Saturday, July 17, 2010


Through viewing blogs and the like, I came across this website, Wordle. I don't think there's really a point to any of it except for yet another way to waste time and it doesn't even waste a lot of that but in some ways, it's almost the ideal tool for writers.

I simply put in the link to my blog to see what it would come up with. But you can put in any words you want. What's interesting about this, is that it takes separate words that stand out from your input and randomizes them. Now if you're stuck and can't seem to find something to write, you can look at all these lovely jumbled words and just pick one. Maybe one that stands out above the rest. And start to free fall write. Who knows what may come out of it?

Otherwise, it's just another way to procrastinate. Use it to your benefit or not at all.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

All The Things I Love

Happiness is often hard to find. We trudge through the every day, doing the things we must, whether or not we really like to do them or not, because simply, we have to. We have to work in order to make money and survive and more often than not, we do not really love what we do, but we do it. We buy groceries and pay bills in order to eat and keep a roof over our heads, because we must. Unless you are the type of person that loves the outdoors so much that you choose to live there permanently, but I think those people are few and far between. We drive through rush hour traffic because we have to, unless you’re fortunate enough to live in a small rural town or village that almost no one has ever heard of.
We watch as our family and friends take ill, try to help where we can because these are people that we love, but with that kind of commitment comes stress and sadness. Maybe they aren’t ill, but every family comes with their own set of problems and being the loyal friend or brother or sister, we give all the support we can muster even if a little bit of your soul takes flight for better destinations.  In short, we do what we are obligated to do, even if it does not make us happy.
Often I have seen people that just don’t know how to be happy. See the negative in every situation because that’s what allows them to cope. But there is so much beauty in the world. Beauty that we tend to overlook, the stuff that brings a smile to your face and a little blush to your heart.
I thought that I would share some of the things that I love in my life in hopes of bringing a little happiness to someone else. Or just to show that I am not all business and boredom.
1) That light that fills a child’s eyes when they see or get something that they didn’t expect. Not long ago we were wandering through Superstore, on our usual route from the front door to the baby section to the toy section and eventually arriving at the groceries cause that’s what we were there for in the first place. On this particular occasion we were in the toy section. Hubby and daughter were a little ahead of me when I stopped to look at a sand bucket and shovel for daughter. They were on sale and they were big, just what she needed. I called hubby back and when he turned the grocery cart around to see what I was doing, the daughter’s eyes got so big when she saw what was in my hands. I had never seen her react this way to anything and it just brought me such joy to think that something so simple and inexpensive could bring her so much joy.
2) My husband. I could not ask for a better man to spend my life with. Dedicated to me and his little girl, his top priority is to make us happy. I often try to get him to go out on his own, have a little alone time, but he refuses, always saying he’s a ‘family man’ now. And he shows it each and every day.
3) Watching a child grow and learn. Everyday my child learns something new. From being an infant that could barely m0ve, to the first smile, to the first time she rolled over then began to combat crawl across the floor and eventually walk. Although there are many times I wish she was still not able to roll over. But now it’s the words she’s learning. Each and everyday she still discovers something new.
4) The smell after a rain. There is something special in the air after a rain. Whether it’s a delicate drizzle or a downpour, once it stops, the air smells new. The world cleansed, even if just for a moment.
5) The smell of freshly cut grass. This brings me back to my childhood. Trailing my dad as he cuts the lawn, tiny blades being cut off and flung away.
6) Sharing in the excitement of a friend or family member when something goes the way they wanted it to. There is nothing better than getting a phone call to share some exciting news. To laugh with that person and be as giddy as they are.
7) Watching my husband do housework. Yes. This really does bring me great pleasure. Whether he is working in the yard, vacuuming or carrying a basket of laundry to the washing machine. I get the warm fuzzies.
8) Spring. When everything is coming up fresh and new. The first signs that winter is almost over makes me very happy. Of course, in Calgary, the winters tend to be long and drawn out. Even if the calendar says it’s spring, the frigid temperatures remain for a while longer. But when the grass finally starts to turn to green, flowers begin to bloom, and the trees grow vibrant, the spirits rise. And remain high until of course winter comes again. And it always does.
9) Along with spring comes colour. Vibrant natural colour. The bright hues of purple, pink, green, red and blue replace the drab browns of dead grass and gravel on the road. Not just flowers, but butterflies and birds of all different shades. I love colours.
10) I love odd numbers. Not sure what’s up with that. Even numbers make me feel unbalanced. But give me an odd number and I am happy. I can have one of something, but I can’t have two because if I have two then I have to have three. There are of course exceptions to this rule. If we owned two cars I would not need to have three. Not cost effective and the third one would just be sitting around collecting dust.
And the list could go on. Forever I think and this would be the longest blog post in the history of blog posts.
What makes you happy? What things do you love?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Character Flaws

