Tag Archives: blogging

Smackdown! (Or Not.)

Whenever something strikes me as odd, funny, or otherwise blog-worthy, I drop a little note in my blog file.  This week I discovered two entries in close proximity:  “tornados vs. earthquakes” and “facial tissue vs. bathroom tissue”.  I half-expected to see “Godzilla vs. Kong”, but I guess that’s been done.

So apparently it’s smackdown time, or at least I assume it is.  Those were the only notes I made, and I don’t actually remember what I meant to say about them.  But what the hell, I ain’t a fiction-writer fer nuthin’.  So here goes:

“Tornados vs. earthquakes”:  I’m hoping to never find out firsthand which of these would win in a smackdown.  But I do know this:  I feel less threatened by earthquakes.  Which is silly, since I live in the most active earthquake zone in Canada.

Tornados strike terror into my heart.  There’s something so damn personal about them.  An earthquake shakes up everybody equally, but a tornado circles around to scope out its potential victim(s).  Then it extends a finger of destruction down from the sky and WHAM!  It smites its target, taking out one building while leaving another standing untouched only a few feet away.  That just freaks me out.

I’m tempted to give tornados the win for sheer intimidation-factor, but I don’t want to tempt earthquakes to provide me with a comparison.  We’ll just call that one a draw.

“Facial tissue vs. bathroom tissue”:  Until I moved to a house with a septic system instead of city sewers, I didn’t see the point in differentiating between the two tissue types.  I’ve since found out that bathroom tissue is designed to fall apart rapidly in water, thereby not plugging up my septic system.  (Thank you, toilet paper.)

The only other difference seems to be that bathroom tissue is often made from recycled paper, although the label wording is a bit vague.  The first time I saw a package of toilet paper blazoned with “Recycled Bathroom Tissue”, I was seriously concerned.

I had visions of some poor schmuck employed in the Sewer Department, painstakingly separating, um… let’s say, ‘the wheat from the chaff’… and feeding the salvaged bits into a giant bleach barrel.  At least I sincerely hoped there was a bleach barrel.

Much to my relief, I discovered that the recycling source was other types of domestic paper.  Whew.  But honestly, there was nothing on that bathroom tissue package that specified what it was recycled from.

So facial tissue gets points for strength, and bathroom tissue gets points for beneficial wimpiness with sinister undertones.  I’m going to call that another draw, just in case toilet paper is ungracious about defeat and decides to take revenge on my pipes.

And that’s my equivocation for this week.

*

P.S.  We’re having guests for a while so my next post will be August 28/19, but I’ll still check in to reply to comments.  Wishing everyone a happy summer with no smackdowns of any sort!  🙂

Book 15 update:  I hit Chapter 3 this week — it’s great to be writing again!  Arnie and Aydan are off on an adventure, and John will join them soon.  Things get interesting when secret agents go on vacation!

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Down The Rabbit Hole

Last week I mentioned that in addition to my shoe breakdown, my deodorant had also failed. That got me thinking about sweat and its associated etiquette. (Sweatiquette?)

I lived most of my adult life in Calgary, where it’s so dry that your sweat glands have to work overtime just to keep you from shriveling into a desiccated mummy. Perspiration was never a problem there.

But it’s humid here on the West Coast, and now I get clammy clothes and a sticky sheen on my skin just from strolling down the sidewalk.  So here’s my dilemma:

When you a meet a friend you’d normally hug, is it more awkward to say, “Don’t hug me, I’m gross and sweaty”; or to go for the hug and subject them to full sweatitude with a bonus whiff of gamey armpits? (And why don’t I have friends anymore?)

When I consulted the internet (about sweatiquette, not my social problems), I was confronted by an ad demanding, “Are you a heavy sweater?”

I blinked away the mental image of a bulky cable-knit pullover.  Nope, last time checked I was still a regular-weight human.

And down the rabbit hole I went.

‘Sweater’. It’s kind of an icky word when you think about it. I mean, I guess it’s descriptive enough:  When you’re cold, you want something that might induce sweat; so you put on a ‘sweater’.  But, ew.

Our friends in the U.K. more politely call them ‘jumpers’; but even though there’s a lower ick-factor, the word makes no sense at all. What does jumping have to do with a garment you pull over your head?

Although I guess it makes as much sense as our North American ‘jumper’: A sleeveless, collarless dress worn over a T-shirt.  (As opposed to a ‘jumpsuit’, the one-piece coverall worn by skydivers who jump out of perfectly serviceable airplanes at high altitude. At least the terminology is logical even if the sanity is questionable.)

And that reminds me of a joke:  “Parachute for sale.  Used once.  Small stain.”

Which brings me full-circle to sweat and other bodily emissions:  If anybody ever forced me to skydive, I guarantee the stain would be a large one and the parachute wouldn’t be salable afterward.  The person who coerced me probably wouldn’t be in great shape, either.

And that’s the bottom of this week’s rabbit hole.  (Should I mention that a rabbit is also a ‘jumper’?)

Happy landings to all!

Book 15 update:  The first words are on the page, woohoo!  I’m thrilled to be writing again — I’ve missed Aydan and the gang. 🙂

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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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