A Green Moment in Time (Again)

“Way back in the olden days…” well, back in 2009, anyway, I admitted to being Irish and I shared a bit of the Irish legend and the shenanigans our family occasionally pursues to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. The latter involve things like green-tinted milk and green cream cheese and cucumber sandwiches in school lunch boxes, green oatmeal porridge in the morning and perhaps even green mashed potatoes with green beans at dinner time. I’ve about outgrown that silliness, although on second thought, I made green cupcakes last year.

In honour of the day, I’ve brought back that blog post. I hope you enjoy it. No writing application today, just a Happy St. Patrick’s Day wish for everyone.

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‘Tis St. Patrick’s Day and I admit to wearing green. I could just as appropriately have chosen blue, mind you, as blue was the colour associated with Ireland until the mid-1700s. And non-Catholics might well choose orange. So why does green appear everywhere today?

Legend has it that St. Patrick chose a shamrock to help explain the concept of the Trinity to the pre-Christian Irish people. As the habit of tucking a shamrock into one’s hatband became a common sign of either Irish nationalism or loyalty to the Roman Catholic faith, references to “the wearin’ o’ the green” began popping up. Trust the rest of the world to go overboard with turning all things green on March 17th. Even  the Chicago River is green today.

We do get carried away, in both sacred and secular circles, as we celebrate the feast day of St. Patrick. But it’s a wonderful excuse to share a bit o’ Blarney with friends. However I draw the line at hoisting a pint of green beer or stout. Just thinking about it makes me feel a little green around the gills!

Go n-eírí an bóthar leat.

(May the road rise with you.)

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Going Green?

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Leafy greens

Ecologically green

Greenhorn cowboy

Greenstick fracture

Green apples

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No matter what version you favour, come mid-March there’s really no other green
except an Irish one. It was St. Patrick’s Day yesterday. I wasn’t particularly innovative,
but I wore green, and my visiting daughter baked a batch of green cupcakes for her girls.

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There was a time — my children will vouch for it — when there was green porridge
in the morning, green milk and green cream cheese sandwiches in the lunch kits,
and probably green mashed potatoes at the dinner table.
What can I say? I’m Irish, but in a ridiculously Canadian kind of way.

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Shamrocks

Blarney Stones

Irish Cream Creme Brulee 

An Irish Wolfhound if you like big dogs

or a Soft-coated Irish Wheaten Terrier if you don’t

Maybe a little Irish Step-dancing

Rainbows and Pots of Gold

A pint of Guinness

Leprechauns

Oh, it wouldn’t be St. Patrick’s Day without leprechauns, mischief and a bit of music!
However you spent it, I hope you had a great day.

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A Doggy Dilemma

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Not many dogs own forty toys. That’s right, forty! Our dogs have always liked a stuffie or two, a nylabone to chew and the occasional tug toy (to gnaw on; we don’t encourage tugging). But in his half dozen years our Labrador Retriever has managed to accumulate quite the assortment. He adores getting a new toy and never destroys anything, so the numbers keep building.

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It was laundry day recently and there weren’t quite enough dog towels to make a full load, so my hubby decided to toss in the dog’s Christmas toys before packing them away with our decorations. (Yes, he has special Christmas ones. Don’t look so surprised.) It was while extricating them from among the others spilling out of the toy box (of course he has his own toy box) that the quantity prompted us to count them. Forty! That’s an embarrassing number, especially since we have only one dog at present. It was time to do some culling.

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Have you ever tried to clean out your closets or basement in preparation for a rummage or garage sale, only to have family members snatch items from your grasp because you apparently didn’t realize they were still treasured possessions? Uh-huh, you get the picture. One by one he grabbed them from the pile and raced through the house, dropping them in other rooms. We only managed to sneak out one white panda bear that was so grimy I don’t think he recognized it.

He still has thirty-nine toys. He needs a bigger toy box.

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‘The Next Big Thing’ Meme


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There’s this Meme going around, called The Next Big Thing. Folks have been sharing details of their current writing and up-and-coming projects. My DD, Shari Green, was tagged and I was happily reading her post when, wham! I came across my name. So I’ve been tagged now, too.

The idea is to answer the questions and then pass them along to another writer. It’s a great way to learn about each other’s work and to do a little self-promotion. Here are my answers:

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What is the working title of your book?

