Thursday, March 31, 2011

Complaining is Optional

Last night my hubby and I were invited to attend a seminar at the University of Manitoba, presented by HOUSING & STUDENT LIFE. Normally the obstacle of getting a sitter at short notice makes me wave my hand and say 'thanks, but sorry'. But when I heard who was speaking I really wanted to go, from a personal and professional point of view.

I'm stripping this from the Student Life Page linked at the top.

"VIVEN Winnipeg
For the first time in Canada, survivors of the 1972 Andes plane crash will share their story of survival and lessons learned from their 72-day ordeal in the mountains. Hosted by the Office of Student Life, Jose “Coche” Luis Inciarte and Gustavo Zerbino will engage audiences with their dramatic account of the event, the decisions they were forced to make, and the inspiration that kept them alive.

On Friday, October 13th 1972, Flight 571 with five crew and forty passengers crashed into the Andes Mountain range. After ten days, the survivors heard by radio that the search had been called off. On December 22nd 1972, the world finds out that despite seemingly insurmountable challenges, 16 individuals had defied the odds and were found alive.
A deeply moving and hope-instilling story of survival, motivation, and the power of the human spirit."

So, my thoughts and impressions...
Firstly, their voices surprised me. Coche has a voice the depth of a gravel pit. Gustavo's is higher-pitched, more strained (like someone has recently tried to strangle him). Coche had this warm chuckle and Gustavo had a ramrod posture, hawk-like nose and unflinching gaze. I can see why he's President of the Uruguayan Rugby Union.

They told the story of the crash and how they'd had to stay the night unexpectedly in Argentina due to bad weather. The didn't eat there because it was expensive and they didn't have much money. So they got on the plane already hungry. I bet they regretted that decision. The pilot hadn't been sure about flying over the Andes because of the weather forecast. They persuaded him. I bet they regretted that decision too. The beauty of hindsight is 20/20 vision.

Although maybe they didn't regret those decisions--because it was a waste of time and energy. The main message of the talk was not about the terrible things that happened but about the way they overcame the problems by (after getting over the initial visceral shock of seeing their friends dead around them) dealing with the problems one day at a time. They helped one another. They lived very much in the moment and dealt with one problem at a time with the goal (after hearing the search was called off after 10 days) of walking out of the endless array of snow capped peaks.

They defrosted a little water each day, enough to ease their thirst. And eventually, when they were literally starving to death, they began to discuss one of the greatest taboos. Eating human flesh. 

There was nothing there except ice, snow and rock. They made the decision as a group, and not until they ALL agreed did they try and eat the flesh of their friends. 'Bodies without souls' Coche kept saying, as if to remind himself and us of how they talked themselves into doing the only thing that would keep them alive. He described building up the nerve to cut into the frozen flesh. Described how, even after doing that, it took a whole new resolve to place the hard-won meat inside his mouth. Another resolve to force his teeth to chew, Another long drawn out moment of courage and inner strength to force the meat down his throat and not retch and gag on the precious meal. 

I'm a big believer in survival. It must be a species thing. Maybe I should apologize in advance to my fellow man because if there was no other way I'd do it too.

It felt odd to stare into the faces of these men who had stepped over the bounds of modern civilization. I felt a little shiver. A little knock on the door of my soul. There's a reason it's a taboo. It touches us to our fundamental core. I think most of us hope we never get into these situations, but if we did, we'd pray for the same strength these survivors had.

I didn't know anything about Uruguay--I'd assumed they were used to mountains and cold, but not so. Uruguay is a place like Manitoba, minus winter. A temperate flat land, the highest hill about 500 m. They ended up at 4800 m on a snow-capped peak, in their summer clothes and leather shoes. They crashed, and shortly afterward the sun dropped and they plummeted into -40C temperatures. 

I am intimate with that temperature. I know what it does to exposed skin. 

They planned and plotted and made the gear two of them would need to walk out. Sunglasses, rucksack, boots, gloves. They made it out of the wreckage. Two men set off into the soaring jagged peaks of the Andes with no maps, no idea where they were going or how to get there. Coche, one of the 17 left behind to wait it out on the mountain, said he'd picked out a day to die. (I think he said the 24th December). The rescue helicopters arrived on the 22nd Dec, after 72 days on that mountain.

Gustavo spoke about the things they'd found on the mountain. God. They saw his spirit. Felt him. They found Love (man-love was the rather wonderful expression). Love for their friends, their families. They found Joy in everything. They lived to see their Family. They discovered what was important and that was Family.

