Tuesday, December 28, 2010

First Page Panda Today Featuring Illegally Blonde

A fabulous writer friend I got to know through Verla Kay's blue boards, Anna Staniszewski, has created a terrific new blog featuring the first pages of new and upcoming young adult and middle grade books and sharing some information about the authors and their books. It's called First Page Panda because, hey, who doesn't like panda's?? and ILLEGALLY BLONDE is being featured today! Check it out here if you have a minute and make sure you go back often to read the first pages of some exciting new writers. Anna herself will be coming out with her debut book MY UN-FAIRY TALE LIFE in 2011 from Sourcebooks Jabberwocky imprint. I'm very excited to read that one!

Hope your holidays have been a source of joy and minimal family conflict so far. Tomorrow we're heading off to our nation's capital, Ottawa, to cheer on The Boy's hockey team in the Bell Canada Cup tournament. Hoping for good weather, good hockey and fun times. The next time I'll be posting will be in 2011 the Year of the Rabbit. After the turbulent Year of the Tiger that 2010 was I'm definitely looking forward to a calm, peaceful (and lucky) Rabbit Year!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Happy Holidays and See You in the New Year!

Heading home for the holidays tomorrow so won't be blogging until 2011! Have a wonderful Christmas and may all your writerly hopes and wishes come true for you in 2011!!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

And Another Birthday Approaches

Tomorrow is my birthday and for the first time in a long while I'm not dreading seeing the years add up. Granted I always deal better with 'even' birthday years than 'odd' ones but I don't think that's the reason for my unusual celebratory mood this go round. This year I got some very nice news just before my birthday hit(hope to share more soon) plus my mom is continuing her recovery and now Daughter One has returned home from university and I'm just feeling a bit more celebratory all around. But I think it's also just becoming more used to the whole 'aging' thing and appreciating that the alternative isn't a heck of a lot better!

Now, don't get me wrong. Nobody wants to see their face sliding into their neck or anything and I use a boatload of creams and moisturizers like the next girl. It's not the physical side of aging that I've come to terms with (in fact I've done something to the muscles in my neck that are just killing me today and I'm popping Robaxacet like it's candy) but it's more about enjoying and appreciating the mental aging. I just feel very comfortable with where my head's at these days. And I attribute that to discovering my passion for writing over eight years ago.

Writing has been my own personal fountain of youth - and not just because I write for teens (though I think that helps). It has allowed me to experience so many different things, meet so many different people, hope for so many different futures. Even with all the waiting, even with all the agony of writing books that sometimes go nowhere, even with the fickleness of the business, discovering writing relatively later in my life has given me new energy and, a lot of times, just more 'fun'.

So, with another birthday approaching, I'm embracing the coming year and looking forward to what new things I'll learn and what new people I'll meet. I know there'll be crappy days but with age, hopefully, comes some wisdom and I think I'm weathering those crappy days with a little more perspective every year. Each birthday is a gift and I plan on celebrating every one of them now instead of dreading them. Now if only my face would stay where I want it to... :)

Friday, December 17, 2010

Screen Reading vs Page Reading

I've reached the point in my WIP (about 35,000 words in - a little over the half-way mark) when I usually stop to think over (i.e. panic) about where my story is headed and try and figure out (i.e. panic) what next few action/plot points I need to hit to get me to my ending. Usually, when I get to this point I do one of two things: 1. Stay away from the WIP for a few weeks while I mull over (i.e. panic) over the book or 2. I print out the whole shebang - about 135 pages - and read it in one go seeing if what I've written so far makes sense and can twig an 'aha!' moment of 'This is what must happen next'.

I've tried to outline the middle of this book more than my previous books and I have been doing that (the last ten chapters or so have been outlined before I've written them) but I need to stop and remind myself now about what all has gone before to make sure I'm not losing sight of characters, motivations and small threads that might prove important in the last half of the book. And to do that I need to read it on a page. For some reason, I tend to immerse myself in a story more completely when I can turn pages - maybe flip back and forth between scenes to make connections or notice when things don't add up. When I'm reading on the screen I seem to be able to concentrate more on deep editing and honing of words and phrases but less so on overall scenes and larger themeatic revisions. For that I need that WIP to be on old-fashioned paper.

Now, I don't have an e-reader (although I am contemplating getting one) but this is not about reading a book on paper or electronic devices. It could very well be that I become a convert to reading novels on e-readers. But for me as a writer, in this particular part of the process (and once again when I've finished the first draft) I need to print it out whole and revise it on paper before I begin to revise it on the screen.

So I'm curious - do any writers NOT print out their WIP's at some point and do a page read through? I'd fear I'd miss something if I just kept it on screen. I know I read things differently when I have them in my hand. Even at the day job where I do 90 per cent of my work on a computer screen, for large documents I need to print them out and look through them the old fashioned way.

How about you? Screen reader or page reader?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


I was fortunate enough to get to go to Helene Boudreau's (sorry I can't get the accents in on your first name, Helene!)book launch for her new tween book from Sourcebooks called REAL MERMAIDS DON'T WEAR TOE RINGS tonight. I've been anxiously awaiting the book like many of the #torkidlit group of writers and all the Verla Kay Blueborders(the book released December 1st but I wanted to get my copy at Helene's launch)Verla Kay's Blueboards was where I first met Helene and she, in turn, introduced me to the #torkidlit group. To say I am grateful to have met Helene would be an understatement.

It feels like MERMAIDS is very much a Blueboarder baby since Helene shared her agent search with the query letter for the book over a year ago. If you want to see the evolution of a great query check out this thread. Now, after all Helene's hard work was the celebration of the book itself. I wish I had pictures but I'll leave it for Helene to share the awesomeness of the cake (beautiful!) and the coolness of listening to the first chapter of the audio book and the joy of finally seeing a book you've worked so hard on come into being. I especially enjoyed seeing the scrap of paper where the idea for MERMAIDS was written - literally an old grocery receipt with the idea for the book scribbled on the back.

I got home and read the first few chapters and I'm hooked. Jade is a wonderful, funny, sweet heroine and I can't wait to see what happens to her (well, I know she becomes a mermaid but what about her mom? and her crush? and does she ever get rid of that zit??)

Congrats, HELENE!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Crying With Your Story

I'm curious. All you writers out there, when you've written that gut-wrenching scene whatever it is, the most emotional scene in your book, it could be a death, it could be someone breaking up, it could be a farewell or just a description that tugs at the heartstrings ... do you cry when you write it?

I ask this because it takes a heck of a lot for me to cry when I read a book. I can remember exactly 3 times when I've done it. When I first read the play Cyrano de Bergerac and he ... well I won't spoil it if you haven't read it. When I read that scene in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Chapter 35 was it? You know, when Harry is walking and thinking that ... well I won't spoil it (has anyone NOT read it)? And the last few chapters of The Time Traveller's Wife. Sobbed. Sobbed I tell you! I wasn't able to do much of anything for hours. Now I don't know if Edmund Rostand (who wrote Cyrano) cried much, if at all, when writing the ending or even if Audrey Niffenegger did for Time Traveller's Wife. But I do remember reading an interview with J.K. Rowling and how she was sitting in the hotel room typing away and sobbing as she wrote this pivotal scene. I know I was completely wrenched when I finished it and glad no one was home to hear my sobs.

Now my stories haven't had that many sob-inducing scenes except for one. I won't go into details but two readers who I trust dearly both contacted me after finishing the book and told me that they sobbed at one particular scene. I knew it was emotional. It was not an easy scene to write but I knew it had to be written. Maybe that's why I didn't cry when I wrote it. I was so caught up in making sure it was right - not too melodramatic nor too distant. The right notes are so very, very hard to hit in these types of scenes. I was dreading writing it, was wiped after writing it but ... I did not cry while writing it. Was I too close? Had I thought about it too much to then feel the - hopefully - gut wrenching impact I wanted it to have? I guess it doesn't matter. As long as the reader feels the impact. Not necessarily to cry but to feel something inside them.

So, how about you? What books/scenes have made you cry? And have you ever written a particularly emotional scene that made you lose it?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Preparation is the Key to Peace of Mind

The first snowfall arrived overnight. I love waking up to a soft, pearly white blanket of snow covering the ground. The only time I really love the snow is in the month of December. Snow just makes me anticipate the holidays even more. However (and you knew there had to be a however, didn't you?) the arrival of the season's first snowfall also brings with it the overriding feeling of panic. You see, I always think I've got the preparation covered for the first snow. Jackets, boots, gloves, hats, scarves, snow pants - whatever - but inevitably I find myself scrambling.

And so it was this yesterday morning. I hadn't been paying attention to the weather reports. I knew it was cold but I figured I'd have a few more days to deal with getting all those preparations set up. Daughter Two needed new winter boots (the kid keeps growing!) and my son needed new waterproof gloves. I was going to shop on the weekend but we'd just got back from a three day hockey tournament and laundry needed to be done, plus I had to get started on Christmas presents, plus some grocery shopping… well. You can guess the rest. Daughter Two had to go to school with running shoes (and thankfully it wasn't a massive dump of snow so it's not like she froze to death or anything) and Son just had to make do with soggy mitts for the day. And for the life of me I just didn't think about making him wear snow pants. Okay, so he'll have to live with soggy pants for the day too.

