Thursday, October 17, 2013

Mr. Coyote is Back

As you may recall, there is a coyote wandering around our complex. When I first saw it, and told my husband, he instantly said stuff like "coyotes won't hurt you", "don't move too fast", "what are you so afraid of?" and blah, blah, blah.

Well since then, a notice has gone out to all the residents about said coyote and all the things to do or not to do should you see it.

And alas, this morning...the bedroom light flicks on at 4:45am, husband is standing in the doorway shaking just a little. The coyote is back and was standing even closer to him than he was to me. Husband asks me to drive him to work. I laugh and say, yeah right. After all, IT'S 4:45am. I ask him if he did all the things we were supposed to do. And of course he didn't. He ran inside leaving his coffee on the table, dropping his cigarette to the ground, without even a second thought.

When I said goodbye to him as he walked to the bus, he was still shaking. I had to smile just a little. But of course, I watched until he was gone to make sure no wild animals were stalking him in the dark.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Coyote Hunger

I grew up in an area of BC where wild animals were the norm. To see a bear or cougar or skunk or deer get the idea, in the middle of downtown while heading to the corner store for grape bubble gum or Nerds (grape, too) was so normal we never thought twice about it.

But we move to suburbia where the new normal is a person walking her cat on a leash.

So you can imagine my surprise when the other night I'm sitting on the patio minding my own business and not 20 feet away I see a coyote staring at me, those black eyes and pointed nose, not to mention lack of meat on its body, looking hungrier than Uncle Jim at the Chinese buffet.

And what did I do? In my 38 years on the planet, growing up in mountain regions where you're taught never to run from a wild animal...that's exactly what I did. Run! I don't think I've ever done anything as fast as I bolted that night.

The child, playing idly with her Play-Doh turns around and says, "What's the matter, Mommy?"
I'm dumb-founded. What do I tell her? I know I shouldn't scare her and tell her there's a carnivorous beast outside ready to take a chunk out of my calf. But it's not a dog. And if she ever comes up against one, do I want her to think that coyotes are safe?

I opt for..."Oh nothing dear. There's just a coyote outside."

"What's a coyote?"

And I precede to explain how they look like medium sized dogs but they aren't very nice. Yeah. Big mistake. Now she thinks the coyote is going to sneak into the house and use her as a midnight snack.

In retrospect...the stupid thing was probably more afraid of me than I was of it, and I was pretty scared. I probably could have remained on the patio and it would have walked by minding its own business, searching for a skunk or a squirrel to chew on.

But in the end, wild animals are nothing to take lightly. They are unpredictable. And if they want something bad enough, they will find a way to get it.

And that's my story for today.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

It's Dark in Here

I've noticed this odd pattern emerging, and not just with me.

When I first started writing seriously again, all the stuff I wrote had some element of darkness in it. Bad things happening to good people. Something horrible happening to a child. People just generally messed up because of bad things that had happened or were happening to them.

Over the years since, although I still have this tendency to lean towards the darker side of life, I have started to write somewhat nicer, gentler pieces. But they always lack that oomph that is so apparent in all the bad stuff.

I looked back at this and discovered that when I was writing all dark stuff, I was in a relatively dark place in my life. Thankfully, I got out of that, but what happened was weird, too. When I wrote something, it wasn't as full of energy. Or worse, I didn't write at all.

In the years since, I have tried to balance and write just because I wanted to write. It didn't matter what came out. And still some weird stuff did.

In a class I am teaching right now, some of the students are writing a lot of dark stuff. It's an introductory class. For many of these students it is the first class they've ever taken. And they are writing that darkness that I was so familiar with.

Why do we do that? Do other writers do that? When you first start out, maybe the writing is meant to be cathartic. Meant only to get all the bad stuff out to get to the good stuff. Which shouldn't be any less creative.

In my opinion, creativity is creativity whether it's dark or happy or claustrophobic or somewhere in the middle. I write about things I want to know more about. And it just so happens I want to know more about the way the mind works. Why people do the things they do. There is darkness in all of us though we don't care to admit it. It doesn't mean we are bad people. We just have a curiosity in that side of humanity. Or lack of humanity. However you choose to look at it.

I have a hard time believing anyone who says or thinks their world is full of unicorns and rainbows.

But just because your creativity stems from a dark place, or from a happy place, or an abstract place, does that mean we are any less creative? I don't think so.

I've had many a writing teacher tell me, "whatever gets you to the page". Great words to live by, I think.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Fear of...

From a writerly perspective, what are you afraid of?