I was browsing some interesting new writer’s blogs and one I came across had an interesting bit posted on their sidebar. Plot Whisperer had a tweet posted regarding character flaws and if you can’t find one then she suggests that you use one of your own.

I was challenged recently to make my main character in my novel weirder. Assuming this means to give her more realistic character traits. And with this I struggle. I know pretty much everything about her but yet to come up with a little tick that she might have, maybe she’s a little OCD, it just doesn’t fit for me. I have been thinking about all the weird things I do, all the weird things my friends or family do. But I just can’t pinpoint one single thing and I don’t want to overdo it by making her too weird.

In essence, she’s a normal girl. Maybe I should say, average girl. But we all have little things that make us unique. For example, I can’t stand the crinkly sound a plastic bag makes when you touch it. It’s like running nails down a chalkboard. But I don’t think that’s going to fit into my story at all. There would be no reason to introduce that type of information. She can’t stand really outgoing people and that does come out. Not that she is really that introverted but they just annoy her. She can’t sit in a chair unless it’s facing a wall. But it’s not enough.

And then, how do I make her a character that the reader is going to empathize with? One person I talked to mentioned that he did not particularly like this character. He couldn’t understand why she was cold and seemingly heartless. But that information comes out. Other people have felt sorry for her. Female readers. Is that the difference between male and female readers? Will one be more sympathetic and should we actually try to make the character a person that any sex can relate to?

Any suggestions??

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Story Creation

What works for one person may not work for another. There are so many different ways to generate new story ideas. It made me wonder if one way was better than another, or maybe it doesn’t really matter. As a dear friend and colleague always says, “whatever gets you to the page”.

For me, there is no one way that I come up with new story ideas. Sometimes I see a character in a particular situation, sometimes one sentence rolls through my head and I can’t get it out of my mind. Even sometimes, I see something that is so strange that it makes me go hmmm. The problem with these scenarios is that it often takes me a long time to build a story around it. 

1. What if… Playing the what if…game can be a great way to generate a new story. Maybe you see a headline in the newspaper or an entire article on a prostitute that apparently committed suicide by jumping from a sixth floor balcony of a seedy hotel in downtown Calgary. But what if…that person was actually pushed. What if…she wasn’t a prostitute? Then you ask, what was she doing there and who could have pushed her.

2. Floating Sentence…You’re just beginning to fall asleep one night and suddenly out of nowhere, the oddest sentence drifts through your mind. One that initially makes no sense but you just can’t get it out of your mind. Something like, licking frosting from between your toes. Now why on earth would someone be licking frosting from between their toes. Is it even physically possible? Maybe it’s a metaphor for something.

3. Character Situation…You see a woman laying in bed, staring at a crack in the ceiling. What is she doing there? What’s around her? Is there someone else in the room? Did someone just leave? What is she thinking?

4. Snippet of dialogue…Maybe you’re sitting in a coffee shop and you happen to overhear a snippet of conversation. Or maybe you’re eavesdropping as many writers do for just this purpose. “Dude, what were you thinking?” “I knew she had a disease but I did it anyway.”

5. Free Fall Writing…you have nothing better to do so you sit down to write. You write the first thing that comes into your head and just keep writing. Or maybe you were given a writing prompt and then let words spill onto the page. It may be drivel, it may seem like nothing at first, but maybe, just maybe, there is something in there you can work with.

