Friday, 9 December 2016

“Capture your dreams and your life becomes full. You can, because you think you can.” – Nikita Koloff


I read publishing announcements regularly. On blogs, on Twitter and in trade papers. Some are dry industry notices that emphasize the deal and not the author. But, many are direct from writers both new and seasoned. I rejoice for all of them, but I relish the debut author announcements. They are always effusive. Filled with squees, happy dances and smiley emoticons, they make me smile. And, they encourage me to keep dreaming.

Well, today it is my turn to broadcast good news. I am happy…no, thrilled…to share that my contemporary young adult novel, Cutting to the Chase, is being published by Evernight Teen! Needless to say I have been squeeing, dancing happily and sending out a few smiley faces of my own. It is all signed, sealed and delivered with a projected publishing date of February 2017.

I am optimistic that publication is not the end of the road for this writer's journey but, instead, a fork with more choices to contemplate. To that end, I need to get seriously busy. I am working on building my YA image and author site here. There is promo to consider to support what the publisher plans. And, Mags' story will not write itself. If readers enjoy Lizzy's tale, they might want to hear more about Mags. She'd better be ready and waiting in the wings.

So, I am going to take a small hiatus from the blog. Between what I need to accomplish in writing and the festive season, something needs to give. Besides, you folks will be busy too. And, if you miss me and want a little fix, either follow me on Twitter or Instagram. Or, even easier, scroll down two posts and watch me sing Hallelujah. J

I will return in the new year. Until then, be good to yourself. And continue to dream. Dream daringly. Dream big. Then chase those dreams down. I'm living proof that if you dream it and think you can do it, you can.

Happy Holidays!

Friday, 2 December 2016

If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude. —Maya Angelou


Years ago, Keev and I joined five friends on a houseboat on the Trent Severn Waterway in Ontario. It was a week filled with eating and drinking, playing tourist and enjoying the quiet beauty of inlets along the river. One day, we awoke to rain splattering the bedroom window. A bit disappointed but undaunted, we headed out to join the others in the main living area. A typical laughter-filled breakfast started the day but, as the morning wore on, we saw no sign of the heavy rain stopping. That meant no walks, no lounging in the sun, no swimming. We grew quieter and felt a little down. That's when one of our friends announced, "I think it's a soup day!"

Now, that sentence in isolation sounds a bit odd. But, it was stated with such an air of confidence and expectation that we bought into it. Together we made soup and, while the weather remained the same, the mood lightened. Afterward, we curled up around the boat, napping, reading or chatting. And it felt cozy, not claustrophobic. All because our friend changed the tone by declaring it a soup day.

Soup has always been at the centre of my husband's life. In true French-Canadian style, he grew up with a pot of soup on the stove for his daily lunch. It's a tradition he loves, and we have now fallen into the routine of enjoying a noon-hour bowl of soup. And, none of that canned stuff. He makes it from scratch, and I look forward to his creations.

It has been a wetter fall than usual on the island. Not wanting our moods to reflect the gloom, we decided to have a pre-emptive soup "pick-me-up." But, since soup making is a regular occurrence in our house, we wanted to do something different. Recently, a friend in the neighbourhood had mentioned that she would like to try my husband's lentil soup. So, we brought the ingredients to her house. Keev made the soup while we watched. It was a wonderful afternoon of laughter and talk and, yes, wine. J

It poured that afternoon and we didn't care. We couldn't have been more content.

In life we often cannot control what happens to us, only how we respond. Our houseboat friend, wise beyond her years, understood that. When it rains in your life, choose to make it a soup day!

Friday, 18 November 2016

Act the way you'd like to be and soon you'll be the way you act. —Leonard Cohen


Like many, I continue to contemplate what is happening in our world and wonder what we can do to make things better. I honestly do believe that it starts in our own backyard. If each of us took time to care for those in our communities, then, like the heat that radiates from of a ray of sunshine, everyone would feel the warmth. We all need to know that someone cares, that we matter in this life, that we are loved.

I have always enjoyed Leonard Cohen's songs. They brought peace and solace to me in times of stress. I was saddened to hear of his passing, but I know that he lived a life of his choosing and has left his mark. That is more than many of us can claim.

A few years ago, I had the privilege of performing Hallelujah. It was with the wonderful Madcap Players, the troupe that my husband and I were a part of for so many treasured years. And, in true Madcap fashion, I rewrote the lyrics to suit a Christmas show. Embedded in that rewrite is my belief that we make a difference with our everyday actions.

