Saturday, 24 September 2016

The secret of your future is hidden in your daily routine. —Mike Murdock


When we moved into our home, the property was overgrown. A previous well-intentioned owner had overplanted both in the back and the front. New to the natural foliage of British Columbia and unschooled in handling many of the species, we trimmed timidly last fall. Not so this year. We spent the week out front, digging up and moving plants and hacking and slaughtering anything over four feet tall. It looks haggard and worn, but we know the climate will support new growth and that spring will bring fresh beauty.
There is something satisfying about taking control of the yard. We did it systematically, going out each afternoon with our self-assigned tasks. In the mornings, I took much the same approach to my writing. While I'd like to say the words flowed, the truth is they trickled. At least I did not face a full dam. A small leak is better than that. Without a doubt, sitting each day and actually putting words on paper is slowly rebuilding the habit, strengthening the writing muscle. I am once again lying at night, plotting and planning and that too is a terrific turning point.

Synergy is an interesting phenomena. As I begin to take control of these two aspects of my world, I am also finding the driving desire to take care of my body. The pleasure of many months of hosting and socializing has taken its toll. I had fallen into a lazy exercise routine and indulged in eating and drinking far more than my body can handle. So, since I can't just hack away at unwanted body fat or transplant some strength into atrophied limbs, I threw myself into some serious exercising and carefully monitored my intake. And, it feels good. Really good.

I'm not sure whether or not I am a control freak, but I do know this sense of micro-domination increases my productivity and brings satisfaction. I am optimistic that I have crossed a mental threshold and will continue to throw myself regularly into each of these endeavours. While I firmly believe that shaking up my world is necessary from time to time, that celebration is integral to happiness and that enjoying unexpected moments is essential to living a rounded healthy life, I have discovered that the comfort that routine brings is also important to me.
Look out backyard, I'm coming for you!



Saturday, 17 September 2016

You can’t think yourself out of a writing block; you have to write yourself out of a thinking block. ― John Rogers

I thought if I just showed up, the writing would fall back into place. So, I have shown up each day, sat in front of my computer, puttered with a few words and then drifted off to Twitter and blogs and anything else that would take me as far away from the void as possible. For, I am looking into a black hole rather than a maelstrom of words. I've got nothing. Nada. Zero.

At first, I thought it was the quiet that has settled over Cutting to the Chase. It is done. It is out in the world. And, while I know the process takes time, it is difficult not to feel defeated by the silence. I am grateful that agents have asked for my full manuscript but the waiting is not easy. I read about how hard it is, over and over on writers' blogs. Consistently, they say to move on. Write something else to distract you. Advice I took to heart. But what do you do when no words flow? You sit and listen to the stillness and worry that you are not good enough. That you were never good enough. That you are entirely delusional to even think you could be a writer.
I decided I suffered from some form of mental paralysis, that fear was making my writing muscles rigid. The self-diagnosis did not help. I floundered even more. Mags' story remained elusive. It shifted and morphed in my mind but didn't drift to the page. Perhaps a change of pace was in order? I pulled up the sequel to Raven's Path. And stared at it. I reviewed my plot notes for Sophia's story, my second Regency. Crickets. Like a madwoman, I opened every file that contained story premises…and remained entirely uninspired.

I have come to the conclusion that it is not enough to just show up. That's like going to the gym and watching the Zumba class or staring at the equipment. Like the reluctant exerciser (and trust me, I know her well), I need to push myself into activity, even if it's just going through the motions. I need to put words to paper every day despite the fact that they might be absolute crap. Logically, I know that eventually my atrophied writing muscles will strengthen and I will once again be able to string together a coherent story.

It is far easier to keep a habit by writing a little bit every day than it is to rebuild the habit. I must remember that the next time life lures me with its promise of good times and good friends. There is no need to pass up on any of it, but nor is it necessary to ditch my writing so completely. I think even fifteen minutes a day would have held its valuable place in my life.

So, I will enjoy this weekend and get back on the writing treadmill on Monday. It won't be easy, and it's going to be uncomfortable and probably frustrating. But it's as necessary as my daily exercise regime because it's my mental sanity. My creative anchor. It's what I do. I write…I hope.

