Tag Archives: blogging

I’ve Learned My Lesson

I thought I was so prepared.  Usually I write blog post drafts on Monday, but I finished this one on Sunday evening.  Secure in my (perceived) efficiency, I didn’t look at it again until 9 PM last night.

That’s when I recalled that I’d been drunk when I wrote it.  Oops.

I think it was the novelist Peter de Vries who said, “Write drunk, edit sober”. Clearly he was a more talented drunk than I; or who knows? Maybe he was just messing with us, and he actually spent every ‘morning-after’ rewriting all the crap he’d spewed while under the influence.  That’s what I was doing last night.

I’d like to say it wasn’t my fault; but… it actually was.

We’ve been saving our pennies lately, but Sunday we decided to splurge and go to the pub. I ordered a pint, and when Hubby discovered that they no longer stocked his favourite Smirnoff Ice, I bullied him into trying a different vodka cooler. When the drink arrived, he hated it; but I thought it was yummy.  So we kept it and Hubby ordered a Caesar instead.

So now I had two drinks.

Have I mentioned that I haven’t been out lately?  And I rarely drink at home; so it had been a while since I’d had anything alcoholic.  And I’d forgotten that I’d taken an antihistamine earlier in the day.

By the time we finished our appetizer, I’d polished off my beer and was completely snockered.  After the vodka cooler, my teeth were numb and I couldn’t feel my feet.  I thought this was hilarious, so I rushed home and wrote a blog post about it.

Isn’t it funny how drunks think they’re funny? (Now that I’m sober, I know the correct answer is ‘no’.)

My draft was lame. The whole thing amounted to, “I’m drunk, hee-hee!” Gut-bustingly funny when you’re inebriated; but it probably should have occurred to me that if I couldn’t feel my feet, my brain might be disconnected, too.

So I’ve learned my lesson.  From now on I’ll drink MUCH more frequently so I’m in shape to handle it… um, I mean… I’ll live an exemplary life of sobriety and restraint.

Yeah. Sobriety and restraint. That’s me in a nutshell.

Wait, why is everybody laughing?

*

P.S. Speaking of ‘learning my lesson’: Thank you, everyone, for all your helpful comments and votes on the cover redesign!  Apparently the original covers ain’t broke, so I’d better not fix them.  I may enlarge the title font a bit so it’s more readable in thumbnail sizes, but that’s all… for now… until I second-guess myself again…

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Exercising My Options

First, my triumphant announcement:  Book 14 is finally live, hooray! (Click here for retailer links) Now, as long as there are no SNAFUs with the retailers, I can breathe a sigh of relief.  *crosses fingers*  Maybe I’ll even kick back and relax for a day or two.

Or maybe I should go and work out instead…

I have a love/hate relationship with exercise.  I’ve always been a bit of a jock, but I also have a bad case of inertia:  Bodies at rest want to remain at rest, and mine is no exception.

So I’m working away, planted comfortably in my chair, when I realize it’s mid-afternoon and my butt is putting down permanent roots into the chair cushions.  That’s when my better self murmurs, “You should get up and exercise.”

My lazy self whines, “But I’m busy and I don’t wanna! I’ll have to change my clothes, and exercising takes so much time, and it’s hard…”

This argument goes on for a while, but my better self (usually) prevails and pries me out of the chair.  It helps that I’m eager to get in shape for martial arts again — even though I’m too old and slow to compete, I still love to kick and punch the hell out of something that won’t hit back.

So I get changed and get started. Then there’s another whole round of whining until the endorphins kick in and I really get into my workout.  By the end, I’m frizzy-haired, red-faced, sweat-soaked, and grinning with the knowledge that I’m closer to my goal.  That afterglow carries me for the rest of the day, but the following morning is a different story.

I creak out of bed groaning and swearing and questioning my own sanity.  I mean, seriously, what’s the point? I’m going to die sooner or later anyway, and all the exercise in the world won’t change that. Why am I putting myself through this? I could just schlep around being comfortably weak, and I’d only be sore on the rare occasions when I overdo it.  I wouldn’t be sore every damn day. *whine, whine, grumble*

I was in my ‘cranky’ phase a few weeks ago when I arrived at my painting group. After struggling with my watercolour for a while, I let out a martyred sigh and announced, “I’m tired of trying so hard all the time! Why can’t there be just one thing in life that’s easy?”