Since I don’t have a working title for my current w.i.p. yet, I’ll use the previous manuscript, and its title is UNLIKELY SHOWDOWN.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

I’ve been involved with the world of purebred dogs and dog shows for more than thirty years, and have seen some bizarre situations and behaviour. I heard of dogs being killed by obsessive competitors and that got me thinking about what might drive a competitor to murder someone.

What genre does your book fall under?

It’s fallen all over the place, from cosy mystery to romance to inspirational romantic suspense! The revision I’m currently querying is simply a romantic suspense.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

If it wouldn’t be considered too arrogant I would love to see Meryl Streep as the MC and David Strathairn as her husband. On stage they both display the strong, independent personalities that cause so much conflict in this story.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

UNLIKELY SHOWDOWN is the story of what happens when one woman’s addiction to purebred dogs and the competitive world of dog shows speeds out of control and turns deadly.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I have friends who have very successfully self-published so I know it’s possible, but it’s not for me. I can’t imagine myself venturing into today’s tough publishing scene without the guidance of a knowledgeable agent and the help of an experienced editorial team. Does that make me a wuss?

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

If I said ‘forever’, I’ll bet other writers would understand. Much of it was written during last year’s NaNoWriMo month, but I continued to work on it right through the spring. I guess that means about nine months for the first draft, but I was still rewriting  parts of it earlier this fall, and am continually tweaking it now… especially since attending a recent workshop by Donald Maass on the topic of Writing Twenty-first Century Fiction.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

I left this question until last, but even now I can’t really pinpoint perfect titles. I’d like to say a movie match-up would be combining the quirkiness of BEST IN SHOW with the out-of-control adventure of THE RIVER WILD, but that’s not exactly right either. Let’s just move on, shall we?

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

I think my earlier answer covers this. The plot reveals an aspect of the dog show world few people know about, and should. Once the idea germinated, the story pretty much blossomed on its own.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Everyone loves a dog story, but this one is more about the people who love dogs. There are many wonderful people involved in the dog show world, but also many eccentric ones. I was the official consultant for the filming of ‘Best In Show’ and if you’ve seen it, you’ll remember how passionate some people are about winning at any cost. There might be “eight million stories in the Naked City”, but there are a whole lot of them lurking behind the scenes at dog shows, too.

There! Now you have it. And now that I’ve done my share, I’m to tag others and invite them to participate. So, in alphabetical order…

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Laura BestFirst victim:  Laura Best

Laura’s first novel was an historical YA story, although I think I recall hearing her hint that there’s a non-fiction project somewhere in the works, too. She can be a little kooky at times (yes, you have to read her claim to the Booker Award) but when she talks about her little Miss Charlotte, you know she has her priorities straight.

KeliGwyn-V4-SmallSecond victim:  Keli Gwyn

Keli writes inspirational historical romance. Long before she was published herself, she interviewed me on her Romance Writers on the Journey blog. There is nobody with a heart like Keli’s when it comes to supporting and encouraging her fellow writers.

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 Third victim:  Ruth Logan Herne.

Ruthy is a multi-published inspirational romance author, a dog breeder, and an out-of-this-world cook, plus she has an outrageous sense of humour. I met her on Seekerville, but she has multiple websites for her books and a couple personal sites as well.

Katherine WagnerFourth victim:   Katherine Wagner

Katherine writes Gothic horror, but I like her anyway. Anyone who has attended the Surrey International Writers’ Conference more times than I have has to be on the right track. She’s the co-facilitator of my writing critique group, Golden Ears Writers, so I have to be nice to her and her red pen.

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If you’re tagged and don’t have time to take part, or would prefer not to, it’s okay to decline… although since I’m dying to hear more about your “next big thing”, I’m going to be very curious about your answers to this meme, so I hope everyone will choose to participate. :)

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All Hallows’ Eve

Some say All Hallows’ Eve has Christian roots, while others suggest they are Pagan. Either way, it would be hard to convince our little ones that there is anything but carved pumpkins, candy and costumes associated with their Hallowe’en traditions. As they traipse from door to door I doubt many of them  even know about the feast of All Saints.

But the children do feast… on candied apples and carmel popcorn, and a great assortment of calorie-laden goodies. (My scale will vouch for just how calorie-laden they are, too, after I indulge in the annual consumption of the leftovers!) We rarely have many youngsters find their way to our door, but that never deters me from buying a good supply (always of my favourite sweets) to have on hand “just in case” this year is the exception. I mean, it would never do not to have an adequate supply if more than the usual six arrived on my doorstep, now would it?

