Tag Archives: writing

A Wrinkly Old Bog

Yesterday was Cover Photo Day, woohoo!  It’s exciting to be that much closer to launching Book 15; but on the downside, I had to put on makeup.  Blech.  It was only for a few hours, but it felt like a lot longer.

I’ve always felt a little embarrassed about being on the covers of my own books, but I’m actually pretty happy about it this time around.  With the COVID-19 isolation protocols, I wouldn’t have been able to get the cover done otherwise.  Plus… hell; I might as well admit it:  It feels good because I’m a do-it-yourself freak, a control freak, and several other varieties of freak that are probably better left unmentioned.

But still…

I loathe makeup.  I hate that chalky, sticky, suffocating feeling on my skin.  I hate the greasy flesh-coloured scum it leaves in my sink after I wash it off.  But most of all, I hate the way it falls into my wrinkles and makes my skin look like this:

(No, I’m not going to post a closeup photo of my face. You’re welcome.)

Back in the hazily-remembered days before I had wrinkles, I still didn’t like makeup much; but at least I looked good when I put it on.  These days putting on makeup is like rolling a coat of fresh paint over drywall I should have filled and sanded first:  Every crack and rough spot looks ten times worse.

Plus, my protagonist is aging much more slowly than I am.  If this series keeps going I’ll have to get better at Photoshop.  Much, much better.  As in, “face transplant” better.

Most of the time my wrinkles don’t bother me.  I can’t see my face clearly in the mirror unless I’m wearing reading glasses (which is, frankly, the only humane thing about aging).  More to the point, this is the best I’m going to look for the whole rest of my life.  Might as well relax and enjoy it.

But makeup?  That’s just adding insult to injury.

P.S. Here are a few pretty photos of what’s blooming at our place, to take your mind off wrinkly old bogs (or wrinkly old bags, as the case may be).

Dwarf species tulips and chionodoxa

 

Heather and grape hyacinths and a couple of late snowdrops

 

Indoors, a baby pineapple on a plant that Hubby started from the top of a store-bought pineapple we ate.

 

Can you spot the little viola that decided to self-seed despite the odds?

 

Here’s a closeup – it’s amazing how these tiny but tough flowers find a way to survive! Kinda puts things in perspective…

 

A flock of daffodils

 

…and we woke up to snow this morning. April Fool’s on us!

 

Book 15 update:  We have a title:  “A Spy For Help”!  The manuscript is out for its final beta and proofreading, and the cover is in progress.  Stay tuned for a blurb and cover reveal in my next post!

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Doobie-ous Choices

As a thriller writer, I make my living by writing scary scenarios and then finding ways to make them worse.  But, wow, with all the scary stuff going on in the world right now, what have I got left to work with? I hate to say it, but it might be time to cue the zombie invasion.

I’ve done what I can to mitigate my risks of catching or spreading the flu, so that leaves me a couple of ways to deal with my residual anxiety:  1) Cower in my home and obsess over every sniffle; or 2) occupy my mind with childish humour.

Guess which one I chose?

It wasn’t actually a conscious choice — after I finished the draft of Book 15 this week (hooray!), my brain started scrambling signals just for fun.

For instance, I was surprised and not a little disturbed to discover an email in my inbox titled “What to expect from federal prison”.  It’s not reassuring to receive that sort of advice from one’s online brokerage.  Much to my relief, the title turned out to be “What to expect from federal pension”, so I guess I don’t need to look for escape routes just yet.

Only a few days later, flu symptoms must have been on my mind when I read “It’s a spectacular series of snots” on a photography website.  That would be “shots”, not “snots”.  But at least my inner child got a giggle.

And while I was writing the last couple of chapters of Book 15, that same naughty inner child decided that the root word of “dubious” is “doobie”.  Now I’ll never be able to hear, speak, write, or read the word ‘dubious’ without smirking.

With my inner child thus occupied, my outer middle-aged adult began to contemplate how retirement might look if I ever get to the point where it’s something I want and can afford (neither of which seems likely).

