Tag Archives: blogging

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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Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics

Research shows that 87% of quoted statistics are made up on the spot.  (Yes, I just made that up.)

I’m also guessing that a good 92% of readers believe the title of this post was borrowed from Mark Twain, but according to Wikipedia nobody really knows where it originated.  (Which is good; because thanks to that Wikipedia article, I now estimate that my chances of being accused of improper citation are approximately 0.003%.)

So… it’s that time of the year again.  Even if you don’t celebrate Christmas, you probably suffer the fallout of the season anyway.  So just for fun, I’m going to make up some Christmas statistics.

Of the people who deal with Christmas in some way, I guesstimate that:

  • 23% actually like fruitcake;
  • 15% will pretend to enjoy it if sweet little 90-year-old Aunt Martha offers it to them; and
  • 52% consider it appropriate only for use as a doorstop.

 

  • 56% love Christmas songs;
  • 35% can take them or leave them; and
  • 9% are quivering on the edge of violently gutting the next radio that plays ‘Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer’ just one… more… time…

 

  • 12% are finished their Christmas shopping;
  • 59% have ‘just a few things left to pick up’;
  • 21% are freaking out;
  • 16% will ignore the whole thing until December 24th; and
  • 2% celebrate Christmas without gifts.

 

  • 11% mail out actual paper cards or letters;
  • 24% email greetings;
  • 38% intend to send greetings but will run out of time and resolve to do it next year instead; and
  • 27% don’t bother.

 

  • 69% currently own a Christmas-themed article of clothing;
  • 23% had a Christmas-themed garment at one time but got rid of it; and
  • 8% have never owned any Christmas-themed garment, no matter how briefly (or boxer-ly, if that’s your preference).

 

  • 19% actually enjoy travelling during the Christmas season;
  • 66% dislike the hassle but do it anyway; and
  • 15% flat-out refuse to travel anytime between mid-December and the first week of January.

 

  • 31% will hand-make at least one gift; and
  • 69% will buy all the gifts.

 

  • 99% will eat too much this holiday season; and
  • 1% won’t.  (The rest of us envy your self-control.)

So how did I do?  Take the poll below to prove how full of shit I am (or not)!

Here are my votes:

  • I love fruitcake!
  • I can take or leave Christmas songs.
  • I just have a few things left to buy…
  • I mail out paper cards and letters.
  • I used to have a turtleneck with holly printed on the collar, but I can’t find it, so I must have gotten rid of it.
  • I hate travelling over Christmas but I’ll do it anyway to see family.
  • I usually hand-make at least one gift.
  • I’ll pig out and feel guilty, but not guilty enough to stop.

Click on the survey to vote, and I’ll post the results next week!

This survey doesn’t collect or store personally identifiable information. It’s just for fun.

Book 14 update:  I’m starting Chapter 38, and I’ve finally figured out how the book will end, hooray!  (Yes, I have a very strange writing process.)  😉

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Keep Calm And Carry On

You know how you get organized at the beginning of each week so you can sail through the upcoming days happy and relaxed because everything is under control?

I hope I’m not the only one laughing helplessly right now.

What’s even funnier is that sometimes I actually delude myself into thinking I truly do have everything under control.  That’s when Fate lets out a derisive laugh and upends my plans with unexpected detours, unavoidable delays, and unmet expectations.

I just try to keep calm and carry on. (And sometimes I lie awake stewing for hours in the middle of the night because everybody knows that helps…)

Anyhow, it’s been one of those weeks.  Nothing bad has happened; but every time I’ve tried to get my shit together, it’s ended up hitting the fan.  So since putting together a coherent post is beyond my ability at the moment, here are the highlights of my week in pictures:

Remember how several months ago I was chuckling about the eccentricities of the locals when I saw a woman leading a goat across the Canadian Tire parking lot?  Well, that’s not the only oddball animal on the loose around here.  Last week I was driving through the middle of nowhere when I saw this:

Two peacocks, just hanging out in the middle of the woods. Go figure.

I’m used to seeing deer by the dozens around here, but peacocks were a new sight for me.  And speaking of deer, these cuties were taking their ease right in the middle of town:

Mom and babies weren’t worried even when I walked up about fifteen feet away.

The rest of Canada is already getting snow (yes, Calgary, I’m looking at you with heartfelt sympathy for yesterday’s sixteen inches – blech!), so we’re starting to feel the pressure to get some last-minute gardening done around here.  I’m making slow progress on our landscaping:

Only a few more tons of rock to move. To give you a sense of scale, the post at the far right is almost 5′ tall.

But around here autumn is just starting, and with gorgeous colours like these, I might reconsider my vendetta against the fall season.  Almost.  Kinda.  Maybe…

This golden gorgeousness is a katsura tree, which smells deliciously (and unbelievably) like caramel in the autumn. The beautiful bark behind it is a giant Douglas fir.

How was your week?

Book 14 update:  I managed to squeak into Chapter 20 this week despite the craziness.  Fingers crossed for a more productive upcoming week…

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I’m Gonna Need A Forklift…

After the past several weeks of feverish work and stress-filled wrangling to get Book 13 safely into the retailers’ systems, my brain is completely empty.  Usually there are a few screwball thoughts floating around in there, but this week?  Nada.  Not even the sound of crickets.

(Although the sound of crickets would be worrisome, considering that I recently read a news article about a woman who had a cockroach take up residence inside her ear, BLEAH!)

