Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Gah, my house is a bloody mess!

Eating Bugles for breakfast, thinking, "migawd, I have to get my behoven butt on that exercise bike again soon," thinking righteously, yes, must exercise, but first I will jam another fistful of Bugles into my gob and wash it down with coffee.

Not that I can really see the exercise bike. At the moment it's covered with hoodies and fall jackets because there's not enough hangers in the closet and I'm far too lazy to go find some or buy some. And what do hangers cost anyway? Half a week's pay at least? Oh probably. I wouldn't actually know. I see hangers in the store sometimes and think, "who buys hangers?" I certainly don't, though it appears maybe I should. I dunno, hangers just appear at my house. Like they were dropped there by the Hanger Fairy, which sounds gruesome, now that I think about it.  *imagining a large-necked man in a black hood, twirling a plastic hanger in his bloodied hands like a venomous version of Annie Oakley*

You should see my house. It's disgusting. It looks like an episode of Hoarders.

All the extra kitchen chairs are in use as holder-uppers of things-not-currently-needed. Which means crap, quite literally. Holder-uppers of crap. It's all important crap but it's crap in a state of flux. Like, three of the chairs are loaded with stuff-that-goes-back-in-the-trailer. Anybody who has a house trailer and is a mad camping fiend such as myself knows all about that term. Camping season is not all about camping, oh no. It's mostly about hauling the same stuff in and out of the trailer from May through to October. In the spring we gather it all up, wash it and load it into the trailer: food, dishes, sleeping bags, towels, blankets, bug spray and vast vats of Tylenol, and we think, that's it! We've prepared the trailer for another riotous season of outdoor pleasure!

Alas, after our first weekend camping, we have to unload unused food, dirty dishes, smelly sleeping bags, sodden towels and moldy blankets. I wash it all, except the food of course, because I hate it when marshmallows get balled up with used Kleenexes in the washing machine, and then carry it all back to the trailer. This back and forth goes on every time we go camping. Which, as you know, is a lot. There is a veritable path worn between the house and our house trailer. Some days I think we should pave it and paint passing lanes. In the spring we carry out this ridiculous procedure with dough-headed and fresh-faced enthusiasm. At this time of year, not so much. In fact, the stuff that needs to be put back in the trailer has been sitting on the kitchen chairs for so long that I fear it needs to be dusted.

That's not the only thing clogging up our living room at the moment. Another two of our chairs are being used to hold up an area rug, which is drying at the speed of a hibernating tortoise. It was rather gross, the rug was, having been the targeted area of the cats who prefer to spew hairballs and stomach curds onto a soft surface, rather than the much larger and easier to clean hard floors which surround it. It had gotten so bad that Dave and I were sitting on the couch one day sniffing the air and asking each other if we had recently vomited and hadn't mentioned it.

"Did you puke, darling?"

"Not that I remember, dearest. Did you toss your cookies, sweetheart, because it does smell like ralph in here, and not your Uncle Ralph, although he is rather smelly, but not in a vomitrocious kind of way, more like a man who hasn't changed his Depends for a week kind of way."

We do try to clean up the stomach curds as soon as they land on the rug – if we see them land there. The problem lies in us not always being here to see the blessed event and, because our carpet is multi-coloured to hide the dirt, a job it does rather too well, sometimes we don't see the curds until our bare toes find their cooling mushness. Toes are like homing pigeons, aren't they? They have their own GPS systems, unerringly able to find cold cat barf in the dark while blindfolded. I have tried painting my toenails with thick coats of pink polish, ostensibly to block the homing talents of the toes (it's like wearing tinfoil hats to block the secret messages of governments and aliens, which doesn't work – parchment paper is much better for that sort of thing and also prevents your cookies from burning).

The problem with toes as they relate to cat barf is they tend to grind it into the carpet fibres so, after a while, the carpet resembles my son's hair after he has been overly generous with gel. Spiky and stiff ... paints a picture, doesn't it?

So we had been promising to take the rug outside and wash it with lots of strong soap and the garden hose on the first nice day, then hang it on the clothesline to dry. Which we did. Well, bloody hell, we haven't had two nice days in a row since summer ended. And it takes more than one day to dry a rug on a clothesline. It would partially dry, then it would rain and hail, then it would get wet again so finally we dragged it into the house and draped it over the kitchen chairs and now there it sits. Moldering away. Making movement impossible – my butt really is too wide to negotiate a big rug in a small house, not to mention all that stuff-that-needs-to-go-back-in-the-trailer.

The only good news is, with the rug up in the air, the cats can't puke on it. And it does block the view of the exercise bicycle, which means I feel less guilty as I hoover down the Bugles.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Two years

Two years, gone by in a flash and yet doesn't it seem since forever? The magic of that morning. The rarified air. Autumn's rosy red hues looked brighter, music on the radio rang clearer, time whistled along a path that was seemingly paved with magic, rose petals and romance.