Tonight at midnight will mark the kick-off of the annual NaNoWriMo writing endeavour — November’s “thirty days and nights of literary abandon” in which I will once again join hundreds of thousands of other equally-crazy participants around the world as we scribble our way to the first draft of a 50,000 word novel.

It will also mark the start of another blogging hiatus for me, as I concentrate not only on my NaNo commitment but also on readying another manuscript for submission. I’ll return to posting here on November 12th. The scale will no doubt tattle about what I ate during my absence to keep my writing muse cooperative, but I don’t aim to discuss the numbers at all! Especially if trick-or-treaters are scarce around here tonight.

Happy Hallowe’en!

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Slipping and sliding through a novel’s first draft

They aren’t sure yet. The new slide has a curve and its unfamiliarity  overrides the exciting prospect of a breath-stealing rush down its slippery surface.

 

I feel a little of that uncertainty as I contemplate a shiny new story idea. It hasn’t quite gelled yet and I hesitate to take off into unknown territory. What if the urgent words pull me off track? First drafts can be like that – a headlong dash that sometimes aborts with a whimper.

A little experimentation is called for – a few different approaches explored. Not plotting, but maybe a bit of pre-planning, trying out the options.

And then impatience lends confidence and the ride begins! The first draft is a time to let go of inhibitions and let faith take over. For a writer there is nothing quite like the exhilaration of getting a first draft down on paper.

 

I suspect my granddaughters know a little of that same feeling.

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 What does starting a first draft feel like to you? Does it involve dread or anticipation?

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Word Games and the Writer’s Brain

That smile said he knew he was winning.

After more games than I’ll embarrass him by counting, my hubby finally won a round of Blokus. It’s a game of strategy using game pieces of varying shapes that must be fit together with only their corners touching. The player with the least number of pieces leftover at the end wins. There’s also a classic version for up to four players.

The product description says, “Blokus encourages creative thinking and has received a Mensa award for promoting healthy brain activity.” I’m not sure I’d want my brain analyzed before, during or after a game, but I’m for anything that may improve its health.

As a gamer, I don’t always plan many moves in advance, but as a novelist, I strategize while I’m working my way through scenes and plots. Thinking ahead. Figuring out moves that will thwart or mislead. Planning twists, turns and where to add conflict or drop red herrings. My brain can use all the help it can get!

Word games of various types are recommended as brain stimuli, and may even help slow down the advance of dementia.* I’ll sometimes fiddle with magnetic words to get creative thoughts moving. I play the occasional game of Scrabble, too, but my 90-year-old neighbour puts me to shame. Not only does she regularly play Scrabble on her computer, but she works on Sudoku puzzles and six to eight crossword puzzles every day. I don’t know what my mind will be like at ninety, but as the cliché goes, hers is sharp as a tack.

My hubby may not be eager for a re-match, resting on his laurels and all, but I’m ready for another round of Blokus anytime. My novels will thank me for playing.

How about you? Do you enjoy word games? Share your secrets for keeping your mind sharp.

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Alzheimer’s Reading Room

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The Lucky 7 Meme

Author Laura Best tagged me in a “Lucky 7” meme. (Thanks, Laura!) I don’t too often get into such things because I’m uncomfortable tagging someone else, putting the onus on them to participate, which is required to keep the meme active. But this one is fun. We’re asked to go to page 77 of our current w.i.p., count down seven lines, and then copy and post the next seven lines.

It gives everyone a sneak peek at one of our stories… just a tiny taste that can’t possibly give away anything vital to the plot. So, (taking a deep breath) here are my seven lines from page 77 of SHOWDOWN, which is what I’ve been revising this month.

            “The teens ignored all of us except to scatter off the path long enough to let us pass. There was no way to know if an unpleasant encounter had been averted but as their calls and laughter diminished behind us, I let out the breath I didn’t realize I’d been holding. I rarely feel vulnerable when I’m on my own, especially when I have one of the dogs with me, but this was a reminder that as a lone woman, it wasn’t smart to start out for a walk in a relatively unpopulated area of an unfamiliar city at sunset.”

