Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Painted Bear

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This gorgeous creature was in Winnipeg today. There are hundreds of them and I took many photos, so expect to be bored for at least a week. The weather was fantastic. A hot sunny day. Me, my friend and our kids went off to the Forks and messed around outside, had a huge lunch and played in the Children's Museum.

Yesterday I finally got into the garden and planted my window boxes, some geraniums, petunias and lavender bushes (that the dogs will probably pee on and kill, but I tried). I haven't put the window boxes up yet--being vertically challenged. I haven't got the stepladders out and I gave it another day to regain my strength :)

Hubby planted the Mosquito Magnet (God bless his sainted soul) after sending me on a wild-goose chase for something we didn't need for it...but I digress. Please please work. I am already itching from the couple of bites I've had. I blow up like a very attractive bloated thing in reaction to mossies
:( not nice!!!

So life is pretty good just now. Tomorrow I aim to write. Let me repeat that for myself.

I MEAN TO WRITE !!!!!

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Oldest Friend

My oldest friend is coming to stay (longevity, not age). We've known each other since we were eleven and I don't even know what made us click. She's bubbly and fun and always good for a laugh. She's bringing her boys and I think we'll have a fabulous time. I don't know how much writing I'll get done--maybe enough to keep on track (I have about 8 weeks to go before a big conference and editor appointment). I'll try to get in a couple of hours each day.

She's VERY houseproud and manages amazingly, especially as she's a single mom. Needless to say hubby and I were cleaning madly yesterday and today in the hopes of keeping up (we won't, but we tried :)).

Right now hubby is clipping/shearing our retrievers. Vanity is sacrificed for their comfort and our convenience. It isn't pretty, but it works :) Maybe I'll take a picture later, or maybe they'll look too woebegone!!!

Friday, May 27, 2005

Why Bother?

Sometimes I wonder why I bother to write. I'm mean a stay-at-home-mom is a job too right? I could put my feet up, do the coffee thing, watch TV and maybe even exercise occasionally.

So why instead do I torture myself with trying to write a 300-400 page story?

The only answer is I can't NOT write.

I'm doomed :(

The only recourse is to succeed, and for me that means being published. I don't get satisfaction out of just writing the story--I need validation. I have to know my story is good enough that other people want to read it too.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Liverpool FC

Yeahhay!!!

Liverpool won their fifth European Champions League. That is so fantastic :)

I'm astounded!! I have been a supporter since I was about six. My grandad's a Liverpuddlian and most of my family are Liverpool fans. Growing up I remember the glory days of the late 70's--the excitement. My sister had her room covered in pennants and hung around in her red nylon shirt as a fashion statement. Bob Paisley, Kevin Keegan, Kenny Dahlgleish, Steve Highway. I remember the latter especially as he was/is a distant relative of ours (whether he knows it or not :)).

I went to the University of Liverpool, I loved the city, its waterfront, shopping centre, and even the terrible dereliction of the poverty stricken areas had a stark beauty. I even went to a game once with an avid fan, called Vish, who showed me the ropes. It was fabulous--but not something I'd do on my own.

Liverpool's biggest asset, its most precious gift to the world, is the humor of its people. And now they get to keep the European Cup.

Yeahhay!!!

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Wendy Cope 1945-

Flowers
Some men never think of it.
You did. You'd come along
And say you'd nearly brought me flowers
But something had gone wrong.

The shop was closed. Or you had doubts -
The sort that minds like ours
Dream up incessantly. You thought
I might not want your flowers.

It made me smile and hug you then.
Now I can only smile.
But, Look, the flowers you nearly brought
Have lasted all this while.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Contests

You know I wasn't going to moan. I was going to use this blog to communicate good thoughts and not moan. But now I'm going to moan.

Arghhh. Can you feel my frustration? My teeth have been locked together since I opened my mail today. I got my Daphne du Maurier contest sheets back. Now for those who don't write, I'd better explain what the contest thing is all about.

I'm a member of the Romance Writers of America (see link)--OK, so I'm not in America nor am I an American, but RWA is the premiere professional organization for romance writers in the world (IMO). RWA has chapters (usually regional, but some online) and I belong to the Kiss of Death Chapter (see link) which is another fabulous resource for writers interested in writing romantic suspense and/or mysteries.

