Tuesday, June 29, 2010


As an afterthought to the blog entry I just posted...the first line really doesn't make a lot of sense. But maybe that does make sense since it is about rambling.  But for all those people out there, just as confused as I am at the moment, the original title of that last post was My Love Affair With Dean...but once I got near the end it started to veer off course, I changed the title not realizing that now the first couple of lines really don't make sense. Oy. It's just been one of those days.

When Some Things Just Don’t Make Sense…I Ramble.

No, mom, I am not having an affair with a man named Dean. At least not in the sense that crosses most people’s minds. Sheesh. Get your mind out of the gutter, please.  The Dean I so lovingly refer to is my favourite author to ever write a book. The one and only Dean Koontz. Now I read a lot of books. But even if I set sail across the ocean with a boy and some zoo animals, or travel to Japan to be a fly on the wall witnessing the life of a geisha, I always come back to my Dean. And he’s always waiting for me, ever so patiently, tucked into his assigned spot on my bookshelf. He really is better than a dog.
Though certainly not categorized as literary fiction, and sometimes has a nose turned up at him, there is something special in these books that keeps me coming back time and again. The imagination that it takes to dream up the ideas that he does, the deeply layered characters that fill his novels. I only wish I could be half the writer he is. Well maybe it’s more like I wish I could have half the success he has had. Because seriously, I don’t want to write like him. All writers are different, unless they are plagiarizing and that’s not my gig. I want to write like me, but be almost as successful as him.
Maybe I should just focus on getting to the end of the first draft and think about the rest later. But, oh, I seem to be straying from the topic at hand. I love Dean, but Dean loves his wife and dog. That does seem to be a problem doesn’t it? But I do love my husband and daughter and cat, so maybe we’re even. I know I can never have him and he can never have me, though I am sure if we met it would be like in the movies, love at first sight.
Oh wait, it’s not my love so much of him as it is the books, and now I fear this blog is going in a weird circle and making absolutely no sense so I will begin to ramble and you might get weird words like Odd Thomas was the Soul Survivor when The Husband caught him reaching for One Door Away From Heaven on The Darkest Evening of the Year.
Ok, I think I better stop here and just let it be. It’s evident that I cannot truly put into words just how I feel about the books that Dean Koontz writes but I think I have made it apparent that I like them.
I hope.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Blood Like Honey

It’s evening and I want to sit outside because it’s still pretty warm here in Calgary. The house is muggy even though there is a fan whirring softly in the corner and the patio door is wide open. But there is no breeze. And I really want to sit outside.

But the second I step out the door it’s like my body emits this radiance that no one else can see and then the mosquitoes attack, just like in the 1963 movie The Birds. They are everywhere. Swarming and hovering, waiting to feast on the sweet red nectar that courses through my veins. To fill their little bellies to the point of near explosion. With their hunger sated, and the welts starting to raise on my delicate skin, the itch sets in. I try to ignore it and sometimes successfully, but when there are so many in one spot, it’s really hard to forget about.

I scratch my skin until it bleeds, just inviting a new wave of little beasts. I slap at the newcomers, fighting them off with all the energy I can muster until finally I have to flee, from these tiny little bugs, back to the mugginess of the living room.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Why Didn't Anyone Warn Me?

Research? What the hell? It's fiction, it can be made up, you don't need to do research. Yeah, right.

Ok, well it's not like I was completely oblivious to the fact that I need to do research on my novel but I wasn't really prepared for just how much research it appears I have to do. And to really get it right, I have to get as in-depth and personal as possible. Did I mention how much I hate research? It was not my strong suit in school. In fact, I think I bluffed my way through most of those classes. It appeared to work then because I still got good marks, but somehow I don't think I'm going to get away with it this time.

Since the majority of my research is medical related, I thought that it would be enough to just read about the particular diseases online. But I am quickly realizing, that's not going to be enough. The only way to get up close and personal is going to take me actually trying to get in touch with people that actually have the particular diseases I am researching.