One of my painting buddies spoke up immediately. “Gaining weight is easy.”

I stared at her, happily enlightened. “Dang, you’re right! And it’s fun, too!”

“Except for the long-term consequences.”

“Uh, well… yeah…”

*sigh*

So I’m sticking to my exercise program.  It’s slowly getting easier.

And hey, that painting turned out okay, too. After nearly two years of weekly attempts, I’ve finally created something I might just hang on the wall!  But I can’t decide on a mat colour.  Opinions, please?  (Click the thumbnails to enlarge.)

 

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A Day In The Life

People often ask me what it’s like to make a living as a writer.  I tell them I’m living the dream; but I also add that my dream could be their nightmare.  Here’s a peek into my writing life:

The snow is finally almost gone!

(And some outdoor photos, since one of the best parts of my writing life is being able to pop outside for a few minutes whenever I want!  Click on the photos to see larger versions.)

Writing is my favourite thing, but I only get to do it about 16 to 20 hours per week.  The rest of the time I’m bookkeeping, maintaining my web page, marketing, keeping in touch with my readers through my blog and social media, and doing research on  publishing trends, legal and copyright precedents, book design, marketing, and new technologies.

The native ferns are already vibrant.

Weekdays, I usually work from 8 AM until noon, take half an hour for lunch, and work until about 4 PM.  Then I have a snack and hit the gym for a couple of hours (or skip the workout and stay at my desk, but I try to exercise at least 4 or 5 times a week).

I take an hour off for dinner and then I’m back in front of the computer from 7 to 9:30 PM.  I try to knock off at 9:30, but sometimes I work until 10 or 11 PM if I’m really in the flow.

I work 7 days a week, 52 weeks of the year; but I sometimes only work half-days on Saturdays and Sundays.  (I know; I’m such a rebel!)  Even when I’m on ‘vacation’, I work an hour or two per day.

The heather and crocuses are in full bloom!

That may sound gruelling, but it’s flexible — I usually take Friday afternoons off to do some watercolour painting and grocery shopping, and I can make time for friends and family whenever I want.  I don’t watch TV, but if I’m not in the final 25% of writing or buried under a book release, I often read a novel in the evening.  (It’s market research — I love this career!)  I read fast, so I usually finish the book in three or four hours, and then it’s off to bed and on to the next day.

Such is my glamorous life.

The birth of a book is (maybe) a little more interesting: (I won’t include any graphic birth photos, I promise. 😉 )

The first minnow daffodil is blooming!

I decide which events will kick off the book and how I want the characters to develop, but I don’t do a lot of plotting in advance.  Instead I throw my characters into the action and see what they do for the first half of the book.

Every day I re-read and edit my earlier 4 or 5 chapters (by the end I’ll have read the whole manuscript at least 25 times) and then write my new content for the day.  By halfway through the book my characters have gotten themselves into a batch of impossible situations, and then I stop and spend a LOT of time deciding how they’ll get out.

The bees are hard at work already.

That’s when I write a plot outline, which is mostly a waste of time.  I make a “final” decision and write in that direction; and a few chapters later one of my hardheaded characters blows my plot out of the water.  I’ve never actually ended up following my outlines, but at least it gets my brain working.

By the 75% mark, all the plot threads start to come together.  Then I write obsessively while the rest of my schedule falls in tatters.

Tiny anemones, only a few inches tall.

After finally writing “The End” I re-read and edit the entire manuscript a few times to tune up pacing, stakes, and clarity before passing it on to my beta readers/editors.  (Nobody gets to see a single word of the manuscript before I’m completely finished — not even Hubby.)  In between final edits, I choose a title (I never know the title until I’ve written the whole book), do the cover design and photography, and write the cover blurb.

