I haven't taken a close enough look at them.  But what's with numerous pitches for watches and sex-enhancement medication - I don't get it.  How many watches can one person wear?  And as far as the other, let's not even go there.

Lately, I've been inundated with requests to retrieve money.  A recent fave was an e-mail that suggested that I must be familiar with a certain African dictator who was deceased and had left a fortune to his family.  And with just a little of my help they'll be able to access millions of dollars which of course I would profit from being the one to help them and all.  Yeah, right.

The text had a grade school element to it.  But worse than just being badly written, it was written in slightly staccato English taking any morsel of believability away with the bad phrasing.  There wasn't even a morsel of believability that I could see.  Which leads to another question - why is it all badly written?  Not that I should complain, that makes it all easy to detect. 

So what inspired today's post?  Well, I've just been informed that my bank cancelled my tax transaction.  The e-mail assures me that the money was sent from my checking account and thereby cancelled.  Apparently it's a payment to the Internal Revenue Service and if I just hit that lovely executable file button - well, it will be all over - literally.

Internal Revenue?  Dead foreign dictators?  Glitzy Watches.  Okay back to the latest e-mail - the cancelled check and the Internal Revenue.  For one, get the spelling correct people - I don't mind American spelling but not when it involves my bank account - chequing not checking.  And the Internal Revenue?  Hey, I have enough worries filling out my Income Tax Return for Revenue Canada.

I know, get a decent spam filter and I can quit complaining.  But if I'd done that - you'd never have had this post. 

But speaking of fishing or phishing - while sending out a line for a new story idea I tripped on the unexpected.  A slight veer in the path, but isn't that what writing is all about?  A story so close to home I almost scraped my knuckles reeling in the general idea of it.  And the beauty of it is it's just a little veer in the path and just a bit of phishing from the home front.  Phishing - maybe it's not so bad after all.  At least as a good method of obtaining a story.

And fishing - the last time I did that I fell asleep in the boat without even a nibble.  You, any fishing stories?


Author's Echo: Life After Rejection, or How to Pick Yourself Up Again

Author's Echo: Life After Rejection, or How to Pick Yourself Up Again

Monday, June 20, 2011

Summer Solstice Contest

Today is the last day to enter the Summer Solstice contest because; well all good things have to end some time and, tomorrow is Summer Solstice.  Contest closes at midnight CST today.  For those recent followers of my blog, I hope you stick around after the contest.  I've enjoyed the run and getting to meet you all.  Hope you feel the same. 

For all my followers,  make sure if you want an extra entry into the contest that you dropped me an e-mail to let me know of the follow   Those of you that already have e-mailed me no need to repeat, I have your second chance to win recorded.

Good luck all!


Thursday, June 16, 2011

Writing and The Stanley Cup Playoffs

Writing isn't an easy business at least that's been my experience.  Maybe it is when you've made it and then again, maybe not.  All I know is where I'm at, published, and still maybe somewhere near the halfway mark of the hill that marks a writing career.  It can be confusing at times.  Not just confusing, some days it's just plain frustrating.  These last weeks have been a classic example.  There's been valleys and peaks and nothing in between.  My days went from accepting an award for my writing to rejection from a publisher who thought another work was not quite what they were looking for. 

City of Regina Writing Award
It was like standing on a podium with two different audiences.  Turn right and hear clapping, turn left and smack - a thumbs down.   Who to believe - which way to turn?

Maybe there's validity in both of them.  The people on the right confirmed that yes, I have a place in this crazy writing industry.  The people on the left reminded me that the world is bigger than one city's award and competition is stiff - keep upping the ante.  

It boils down to you have to love to write to succeed in this business,  that or become road kill beneath the cogs of the publishing industry.   I was reminded of that love as I watched the Stanley Cup playoffs and the smile that never seemed to leave the face of the Boston Bruins goalie.  Tim Thomas appears to love what he did.  How else do you explain his smile that never faltered even when a goal slipped into his net in one of the earlier games.  He loved what he was doing and he brought his best to every game.  Despite the pressure of being the one man on the team that seems to shoulder most of the blame for any goal against his team, he smiled.  And in the end that love and determination succeeded and we all know how that turned out.  A small little award for his team called the Stanley Cup and most valuable player for him. 