Anyway, I had nothing but the whistle of wind between my ears, so I consulted a site that offered random writing prompts.  And I got this:  Write a post about anything you’d like, but be sure to include this sentence somewhere in the final paragraph: “He tried to hit me with a forklift!”

Something about that prompt burrowed into my brain like a… ech, never mind.

I know randomness was the whole point of the exercise, but nevertheless my mind rebelled.  Why hit someone with a forklift when there are so many more entertaining weapons?  A dead fish, for example.  A cauliflower.  A rainbow-coloured My Little Pony riding crop with marabou feathers on its… oh, wait.  Is that a little too creepily specific?

*ahem*

Moving right along…

How could I write a post about “anything I like” and somehow include a forklift?  I like music and ice cream and rare steaks and art and cold beer and gardens and a host of other things.  Excavators are fun.  Ditto highway tractors.  But forklifts?  Meh.

I considered spinning some flash-fiction:  Who was this guy and why would he try to hit me with a forklift?  Was he a wack-job smushing innocent people for fun?  Or had I done something to deserve smushing?  And why was I hanging around a forklift anyway?

Unfortunately, creating flash fiction requires brainpower; and I was fresh out of that.  (Not to mention, you already know the punchline.)

When I searched for “funny forklift” on the internet I found a disturbing number of forklift fails, but they were more cringe-worthy than amusing.

I tried to come up with some bad puns:  A fork lift; as in an elevator for forks?  A fork-lift, as in lifting a fork?  I even tried and failed to figure out some kind of filthy double entendre about getting forked.  It’s a sad day when I can’t even come up with a dirty joke.

So… I didn’t get hit by a forklift this week (which is good); nor did I get hit with inspiration (not so good).  I hope I’ll be able haul my brain out of its swamp of exhaustion soon.

But I think I’m gonna need a forklift…

Help me out here:  Anybody know a good forklift joke?

* * *

P.S.  Book 13 is available for pre-order at all retailers AT LAST, woohoo!  Click here for purchasing links

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Brain Food

I’m SOOOO close to finishing the draft of Book 13!

Each time I start a new book, I promise myself that I’ll write steadily within a realistic timeframe.  And each time, I end up writing day and night to finish in time for some self-imposed deadline.  In my quest for energy and inspiration this week, I’ve uncovered new FactsTM (see footnote below) about brain food.

Earlier civilizations believed that foods resembling a particular portion of the anatomy provided special nourishment to that anatomy.  So cauliflower, lumpy and brain-shaped, was ‘brain food’.  (This theory also explains the popularity of bananas and cucumbers; but I digress.)

Modern medicine informs us that ‘brain food’ doesn’t, in fact, resemble the brain; instead, the secret to smarts comes from complicated things like omega-3s, antioxidants, and flavonoids.

But after extensive research (a couple of hours at least) I’ve discovered that both ancient and modern beliefs are wrong.  Brain food isn’t brainish-looking.  It’s not complicated or difficult to obtain.

It’s…

*suspenseful drumroll*

Junk food!  And I have FactsTM to support my conclusion!

When I’m plotting a book, I usually pace; although I may also stand stock-still staring into space or drape myself over the furniture in odd positions.  (I bet you thought you were supposed to sit with your butt on the sofa cushions and your feet flat on the floor.  Pshaw.  The correct position is:  Belly on the cushions, arms draped over the sofa back, toes on the floor.)

Pacing is my favourite creativity stimulant; but even better is Pacing With Brain Food.

I can think better when I’m chewing; probably because jaw muscle contractions stimulate my brain.  My research supports this, because I’ve found that crunchy foods provide much more inspiration than soft foods.

I love gooey goodies like cheese and ice cream, but they offer no inspiration at all.  Likewise, chocolate (while ever-so-yummy) doesn’t help me.  In fact, the more chocolate I eat, the less I can think; until my entire mind is subsumed by four words:  MUST… HAVE… MORE… CHOCOLATE!

Tradition holds that booze is a veritable fount of inspiration; but not so.  A moderate amount of booze completely drains my brain; and too much booze fills it up again with ideas that seem brilliant at the time but when reviewed the next day make me say, “What the everloving f…?”

So once again, the FactsTM bear me out:  It’s gotta be crunchy.  You can’t chew booze.

Fruits and veggies?  Meh.  They’re better than nothing.  But…

Popcorn.  Chips.  Beer nuts.  Pretzels.  Cheezies.  OMG!!!!

My brain goes into overdrive.  I pace frenetically, gobbling handful upon handful of crunchy brain-stirring goodness.  Ideas flow, like belly fat breaching the waistband of too-tight jeans.

It’s a good system; but it’s not really sustainable unless I want to buy a whole new wardrobe to accommodate my… *ahem* expanding creative process for each subsequent book.

So in a few more days I’ll be back to my usual sensible diet; but just remember, you heard it here first:  Junk food is the ultimate brain food.  It’s a FactTM!

*

1 FactsTM is a trademark of The Fake News Generation Corp., a wholly-owned subsidiary of The Bullshit Consortium.  FactsTM is defined as “any random statement, however ridiculous, which is shouted loudly enough to be reported by the media”.

P.S. I’m travelling today, so I’ll be checking in later – ‘talk’ to you soon!

P.P.S. It’s spring on the Island!  Hooray!

 

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