Oh, if I had it to do again, I'd do it in a heartbeat, my love. My handsome love.

You have taken worry from my shoulders, you have stood by me in every situation, you are loyal, you are strong, you are honest and true.

And yet you never say my ass looks fat in those jeans.

Happy anniversary, my sweet.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Laughter, the best medicine

What writer doesn't have angst? It's a mandatory condition of the person who feels compelled to spend hours alone with nothing but a keyboard and an imagination, and then puts his/her pulsing heart onto a gingerly thrust sleeve and begs, "Please like me."

Even when readers do say they like our work, we don't really believe them. "They're just being nice." Deep down we know we're not really worthy of the word writers; we're pretenders. Waiting for the day that will surely come when someone outs us as the frauds we are.

The good news is we all feel this way. On Saturday I was at the wrap-up party for the Muskoka Novel Marathon and, for me, this was almost a better learning opportunity than the marathon itself, where we actually wrote. At the party, we talked about writing and that's when it struck me that even the most successful, published authors suffer from crippling angst. That's such a relief, knowing everybody else is just as wonky as I am.

I'd been feeling extra angsty about my novel lately. I'm waiting for revisions to come back from my good friend and fellow writer Laurita Miller, who I completely trust and adore. On one hand I've got my sleeves rolled up, waiting to get to work. On the other, I'm tormented she'll say "this is a total piece of shite." I understand this is how all writers feel so I'm trying not to freak out about it.

Still, I wanted to test my writing. I wanted to read it to the group at the marathon, who knew nothing about my novel or, for that matter, very little about me. I wanted to hear their honest reaction – and that's easy to judge when you're writing humour. If they laugh, you're gold. If the room is quiet, you're sunk.

Well, they laughed. Heartily. The room rang with laughter. I had to pause in several places to wait for the laughter to die down.

Oh. How I relished that sound. It was like the warmest of blankets; it was like getting roses when it's not your birthday; most of all, it gave me hope that maybe people will like the story, maybe someone will publish it, maybe they'll make a movie about it and Meryl Streep will be the star and I'll be rich and famous and, and ....

Yes. I'm being silly now. But not about how that laughter made me feel. That exquisite laughter. I shall carry it in my heart, today and always.

Or at least until the next bout of angst sets in.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Carrie Clevenger's new book sizzles

Book Review:

I’ve always had a thing for Carrie Clevenger’s writing, not gonna lie, so I was a little prejudiced going into the reading of Crooked Fang, her new novel about a sexy, bass-playing vampire. I knew it was going to be well-written. I knew it was going to be tight and smart and edgy, just like her short stories that have been dazzling me since I got on board with the Friday Flash crew a couple years back. I knew I was going to like it.

I just didn’t know how much.

There were a few scenes in Crooked Fang that absolutely set me back on my heels, scenes of such crystalline, short-leashed violence, such visceral power, that I felt my blood pressure rising and my breath catch in my throat. That doesn’t happen often with me and, when it does, I can’t help but shake my head in jealous admiration and say, “damn, that’s some good writing."

For the most part, vampire Xan Marcelles ambles his hunky, long-haired form through the book, playing bass with his bandmates Crooked Fang at the Pale Rider, a bar in the rugged, spruce-scented hills and valleys of Colorado. I love the setting – reminds me of Muskoka, the woodsy place I call home, plus it’s fresh, outdoorsy and blue-skied, not like the dank dark depressing places most vampires hang out in.

Xan’s perfectly happy dallying around with music, whiskey, cigarettes and the occasional red-blooded woman, but he’s forced out of his comfort zone by a murderous wraith, a wanna-be vampire slayer, a devastating fire and crushing news about a lost love.

The novel moves along lickety-split but the action crackles as the page width on the right hand side of the tome gets skinnier, and the last few chapters are rollercoasters where Carrie’s mad writing skills are most evident.

To be honest, I don’t seek out vampire stories. I only read Crooked Fang because I know what Carrie is capable of and yes, I loved it. It was a fast, fun read with some really spectacular, Stephen King-like moments. Xan Marcelles is a memorable, original character, likeable despite his propensity for blood, and I’m glad to hear Carrie is working on a sequel. I'll buy it in a heartbeat.

I would like to take this opportunity to say, however, that I’m hoping she tackles something more literary in the future. She has such a gift for writing that I could easily see her penning a work that could have lasting impact on American literature. Carrie Clevenger has that kind of talent and she’s young enough and new enough into the game that she has a chance to really make a name for herself.

In the meantime, she has what could be a highly successful franchise on her hands. Crooked Fang would be a terrific film and I can see any actor playing Xan Marcelles being a bigger hearthrob than Robert Pattinson. He’s older, he’s bigger, he’s tougher and he’s got better hair.

Something to hang onto as he nibbles your neck, if you know what I mean ...