Tim Thomas is a reminder that despite the odds, in his case considerable to get to the NHL alone, one can succeed by upping their game, smiling and getting to work.  

And for me - there's still a framed reminder that says yes I can write and fortunately, no one has yet framed a rejection! 

And if there's a writing bone in your body, check out this little gem "Hooked" by Les Edgerton.

What gets you over the hump of a bad day?


Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Louisa May Alcott Mystery Series - Meet Author Anna Mclean

Welcome author Anna Maclean the creator of the Louisa May Alcott Mystery Series!  
I asked Anna to tell us about a journey that changed her.  And I began it all with part of a sentence.  

Life Hasn’t Been Quite the Same Since…

And here's what Anna had to say:
I traveled to Egypt some years ago by myself and with low funds, to put it mildly, so I stayed in some pretty strange hotels.  Whenever possible, I stayed in youth hostels and there was a very exotic one in Cairo, full of sand-colored stone and potted palms.

I was alone there on New Year's Eve, so the hostel keeper invited me to celebrate with his family.  And celebrate we did:  dozens of dishes, all deep-fried and very spicy, and lots of wine. (They weren't strict Muslims.)  On the stroke of midnight, my host took an armful of empty wine bottles and tossed them out the window!  Judging by the sounds from the street, everyone else did the same.  The next morning, the streets were filled with glass and all the cars had flat tires and I thought I had never seen a stranger version of out with the old and in with the new.  Yet it was a New Year's Eve I'll never forget, filled with food and music and a little wildness, and the wonderful kindness of strangers.

I was a more trusting person after that night, still filled with the crazy fearlessness of youth that allows you to travel alone to distant places, but also filled with a sense that the world, and its people, can be a very wonderful place.

An excerpt from Louisa and The Missing Heiress 
by Anna Maclean

          The clock chimed four-thirty. I sighed and stirred, tapping my foot more quickly under the concealing hem of my brown linsey-woolsey skirts. Where was our hostess? Surely she could have tried on every hat in Boston by now.  Had she forgotten? Dot had never been the quickest mind – she had wept over fractions and torn her hair over South American rivers – but to completely forget her own welcome-home tea party!

            I looked outside the room into the hall.  The huge, ornate coat tree was close enough to the parlor that every time I looked in that direction and saw Mr. Wortham’s velvet coat hanging there on its hook, I had the eerie sense that someone else was standing there, watching.  Something strange, hostile, dangerous, floated through that house where newlyweds should have been so happy.

            Much as I wished to see Dot, I decided it was time to leave. Abba was waiting for me at home with a basket of clothing to clean and mend for the women’s shelter and other tasks with which society could not be bothered.  Mr. Wortham was standing at the bay window, looking out into the street.  I went to him.

            “I do hope Dot is all right.  This is not like her.”

            “I fear a year in Europe may have changed her,” he said.  “It is liberating to travel, you know.”  But he was frowning and his dark eyes seemed darker than usual.

Praise for Anna Maclean and the Louise May Alcott mysteries:

"Anna Maclean shows us a side of Louisa May Alcott we never suspected in this fascinating new mystery series." ~Victoria Thompson, author of the Gaslight Mystery series

"I was instantly drawn into the characters and culture of America in the 1850's. Cozy mystery lovers, this is your cup of tea." ~Karen Harper, New York Times bestselling author of the Queen Elizabeth I mystery series

"This novel reveals that my great-great-aunt had a secret career that none of us knew about. It's great fun and a page-turner, and it uses the morals and mores of time and place to delightful effect." ~John Pratt, great-great-nephew of Louisa May Alcott
Jeanne Mackin is the author of several novels:  The Sweet By and By (St. Martin’s Press), Dreams of Empire (Kensington Books), The Queen’s War (St. Martin’s Press), and The Frenchwoman (St. Martin’s Press).   She has published short fiction and creative nonfiction in several journals and periodicals including  American Letters and Commentary and SNReview. She is also the author of the Cornell Book of Herbs and Edible Flowers (Cornell University publications)  and co-editor of  The Norton Book of Love (W.W. Norton),  and wrote art columns for newspapers as well as feature articles for several arts magazines.  She was the recipient of a creative writing fellowship from the American Antiquarian Society and her journalism has won awards from the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education, in Washington, D.C.  She teaches creative writing at Goddard College in Vermont, has taught or conducted workshops in Pennsylvania, Hawaii and New York and has traveled extensively in Europe.  She lives with her husband, Steve Poleskie,  in upstate New York.