In some ways it's exciting, because I realize that if I am researching, I am doing something productive towards the overall outcome of the book, even if it's not actual writing.

And then there is stuff that I have to get historically accurate. That is going to call for a trip down to the Calgary Public Library or the Glenbow Museum to view archives of local history. Mostly maps. So maybe it won't be that bad. I can read a map.

But it doesn't stop there. It's endless.

I guess the only comforting thought is that I will be learning something new. Always good to keep the mind working, especially when you're a writer and known to go crazy, just a little bit.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

When She Sits Quietly

She screams. She hits. She throws her sippy cup across the room. All in an attempt to gain your attention. You talk to her in the gentlest of ways to make her understand that you’ll only be a moment. Just need time to check emails and other important messages. There is a moment of calm as you sit in front of the computer and wait for the screen to brighten. She crawls up on a chair eager to see what you’re doing. To be a part of this adult world that she does not understand but because it takes up so much of your time, she wants to be there too.

For awhile it seems that all will go off as planned. You will get through the few emails, maybe even have a chance to write a few words. To add some great words of wisdom to your blog. Do a few tasks required for your job and then you’ll have some time to play with the little one so eagerly awaiting your attention.

Facebook calls out to you. Maybe a little Twitter. The screen suddenly goes dark. Apparently you’ve been sidetracked and are taking far longer than acceptable by the little toddler for now she is on the table and has hit the power button. You feel the heat rise into your cheeks. There is no reason to be angry because she is only doing what children do, but yet the frustration is building. You pull her from the table, wait for the computer to wake again and try another time.

Now she is crying and throwing a tantrum. You stand and make her a piece of toast and grab her a cup of milk. For a little while she is distracted by the need for fuel. Little do you know, that this fuel will only succeed in giving her an extra burst of energy.

Determined to write just a little bit this morning, you start working on a blog post. Little peanut butter covered fingers reach into your peripheral vision and snag the mouse from the table. With it goes important papers and books you have been reviewing to help you on your writing journey. Everything falls to the floor. A brief glance down reveals there is nothing that she can really hurt so you retrieve the mouse, wipe off the peanut butter smears and continue to write. You’re so close to finishing you can almost taste it. Oh wait. That’s peanut butter that’s been transferred from the mouse to your hands.

You write and write. So deeply engrossed in the words that are flowing from your fingers that you don’t realize that she has suddenly become very quiet. Blind to the fact that in your writing frenzy she is no longer bothering you. A welcomed break to get some work done.

Words become sentences and turn into paragraphs. Before you know it, the post is complete. Thankfully spell check has been enabled as you work so there isn’t a lot of need to go back and review for obvious spelling errors. Out of habit though, you skim. A little extra attention, just in case. You are about to publish your post to the internet and it dawns on you. She is very quiet.

You peek into to the living room where you are sure she has just been quietly watching TV.  Your mouth drops. No words escape which is probably good because there would be nothing appropriate that would spill from your lips. You gather yourself, go to the kitchen for a damp cloth and return to begin wiping pen scribbles from her hands, arms, legs and face.

And crayon drawings from the wall.

Monday, June 21, 2010

What Makes You Think You Can Do This?

So you want to write a novel. A rather ambitious endeavour if there ever was one. And what makes you think yours would be any better than all the millions upon trillions of books already out there? Surely you don’t expect to be in the same league as Margaret Atwood or J.K Rowling. What would you write about that would be interesting enough to get published and even if some editor thought there was potential, why would anyone read it?