Carrie Clevenger is a writer
living in Texas, where
everything is apparently big,
including writing talent.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

A lookie-loo

Helen Howell, author of Jumping At Shadows, and hostess of the writerly blog Helen Scribbles, tagged me with The Look Challenge. This game is a relatively painless one: find the word look in your work in progress and post the neighbouring paragraphs.

The first thing I realized when I did a word search for 'look' is that I use it too damned often. There were 303 occurrences in my 87,366 word manuscript. Is that a lot? Cause it seems like a lot.

The second thing I realized was how hard it was to choose one section out of 303 occurrences. Gah, I could have spent all day choosing one bit.

Naturally I chose one involving excrement:

When Shawn was a little kid he was a veritable dog poo magnet. Everywhere he went he picked some up in the soles of his sneakers. They’d be going somewhere in the car and the heater would start working and that’s when the aroma of canine du jour would waft up to the front seat, sending his parents into a gagging, whining chorus of, “Awww, Jesus Christ on a stick, Shawn, not again!”

He’d be like, “What? What’d I do?” Butch would stop the car in a flurry of curses and he’d pile out and open the passenger door and examine his son’s feet and, sure enough, there’d be a dog turd smeared on the sole of his shoe.

“We don’t even have a Christly dog!” Butch would say as he helped Shawn clean up.

“That’s because he’s a Dog Poo Magnet,” Weezie would add. “Shawn is magnetically altered to pull in dog poo from all points of the globe. He is the north pole of dog poo. If you don’t believe me, look up Dog Poo Magnet in the dictionary and you’ll see a picture of our Shawnie.”

Of course, posting my own lookie-loo isn't enough; now I must tag five others. All of these bloggers, by the way, are writers I met at this summer's Muskoka Novel Marathon, and I chose them in honour of our marathon wrap-up event being held this Saturday in Huntsville. I had the BEST time at the marathon this year and can hardly wait to rub elbows with these guys and hear what they've been up to. 

Kevin Craig is a multi-published author and one of the kings of the novel marathon. It's amazing how fast and how well this guy writes. Also? He has literary tattoos, one for each of his books that have been published. So, as well as being king of the marathon, he's the king of cool. Srsly.

Lizann Flatt is one of Canada's best known children's authors and I had the absolute pleasure of sitting next to her at the marathon. A few years ago one of her books was selected to be involved in a very prestigious program which gives a children's book to every Grade One student in Canada. Lizann's book was chosen! How amazing is that? (Plus she's really sweet. Really sweet. Did I mention sweet?)

M-E Girard is hell on wheels. She is outrageous, outspoken and funny as the day is long. Lately her hilarious blog is ranty and raucous, just like she is. And I mean that in the nicest of all possible ways.

Sharon Ledwith gave me bling! She had bracelets and bookmarks from her new book, The Last Timekeepers, and she was handing them out to everybody at the marathon. I have worn the bracelet many times since and, whenever I do, I am reminded of how very, very nice Sharon is. 

Lori Twining? What's not to love about Lori Twining? She's a veritable cheerleader of life and her enthusiasm was full on and adorable at the marathon. Her blog is self-deprecating and charming, just like she is, and even after pulling an all-nighter at the marathon, she was still cheery and wonderful to be around.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Thanks, Etta

I didn't think it would happen, actually. I was so wrapped up in getting one book written that I never thought I'd get around to even thinking about another one. Lately though there's been a character percolating in my old brain, just an idea, that's all.

Then last night I was driving home listening to At Last by Etta James and it hit me like a drunk with the burning reds – what she'd be like, this character. I could see her, what she looked like, what her apartment looked like, the art posters on her wall, old blues on her stereo, a glass of gin on the rocks in her hand.

I listened to that song several times in a row, hitting replay over and over as ideas took shape and, later, the mystery of it all, the crazy out of the blue magic of it, kept my eyes on the bedroom ceiling as the minutes ticked by into the dark rain of this new day.

This morning I did a quick Google before work and found out more about James. A white Canadian girl raised on Tommy Hunter and The Lawrence Welk Show, I don't know nothin' about the blues or about James, other than At Last was Barack Obama's inauguration song and he and Michelle sure looked pretty dancing close on the tender evening.

The more I found out about Etta James, the more songs I listened to, the more my character rose from the smoky wisps of imagination.

I'm going to be singing this one all day.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Genre Favourites Blogfest - Genre? What genre?

Just back from yet another weekend camping, a glorious one, I might add, only to remember that I'd signed up for Alex J. Cavanaugh's Genre Favourites Blogfest. Ye gods, I can barely see through the yawn-induced rivers seeping through my crusty eyes, never mind think clearly. For one panicked moment I thought about bailing on the blogfest but then I realized Alex has the easiest fests in the blog biz so I poured some coffee and put on a sweater (because it's frickin' freezing in here) and got to it. 

