I’m all for putting my nose to the grindstone and working hard to achieve my goals and I’ll bet most of my readers are, too. Sometimes, however, it’s good to switch gears, to shut off my computer, my laptop, my iPad and put a “Nobody Home” sign on my writing business. My husband and I did that a couple of weeks ago.

We met our daughter and ten-year-old granddaughter in Toronto airport and boarded a plane for New York City for six days. Here are some pictures of our discoveries.

This is a water exhibit at Grand Central Station. Blue drops of water continually seemed to drop on us as we stood underneath the moving exhibit. Beautiful. We also bought gorgeous milkshakes at a place so busy lineups were continual.

I was entranced with Library Walk, also called Library Way and described in the photo above.

In the Museum of Modern Art we stood and watched the beautifully falling huge flakes of snow. On the news we heard this was a really huge storm but to us Canadians it was gently falling snow making the walking wet and a little slippery. No big deal. The trees were lovely, though.

This bronze work was exciting to see beside the famous outdoor skating rink that has been featured in so many movies.

A must for tourists, the Empire State Building did not disappoint. Here Chelsea and I posed for a shot up in the clouds.

Radio City Music Hall was a thrill to see. They gave us a great tour and we even got to ask questions of one of the famous Rockettes.

We came into the main entrance hall from above and looked down to see the staff preparing for the crowds later that night. If you wonder what is on the floor, I did, too. Those black things that look like dead bodies are actually clothing and paraphernalia they were organizing for sale in the gift shop there. This is a gorgeous foyer!

Also at the Museum of Modern Art we viewed Van Gogh’s famous Starry Night, a thrill to see. All the people vying for shots were not so thrilling.

Our granddaughter was very excited to see the Statue of Liberty and we liked our second glance when we all took the Staten Island ferry over to the island and right back again to NYC. A beautiful day for an historic view.

On Thursday Ron had signed us up to see Live! with Kelly and Ryan. In Kelly’s place that day was Carrie Ann Inaba whom we well remember from Dancing With the Stars. She was guest host along with Ryan Seacrest that day. Most enjoyable. I particularly liked their delightful personalities when the camera was turned off.

The last day we shot some pictures of Times Square which was quite close to our hotel and which we passed through every day on our way to shows and scenic places. We saw Carole King’s story, Beautiful, Jersey Boys, and Aladdin. All were good but Beautiful was my favorite.

Another shot of Times Square.

And yet another.

For a final shot, one of the city from high above once more.

We all loved our trip but as the days went by brushing up against lackadaisical workers who had no interest in being friendly and helpful took its toll. We’re Canadians, eh? We flew home on the Saturday, glad to be going home and looking forward to another week with our daughter and granddaughter on our own turf. Long talks, fun games, times with the whole family and just waking up to breakfast together in our jammies were the icing on a lovely holiday. All too soon, we left home at 4:00 a.m. to drive them to the airport nearby and kiss them goodbye until the next time.

The next morning I was back at my computer, anxious to attack my current WIP and to field the emails being pitched at me from dozens and dozens of places. This writing life is pretty much a dream come true.

Click on the Loyalist Trilogy books below for great historical stories with satisfying endings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Elsie Perrin Williams Estate in London, Ontario.

In November of 2017 I was lucky enough to notice that the Elsie Perrin Williams estate called Windermere in northwest London was going to be open to the public and many of the rooms furnished temporarily as they would have been in her time. Immediately I put it on my calendar and my husband and I had a lovely tour there shortly afterwards.

We first noticed this unusual name when we attended university in London. Both of us wondered if this woman’s name meant she was related to my husband’s mother whose name was Jane Perrin Williams. By the time we made the connection Jane had passed away; we were not able to ask her about the similarities. We do know, however, that Jane was related to an owner of the Grand Trunk Railway and the Williams Fly Spray people but we’ve never delved into those intriguing fragments of knowledge. I suppose it is conceivable that the two were related just because of the circles those business owners would have traveled in.

On our visit to the estate we learned more about Elsie and her husband, Hadley, and the person who stayed with Elsie until she, too, died, and to whom Elsie gave a sizable bequest. The website gives a clear account of some of the history. The property was left to the city of London along with enough money to maintain it but some shenanigans on the part of London politicians meant that the money was siphoned off for the building of the new public library in downtown London. The Williams estate fell into disrepair after the death of its caretaker.

The large room where wedding receptions today are held.

Here is a shot of me in the kitchen where the preparation of food was well displayed.