I don’t actually hear these words on a regular basis because I tend to surround myself with like-minded people that are all struggling to do the same thing. That support is invaluable because they get it. Family and friends however, although they may try to appear supportive and interested in what you’re doing, allow something in their tone of voice or facial expressions to escape that seeps into the subconscious and eagerly plants that little seed of doubt that all writers already possess. Maybe it’s a smug, slightly condescending tilt of the head when they are telling someone else right in front of you that you’re an aspiring writer. What the hell is an aspiring writer? Isn’t a writer a writer as long as they write? The addition of the word aspiring to me conjures a mental picture of someone that is trying to write but the only measure to success is seeing your name in lights. Or on the front of a book. And I’ve seen my name on the front of a book, and I’ve been published. Am I still an aspiring writer? Are you damned to be called an aspiring writer until you finally make millions from the sales of your books, or at least a comfortable living? The word bothers me. As if the people that utter it, don’t really believe it’s possible. On the other hand, it could just be the negativity taking over and my perception of their intentions is a little skewed.

A common mantra that I have heard continuously over the years is” fake it until you make it”. Or something along the lines of if you envision it happening, it will happen. I spend a lot of time imagining finally getting that letter from a magazine that my story has been accepted for publication.  Don’t get me wrong, I have gotten acceptance letters, but they have always been for articles or book reviews. What I want is for it to be for a short story or a creative non-fiction piece or…a novel. And after the first one, they just start flowing in. It is probably a little delusional, a little misguided because even some of the more successful writers that I know, still get rejections from time to time. It’s all part of the process. Getting rejections in itself can be a good thing. Lately I have found myself feeling proud that I have gotten a rejection, because it means that I have actually been submitting stuff. I’ve actually been writing. Therefore, I think I am writer.

How do you define being a writer?

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Not Another Ordinary Fairy Tale

Once upon a time, on a rainy day in Calgary, there lived a young woman that was struggling to be a writer. From her window overlooking Fish Creek Park she watched the rivers of rain snake along the pavement,  racing to that little opening in the roads where all rain and debris eventually fall. To be swept away into the dark underground of an energetic city and join up with the Bow River then be carried further south.

She pondered all things writing related. From the conception of an amazing story, all the character and plot development, the exemplary dialogue that she knew would soon spill from her fingertips. She considered first person point of view as opposed to third person. Mentally listed the benefits of both. She set daily writing goals that went unattained.

When it all seemed to become too much to think about any longer and she knew that the best course of action was to just do it, she turned on her laptop. Patiently she waited while the screen sprang to life, loading all that her world had become. An electronic bible that she could not do without. What ever did we do before there was email? Before computers became more of a household appliance than a luxury? Her memory was not what it used to be. She struggled to remember those days but they all seemed to blur together, in a Windows haze of blue and white. There was nothing before computers.

For a brief moment she considered the notebook and pen that was tucked safely in her purse. Available to her for those rare occasions that inspiration struck her and she was no where near her beloved laptop. But as the screen became alive she figured it was just as easy to write directly to the word processor rather than by hand and just have to transcribe everything later.

The mouse pointer hovered over a blank word document icon but she hesitated. There are so many other things that need to get done before she could really sit down to write. Dishes waited for her in the sink, crying out to be washed and put away. Toys lay scattered across the living room and dining room, begging to be put neatly into the toy box. And then there was the vacuum cleaner, gently whispering from the confines of the closet to be freed.

But she suppressed the voices. Moved the mouse pointer over the Internet Explorer icon and waited for the the new window to open. Next she clicked on her Gmail link, typed in her password and waited for it to load. Five minutes went by while she quickly scanned the new emails. Made some quick responses to important messages and read some funny emails. Next she logged into her Facebook account. Viewed all the new updates from her friends, commented on some interesting wall posts, expressed her like of others that she didn't feel necessary to comment on and updated her own status. Some of her closest friends uploaded new photo albums. After browsing the numerous pictures she remembered all the pictures that remained unposted from her recent vacation. But she decided to do that later. Right now there were more important tasks at hand.

Now she checked Twitter. A bunch of new people were following her. Not sure what they found so interesting and she had no idea who they actually were, but it was neat to have people want to know what she was up to. She thought up an interesting new tweet and posted it.