6. Title…Do you come up with the title of your novel, story or poem first and then build around that?

7. End First…Do you see the end scene first then build your story to reach that end?

8. Theme…Maybe you start with an overall theme and build your story around that.

There really are endless ways to generate new ideas. How do you come  up with an idea for a story?

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Guide to Growing the Green Stuff

No I don’t mean money. And no I don’t mean that other green plant that so many seem to adore. Quite simply, I mean grass. Yes. Plain old ordinary grass. The stuff that lawns are made of. The stuff where kids frolic in the summer. The stuff…well you get the point. Green grass.

Just over a week ago we set out on a mission to grow grass. To create what might resemble a little bit of a yard outside our patio and under a great big pine tree. We thought it would be a difficult task. That the grass would need a little bit of coaxing and if all else failed, a whole lot of Miracle Gro. Much to our pleasant surprise, that has not be the case at all.

First you should know, we live in an apartment that is managed by a management company. We have a landlord. What made up our yard previously could only be described as complete laziness. The entire area beneath the tree was covered in this black paper and that in turn was covered in mulch. The reasoning behind it that previous tenants didn’t care for it and too many weeds were growing that they finally just covered it up.

I have been in this apartment complex for 6 years but in a different apartment. One on the third floor that the idea of a yard really made no difference. Last year we moved to a bottom floor unit because of the ever-growing and ever-moving toddler. Also the fact that there are no elevators in our building and carrying groceries up the stairs was a complete pain in the butt. Well this year we extended our lease because the management company reduced our rent. At the thought of staying her another year we had to make the area around our unit more child friendly. The mulch would dig into feet and there was just no place to really enjoy anything. So we went to the landlord and asked if we could tear up the black paper and get rid of the mulch and try to plant grass. The result? Well who is going to turn down free maintenance to make the yards look better?

Here’s how it went…

1. Trim the branches around the base of the tree to allow as much natural air, sun and water to reach. We trimmed  about 6 feet from the ground.

2. Tear up the black paper and get rid of the mulch.

3. Wet the dry ground A LOT.

4. Till up the dirt. Use a shovel or pitchfork and get down as deep as possible then smooth it all out and add more water. You want the water to actually be absorbed into the ground.

5. Spread some grass seed evenly over the tilled area. Water, water, water.

6. Add some new soil. The stuff we got was Black Earth and I think there was a little fertilizer in it too. Add more grass seed. Water, water, water.

7. Pray a little. We really thought it was going to be much more difficult to get the grass growing if it was even going to happen at all. Very little sun reaches the area under the tree. And even if it rains, not much water gets there unless it’s manually added. 

The bag said we wouldn’t see anything for at least a couple of weeks. We watered daily and it even rained a little in between.

And what do you know? Yesterday (6 days after we spread the first seeds) we saw little green shoots coming up through the soil. Amazed and thrilled that it was actually working, we gave the ground a good watering. The temperature has been in the high 20’s to low 30’s most of the week. Yesterday 32. Hubby watered and raked and even added a little more seed yesterday. This morning…holy moly. Those little sprouts were busy last night. We didn’t have to get down on the ground and search for the sprouts. They are everywhere. Tiny and still spread out, but they are there.

You might be thinking so what. But for anyone knows me, plants do not fair well under my direction. But hubby on the other hand, does have a green thumb. I really had doubts that it would work. Thought if we saw anything at all it wasn’t going to be until next year sometime. (Shows what I know about growing grass).

I can’t take much the credit. It really was all Mr. Green Thumb.

But I did do most of the praying.

Thursday, July 8, 2010


When morning came upon Calgary and the birds began to wake, as I was slipping into the fog of sleep...a new title for my novel came to me.

Thanks for listening.