If you'd like to join in the fun (and Alex's bloghops are always fun), click HERE. In the meantime, here's the rules:

One blogfest, four favorites!
List your favorite genre of:
And a guilty pleasure genre from any of the three categories!

Now here's the thing – I don't really think in terms of genres and there's nothing I won't read/listen to/watch as long as it's well crafted. For example, I love Stephen King's books but I don't read them because they're horror, I read them because his writing is so darned good that he sucks me into the story. I mention King because I had a dream about him last night. He was doing a charity event in our town and for some reason only a few people showed up. I casually told him that I had just finished the first draft of my book and he asked to read it. (He did! He asked ME! I didn't even hound him – I know, hard to believe.) Then he offered some constructive criticism and told me he liked it, but then our cat started yeowling and Dave yelled "SHUT UP," and King's dear face disappeared in an obtrusive cloud of consciousness. 

The upshot is I have to think long and hard about what genres I DO prefer.

Movie: Chick flicks, I guess, even though I'm not sure what that term means to most people. In our house "chick flick" means anything that doesn't involve car chases, spaceships and fight scenes. It means that, for every nine Avengers, Bournes and Batman movies, I get to see one Hope Springs. My favourite movie is the kind that makes me laugh out loud and cry in the same breath. It makes me fall in love with the characters. It expands my horizons and makes me think. It lingers with me for days afterward and I talk about it to everyone who will listen. That's my favourite movie genre.

Music: Folk, I guess. Quiet music, beautiful lyrics. One of my favourite songs of all time is America by Simon & Garfunkel, but I also love I Feel Pretty from West Side Story. Go figure.

Books: No genre, just good writing. Two of the best books I read this year were completely different: City of Thieves by David Benioff and Still Alice by Lisa Genova. One is a survivalist adventure involving two men on an unusual quest. The other is about a woman with early onset Alzheimer's. As I write this I'm in the middle of Carrie Clevenger's Crooked Fang, about a bass-playing vampire. So you see, I'm all over the map.

Guilty Pleasure: True crime books, especially by Ann Rule, the more blood and guts the better. (I know, I'm sick, I can't help it.)

Wanna tell the world what your favourites are? Go see Alex! And happy Monday, everyone!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Me and Laura go camping with Sue and antics ensue

Laura Eno will not go camping with me.

I never figured her for some girly-girl but apparently her concept of being one with nature consists of listening to the spindly philodendron on her desk crying for a mercy killing, and scooping piles of dog crap the size of Buicks from her Astroturfed backyard. (I've seen pictures of her dogs – I can't even imagine the turds those sons and daughters of Jezebel must produce.)

Which makes me want to drag her sunless carcass into the great outdoors even more. I bet she hasn't seen the sun since 1973. I bet Xan Marcelles sees more sunlight than Laura does. And he's a goldurned bloodsucking vampire.

Me, I love camping. Am going camping this weekend, as a matter of fact (and so will be internet-free... again....) (Thanks to Babs and Henry LaRue for housesitting  - please don't let your rottweiler eat the couch this time, OK? Beast is the size of a Volkswagen. Why can't people have freaking normal sized dogs?)

I invited Laura to come along but she as refused because she's a big wussy-pants.

She'll be wishing she was fishing (yes I'm a poet) with me, however, because now she's in deep trouble over at I Refuse To Go Quietly. Fellow Friday Flash alumni Sue Harding noticed Laura's camp-phobia and wrote a very, very scary (more poetry) story about me and Mizz Eno going camping together.

Of course I think it's the bees knees (poetry) being the subject of a Sue Harding story. Even though the ending




You'll have to go see for yourself what that ending is cause I'm not gonna tell you.

Let me just say, my fingernail polish really is pink. Really.

Now. Off to catch some lunkers. Coming, Laura? (Wussy-pants.)

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Life is weird and so are turkeys

Life is weird, isn't it?

Like the wild turkeys I see in this guy's backyard on Highway 118. Every morning I see these turkeys. About a dozen of them, pecking at grass like great globular giant chickens, rotund as satellite dishes and just as ugly. Stupid as dirt they are, but stupid in a good way. Like, I can't help smiling at them. I see them and my mouth rounds to a dimpled "oh" that stretches out to a broad grin as I squeal, "TURKEYS," as if I didn't see them yesterday or the day before. So who's the stupid one, you might well ask. But I can't help it. They're so new on the birding scene. It's still a thrill to see their vast ridiculousness hobnobbing with chickadees in the Muskoka countryside.

If turkeys were in a movie they'd be played by Shrek.

I've often wondered how anything that big, dumb and delicious manages to survive in the wild. They might as well have slow moving vehicle signs pasted on their plump and pointy feathered derrieres. With all the wolves, fishers, bears and men in orange hats around here, it's a wonder there are any turkeys left. But there they are, gobbling at the side of Highway 118 every morning, seemingly unscathed by canine teeth, talons or birdshot.

