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.
 

Saturday, 25 June 2016

Let no one think that real gardening is a bucolic and meditative occupation. It is an insatiable passion, like everything else to which a man gives his heart. —Karel Čapek, The Gardener's Year


I am gardening now. Well, actually since late January. Most of the flowers in pots and all of the vegetables were started from seed. For many that may seem uneventful and mundane. For me it has been an engaging process with satisfying moments and frustrating challenges.

Research preceded everything. I read about my new climate and new soil, trying to understand how that impacts which plants to choose and how to grow them. Then I seeded and waited patiently for sprouts. With the sprouts came the realization that I still did not know enough, so I went to some workshops offered by a local garden centre, and I read some more.

I nurtured those fledglings and they began to grow into full blown plants. I again came to the conclusion that I did not know enough, that to bring them to the soil successfully, I needed to increase my skill set. So, YouTube became my best friend. Amazing how time flies when watching potting, planting, cutting, and securing. After my knowledge trough was full, I pushed on to the next level and started my gardens in earnest.

Some things wilted, some things are being eaten. I had to chase away the charming quail who were far too interested in my seedlings. I am at war with the slugs and the earwigs and have, thanks again to YouTube, concocted my own yeast brew in homemade traps. It is working but it is an ongoing process. Weeds are growing as successfully as the plants and I have to stay on top of those to ensure they do not choke out the good stuff.

But, I have harvested many things already—asparagus, radishes, snow peas, peas, new potatoes and lettuce. My tomatoes are beginning to ripen and small peppers are forming. Other things, cucumbers, zucchini, squash and beans, are coming along nicely.

It is an ongoing series of learn, work, and wait. And, it is oh so satisfying when things come to fruition. It's a lot like writing. J

Flowers from seed for the balcony.
 

 

Snow peas

Second crop of radishes and carrots
 
 

Potatoes

Lettuce and garlic
 


Fresh salads are a daily staple now.

Friday, 17 June 2016

GUEST POST: Writers, Have You Rocked The Vault?

writershelpingwriters_logo_300x300px_finalThere's nothing better than becoming lost within the story world within minutes of starting a book. And as writers, this is what we're striving to do: pull the reader in, pull them down deep into the words, make them feel like they are experiencing the story right alongside the hero or heroine.



A big part of achieving this is showing the character's surroundings in a way that is textured and rich, delivering this description through a filter of emotion and mood. It means we have to be careful with each word we choose, and describe the setting in such a way that each sight, sound, taste, texture, and smell comes alive for readers. This is no easy task, especially since it is so easy to overdo it—killing the pace, slowing the action, and worst of all, boring the reader. So how can we create a true unique experience for readers and make them feel part of the action while avoiding descriptive missteps that will hurt the story?



Well, there's some good news on this front. Two new books have released this week that may change the description game for writers. The Urban Setting Thesaurus: A Writer's Guide to City Spaces and The Rural Setting Thesaurus: A Writer's Guide to Personal and Natural Spaces look at the sights, smells, tastes, textures, and sounds that a character might experience within 225 different contemporary settings. And this is only the start of what these books offer writers.

In fact, swing by and check out this hidden entry from the Urban Setting Thesaurus: Antiques Shop.




And there's one more thing you might want to know more about....



Rock_The_Vault_WHW1Becca and Angela, authors of The Emotion Thesaurus, are celebrating their double release with a fun event going on from June 13-20th called ROCK THE VAULT. At the heart of Writers Helping Writers is a tremendous vault, and these two ladies have been hoarding prizes of epic writerly proportions.



A safe full of prizes, ripe for the taking...if the writing community can work together to unlock it, of course.

Ready to do your part? Stop by Writers Helping Writers to find out more!