And when they came out of the mountains they told the world everything was 'Perfect', these men who'd been forced on a survival battle of biblical proportions. 

That's when Gustavo gave us a lecture on 'Complaining being Optional'. I think he's more a Nike sort of dude :)  

Just Do It.  

As someone who enjoys venting I didn't agree completely ;) I like to have a good moan about some stuff, but it did make me stop and think. Maybe I do need to find more of my JOY, maybe I need to love my FAMILY more, and maybe I need to LOVE people more, even strangers. These are all ideals I live with daily--I'm a nice person but no doormat. But I can try harder. Do better, feel the smile in my heart as I'm doing it. 

Gustavo was right about one thing--worrying achieves nothing.

I was honored to be in their company. They made inappropriate non-PC jokes and who's going to tell them not to? Good for them. They earned every breath they take. Every word they speak. They bicker like true friends who've been to hell and back and found Heaven along the way.

Bravo and thanks to everyone involved in organizing this talk.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Character Names...

You think naming characters is easy? Let me tell you it is far from easy. First off, I try to avoid using the first names of living family members. I have 16 brothers/sisters/inlaws; I have a grandfather, my inlaws, parents, and 21 nieces/nephews, 2 great nieces/nephews, and my own nuclear (certainly explosive) family.

You want to use names that evoke the type of character you're writing. Larry Dropbottom wouldn't fit a romance hero. There's more latitude with female character names, but again you want the name and personality to mesh. I also need names that don't make me cringe. No Randys or Mirandas or Blairs (apologies to people with those names--it's not you, it's me). It sounds easy to name a few fictional people. I mean writers do it all the time, right?

So, I'm working on a story. I decided to write a trilogy about 3 cop brothers of Irish descent.
I started with the name Cal and then because my heroine assumes a new identity I go with Tori (short for Victoria, her mother's name) who changes it to Rhea (VictoRHEA) in witness protection. And then I remembered that Cal and Rhea (Rhea Torres) are both characters in LIE TO ME (bangs head on desk). So. Scratch Rhea. I picked Reece Butler instead. And then I couldn't shake the fact that Cal isn't Irish, no matter how I twist it, so I changed that to Declan. But now I discovered Reece Butler is the name of a romance author I'd never heard of (too weird) and so I changed it to Reece Bamford (because I saw James Bamford's book on the NSA on my shelves, not because of the family friends...see, see!!).

Ugh. Then we had secondary characters. I had a dirty (or is he?) cop called Marty, but then in one particular scene I have two other secondary characters called Markov and Martini!!!!  Three MAR sounds in one scene--confused readers anyone????  (Rips out hair). So I changed Marty to Harry.

My baddy was called Alexi, but I hate that. I've tried calling him Lex but it isn't doing it for me either. So he needs a new name (for the love of God this should be easier than this!). And on top of these considerations I have the future books planned and need the names I pick now to work with the projected future cast of characters. 

All this for books that might never be sold....

Friday, March 25, 2011

Recent movies...

I found this quite disturbing given the kids' book it was based on.  Way too scary for little kids. Big issues. Creepy :)
Despicable Me: Brilliant!!
Yes, I know I'm way behind but wanted to see it with my kids. It's cute. Not as scary as WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE.
Great movie recommended by my friend, Loreth. Tense and thrilling. I'm sure there are women who cope with a conversion to Islam but this was one heck of a terrifying scenario.
Worst movie EVER. What the hell was John Cusack thinking? I guess he's a 'working actor', right?
I'm not a Colin Farrell fan, but this was a fantastic movie. Black humor. Black story. Fabulous.

OK--now I'm off to obsess about the RITA. You either understand that or you don't. Good luck everyone, in the GH and RITA!!!!

Monday, March 21, 2011

My Daughter's Words...

