Thursday, April 28, 2005

Writing is Hard

Writing is hard. Really really hard.

It isn't the actual writing that is hard. I can sit and write all day. It is a combination of trying to write brilliantly and fresh that requires real power.

Outside of Critique Partners, agents, editors and contest judges, I hate showing my writing to anyone or even talking about my plot or story-line.
People often ask me 'Can I read your work?' Generally I say no. Not because I don't like that person or even because I am worried about what they might say. But somehow, with each person that reads your work and doesn't BUY it (I'm talking publishers here) it takes away some of the sparkle, some of the energy from your story. Sounds nuts, but I can't think of another way to put it.

Focusing so much energy on trying to get your words/scenes/chapters/story line perfect is incredibly difficult. You have to juggle character personalities in your head. You have to remember the environment in which your characters live, their backgrounds, personal histories. Normally while balancing nappy changes, meal times and other family demands that intrude every ten minutes. You need to get your facts straight because readers are picky and even though it is fiction, people like to know real facts with their fiction.

Then there is the business of writing. The incredibly competitive, professional theatre in which any writer must operate. Knowing what a query is, how long your synopsis should be, what each publishing house favors, what different editors like, all the while trying to write something fresh that they'll still recognize as a story they want, but that nobody has done quite that way before.

Combine all this with the strain of raising children who are fickle and demanding...makes them sound horrid and they're not, but what else would you call kids who cry because there is tomato sauce on their hot dog at lunch-time and then cry again because there isn't tomato sauce on their fish fingers at tea-time???

Like I said, writing is hard. Motherhood may be harder!!!

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Canadian Shield

 Posted by Hello


This is a picture I took today at Whiteshell Provincial Park, Manitoba. Most North Americans would be familiar with this type of landscape, but it is much less typical of the UK, where we're from. Now that we live in the prairies it was a bit of a surprise to find this rugged landscape just 90 minutes east. The prairies are so FLAT. You almost strain your eyes trying to pick something off in the distance. For a person who loves the sea and the mountains I feel slightly disoriented being in this flat land, but I'm excited at seeing the different seasons and how the landscape changes with snow and then with crops. They have beaches nearby too, and the desert, and now we've found part of the Canadian shield we can scramble about a bit.
Nice :)

Lone Wolf

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...And we saw our first ever wild wolf. I've seen footprints before, years ago, way up north in Labrador. But today we were driving along, on our way home. It was midday, but cold and nothing much else was on the road. We saw this very furry, but skinny, white wolf trying to drag something into the trees. He was a beauty although given my camera isn't briliant I'm amazed you can make him out at all. We also saw an otter and loons and loads of deer, but no bear (thankfully :))
Loon  Posted by Hello

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Our beautiful dog on Gimli Beach Posted by Hello

Ticked Off in the Desert

Yesterday we went to the desert. Now considering the snow has only been gone for a month, it felt pretty weird trekking off to the desert. We arrived late (of course) and immediately set out on a 7 km walk (even though it was lunchtime and we had a cooler full of food in the car and the kids were hungry). We took a snack bar and a carton of juice for them and set off. Foolish, but that's us :)
It was a lovely walk, all encroaching grass and shifting sands. Pretty purple flowers dotted along the wayside. Small gnarled aspens and unfamiliar conifers gave us some shade from the glorious sunshine, though the wind was cool. We saw signs of deer and snake tracks, but no real wildlife. It was a lovely walk, but took more than 3 hours to complete. Hubby carried both kids at least half of the time and he carried the big grumpy lump of a two-year-old, all the time.
The lump was not a happy chappy.
We got back (having somehow lost the father-in-law) and rather than going to look for him decided to start our picnic. Starving children are always a mother's priority!! As soon as we set down the backpack, the lump fell asleep (typical) so we set him down in the shade and happily stuffed our faces with bagels and cream cheese and crisps and juice (though we'd forgotten cups and plates--please note hubby packed this picnic ;-0). He got the essentials!!
Father-in-law eventually turned up, no worse for wear, having investigated EVERY sign and notice board along the way. He ate, mother-in-law sunbathed on the ground and then we set off again back to the homestead.