I'm so unmotivated lately to spend the necessary time to finish a project. Sure I can finish my work related projects, or semi clean the house when I need to, but why can't I sit and focus long enough to finish my current stories or the blasted novel I've been plugging away at for the past year?

My crit partner said she's afraid of getting it wrong. Which makes me wonder is it possible to get it wrong? A story that stems from our imagination, purely fiction. Is there a right or wrong way to write a novel or a short story or a poem?

Not long ago I had someone attack me for my stories saying that the weirdness I tend to write must stem from some sick place in my head and what kind of person writes that kind of stuff.

I thought I brushed it off as coming from the mouth of someone who just didn't get it, someone who doesn't understand the creative self and let me tell you, I don't think a creative bone exists in that person, but still...

I'm coming to realize those words bothered me more than I care to admit. And since then I haven't written a lick of anything. Sure I worked on a couple of stories, but as soon as they were criticized in any way, I put them away and haven't looked at them since.

Just writing this, I'm realizing I'm going through a moment...

Revelation, perhaps.

Writing is good for so much.

I taught a workshop this past weekend on redeveloping characters. I was in awe of the writers in this group. They were focused, knew their characters fairly well, and knew almost exactly where their stories were going or if they didn't when they came in, I think they had a better idea when they left, just from talking it out. In some ways I think I was jealous. Seeing all these new writers, still so in love with the idea of writing and having a story to share and not scared to get it out.

Excited and fearless!

I miss that. I need to get it back.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Lake Louise - Banff National Park

Chateau Lake Louise from across the frozen lake.

Snowshoe along the lake and across to a sheer ice wall.

Enjoy the clear skies and mountains on either side.

And rest.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Troll Falls - Kananaskis

Named aptly because of the weird rock formation protruding from the rock face, Troll Falls is an easy 3km trail located near Kananaskis Village. Great for snowshoeing or hiking, the trail is a moderate elevation gain and the falls are worth the visit, beautiful in the winter when the water freezes to sheer ice.



Head west on Hwy 1 to Hwy 40 by the casino. Head south to the Kananaskis Village turnoff. Go straight and take your first right into the Stoney Trail Day Use Area. The trail starts just past the gates.

It's a gentle climb through the trees on a reasonably well-marked trail. There were some signs that didn't make much sense and required a little guess work to figure out which way to go but we managed and made it to where we were going.

After the short hike, head up to Kananaskis Village from some lunch and to warm up. Great way to spend a Sunday.
I haven't tried this trail in the summer but I imagine the falls are just as nice. Visit Hike Alberta for more information and more pictures.


Friday, July 26, 2013

Not Enough Protein

I read somewhere not too long ago that we should be getting approx. 75% of our body weight in protein. So if you're 130lbs, you should be getting 97.5g of protein every day. If you're 200lbs, you should be getting 150g of protein. That's a lot of protein but it's good for you.

  • Builds lean muscle.
  • Helps burn fat.
  • Keeps you full longer. And better than other not so healthy choices. 

But the sad reality is many of us don't get enough of it. Or have no clue just where you can get it, naturally.

I'm like many of those. Sure I know meat (fish, chicken, turkey, beef, pork, eggs...huge protein.) But you can only eat so much meat.

The answer?

An extra boost of protein everyday?

Protein shakes.

I have grown to love these babies. And you can make them incredibly good. So good, in fact, how can they possibly be good for you?

You can add essentially anything into a protein shake. Ice cream, for example. Maybe not a great choice, but yummy nonetheless.

I don't add ice cream to my shakes.

Try this the next time you find it hard to swallow down the protein poorly blended in water or milk because you're in a hurry.

In a blender, add 1 scoop of your favourite protein powder.
1/2 cup of water or partly skimmed milk.
1/2 cup of yogurt (any flavour will work)
1/2 cup to 1 cup of frozen fruit (or fresh fruit works, too. Blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries.)
1 banana
A handful of spinach (fresh or frozen)
A handful of kale
A handful of swiss chard
1 T of peanut butter

(Note: I don't always add peanut butter but without it, the leafy greens can have a bit of an unpalatable aftertaste. So to avoid wanting to scrape your tongue, do it. Or don't add the leafy greens. But they're good for you.)

Put the lid on the blender. This is an important step if you don't want to be cleaning shake off the walls and cupboards. Press blend on the blender. (A child's finger works best for this. especially if they're almost 5 and want to help all the time, because really we couldn't push the button ourselves...not THAT early in the morning. If you don't happen to have one, your index finger works just fine.)