I couldn't resist sharing this. This is the script for my daughter's speaking club at school and this is her childhood memory. I've talked about our last dog so often on the blog I thought this would fit in here...
Benn, Rufus & Finn

Hello everyone.  How many people here have ever lost a pet?  Well when I lost my dog Benn I didn’t feel like I’d lost a pet.  I felt like I’d lost my best friend.  My dog Benn was born July 1rst 1999.  He was born in Scotland just like me and when we left to go to Canada Benn and his mom Finn came with us.  We left Benn’s brothers and sisters behind.  Benn never saw them again.  Finn died sometime in January 3 years ago.  We visit Rufus and Penny whenever we see my grandparents.   Benn seemed convinced he was human.  I probably didn’t help by giving him table scraps.  He was a really goofy dog who seemed to know what we were thinking.  Benn loved to swim and get his coat full of burrs.  Once we got back from our walk he’d flop in front of the fireplace or lie in the kitchen as my parents tried to make dinner.  One of my favourite things about him was how soft his fur was.  I loved Benn like he was my brother.  Maybe that’s why I fed him table scraps.  Benn died of cancer November 23rd 2009.   He was 10 years old.  Whenever I remember Benn I want to cry my eyes out, but then I think that since I don’t want to be remembered by people crying their eyes out why would Benn?  In some ways Benn is my inspiration not to give up because he never did.  I don’t know if I believe in God or not, but I have to believe in Heaven because if I don’t believe in Heaven I’ll never see Benn again.  You met Holly [our new dog-yes, my daughter is dog obsessed] yesterday.  Well at first my brother didn’t want to get another dog because he felt that would be an insult to Benn’s memory.  But then I said something to change his mind.  I told him Benn was still in our house in spirit and was lonely without another dog to play with.  Have you ever felt like my brother?  Next time you lose a pet, remember how you want to be remembered.  Remember as long as you remember them your pet there never really gone.  

Monday, March 14, 2011

William Tell?

I know he's my hubby but this photo makes me want 3 things. A bow, an arrow and an apple.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Guest Author Emma Lai

Today I invited a fellow The Wild Rose Press author, Emma Lai, to talk about her latest release...
Twice is Not Enough is an erotic Regency. Lady Minerva Peters has spent her life putting her needs last--the result is a string of broken engagements and a future of loneliness. Fleeing her father’s attempt at matchmaking, she enters the library at a ball, but her solitude is interrupted by a couple planning a tryst. Minerva ducks into an alcove, where she encounters a mystery man. As the other couple heat up the room with their passion, she must decide whether to expose herself as a voyeur or embrace the moment and seek her own fulfillment.

How long have you been writing?

I’ve only been writing as a career for two and a half years. However, I have years and years of writing--everything from business materials and academic materials to pieces of fiction. Technically, my first book was written when I was in second grade; my first romance when I was eight.

What's your favorite thing about being a writer?

I love creating worlds, losing myself in another time and place where anything is possible.

You're an engineer? How does that male dominated world compare to the female dominated world of romance writers?

I have a degree in electrical engineering with a focus on computer engineering. At the moment, the only thing I use it for is figuring out how to get the most out of my computer and available software. Though I’ve used past experience in my writing, most notably the first story I had published, His Ship, Her Fantasy.

In all fields, there are both friendly and unfriendly people. As the only woman in a room full of men, I faced derogatory remarks and sexual innuendo. As a writer new to the community, I also received some ‘what do you think you’re doing’ looks, and in romance, there’s always sexual innuendo--but that’s not a bad thing. I’ve never been one to give too much thought to what others think of me personally and keep a friendly face no matter the general mood. I do the best job I can do and let my work speak for itself.

What are you working on now? 

I’m working on adding some material to the third story in my Mates of the Guardians series. I also have a couple of contemporary erotic pieces I’d like to finish and start shopping around.

Thanks so much for joining me today and best of luck with your books :)

Emma can be found at...

Monday, March 07, 2011


This is my garden...
These are what I bought on Saturday...
Am I crazy to think spring will come?

Saturday, March 05, 2011


STORM WARNING and SEA OF SUSPICION are both up for Best Romantic Suspense in 2010 on The Romance Reviews website.

The Romance Review

Please VOTE :) and spread the word. I mean my competition are all the big names in romantic suspense, JD Robb, Linda Howard etc. I'm so honored to be in their company.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

I am in a romance novel...

This was kind of freaky but here I am in my very own romance novel...


Toni Anderson knew she owed Zachary Knight a favor. But she never dreamed he would propose a marriage of convenience so she could be a mother to the twin daughters he'd never known he had!

With the girls' real mother gone, Zach had to prove they would have a stable home life - or lose them. And he didn't know he was offering her the impossible: children to call her own. Trouble was, wife-wary Zach insisted the marriage was to be strictly platonic. But one searing kiss between the instant couple proved that the arrangement was going to be impossible to keep.


Go me and Zach :) I wonder if I can find a copy...