It’s late. Or early. Depends on how you look at it. I can’t sleep cause it’s hotter than the Sahara Desert, but moist. I could feel the sweat drip between my shoulder blades and because it felt just slightly like a beetle or some other multi-legged critter that totally does not belong in a bed, I was up. Grabbed a glass of iced tea and decided to sit down and surf. But there really isn’t much action going on this time of night. Just like late night TV.
But this is not the only reason I can’t sleep. You ever get so obsessed with what you happen to be writing at the time that your character’s world essentially starts to become your world? You stay up late trying to solve their problems, or create them depending on what stage you’re at. You run through necessary scenes that need to get written, you play dialogue over in your head, even editing unnecessary words as you go, trying to imagine the exact actions of your characters while they are speaking. Their facial expressions, their hand and body movements. The ever changing format of the piece at hand (in this case a novel). Which chapter should go there, and oh I think this one will work better there. You move everything around, plan out strategies. And before you know it, just like when you get completely engrossed in the scene you’re writing, over an hour has passed, maybe even two.
And so this is what is keeping me up on this insanely muggy night. On top of that I am wracking my brain to come up with a better title. Something that suits the subject matter and is original. I have a working title that would have worked three drafts ago but so much has changed since then that it’s totally not going to work anymore. So now it just remains my working title. It’s probably too early to really focus so much effort on such an important aspect of the whole process but I totally fear that I will get to the end and still won’t have that magical heading. That title that will set it apart from all the rest.
I have a theme. And a tentative possible title, but I am pretty sure it’s been used before. But the title works on so many levels it’s scary. Yet I don’t want to go there cause as I said it’s been used on several occasions I’m sure. So I sift through all the little pockets of my brain where I tend to store completely useless information in hopes that I can pull something from  there, dust off the cobwebs, tweak it a little and have the best title ever. But it’s not working. Either there are way too many cobwebs that I will need a hatchet to break through or maybe, just maybe, there isn’t as much junk there as I originally thought.
To be creative, I think I need a metaphor for what I am trying to say. I even tried brainstorming. You know how they show you to do it in school? The main topic in the middle of the page, circled, with a million different branches going this way and that. A cobweb on a page. Often this technique works for me. Random thoughts fall to the page and before you know it, the answer is right in front of me. Or even free fall writing some thoughts on a page. That’s worked in the past for other areas such as character and plot development but as of yet, it’s not working on the title issue. Heck, I don’t know what I am expecting. Most of the time it takes me forever to even come up with a semi-decent title for a blog post. But at least with a blog post, if I can’t think of one, I just don’t use one. Can’t do that with a novel. Apparently publishers don’t like it when you send them something called Untitled. What’s up with that anyway? What if you wrote a story and the only title that worked was Untitled? Would they discard it or read it? Would they assume that by Untitled you meant that there was no title? That you were just to damn lazy to come up with a unique and introspective name for your piece? Or would they actually think, hey, maybe that is what it’s supposed to be called and therefore, I should read it? It’s just one of those things in life that make you go, hmmm.
But as I ponder that, I am still no closer to a title and it’s still too hot to sleep.

Monday, July 5, 2010

On Dreams

I’ve heard a few people say they don’t dream or they don’t remember their dreams when they do. I find it hard to believe that a person simply doesn’t dream and I also find it difficult to believe that a person would not remember at least one dream in their lifetime. But I am no professional on the dreaming mind so who am I to say that it isn’t possible. All I have to go by is my own dreams. I know there are times that I can’t remember a single thing once I wake up, but more often than not that dream is just beyond the border of my mind. I imagine it as similar to a cosmic explosion. While we’re sleeping every part is intact but if we wake suddenly the dream bursts into millions of little fragments. You try desperately to put the pieces back together but there are always parts that will  be lost in outer space. But if you wake slowly, the dream doesn’t fragment. Instead your unconscious mind begins to mesh with your consciousness and you remember what good or bad dream you might have been having. This is not the case all of the time. We can have nightmares that wake us so dramatically  yet every image is as clear and vivid as if you were still living it.

When I was five or six, I had this dream that to this day is still as clear as if I just had it yesterday or so vivid that I could have lived it. Like those memories permanently etched into your brain, creating the stuff that autobiographies and memoirs are made of.