That’s it! (And it really was seven lines in the actual manuscript and the WP draft.) How strange to see the words isolated from the other sentences, paragraphs and chapters. I know what came before and what comes after, but here by themselves on the page, I wonder how they seem to you. (You can tell me if you want to, but you needn’t. In fact, I’d prefer if you didn’t unless you can be totally honest. Just remember that I’m coming to read your blog once I’m done here!)

The other requirement is to tag seven other authors and let them know. This is where I take another deep breath and set out my list with apologies to anyone who would really rather not be singled out for this opportunity. In alphabetical order (because of course I have no favourites):

Joylene Butler 

Dave Ebright

Shari Green

Ed Griffin

Keli Gwyn

Jeanette Levellie

Richard Mabry

There you have it. Now I have to sneak over to all these blogs and hope I can get in and out without anyone taking my head off while I admit to what I’ve done. (But it’s fun, I tell you… fun!!!)

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Lucky 7 meme protocol:

1. Go to page 77 of your current MS/WIP
2. Go to line seven
3. Copy down the next seven lines, sentences, or paragraphs, and post them as they’re written.
4. Tag seven authors
5. Let them know

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Arguments are for the birds!

I had an argument with myself this morning. I really wanted to spend some time writing, but Christmas baking was beckoning. You know how it is … reason arguing with desire. If I’d just get off my fanny and go bake something, I’d have time to write later. If I write first, however, I’ll never get to the baking. I know that for a fact.

Still, there’s this tantalizing thought begging to be recorded. It would take but a moment to jot it down. Of course that moment might stretch into several as the one thought leads to another. I know myself too well.

While I argued, a similar scene played out on the back deck railing:

“Hi there, little guy. I’ll be out of your way in a moment, but I’m trying to decide whether I want millet for a snack, or sunflower seeds.”

“Okay, but get a move on. I’m hungry.”

“There’s leftover millet on the deck if you’re in such a hurry.”

“Oh sure. Expect me to eat leftovers while you get the choice stuff? Forget it. I’ll just tuck my wings behind my back and wait my turn for the buffet.”

“Suit yourself, but this might take a few minutes. Let’s see … mmm, there’s cracked corn up there, too. And peanut bits! I looooove peanut bits but the jays usually steal them all. So, yeah, maybe peanuts. Ah, but the black oil sunflower seeds have the higher fat content that I could use. I burn a lot of energy on these frosty days.”

“Oh, for pete’s sake, make up your mind! Do you have any idea how much energy I’m wasting while I pace back and forth waitin’ on ya?”

“Quit bugging me! If you’re starving, go hit the neighbour’s feeder, why don’t you? It’s just a hip and a holler beyond those trees.”

“WHAT? Do ya think I’m stupid?”

“Hey, lady! (peering back at me as I watch from the window with my camera) Will you remind this guy that your neighbour has CATS!”

“Cats, shmats. This place has a dog and you don’t see me worrying, do ya?”

“But the dog only eats the seeds left on the deck. He’s not interested in eating you, like the cat is.”

“Shows how much you know. The dog is a Labrador Retriever. Mean anything to you, buddy?”

“Oh. (gulp) Um. I get your point. Maybe I’ll just hop over to the rhoddie and check for iced bugs while you sort out your menu, but speed it up, will ya. The missus is waiting out in the hemlock for me to bring home a few groceries, too.”

“These decisions take time. Let’s see now…. Oh, by the way, did you know that if you wait until sunset the little lights around here come on. Warm toasted seeds! Now that’s a gourmet touch, I’ll tell ya.”

“Well, I’m not waiting that long. Huh? Where’d you come from? Go ‘way, chickadee! I’m next in line for the feeder when thrush is done. There’s a pecking order around here, remember?”

“Ah, drat! Now where’d YOU come from?”

“I guess it’s leftovers tonight after all.” (sigh)

“Fresh or leftover, it’s all the same to me. I don’t share with nobody, kid. So scoot!”

“Aghhh! I’ll risk the cats. I’m outta here!”

“Yeah, I think I’ll sit this one out, too. It sounds like sparrow’s feeling peckish.”

Nobody wins in an argument. Which means I’d better make up my mind about the writing versus baking thing. The baking wins out as I need to set a loaf of cheese bread to rise and make some shortbread. On the other hand, I’ve been writing, haven’t I? Isn’t that called compromise?

What excuses do you come up with when faced with something that tries to eat into your writing time?

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