You may need to stop and smoosh down the leafy stuff so it blends. Or maybe that's just my blender.

Blend until...well...until it's blended. There's no magic number for this. You can tell.

Pour into a glass and enjoy. (Don't forget the 5 yr old's serving as well or you'll never hear the end of it.)

Many variations can be made so the shake is great.

Use your judgment.

It doesn't have to taste gross to be good for you.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Fullerton Loop - Kananaskis

Located west of Bragg Creek on Hwy 66, the Fullerton Loop is an approx. 6.5 km moderate hiking trail. Turn into the Allan Bill Pond parking area and walk to the east end of the lot. The trail takes you under the bridge on Hwy 66 and along the river for a few meters before moving into denser tree cover.

The path is well-marked so no worries of getting lost and could be done by the whole family. It's pretty flat as you wander along the river and through the meadows.

Once you approach the actual beginning of the loop (marked by signs) it gets pretty steep for a few km. Recommend only small children with good stamina.

You can head up a set of stairs before this bridge or cross the bridge and follow the loop that way. Taking the stairs, you'll be under tree cover for awhile but eventually it opens up to spectacular views of Allan Bill Pond and the river.

Again you'll wind through the trees for a stretch and more up hill that seems endless, but I assure you, once you reach the summit it's all downhill.

As you start down you're again in dense trees for awhile but eventually it opens up again.

The trail was muddy in a lot of places. We arrived just ahead of a hail storm but as is the norm with Alberta weather, it didn't last long and cleared into a brilliant, warm day. Perfect for a 1-2 hour hike.



Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Puffed Quinoa...Huh!

Awhile back I bought a bag of puffed quinoa at the Bulk Barn. I'm not overly familiar with this little grain so didn't really know what I was doing but figured what the heck, I'll figure out something to do with it. It sat in the cupboard for awhile with me occasionally taking a spoonful of peanut butter and dipping it into the bag of puffy goodness for a quick little treat. I love peanut butter. And I seem to like things puffy. Puffed grains, that is.

Well yesterday I decided to get creative. After numerous searches on The Google for puffed quinoa recipes, I settled on what I love best. Peanut butter and chocolate. I did it my own way though. I rarely measure when I cook. I'm more of a wing and hope for the best type of cook. (I've resigned myself to the fact that MasterChef won't be calling me anytime soon. Gordon Ramsey would laugh me into a hole and I couldn't handle that kind of ridicule.)

Anyway, what I came up with actually didn't turn out so bad.

Puffed Quinoa Peanut Butter Balls (makes approx. 30 balls.)


About 4 cups of puffed quinoa
3-ish cups of creamy smooth peanut butter
Maybe 1/2 c of shredded coconut
Melted chocolate (semi-sweet chocolate chips or bakers chocolate)
Some vanilla extract (if you bake much you can guestimate how much is enough)

Seems simple so far, huh?


Dump the puffed quinoa into a bowl. In a sauce pan, mix the peanut butter and vanilla extract until even creamier and smoother than you started with. Add the coconut. (Interesting note, the inside of a coconut is referred to as meat. Huh?) Mix. Pour peanut butter mixture into the puffed quinoa and stir well. Put in fridge to cool.

When the mixture has chilled and is kinda firm again, roll into balls on a wax papered cookie sheet. I say "kinda firm" because as you roll into balls it gets warmed up again and is a little difficult to make it stay ballish.

Also recommended to leave the water tap running and have a dry dish towel beside you. This stuff is STICKY! And if you're like me: lick, rinse, dry and repeat.

Once rolled into about 30 balls (maybe more depending on how big you rolled them) put the whole cookie sheet back into the fridge for awhile. Go watch some TV or read a book or write a story. Or think about writing a story. When you've finally gotten that idea for a story slick and ready in your mind, forget about it, the balls should be ready and lord knows peanut butter is far more important that writing. Oh. And chocolate.

Start melting the chocolate in a sauce pan. I wished at this point I had a double boiler. (Do they even still make those.) As the chocolate becomes liquidy, start dipping your balls. Careful, cause melting chocolate is fricking hot. Dip, put back on cookie sheet, and repeat. Put back in fridge to cool.

And there you have it. A gluten free, high peanut butter and chocolate dessert.

Now you can write your story.

If you can keep your fingers out of the fridge.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

List of Nothing. Or Something.


Popcorn ceilings.

Loud music.


Twitter plagued.


Writing. Not. Writing.


Angry child.






Friendships lost.