My husband’s family history has another chapter to it which I learned when he received a small inheritance from his mother’s grandfather. The family owned apartment buildings in New York City which gradually fell into disrepair as over the years crooked lawyers sucked as much money out of the estate as they could. My husband’s uncle was high up in Chesebrough-Ponds and took frequent trips to New York where he succeeded in wresting the properties away from the unscrupulous lawyers and the small inheritance was divided up. The family story is that these buildings were tenement dwellings by the time the lawyers were ousted but I don’t know details.

And still today we wonder if Elsie Perrin Williams was any relation. Perhaps one day when we find a few hours of leisure time we’ll look into this. Meanwhile Elsie’s estate is there to look at and to book for occasions. If you want to read more about the estate and the people here is a link to an article about the book, Elsie’s Estate, written by Susan Bentley.

Click on the Loyalist Trilogy books below for great historical stories with satisfying endings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Every few months I get a hankering for a taste of my homemade Pad Thai recipe and last week it came again. I had all the ingredients assembled so that once I finished my writing for the day I could begin my next labour of love.

Making up a favorite recipe is a little like writing. You assemble the ingredients–writing and research tools–and then you start with a plan of some sort. For my historical fiction I did quite a few months of reading and research, made a bit of a plan starting with the premise for the book, and then started in writing the first chapter. I knew pretty much where I was going and as I went along and thought of ideas I put them at the bottom of my word document lest I forget them. And I felt free enough to make changes when brilliant ideas popped into my head. Gotta love first drafts!

So here’s the first change in the recipe. It calls for raw shrimp. Well, I use frozen cooked shrimp and the recipe works just as well as long as I don’t cook the shrimp over again. You, too, can make changes as you go along according to your taste and your imagination.

Here’s the recipe I use:

Pad Thai

8 oz. uncooked rice noodles

2 T. rice vinegar
1 1/2 T. fish sauce
1-2 T. lemon juice
1 T. ketchup
2 tsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 T. vegetable oil
1 boneless skinless chicken breast (4 oz.), finely chopped
2 green onions, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 oz. small raw shrimp, peeled
2 cups bean sprouts
3/4 c. shredded red cabbage
1 medium carrots, shredded
3 T. minced fresh cilantro
2 T. chopped unsalted dry-roasted peanuts
lime wedges

  1. Place noodles in medium bowl. Cover with warm water; let stand 30 minutes or until soft. Drain and set aside. Combine vinegar, fish sauce, lemon juice, ketchup, sugar and red pepper flakes in small bowl.
  2. Heat oil in wok or large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken, green onions and garlic. Cook and stir until chicken is cooked through. Stir in noodles; cook 1 minute. Add shrimp; cook 3 min. or until shrimp turn pink and opaque. Stir in fish sauce mixture; toss to coat evenly. Add bean sprouts and cook until heated through, about 2 minutes.
  3. Serve with shredded cabbage, carrot, cilantro, peanuts and lime wedges. Makes 5-7 servings.

And here’s the second change. I’ll put in more chicken and shrimp than it calls for as I like to up the protein. I love noodles but not too many of them.

Writing is like this, too. We do our first draft, we hone it, we edit it, we have others edit it, and after a whole host of days, months, and even years of this kind of work we have our book. I’m finding that the recipe for this new book which I’m planning as creative nonfiction requires a lot of rewriting and adding details to shape it into what I envision. I’ve never written in this style before so the work is frustrating at times but thrilling when I make a breakthrough.

My office shows just a little of the notes I have from all the interviews with my prime subject and memorabilia he has for me to sift through. Since last July I’ve been recording him and have pages and pages of transcribed notes to sift through. (Foreground of picture shows just some of them.)

Soon I’ll be ready to announce the title of this book. I have an idea for a good one but need to test it a little more (just like a recipe). Some of the subject matter, though, I’m ready to hint at with this next picture. See if you can come up with my subject person, the last surviving member of the Canadian Cancer Society team who managed the 1980 Marathon of Hope. He also came up with that name. The painting below is by Canadian artist, Cliff Kearns.

Oh! I forgot to take a picture of my finished Pad Thai. We had dinner guests and devoured it!

 

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Something for Writers and Readers:

If you love to read I hope you’ll be interested in these Family Sagas and Historical Novels. My latest book is there, too. And writers, here’s a good company where you might list your books, too. They have many categories. I hope one of you wins!