Saturday, 10 September 2016

Hornby Island—the jewel of the Gulf


For those who drop by regularly, you might have gathered that I am enamoured of my new home. The vistas, the weather, the pace, our friends old and new—I am captivated, invigorated and inspired. This province is an artist's dream. There is a niche for every performer, visual artist or writer. And, if you want to experience art, to learn more about any of those mediums, or to simply surround yourself with talent, you do not have to look very far.
In August, we had the pleasure of joining some friends at their summer home on Hornby Island. Nestled in the Salish Sea, it is a funky eclectic retreat, two ferry rides from Vancouver Island. Its rustic ambience is entirely misleading. As you drive along the only road from the ferry, it lulls you into believing there is little there except nature's beauty. But, it is dichotomous. Definitely a place to unplug and unwind if that is your desire, but it's also teeming with a vibrant arts community that will keep you hopping if you so choose. We enjoyed a little bit of both.

The ten-day Hornby Festival included a one day Writer's Festival. Featuring Canadian writers of all ilk, it was right up my alley. The weather was iffy that day so they promptly moved it to the community hall. It was a beehive of activity, buzzing with anticipation. And, it did not disappoint. Such joy to meet and to listen to new-to-me authors! Claudia Casper's reading about a cougar attack, from her novel The Mercy Journals, was appropriately cringe-worthy. I laughed and cried as Michael Christie talked about his inspiration for If I Fall, If I Die. A renowned skateboarder turned author, he is a writer to watch. 

The day was capped off with a keynote address by Lawrence Hill. Seriously, does it get any sweeter? His soft cadence lulled, made it feel comfortable and intimate, while his sincere candid sharing about his life, his sister's death and his take on the world in general thumped in my heart and mind. He is clearly a man who cares deeply about what he says both in his writing and in person. A signed copy of The Illegal now sits at the top of my TBR pile.

There were many authors that we didn't catch because we wanted to tour this oh-so-small island (~30 km²). So, in true Keev and Rose fashion, we hit our version of tourist highlights. We visited the charming Carbrea Winery, sipped Pinot Gris and enjoyed fresh peaches. We dropped in at Island Spirits Distillery, where the owner is quite the character. Samplings of gin and vodka were very interesting—black jelly bean…mmm. As an added bonus, we ran into Michael Christie at the distillery. He is so disarming and genuine, I almost cried again. And, to top off the tour, we had cocktails at the beautiful Breeze Restaurant overlooking the ocean.
Yes, the arts are supported, nurtured and celebrated. So, it seems, is the making of alcohol. No wonder I'm so darn happy here!
 


Keev with Lawrence Hill

Saturday, 3 September 2016

There is comfort in routine. —John Steinbeck


I'm back! Of course, I don't expect that to generate as much excitement for you folks as it does for me. It's been a fabulous few months, but there is nothing like settling back into routine. My brain needs it and, without a doubt, my body needs it!

But, what a summer!

We enjoyed visits with so many special people.
We did lots of gardening and continue to enjoy the fruits of our labour.


 
We ate an awful lot of food.
And enjoyed far too many bevvies.


















Even the girls had a blast.
 









Now it's time to buckle down and get back to this.
 










I hope everyone had a terrific summer. Let's hold hands and jump into fall together!

Saturday, 16 July 2016

“There is virtue in work and there is virtue in rest. Use both and overlook neither.” — Alan Cohen


Summer brings visitors. We are thrilled that people take the time to come see us. They enrich our lives with laughter and joy. We relish the time we spend with them, sharing old memories and making new ones. But, time is slipping through my fingers and I'm not able to hold onto it long enough to write anything substantial. And, I need to write. Not just because it brings me pleasure and a sense of accomplishment, but because agents are currently reading Cutting to the Chase.

Mags' story is connected to Lizzy's. And, Becky's tale is linked with theirs. It is looking like Stu also requires his own pages. While this is not a series—one is not dependent upon another to unfold logically—they are definitely intertwined. I would like to be able to offer these stories should I be fortunate enough to get "the call". More importantly, I feel a desire, a drive, to chase these stories to the ground, flesh them out and make them more than scattered scenes and theoretical novels. Mags' is well on its way. I need to finish it and move on to the others. And, I want to enjoy our stream of guests.

So, dear readers, it is time for a blog hiatus. Writer friends, I'll continue to haunt your sites and our wonderful writers' forums: RWA, TRW, SCBWI, CompuServe B & W. But, I know many of you keep track of Keev and I through the blog and I do apologize. Know that we are doing well here on the coast, love this new life that we're beginning to accept as the norm, and are busy embracing friends old and new.

I will return by the end of August and, should something exciting happen with Cutting to the Chase before then, I promise to share it here…and, well, everywhere. J Until then, be kind to yourself and others, and celebrate all the wonderful moments that summer seems to bring.