My point is, I know when I'm prepared - when I've planned for all eventualities - I'm a happier and more at peace person. So why don't I do it? I liken it to planning the plot of the middle of my books. I know I should do it, realize that it will make my life easier in the long run but for some reason I can't fathom, I put it off until the very last minute (i.e. when I reach the middle of the book) and then start to scramble. So I was yesterday morning, scrambling to find a pair of leather - not cloth - runners my daughter could wear and hoping I could find a pair of gloves that would give my son some measure of warmth if not waterproofing ability. I managed to do it and I went shopping with Daughter Two for her boots later(and sons gloves) but I should have done this weeks ago.

Well, lesson hopefully learned. If I didn't manage to plan for the first snowfall, I am planning the plot for the next few chapters of the WIP. It's time consuming and it feels sometimes like I'm spinning around in circles (much like boot shopping with my daughter) but I know, in the end, I will be a much happier writer for having done it.

Those Boy Scouts had it right: Always Be Prepared.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Reflections on 2010: The Highs and Lows of a Year

Well, tomorrow is December 1st. Only 30 days left in 2010 so I'm feeling a bit reflective and, with the holidays (and my birthday! GAH!) approaching, also feeling somewhat maudlin. I have this overwhelming urge to just curl up on the couch with a fuzzy blanket and a mug of hot chocolate and do nothing except stare at the pretty silver and blue lights of my Christmas tree (yes, we just put it up on the weekend. I'm that keen on Christmas decorating. Cut me some slack.) and think, "Wow. I made it through."

This year has not been a restful one for me. In fact, it's been highly stressful in so many ways that I'm kind of glad to see it go. Not to say it's been all bad mind you. But there has been a pretty even mix of highs and lows. After all, I saw my first book published in the spring - one of the biggest highs a writer will ever experience. But on the personal side, it's been more drama and angst than I like. My mom diagnosed with cancer at the same time the book was released, so the high was immediately tamped down with a pretty devastating low. The ensuing months of surgeries and treatment and me being four hours away feeling pretty helpless most of the time weren't fun. But Mom's almost through radiation now and doing well. So we're creeping up to a cautious high in that area now. Then there was the excitement of my daughter getting accepted and choosing her university tempered with facing the reality of her leaving home. Not exactly a low but a pretty major change in our lives nonetheless. Finally, the high of taking the leap of doing our home renovation, hiring an architect and moving out of the home we've been in for twelve years. Highs in terms of "Yay! We've finally moved forward on this albatross of a reno!" to lows in terms of "Gah! I'd forgotten how stressful a move is!" and "When is that G*%$d*# building permit going to come in??"

And, of course, threaded throughout all of these major life changes the usual stressors of raising teenagers and being hockey parents and handling day jobs and feeling like you're not writing enough or not doing whatever your supposed to be doing enough. So no wonder I just want to sit, stare at pretty lights and be thankful the year is almost done. Unfortunately, I can't do that for very long. We've got two hockey practices this week, plus a drive to Coburg for a three day hockey tournament on the weekend, plus dealing with a few home reno decisions we've been putting off, plus Christmas prep, plus a school concert to attend, plus a Christmas party or two, plus a kick in the pants to push past the 30,000 word mark on the WIP and make myself finish the dang thing already, plus…

Oh, heck. Forget the hot chocolate and pass me the wine. Happy December everyone!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

"We try to understand the world through stories..."

I read this article the other day on how young children who can't read yet still identify intensely with the characters in the stories that are read to them. Here's the link. It's not surprising to hear that even if the written word isn't comprehensible, the words - the story - is what connects to a person. In the article one of the researchers tried to explain that when children listen to a story they empathize with characters - they are 'mentally simulating' what is happening to that character. It's the first step to comprehension. It's the first step to, ultimately, understanding the real world through a story.

Kind of awe-inspiring, isn't it? To think that stories can have such an impact. I don't think I could imagine a world without stories. Human existence has never not had stories (just check out those pictographs from cave man times if you don't believe me). Movies are stories, family dinner time has stories, photo albums have stories. We're programmed at some primal level to tell, write, watch and listen to stories. Why this all encompassing need to do this? Well, as one of those University of Waterloo researchers said, "We try to understand the world through stories". Yes, so very true. But, at an even deeper level, I think we're trying to not understand the world - which kind of intimidates me - but, on a more selfish level, I think we're trying to understand ourselves and our relationships. I think stories, the best kind of stories, are about human experiences and what is revealed about ourselves and the rest of the people with whom we share our lives.

Writers usually have similar themes running through their work. Issues and ideas that I think we're personally trying to understand and grapple with on an ongoing basis. When a reader listens/reads our stories we hope that some of those themes are shared so we can connect to others. We need to share our stories because, ultimately, we're not only trying to understand the world but we're trying to connect with people too.

So when you wonder why you're beating your head against the wall doing this crazy writing thing just remember that one day, somewhere someone might read one of your stories and feel a little shiver of something called "understanding" and know that you will have connected with another human being. Really, can there be anything better?

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Lost Weekend

It's been awhile since I've had one of those weekends. You know the ones - where you open your eyes Monday morning more tired and exhausted than when you fell into bed the night before? Where the past two days seem a blur and you can't quite figure out what you did, where you went or what, if anything, you accomplished? No, I did not have a bender. Please, who had time to even down a glass of wine? What I'm talking about is two days where your entire existence is for, about and in service to your children.

My kids are not infants or toddlers. They are, supposedly, getting more independent as the days and years go on. But honestly, with the demands put upon me these past two days with The Boy's hockey and a dreaded school project, we had more angst and drama than when one of my babies was up all night with colic. Please, I'd trade a colicky baby with having to motivate an eleven year old boy to get a school project done and getting studying accomplished for yet another math quiz on Monday any time. Throw into the mix that on the heels of having an awesome hockey game on Friday, the poor kid then has an unfortunate hit against another player on Sunday and gets his first ever game misconduct (thrown out of the game and suspended for one more) we had an extremely emotional end to an already conflict-filled weekend. This latter event caused some major upset for the poor kid. He always plays by the rules (both in hockey and in life) and when something like this happened he felt so horrible about it that both husband and I were thrown into instant counselling mode (as were several of his coaches from the team - we have a very supportive team and we know we're lucky).

So, by 11 pm Sunday night (a full two hours after The Boy is usually in bed) he's finally calmed down enough about what happened, he's finished his project and has done a bit of studying for his test. But not only is the poor kid wiped out today so are his parents. Needless to say, no writing has been done on my part (even missed one of my bi-weekly blog posts). Sometimes life just throws a few curve balls at you to remind you to put writing into perspective. Family first always - even if it wipes you out. You can recharge later. The words will always be there waiting for you even if you ignore them. Your kids may not be.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Engagement of Wills and Kate: The Ring

I was all ready to do a blog post about my need to Stop, Drop and Plot - you know a writerly kind of post that examines my process through that dreaded middle and my need to outline and plan ahead to the coming climax but I'm instead going to do a very silly post about the just announced engagement between Prince William and Kate Middleton. For no other reason beyond the fact that despite my trying to stay away from stories about the Royal Windsors I can't. WHY am I so fascinated by this Royal Family?? It goes beyond my understanding.

So, okay. Here's probably the genesis of my obsession. I've always found the history of the British royal family interesting. My goodness, all those betrayals, beheadings, abdication, duty, loyalty, wars, romance - the sheer vast scope of being able to trace your entire family back to William the Conquerer. Whew! What's not to love? It's a thousand year old soap opera! So when way back when the romance of the century (or so it was spinned) happened between Lady Di and Prince Charles I was a naïve, impressionable teen much like the naïve Lady Di. I was definitely caught up in the romance of the thing. The Fairy-tale (which we found out later wasn't so much a fairy-tale as a carefully concocted marriage of convenience). So of course I watched the engagement, got up early to see the wedding, celebrated the birth of the young prince, read with fascination the increasing rift between the two parents, remember with horror the news of the crash and death, and wept with abandon at seeing her two boys following her coffin and the close up shot of the envelope with the word "Mummy" written on it. I still remember how much I cried when I heard Sir Elton John singing Candle in the Wind at her funeral. Argh.

Whatever people think about Princess Diana and her troubles I don't believe anyone can doubt her love for her children (as I don't doubt that Prince Charles loves his boys as well. From all accounts he has been a kind and caring father and his sons seem to adore him). So now as 'Wills' becomes engaged I admit I will follow the story and watch the wedding but not with the naïve eyes of a teenager who believes love will conquer all but with a slightly more jaded view. I'm glad Will and Kate have been living together so they know exactly who they are committing to, glad they are in their late twenties before taking the leap and taken their time to come to this decision. I hope their marriage will be a strong one but there is no doubt they must be aware of the pitfalls that might be ahead of them. One only wishes good things for a young couple starting out on a long road together. Still, for all the celebratory happiness surrounding this story, for some reason, I have one question that all the media hasn't touched on (or maybe I just didn't see it): the engagement ring and the negative connotations it has.

I understand that the blue sapphire surrounded by diamonds is inextricably linked to Princess Diana and her son honours his mothers memory with sharing it with his fiancee. And that's lovely. But a part of me cringes at seeing Kate wear it. Am I too superstitious? Do I see this ring as a symbol of a young love gone bad? If I were her, would I want to wear it given it's turbulent history? Or am I putting too much stock in an inanimate object? It's a beautiful, valuable ring and many families provide their sons/daughters with these items to pass along to the next generation. But, for me, that ring is Diana's - not Kate's. I know it will be inevitable that the next Princess of Wales will be compared with Will's mother and what a burden for the poor girl. I was kind of hoping Kate would have at least gotten to establish her own style with her own ring. But, what do I know? Perhaps she loves it and is honoured that Will has given her something he finds so evocative of his mother.