So this dream I had as a kid is not a recurring dream because I have never had it again since that day, but I do remember most pieces of it. I am sure the 30 years since may have marred a little of the memory but the essence is there. My mom and I were shopping at the thrift store. I didn’t want to be in there so kept hiding under the clothes racks. In the basement of this store they kept all the books. Now that was my favourite place to go when we were there. I tried to go down the stairs but something kept pulling me back. An unseen force seemed to be calling to me to go outside. While mom was busy perusing the newest arrivals I slipped out the front door and proceeded to walk down the street. At the edge of the building was a vacant lot of overgrown weeds. When I peered into the lot, there was a baby brontosaurus. I continued down the street past another row of buildings to another vacant lot. In this lot there was another brontosaurus. This one bigger than the last but not by much. I peered back the way I had come and the baby was peeking out around the corner watching me. He looked sad. Like he had lost something very dear to him. The second dinosaur also looked sad but there was something mysterious in those eyes. As if she knew something but it was something she did not quite understand. I walked past but never took my eye off of the middle sized beast. She watched me disappear behind another row of buildings. I felt myself being pulled back. To see the other two again. To help maybe, or perhaps just curious, but my feet kept me moving forward. When I glanced back, both of dinosaurs were watching me, only now the baby had joined the second. I rounded the corner of the next set of buildings and froze. Before me was the largest brontosaurus I had ever seen. And this one looked angry. I backed up slowly as the dinosaur came closer. The largest was following me and when I backed up past the smaller two, they also began following me. I looked over my shoulder looking for help but there was no one. The street was completely deserted except for cars parked at an angle. The door of the thrift store suddenly appeared and through the glass I could still see my mom looking at the clothes. I slipped in the door and went to the basement and hid among the stacks of books behind a large bookshelf. I sat and waited. Wondering if anyone would come for me. Near the basement ceiling was a narrow window. Outside the window I could see the pacing feet of the giant beasts. Back and forth, back and forth.

The building began to shake. Sections of the ceiling fell to the floor in front of me. I hugged my knees to my chest and waited, expecting to be lifted out of my hiding place. The floor shook, the stairs began to crumble and the sky opened up.

And then I woke up.

I have thought about this dream so many times over the years. Always remembering but never understanding. Is it true that every dream is our subconscious trying to tell us something. If I read it now I can pull a lot of metaphors from my life to date, but what did this mean to a little girl who had barely experienced anything in life? Was it a premonition and that’s why it means something now? Or maybe as I wrote I reinvented parts that weren’t there initially to make it mean something.

But again that is the subconscious working its magic.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

All The Things I Should Be Doing Right Now!

1. Writing. Yes, first and foremost I should be writing.  Now you might say, “But Robin, you’re writing your blog post.” So yes I am writing but that is not the writing I am referring to. Recently I finished an outline for my novel and after some careful consideration, so much has changed that I have to go back and start rewriting some of what I already have. So, I should be doing that instead of writing about why I should be doing it.

2. Working. I am fortunate to be able to do a lot of my work from home. And this is the non-writing related work I am talking about. The stuff that helps pay the bills. There is so much to do and deadlines are fast approaching.

3. Cleaning the living room. Now that the child has gone to bed I should clean up her daily mess. I tried doing it earlier in the day but after only a few hours toys were scattered everywhere, again. But that will only take a couple of minutes so I can do it when I am finished here.

4. Working on some short stories. Actually I have a non-fiction piece that is almost ready to submit somewhere and the place I have in mind needs to have it by July 15. Time is running out. Sometimes I really wonder why I do that to myself. Avoidance. Fear of rejection? How can I fear rejection when I have so many of them already. They are starting to pile up. But on the upside, I have been submitting. That is progress.

And that is all that I should be doing right now but instead I am blogging. Comedy channel is playing in the background and all I can think is they must be amateurs because they really aren’t very funny. Quite similar to me when you think about it. They are amateurs, struggling in their field, doing what it takes to finally make it big. Like actors and musicians. Comedians and writers. Some will never make it, but at least they try. They don’t give up on their dreams.

So I better get writing. But after I clean the living room. :)