What kills me though, absolutely kills me, is where, exactly, these dumb birds are hanging out.

At a hunter's house.

Well, I'm not absolutely positive it's a hunter's house. I mean, I didn't go up to the front door and ask to see an outdoors card, but I'm pretty sure the plastic deer in the backyard with an arrow-catching backdrop behind it is a good indication that somebody in the house is practising their bow-hunting skills for deer season.

Either that or it's the summer home of Katniss from The Hunger Games.

Regardless, it astounds me that the turkeys have chosen this yard to hang out in. Right in front of the plastic deer. Maybe they think Katniss only hunts deer, having a plastic deer in the yard and not a plastic turkey. Dudes, I've seen The Hunger Games and she's slung several dumb birds over her shoulder. I'm not sure what kind of birds they were but they had x-marks where their eyeballs used to be which is usually a sign that they'd be first in line at triage in emerg.

I try to tell them that this is not a safe place to hunt and scratch but they don't listen. They barely even lift their heads as I wind down he car window, stick my neck into the stiff September breeze and waggle my tongue against the roof of my mouth in a yodelling "bluddabluddabludda" that sounds exactly like a turkey gobble.

A guy at work whose brother-in-law's uncle twice removed invented a turkey caller gadget, brought this amazing TV-style offering into the office one day and passed one out to everybody. Since then I have been dutifully blowing spit into it but I can't make it work. It sounds more like a ripe raspberry, or one of my own brother-in-law's infamous campfire farts, than a turkey call.

I'm sure I'm not the only one who does drive-by turkey gobbling. My husband does it, too. We both wind down our windows and gobble as loud as we possibly can, much to the utter mortification of our children in the back seat. I tell the kids, hey, it's the thing to do. Everybody gobbles at turkeys. Wouldn't it be great to set up a Stealth -Cam at the side of the road and take pictures of all the humans gobbling as they go by? I'm sure this is an endless source of entertainment for the turkeys. Chicken-necked humans rolling their tongues and spraying spit everywhere, braying like donkeys.

In fact, that's probably why they're hanging out at the side of Highway 118 all the time. Human watching. Giggling and gobbling over the infinite stupidity of giant pasty-faced, featherless, wingless, brainless humans, no doubt saying, "And they say WE'RE stupid."

Life is weird, isn't it?

Monday, September 10, 2012

Act now and you can have your tarot cards read for free! Also, a wee chat with Mizz Helen Howell

 Good  morning everyone! Of course it's not morning everywhere in blogland, especially in Australia where author Helen Howell is probably just crawling into bed as I'm polishing off my first cup of joe. You know Helen, right? She's one of my Friday Flash buddies, a writer who has just published her first book, a young adult novelette called Jumping At Shadows.

Not only have I read it, I had the distinct honour of being one of Helen's beta readers. I had never beta read an entire book before and, whew, I have new respect for all editors of all books (especially the lovely Mizz Laurita Miller who is currently editing my own). It's a lot of work! I mean, it's fun work, but it's still work, trying to help the author make it the best work she possibly can. Luckily Helen's book didn't need much polishing up and her story made the task a joy. If you haven't picked up a copy yet, you can find it at Smashwords and Amazon.

In the meantime, did you know Helen reads tarot cards? Not only that, she's willing to give free readings to the first five people who speak up in the comments. FREE READINGS. I know, right? How cool is that? 

So go get your glass and put it up to the wall and listen in as me and lovely Helen have a wee chat.

Hey Helen!
How are things on your side of the world?
So I've put together a few questions for you and am hoping you'll have fun with the answers. Ready?

Okay here we go! ^__^

You're a magical woman, Helen Howell. Your new novelette, Jumping At Shadows, has a lot to do with magic and mystery, and it features a crystal ball on the cover. In real life you do tarot card readings. Which makes me wonder – how big a part does magic play in your own life and did your experiences play a part in the writing of your book?

Ah, life is full of magic! You just have to look around you to see. ^__^ I've always been, right from the start, what I suppose others call psychic. I don't like to use that label. But I have through different periods of my life seen ghosts, and sometimes just known when things are going to happen. I like to think of it as a tuned in intuition. Magic or the concept of magic and the imagination to believe in it, has always been part of me. I guess that's why I like to read among other things, middle grade fantasy. Hey what little girl doesn't want to believe there are fairies at the bottom of the garden?

My novella was not influenced by my belief in magic but rather by those books in the fantasy fiction genre I like to read. Alice in Wonderland being one of the first and I recently got a new illustrated edition of this. Harry Potter - read 'em all. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe just to name a few.

Jumping At Shadows is described as a magical adventure. My heroine Belle and her side kick Rosy, both love to read magical books. When they find themselves in the alternative world what they experience does seem like magic to them. But in reality all the gadgets that make things happen, with the exception of the crystals, were invented by Rhubost, (Belle's distant relative). So although the book has a strong magical feel to it, it could also be described as soft science fiction.