So, for all you British Royal watchers out there (if there are any :) ) what do you think? Should Kate have gotten her own ring or is family tradition more important?

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Subway Stranger Reading Recommendations

Usually I pick the books I want to read in one of two ways: I receive recommendations from friends or I read reviews. It's been a simple and, for the most part, effective way to broaden my reading experience. But the other day, as I was sitting on the subway riding in to work, I looked up and saw a woman reading a book that had an intriguing cover. I tried to check the title without looking like I was a subway stalker but because of the angle I couldn't quite catch the title. She got off on a stop before mine and I was never to find out what book she was reading. This bugged me. I don't know why but I decided to pay more attention to what the mass of people were reading on the TTC (that means subway in T.O. but really stands for the Toronto Transit Commission. But that's not the point of this story). Anyway, I decided to check out these random books so that I could decide whether to add them to my reading pile. A stranger's recommendation, if you will. A barometer of what the everyday, joe-blow, go to work person like me is spending their precious 20 min, half-hour to an hour commute reading in the morning. It wasn't as easy a task as I thought it would be.

Some days not one person had a book. Which appalled me. It's not that people weren't reading - they were. It just happened to be newspapers, iPhones, or university or highschool textbooks. Many were just listening to music. Others just staring off into space. I despaired of finding ten different books that I could check out before Christmas. But, by the end of two weeks (and some days I didn't ride the subway) I had my Subway Stranger Reading Recommendations.

So here are the books (and the blurbs I hunted up on Amazon and other sites) that I'm committing to either buying or checking out from the library over the next few months. Of the 11 books I spotted, I only read one (The Time Traveler's Wife) so I have a nice even ten books to check out:

The Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda
On the eve of the monsoons, in a remote Indian village, Kavita gives birth to a baby girl. But in a culture that favors sons, the only way for Kavita to save her newborn daughter's life is to give her away.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Stratten
January 1946: writer Juliet Ashton receives a letter from a stranger, a founding member of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. And so begins a remarkable tale of the island of Guernsey during the German occupation, and of a society as extraordinary as its name.

A Mortal Curiosity by Anne Granger
The second novel in Ann Granger's wonderfully atmospheric Victorian mystery series. Lizzie Martin, lady's companion, has been sent from London to the New Forest to comfort a young woman whose baby has tragically died. A sad enough task, but things take an even darker turn when a rat-catcher is found murdered in the garden, and the young woman is discovered beside the body, crying and covered in blood. Not knowing where else to turn, Lizzie calls upon her friend Inspector Ben Ross from Scotland Yard to solve the horrific crime.

Mr. Shakespeare's Bastard by Richard B. Wright
In a quiet manor house in Oxfordshire, an ailing housekeeper by the name of Aerlene Ward feels the time has come to confess the great secret that has shaped her life-she is the illegitimate daughter of William Shakespeare, England′s most famous playwright.

Lie Down with the Devil by Linda Barnes
Things get moving quickly in Bostonian Carlotta Carlyle’s twelfth mystery, picking up right where Heart of the World (2006) left off, with Carlyle’s mobbed-up fiancé, Sam, sought for murder, and teenage Paolina, Carlotta’s adopted little sister, recuperating from her horrific experiences in Colombia. In her emotional agony, Paolina has shut out Carlotta, so the six-foot ex-cop and part-time cabbie turns her energy toward proving Sam innocent—in the face of his secrecy, his womanizing, and, worst of all, mounting evidence that he actually did the deed.

The Debutante by Kathleen Turner
Cate Albion is a gifted artist who is hiding from her past in her elderly aunt’s London antique shop. When her aunt sends her to Devon to catalog the contents of an old Georgian house, Cate finds more than just antiques, she finds a mystery. The home belonged to Irene Blythe, a wealthy, elderly woman who was once a beautiful socialite between the wars. Cate finds an abandoned nursery, locked for years, and a shoebox full of mysterious articles hidden behind a stack of books. Cate realizes the box belongs not to Irene but to her sister, Baby Blythe, the dazzling, dangerous, over-the-top debutante who mysteriously disappeared without a trace more than 60 years ago. Unable to resist, Cate unpacks the box and follows the clues to Baby Blythe’s dark, secretive past––one that parallels Cate’s own dark life all too well.

The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown
"The Lost Symbol" solves puzzles, analyzes paintings and reveals forgotten histories -- all so that Brown's tireless hero, Robert Langdon can find a legendary Masonic treasure despite special ops squads that are dogging him and a bizarre killer who has kidnapped his dear friend and mentor.

Black and Blue by Ian Rankin
Rebus is juggling four cases trying to nail one killer - who might just lead back to the infamous Bible John. And he's doing it under the scrutiny of an internal inquiry led by a man he has just accused of taking backhanders from Glasgow's Mr Big. Added to that there are TV cameras at his back investigating a miscarriage of justice, making Rebus a criminal in the eyes of a million or more viewers. Just one mistake is likely to mean an unpleasant and not particularly speedy death or, worse still, losing his job.

Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
This zany tale of the bungling of Armageddon features an angel, a demon, an 11-year-old Antichrist and a doomsaying witch; unmistakably British humor is in abundance.

The Kings Grace by Anne Easter Smith
Smith's newest historical fiction is a complex exploration of a turbulent period of English history, taking on one of its biggest mysteries: the fate of princes Edward and Richard, locked up in the Tower by Richard III. Protagonist Grace Plantagenet is the illegitimate daughter of Edward IV and had been confidant to his family—including her imprisoned half-brothers Edward and Richard. After Richard III is killed and the princes disappear, a man named Perkin Warbeck appears to challenge Henry VII, claiming to be the presumed dead Prince Richard. Determined to discover the truth of Warbeck's claim, Grace throws herself into the politics of the court, knowing that if Warbeck is Prince Richard, it could be drastic for Grace's family—especially for her half-sister Elizabeth of York, now Henry's queen.

Whew. That's a heck of a lot of different books. To tell you the truth, I'm not sure I'm going to like each one. And if I don't, I'm not sure I'll finish them all. But it's an experiment in whether I can enjoy books I haven't sought out myself or that have been recommended to me by someone I know - a broadening of my reading experience to see if I like other tastes and genres. We'll see how it goes. I think I'm going to try The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society first - just because I love the title and I love WWII stories. I'll keep you posted on the progress.

So, have you read any of the above? And how do you go about picking what's going on your To Be Read pile? But, please, don't give me any more recommendations. I don't think I could handle it!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Is the Gut Always Right?

I have to make a decision soon. It's not life or death or anything, just something that is not clear cut in my mind. So, like I do when I'm figuring something out I research the hell out of it and make a mental list of pros and cons. I'm a Capricorn and I'm a very practical, linear, and (mostly) logical person when it comes to matters of career or finance or day to day matters. So this decision is not based on emotional commitment or family/friend related matters which should make for a very clear cut decision then, right? Um... not so much.

For the first time I'm listening more to my gut than my brain. I feel more that I should go one way even though, logically, my brain is telling me I probably should go the other way. But I keep remembering the last time I made a decision where my gut was telling me "Uh, Nelsa, maybe you should hold up there a bit. Think on it a little more." But my brain said, "This is an opportunity you need to take advantage of now." I regret that decision now although it didn't result in a disaster or anything. Just a general feeling that maybe I should have listened a little more to my emotional radar rather than the intellectual one.

I wonder if my gut now is just mirroring my natural worry and anxiety of making a decision that will take me down a different, unknown route - maybe my gut wants to play it safe? But I really don't think that's it. I should be excited about the decision - it's all right to feel nervous, anxious even but ... a gut level feeling that this is not right for me when all logic is telling me otherwise? I think I need to listen to that.

Maybe I need to follow my gut this time and see where pure feeling takes me. How about you guys? Do you always trust your gut? Or does logic win out every time?

Friday, November 5, 2010

Vintage or Just Old Crap?

So my daughters have decided that buying vintage sweaters from the Goodwill is cool (well, not cool exactly - they'd never use that word). I am, shall we say, ambivalent about this sudden thriftiness. I grew up with hand me down clothes (even a bra once, Lord help me) from my cousins. Some of them were even girls :). I did get new clothes as well but I remember getting dresses and coats and other sundry items from various relatives and thinking they really were not my style. Perhaps they were my style but, darn it, they weren't new so they couldn't be as good, right? Anyway, I've had no trouble over the years donating tons of clothing to Goodwill. It is a fabulous organization. But I never really ever shopped there before. So when, the other night, Daughter 2 said she wanted to go we went. I was pleasantly surprised.

The Goodwill Store we went to was just recently built, bright lights, clothes organized in colour-coded blocks on racks and while, yes, there were some sketchy items, most of them were very well cared for, clean and in good shape. Daughter 2 bought 3 old man sweaters (don't ask. Apparently old man is a style these days) in almost perfect condition for under 20 dollars and was thrilled. Now I know she's not going to stop buying ridiculously expensive brand name items at American Eagle or Hollister (she'll try her hardest to make me buy them for her) but I love the idea of her recognizing that just because something has been used before it doesn't mean it's crap. The idea of not wearing something that a thousand other girls have in their closet is also a good thing as well. Wanting to be unique/individual is to be celebrated so if my girl wants to wear an oversized sweater that has a picture of an equestrian and his horse on the front then more power to her! Even better that it only cost $5.99.