With the Christmas season approaching, I decided to share it here. If you sing solo, or in a choir or know someone who does, please share the lyrics. Encourage everyone to reach beyond December's good wishes and generosity. Idealistic? Perhaps. But simple and doable. Let's all make a concerted effort, throughout the year, to make our world everything that it can be, everything it should be.

         (Lyrics below)


Hallelujah

Christmas is upon us now
We bow our heads and take a vow
To live the good that really
should flow through us
We toss a coin
We give a gift
To charity we'll give a lift
We raise our heads exalting Hallelujah
Hallelujah , Hallelujah
Hallelujah , Hallelujah

Gestures grand and warmly meant
We do our best to prevent
A sad or hungry Christmas Day
for anyone
But Christmas comes
just once a year
Too many days they live in fear
Each day survived they bless with Hallelujah
Hallelujah , Hallelujah
Hallelujah , Hallelujah

Maybe there's a God above
Who gave us strength and gave us love
But what's the point if we don't
really use it
Make each day
a Christmas day
Help someone along their way
Then we'd all have cause to shout out Hallelujah
Hallelujah , Hallelujah
Hallelujah , Hallelujah

Hallelujah
Hallelujah
Hallelujah
Hallelujah

Hallelujah , Hallelujah

 

Friday, 11 November 2016

A smile is the light in your window that tells others that there is a caring, sharing person inside. —Denis Waitley

I have not managed to get much writing done this week. Along with millions of others, my attention and thoughts have been focussed on, and ultimately derailed by, what happened in the United States.

I followed the American election closely for the first time in my life. It was difficult not to be drawn in by its reality-TV-like presentation. Filled with grandstanding, released "secrets" and jaw-dropping rhetoric, it was impossible to look away. And, it had become exhausting. So, happy that the show was coming to an end, anxious for a hate-mongering candidate to be shown the door and convinced that there was no way such a vitriolic person could represent the hearts and minds of the American people, I tuned in on Tuesday night.

Anticipation fell into disbelief which was ultimately swallowed by despair. I cried. I honestly wept. My heart broke for my American friends. Having read the man's 3 am Twitter rants, knowing that he's now going to be in a position to direct America's benevolence or its wrath, my mind worried for our world. And, then my anger bubbled. How stupid were the American people? And, that's where I got stuck for a few days.
As the cloud of emotion lifts, I see my anger as representative of the same ugly sentiments I am condemning in that vote. I am painting a nation of people with a single stroke. And America, like Canada, is anything but a single colour, a single texture, a single style. I can't pretend to understand the motivation of folks who would put a man who has clearly demonstrated throughout his life that he is not a decent human being in such an important position. But I cannot condemn a nation either. A country is populated by people, and people are fallible.

I do know that as Americans sort through their decision, there is much to ponder. They must figure out what has gone so wrong in their country that a man with questionable business acumen, a man with no political experience (Seriously, entry level position is the Oval Office?) and, most importantly, a man who is so proudly lacking in moral values can become president. I also believe that we, as a country, should also be looking around. If we scratch the surface of Canada, what lies beneath? I'd like to think nothing equivalent to what we've seen in the States of late, but then that's what many Americans wanted to believe too.

What can we do to ensure our country remains the idealistic vision we hold of it? What can Americans do to rebuild their optimism in each other and in their future? It starts with kindness and generosity. Extend it to all you meet. Pay it forward, pass it on. Don't wait for the phoenix to rise from the ashes. Build the fire, fan the flames of decency and goodness and light the world. 


 

Saturday, 5 November 2016

There's no such thing as downtime for your brain. —Jeffrey Kluger

I was going to skip posting anything this week but, since I know many of you actually check in each weekend, I thought it unfair to just leave it blank. Images of you returning repeatedly, only to find the now stale GIFS from my previous post, are nudging me to at least leave an imprint here so that you can move on with your weekend. Busy days sneaking in yard work between raindrops, digging deep into revision and writing new words have kept my mind occupied. So, I'm fried. Spent. Depleted.

So, move on. Don't come back 'til next week. And, have a terrific weekend!


One of our recent visitors.

Friday, 28 October 2016

Why do you jump in a roller coaster? You want a thrill. —Fede Alvarez

Last weekend I attended the Surrey International Writers' Conference. It is a roller coaster of stimulation filled with the requisite ups and downs. Rather than wax eloquent about the emotive ascent and descent of such an event, I thought I'd give you a visual representation of the ride.