“Well-dressed charity board member” would be a laughably bad fit; mostly because my idea of “well-dressed” is a T-shirt without holes in it, and my lifetime allocation of patience for meetings was used up at least a decade ago.

“Pillar of the arts” might work if I had enough money to actually be a pillar; but right now my budget is more “toothpick”.  And I’d probably have to dress up, too; so that’s out.

After considering and discarding a few other possibilities, I’ve finally decided to become the reprehensible old hippy who spends all day in her garden, sits on her front porch smoking the recreational herbs she grows, shouts insults at passersby, and occasionally moons people just for fun.  (Her fun; not theirs.)

Like all good retirement plans, this will require some advance planning:  I’ll have to learn to smoke, acquire some marijuana plants, move to a place where there actually are passersby, and practice my mooning.  I’ve done it by accident a few times, but I suspect the intentional act is trickier than it looks; particularly if one’s balance is impaired by recreational herbs.

So, having settled on these doobie-ous choices for my future, I think I’m ready to relax a bit.  Anybody want to join me on the front porch?  (At a safe six-foot distance, of course.)

Book 15 update:  The draft is DONE!  It’s already been vetted by the first beta reader, and now I’m into my first round of revisions.  Title and release date coming soon!   🙂

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Never Turn Your Back On Your Car

In the past I’ve mentioned how bad things tend to sneak up from behind.  I’m especially paranoid about bad things involving my behind.  This has led me to develop a few, um… let’s just say ‘unique’ behaviours like always sitting with my back to a wall and obsessively checking the butt-end of any spandex-containing garment I intend to wear.

Nothing has sneaked up on me for a long time; but this week I got ambushed by an entirely unforeseen enemy:  My car.

It was raining when I parked at the art centre for my Friday painting group.  I sidled between the vehicles and carefully opened my passenger door, not enough to hit the vehicle beside me, but wide enough to retrieve my largish Rubbermaid tub and the art canvas I carry on top of it.  Thinking ahead (and smug in my own efficiency), I hit the door locks before I grabbed the tub so I wouldn’t have to add ‘fumble with keys and lock car’ to my list of acrobatic manoeuvres.

I eased the tub out, balancing on one foot and stabilizing the door with the other, while remembering to keep a thumb on the canvas so the wind wouldn’t blow it away.  Then I turned to complete the final step in my awkward ballet:  Slamming the door with my elbow while holding the tub in both hands.

Everything went fine:  The door latched, and I didn’t drop my tub or fall on my butt.  Except… when I tried to walk away, I couldn’t.

I had a moment of blank incomprehension:  “Can’t move. Why…???”

Then I realized the wind had gusted at the exact moment that the door slammed shut, and a big fold of my jacket was locked into the car.  And there I stood:  My back jammed against the car, both hands occupied by the tub, arms immobilized by the tightened jacket, and rain bucketing down.

After a couple of futile tugs on the jacket, I raised one knee to balance the tub and groped behind me for the door handle.  But no; I’d been efficient.  The door was locked.

Then came the truly ridiculous part of my performance:  Standing on one leg, balancing the tub on my drawn-up knee, gripping the handle of the tub with my left hand, left thumb stretched up to hold the canvas in place; all while insinuating my right hand between the tub and my belly to reach my waist pouch (which was jammed under the tub), where I’d ever-so-efficiently stowed my keys in a zippered pocket.

By some miracle I still didn’t fall on my butt; but it was a near thing when giggles seized me halfway through the process.  The only saving grace was that my car has electric locks.  If I’d had to insert a key in a keyhole one-handed, behind my back, while standing on one leg balancing a heavy tub, I probably would have done myself an injury.  From laughter, if nothing else.

I managed to free myself without drawing a crowd of jeering onlookers, so I considered it a win.  But that’s the last time I’ll ever turn my back on my car…

Book 15 update:  Another good writing week!  I’m bombing along on Chapter 43 and all the threads are finally coming together.  Dare I say… “The End” is in sight…?