Friday, April 5, 2013

Crawling Into Spring

What is it with this time of year? I've talked to numerous people who are at that stage in their writing where they just can't gather the motivation to carry on and their stories lie on the shelf gathering dust.

It seems cyclical.

Fall comes, we dust off the shelves and dive into the stories, ripping out page after page. Stop and read, edit, scream and pull out our hair because it's not working, but we quickly work through the problem and carry on.

Winter comes...and of course Christmas. We slow down, suddenly remembering our other lives and our families. We dote and overspend, making up for all the neglect we've inflicted over the past months.

The new year arrives and cracks its whip, spiraling us into gear. We write, rewrite. Throw out. Start over. But we write. Maybe we even start a new project because the drain of that one life we're writing about takes a toll. But the point is, we write.

Spring. Ah, yes spring. Around here spring is a blend of winter and spring...winter never quite wanting to let go, spring struggling to escape its grasp. And then we stall. Like we're waiting in limbo to see what the weather is going to do. Sure we want to get out and be more active after being cooped up. We suddenly remember there's a family waiting for us...waiting to be fed...since fall. And then our priorities shift. Even though, all we really want is to finish this damn story. Because face it...when summer hits...we really will do NOTHING.

My question is...if writing is a job...our passion...our career. Why don't we treat it that way? Any other place, if you seasonally slacked off, you'd be fired. So why can't we treat this with the same determination and intent?

Ok...probably because we aren't getting paid for it and we have no one to be accountable to except ourselves.

I see many people taking creative writing classes, one after another, because the assignments keep them focused. Keep them writing. But...there comes a time when we're not going to have that push and have to do the damn thing on our own.

I've made considerable progress on my novel this year. And I can clearly see the story, where it's going and how it's going to get there. I'd say I'm nearly half way there. But like everyone else, I work in spurts.

It's April. It's spring. Spring signals newness and growth. Fresh energy after a winter slumber. Let's embrace it. Take it for what it is and channel that natural energy into our fingers. Into our stories.

Here's my spring challenge and I invite anyone who is having trouble staying on task this spring to join me.

1. Carve our writing time. One hour, two hours. An evening. Go somewhere if you need to or crawl into your writing space and shut the door. (no door? Just put on your invisibly cape and ignore everything around you.)

2. Write. It doesn't have to be magnificent. It just has to be. Put words on the page. Aim for one page per day. That's about 250 double-spaced words.

3. Work on whatever you feel like. Novel, short story. Write a poem if you want. Find daily writing prompts and use them if you're stuck.

I use writing prompts to fuel my novel project when something isn't making sense. I take the prompt and make it work into my story. It may or may not be used, but at least it gets you thinking about your characters and maybe you'll see them in a new light. They might reveal something unexpected to you.

It's not easy. It takes discipline like anything worth doing. But in the end, you will thank yourself.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Social Media Sabotage

I'm writing this in hopes that it will inspire me to take my own advice.

Why is it so blasted hard to find or create specially allotted writing time? I mean, even an hour or something everyday where all I do is write. Every morning I wake and say, "Today I am going to write." And then the day gets away from me as I waste time on Twitter or Facebook or whatever other social media platform I can dream up.

Before I know it it's time to take the little one to school and then off to work for a couple of hours, then go pick up hubby from work. Then I think, okay, well I'll write before dinner, but of course the house is chaos after we get home and it's impossible to do anything and then it's time to cook supper. And then of course we must eat and then clean up and then relax from the craziness of the day, (social media can totally wipe a person out) and then it's time to give the child a bath and read her a story and then get her to bed. But of course, she doesn't go to sleep. She keeps coming out of her room. She forgot this or that, she needs water, she needs to pee, she just doesn't want to go to sleep. And I am thrown even more off kilter, even though all I've been doing is playing on Facebook or Twitter. Damn social media.

Finally, when it's quiet, I think, okay. Finally. I open the laptop and stare at the page. Look at the words I wrote earlier, (like a few days before) and stare blankly as if seeing them for the first time. And thinking, God, this is a waste of time. Then my head is fuzzy and I'm feeling tired, (again from all the social media) and then I think, I need to just relax. Watch a little TV. Put the phone away, turn off the internet. Stay away from social media. So then, I watch TV. Clear my mind for just a little while and before I know it that little while is a long while and either I fall asleep on the couch or give up and go to bed. No writing that day.

While I'm in bed, I keep going over my story scenes. Where I'm at, what I need to add, what I can take away. I develop a plan of action for the next day.

And guess what happens?

Start over from the beginning of this post if you're not sure where I'm going with this.