Chapters run contests (usually the first 15-30 pages of your manuscript).

The reason people enter contests is for a) feedback, and b) more importantly, if you make it to the final round, you get read/judged by editors/agents. And let's face it ladies and gentlemen, that is the end-game for the unpublished writer.

So I didn't final, tough. But today I got back the scoresheets and really looked forward to some constructive criticism. Now six of the eight judges (I had two manuscripts entered) gave me super feedback--including one 128/128 by an award-winning, published author. Great stuff, my little heart got all fluttery with praise.

Enter two judges who obviously did not get and did not like my story. Comments like:
'nice setting, but I'm not familiar with it'--huh? What does that mean? Surely it is irrelevant?
'Sorcha' How do you pronounce that? Is it really a difficult name? I mean some Irish and Scottish names are pigs to pronounce, but Sorcha?
'Too much concentration on exact words takes focus away from story'--I thought using the exact words was the name of the writing game?

The last comment really bothered me. I have spent a lot of time learning the craft of writing. Just because I'm writing a romance doesn't mean it shouldn't be well written.

The authors I read all pay attention to and use the exact right words. I try to keep the rhythm of the sentences, keep the flow smooth and avoid jarring phrases. I'm not wordy just for the sake of filling up a blank page--I consider/revise what I write. I don't use unfamiliar words, well OK, maybe they are unfamiliar to some people, but to writers? I don't use anything my five year old can't say. So basically I'm very irritated (I won't swear, my m-i-l reads this :))

So although I'm grateful for the time and energy that the judges put into their marking, I just wish for once I got that magic judge combination, where they all liked my story and I actually got the chance to final.

As my diving buddies used to say...Life's a Beach and then you Dive.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Crail, Fife, Scotland. 2004

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Can you tell I'm a visual person? I get bored without pictures :)
Again this is near where I have set my wip--the next town away. I love the crow-stepped gables and the pantile roofs. Now I can tell you, this particular harbour stinks a bit in the summer--you have to take the good with the bad. If I put on my biologist head, I could tell you the anoxic conditions and anaerobic bacteria in the mud that lines the harbour is the cause--and rotten eggs is the effect.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

I've been tagged

I've been tagged

The last book I bought To Die For...Linda Howard

Total number of books I own. Hundreds. Everything from equine medicine, homicide investigations, and lots of novels!!! And I even gave most of them away before we emigrated last year.

Last book I read. To Die For. It was very very good, the first romance I've read that was written in first person POV.

Five books that mean a lot to me: 5 just isn't enough!!!

1) Lisa Gardner's The Perfect Husband. Beautifully written gritty romance/thriller.

2) Suzanne Brockmann's The Defiant Hero because it was the first book of hers I read and now I'm hooked.

3) Linda Howard's After the Night. Huge emotional tug to this book.

4) Robert Jordan's The eye of the world. JIC you thought I read nothing but romances. Before this decade of romances I was a fantasy buff and this book is one of the best. The series is a bit long, but Jordan's books are brill, as are Stephen Donaldson's &.......

5) Tami Hoag's A Thin Dark Line. Very dark hero who gets redeemed. Great Bayou setting.

OK--I'm supposed to pass this on...dragonfly47 and new_friend you have been tagged :)

Friday, May 20, 2005

Granny

I had a couple of down days and couldn't decide what to write about. Insomnia? My daughter's rude behavior and how it is driving us all bonkers? Technical problems?
Nothing was gelling.

And then for some reason my dear-departed granny's image kept slipping into my head. I think of my granny around this time of year even more than I think of her normally (at least once a day on a normal basis). It's the primroses that are just starting to blossom and it isn't long after the date of her birth and death. I've always found it kind of cool to have a birth and death date close together, like God's plan worked out all neat and tidy--just like my gran.

Anyway, my granny...She's been dead for as long as I've been married, nearly a decade now. It still feels like yesterday, but it also feels like she never left. When she died there was this huge gulf in our family that is still there today.