Now if I can just convince my Dad to donate all his old shirts and sweaters to me I've got the next few Christmas's and birthdays covered. But then they'd probably think they're just hand me downs. I guess the fine line between Crap and Vintage is being hung on a rack with a thousand other old man sweaters and a price tag of $5.99.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

A Blog Post about Nothing

It has come to this: I have no ideas for a blog post today. Blank. Nada. Empty. Some days there is just no water in the well. So, the big question is: what do I do? Do I just not post? Do I do a tepid 'writerly' post about my crawling along WIP? Do I talk about the stresses and strains of raising 3 kids, working full-time, my mother's cancer treatment, my stalled renovations? Do I post about something I heard on the news today? Do I try and do a motivational post about never giving up when things seem their bleakest? I feel like I've written these posts before, like there's nothing new to say and no new way to say it.

I know this is normal. I've been writing this blog for over a year and a half, so why try to force a blog post when there's nothing to say?

Why? Why, I ask??

Because if I stop writing one day, it might lead to two. If I don't write two blog posts then a whole month could quickly go by and before you know it I've stopped writing the blog altogether and even though it may not be the most widely read or the most filled with wisdom (not by a long shot!)it is something I've committed to do and I'm a big believer in sticking with something even when it's not easy, even when it doesn't seem to be returning anything tangible some days. Because there are moments when a blog post does work and someone might see something in it that helps them or they can identify with whatever was written. I know there have been many blog posts I've read that have helped me. Blog posts that might have never been written if that blogger decided to stop writing just for a day, or two, or three...

Huh. What do you know? My blog post about nothing kinda turned into something. Another lesson about why writing when you don't feel like it is very important. :)

Friday, October 29, 2010

The Teen 'Voice'

Any writer of YA fiction knows that one of the things - if not the thing - editors look for in a manuscript is an authentic voice. Voice encompasses the whole of the book, it gives a reader a 'feel' for the characters and story. A writer's voice infuses the entire story and one of the ways to demonstrate that voice is through dialogue. However, when your main character is a teen many writers feel that they need to write the dialogue in a certain way - like there's a 'typical' teen voice or something. Well, we all know that there's no such thing as typical. There are stereotypes for sure but no writer wants their character to be a stereotype. Yet I've noticed some writers who want to write YA seem to fixate on the dialogue and mannerisms of teens by asking themselves or other writers whether they think a teen would say this or do that. My response to the question? "I don't know about whether a teen would say this or do that but what would your character say or do?"

I write fiction that, for the most part, has older teens as the main characters. But it's not like there's a template that says what all 17-year-old girl protagonists sound like. I have the privilege (or is it the curse?? :) ) of being a parent to two teen girls. Those two girls sound, look and act nothing alike. Their friends sound, look and act differently as well. They are all individuals. Some of them sound extremely mature and adult, others more child-like and innocent. One 16 year-old-girl could say "Like, I totally can't deal with her drama." while another would say "Drama queen. She better grow up." while another would say "Well, she seem kind of emotional. Don't you think?" They're all conveying the same point about another character but saying it in different ways depending on their maturity level, personality type and style. The voice comes from the character. Always.

What really bugs me is how fixed so many people seem to be on making sure that voice 'sounds' teen enough. Maybe it's because I'm embedded in the YA world but I don’t hear nearly as much chatter about whether your sixty-five-year-old grandmother character sounds 'senior' enough. Yes, we as writers have to make sure that we don't make a teen sound like she's a neurosurgeon when she's only taking basic Biology in high school (unless she's some kind of super-genius or something. But then why would she be taking basic biology then? I digress.) but your manuscript is filled with a variety of characters with a variety of ages and backgrounds and you have to create several unique, realistic voices.

So the point of my semi-rant? Worry about the character and making the dialogue true to that character. Don't write what you think a teen should sound like. There is no typical teen voice. There is only emotional honesty. Once you nail that, everything else is gravy.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

One Story At a Time

I, like most mothers, are Grand Masters of Multi-tasking. I can plan a grocery list in my head, while driving my son to hockey practice, stopping to drop off dry cleaning and work on stubborn novel plot points all at the same time. This talent (or maybe not a talent but an essential survival skill in today's world) is not something I trained for or even thought I needed to have before I had children. Maybe it's a latent gene that turns on when you give birth. Suddenly you become a multi-tasker. Then again, maybe it's just a woman thing. Lord knows I despair of seeing it develop in my dearly loved son. My husband seems to be a great multi-tasker at work but when it comes to home life, uh, well, he tries. My point is, if this is something that I've developed to survive in my day to day life (or it's a genetic twist that a large percentage of women have) it seems to have by-passed me in terms of my ability to work on more than one story idea at a time.

I am a one draft at a time, one story at a time writer. I am amazed when I hear of other writers who can flip from working on their middle grade WIP to dip into a picture book draft and then, if they're stalled in these endeavors (or because they really are amazing multi-taskers), start drafting that YA novel they've had brewing in the back of their mind for a few weeks. I know I am not mentally or physically capable of stopping and starting three or more different projects with different voices, different plots, themes, tones and maintain the focus required to reach conclusion on any one of these projects. Ack. I get stressed just thinking about it. Even when I received my revision notes for Illegally Blonde, a story that was pretty much complete, I had to stop working on my WIP at the time to fully focus on Lucy's voice, Lucy's story and submerge myself into the story completely so that the revisions didn't have a different tone. That was my one big worry about the editorial revisions on IB. Because they came so many years after I'd completed the story, would I be able to get back into that 'voice'. So that's why I dropped the WIP I was working on at the time for a full month while I tackled the revisions. I didn't feel confident enough that switching from one story to another would benefit either of them very much. Yet I know many writers who can do this.

Is this writerly multi-tasking ability something that you can develop? Is it just a personal quirk? I'm genuinely curious even though I don't think I'll ever change my one story at a time method. I guess with my personal life already filled to overflowing with multiple tasks, I kind of enjoy just focussing on one thing at a time for a change. How about you? Are you a multi-tasker or one story at a time writer?

Friday, October 22, 2010

Exercise Your Writing

Let's put it on the table, people. I hate exercise. Running, push ups, leg-lifts, free-weights, you name it, I avoid it. I do like some physical activity. I like yoga. Used to do it fairly regularly after the birth of my last child. I like walking so I don't mind walking to the subway or walking the dog (if the weather isn't horrible). But, overall, my slug to Tazmanian Devil ratio is about 100:1. But here's the thing: I think I'm finally starting to understand that whole philosophy about forcing yourself to exercise -consistently- even when you feel like crap, even when you abhor the idea of getting up at 6 am to do your stretches or run on the treadmill, once you start it it's not so bad.

I noticed this because I haven't been writing very much on the WIP lately. I do a lot of writing on the subway and, for various reasons, I've been driving to and from work the last couple of weeks. Well I finally got on that subway again a couple of times this week and my old habits kicked in. Instead of grabbing the newspaper or a book to read like many people, what I've usually done for the last few years is take that time to write. Well, I'd gotten out of that habit and the first day I truly didn't feel like pulling out the journal. I thought, I'll just re-read what I wrote a couple of weeks ago. Just to remind myself of where I was in the story. Soon enough that led to some ideas, a few words of correction here and there, an additional paragraph and by the time I got to work I had two new pages added to the story. It wasn't easy, the words took a while to come but, like exercise, if you force yourself to just do it, start slowly, it does get easier. Same with my attendance at The Boy's Tae Kwon Do practices. When I go I make sure I have nothing to read except my own work. As soon as I sit down I'm like Pavlov's dog and out comes the journal. Again, my mind may not want to write but I'm forcing myself to just look at the words at first, scratch a few new ones out in the hopes that more will come. Like people who say I can only do one push up and then the next day they say maybe if I got one done, I can now do two.

It's been a really long week and I'm not sure if I'll get much more writing done over the weekend. But I know that avoiding exercise leads to a flabby, unhealthy person so avoiding writing leads to a flabby, unfinished manuscript. Write one paragraph this weekend? Yeah, I can do that. And if I can do one, then maybe I can do two...

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Perfect Scene

Writers are notorious for their perfectionism - at least the quest for perfection - in their work. We know full well such a thing doesn't exist but we strive for that perfect word, perfect sentence, paragraph, page, etc. Most of the time we fail - or we feel like we fail. The stories in our heads never seem to match with what ends up on paper. That is why we revise - and keep revising - until we get as close as we can to that mental image/story or (and this is more likely) we finally get so sick of the story we can't stand reading it anymore and say "Good enough".

When chatting with other writers I inevitably hear how they've read their stuff so many times they'd rather swallow knives than have to re-read the scene they've already read, revised (rinse, repeat, rinse again) a hundred times or more. If they're lucky enough to get published some writers may not even want to crack open that book because 1)after revisions for the editor, copy edits, and line by line scrutiny they are more than ever deathly sick of it or 2)they are terrified to find an escaped error or get renewed doubt and angst over whether the scene/chapter is good enough or, horror of horrors, shouldn't be there or could have been done a different way to better effect.

It is rare to feel like anything you've written can't be improved upon because 99% of the time it can. But there are times - those rare, exceptional times - when writing a scene flows so easily, feels so right and is exactly as you pictured it in your head (if you are like me you see the scene unfold like a movie in your mind) that you wouldn't change a word of it when you're done. I've only experienced that feeling once and it was a scene in Illegally Blonde.