Which makes me wonder...we're told to build a platform, get people to follow you, to like your work, to become loyal fans so that when you do publish that great novel, you'll have sales. But we spend so much time building that platform when is there time to write?

I know, I abuse it sometimes. Most of the time. Use it as an excuse not to write because of fear maybe? Fear of finishing the blasted work. Fear that it's gonna suck, or worse, it's going to be great and we're going to be thrust into some kind of spotlight.

You know what I'm getting out of all this? Writers are tortured souls, more melodramatic than any drivel we could write.

Get over myself. Write damn it. Stop making excuses and just do it. What will be will be but at least it will be done.

And now I've just wasted a whole lot of time writing this post and it's almost time to get the child off to school.

Monday, February 25, 2013

The Power of Language


In our society, one word can have many meanings. It could be in the way they're spelled (there, their, they're) or in the way they're said. "Fuck off," she said giving him a soft slap on the shoulder. Or, "Fuck off!" She slammed the door behind her.

In real life, we use words and language to convey messages. Usually by the expression on our faces, or the tone of our voice, people gather the meaning behind those words. But in writing it's different. We have to find the right words to convey the right image to our readers. And it's the power of those words which make the reader feel. Whether they root for our characters, or despise them.

In a class I'm taking right now the instructor is very adamant about the power of language and creating complexity in your characters by using the correct word choices. To have your character "look" at something as opposed to "glare" at something, gives a different message, a different image.

Then there's choosing the right words for a character. Think about someone who was raised on a farm and the way he may view the world. Then imagine someone raised in a wealthy family, in an uptight neighbourhood. How they view the world will be drastically opposite to how a down on his luck farmer would view the world. Word choice conveys everything about your characters.

Do they swear a lot? Are they secretive? Do they blab their entire life stories to whoever will listen? Is their view of the world skewed? Maybe they blame the world for all their problems. Or maybe they're the leftovers of the flower child era.

Word choice makes a difference.

Creates a mood. Sets the tone for the story.

Think also in terms of real life. If you're depressed, or a chronically negative person, how does that constant negativity affect the world around you? The people in your close circles?

I guess the point is to think of your characters on the page as living, breathing people. (For most of us, they really are.) But we have an advantage. Those characters will tell us almost anything if we press long enough, dig deep enough.

Here's a few sentences I recently had to write for my class. The idea, to take an abstraction such as love, hate, guilt, despair, depression and write it in a way that is authentic to the character but also conveys that feeling without actually saying, "she was depressed".

From under the blanket she watched Hank move around the bedroom. A scratchy abrasiveness, like sand paper, wore at her insides. The more she watched his angular movements, the friction intensified, until there was nothing but a burning, worse than acid reflux.

Language does not mean using what many writers refer to as "purple prose". It's not about flowery, poetic language.

It's about words suitable to your characters to strengthen who they are to the reader.

And being creative.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Inanimates I Anthology

It's out! It's available for purchase from Strange, Weird and Wonderful Publishing.

My story, Whistle Stop, appears in this anthology.

Here's a review sent to me by the editors.

A review by James Ward Kirk
 “Whistle Stop”
 Robin Van Eck

Van Eck manages to write a horror story both brutal and beautiful. Her method of description is excellent from the most mundane to the most horrible: “He smiled and helped her into the long sleeves. The tag scratched her neck,” and “Blood and gin trailed down the green porcelain, disappeared down the drain. Acid seared its pipes. The Motel swallowed” are perfect examples. The prose is taut. Upon first glance, I thought choosing a motel for an inanimate object was a bit lazy but by the end of the story I felt empathy for the Motel. If you read this review before you read the story, pour some wine, put “Hotel California” on to play, sit back and prepare to be brutalized—in a beautiful way. I see Poe’s influence in Eck’s writing—study the female characters. Robin Van Eck has a bright future.

I'm especially pleased with this story for a few reasons, the least of which is because it got published.

1. I didn't write this story for the call. I wrote it for myself, wanting to try something different, and then thanks to a dear friend and writing colleague, found this call for submissions. I really didn't think I'd ever find a place where it fit.

2. It's the one and only place I sent it so this is probably the first story I wrote that never saw a rejection.

3. It's classified as horror, but I really don't think it's horror. It's just a good story.

4. It was interesting to write, for the most part, from the POV of something other than a human. As the anthology says, everything has a story.

5. For the same reason above, it was a difficult story to write.

6. And okay, it's published. Technically, internationally published.

Not sure if it's available in e-book or if it will be. But if you feel so inclined, it's only $11.99 plus S&H.