Today, I have a fun surprise that I’d like to share with you. I’ve teamed up with 30+ fantastic authors to give away a huge collection of historical fiction & family saga novels to 2 lucky winners, PLUS a brand new eReader to the Grand Prize winner!

Oh, and did I mention you’ll receive a collection of FREE ebooks just for entering? ;D

You can win my novel, The Loyalist Legacy, plus books from authors like Fiona Davis and Stephanie Dray.

Enter the giveaway by clicking here:

http://bit.ly/historicalsagas-feb2018

Good luck and enjoy!

Elaine

 

Click on the Loyalist Trilogy books below for great historical stories with satisfying endings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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So this morning I’m feeling all red and pink, gushy and mushy, and full of good thoughts. I’m wearing my Valentine’s ring from last year, I’m going out for lunch AND dinner AND a theatre production tonight.

WOW!

Also I can see the end of a large part of my non-writing workload (I’m the president of an 800-member organization) and more time for writing my current book. It’s a great day.

I decided to look up St. Valentine on the web and incorporate him into this post. Not such a good idea. Hardly any facts are known about someone who today is a cultural icon. The Catholic church took him off their saints list on the General Roman Calendar but you can still celebrate him in certain cases. I guess the card companies and the retail sector didn’t get the message that he’s not that important.

St. Valentine was martyred, apparently, but that is not even clear. Frankly I’m not so interested that I’m going to spend half a day finding out his very unclear story. Instead, I urge you to join me and use this time to make your day and someone else’s day special.

I have half an hour now to get some work done on my next book. Love that. And love the ring my 9-year-old granddaughter and her mother gave me last year. She told me the three hearts were for her, my daughter, and me. Gotta love it!

Happy Valentine’s Day, Everyone!

Next week, I’ll be back to writing a real blog post. See you then!

 

 

 

 

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How many tech items are in this photo?

Quite a lot of years ago I was a teacher of Computers when few people had one of those new-fangled things in their home and much of the world had never even seen one. I could take one apart right down to the bare motherboard and–even more important–put it back together so that it would work. And it was fun, exciting, even!

Not everyone agreed. Most people thought they were a fad and refused to learn anything about them. Kind of the way a few people today are still holdouts regarding smart phones.

My mother grudgingly accepted the loan of one of my computers while my husband and I took our kids on a long summer camping trip to the west coast of Canada. I gave her some easy instructions and left her to put her touch typing skills to work on my computer keyboard.

We returned five and a half weeks later full of stories of mighty mountains and rushing rivers to find that Mom had not even turned on the machine. Many years later a few weeks before she passed away, Mom told me she had made a mistake. She should have learned to use the computer and kept track of her many grandchildren all over North America.

I know now she could have used the computer to write her own story, a story all of her children and grandchildren would have loved to receive. That would have been especially helpful when her eyesight failed leaving her with only scanty peripheral sight.

Ah, hindsight.

That experience most certainly taught me something, though. I don’t want to be left behind. I never want to be that person who is more and more left out of the conversation because she doesn’t understand the topic. And for a writer computers and their ever advancing linked technology open the world to loads of useful tools. They are very often the topic.

In the picture above you can see some of my techie stuff:

  1. My desktop Mac computer which I keep updated and which has lasted me for about 4 or 5 years so far holds the keys to my writing career. I can save on Dropbox for an offsite backup, on my desktop for my current files and on a flash drive.

  2. My external USB hub where I can attach backup flash drives as needed and which gives me more USB slots to make my life easier.

  3. My little microphone that my husband gave me a couple of years ago and which is great for doing podcasts and recordings of other sorts as I need them.

  4. My new techie thing this year at Christmas, my LED Pocket Projector, which is so much easier to cart off to speaking gigs. It’s small but seems to project a great image. I still have to master it and haven’t used it out speaking so far. It’s my new technology to get used to just now. I’ve included a link here to a 10 minute video about it.

  5. My answering machine. I know it’s kind of old school but so far I haven’t wanted to switch to a newer system. Anyhow most of my calls come on my iPhone these days.

  6. And that brings me to my iPhone which isn’t in the picture but which took the picture. I can’t tell you how handy it is to take shots which might be great for blog posts: people, scenery, museum stuff, lists or info I want to remember–any number of things which relate to my writing career.

  7. My lamp I first bought with a brighter than normal bulb for beading work but I soon discovered it makes a fabulous desk lamp and it’s been here ever since.

  8. And just on the left side of the shot you can maybe see my very old-fashioned phone. It has a speaker phone setting, redial, and saves numbers (I never use this as I prefer to remember them). I keep this in case the hydro goes off and I can’t charge my cell phone and because I like the feel of the headset against my ear as compared to my smart phone.