I wrote the scene where Lucy kisses Filipe for the first time at the church four years ago. I remember exactly where I was when I finished it(late at night, in bed) and I remember thinking "Yes. This is exactly how I imagined this scene should be." That scene is still almost exactly the same as from the moment I put pen to paper over four years ago. In fact, I was so sure of the 'rightness' of that scene that one of the first questions I asked my editor, Anita, in our first conversation was, "Please tell me you don't want to change or cut the scene with Lucy and Filipe's kiss at the church." Luckily, Anita had no problems with it either. If she wanted it cut it might have been a deal breaker! :)

The point is that sometimes it's not so much about whether a scene is perfect or not. I'm sure many people who would read the scene might think it's just an average scene or who would think it could definitely be improved upon - and maybe that's true. But for me, for the story I wanted to tell, in the way I wanted to tell it, the scene is so right, so 'perfect' I would not change a word of it. And given my love of revision, I know how rare that is.

How about you? Have you ever had a scene come out almost exactly as you envisioned it that it barely changed from the first draft? Or do you sculpt your scenes, layer by layer to get them to be as near to perfect as you can?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Celebrating an Amazing Author

It is so rare to achieve any success in this writing game that when something comes along that is so amazing, so wonderful and the recipient of that success is so deserving of it it is a joy to celebrate it with them. The wonderful thing that happened today was that a fellow Torkidlit writer is a finalist for one of the most prestigious awards in Canada - the Governor General's Award. The writer is Cheryl Rainfield and the book is her searing story SCARS.

This honour is particularly special because Cheryl is, without question, one of the most supportive writers I have ever had the pleasure to meet. She is open and warm and caring of the struggle that writers - and people in general - go through. That comes from her compassionate nature and it comes from a lifetime of her own personal struggles and her ability to rise above the most horrible of circumstances to become an exceptionally positive and creative human being. Her love of books and reading enabled her to do this and it is that love that helped her write and gave the world SCARS. And now, with this nomination, even more people will be aware of the book and the story and hopefully, more teens will know they are not alone even when it seems the world has turned its back on them.

Bravo, Cheryl. I'm thrilled your book has received such an honour but mostly, my dear, I am thrilled for you. Enjoy the ride!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Link to an Awesome Blog Post

I don't often link to other blog posts because I'm a horrible blog visitor. I can go long stretches of time without visiting or discovering other blogs and, most of the time, I find that I'm usually quite late to the game and everyone has already discovered, visited, commented or otherwise discussed the blog or blog post in question so there's really nothing more I can add to the issue/discussion.

But today I finally visited the blog of Sarah Davies the principal agent at Greenhouse Literary and her October 5th blog post was filled with such wonderful, practical and hopeful advice to writers I just had to share it with you (and I'll make a point to visit there more often). It's the kind of thoughtful post that will resonate with so many writers (or anyone who is endeavouring to accomplish an almost impossible pursuit)that it should be shared as widely as possible. It really did put things in perspective for me and is a reminder of what we set out to do with our writing and what we should be getting out of this perilous and fraught with angst endeavor.

Enjoy the post, thanks to Ms. Davies for writing it and Happy Canadian Thanksgiving to all my fellow Canucks out there!

A Kipling Moment

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Just Keep Pushing

No, I'm not advocating rude subway or bus riding behaviour. I'm talking about pushing through when you don't feel like any progress is being made. This happens to me in so many aspects of my life I feel like I could just write blog posts about only this topic. Sometimes it feels like all I'm doing is pushing but I'm not getting through. Like I'm holding a wall that feels like it's about to topple on me if I don't keep the pressure up against it. And that's exactly the feeling I have when I'm working through the middle of the book which I'm doing right now. And that's exactly the feeling I have when I'm dealing with family/life commitments that I can't possibly attend/deal with because there is a whole section of wall that is about to topple first so I have to let the other side crumble.

The last few weeks and the the few weeks coming up I have/had to:
- miss my mom's birthday
- miss my Uncle's surprise 65th birthday party
- delay getting my daughter's skating program started
- delay cleaning out the old house
- manage Thanksgiving weekend around two hockey games which means we might have our dinner on Saturday night so I can drive four hours on Sunday night (after the hockey game) to surprise my mom with a quick overnight visit from her grandkids, drive back on Monday afternoon, drop off my daughter at her university on the way and get back home by Monday night
- probably miss my husband's annual early extended family Christmas get together on the first weekend in December (another hockey tournament)
- slow my writing down to a painful crawl but still try and maintain some forward motion with a page or two written while waiting for the Boy to finish Tae Kwon Do practices

Yup, the wall is certainly crumbling and cracking but am I about to stop pushing and let the whole thing fall? No. I may not be entirely successful in keeping the wall straight and unbroken but, darn it, I am not going to stop pushing against it because I know if I do that I'll be a quitter and if there is anything writing has taught me is that you can't be a quitter. Not if you hope to succeed in this business. Not if you hope to suceed in completing a novel. Not if you hope to succeed in growing and expanding your own strength of character. Yes, it is hard. Yes, not everything will be perfect. But the beauty is not in perfection - the beauty is in the effort and in the holding on in face of seemingly unsupportable odds.

So for all of us holding on to those walls (or boulders) keep your strength, don't give up, don't give in. The effort will be worth it (and, if all else fails, at least your arms will get really toned).

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Expectations - High, Low or No?

I've been thinking a lot lately about expectations people put on things. You know what I'm talking about, right? You're excitedly looking forward to a big party, expecting to meet fun people, have scintillating conversations, maybe discover the love of your life. The party doesn't turn out quite like you expected, maybe the host is in a bad mood, didn't put any food out, has ghastly wine and the one person you do meet has bad breath, is a close talker and won't leave your side the entire night. Or another example all you readers out there can identify with: you hear about a GREAT book, a book you have been told over and over again you must read, you will love it, it gets all these awards. You're excited. Can't wait to read it so you pick it up and ... you can barely make it past chapter two. And it's a hardcover that you spent over 25 bucks on. I think that example ticks me off more than a lousy party.

So, was it the high expectations that ruined the party and the book? Would you have enjoyed both more if you went in thinking that you would have a lousy time and you checked the book out of the library because the cover caught your eye? Are high expectations the reason behind many of the negative reviews we see for movies and books? I wonder if I would have enjoyed Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins nearly as much as I did if I'd bought it after all the hoopla surrounding the series. I was lucky enough to buy it right when it came out - yes, it had some good reviews but it hadn't 'caught fire' (pardon the pun) as much as it has now. So, while I hoped for a good read I was blown away by the story. I don't know if I would have had the same kind of reaction if I'd been bombarded by all the hype it's getting now because, after all that press, I would 'expect' to be blown away. The bar has been set pretty high.

I guess you could argue that truly great books, movies, parties, whatever will always meet expectations because that's what makes them great. TOY STORY 3 for example, had HUGE expectations when people went to see it and by no means did it disappoint. It even, dare I say it? in my opinion, surpassed the expectations the audience had for it. But that is a rare, rare thing.

Pixar genius aside, I think I prefer going into something new - whether it's a book, movie, or a party having no expectations at all. I like approaching the new experience with a clean slate because then the intensity of the experience - if it's good - will be even more pronounced. It doesn't mean I don't read reviews - I do. But I try not to put too much stock in them. Maybe my husband has had it right all these years - he doesn't want to hear ANYTHING about a movie before he goes to see it. He doesn't want to hear what I've heard or what I think about it. He truly wants an empty slate so that he can be surprised, excited or totally disgusted on his own, without expectations.

What do you think? Are high expectations a good thing to have? Or is it better to temper expectations with a dose of "Whatever will be will be?"

Monday, September 27, 2010

And the Good News Keeps Coming!

The Canadian Children's Book Centre (CCBC) is a national, not-for-profit organization founded in 1976 dedicated to encouraging, promoting and supporting the reading, writing and illustrating of Canadian books for young readers through services, publications and programs. The CCBC is a vital resource for teachers, librarians, students, authors, illustrators, publishers, booksellers and parents. It is also now one of my favouritest organizations (I know favouritest isn't a word but cut me some slack in my excitement here) because it named ILLEGALLY BLONDE as a Recommended read in the Summer edition of its quarterly magazine!

I have been living in a world of packing boxes, family health issues and other related personal chaos for the last four months so when I picked up the magazine on Friday and flipped through the pages and saw a picture of my book in the section on Recommended Books I just about passed out. This was just after I'd read the lovely review in CM magazine. I cannot tell you how grateful I feel to read that the editor of the CCBC News thinks

"It's refreshing to see a Portuguese-Canadian protagonist in YA fiction and Lucy do Amaral is an appealing newcomer …"

and that

"Author Nelsa Roberto has taken a true story from the news headlines (about Portuguese-Canadians deported when their citizenship was called into question) and skillfully crafted an enjoyable and well-written tale. Lucy do Amaral is a welcome addition to the YA scene."

I am verklempt. It's also the best medicine for a very sore and aching back!

And that's not all, people!

On Saturday I saw a very nice advertisement in the Toronto Globe and Mail Book section from Great Plains Teen Fiction promoting their Spring books and ILLEGALLY BLONDE is right there alongside the two other teen books published this spring: Craig Russell's BLACK BOTTLE MAN and Susan Roccan's SPIRIT QUEST. Yay for a supportive publisher!

And best of all, it was a beautiful sunny, fall day yesterday for my son's belated birthday party and he also played an amazingly great game of hockey on Sunday.