Saturday, 9 July 2016

“Be curious. Read widely. Try new things. What people call intelligence just boils down to curiosity.” ― Aaron Swartz


 

 
I'm currently reading this YA novel about an overweight teen, her dysfunctional family and their participation in a reality show. My verdict is still out on it. While I like her spirit and sass, there are moments that her sense of humour is a little off for me. More stereotypical guy humour than girl. I'm also having a difficult time with many of the descriptions of her weight. She is 5' 6", 192 lbs—not a petite girl by any means but the author paints images of morbid obesity. Instead, I just keep driving, my elbows resting atop the rolls of blubber that billow out from the sides below my bra like squishy armrests. But, as much as these things jar me from the story, I will not bring my judgement gavel down until the end.


This gem is by Carolyn Jewel (See what I did there? J). I have it on my iPad Kindle and read it while on the elliptical, which is every other day. A sign that it is thoroughly enjoyable is that I am almost, I repeat almost, disappointed when my half hour is up.
 

One of my go-to books for writing, I pulled this back out to strengthen my description in one of the scenes I was writing. I ended up going through the whole book again. It's a terrific way to consolidate some of the learning. I should put it under my pillow and see if I can absorb some of its simple genius.


I ordered several books from this gardener on Salt Spring Island. The first one has been tremendously helpful with my summer gardening. I am playing with continuing through the winter. You know, just because I can. Yep, that's a dig at you, cold Ontario.
 
 
Tucked in amongst the reading above are forays into teen magazines through Texture. (Canadians, if you don't have Texture and you like magazines, you should seriously consider subscribing.) While I am truly reading these for research purposes, I must say it's rather fun. Almost makes me want to be young again. I repeat, almost.

What are you reading these days?

Friday, 1 July 2016

Take a step back, evaluate what is important, and enjoy life. —Teri Garr


Happy Canada Day! Now known, in our home, as Happy We-Bought-A-Home-on-Vancouver-Island Day! It is surreal that a whole year has passed since we arrived in British Columbia and signed on the dotted line. It seems like forever ago, and it seems like only yesterday, that Keev and I and the two furbabies jammed as much as we could into the RAV and headed across the country on a wing and a prayer, hoping that we were making the right decision. 

So, it is right that I take stock of my life on this day. Two years ago, around this same time, I said goodbye to a profession I thoroughly enjoyed. I committed to writing as a career and have no regrets. Perhaps a lingering love for the job I left behind turned my creative mind towards Lizzy's and, now Mags', story. All I know is YA is a genre I'm passionate about, both in reading and writing. It's not entirely surprising considering I worked with teen novels when teaching and consulting. I also delved extensively into the genre when I taught for York University, working with teachers to engage adolescents through the marriage of drama and literature.

While I have not queried as widely as many I know, I am well into the process. I am pleased that about 20% have requested my full manuscript and several others have asked for partials. A better response than some of my writer friends have had, not as good a response as others I know. Regardless, for me it is affirming. I only submitted to those agents I would feel good working with, based on their online presence and/or interviews. To have any of them express interest is a boost to this writer's morale. I have no idea where this writing road leads, but I am enjoying the journey. So, check, my mind is well stimulated.

This home we landed a year ago is a pastoral paradise. I thought I was a city girl but it turns out the young country girl in me was ready to resume her position. I like being outdoors, working in the yard, weeding the garden, and taking long walks. Even when writing, I am positioned to look out the window at farm fields and the mountains. All of the exercise and fresh air is balanced by a calm, a peace that has settled within me. Amazing. So, check, I am in a healthy place both physically and mentally.

Our neighbours are not just the best neighbours anyone could ask for, they've also quickly become our friends. It is exciting to have new people to get to know, new stories to hear and new experiences to share. On the flip side of that, dear friends from Ontario and Montreal have visited. We laughed, reminisced…maybe drank a little too much wine… and felt the bittersweet melancholy of saying farewell to people we love. But, we are fortunate as there are folks who live on the island who beat us here. People who shared our old lives and are now a regular part of our new lives, and are also very dear to us. They always take the time to visit with us when they truck up and down the island. So, check, socially and emotionally, the friendship trough is filled to the brim.

And, of course, there's Keev and the furbabies. Always, first and foremost, forever, Keev and the furbabies. Check, my heart is full.

My inventory is complete. Life is good, the old and the new blending seamlessly to create a life full of contentment. Now, I must go join my friends on the deck and raise a glass of bubbly to celebrate. Happy We-Bought-A-Home-on-Vancouver-Island…er…I mean…Happy Canada Day!

 

The best little cross-country travellers.