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Amaryllis And Avocats

Like many Canadians, I’m semi-bilingual.  I took eight years of French in school and still read French reasonably well; but the only times I use it are when I accidentally pick up a container with the French label facing outward, and when some crossover in vocabulary gives me a giggle.

That happened just the other day:  Hubby (whose entire French vocabulary consists of ‘oui’) was telling me about an incident where a truckload of rotten produce had been refused by a composting site because the little plastic sticky-labels were still affixed.

He began, “So this truckload of rotten avocats…”

I burst out laughing.

“I meant avocados,” he interrupted.

“I know,” I said, still laughing.  “That’s what’s so funny.”

I then explained that, against all odds, he had inadvertently managed to use the French word for ‘avocado’.  And he’d tickled my funnybone, since ‘avocat’ also means ‘lawyer’ in French.

Now I really want to hear the rest of the story that begins, “So this truckload of rotten lawyers…”

At this point I’ll resist the urge to tell lawyer jokes; partly because I have some very nice friends who are lawyers, but mostly because I prefer to avoid antagonizing people who have the time, inclination, and skill to sue my ass off.

Instead, here are some pretty pictures.  The crocuses are in bloom outside, and inside our amaryllis bulbs are putting on a show.  I just love those gorgeous colours!

These little beauties are just starting outside.

 

These guys are three feet tall!

 

Flame orange…

 

Hot pink…

 

…and gorgeous deep satiny red!

Book 15 update:  I’m on Chapter 35 and going strong!  I just wrote a car chase that takes place in Regina, Saskatchewan in the middle of winter.  I think I managed to make it a little more exciting than this spoof from a commercial for winter tires:

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I Did It, And I’m Proud! (ish)

I found the above title on a completely blank post in my Drafts folder.  I don’t know what I had originally intended to write, but I’m going to run with it now. (Fasten your seatbelt, because the upcoming segue will produce severe g-forces.)

So… speaking of running with it: Remember the aerobics classes of the 1980s?

I was in university then, living in the city after growing up so far out in the sticks that even the fashion-conscious folks were several years behind the current styles.

University was an eye-opener. Suddenly I was confronted by Fashion with a capital F, in clothing, shoes, home furnishings, music, EVERYTHING. Including fitness. My dismal attempts at sartorial style are a post for another day (actually, many days), but I seized on aerobics as The Fitness Thing To Do.

My first aerobics class was taught by one of my interior design classmates. She was perfect in every way. Blonde, petite, a talented interior designer, fashionable, and so insanely fit that fat cells couldn’t even exist in the same room with her.

She was everything I was not. Dressed in her sleek bodysuit, tights, leg warmers, and perky matching headband, she led the class through a complicated and gruelling workout without apparent effort. I gallumphed gracelessly at the back of the room, puffing like steam engine, sweating like a toilet tank, and flailing wildly in an attempt to match her dance-like choreography.

If she hadn’t been such a nice person, I would have suspected her of keeping an eye on me and purposely changing the routine the instant I managed to catch up. But I knew the truth: Even though I’m generally pretty well-coordinated, I’m hopelessly choreography-impaired.

I hadn’t thought about aerobics classes for several decades, but this week it all came back to me. We don’t live close to a gym now, so I follow an online program that’s focused on strength training, not choreography.  The movements are simple and I can keep up.

But.

There’s an add-on module for extra ab work, with a randomized selection of timed activities. Which means, “Keep up with the class, kids”.

So there I was again: panting, sweating, and hopelessly out of sync. The only change from 38 years ago was that this time I was on my back, doing a strikingly accurate imitation of a beetle that’s been flipped upside-down: Arms and legs flailing in the air, body rocking spastically back and forth.

I managed most of the routine before I collapsed and lay there laughing helplessly at myself, while the mechanized voice prompted, “X-Man crosses for 30 seconds starting in 5… 4… 3…”

But at least I’m exercising. I did it, and I’m proud(ish); as long as nobody confuses ‘proud’ with ‘dignified’.

Anybody got some leg warmers I can borrow?