How DO you do a tarot reading and how much faith do you have in the results?

There are two schools of thought about how one reads tarot, that is the predictive reading or proactive reading. Predictive sort of speaks for itself. You tell the person what is going to happen. Proactive is where you help the seeker to make the best decision for themselves. Having said that, there is always a certain amount of prediction within a reading, but by doing proactive you help the person to see the advantages or pitfalls to certain directions. With proactive reading you encourage the seeker to ask open ended questions - for example, what, how, where - What do I need to do etc? or How can I improve my relationship with x? As opposed to asking: Does Fred love me? or will I get the job? Both these last two questions tend to need a yes no answer, which of course tarot can do, however it would be far more productive for example to ask What do I need to do to give myself the best shot at this job?

Tarot has long been thought of as a 'fortune telling' tool but it's so much more when used well. It can be a tool for self growth and one that helps you gain insight in order to make the best decisions for yourself. When I had a tarot reading website this is how I describe how I felt tarot worked:

I believe that the Tarot works in a way that connects to our energy and becomes a tool that enables contact with our higher self. This helps us to become enlightened about the choices we have and the possibilities that may be available, but remembers that we also have free will so those possibilities are changeable and depend on the choices we make.

When you have a reading the influence it may have on your life is that it can cause you to look where you have not thought to look before. By exploring beyond normal perception you can gain a more positive outlook, facilitate a greater understanding of yourself and your situation and in turn, empower you to make a better choice for yourself.
I have seen tarot help people to gain clarity and to go forward with more determination and direction in their life. So I certainly have faith in its ability to help people. But you know one should remember that tarot cards are just that, pieces of cardboard with images. Yes, the images do have a long history and within them are core meanings. But a reading is only as good as the reader. What I am saying is the magic is not in the cards but in the readers ability.

Belle and Rosy, the two main characters in Jumping At Shadows, are feisty, happy, charming girls living adventurous lives. Was your own girlhood similar to theirs? Are you more like Belle or Rosy?

I was more like Rosy I think. Rosy's a bit of a tom boy and so was I. Always willing to climb that tree and scrump those apples. ^__^ I've drawn on my own memories of school days in order to write this story, and it is set in around the early 60's. The tunnel they go through to get to the gym is the one I use to have to go through. I think even when we write fiction, there has to be some reality in it to be believable. That is where the similarity begins and ends.

How was the novel-writing/publishing experience for you? Would you do it again? Are you working on a sequel? Are you happy or disappointed with the self-publishing process and what pitfalls are there you would advise other writers to avoid?

This novella, (well it's a novella now but the original draft was around 60,000 words which I reduced to just under 50,000), took around 4 years from beginning to end. I worked on the first draft for 12 months, but took lots of breaks to write short stories and flashes etc. This helped me not get bogged down in it and come back each time with fresh eyes. I formed a plot outline but a fair way in I found it wasn't going to work, so had to sit down and rethink the plot. Having an imaginative son helped a lot at this stage. He and I had a brainstorming session to get it back on the road. Then came the edits, 6 times in all, but you can't escape the process.

I've left the book so that it can have a sequel, but right now I have another fantasy fiction on the back burner about a boy who thinks he has what it takes to be a wizard ^__^

Publishing was a learn as you go process. Fortunately I enlisted the help of my husband to do the formatting, but there still were kinks to iron out and the meat grinder at Smashwords thinks that people only use word - most frustrating when you work on a Mac. I think putting the thing together is the easiest part. As an Indi author the hardest part is promotion, you have to do it for yourself. Trying to find the fine line between getting your book out there and not annoying the public too much is tricky.

I think my advice to anyone who was planning to do this is, make sure you have your manuscript edited and polished, enlist beta readers to help you see where you may need to improve it. Don't try to skip the editing step, a first draft is rarely the best. Then when you're ready to publish, plan it and make your launch noticeable. Good luck.

I was wondering if you'd be willing to do tarot readings for those who would ask for it in the comments? You don't have to, of course, and I won't mention it if you'd rather not, but it might be fun.

Okay I would be willing to do 5 one card readings for the first five to put up their hands - they can only ask one question and preferably not one that requires a yes or no (difficult to do with one card) so perhaps you could guide them to ask their question with an open end like: 

What do I need to - or How can I etc. or Where should I etc. will get them the best results.

ALSO - Tell me a little bit about your fascinating life, what it's like to live in Australia (whereabouts exactly are you?); what it's like to live life a day ahead of the rest of the world (it kills me that you're going to bed when I'm waking up), what your family life is like (happy anniversary!) and what's UP with all your baking!!!! Geez, you're making the whole world hungry over there!