My mom found out gran was dying when I was a week away from my wedding. Gran went into hospital when I was on my hen night and she never came out. I heard my mom crying herself to sleep at night, but I blocked the true reasoning behind those tears, thinking she was just worried about her mother being ill. At the time I didn't know it was cancer, nobody told me how ill she was because they didn't want to spoil my wedding day.

I lived in Canada at the time (again) and we'd flown back two weeks before (which BTW is the BEST way to organize a wedding). But I will never get over the guilt...not of not going to gran's funeral, which I'm sure is still a crime in my parents' eyes, but the guilt of not coming home, even though gran had begged me to when I talked to her on the phone at Christmas. She cried and asked me, "Please come back." And she never cried and never asked for anything in her whole life...except that we look after our mother. At the time I put it down to old person sentimentality, but I think she knew she didn't have long left to live.

She was my mom's biggest supporter and my brother's champion. She would look after us during school-holidays and after-school. We went blackberry picking and she would show us the places she worked 'in-service' as a young woman, and tell us tales of the war when she was a cook in the army, how she fell into quicksand on Southport beach and grandad pulled her out. She was great and I swear she's still with me everyday. Watching grandad's misdemeanors, haunting our least favorite ex-family member and seriously pissed not to be helping out her beloved daughter.

I don't know if people realize or remember how much I loved her. I hope they don't say "Well she didn't even go to the funeral." I'm not big on funerals and prefer paying my respects to the living and not being two-faced to the dead. We all have our own lives to live, if we're lucky we can carry those closest to us around in a corner of our heart. Maybe that's why I love romances--because I believe the power of love really does make a difference--after all I haven't beaten my child or dh this week even though I've felt a terrible need. :-)

We always say in this house 'kisses work better than hits' and I always try to love my kids the way my granny loved her child and grandchildren. Unconditionally.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Website Q's

I'm thinking about creating a website. Unpublished-authors R' Us or Losers Inc. Just kidding. No-I really am thinking about setting up a website, to torture myself (and other's) with my achievements (or lack thereof).

So my question to you guys is this. What would you like to see in a website? I'm not keen on my photo, but is that important to people? Do they want to see I'm a vertically challenged messy brunette (who now has hair-straighteners (thanks M&P)) or is it better to remain a mystery? What's that saying about idiots and mouths--opening the latter and removing all doubt about the former?????

Do people want detailed bios or general blurb facts? Would people be offended if I put in links to webpages about issues important to me--environmental issues? Places I love? Authors I can't live without?

And what about the books I'm writing--I was going to practice my blurbs/one page syns to outline those. Again, what do people like? An excerpt of writing? Pictures of locations?

My guinea pig is going to be dh--he needs a work website. Luckily his stuff is fairly straight forward, science-based information. That's my forte really, but luckily for me I'm whole-brained!!! (BTW--that means I use the right and left side of my brain almost equally--used to think I was schizophrenic, but I'm all right now).

I think I can do it... Watch this space ;)

Saturday, May 14, 2005

May Isle

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This is part of the location for my work-in-progress. I took this photo on a rare day last summer when the haar wasn't hugging the shore. The Isle of May is off the East coast of Fife, Scotland. It is a bird sanctuary packed full of puffins, guillemots, shags, kittiwakes, Eider ducks etc, all nesting cosily. In the autumn huge numbers of seals give birth to pups on the island. So for anybody interested in wildlife it is a gorgeous place to visit.

http://www.seabird.org

Check out the website and the live webcams and see what is happening today!
Makes me feel all reminiscent...oh to be in Jockland :)

Friday, May 13, 2005

Normal?

I made the mistake today of telling someone I was having a good...even a, ahem, normal day. Since that moment, the day spiraled down into teeth-gritting screams (only mom's can scream between gritted teeth) until I sent my kids to bed with the promise 'mommy will be better tomorrow'.

I can only hope sanity returns before the need for prozac kicks in.