End of story-but not quite...

M-i-l discovered a 'thing' on her. I didn't really pay attention, too busy watching the smoke on the horizon as local farmers burnt off stubble. Then when we bathed the kids we found more 'things' in their hair, trying to attach to their vulnerable little scalps :(

I think we tracked them all down--wood ticks--not carriers of Lymes disease (touch wood), but not nice either. Plucked them off the kids and m-i-l (I won't tell you where she found them!) and I personally was very grateful not to have taken the dogs with us. Of course now I've discovered the critters I'll be paranoid (as always).

Can you spray dogs with DEET???

Friday, April 22, 2005

Eric Bana versus Carl French

I'm a lucky woman. I get to plaster pictures of my favourite good-looking blokes all over my workspace and call it research. You can ignore the fact I also plaster pictures of women over my walls at this point .

This was fine...I have been oggling Eric Bana for the last 3 months and I'm not bored yet. Now the problem arose when my mother-in-law (who has never heard of Eric) thought I had pictures of my brother-in-law all over my workspace. Now Carl is a good looking handsome bloke, but I would not be oggling my husband's sister's other-half. I just wanted to clear up this possible misunderstanding for future family gatherings-LOL.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Snakes

Garter snakes Posted by Hello

Today we finally took ourselves and our visitors out of the city. We headed north to investigate the world famous snake pits in Narcisse. Great name for a really cool place. My husband and I were a little dubious, I mean the snakes usually come out in the first 2 weeks of May, but it has been so warm recently we decided to risk an early trip. So we piled into the car (plus younger dog) and headed north for a couple of hours, pulled on fleeces when we arrived and thought 'no self respecting reptile will be out at this temperature even though the sun is blazing'.
How wrong we were! We only saw two of the four pits, but we must have seen at least a thousand red-sided garter snakes getting busy. They overwinter in hibernacula and come out to mate and eat and have their young when the snow melts.
The dog was a little worried by these slithery creatures, but didn't try to eat any, which was a relief for the snakes' sake. The kids did manage to catch them, but were very gentle. Everyone held a snake, except Jean who was doing well to even be in the same field as the critters.

I love animals (except bugs) so it was a wonderful natural phenomena to witness.

Monday, April 18, 2005

No more alcohol!!

For the past week or so I have had trouble sleeping and I've been knackered. At first I put it down to my son moving into a bed and, on occasion, being up in the night. Another problem was hubby who, at three in the morning, poked me out of a deep, deep sleep and asked "Did we bring the dogs in?"
Last night we had a thunder storm and I found myself (at four a.m.) unplugging everything electric and placing a bucket beneath our bedroom light-fitting, where the roof has decided to leak. Our roof is due to be replaced, just as soon as the wind drops and the rain stops :)

But I think the real reason I'm so tired are my in-laws. Anybody who knows them (at all :)), knows they like the odd tipple. Since they arrived the gin & tonic has been out at 5 p.m. every night and the wine with dinner. I simply can not keep up! They don't drink to excess, but I have found, since I barely drink at all nowadays, I just can not drink anything alcoholic and still expect to function. Bearing in mind I usually work at night this is/was a problem. As a little experiment I decided to abstain for a night and low-and-behold, today I'm much more energetic.

I wonder if they'll read this before they go home? Maybe...
This is no reflection on J&J, it is a reflection on the loser I have become in the alcoholic drinking stakes. In case anyone is wondering... hubby still copes admirably :)

Friday, April 15, 2005

Bad Day

Yesterday I had a bad day.
It wasn't the fact the inlaws were arriving for a 3-week visit. It wasn't the fact I had to supply snack for all the adults and kids at my Mom's group. It wasn't even the fact I had to drag the kids kicking and screaming to my friends house for a visit. The latter involved swapping car seats (kids still screaming) because without coats, snowsuits and stuff they rattled around like dehydrated nuts in the seats they had last winter.
It wasn't even my son's love of buttons that made me so intensely furious (although it didn't help). He decided, as I vacuumed the rugs to investigate the button on the front of the vacuum. The button that opened the dust canister. And he did this twice, so I vacuumed THREE times!!! That was hellish enough. Added to the mud everywhere, the other rugs hanging in the rain from the dog's misfortunes earlier in the week and basically the place was no cleaner after I finished cleaning than at the start!! At least the bathrooms were done :)