Sometimes life is just plain good.

Friday, September 24, 2010

On Moving Day, A Good Review and a Lovely Decline

So, it is over. The big stuff is moved/packed and we are officially housed at the rental home. But now comes the organizing of ourselves in our new house and dealing with some leftover stuff back at the old house to prep it for the upcoming demo/reno. It's not quite over yet. However, my back survived (sorta. I found a half-bottle of red wine works just as good as Robaxacet). It didn't rain. Nothing got broken/lost/damaged (although there was a scary moment when it looked like the couch wouldn't fit). My horoscope was right when it said the 23rd would be good for major home related moves. So, while exhausted, I am grateful to be officially relocated.

I was also rewarded with a surprise from my publisher who informed my agent of a review for ILLEGALLY BLONDE in CM magazine (Canadian Review of Materials) in the September 10/10 issue. For those who are unfamiliar with it, CM is a very well respected source in Canada for teachers, librarians, parents and kids that focuses on book reviews, media reviews, news, and author profiles of interest. Given this level of import, I was a bit nervous opening it up but it was really very nice! I got a Recommended 3/4 review. Here's the link but I'll just leave you with a quote from the review that I was thrilled to read

"The dialogue and Lucy’s interior self-talk is absolutely excellent. Because Roberto has captured perfectly the vocabulary, tone and emotions of the characters, the story flies by with the reader eagerly turning pages. From the rigid upper middle class kitchen of Joel’s parents to the cramped home of Lucy’s loving relatives, the settings not only reflect the characters’ values but also evoke a palpable love of Portuguese culture. Exceptional descriptions of the land and village in Portugal are woven seamlessly into the plot."


So reading this made me feel a bit better after having gotten a lovely decline from an editor this week for my YA paranormal. I say a 'lovely' decline because she said my heroine was 'sharp and intelligent', was rooting for her on-again off-again love story and praised my engaging voice and smart writing. But she couldn't offer because she felt the paranormal story wasn't 'dark and epic' enough. Ah well. Different strokes. Let's hope there is an editor out there who loves all aspects of the story.

All-in-all I can't complain with how things have been going this week. Sure there have been moments of sheer mind and body numbing exhaustion and disappointments on the writing front but life is never just one thing or another. The good nearly always outweighs the bad and I am, as always, grateful for the good and plan to forget the bad as quickly as possible!

I hope to be back to a fairly normal routine next week (I know, I know: define normal) so hope to post more regularly again. See you on the bright side!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Ouickie Post: Surviving the Move Week and Link to Interview

Just popping in to let y'all know I'm surviving the final few days before our move on Thursday. My husband keeps telling me we are no where near ready and plans to stay awake 24/7 from now until Thursday to make sure we are completely organized. That way we'll be sitting on the stoop at 8 a.m. when the movers arrive with nothing more to do than point to a pile of neatly packed boxes and empty-of-clothing furniture and say: "There you go, boys."

Yeah. Good luck with that, sweetie.

I, on the other hand, need at least 6 hours sleep a night so I will not be staying up past 1 a.m. I expect this week to be full of sturm and drang but this too shall pass.

In the meantime, in lieu of a blog post I'm linking to an interview that the awesome Debbie Ohi did with me and just posted on her inkygirl website last week. Debbie, as many of you might know, is an awesome force, member of Torkidlit and both an illustrator and writer. In fact, she just got a contract to illustrate a book written by writer/actor/comedian Michael Ian Black, to be released by Simon & Schuster in 2012! Yay, Debbie!! So, with great thanks for taking the time to interview me, here's the link. Hope you enjoy!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Thankful Thursday

After the crazy, frantic summer of 2010 I'd rather forget, the month of September from Hell (and still descending) it seems strange for me to be posting a "Thankful Thursday" today. But what this year has taught me is that in the midst of the crazy and awful there are those moments where you realize how good you have it and how precious life is. Today, especially today, is an especially thankful Thursday because it is my mom's 74th birthday. And as a tribute to her I'm trying to keep upbeat in the face of so many day to day challenges life throws at you - just like she's been so brave about things this year. So, without further ado here is what I'm thankful for today:

My Mom's Cancer-free diagnosis
After her second surgery to remove the lymphnodes, the doctors confirmed the cancer had not spread and that she does not have to undergo chemotherapy - just radiation and hormone suppressant therapy. So for that and for being here on her birthday, I'm extremely thankful!

Daughter One's Awesomeness
Even with all the expectations we place on her as our first-born, even with her wish for too much independence, even with the moments where we wonder whether she'll end up a brain surgeon or living penniless in a commune in Bolivia, she continually amazes us and makes us proud. She just received notification that she is the recipient of the Wood Award at her high school (and no it's not a block of wood she carved or anything). She is receiving it for her high academic achievement, her contribution to the life and spirit of the school and her good citizenship. All that and she's getting the English award for having the highest marks in that subject. Guess all that reading paid off!

Son's Sweetness
Even after berating him for not doing his homework fast enough, even though he knows I get frustrated with him to the point of not being very nice sometimes, he still looks up at me with those big brown eyes of his after he's done writing up something that took a painfully long time to finish and asks with a 'I want to please you' voice, "Am I doing my homework all right now, Mom?" Yes, baby. Yes. You are doing more than all right. It's Mommy that's not doing so well, sometimes.

Daughter Two's Responsibility
With the focus the last few months on Daughter One's moving to university, son's ongoing hockey life and her parents focus on the move and reno, daughter two has gotten short shrift lately. The curse of the middle child. Well, I hope she knows how thankful I am for her sense of responsibility with getting herself ready for school and to the camp she's at this week (I barely noticed what she packed). I don't worry so much about her because she is so good at taking care of herself. But it doesn't mean she doesn't need some TLC once in a while. Just because she's so responsible I think she probably needs it more than the others.

My Home is About to Be Renovated
Even though it is a hot mess right now and the move is a week away and we are no where near organized enough, I'm still thankful that we are lucky enough to be able to undertake this massive project and our children will be lucky enough to have (one day) a beautiful home to live in (the permits get submitted to the city tomorrow - yay!). I know we're very, very fortunate to have this opportunity. I know it will be a struggle but anything worthwhile is, no?

Reese's Peanut Butter Cups
When the days seem like they can't possibly have one more event crammed in or crisis to deal with, and you think you can't possibly cope with anything, the taste of a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup melting in your mouth reminds you that there are simple, sweet moments in life to savour. Some days, several sweet moments.

That's it for today. I hope your own thankful Thursday is filled with all the things you sometimes take for granted and all of a sudden notice how important and wonderful they are. Now Go forth and Thank!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Delicate Balance

Before this summer of change and chaos descended on me I never before realized how delicately balanced my family life, work and writing were. While I would have the occasional time where one of those 3 would take a slight precedence and tip the scales a little bit in one direction or another, it was never so much that the other two would fly completely off the scales. It's the old adage: I never knew I had it so good. Eight years of good.

People would often ask me: How do you manage it, Nelsa? I'd always answer "I don't manage very well at all." Ha! I didn't know it but I was managing like a Major League Baseball coach. I just didn't realize it until these last few months how easy I had it. Well I guess the time has come for me to understand - and accept - that balance will probably not be achievable for at least another month for me. I liken it to being in the middle of the book where things are always their darkest. My way forward seems blocked and confused, I'm not quite sure how to make my way to the end. Sometimes I have to put the book aside for a time to figure things out. So my life is right now. I want to put it all aside (the move, the renovations, hockey season, etc) but I can't. Too many people would be affected. I certainly can't put work aside. So what goes? The writing. Which includes less time interacting with the many fabulous writing friends I've met in real life and online.

I'm not going to lie - this is hard. Only when you can't do something do you realize how much you love it. Writing makes me a happier person, there's no question about it. So while I could try to carve out the time, I've already shaved everything so close to the bone there's no meat left. The only thing that keeps me going is the knowledge that - like any good scale - the imbalance will correct once I start putting weight on to it in the correct amounts. I know if I stay away from writing for too long my scale will topple. Let's hope the imbalance will be corrected soon.

Monday, September 6, 2010

A Love Poem for My Daughter

When we said good-bye to our first born yesterday at university I had many words I wanted to leave with her. I'm a writer - I should have had the right words. But when it came time to say them not one could come out. None were right. None of them captured the feelings I had.

I'm not a poet but for the first time I felt like a poem would be the only way to capture the feelings flowing through me as my baby girl leaves home. It's not perfect but it's as close as I can get to telling her how much I love her.

This is a love poem for my daughter.

Never Before

I am watching your face as you look up at me
Holding you in my arms
As I rock you

I have never before felt such a surge of love

I am lying beside you waiting for you to fall asleep
You lean in toward me and give me a big, fat, wet with warm milk, kiss
Without me asking for it

I have never before felt such a longing to hold you forever

I am yelling at you, upset and angry over some silly thing you've done
I can't even remember what it was anymore
I find you sitting on your bed, holding your teddy bear, close to your chest
And whispering in its ear
"Mommy's not in a good mood right now, Henri. We'll just wait until she's feeling better."

I have never felt my heart break before

I watch you walking - wobbling - in your first high heel shoes and hold back a smile
Thinking how beautiful and awkward and wonderful you look
And stop myself from saying anything that might make you feel even sillier than you probably already do.

I have never before felt so helpless at the passing years

I leave you at your door with one last hug and kiss before we drive away
Knowing you are anxious and sad and excited all at once
To see us go

I have never missed you or loved you more.