At last I announce a release date — hooray!  Then I assign ISBNs, register copyright, send the new book to Library and Archives Canada, convert the MS Word manuscript into epub, Kindle, and paperback formats,  and upload it to retailers.  When that’s done, I fix typos and update links in my previous books, and upload their new versions, too.

Crocuses, winter aconite, and heather.

After that I switch to my ‘marketing’ persona to develop ads, promotional listings, and social media announcements.

When the release furor dies down, I tackle any major work like updating my website, and finally take a breather for a few days.  But within a week or two (or less) the next book scratches at my mental doors, and next thing I know I’m writing again.  The administration is a slog, but the joy of writing makes it all worthwhile!

So… anybody wanna be a writer…?

I love crocuses!

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When Neurons Misfire

So, the good news is that Book 14: “Friends In Spy Places” is finished and is now available for pre-order at all retailers, hooray! (Click here for retailer links.)

The bad news is that my brain has been sucked dry, wrung out, sent through a vigorous spin-cycle, and finally pinned onto a sagging clothesline in my cranium, where’s flapping uselessly in the breeze that’s whistling through my ears.

And it’s still in better shape than Hubby’s.

Unfortunately, that’s not a joke. He slipped and fell on some ice Sunday afternoon and is now the not-so-proud owner of a concussion, some bruises and sore muscles, and a nasty scalp laceration. Fortunately his CT scan was clear and he’ll be fine, but that little adventure wasn’t kind to his brain or mine.

Spending a tense 23 hours in the emergency room would have been enough excitement for  me, but I also volunteer as the webmaster for our local Rhododendron Society.  So on top of my usual post-book-release brain drain, ER stress, and sleep deprivation, I had a gruelling 4-hour meeting yesterday afternoon.  My poor little neurons aren’t even capable of firing anymore — at this point they’re only twitching feebly.

You’d think that might cause some creative (or at least unusual) thoughts, but the only thing that occurs to me is this:

There must have been a big sale on beans around here, because I’ve never before been subjected to so much of other people’s flatulence. The last four days have been a veritable fartnado.  My nose has been assailed at a lecture, at the hospital, in a grocery store lineup, you name it. It’s been so frequent that I’m seriously beginning to wonder if I’m actually the culprit and I’ve just been too distracted to notice that I’m doing the dastardly deed.

Also, I learned a new technical term this week.  I had attended a lecture on mosses which included a field trip at the park, and someone asked our expert about the finely-textured bright green stuff growing on the trees from about 18″ on down.  When he began, “We call that the ‘DPZ’”, we all leaned in to hear his explanation. “Yes,” he went on sagely. “That’s the Dog Pee Zone, and the green stuff is algae, not moss.”

So apparently toilet humour is the best I can do for this week. Maybe next week will be better…

*strums lips and rocks back and forth, humming quietly*

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Ass-Biting And Embarrassment

I’d like to point out that the title refers to only the metaphorical biting of asses, not the literal sinking of teeth into tushes.

I’d like to point that out; but the embarrassing truth is that bum-biting was a ‘thing’ when I went to university.  For some reason, both the biters and the bitees found the whole exercise hilarious.

It was actually harder than you might think. (It was also more difficult.)  Back in the old days, the average university-student butt cheeks were young and firm; and tight jeans were in style then.  It was tough to sink your teeth into the subject without said teeth slipping off and snapping together hard enough to rattle the remnants of brain bobbing around in a beer-infused cranium.

I had forgotten about the bum-biting fad until this week, when I commented on Jono’s blog and he reminded me that gloating invariably comes around to bite you in the ass.

How right he was.

Only a few short weeks ago, I posted photos of my flowers all happily pretending it was spring.  I tried not to gloat over our warm and beautiful weather, but a tiny gloat (would that be ‘gloatlet’?) just might have slipped through.

I should have bent over and assumed the position right then and there.

Yep, my gloatlet just jumped up and bit me in the ass.  It didn’t have to jump very high, since it was standing on the 18″ of snow we’ve gotten.  And there’s more in the forecast.