Now it was time to write. Oh wait. Hubby got paid today. Better check the bank account, pay a few bills and put money into the savings account before it all got spent. This suddenly reminded her that she had to go grocery shopping. After the recent vacation, the food supply was quickly diminishing as it had not yet been replenished properly. She peered out at the dreary day. If only she lived in a place where there was no rain and the sun shone everyday. An average daily temperature of 20 degrees would be perfect. But sadly, her fairy godmother had recently passed away and there was no way for her to get her hearts desire unless she were willing to give her soul over to the evil trolls that lived down the road. However, after several consecutive days of rain she was tempted.

But it was time to write. Even just a few words. Enough to be able to say she had accomplished something. She was tapped for ideas. Maybe there was inspiration to be found in some of her friends blog posts. Switching over to Blogger she checked her dashboard to see who had recently posted new material. Not much yet. It was still too early or the middle of the night in other parts of the world. Well maybe she should update her blog. Write something fun and entertaining, maybe even satirical to make the mornings of her fellow bloggers. Make them smile just a little bit as they start their day. Or perhaps give them a little something to muse before they tuck themselves into bed.

But what could she write that would make people laugh? She wasn't a comedienne. Humour was not a natural part of her writing like some others she knew. There was no need to be sentimental. Enough tears were already falling from the heavens.

Think, think, think. Happily ever after stories don't really exist...so it needs to be something just amusing. Life related? Writing related? Mommy related?

She rested her chin in her palm and stared at the cursor as it blinked off and on...

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Griping Over The Shinning Sun

On occasion I review manuscripts for other writers either because they asked me or because it's part of a workshop that I happen to be doing at the time. It's the latter that has me a little peaved this morning. Now I know that spelling mistakes are common. You can either have completely misspelled words that are picked up by your spell checker or on occasion you spell something wrong but because the error is actually a word the spell checker doesn't detect it. Sometimes I can overlook these errors because I know the writer is working on the first draft and probably raced through getting the particular scenes on paper. Don't get me wrong, I know I probably make the same mistakes often. What gets me though, is that the writer doesn't spell it incorrectly just once. It's repeatedly the same error which leads me to believe they just don't know how to spell the word. The biggest ones I have come across lately are griping instead of gripping. It's only one extra p needed but over and over, the p is forgotten. I don't know that there is a solution to the problem. If the spell checker doesn't get it and it's actually a word, I guess in the long run hopefully an editor or copyeditor will pick it up.

Another one that really bugs me is shinning instead of shining. Shinning means to run or walk briskly, shining, well we know what shining means. When it's written that the sun is shinning, I have this mental picture of the sun racing across the sky like in movies when they're trying to show the quick transition between day and night, or even on the weather channel when they show the time lapse weather conditions. 9 times out of 10, I have never seen someone actually mean the sun is shinning.

Just one of my little pet peeves. And feel free, in the future to pick up on any of my mistakes that come through on my blog posts or if you happen to be reading bits of my manuscript, please, don't hold back.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

A Little Change is Good

Working on the fresh new look of my blog. Have to say I am pretty pleased with some of the new offerings with Blogger. More templates to choose from, special pages to be added. Makes it look a little more up to date.

In other news, I am happy to announce...that I wrote nearly 3000 words today. I am so behind on my novel that I figured it was time to finally put the pedal to the metal (so to speak) and get myself caught up. Plus there are some upcoming writing projects that demand my attention. So I am working on a schedule that allows me to get some writing in everyday and keep the house clean and supper cooked and still time to go to work. Ha. Never thought I would see the day that I would say I have to make time for work.

Life really is good. I have a slightly new outlook since my holidays. I have come back much more relaxed and I have been sleeping. Ok, that could be somewhat jetlag related but I don't feel jetlagged. Well, jetlag or not, I really need to get rid of these dark circles under my eyes that have been growing for the last couple of years.

Now I must go start working on dinner so that the hubby and daughter have something to eat tonight while I am at work. This is technically the first day back. Should be interesting to see what's waiting for me. I'm thinking it might be a busy night.