All my love, forever,

Monday, August 30, 2010

Serial Monogamist or Playing the Field?

When it comes to reading books I've always been a serial monogamist. One book at a time and faithful to that book until I hit The End. I rarely ever strayed, never feeling the need to dip my toe into other books while I was still being faithful to the one I started. But lately, things have changed. I don't know whether it's a product of the erratic life I'm leading - running from one thing to another, packing one thing then being led astray by yet another, whatever it is in the last week I've started THREE books: MOCKINGJAY, THE PRINCESS BRIDE, and FORTY WORDS FOR SORROW. This is not normal behaviour for me!

So, because of this, I'm now feeling distinctly unfaithful and uncommitted when I pick up any one of these books to read these days. Granted, I can't be totally blamed for straying from MOCKINGJAY. I'd passed the 200 page mark and my daughters absconded with it while I was in the middle of packing a closet. Okay, I understood. I wasn't paying it the attention it deserved. It is a book deserving of a full hour upon hour of immersion and I just wasn't giving it that devoted, full-time attention. So MOCKINGJAY strayed to partners that would show it the devotion it required. I'm hurt and feeling guilty for my part in the break up but I totally understand. So, to console my bruised ego, I picked up THE PRINCESS BRIDE. After so many years of watching the movie and falling in love with the story I'd yet to actually read it. Well, how better to console oneself after the first book has left you to immediately go to a book that you've wanted to read for years? And what a book it was! Oh, my William Goldman is a master. I could totally forget MOCKINGJAY (for a time) while in the arms of THE PRINCESS BRIDE.

Alas, that too was doomed. While I was downstairs, trying to veg out after a day of exhausted pack and move duties, I was looking through the bookshelf and a mystery I'd been given years ago caught my eye. It was just going to be a casual read. Just a few chapters. It was meaningless time killer. But no. I got hooked.

So I'm now in a twisted three way love triangle with books I don't have time for. How did this happen?? I fear I'm going to have to give them all up for a time so I can make a decision on which one to choose. You see, it's just not in me to play the field. Yup, I'm a definite serial monogamist when it comes to reading.

How about you? One love affair at a time or a few going on all at once? And if it's the latter, how on earth can you keep them all straight?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

One Box at a Time

No, this is not a blog post about some TLC program on how to pack and organize your house. Okay, well, besides the TLC part, it is about packing and organizing your house but it's also about how going through that horrible process can teach you a few things about writing.

Many of you know that I'm in the process of packing up an entire house for our move in September. The last time I moved was over ten years ago and I still have the herniated disc to show for it. But physical impact aside, a move of this size is huge people. Do you have any idea how much stuff a family of five and a hundred pound dog can accumulate in ten years??? And why do we need to keep every single hockey jersey my son has worn in the last five years??? Seriously, it's enough to daunt the most organized of people into paralysis and I'm not the most organized of people by a long shot. While I can plan like a five star general about to invade a country for some things (think vacation planning), going through every item in a two storey house and either packing it for storage, packing it to move to the rental, throwing it away or taking it to the Goodwill is an exhausting, mind-numbing process. Pretty soon you start to make snap judgements without thinking just because you want to get it over with. "Who needs that brass candlestick I paid $200 for seven years ago? I don't like brass anymore. Goodwill." "Do I really need those suit jackets? How many conferences for work do I attend where I wear suits anymore? Goodwill." "The Boy will never miss this Bumblebee Transformer. It's practically broken anyway. Trash."

Pretty soon I'll have emptied out an entire house and the inevitable will happen: I'll redecorate and remember that the candlestick I blithely gave away would have looked perfect on that new table. I'll suddenly have a slew of meetings and won't have a thing to wear to them. My son will sob when he's looking for that favourite transformer and it's gone forever. Sigh. You see what I mean about paralysis. It's enough to make you want to sit in the middle of a half-packed room and cry.

But decisions have to be made and lived with if you are going to move forward with your life. Knowing this tendency of mine to go straight to being overwhelmed before I even start making decisions I have trained myself to think: "One room at a time. One box at a time. One item at a time." I can't tell you how that mantra has saved my sanity over the last few weeks.

So, what does this have to do with writing, you ask?

Well, when you start writing a book it seems like a huge mountainous task that would be impossible to complete. But, just like organizing a move, a little thought and preparation can help you break free of the paralysis. For example, think when you're preparing to write a book

One room at a time means Chapters: What does this one chapter have in it? What places and people are there to be organized?

One box at a time means Characters: Who is your main character? Who are their friends? What are the things that are most important to those characters that must go into that box?

One item at a time means Plot/Goal: What single most important thing does your main character want in this chapter? Keep that one item (your character's core goal) safe and secure and treasured. All the other stuff you can trash or donate (set it aside in another Word document if you don't want to let it go right away) But make sure you keep that one item safe and always know exactly where and what it is.

In this way, using this mantra, you can work through the house that is your book keeping the most important things and not worrying about what you've donated or trashed. One chapter - i.e. one room - at a time. Before you know it you'll have filled an entire house of rooms with neatly packed boxes.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go pack another box.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Strangers on a Train

I'm back from another few days away visiting my mom first then spending a couple of days with my girlfriend - the longest relationship I've had in my life outside of my family. Longer even than my husband and we'll have been married 20 years this year plus dated for several more before that. Jan and I don't see each other very often - if we're lucky once or twice a year. But, as in most friendships if they're good, you don't need frequency so much as a deep empathy and understanding that makes the few get togethers you have seem like no time at all has passed. Simply put, we get each other. We have the same sense of humour and the same types of interests in TV shows, books, movies, and musical theatre. We do differ on some things and we definitely aren't personality clones or anything (she's way more patient and understanding than I am by a long shot. Guess that's why she's my friend :) Still, we complement each other. What more can you ask of a friendship? And how vital it is to have those types of relationships. It is one of the joys in life.

Mostly those kind of relationships take time to develop. But sometimes you can connect instantaneously with the most unexpected people. I was fortunate to have both experiences happen to me this weekend: a chance to reconnect with a life-long friend and a chance encounter with a stranger on a train.

I usually don't end up talking with the person sitting beside me on my infrequent train rides. I'm too busy writing or reading to really pay much attention or put much effort into the superficial chit-chat that typically occurs during these encounters. But yesterday, for some reason, as I was writing I paused and glanced over at my seat mate. He was an older gentleman (in his late eighties as I was to find out) partially blind, using a cane, well-dressed and quiet. I remember thinking in that first quick glance: "I wonder what he's experienced in his life." I'm always especially interested in talking with senior citizens. Inevitably, there is some really fascinating thing that has occurred in their lives. They did live through the most turbulent of times during the twentieth century after all. This man was no exception.

When he saw that I'd stopped writing he smiled and asked if I was writing my memoir. I laughed and said I hadn't had nearly that interesting a life. I did say I was a writer and that started the conversation rolling since he admitted he'd often thought about writing a memoir. He told me things about his life that were the stuff of movies. How he became a doctor at age 40 and lived in the Arctic for several years with his young family while caring for the indigenous people of the area. He saw the last real evidence of how the Arctic people lived for thousands of years before the modern world began to invade. After the Arctic he lived and worked in Saudi Arabia. Before he became a doctor he spent time in Rhodesia and other parts of Africa that were still under British or Portuguese colonial rule. He told me about his adored older brother who was a bomber pilot in WWII and was shot down and killed. He spoke eloquently of how that devastated his parents - and him - to lose the shining star of the family. He told me he was still practicing cardiology though not in clinical practice because of his blindness but he still consulted with other doctors and helped patients with the psychological stress and after effects of having heart surgery. He told me he was going back to work after visiting his children - a four day train ride from British Columbia. I said, "Four days?? I hope you had a sleeper car." "No," he said. "Veterans can travel free on coach class." I looked at him, stunned. "You sat for four days on a train?" He shrugged and replied, "Those things don't bother me."

After the life he lived, I guess not.

He was an amazing, positive, awe-inspiring man. He told me that when he got to Toronto (a trip he made weekly) he was going to take the subway to a hotel I knew was at least an hour's subway and bus ride away. But, like the four day cross-country train ride, it was nothing to this fiercely independent man. I will probably never see this gentleman again but I will never forget him. In two hours he taught me so much about following your dreams, staying passionate about life and the power of the human spirit. Sometimes, a brief encounter has as much impact on you as the relationships that have sustained you for a lifetime. I treasure them both.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Changing Up Your Writing Game Plan

So awhile back I blogged about my writing process and how I was a bit of a hybrid - a plotter for the beginning and ending of the book but a bit of a pantser for the middle. Inevitably that would lead to my getting lost in the murky middle of the book for a time. Believe me when I say I don't have the energy to slog through another murky middle right now (which I am fast approaching in my current wip). There's too much messiness in my personal life for me to want to deal with a messy plot too. I barely have the time to write these days much less use that small bit of time trying to navigate my way out of the confusion that sometimes occurs in that middle. I also fear that if I leave the book for a couple of months while I mull over the middle in my head (my usual process) that I just won't get back to it. Not the way my life is going these days.

So, what to do?