My frustration was internal. A very good friend of mine, who is a published author and all round good person, took a look at a synopsis I'd sent off to Harlequin Intrigue. For various reasons too boring to get into, I didn't tell her I'd already mailed it. She had some wonderful comments, not least if you're writing a romance make sure you summarize the ROMANCE!! Duh!!! Summarizing the plot of a 70,000-word manuscript is hard enough to do in 1-single-spaced page, getting in all the inner conflicts of your characters and building up the sexual tension between your imaginary protagonists is truly difficult. (Note: these characters are not imaginary to me--they are real people who grew in my head LOL). So now I'm worried the work I've spent the last few months writing won't even get a showing with the people at intrigue due to my own insufficiencies!!!

Here's crossing every appendage I have (I'd do the kids' too but may get arrested) and hoping I get the chance to submit my work. The standards are high and they don't want rubbish, if you can't even write a synopsis....

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Beggars

Sheesh. Finn is home from vets and looking good, but the bill makes me think about sending out a bunch of those begging letters you get in the email every other day.
Where do people get off asking for money like that? What makes one person so sure that they deserve handouts compared to some other poor soul? Please do not fall for these SCAMS!!!
I also get really hacked off when charities phone and bug me for money. I mean I give what I can to charity. I can't believe people are using my phone line to hassle me for more. I'm not dollar rich. If I ever became dollar rich, I'd do what I could for a worthy cause, but my family would come first--especially the geriatrics!!

Strangers seem to see me as a soft touch just because I'm polite. Salesmen latch on like leeches, but they're wasting their time. Me and dh worked out years ago not to let me bargain/negoiate for anything. Just say NO is my motto --or NO THANKS--if you're as polite as I am :)

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Clockburn CracklinRosie

That is Finn, to our family. Our 13 year-old Golden Retriever is staying overnight at the vets, after a rather messy night involving copious amounts of bodily fluids. Poor old thing. I was convinced she was at deaths door, but fingers crossed she might just have eaten something nasty (in which case I'll kill her). What is it about dogs eating stuff that will harm them? Her son ate a corn cobb last summer and nearly died of a twisted gut. Her other son, our second dog, chews wood like gum. He used to eat stones, but wore his K9's down to stubs and has since switched to sticks.

They're all mad, but we love them anyway.

Dogs on Kingsbarn's Beach 2004 Posted by Hello

Monday, April 11, 2005

Foot in Mouth Syndrome

Have you ever had one of those days where you feel like you are constantly putting your foot in it??? People who know me well realize this is not an uncommon phenomena. Maybe I'll take a deep breath and refrain from saying anything to anyone for 24-hours and see if anyone notices my tact.

I know I sound like the weather channel, but after 6 months of snow, 7 days of sunshine, it is now raining. I was told the prairies were cold in winter, but the summers were lovely. I was told the major problems would be dried up wood cracking. Tell that to the condensation dripping from my pipes, or leaking in through the basement wall (somehwere), or piling into my garage from the back lane, or leaking through the roof. Or the rotting timbers of the deck.
Have I missed anything-probably!! :(

The roof should get replaced soon (everything crossed).

Writing-wise, today has been a deadloss, but I still have tonight and then 2 days of freedom to EDIT!! I might even celebrate by cooking for hubby before he gets home. I may just curl up and finish the great Elizabeth Lowell book I'm enjoying.