Vancouver Island has basically shut down – schools and a lot of businesses have been closed since Monday, and we’ve hunkered down to wait it out since snowplows are few and far between here.  The temperature is hovering around freezing and our power has stayed on (miracle of miracles) so the snow is really only an inconvenience; but it’s also a bit embarrassing after my overly-optimistic ‘It’s Spring!’ post.

But that’s okay.  It’s still not as embarrassing as admitting that I might (or might not; I’m just sayin’) have bitten one or more person(s) on the buttock(s) in the far-distant past.  That was long before cell phones with cameras, so there’s no actual evidence and I may or may not deny the whole thing.

But I can’t deny this:

That’s a full-size 4×4 slowly vanishing in the snow.

 

Flower garden? What flower garden?

The snow is beautiful and it probably won’t stay long (I hope), but that’s okay — go ahead and laugh.  I set myself up for it, after all.

Just remember the dangers of gloating, and don’t forget to cover your ass.  😉

Book 14 update:  It’s lean and mean and 11,000 words lighter after the latest round of edits!  I had to sacrifice a few good scenes, but they’re safely tucked into my files for future use.  And we have a title:  “Friends In Spy Places”.  Stay tuned for a cover reveal!

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Gravy, My Nemesis

The other day we were having supper when Hubby mentioned that the recently revamped Canada Food Guide shows a plate consisting of 1/2 fruits and vegetables, 1/4 protein sources, and 1/4 whole grains.  As we chowed down on a particularly delicious pork roast with gravy, I inquired, “And what about the ‘gravy’ food group?”

“They didn’t mention that,” he said, looking up from his plate, which was neatly divided into half meat and half mashed potatoes drenched in pork-flavoured fatty goodness.

Clearly there’s been a mistake somewhere, because gravy is an essential food group.  But if it isn’t shown on the official Food Guide Plate, that must mean…

Hey, it’s a beverage!

That would work for me.  I eat a healthy diet with lots of whole grains and fruits and vegetables, but gravy is a non-negotiable part of my meals.  And so is ice cream, which is basically just sweet frozen gravy, amIright?

Mmmm, and now I’m imagining porksicles — frozen pops made of pork gravy.  (Not to be confused with cocksicles, which have been a serious risk for the male population during this latest -50C attack of the polar vortex.)

But, see, when temperatures are cold, you need extra calories and hot drinks.  Gravy offers both, in one convenient and delicious serving!

So if the Powers That Be have eliminated gravy from a ‘healthy’ diet, well, too bad.  We’re all going to die sooner or later; so if something has to kill me, it might as well be gravy.

Ah, Gravy, my sweet nemesis.  I know you’ll get me in the end, but you’re so worth it!

Book 14 update:  Hooray for beta readers — this book is getting whipped into shape!  Off to do more revisions now…

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The Haggis of Salads

Last week, Robbie Burns Day got me thinking about another food that, like haggis, drives otherwise-reasonable people into vehement arguments over whether to love it, hate it, or call up the hazmat team to dispose of the toxic waste-on-a-plate.

I’m talking about jellied salad.

Jellied salad was in its heyday when I was a kid.  My Culross Copper Club cookbooks (published in 1954, 1965, and 1978 by the local ladies in the small rural community where I grew up) are packed with recipes containing the almighty Jell-O™.   If they could conceive of a food combination in even the most hallucinatory of dreams, there was a jellied salad recipe for it.

Some were, quite frankly, revolting.  Others sounded revolting, but were actually delicious.  My particular favourites were baby shrimp in tomato aspic (always molded in a fish shape and served on lettuce leaves) and Golden Glo salad:  Lemon jelly, pineapple, grated carrots, and diced celery.

There are cultural and historical reasons why jellied salads got so popular, but the truth is that they were fun and pretty, and usually tasted okay as long as you could put aside your innate objection to odd pieces of food suspended in unnaturally-coloured gelatin.

I know its day is long past, but I still can’t resist serving it every now and then.  Just one brightly-coloured jiggly blob in a cut-glass bowl is enough to bring back happy memories of my grandparents’ big dining table extended to its limits, surrounded by a happy hubbub of family.