Well, given my changed up personal life I've decided to change my usual writing game plan. I need to be super organized in both areas these days or I will go nuts. I'm currently on Chapter 8 and in another couple of chapters I'll be entering that murky middle. This time I'm going to be outlining each chapter before I write it. I did it with Chapter 7 and when I wrote the thing it flowed. I finished it in an hour. I've got a four hour train ride tonight. I’m going to use part of that time to try and outline the next 3 or 4 chapters and then write them. Now because it's the middle of the plot I know I'm going to have to throw in a few curve balls in there to mess up my heroine's life even more. I have no idea what they'll be. I have no idea if outlining a murky middle is just as frustrating as trying to write through a murky middle. But sometimes changing up your writing game plan can give you a needed fresh perspective on your story - and writing in general. And isn't fresh always way better than murky? Who knows? Maybe I'll be converted to the dark side and become a full-on plotter.

How about you? Have you plotters tried pantsing and vice-versa? More importantly, were you converted or did you stick to your tried and true methods - no matter how frustrating they might be at times for you?

I'll be away from the blog for a few days but I look forward to reading your thoughts when I get back. In the meantime, happy murk-free writing everyone!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

There's No Place Like Home - Now If I Could Just Stay There

We came home late Friday night from two weeks at the cottage. Great weather, no appointments and quiet time that allows me to read are luxuries I'm not always privvy to and I did enjoy my time there - although there were quite a few things needing to be done so cleaning out a basement, installing a water heater (well, hubby did that but I helped haul and lift the thing), painting a shed, installing a screen door (again, mostly hubby, poor thing) weeding the beach and trimming and stacking lots of brush did take up a bit of time. Still, it was away from the hectic pace of my life in the city and the kids do love not having to get up and rush and come home and rush and just, well, RUSH. But even with the nice feeling a break from the day to day craziness of my normal life it felt wonderful to be home. I don't usually experience that post vacation let down some people have. Usually, by the end of two weeks, I'm itching to get back home. I guess, I am at heart, a homebody. Probably why one of the main themes in my writing has to do with that elusive feeling of what home means to you.

For me, home is very much about establishing a physical home base. Somewhere where I can plant roots and make a safe haven for my family. I love the feeling of driving up my street after a time away, seeing my house and walking in my door, dropping the luggage and just sitting on my favourite leather chair in the living room and letting the feel of my house seep into me. I love my own bed and my own comforter and knowing I have everything I need right here without having to worry about whether I remembered if I brought the toothpaste or bandages. I'm in awe of people who can live like nomads and just roam the world, going where the wind takes them. I don't think I could do that. I read Elizabeth Gilbert's sequel to EAT, PRAY, LOVE titled COMMITTED and she wrote about how her partner was happiest when he had a home base, where he could have his coffee maker and a kitchen where he could cook his own food. She didn't mind going from hotel to hotel for six months while the U.S. Immigration service decided whether he'd be allowed into the country to marry her. He, on the other hand, was miserable. I totally identified. I need to know that after a certain time I have a place to come home to. To me, it's almost as good as being on vacation itself.

Unfortunately, this year, as soon as I've come home, I need to leave again. I have to go take care of my mom for a couple of days after her second surgery. Then I'll be going to Stratford next weekend with my girlfriend to see Evita and spend a couple of days catching up with one of my dearest friends which will be a total destressor if it wasn't for the driving to get there (which Jan is doing, bless her). And then when I get back I'll be busy packing up to move the contents of my home to another, temporary home (which isn't really my home)so that we can renovate my beloved house. This is causing me no end of stress. I know I'll settle in to the other house and my normal routine but I will miss living here - even if the house is old and the kitchen is a 1947 reject and the roof is ready to blow off. I still love my street and my neighbours and my old house. Sigh. There really is no place like home.

What about you? Are you homebodies or travellers?

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Summer Blog Post Re-runs

We're about to head off for our two week stint at the cottage so the blog is going to go dark for a while. So in the spirit of summer laziness and because I just don't have the wherewithal to come up with a scintillating post because my mind is filled with pre-vacation, pre-renovation and pre-moving-out-for-a-year plans, I'm leaving you all with a few of my favourite posts from the last year and a half that I've been blogging. These are the posts that, for whatever reason, generated the most hits or searches and for that reason alone, are maybe worth a re-visit or a visit if you haven't seen them before.

Sandra Bullock, Characters and Likeability (I know the reason this one got hits was because everybody's been interested in Sandra this year, however, I do think there is something to think about here in terms of writers developing their protagonists)

Wanting It Badly Enough (This one was based on the idea that you can make it in this crazy publishing business if you add a key ingredient to your success recipe: a bigg wollop of desire)

Virtual Writing - Writing When You Can't Write (Every writer has periods of time when they just can't be sitting in front of a computer or with a pen and paper. But you can still use this time well!)

Why Waiting is Sometimes a Good Thing (Every writer hates waiting. But it's part of the business. Here's why I - the biggest hater of waiting ever - have decided it's not all bad)

Boys, Books and Diary of a Wimpy Kid(I know this post gets hits because everyone is trying to figure out how to get young boys to read. I tried to figure this out using my own ten year old son and one of his favourite series as an example. It was also a really cool experience to get a comment from the author - Jeff Kinney - on the blog post. Too bad I only noticed the comment months later! Lesson learned. Now I have an alert go to my email every time someone comments on the blog. Total techfail.)

Failure Breeds Success - So Says Michael Jordon (Again, it doesn't hurt to have a famous name mentioned in a blog post. But I do think a lot of people are trying to learn something from their set backs and Mr. Jordon had some very good advice we can all learn from.

I Can Haz Writing Process? (This was a blog post done in conjunction with some amazing writers - Tawna Fenske, Cynthia Reese, Kiersten White, Linda Grimes and Sean Ferrell where we all talked about our different writing processess. For some reason, how writers write is an endlessly fascinating discussion for other writers. It is very cool to see how different and similar we all are. But the thing all of us agreed on was you have to choose a process that works for YOU.)

There you have it. Some blog post re-runs to get you through until we return to our regularly scheduled blog line-up. See you in a few weeks and enjoy your summer!

Monday, July 26, 2010

The End

Two such simple words yet they're so definitive, aren't they? I mean what meaning besides finishing, knowing there is not more, it is done, Finis, Finito, nothing further, can there be? Well, for some novels a lot more - and I'm not talking about a sequel.

I just finished reading THE PASSAGE by Justin Cronin. I'm sure you've heard of it? It's received a ton of hype and publicity and for excellent reason. It's a fabulous book. It's more than just a suspense-filled, post-apocalyptic, virus-takes-over-the-world story. It has deep and complex characterization, layers of religious meaning and symbolism and the theme of whether humans have the ability to continue in the face of a hopeless future can resonate with everyone. I was definitely caught up in the story, the characters and I thought I could see the end but when I read the last few lines it left me wondering about the future of these people. It made me question what I believed would happen to them. It could mean This or That (sorry I can't be more specific because I don't want to ruin it if you choose to read it). I finally decided that I wanted it to mean This. My belief was imposed on the ending. It may not be what the author knows will happen but it is my belief and hope. And I wonder if that isn't exactly what Mr. Cronin wanted the reader to impose on his story.

THE PASSAGE has many biblical themes and influences and several chapter titles are called The Book of Sara. So, as when people read the bible, some will believe it to be a true accounting of what happened thousands of years before, others believe the stories to be an allegory that may or may not be reflective of actual events, others don't believe it at all. What you have as a reader is your own beliefs and faith imposed over the words on the paper - the story they are telling. I think THE PASSAGE's ending makes allowances for a reader to choose whether to believe in hope or despair.

As you can probably tell, I'm a fan of endings that aren't exactly clear cut. My own novel has an ending that leaves it open for the reader to decide what the main character will do in the future. The plot and story are definitely wrapped up but the future isn't. I know some readers prefer to know exactly the outcome for the characters. Some even enjoy Epilogues that take place years later showing the evolution of their story (Harry Potter anyone?). But I like the open-endedness of the unknown future. I like imagining future scenarios. But, again, others may not. I remember talking to my brother about the ending of The Sopranos and how it just went to black with the family sitting at a restaurant table about to order dinner and the viewer not knowing if Tony Soprano would be killed or if he could finally live a normal life. My brother said after all that time and investment spent watching the show, he felt gypped. He wanted to KNOW. Yet I thought differently. I liked the ambiguous ending. I thought, this is how Tony will live his life - never knowing what's behind a door. It may be nothing more than a waiter about to bring him his food or it could be a hitman. Tony, like the viewer, will never know what will happen to him. Just like we don't know what will happen in real life. But we live in hope that our future will be a certain way. And it is hope that, once extinguished, means a true end.

So, what about you? Do you need a definitive ending to a story or are you intrigued by the possibilities of the unknown and unwritten?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Chaos is about to Descend

So the rest of the kids come back tomorrow night. Not gonna lie, it has been fairly restful while they've been at the grandparents. I haven't had to worry about getting the boy to various sports lessons or summer camps, the girls haven't been at each other's throats in two weeks so the house has been blessedly quiet. Hubby and I have had a (more or less) stress-free relationship (remember, the oldest one is still at home so it hasn't been a complete picnic). All in all, quite nice. So as of tomorrow night that will all change.

Laundry will start accumulating the minute the front door is opened. Dishes will pile sky high. Beds will remain unmade, bathrooms left as if a tornado has ripped through the room, milk will run out in a day and a half (if not sooner), whining will intensify and Advil will be popped in ever increasing dosages.

Sigh. Life will be back to normal. Maybe then I can actually start to write more than a page or so every few days. Chaos and my writing output seem to be symbiotically connected. Or maybe, that missing, messy, noisy tumult that is my family is my muse.

Welcome back kids. Mommy missed you!