Book 15 update:  I spent most of last week wrestling with a knotty plot (which is not nearly as much fun as wrestling with a naughty plot), and did a big reorganization.  I’m on Chapter 27, and it should be clear sailing now!  (Says she, with misguided optimism.)

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It Tastes Like Sh… ampagne…?

This is it:  The grand unveiling of the tomato cider I started fermenting back in October!

I’ve made several batches of cider over the years, and the process has been pretty similar each time:

  1. Go through the long painstaking process of sterilizing, fermenting, racking, back-sweetening, and bottling.
  2. Wait.
  3. Wait, wait, wait, waitwaitwait…
  4. Proudly bring out the inaugural bottle, pop the top, and pour it out.
  5. Admire the beautiful clarity of the fizzy contents.
  6. Eagerly taste it.
  7. *sound of disappointed crowd booing, accompanied by derisive minor-key music: ‘wah-wah-waaaahhhh’*

Until this year, I’d only made cider out of apples, which is theoretically supposed to give palatable results.  Even so, I’ve never managed to produce anything I’d offer to anyone else; except maybe as a practical joke.

Apparently I’m either optimistic or delusional, because I keep trying despite repeated disappointments.  (Note:  No matter how bad it is, I drink the rotgut myself because I fear the Irish legend of Judgement Day*.)

Since the tomato cider was a crapshoot to start with, my usual optimism was slightly subdued, but there was still some anticipation.

The ‘pop’:

It sounds like champagne!

The pour:

It fizzes like champagne.

The beautifully clear contents:

It looks like champagne!

And the taste test:

Despite its promising appearance, I was afraid it was going to taste like something that starts with that ‘sh-’ sound.  It definitely isn’t champagne, but amazingly, it’s okay!  (You can see my surprise.)

It’s a bit weird because it has a faint but distinct tomato flavour.  Not as much as tomato juice, though, so you might not be able to identify the taste if you didn’t know what it was.  It’s fruity and smooth and pleasantly carbonated.  In short, it’s nothing like the godawful rocket fuel I’ve made in previous years!

I hate to admit it, but this is probably the best result I’ve had out of all my cider-making thus far.  Maybe I’m getting better at it.

Or maybe it only seems better because I drank the whole pint and it’s almost as alcoholic as champagne…

What’s the oddest flavour of cider you’ve ever tried?

*

* On Judgement Day, you’ll be suspended head-down in a barrel containing all the booze you’ve ever wasted; and if you drown, to Hell with you.

Book 15 update:  The last couple of weeks have been full of research and revisions!  Aydan and Arnie’s run-ins with the police will be as accurate as I can make them, thanks to the patience and generosity of the constable from Regina Police Service who answered my MANY questions.

 

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Dwindling Time; Shrinking Pants

I can’t believe 2019 is gone already — I honestly don’t know where the time went.  My theory is that aliens have been abducting me for several hours every day, and they’ve masked their nefarious activities with false memories of working at my desk.  Either that, or Dr. Who is hovering above our house and altering time so that I’m working at half-speed relative to the rest of the world.

I’m sure there has to be some sci-fi explanation, because I’m not fond of the thought that I’m working as hard and fast as I can and still falling behind.  So, aliens it is!

Now that we’ve got that sorted out, let’s tackle the conundrum of why pants shrink in December.  I’m sure it must be the shorter hours of daylight and cooler temperatures that make the fabric fibres contract.  (Or maybe that’s caused by aliens, too.)  It can’t possibly be related to that box of chocolates I can’t seem to pass without nibbling.

Speaking of shorter days, we’re in the gloomy depths of winter rain here, which is actually a bit of a relief.  I’m not fond of dark days, but it was a dry autumn and water reservoirs were low, so it’s good to know they’re being replenished now.

I’m ready to look at something besides grey clouds, so here are some cheery views from 2019.

(Click on photos to see a larger version.  Depending on your browser, clicking again on the larger photo might give you a closeup — worth doing for the little pollen-coated bee.)

Ahhhh, beach and blue sky!

 

Happy garden plants soaking up the sun

 

Bees hard at work – look at the pollen on this little guy!