It was prettier in the cut-glass bowl…

Anybody who didn’t live through the golden age of jellied salad reacts the same way when I put it on the table.  First there’s a furtive glance:  What is that?  Next, a longer, more incredulous look:  Is that… Jell-O… with STUFF in it?!?  Finally, they avert their eyes in a polite effort to ignore my embarrassing faux pas.

When I explain what it is and that they’re not required to eat it unless they want to, everyone relaxes.  Some even sample it cautiously, but I have yet to hear anybody sing its praises; or, for that matter, say anything at all about it.  They just eat the small portion on their plates and tactfully turn the conversation elsewhere.

So I guess jellied salad is firmly relegated to the same status as haggis:  If you grew up eating it during happy times, you probably still like it; but the rest of the world thinks you’re nuts.

Or maybe everybody has moved on to more sophisticated foods; and I’m the only nutcase left.

It wouldn’t be the first time…

Book 14 update:  Off to the beta readers this week!  Then I’ll be putting on my ‘production manager’ hat, so stay tuned for a title, cover art, and a release date announcement soon!

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In My Dreams…

This will be a shorter-than-usual post because I’m finally at the point in Book 14 where all questions have been resolved and the action is flowing and OMG-I-just-have-to-write!  It’s my favourite part of the process — that glorious absorption where every waking minute is consumed by what happens next; and mundane matters like food and sleep are merely annoying distractions.

And speaking of sleep:  My dreams have been especially vivid lately (writing 14 hours a day will do that).  Everything is in full colour and it all makes perfect sense… until I wake up.  So many times I’ve invented something absolutely brilliant in my dreams only to wake up and think, “What the ever-loving f…?”

I don’t know why my dream-inventions always seem brilliant at the time (maybe a slight ego problem?), but at least that’s better than The Exam Dream.  You know the one:  I’m late for an exam, I haven’t studied, I can’t find the building where the exam is being held, and I may or may not be naked.  When I finally get to the exam hall and sit down, I realize that this the wrong course entirely, and I can’t even read the questions.

But when I try to run away and my legs won’t move (that’s another typical dream), I struggle and strain and eventually bend down to dig my hands into the ground; and then I don’t have hands anymore and I run effortlessly and tirelessly on all four paws.

I prefer to think that this is all normal.  (Yeah, I know:  In my dreams.)

Any other inventor-shapeshifters out there with academic performance anxiety?

Book 14 update:  It’s been an awesome writing week!  I’m on Chapter 52 and I might… (dare I say it?) …finish the draft this week — I’m so pumped!

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The Crabapple Dirge

I’ve been gardening for a long time, and I like to think I (mostly) know what I’m doing.  I usually have pretty flowerbeds and tasty veggies.  But fruit trees?  That’s another matter entirely.

If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you may remember the tale of Doing the Crabapple Tango.  In it, I mentioned that my crabapple tree had been pruned by an irresponsible orangutan:  Me.  (Or rather, not pruned; merely allowed to grow into a mess of crisscrossing branches.)

Fast-forward to 2016, when I eagerly planted two cherry trees, two apple trees, a crabapple, a peach, and a plum tree at our new place.  I use the word “trees” loosely here – they were actually more like whippy little twigs.  But that was okay, because I had resolved that this time I was going to prune my trees properly right from the start.  And I’d never have to do the Crabapple Tango again!

So I watched a bunch of videos on YouTube and read long dissertations on the correct methods of pruning and shaping… and then I went out last weekend with my pruners.  (Yes, it was time — the sap was already rising in the cherry trees.)

I just want to say that I hate pruning.  I like growing plants, not hacking pieces off them.  But all the gardening websites say it has to be done, so I steeled myself for the task.

I consulted the videos again.  I walked around and around my trees, studying the bud locations and visualizing where and how the new limbs would grow.  Then I trimmed out crossing branches and branches going toward the centre of the tree, and made heading cuts to encourage new branches at the height I wanted.