The problem with this at-home-mommy-thing while trying to have a career as a writer is you stretch yourself so thin you can almost see through the illusion (if you're really good, not many other people can). Also as dh isn't here to remind me, I forget to eat...or to care about eating...except for cookies and I don't think they count. So now I'm going to eat something out of the fridge that is green (and supposed to be), I'm going to watch the evening news and I'm going to breathe. If, in an hours time my heart-rate has returned to basal and my jaw has unlatched itself, then I might try to write.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Busy busy busy

I'm taking a couple of online courses this month, one on website building (which I'm thinking of pursuing as an additional career) and another on writing synopses (LOL-read previous posts!!). I'm also trying to be a better mom, less TV, more interaction--which is slowly driving me crazy :)

Like today...I made a gorgeous smoothie. Strawberries, banana, yogurt and milk, with a little bit of brown sugar...delicious. Did my kids touch it? Did they heck. And we baked fairy cakes...which nobody ate. But we had fun anyway. They played outside in the cold sunshine and I pulled a few dandelions (next to mossies I think dandelions rule the world...and sea gulls...they get everywhere...and ants).

And on Monday I bagged an editor appointment with Denise O'Sullivan, for the RWA National conference in RENO later this summer. So the intrigue I'm working on (that I screwed up on with my rejected synopsis) may have another chance...may, if I don't screw up the pitch. So I'm working on that too--manuscript, pitch, synopsis, what to wear, how to get rid of spots (at my age!!!).

I have a birthday coming up soon...sometimes I feel like life is spinning out of control it goes so quickly...what is that saying? The days go slowly, but the years rush by? Very true. Anyway I love birthdays, always have and always will, even when I'm 101 and a little wrinkly, I'll look forward to those candles. It isn't the presents, it is the special-ness of the whole day. Even if nobody else knew, I'd still tingle inside. I love birthdays.

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Sunday, May 08, 2005

Mother's Day

I was wondering what to write besides Happy Mother's Day for North Americans. I had a nice morning, tea in bed, a lie in, homemade bookmark, card. Nice stuff, as well as those kisses and cuddles. But that's not what I really want to say.

Mother's Day. My mom.

She is the most incredible person in the world. She can feed an army at a moment's notice, run the house on a shoe-string budget, juggle grandchildren (without choice) the way a professional can juggle balls.

We have a funny relationship, I was always one of those difficult children. Independent, isolated, stubborn. She says I'm like my father and as I get older I can see it more (but he's still more stubborn than me:) ). I'm solitary by nature...not particularly huggable, maybe afraid of rejection? Of not being good enough? I've always been the one to follow the rules, get good grades, work hard. Growing up I needed to escape my hometown...I needed to travel. It is a cliche to say I needed to find myself...I've always known who I am. I was hungry to see the world...cursed with an imagination that made me feel trapped in the confines of a small town where everybody thinks they know everything about everybody else.

It is not a bad town, it is a nice town, just not good for me when I was a teenager with an inquisitive mind. Bruce Springsteen understood :)

But my mom has always loved me, just the way I've always loved her. She let me go when I needed to explore (how hard must that be?), always took me back when I came home. She's never expected any return from me, nothing except the love and respect that is her due as my mother. Now I'm far away I think of her all the time...especially when I'm struggling to raise my kids without their grandparents nearby.

So Happy Mother's Day mom--you deserve a bloody medal :)

Friday, May 06, 2005

Guilt free talk-radio

Today I spent the day being a mom.
What???
It might seem like a stupid statement. I am a stay-at-home-mom, but I don't always dedicate every waking moment to my kids' interests. Today I did. It was a guilt thing brought on by the knowledge they watch too much TV. Too often I let them get away with it so I can do some work, which was fine in the winter, but when they won't go out in the sunshine??? Not good. So I emptied out the toy-boxes, got them into the garden, put up with endless screaming tantrums when I said NO to the TV, visited a poor unsuspecting friend and generally hung out with my kids. It was good...but I still itched to get down to writing, itched to sort through my scattered thoughts and move forward with this manuscript.

But my kids sometimes need more from me.

What brought all this on?
Well last night I was on talk-radio, a discussion on motherhood. It was nerve-wracking, but once I forgot about the listeners (if there were any) and relaxed, it was OK. I'm sure I said nothing particularly interesting, but neither did I embarrass dh, or swear, so it was a positive experience. Fame at last ;-)
I love my kids, even when they deliver into my hands poop-filled nappies that have somehow lost their poop. Potty training beckons...