      1. Anticipation began before I left the platform.

2. Travelling to the conference was a slow climb, but it sped up
    when I met folks I've known online for years, as well as
    saw writer friends from last year.

                                                           3. The rush of reaching the pinnacle was rubbing
                                                               shoulders with published authors. (Yes, I could have
                                                               had books signed. Do I regret not doing it? A bit, but I
                                                               was busy. See #2!)                

 
4. Throughout the ride, I partook in a little of this...
5. ...a lot of this...
 
                                                                      6. ...and, a ton of this.                                              
 
7. I hit a bump saying goodbye.
8. But soared with joy at seeing my loved ones
who waited patiently at home.
 
                                                                       9. I hit bottom at withdrawal and depression.
10. Oh, wait, bottom was stalking Twitter. Why? Cuz of #9.
I was looking to share that feeling of being lost, to know that I'm not insane,
 that this is a normal reaction. Right? Right?
 
                                     11. In a few days, I returned to the platform. Accepting that the ride  
                                           was over, I reconnected with everyday life. I reviewed notes,
                                           which led to renewed inspiration, and I got back to writing.
 
12. And, now I sit, looking at the track in anticipation of #SIWC17 because, well, I'm a writer. Why wouldn't I want to take the ride again?
 

Saturday, 15 October 2016

Looking forward to things is half the pleasure of them. —Lucy Maud Montgomery


Anticipation: a feeling of excitement about something that is going to happen; the act of preparing for something. —Merriam-Webster
That about sums it up for me at the moment. While the winds howl and the rain pelts, I am all smiles and laughter. For, next week, I am off to the Surrey International Writers' Conference. For the uninitiated, it is a cornucopia of stimulation, a full-out feast of inspiration and word crafting for writers.

My four day foray into the joyous muddle of writing and publishing begins with journey by float plane. Weather permitting, I will be taking my first itty-bitty plane ride. I am ridiculously excited by this. Not even the fact that I must minimize my luggage is putting a damper on my eagerness to see the islands from above. Not to mention, rather than a two-hour ferry ride, I will be on the mainland in twenty minutes. Nothing against the ferry service—it is comfortable and scenic—but, seriously? Twenty minutes?

I am taking a master class the day before the conference starts. The thought of this class has me doing a happy dance and, for those who know me or who have followed this blog for any length of time, you will recognize immediately why this particular class has me hopping up and down. It is "Writing Sex Scenes" with…wait for it…Diana Gabaldon! For folks who don't know why I am giddy over this, let me give you a brief summary. Diana wrote my all-time favourite series that begins with Outlander. It re-ignited not just my joy of reading for pleasure but my love of writing too, essentially sending me down this path of wordsmithing that I so enjoy. Outlander also led me to a forum where Diana is very active, supporting readers and writers alike. She has encouraged me and given me feedback, often at times when I despaired of moving forward in my writing. I met her briefly in Fergus. A highlight for me. Now, I get to learn from her in person. And, between the forum and having read her books, including the latest e-book, I Give You My Body, there is no doubt in mind that she is a master of the craft.
That forum I've mentioned? It has been a gold mine for me over the last eight or so years. Populated by published and wanna-be-published writers, it is a supportive environment where I have been encouraged to grow and learn. I consider many people on it my friends, even though I have not met many of them. That is about to change. An unprecedented number are flying in from around the world for this conference. At last count, I believe, we were at 40. Included in this number are two of my beta readers for Raven's Path—one from Germany and the other from California. I never thought I'd get to meet them and thank them personally for taking the time to read a novel and give feedback to a stranger.

Of course, I am also looking forward to the myriad of workshops and talks. Last year, I was entertained as well as enlightened. I laughed and cried and the cogs in my writer's brain got so well-oiled, they began to spin. Inspired, I came home and wrote Cutting to the Chase in a month. It literally spilled onto the page.