Then I crept back into the house weighed down by a huge black cloud of guilt over butchering my poor trees.  Where before I had perky little saplings, now I have sad little truncated twigs standing forlornly in full view of all the windows, where I’ll be forced to look at them every day and contemplate my sins.

I feel so awful about what I’ve done that I’m not even going to post pictures — it would be like a murderer posting photos of her innocent victims.

I hope they live.  All the gardening sites say they will, and I really did follow their instructions; but the poor wee twigs are heart-wrenching.  I don’t know whether it would be best if they survive to absolve me of the guilt, or die quickly so I can buy new unmutilated ones and pretend this whole sorry affair never happened.

Maybe from now on I’ll just let them grow the way they want.  Really, the Crabapple Tango wasn’t so bad — there was a high probability of personal injury, but at least my conscience was clear.

Would somebody please tell me that this is all normal and my trees are going to be okay?  (Feel free to lie through your teeth if necessary.)

’Cause I’m really hoping I won’t have to write a Crabapple Dirge.

*bells toll solemnly in the background*

Book 14 update:  Chapter 44 and counting.  My books usually come in around 50 chapters, but this one is ballooning.  Time to sharpen my editing knife!

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Blow Me Down!

I’ve always thought ‘blow me down’ was only an expression, but it almost turned out to be literal.  The relaxing holiday I’d envisioned didn’t quite work out that way.  Instead, on December 20 we got pounded with a vicious windstorm with gusts up to 140 km/hr, followed by five days without power.

We were incredibly lucky to have very little property damage and no personal injury; but the forest around our house looks as though it’s been bombed.  Giant trees were completely uprooted leaving gaping craters in the ground, and many of the ones whose roots held ended up snapping.

These were hundred-foot-tall trees, yanked up by their roots. (The big crater in the foreground is a pond – the wind didn’t do that!)

 

The forest looks like shattered toothpicks.

This used to be solid forest but the wind cleared it just like a tunnel, and our house was right in its path. Some of the trees that went down were nearly three feet in diameter. We were SO lucky our house wasn’t damaged!

Two big trees somehow ended up on the ground under our front porch roof without damaging anything on their way down; and our utility trailer blew across the yard and wedged itself halfway under our deck, miraculously without causing any damage there, either.  Other people weren’t so lucky.

Usually a storm like that is relatively short-lived, but this went on for hours.  We were afraid our big front windows would shatter under the force of the wind, but somehow they held.  At one point I heard a crash from outside and cracked the door open to see what had happened, but the wind was so strong it took all my strength to push the door shut again (and I’m no 98-pound weakling).

The wind ripped through every tiny aperture, making drifts of the drywall dust that had been under the bottom plates of the walls during construction.

Some news sources are calling it the worst storm on record for Vancouver Island; others say the worst in ten years.  I’m hoping it was the all-time worst, because I don’t want to experience another one that bad!  I grew up on the prairies with a constant threat of tornadoes, and I’m a total chickenshit when it comes to wind.  Let’s just say I was NOT happy during this storm.

Fortunately we’d planned for power outages when we built the house, and we ran our generator enough to keep ourselves warm and our freezers cold.  BC Hydro did a heroic job of restoring power to the 700,000 customers who were blacked out, although some spent more than a week without power.  When I saw the snarled-up mess of wires down our road, I was truly impressed that they’d been able to get it working again as quickly as they did.

So I dunno; I’m beginning to think Vancouver Island doesn’t want us here.  First it tried to freeze us out with record-breaking snow and cold in our first winter, and now it’s tried to blow us away with record-breaking wind.  I’m just hoping it doesn’t attempt to shake us off with a giant earthquake next.

But at least we had a good test of our emergency preparations, and we’ll be doing some tweaking to make sure we’re ready (as much as we can be) for the next crisis.

Meanwhile, our island home is returning to its usual tranquility and we’re feeling thankful for our good fortune.  It’s a nice way to start a new year:  Healthy, happy, and grateful.

Happy New Year, everybody – wishing you all the best in 2019!

Book 14 update:  My writing schedule got disrupted by the storm and power outage, but I still managed to make it to Chapter 42.  The end is in sight!

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