I cleaned both bathrooms today--yeah!!! Need to do the dusting/clean the floor and we'll be ready for our first overseas visitors.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

TV

Everyone is watching the telly in my house. Hubby, the last day of the Masters in Augusta. My kids, Treehouse and Little Bear. Even if I wanted to veg I wouldn't get the opportunity!!! Instead I spent the day 'polishing' a partial for an agent (first 75 pages and a synopsis in this case). Next week it is back to my second wip, which is going very well (touch wood and cold iron).
;-)

Yesterday hubby planted a whirlygig in the garden. Today I decorated it with washing and it promptly rained :)
My life in a nutshell.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Toilet

Hubby decided to save money and conserve water useage by adding large rocks to the toilet cisterns. This would have been great had he not managed to break the pipe 'thingy' in the cistern while doing this. So $40 later we have all the pieces, but are still awaiting final assembly. Who says PhD's are good for nothing!!!

I have a list of writing projects to get to, but after our trip to Home Depot, I am feeling less than enthusiastic. Not enthusiastic about cleaning either. Most unusual for me, but maybe it is the first Saturday of snowless sunshine after a very long hard winter. I just want to get out and play in the garden :)

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Sunshine

After six months of snow, within one week we have hit 18 C. What a strange world we live in. The snow has almost gone in the last week and the nearby river is a race of floating icebergs. I've been told it won't last and real spring is still a ways away, but it is lovely for now :)

I have been spring cleaning, although still have masses to do :( but it is a nice feeling (having finished the first draft of my wip) to allow myself the luxury of doing the mundane chores that are always waiting at the back of our minds. I still have to do 2 critiques for my crit-partners and need to get a requested partial out to an agent, not to mention finish my story, but yesterday and today I felt I could finally BREATHE and concentrate on the house for a change.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Spring

Did I say I was looking forward to spring? I must have been nuts!!! Let me tell you spring so far has meant a BIG MELT, two foot of compacted snow front and back garden, combined with a broken water mains out the front and two dogs (doing unmentionables). What a lovely mix :)

Laying carpet

Last night hubby and I laid a new carpet. I only jabbed him with the stanley knife once and it was a mistake--honest.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Moving on...

My baby spent his first night in a big bed last night and only fell out once, bless him! Didn't wake up either :)

And I finished the first draft of my work-in-progress (wip). Yeahhh. Lots of editing to do, but a huge feeling of relief to have got around the track once :)

Death and Taxes

I've written this post twice already. Obvious the taxman gets everywhere!!!

Filling in tax forms for me is like adding insult to injury.

Earnings...zero
Outgoings...computer, printer, desk, paper, ink, postage, envelopes, books (lots of books!!).

Luckily for me, my wonderful hubby is doing the forms (I have organised my receipts and put everything into a spreadsheet) but he's doing the hard work and slogging over a hot T1. Not to mention residency forms, moving expenses claims, child costs... etc etc.

Nightmare.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

The Notebook

Watched 'The Notebook' last night. What a lovely movie, based on a great Nicholas Sparks book. A classic romance with the twist of taking us to the end of the Happily Ever After.

So what makes a romance as opposed to a love story?? The bottom line IMO, is in a 'love story' one of the characters you've taken into your heart and care about, is killed off by the author. Now while this ups the emotional impact of the story, for me it ruins the overall impression of the book. I don't like reading 'love stories' because I like my happy endings.

There is enough heartache and misery in life and if I want a reality check I watch BBC World News.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Sick kids

Argh! My poor daughter is sick. That in itself is bad enough, but also means I've had almost no sleep and neither has my poor husband. My son is not sick (this is good news), but means I have one flaked out child and one buzzing around like a sawmill. Not an easy combination!!

As for writing--my usual childcare days were abandoned this week due to someone else's sickness and I have only two weeks of childcare (a grand total of 4 days) to finish the first draft of my second novel. I'm aiming this one at Harlequin Intrigue. Before anyone slams romance, and category romance in particular, pick up a recent one and see what you think. I hope you'll be pleasantly surprised!!

Like most writers I'd like to write Single Title books--those are the longer more intricate books you find on the shelves. But I'm testing my teeth on a simpler format--still very difficult to break into I assure you--but maybe this way I can learn more and actually get published in a very tough market.