So, dear readers, these are the things that currently fill me with anticipation. I will not be blogging next week, but know that I will be immersed in my writer's world, embraced by friends old and new, and nurtured by the seasoned guard of authors who so kindly feed my soul.

http://www.siwc.ca/
 

 

Saturday, 8 October 2016

Sometimes the best way to recharge our batteries is to unplug them. —Source Unknown


Like so many Canadians, we used to go away in the winter. One week a year, paying an exorbitant price because we were only able to travel during peak times, we would steal away from cold snowy Ontario and relax in the sunshine of Mexico or the Caribbean. During the winter of 2015, we were snowbirds for the first time in our lives. Thrilled to pay for a month what a week used to cost us, we enjoyed two months in Texas.
Since moving to Vancouver Island in July of 2015, we have not gone south. Actually, except for a stolen weekend on Hornby Island and a writers' conference last fall in Surrey, BC, we have not left the island at all. Inevitably, we are asked when we will be going, especially by those anticipating the long frigid months ahead in Ontario. While all things change and unexpected adventures arise, at this point we both can honestly say we have no desire to head for warmer climes. It's an easy decision. There is no reason to leave.

Our every day is filled with the spectacular beauty and moderate weather of the Cowichan Valley. We have basked in the sun on the decks of the seaside restaurants in Cowichan Bay, celebrated guests with brunches over the water at Bridgeman's Bistro and been shuttled with new friends to our favourite pub in Duncan—Craig Street Brewing Co. We have painted and sipped at Blue Grouse Winery, we have sampled crisp pinots on the mountainside of Averill Creek and we have laughed to the point of tears while being entertained and informed at Rocky Creek Winery.

Last weekend alone, we enjoyed Octoberfest on a barge temporarily located at the end of the dock in Mill Bay. We nibbled our way through the evening, relishing culinary treats and sipping local ciders and beers. The following night we had dinner at one of our favourite wineries, Unsworth. The food is of the highest quality, the service is stellar and their Charme De L'lle is one of my favourite bubblies. Add the best of friends and a flock of frenetic chickens, and it's the perfect night out. And, it's right here in our own backyard.

The weekend was followed by four days at a small resort on the Pacific coast of the island. Point No Point is nestled along the shore, far from anything except extensive and stunning provincial parks. It's somewhat off the grid—no TV, no Wi-Fi, no cell reception…not even a landline phone in the cabin, and I was worried I wouldn't do very well. I asked my Twitter peeps to pray for me. How would I survive, unplugged, for so long?

Well, I didn't just get by. I adored it. We walked the trails, we cooked our meals and we sipped wine, surrounded by a breathtaking ocean vista. In the evening, we talked and played games, and then we curled up in luxurious beds, drifting off to the sound of waves crashing on shore. I discovered that unplugged did not mean disconnected. Keev and I and our dearest of friends, Alice and Jim, spent four days uncluttered by technology, four days living in the moment, four days of truly spending quality time with one another. Amazing.

So, when once again asked when we will next go on a southern vacation, Keev and I will just look at each other knowingly, shrug our shoulders and smile. The truth is, when you love where you live, you don't need to get away.





Saturday, 1 October 2016

Revisiting Raven's Path

These photos came across my Twitter feed last week and it reminded me of a scene in Raven's Path. The time is 1750 in the Ohio Valley. Brandan "Raven" Murray is in the woods considering abandoning Ana, a woman he has pledged to see safely to her father but who seems to be thwarting his attempts to do so. She is a woman he wants to protect and has grown to think of as his little deer, ma petite faonne. This moment brings him full circle back to her.


Some rustling caught his attention. He crept forward, crouching low, and hid behind a low-lying cluster of brush. A shaft of sunshine lit the dense forest. In the middle of the small meadow a doe casually pulled at random patches of new grass. He shifted his weight and she raised her head, sniffed the air, and began shuffling nervously.

A fawn stumbled into sight and the doe grew anxious, glancing toward her baby and back to the brush. The fawn, oblivious to possible threat, wandered aimlessly around the glen, its curiosity and enthusiasm a pleasure to behold. It blundered about the clearing, bouncing at its mother and at imaginary wisps in the wind. The mother’s nose flared and she became well agitated.

Brandan slowly stood so that she could identify the source of her anxiety. The deer froze as his eyes met hers. Eyes hauntingly familiar. Their gazes locked and she assessed his threat. He was captivated by her wary innocence. The fawn crashed into her side, yet she did not break eye contact. Seconds later, the doe made her decision, gently nudging the young animal, moving it toward the trees edging the far side of the clearing. She turned before entering the forest, her dark gaze acknowledging his gift of life, before she disappeared into the darkness.

The doe recognized his benevolence and accepted it. She knew he meant her no harm. Now, if only he could get Ana to see the same thing.




 

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.
 

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 ńĆapek, 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.