You don’t see my excellent printer, little floor heater for those days when the wind seeps in the windows, and my Flip Camera which I’ve used for loads of interviews.

Technology helps us all in many ways, some of which I’ve mentioned here. The reasons I desperately keep up even though my brain often says “Enough!” are varied and many but the main one is I really love doing my techie stuff. Please don’t turn off the electricity and take me back to having to write everything by hand.

When I see the handwritten manuscripts of old and think of those monks poring over their illuminated pages, I am just delighted that I was in the first year of academic students at my high school who were allowed to learn typing. It’s the one course that has stayed with me my whole life. It’s just so much faster than writing by hand. My brain can whip away as fast as it wants because I’m on my computer and using my typing skills to get my imagination sorted out on the page. It’s a different kind of brain drain, you might say.

And so, while I grouse away at the speed of updates that come at me daily, I’m happy to have these tools at my disposal.

 

Click on the Loyalist Trilogy books below for great historical stories with satisfying endings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I am happy to be a member of London Writers Society which meets once a month in London, Ontario. Tonight (Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2018) we’re launching another writing contest in connection with the fact that women finally got the vote in Canada in 1918, a hundred years ago.

If you check out the web you’ll see that didn’t mean all women and, indeed, women of colour didn’t get the vote here until the late 1940’s. Not long ago.

And in Canada women weren’t actually considered “persons” under Canadian law until 1929. I’ve no idea how they could vote before that considering they weren’t persons!

In London a group has taken on the task of helping all Londoners and those surrounding the city celebrate the hundred years date. I went to an organizational meeting at Eldon House whose group has chosen to offer a series of events under the title “A Century of Women: Votes, Voices and Choices.” Good ideas ensued from all of the people there.

My idea was to have London Writers Society host a writing contest linking to the theme. Below is the contest information and rules. Feel free to enter as long as you’re a member of LWS. (Yearly memberships cost $25.)

London Writers Society

Short Story Writing Contest:

“Women’s Rights and Struggles”

 

Held to honour the 100th anniversary of Canadian women getting the vote: May 24, 1918.

Contest Information and Rules

  1. Submitted stories must relate to the following theme: women’s rights and struggles.

  2. Maximum word count: 2500 words. There is no minimum word count.

  3. Any genre will be accepted.

  4. There is no submission entry fee. However, all entrants must be members of the London Writers Society in good standing at the time of submission, so please ensure that your membership is current.

  5. The submissions will be judged blindly. Therefore, print your name, contact email, contact phone number, and the title of your submission on a separate sheet. Put your submission title on an additional title page without your personal information.

  6. Stories cannot have been previously published.

  7. Send submissions by email to londonwriterssociety(at)gmail.com.

  8. Submission deadline is April 1, 2018.

  9. Winners will be announced April 17, 2018 at our regular LWS meeting.

  10. The first prize winner will receive: their story distributed to the LWS membership and the rest of our newsletter list; their story published on our website if the author so desires; an LWS merchandise package; a $75 Chapters gift certificate.

  11. Two runners-up will each receive: an LWS merchandise package; a $50 Chapters gift certificate.

Note the email address if you are interested. You can also contact me.

Click on the Loyalist Trilogy books below for great historical stories with satisfying endings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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According to our calendar a new year is upon us whether we want it or not. In the tradition of writing resolutions which many have done for years and years, I’m going to make my own list.

 

Resolutions For 2018

  1. I resolve to say no as often as I can so that my ‘must do’ duties do not get so overwhelming.

  2. I resolve to finish my current WIP as soon as possible, hopefully by summer time. Then I can work on having it published by October.

  3. I resolve to keep up my blog post schedule of a new post almost every Wednesday of the year.

  4. I resolve to keep up my twice monthly newsletter to my followers and to continually search for new and interesting tidbits to share with these wonderful supporters.

  5. I resolve to lose ten pounds. (We always have to put one of those resolutions in, don’t we?)

  6. I resolve to figure out how to best make use of my new Pico projector as I go out on my speaking gigs.

  7. I resolve to get the most out of Quantum Leap in the remaining two months I have with them.

  8. I resolve to record the third book in my Loyalist trilogy and get them all on a platform so they’re available for purchase.

  9. I resolve to get back into painting and to stretch my creative side a little more in this way.

  10. I resolve to keep my email InBox as empty as I can by unsubscribing to anything I don’t absolutely need or want. Time to be ruthless about guarding my time.