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

The Parents in Law

We've had three weeks of the 'parents-in-law' and I have to say we've enjoyed every minute of it. They left this morning, flew back to Scotland and hopefully towards some much needed sunshine. Weatherwise they've had everything. Hot sunshine and snowy windchill. I'm glad it was cold as well as hot, because I'd have been cursing if they hadn't believed me about the temperature!!! So I was up at five-thirty (not a usual thing for me) to say Good-bye and I'm sure there were a few tears when dh said goodbye at the airport.

When you live thousands of miles away from your relatives and friends you always wonder how many times you'll get to see them again. It is natural, not a factor of age, just reality. In the past we've moved around a lot, but always gone home every year. But I can't see us moving from here for a good decade and traveling with kids is so bl**dy expensive, so unless I can earn some money, we simply can't afford it. So I'm sad. I'm even sadder because my parents probably can't afford the trip either :(

So thanks Jean and John for wonderful company and a great trip. We really explored the area and discovered some interesting wildlife. We hope to see you again very soon! Maybe that lottery win is in the STARS!!!

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Bison versus Buffalo

We have had a great week (besides gut-wrenching rejection). On Thursday night dh and I went to see Blue Rodeo play the MTS centre. They were fantastic though the support band gave me a headache (showing my age :)).

The very next night we got a babysitter and took inlaws out to a Moose-game. That would be the Manitoba Moose ice-hockey team to the uninitiated (like me). It was a key match in the play-offs against the St John's Maple Leafs. Moose won 4-0 and the game was fabulously fast and rough, surprisingly graceful and skilled. I was impressed. The Moose now go on to the next round and who knows we might make another game yet. One thing I did notice was all the little kids at the game. LITTLE kids. Never fails to surprise me how late North Americans have there kids out. I have mine in bed by 7 pm (selfish horrid mommy that I am!!). Maybe it is because I'm home with them all day, whereas many parents are out at work every day and if the kids weren't up late they'd never see them? I don't know, I just know my kids need 12 hours sleep a night, and dh and I need some peace (him for recharging batteries and me so I can work).

We're 4-3 in the canasta play-offs (inlaws-us).

Despite the bitter cold we went to Fort Whyte today. We decked out the oldies in our thick down coats, that they (well John) insisted they didn't need and headed off. John then bemoaned the fact he wasn't wearing long underwear, so I think the jackets were a good move :). It certainly wasn't like ice piercing-your-skin, or nostrils-freezing-closed sort of cold, but it wasn't pleasant. But we saw bison and geese and our wee lump of a boy screamed his way around the walk only to be calmed down by the indoor exhibit of stuffed animals (strange but true).

Now we have only a couple of days left of their stay and we're trying to think what to do next (did I mention the chiropractor???). Louis Reil's House? St Vital Mall?? Not sure yet...

Rejection

After a form rejection from Intrigue (based on the crap synopsis I moaned about it a previous post) I have been in a bit of a quandary. What do you do with a piece of work you really TARGETED for a specific line???

I have a few choices. I hope.
I'm taking an online course on how to write synopses. I also bought 3 new craft books and I'm going to spend the next few weeks studying them and writing, rereading some of my other books on craft to see what I've forgotten. Then I get to decide whether to A)revise my synopsis and plot and try querying HI again. Not an option I'd usually consider, but I think I totally FAILED to convey my book in my last synopsis and they might actually consider it if I rewrote the dang thing. B) Enter some comps where HI editors are final judges...Unfortunately I have never been lucky in contests!!! C) Rewrite toward a different line. Intimate Moments is the next closest, but it would require a total rework of the internal conflict and an upping of the emotional intensity of the book. D) Rewrite it as a Single Title stand alone book, but to sell that I'd need an agent and it is almost as difficult to get an agent as to sell a book!!! I have had some very positive feedback from agents though so maybe...

See? I just don't know quite what to do.

Anybody out there a super-dooper agent or publisher who wants to buy a romance set in the North East coast of Scotland, with a DEA hero who is afraid of water and a heroine who is haunted by her father's ghost??? Anybody???