Anna will be giving away a Victorian tea cup and saucer to one randomly drawn commenter.

What Defines You

"I'm not a drinker so I'd just have a gin."

This quote is from an older relative who will remain unnamed.  But it's a statement that just scratches the surface of a character.  I chuckle every time I hear that line.  And as it's a story she loves to tell, I've heard it often.   While we might think the words are rather contradictory, the speaker was entirely serious.  She doesn't drink and back in the day, while those around her enjoyed their favourite alcoholic beverage, she abstained and sipped on her gin.  Now, of course, her beverage of choice is tea but in her mind, that one gin was every bit as benign.

Definitely a character! 

Characters.  They're all around us from the people we know, to those we don't.  They all have their stories but they are all defined by simpler things, sometimes an expression, a belief, a saying.  Today I spotted a man with a bicycle weighed down with a plastic crate that seemed to hold what might be all his earthly belongings.  He was sitting on a park bench strumming his guitar.  An anomaly in the middle of a quiet rather standard neighbourhood.   And an interesting one as I considered who he might be or where he might be from.  Of course the fact that he may be a stranger to the neighbourhood, all of that is an assumption, maybe that was a local resident's alter ego and then, maybe it wasn't.

An author, who I also won't name, one of some renown, would give rather flamboyant speeches, his hair standing up as he swept his fingers through it at regular intervals and often hurled his jacket from the stage.  It was his utter lack of concern over what anyone might think - which was what he was known for, that defined him and made him a character to remember.

Character, it's all about those unique traits.  Any characters in your day?


Tomorrow author Anna Mclean will be here. She is the author of the Louisa May Alcott mystery series: Louisa and the Missing Heiress

Monday, June 13, 2011

Louisa May Alcott Mystery Series - June 15

Stop on by June 15 when I'll be hosting Anna Mclean  - author of Louisa May Alcott mystery series: Louisa and the Missing Heiress.  Anna will be giving away a Victorian tea cup and saucer to one lucky commenter over the course of her virtual tour.


Thursday, June 9, 2011

Award, Revelation or Both?

Today is a new day and it feels rather anti-climatic.  It's a quiet day post award ceremonies.  Yesterday I accepted the City of Regina Writing Award.  Amazing to win as the award is time-honoured and the competition was impressive.  

Weeks ago I was excited when I received the news.  Then the other shoe fell.  That's when I was informed that not only would I be giving a reading but the award ceremony would be "all about me." 

Freeze frame.

Fortunately, that statement wasn't completely true.  It was all about me and two others.  Two accomplished writers who came in runners-up.  Together it was our night but in the end it was only me, reading on that stage.  

Exciting for some people, maybe.  For me - no.  I've no interest in being on stage.  But on stage I was, for the first time facing a mike and giving a reading.  It turned out much better than I expected.  No melting into a little puddle or bolting for the exit.  Although I must admit the MC did a wonderful job of calming slightly jangled nerves.  In fact half way into it all I was beginning to enjoy it.  There were revelations while I was up there.  A - a mike isn't the evil enemy I'd once considered it.  B - if you play this thing right you actually are in charge of the audience - okay I didn't get there but I realized the possibilities. 

Another thing - Do you know that from that podium on stage you can see exactly what each member of the audience is doing?  Remember that the next time you talk to your neighbour mid-speech or decide to catch a small nap during that slightly long sermon.

But that aside - I met a wonderful community of writers that welcomed me.  They were generous in sharing industry news and tips and were interested in my journey as well. 

It was a night of firsts, although I've been interviewed before, I have never faced a TV camera.  So when the TV camera came trundling in, I was thankful that I faced its roving jaws near the end of the reading.  Still, it was an experience to learn to focus on the reporter's questions and realize that the answers came readily and the camera was really just that, a camera - despite the size of that lens.  

