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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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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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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Three score years ago less six, my seventeen-year-old’s world slid off its axis one November afternoon in French class. Part way through a group recitation of je suis, tu es, il est, elle est, the intercom crackled to life and the voice of Mr. Ferguson–the principal we students called Chrome Dome!–came into our class and our lives. President Kennedy had been shot in Dallas, Texas. It happened thousands of miles from where we sat in Woodstock, Ontario but I still remember the gasps, the sniffles, the outright bawling and one girlfriend dashing from the room, her blond hair flying across her red face and wet eyes as she grabbed the door handle, yanked it open, and fled.

As though that would help.

There was no more French that day. The final bell rang and students rushed to lockers, to coats, to buses, and home. Mom had the TV on. In a silence not normally found in my large family we sat side by side on the gold leather couch, for once not shoving our siblings for more room, as Jackie Kennedy stood on the plane beside Lyndon Johnson while the hastily located judge administered the oath of office making him officially the new president. We watched Jack Ruby shoot Lee Harvey Oswald dead right at the police station and we saw over and over the scene surrounding the Texas Book Depository from whence the assassination shot reportedly came. The video of Mrs. Kennedy crawling over the trunk of the car, the secret service men striving to protect the bloodied president, the sirens wailing as the motorcade roared off to the hospital, and the shock and fear of every bystander, all of these scenes are as vivid today as I write this as they were on our black and white TV that horrific day.

Here is a video encapsulating many of those events shared by the world which, still today, makes me cry. Wait especially for the words at the very end. They are words we who lived through that unheard of event have echoed ourselves all these fifty-four years since. Here is the Smithsonian Channel’s excellent video.

President Kennedy’s death was the beginning of a changed world. Five years later Robert Kennedy was assassinated and Martin Luther King Jr., too. It seemed the good guys were losing whole acres of ground to the bad guys. That was the world in which I came of age.

Today I write of a history long before those events in the sixties and I’m sure people living then many times felt just as shocked and bereaved as I did in the nineteen sixties. It does seem to me now, though, that the bad things are more expected and have gotten worse. As we mark the fifty-fourth anniversary of that day in 1963, let us still strive to look for, to nourish, and to give birth ourselves to the good that I know is out there.

What is your story of that day when Camelot came crashing down?

 

 

 

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Yesterday was Remembrance Day here in Canada or Memorial Day in the U.S. and I got to thinking again about my Uncle Frank who died in Italy in WWII. This past summer my husband and I had a special experience related to that. I’ve linked to that post here. Please click to see our family’s story about war and remembrance in photos and words.

I Came, I Saw, I Cried.

And, of course, you can always read about other wars, families, and remembrances in my Loyalist Trilogy. Links are below.

 

Click on the books below for the Loyalist trilogy:

 

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So there I was! Table dressed, poster positioned, Square device details in my head, books, cards, bookmarks and newsletter signup forms at the ready. This was going to be a great weekend. I’d get to talk to loads of people about my writing and, hopefully, sell books and get a couple of speaking gigs. Oh, and I had been asked to be a panelist talking about self publishing.

What could go wrong?

The workshop was well attended with lots of people anxious to hear what my co-panelist and I had to say about self-publishing. Good questions abounded and Carolyn Arnold and I got into a great rhythm, each drawing on our own self publishing experiences. I even sold four books that first day even though crowds were minimal.

Actually there were no crowds. A better phrase would be dribbles of people. And when Sunday morning we opened to basically no one there it was time to take action. Here is a list of what I did to use the time wisely.

5 Ways to Maximize Your Time at a (Failed) Book Fair

  1. When no one is at your table or any of the others near you, check your email, tweet about the event, or text friends to come visit you.

  2. Take pictures of the other authors at the event. This is a great time to make connections and new friends.

    Dominique Millette and one of her books in French

  3. Talk to the other authors. You can learn a lot. I found the name of a company to question about cards with a free gift link to my eBooks. And you can meet some really great people. Authors are almost always ready to share.

  4. If time is really dragging pull out your iPad and write your blog post or newsletter for the coming week. Make lists of marketing things to do. I got my newsletter for Tuesday roughed out so that Monday night I just had to transfer it to MailChimp, do a few fixes and such, and my newsletter for my very special list people was all ready. It was so ready that inadvertently I sent it Monday night! Anxious or what?

  5. Figure out a way to make lemonade. What could I do to find the positive in Sunday’s abysmal showing? (I sold nothing. Neither did many others.) Well, I decided to write this blog post with a positive slant on my weekend event. I also got two writing pieces out of the weekend so my time was far from wasted.

Al McGregor and Terry Carroll renewing old acquaintances.

Two of the volunteers and Floyd the bunny.

Jen Romnes, author of Entangled

Pat Brown author of many books in several genres.

 

 

Author Carolyn Arnold, my clever panel partner, and her husband.

This is often the life of an author. We plan as best we can but sometimes venues are just not what we planned and we must be ready to make the best of the situation. I hope that this event next year is better attended, for sure, but my weekend was useful and fun just the same.

 

Click on the Loyalist trilogy books below for great historical stories:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Keeping This Writer in the Game

Sometimes I just have to walk away from all the email, the Tweets, the Friend Requests, and the hundreds of other time-stealers that threaten to take me away from my writing. I did this short video to share some of my strategies for keeping my time my own. Feel free to borrow from my ideas and to suggest your own in the comments. Here’s the link to my Facebook Page where you’ll find the short video that I posted yesterday.

Click on the books below for great historical stories:

 

 

 

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