Thanks for the anniversary wishes, 39 years how time flies! Well, I was born in England where I stayed until I was 31 before moving to Australia. I started out my working life as a secretary, until I came to Australia then I moved into age care. fter that I became a massage therapist, then an instructor in an Adult Education Facility for intellectual disabilities. Left that and went to work in a spa as a remedial massage therapist. Now retired. I have done various things in my life, in England taught in a ballet school on Saturdays. When I came out here I joined a wine makers association and made my own country wines, for which I won two bronze and one silver medal. (Don't make wine any more, you can buy it by the cask these days ^_^). I was also a watercolour painter and exhibited my work for around 18 years. No longer do that. Around four years ago I took up fiction writing and that is what I put my energy into these days.

Australia was always called the lucky country, it has wide open spaces, beaches and for the most part a fair bit of sunshine. Coming from England I loved that fact that I could grow things in this climate outdoors that would only be seen in a hot house back home. I adore some of the wild life, (not the spiders or snakes) but the parrots that come visit my garden, that is until they eat my apples instead of their bird seed! The thing I really like about Australia is that you don't need lots of money to enjoy life. Our parks are free, our beaches are free, so all you need to do is pack up some sandwiches and head on out into the fresh air.

 Sometimes I feel living in the future makes me miss out on some fun chats! It's strange that I am waking up here when all of your are going to bed and I read the tweets and games and conversations that have gone on while I sleep.

Baking - I've always loved cooking. Not everyday meals that's boring stuff, but making special cakes or bread or preserves. There is nothing more satisfying that looking at a shelf filled with jars of things that you've made yourself. I've recently done a batch of orange and lemon marmalade - the lemon trees are dripping here at the moment. ^_^

Thanks for asking me over Cathy, I've enjoyed chatting and I've left you a jar of marmalade on the table over there!

MARMALADE! My favourite! (Can you imagine having lemon trees in your backyard? I certainly can't.) Thanks for that, Helen, and thanks for dropping by. It's always a pleasure having you here and best of luck with Jumping At Shadows. I hope you sell TONS of copies.

Now, the first five people who ask for it in the comments can have their tarot cards read by the illustrious Mizz Howell. She read mine a few months back and was bang on with everything she said. How much fun is that?

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Five writerly tips from lovely Laura Eno

If Laura Eno lived next door to me, we'd have coffee all the time and talk about writing and be BFFs. Of course that would never happen unless Laura completely lost her mind and forgot about her abhorrence for the great outdoors and snowbanks.

So it's me in Ontario and Laura in Florida and never the twain shall meet. But I will always think fondly of this prolific and talented writer. Ever since I caught wind of her through Friday Flash I have admired her generous support of other writers, not to mention her own ability to write about anything: literary slice of life, horror, humour, romance – doesn't matter. She handles it all with imaginative and tenacious aplomb.

My respect for her is enormous.

I haven't had much reading time lately but I did manage to spend some happy hours with my nose buried in my Kindle during summer vacation. You couldn't ask for better summer reading material than Laura's The Carriena Oracles, Raven and Wraith. On one sunshiney July afternoon I whipped through Raven while I floated around in our cheapo Canadian Tire swimming pool guzzling Diet Cokes and accumulating melanoma. It was glorious.

Then, during an impromptu fishing trip to Brent, a remote part of Algonquin Park, I dove into and polished off the recently released Wraith in a couple of happy hours. It amuses me to think I read many of Laura's books on camping trips, knowing she can't stand the very idea of camping. It's like I'm dragging her along and she's having a great time, in spite of herself.

Both books were a ton of fun. Love romance? Love sci/fi? Love strong female leads, adventure, brave new worlds and human-like robots? They're all here in a happy mish-mash of genres that put character and story above all else. You can find them, along with a long list of Laura's other novels, on Amazon and Smashwords. At 99 cents each, they're a true bargain.

In the meantime, I forced Laura to answer a bunch of inane questions. The first question, though, was completely serious – I wanted five tips for writers. Laura is an experienced, savvy writer and self-publisher and if you want advice on anything writerly, she's the lady to ask. Without further adieu, Mizz Eno:

Hi, Cathy! Thank you so much for inviting me to put a handprint on your blog. I hope you don't mind if it's a bit sticky… 

That was with honey, for all you blokes with your minds in the gutter.

You asked me for five tips of interest to writers. *snort* There are so many tips out there the internet needs a plumber to unclog it but here goes.

Tip #1. Chew each tip slowly. If it tastes good, swallow it. If it doesn't, spit it out. Seriously. You can only write with what resonates for you. Leave the rest behind.

Tip #2. Don't be afraid. Fear will leave your manuscript half-finished, kicked under the bed.

Tip #3. Learn how to take constructive criticism. That does not mean change your story to suit someone else's idea of how it should go. There's a difference between tightening your story and writing someone else's version. Let them write their own.

Tip #4. Edit. Edit. Edit. But then let it go. See Tip #2.