So that might have been my five minutes of fame - and if it was, I lived to tell the tale.


Monday, June 6, 2011

Don't Walk - Meditate

So the title is slightly conflicted, as I was both walking and meditating.  Let's correct that - trying to meditate - mostly thinking except for the short blips of time when I was able to slow it all down and just observe.  I learned one thing and that's meditation isn't easy. 

For now, the only one of those two entities, meditation and walking,  I'm any good at is walking.  Meditating, well that will take some practice.  Probably, all things considered, a lot of practice.  But in the brief time I did manage to still my mind I noticed things.  Noticed them like I don't normally notice as I took things in and my brain refrained from continual commentary.  It was like I was seeing everything at a different angle.  Seeing and being without judging and putting my own interpretation on things. 

Was it my imagination or did the sky have a deeper hue?  Wait, there goes thinking again.  Yes, this meditation thing isn't easy.  But for the blips of time I can shut off the running commentary, everything appears clearer, and somehow different.   It's like my feet know exactly where they're going without the sometimes exhausting and never-ending pitter patter of thoughts winding through my brain like an unwanted news reel.  You don't realize how busy a mind is until you ask it to turn off - just for a minute and discover that the off button is so used to being turned in the on position that your brain has no idea how to turn off and listen to something else.

I'm slowly discovering that meditation isn't just relaxing, it just might give a different perspective on how I view the world.  As my brain analyzes the world around me, I consider whether I am  experiencing reality as opposed to my interpretation of reality?   I don't know.  What I do know is that when I still my mind everything appears different, richer in a way without the continual labels and analysis that my thoughts apply to everything like a deluge of sticky notes flooding my environment.  Picture the trees, shrubs, mailman - all decorated in the sticky notes of our thoughts.  Meditation sweeps the sticky notes aside, if only briefly. 

Good, bad or just different? 

It defintely puts a different perspective on the world and for anyone that's a good thing.  For a writer, that's fantastic.  And bonus, I heard it's relaxing.  So with that in mind, I'm off for a walk and see if I can stretch my meditation time past the one minute marker. 

Any new views in your world?


Wednesday, June 1, 2011

In the Beginning - There Was Darkness...

Writers should really be provided with an accurate road map when beginning this crazy journey to publication.  Seriously, that would make it all so much easier.  A map that says begin here at point A writing said story which when completed you will submit to Publisher A.  If Publisher A accepts remain on course for Plan A.  

If Publisher A rejects they would direct the author to the next best route for their project.  Said author, revises or not according to instruction, and then goes back to their map and follows the new route to the next publisher and so it goes.  Each step a clear route on the map.

No wait that would be utopia and this is the real world. In the real world one struggles through learning craft and writing story after story that is published or not.  And eventually you may find a substitute for said map, an agent, but not before you've spent many, many hours and learned much of the process for yourself.

But first, to succeed you must enter no man's land.  It's a dark brooding place filled with highs and lows, hopes and dreams, excitement and bouts of disappointment that dive you into moments of darkness where you threaten to never write again. Don't go there - writing takes the darkness away every time. 

And there is no map.  I'm sorry to say, it's a jungle out there.  You can plot a course but it is only guesswork whether or not you'll arrive at your destination in one piece or whether your story is sturdy enough to make it to the end. 

And that's why in a utopian world a map would be ideal especially as you first venture into the world offering your writing and fearing that it's about to become the sacrificial lamb at the alter of something bigger than you can quite comprehend.  Wait, that's no fear, that's reality.  If you're lucky you'll get no rejection, no scathing comments.

Scathing comments?

Maybe, maybe not.  But every rejection draws its ounce of blood.  After awhile you'll get callouses.  If you've got a strong stomach and a huge dose of fortitude, you'll make it through the dark hours where eventually there's light. 

But if you're a writer - do you really have a choice?  So strap on that backpack, pick up the map you've outlined for yourself and write on.  And whether you're a writer or not, appreciate the book you're reading just a little more as you consider its author's journey.  I know I will.