  11. I resolve to practice singing and get my voice back into shape so that I can record a CD for my family. Sh. This is a secret!

  12. I resolve to continue the daily Gratitude Journal I do with my daughter in order that, miles apart, we can keep up on what each other is doing.

Well, there you have it. Twelve resolutions. One for each month. Come next December I’ll try to do a rehash and see how well I’ve done. You might consider doing the same and telling us your plans.

 

HAPPY NEW YEAR, EVERYONE!

 

Click on the Loyalist Trilogy books below for great historical stories with satisfying endings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My holiday over Christmas was not quite what you would expect. Lucky me, I caught a nasty flu bug which took ten days to dissipate but then left me five pounds lighter and a whole lot more respectful of my health. I hope you did not have to learn this lesson.

While I was nursing myself back to health I did a lot of reading but the book I had was disappointing to me. A multiple prize-winning novel by a well known author, The Lonely Hearts Hotel had some fabulous and creative language, a testament to the skill of the writer, but I just could not keep reading for long periods of time. No, this was not because of the flu. It was because of the negative tone of the book.

Without giving away too much of the story let me just say that it is about two orphans, their amazing talents, and the sad story of their lives. There is a message at the end. A sad one. Even when the heroine finally has some success both financially and personally, the author cannot refrain from dashing the reader’s hopes for some sort of redemption for all the negatives the heroine has suffered.

In the second last paragraph a murder occurs showing us that nothing good comes without its nasty cost. I’m sorry I can’t be more specific but you may wish to read this book for yourself and I don’t want to give away the ending. Suffice it to say that I was sad still.

I reread the cover, front and back, and the inside page with all the comments. Nowhere did I read any hint of the dark mood that readers would be faced with and I am left wondering. Shouldn’t covers give some sort of clue if the mood is so dark? What has happened to a sense of redemption or well-being in a good ending?

Another Canadian author well known all over the world leaves me with the same feelings with her books. I finally stopped reading Margaret Atwood’s work not because she can’t write–she most definitely can–but because her work is so dark. Life is dark enough with all the bad news stories and negative happenings surrounding us every day. Do we really want to have our cherished reading time make us sad, too?

A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry was really interesting for so many reasons but here the subject matter of a poor family in India was difficult. Maybe I’m just wanting to put on my rose-coloured glasses; I confess that I do work very hard to find positives in my life.

Having faced a life-threatening health state about twenty-five years ago I made the decision to surround myself with happy people, places, books, and stories in order to keep my sunny disposition. I’ve noticed that others who have faced life’s toughest trials often do the same. We want to experience positive reinforcement in just about everything we do.

Lest you think my books are all sunshine and roses, let me assure you they are not. All of life’s tragedies are fair game for my stories and I am a follower of Anne Rice’s maxim “Make it bad for your hero. And then make it worse.” This keeps the reader engaged and allows that reader the chance to experience joy and contentment at the end. (I loved her witches series the best, by the way.)

I know that everyone has different ideas on what is good and what is bad writing and that’s as it should be. All I want is some hint on the cover or comment pages that lets a reader know what the mood of a book might be. Have you had any surprises in your reading relating to mood?

 

Click on the Loyalist Trilogy books below for great historical stories with satisfying endings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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We started our holiday early this year with a trip to our daughter’s home on Vancouver Island. It’s always a joy to go there for so many reasons, not the least of which is spending time with our precious granddaughter. Here she is on one of the lit paths at Butchart Gardens, all decked out for Christmas. Its theme is the Twelve Days of Christmas but the whole wonderful garden is a treasure of spot-lighted paths and trees decked like the one below which, from a distance, looks like some kind of marine life.

In front of this water-spouting dragon I caught Ron, Beth and Chelsea for posterity. the water was still flowing in the pond and no snow had fallen so the paths were all dry. We did bundle up pretty well, though. Beth and Chelsea skated on the outdoor pond while Ron and I checked out the treasure-laden gift shop. I even bought myself a Christmas pin. Haven’t done that in years.

For much more professional photos check out this link and watch a veritable slide show of artistic renderings. So great in person but also wonderful to see the pictures.

For the rest of the Christmas season we’ll be here in Ontario and we have snow! Love when the fields are white with the frosty stuff and the roads have been cleared so we can all enjoy it. We’ll be cooking a turkey on Boxing Day here at home and partying with the family.

From our house to yours go great big wishes for peaceful times filled with joy and wonder.

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