Tip #5. Remember that not everyone will like what you've written. We all want to stand up on stage like Sally Fields (minus the hairy armpits) and yell, "You really like me!" but it's impossible. If you love your story and it's well edited, it's all good.

You asked why I write romance in particular, when I write in so many different genres. Actually, for me, it's all the same. The angle I write from is the human condition. In my head, it all ties together – love, hate, happiness, pain – they are the commonalities that bond us as a people.

I hope that made sense. If not, throw a bucket over your head and repeat the words until you agree with me.

You asked what I do all day. Mostly, I let the voices in my head erode the gray matter and bleed words onto paper. That, and play door monitor for two dogs. Up until three years ago I was a Tai Chi instructor, but a series of mental and physical mishaps have me staying at home now, muttering to myself.

And yes to your last question. There will be a third installment of the Carriena Oracles to add to Raven and Wraith. I didn't get to it immediately because I have a few Djinn as houseguests in my head. As soon as they move on, I will write it.

Thank you for having me here, Cathy, and I hope I didn't scare too many of your readers away!

P.S. Jezebel sends you a big, sloppy kiss.

(Right back atcha, Jez.)

Friday, September 7, 2012

Bizarre questions for Tim VanSant: #3

I just read Tim VanSant's Friday Flash (it was lovely, by the way) and it occurred to me that I hadn't yet posted his answer to my third question. So I searched through my e-mails and found his answer – in a message dated last JUNE.

How embarrassing.

He probably thinks I didn't like it, or abandoned him, or something but in complete fact I just forgot – for no other reason than I forget everything these days. Please bring licorice allsorts when you visit me in the home. Oh, and those butterscotch candies. And some Twizzlers. If it's not too much trouble. Wiping the drool spigot off my lip would be nice as well, and I could use a fresh diaper to crap in. Thanks.

Tim VanSant is one of my Friday Flash writing compadres and for some reason his dry wit interests the heck outta me. So for no other reason than I find him compelling I asked him a few dumb questions.  For some equally inane reason he decided to answer.

And then I forgot about it. (Ooooh, is that a castle?)

What the hell do you do all day anyway? 

You have no idea how badly I wanted to give you a one-word answer to this question:


Because that's the only thing I can think of that I do "all day" and because taking things to literal extremes is apparently a genetic trait that usually passes for humor in my family. But I suspect you wouldn't let me get away with a one-word answer.

I knew a woman who always answered the question, "What do you do?" with this:


I think that's brilliant. It puts a unique spin on otherwise banal cocktail party small talk. I suck at small talk. But you had to go and ask what I do all day. So I can't steal that answer. Damn. I love stealing good material.

I tried writing my answer poetically since I am a self-described rogue poet. I came up with gems such as:

Really, I'm not keeping track
Maybe I should make a list
Enquiring minds want to know
Important details aren't missed

Note to self, poetry is NOT the answer to everything....

So, how can I answer this and balance honesty, privacy, and humor? Okay, obviously honesty is expendible. It's not likely that anyone is going to check up on me. You're not going to check up on me, right? So I could tell you pretty much ANTHING and you'd have to take me at my word. But I promise [cough] to mostly tell the truth.

For nearly all of my adult life I would tell people that what I do is contribute to the delinquency of minors. Or mess with kids' heads. Or practice being a bad example. [Or practice being invisible.] Or put groups of people to sleep with just a few words. That's right. I was a teacher. Mostly in public high schools and mostly in techie subjects like Drafting and Electronics. But I don't do that any more. So now I'm looking for my next career. 

In the meantime, I write a little. And edit a bit. [Will work for food... or cash. Reasonable rates. Inquire within.] I often help family members with computer stuff. [My oldest sister just convinced our parents -- who are in their 80s -- to get broadband instead of dial-up. Yay, sis!] I help maintain the website and play around on my own site. And there's all the double-naught super secret spy stuff. [You know the drill; I could tell you, but I'd have to kill you.] And there's the nunnaya. [Nunnaya bizness ;-)] Oh, also I've been weaving a meditation rug from yarn made out of lint I collected while contemplating my navel. So there's that....

Really, my life right now is pretty boring. I've heard it said though that boredom can be irresistible sometimes. Or maybe it's cookies that are iresistible. And pie. And cake. Ooooh, and cheesecake! Now I'm hungry. What was the question?

Oh yeah. Are you bored yet?


Thursday, September 6, 2012

Sam-I-Am turns twelve

Such a little guy, you were. Generously blessed with adorableness. Huggable. Squeezable. Completely loveable. Nothing has changed in that regard; you're still my baby, always will be, and even when you're a grown-up man I'll always think of you in those railroad pants on the baby quilt Aunt Mary sewed, your sweet little toes, your outie belly button and that adorable chubby-wubby Mona Lisa smile on your beautiful face.

Happy 12th birthday, Sam-I-Am.