Friday, June 11, 2010

On the Last Day

We rested. Or semi-rested. The last full day of holidays has arrived and I am sitting here listening to the wind swoosh through the trees and the clouds are covering the blue in a thick film of grey. But there is no rain. 

A constant chatter around the table is mostly a garbled jumble of Dutch words that I don’t understand. Save for the occasional word that I have become accustomed to and the occasional English when my husband talks to me. While the conversations go on, I sit at the table amid all the people and type away. No one really notices, I don’t think, since I can’t converse all that well with them anyway. It’s these times that I think I should really take Dutch lessons soon. Not that I would become fluent in the language but at least I would understand a little more of it and be able to communicate a little better. But I don’t have that advantage right now, so instead, I drink wine and eat cheese. Can’t go wrong there.

It’s a 9 hour flight home tomorrow that I have mixed emotions about. I really want to get home and get back to my routine that I don’t think I ever fully appreciated before. But there is comfort in the familiar. I am anxious to get home but I am not looking forward to the flight. After the semi-meltdown of my daughter on the trip over, I have a fear that it will be the same or worse on the way home. And there are the goodbyes at the airport tomorrow. Tears will be shed, kisses will be given and then we will say good bye with no idea when we will be back. My husband seems to have no intentions of coming back anytime soon but the people here are hoping for more. Maybe next year or the year after. I think I have my work cut out for me to convince him that we need to come back. It’s the right thing to do. But hubby can be stubborn.

Regardless, I know there is no avoiding the inevitable. What will be will be. My poor cat is probably at home, hiding under the bed, wondering where everyone is. No human contact for the last couple of weeks except for my bros occasional visit to refill the food and water bowls. And hopefully clean the litter box.

Well, the next post will more than likely be from the comfort of home, when the jetlag has me awake way too early but with nothing else to do at that time of the morning.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Sounds of Rain

I’ve never noticed before just how many different sounds the rain makes. It rains more in some places than in others so if you’re used to it, you just may not stop to take notice. And if you do, depending on where you happen to be at that time, it sounds different. The soft constant tap on a plastic cover over a patio sounds different than the steady drum of water on metal as you sit in your car. And again, the rain through the trees in the Amazon Rainforest, I imagine, sounds much different than the rain against the leaves of the tree in your back yard.

If you’re in a great mood and nothing can bring you down, the soft pitter-patter of rain on the streets is going to feel melodic and alluring. Watching the rain race towards the gutters can bring a serenity to the already relaxed. On the other hand, if your day is born of misery, that soft drizzle may actually feel like a thousand tiny pins being bore into your head as you race from your car to dryness of the grocery store.

I have encountered a lot of rain the last few days. And each day it seems to sing a different song. The first few days in Holland the rain was more of a nuisance than anything else. We wanted to be out exploring and enjoying our time here and to those in Calgary that hide indoors when it rains, it just was not what we wanted to see. Along with the rain, obviously comes clouds. Clouds are mostly grey and grey to the majority of people is depressing. Neither white nor black, it lies in between, emotionless. But yet we convey strong emotions at the sight of that low lying cloud cover that brings drizzle, downpours and even thunder and lightning.

After a few days of dreariness that of course didn’t keep us indoors because we’re on holidays and if we stayed cooped up all day long we would have killed each other, and the fact that even though it rains a lot here, it’s warm. Muggy. But warm. We had a few days of glowing, searing, hot sunshine. The clear blue windless skies were welcomed. We smiled and of course complained that it was so hot but we enjoyed it nonetheless. We really are never happy are we. Too hot, too cold, too muggy, I’m sweating. Whatever. You never here, I am absolutely perfect. But that’s the way it is and that’s the way it’s always going to be.