 

Colours so vivid they almost hurt your eyes

 

Sunny rudbeckia. This is ‘Goldsturm’.

 

And our tiny rhododendrons bloomed heroically! This is ‘Lee’s Best Purple’, only about 2 feet tall but with flower trusses the size of basketballs.

 

Ah, I feel better now.  It might be a while before spring gets here, but at least I can happily anticipate it.

And hey, maybe my pants will stretch out by spring, too!  I can always hope.  (I could also exercise more and diet a bit; but that would imply that those shrinking pants are somehow my fault.  Perish the thought.)

Happy New Year!

Book 15 update:  Just when I think I’ve got everything figured out, another wrench appears in the works.  But I did some excellent plotting and lots of research over the holidays, and I’m bombing ahead with Chapter 26.  Things just took a turn for the worse for Aydan and the boys, and they’re scrambling!

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I Think He’s Happy To See Me…

This week a few things have popped up and surprised me.  I’d tell you to stop snickering and get your mind out of the gutter; but you know me too well.  So snicker away — I did.

It all started with a pop-up man…

(And now I want to write some flash fiction beginning with that line. That would be ‘flash fiction’ as in ‘an ultra-short story’, not as in ‘fiction about flashers’. And that’s not even a digression, because the pop-up man started with flashers.)

It was dusk. The lights were on in our house and the yard was cloaked in near-darkness. We live in the country so I don’t worry too much about privacy, but I do draw the blinds at night.

So I was heading for the window when I noticed a truck with its flashers on, backed into our driveway outside the gate. I wasn’t unduly surprised because sometimes people do pull into our driveway when they’re lost and need to check their GPS.  (Which does them no good at all because we’re out in the middle of nowhere and our road isn’t on any GPS map; but anyway…)

I stood at the window watching the vehicle for a few moments.  Then as I reached for the blind cord, a dark-clad man popped up out of the gloom, staring in at me.

He waved. His hand, fortunately.

I must have looked utterly dumbfounded.  He gave me a conciliatory smile and waved again, pointing to his clipboard. Yep, the UPS guy had let himself in our gate and come to the front door (which we never use).

I felt more than a bit awkward as I opened the door and stammered a half-assed explanation as to why I’d apparently been standing there gawking brainlessly at him.  He seemed happy enough to complete the transaction, but he probably went back to the depot and regaled everyone with the story of this weird creepy broad who stood there staring out at him instead of answering the door.

Next, we were digging the last of our carrots when this popped up:

Hubby speculated that the carrots were mutating into some sort of new ambulatory vegetable. Then we turned it around:

I think he’s happy to see me; in a twisted sort of way…

My last surprise was this guy (or gal — who can tell?):

S/He doesn’t look particularly happy to see me; but since I don’t think eagles are capable of looking pleased, I’m going to pretend s/he’s smiling.

I was sitting outside with my tea when this eagle flew by about ten feet away from me, and only a few feet off the ground. Wow, what a surprise!  I’ve never been that close to a wild eagle before.  (And after a glimpse of those vicious talons and beak, I don’t want to get much closer.)

Any surprises popped up in your world this week?

Book 15 update:  An excellent plotting week!  I have the story almost all mapped out now, and I’ve written up to Chapter 18.  Aydan just got a big (and pleasant, for a change) surprise!

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Never Mind, It’s ‘Gourmet’

This weekend we had a family birthday, and as usual I made a birthday cake. I love making birthday cakes; partly because, hello, it’s cake, and I get to make lots of different flavours throughout the year; and partly because it’s usually divided among a large enough group that I can’t pig out on it.  (Much.)

This time it was confetti cake.  The cake turned out fine, and after it cooled I mixed up the ermine frosting and started spreading it on.

Sometimes I wonder whether it’s better to wear my glasses so that I notice oddball details; or not to wear them and be happily oblivious. But for better or worse, I was wearing my glasses, so I noticed the odd little… things making lumps in my frosting.