Saturday, 11 June 2016

Not to be boxed in, to be able to transcend boundaries: for an artist, it's essential.—Shahzia Sikander


I'm not quite sure anymore how to define myself as a writer. Two years ago I would have told you I write historical fiction and historical romance. I began eight years ago with research-heavy historical fiction and loved it. Still love it. Then, I dabbled in historical romance, writing three novellas before writing my first Regency romance. What a romp! Lizzy's voice began as a whisper during that novel and I opened myself up to telling her story. It has led me to Mags' story and an outline for two other characters from Lizzy's tale. So, I spend most of my time writing young adult. Does that make me a YA writer?
This has been on my mind as I query and include links to my Twitter feed and the blog. The look and feel of the blog was designed to reflect my earlier writing. My bio, while revamped somewhat over the years, reflects the diversity of my writing choices. My blog entries are eclectic, truly rambling between writing thoughts and sharing moments of my personal life. They are inextricably wound. Will this mishmash of images be a deterrent to an agent? Do I look like someone who waffles, who lacks direction?

To this end, I decided to start a YA blog. It's a work in progress and any suggestions would be gratefully appreciated. It is a place where I hope to eventually add me, the YA author. Which brings me back to the original conundrum. Am I now a YA writer? The adage write what you know is certainly applicable for this genre. My career centered around the lives of kids and teens. I have listened to, cried for and rejoiced with the Lizzys, the Mags, and the Beckys. I am lost in their worlds once again and it feels a bit like coming home.

But, while I am not a person who lacks direction, I am a person who seeks stimulation, variety and change. I am still writing scenes for my Regency novels—I have two more mapped out. I am still chasing historical tidbits down rabbit holes and making notes for the sequel to Raven's Path, dabbling at writing it from time to time. When I hit a wall in my YA, I find turning to these pieces takes away anxiety and frees up my creativity again. Ultimately, that leads me back to my YA.

So, although I have finally come to the conclusion that I am, indeed, a writer, I fret and fuss about definitions and parameters. Do I need to? Must I be boxed into a genre, defined by it? Am I shooting myself in the foot by advertising that I write this…and that…oh, and, that too? Does it show versatility and unlimited potential or do I just look a tad aimless?

I suppose none of it matters at the moment. Perhaps, it will when I have representation and a book in the offing. Until then, I'm fairly certain, I will remain, metaphorically and concretely, rambling Rose.
Jack-of-all-trades in a box. J
 



Sunday, 29 May 2016

Writing is not necessarily something to be ashamed of, but do it in private and wash your hands afterwards. – Robert A. Heinlein


This writing journey is interesting, enlightening and, at times, overwhelming. It is fraught with highs and lows. Some days what pours onto the page enlivens me, other days it frustrates the heck out of me. Querying, synopsis writing and sending my work out into the big ol' world is exciting and intimidating. The whole process is an emotional roller coaster.

I have no desire to stop the ride and get off. It is what I do. It's what I've been focussed on for eight years. Now that I can write full-time, it has become an even more powerful force in my life. Yet, I have always been hesitant to identify myself as a writer. As I debate the financial wisdom of attending the Surrey International Writers' Conference again, I am reminded of the euphoria I felt listening to Jack Fallis' keynote speech, the final speech of the conference. He had noticed that all tags had names along with the addition of agent, editor, publisher, volunteer and writer. But many just had the place the person came from. He told us to take off our tags and put writer beneath our names. Because that was what we were, published or not.

That's when my thinking shifted. I began to treat writing as my job. I now dedicate several hours every morning, seven days a week. Sometimes I write longer, but it is rare that I skip a day.  I began to talk more openly with friends about my writing. I started to share snippets, something I was incredibly uncomfortable doing in years past.

The other day someone was here measuring our windows for shades and she asked what I do. I immediately said "I write." I actually said it aloud to a stranger! Now, perhaps it's because of the validation I am receiving from my queries. I have several full manuscript requests from agents based on the query letter and sample chapter(s). For my non-writer readers, that does not mean I am necessarily on the road to acquiring an agent but it does mean that my writing has something going on, enough to catch the attention of folks who know writing. And, I'll take that affirmation and save it for when I hit the lows of the journey.

But, I digress. Back to my easy response of "I write." She immediately asked what I'd written, and then wanted to know where she could buy my books. A year ago, I would have felt boxed in a corner, felt stupid for declaring myself a writer without having so much as an agent. But, not now. It was easy to answer. "Oh, I'm not published…not yet."