SDC11585Now the last few days have been full of rain. Scattered showers I believe we call it at home in Canada. Where it rains for a few minutes, stops and warms up and then just when you think it’s done, it rains again. Just a little more for good measure. To remind you it’s still there. But again, it didn’t stop us from doing anything at all. Even today when it rained quite a bit. I was out trudging through the second largest Canadian War Cemetery in the Netherlands. I don’t think it could have been any other way. It was the perfect day as I stood beneath a tree staring out at a field of white stones, and listened to the rain crackle like fire through the leaves and branches that protected me.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Greetings from Holland

So we have been in the land of windmills and wooden shoes for a little over a week already. My how time flies. It has been great seeing all the family again and a lot of family for the first time. Everyone is thrilled to death over Julianne as I knew they would be. Especially Oma and Opa. Except for their regularly scheduled visits over webcam on Friday afternoon (well afternoon for us in Canada but late at night for them over in Holland) this is the first time Oma is getting to hold and cuddle her first born grandchild. It's great to see that light in her eyes each time Julianne does something funny or cuddles with her and it pains me to see the sadness that overcomes her when she realizes that we will be leaving soon. Just this evening she mentioned we were only here for about 5 more days and I could see she was holding back the tears. In some ways I feel bad because I have taken her son away to another country even though I know it was totally his choice to move. And then on the other hand if he had never met me and moved to Canada then the chances are really good that he would not have any grandchildren for her. At least not from him. So which is worse? That she can't see her grandchild all the time or that she didn't have one at all? I wish I had the answer. All I know for sure is that when we leave on Saturday there are going to be many tears shed. And not just from Oma. Julianne has taken so well to both her grandparents, I really don't think she is going to be happy to say goodbye. She's even learning things while here. She has learned how to blow kisses. Even with the kissing sound effects. It's adorable. She has learned to bark like a dog and all to rev like a car. There are little woof woofs followed by vroooooooooom. And she is just plain happy. She has only thrown one temper tantrum in the whole time we have been here and that was one night when she was extremely overtired. Other than that, she has been an absolute dream. If only she were like that all of the time. *sigh*

We have also seen some pretty amazing stuff while here. One day we went to this a little town in Germany called Monschau which really reminded me of Banff. It's a little town nestled in the mountains that if you were not really looking for it you would probably miss it. Absolutely beautiful. Surrounded by trees and streams it's a little hideaway and completely packed full of tourists. Cobblestone roads just like you see in the movies guide you through a maze of shops and homes and in the centre of the town is an old monestary. Then way up on a hill overlooking the town is what used to be a castle but now is used as a youth hostel. Monschau is apparently well known for their glassmaking shops and mustard. All different types of mustard. We never actually found the mustard factory but we did see the glass shop and holy cow, there are some amazing things done with glass.

Later we visited a nearby concentration camp. Kamp Vught was one of four camps situated in the Netherlands during the Second World War. Used primarily as holding camps for those to be transported to Auschwitz in Poland or one of the others in Germany there were still many people killed. Usually by execution. This particular camp saw a little over 700 people killed during the war. But if it hadn't been for the allied forces coming in when they did it could have been a lot worse. Thankfully this one had only been started in early mid to late 1944 and was shut down in early 1945. (my dates could be slightly off here). Though little of it stands today what we did see was enough to bring tears to your eyes and your heart feel heavy. Seeing the remains of where many atrocities were committed makes you feel very fortunate to be Canadian. Afterwards, through the help of my handy translator (husband) I discovered that my father-in-laws father actually worked security at this particular camp. He was no where near a German supporter but in order to put food on the table for his family he was forced to do what needed to be done so he worked for the Germans, not with the Germans. Each night he would sneak food out of the camp and take it to the mayor and his family. He did this until the camp was shut down without getting caught. After the war was finally over and the Dutch were able to start getting back on their feet, his father was rewarded by the mayor for doing what he did. He was given a house and money and work.

The rest of our trip thus far has been mostly visiting with family and Arie has been catching up with old friends. Oh and I have done a bit of shopping. Tomorrow is a kid filled day as we are taking Julianne to an amusement park. Should be a lot of fun.

Until later...