I hadn’t put any things in it when I mixed it up, so I tasted one and determined that it was a tiny dumpling of over-cooked flour. (Ermine frosting is a velvety-smooth, not-too-sweet frosting that starts with milk and flour cooked together.)  And there were lots of those little rubbery bits, ranging in size from a pinhead to a popcorn kernel. Grrr!

I’ve been making birthday cakes for years without a problem, so I have standards.  I scraped that batch of frosting off the cake and relegated it to the fridge for non-public use. (Hey, it was still yummy buttery frosting — I wasn’t going to throw it away!)

I mixed up a second batch, only to discover to my chagrin that it had things in it, too. (I blame the flour – it wasn’t my usual brand.)  Fortunately the things were smaller, so I slapped the frosting on the cake and served it up, and nobody noticed. Or they were too polite to comment. Either way, I’ll call it a win.

When I confessed the debacle to Hubby later, he laughed. “I’ve seen weirder stuff on a menu,” he said. “If anybody notices, just tell them it’s ‘gourmet’.”

So that’s my new go-to excuse for failed recipes, to be spoken in a tone of utmost snootiness: “It’s gourmet cuisine. I don’t expect you to understand.”

Now, please excuse me while I sneak into the kitchen and help myself to that tub of ‘gourmet frosting’.  😉

What’s your favourite birthday cake and frosting combo?

I’m no professional, but I have fun decorating cakes anyway!

Big news:  The audiobook version of The Spy Is Cast (Book 2) has just been completed!  It should be available through Amazon /Audible within a few weeks; and the audiobook for Reach For The Spy (Book 3) is in production now.

Book 15 update:  I’m halfway through Chapter 16, and Arnie’s loyalty is being tested…

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Artificial What?

I’ve been pressed for time this week, so I was late getting started on the draft for this post. As I paced the floor wondering what to write, Hubby piped up helpfully: “You know, you need an AI program to create your blogs for you.”

That made me laugh, for a couple of reasons. First, I grew up on a farm. Long before anybody ever thought of calling computer programs ‘Artificial Intelligence’, AI stood for ‘Artificial Insemination’. That might be apropos, considering that some of my posts are pretty screwy; but the accompanying mental image is, um… let’s just say unwholesome.

The second reason for my laughter is that my blog’s spam folder is full of AI ‘creativity’. (Just to clarify, I’m referring to Artificial Intelligence in this case; although considering some of the eye-popping porn in there, both definitions of AI may be equally accurate.)

Here’s one of the (non-X-rated) gems from my recent spam:
“An unconfused perk of living in a multicultural gentry is the wide-ranging variety of foods that enhance ready. X Field notes may document empirical details, methodological issues, dear thoughts, prolegomenon analyses and working hypotheses. Some are within the Checklist to ensure angelic physical environment mistress’s authority over, others not.”

Wow, I wish I’d written that! (Or not.) On the up side, I learned a new word: “prolegomenon”, which is “a critical or discursive introduction to a book”. Who knew?

But that aroused my curiosity. How do spammers develop their content? So your intrepid reporter dove deep into the questionable waters of the internet, and guess what I discovered? There are online generators for everything! Random words, nouns, adjectives, names, numbers, phrases; even complete sentences. So of course I had to try them out.

Fun was had and time was wasted, but despite my dedicated research I didn’t uncover any intelligence, artificial or otherwise.

It didn’t do much for my own intelligence, either. I could practically feel the IQ points slipping away; which may explain why I’ve developed a disturbing tendency to lose focus and stare blankly off into space waiting for my brain to reboot. (It’s not advancing age. Or so I keep telling myself.)

And on that note…

Lately I’ve been spread too thin, so I’m going to scale back my internet presence and concentrate on writing Book 15 for the next little while. I’ll post regular progress notes to prove I’m still alive and working, and I’ll write sporadic ‘real’ posts when I have time.  And of course, I’ll look forward to your comments as always — your comments are the best part of this blog!

“Talk” to you soon!

Book 15 update:  I’m on Chapter 14 and going strong!  Arnie’s having a tough time, but Aydan and John are there for him as always.

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