Here’s To Interesting Villains!

Gosh, I love a good villain, don’t you? A well rounded character who believes she or he is the hero of his or her own story and is wholeheartedly invested in their purpose. But at the same time has doubts about their mission and their abilities or exhibits a certain amount of vulnerability. I can’t help but think of the late Heath Ledger as the Joker. What an extraordinary bit of acting!

Fictional Villains

I have to admit that I don’t read many sweet books. I’m more of a psychological suspense/thriller, there-is-going-to-be-blood-spilled reader at the moment. The Good Girl by Mary Kubica. S.J. Watson’s Before I Go To Sleep. Another book that comes to mind is Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. Let me tell you, they all contain some interesting villains!

Last Wednesday night I went to see Globe Theatre’s Disney version of The Little Mermaid and it was utterly delightful. So colourful and energetic with many wonderful performances. But guess who stole the show for me? Ursula! The victim of patriarchal legacy in which the family trident was passed down to the male heir she’s out for revenge. Also, she’s a bit of a psychopath.

Neither is my writing sweet. There are sweet moments but overall mine is a grittier take on characters and what’s happening to them. I have Raphael Tessier, brutal Enforcer for the Prairie Brotherhood, in BACKLASH. Jason Drummond, twisted elitist, in OFF THE GRID. EXPOSED has Matthew Parsons, Shepard of the Valley Church and martyr with an agenda.

A Real Life Villain

But the real villain in my life right now is sugar! One might argue that it’s not the actual product that is evil, but the real life problems that arise from the amount one consumes. Like the best villains, sugar is SO seductive! It makes things taste better. And some days we just need that, you know? It’s a heck of a lot more appealing to me to eat a chocolate bar then figure out why I’m feeling down in the dumps. But that sweet yummy goodness is a crappy kind of catharsis and last only as long as it takes to eat that Dairy Milk bar (my favourite) and then I’m back to square one.

I’m gearing up to do a sugar-free challenge in June. I’ve done versions of one before so the challenge isn’t as daunting to me as it was in the past.

Here are four things I’m doing to reduce my sugar intake:

  • I cut out soda pop. Which means only rare indulgences of the Pepsi I love. You’d think that after not drinking it for months I’d be repulsed by the sweet taste. Eight teaspoons in one can. Unfortunately. I still love an ice cold glass of cola but only as a treat.
  • I switched to a sugar-free natural peanut butter. Basically, it’s ground peanuts. But now I like it better than the other stuff. I’ve also experimented with other natural nut butters. Especially, in my smoothies. So yummy!
  • I make my own salad dressings and my own mayonnaise. I try to avoid commercially prepared sauces, dressings, marinades and such as they usually contain a scary amount of sugar disguised as other names. I just need to find a recipe for sugar-free ketchup and I’m home free.
  • As embarrassing as it is to admit, I think I saved myself about 50 calories a day by adding cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger to my oatmeal instead of a sweetener.
What I’m reading:

Along Came A Spider by James Patterson. I know he’s written a gazillion books but this is only the 3rd one I’ve read and…eeps! Last night I had the first nightmare I’ve had in a LONG time. Can’t wait to finish it!

Have a favourite villain? Or a delicious sugar-free ketchup recipe? Tips on reducing sugar intake? Please, share!

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Memorable (To Me) Mothers in Fiction

I love being a Mother! But I’ll be honest, lots of days I fail at the job of mothering. Being a mother is hard. There have been many times I’ve wished I was in possession of a psychology degree or was, at the very least, was a mindreader. There are so many fierce, wonderful mothers out there that have provided me with inspiration. My own Momma included. I love her to the moon and back.

Me and My Momma

I’m thinking of my favourite books and who the mother characters were or weren’t in those stories. Although, in most of these stories the protagonist is often motherless. Take Anne Shirley, from Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables. Scout in To Kill A Mockingbird. J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter. And of course, Disney is in love with the storyline of motherless children and animals.

Mothers Are Like Buttons

The lack of mothers, the search for mothers, the importance of mothers is an far-reaching theme in books, movies, art, etc. Everyone, regardless of their origins, needs the warm, loving, protecting embrace of a mother.

In my own writing, for instance, motherhood is often a theme. In BACKLASH (Aspen Lake Series, Book 1), Constable Chase Porter and young Jason McCarran are both motherless and victims of abusive fathers. In EXPOSED (Aspen Lakes Series Book 2), recovering alcoholic Kate Logan’s own mother passed away when she was a teenager. In Gone (Aspen Lake Series Book 3 Work-In-Progress) Grace Bighill’s mother disappeared when she was 12. In OFF THE GRID (The Downtown Eastside Series) Sophie Monroe feels responsible for her older sister, Marnie, and is more of a mother to her than their own mother. Another character, Kellie Andrews, a young woman alone and afraid about to give birth.

Mothers in Fiction

Other books come to mind when I think of various mothers defending their family, their property, or their life. And other books depicting mothers who struggle or fail to give their children what they need. And women who adopt the role of mothering. Mothering isn’t necessarily a main theme of all of them, but these books all included mothers I’ve never forgotten or women who survived neglectful relationships with their own mothers or women who had no mother’s at all. I’ve listed a few of them in the order that I read them.

  1. Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline
  2. The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
  3. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
  4. The Pearl That Broke It’s Shell by Nadia Hashimi
  5. Room by Emma Donaghue
  6. The Red Tent by Anita Diamant
  7. We Were The Mulvaneys by Joyce Carol Oates

Mothers in Fiction

I’m beyond thankful for my own mother who’s wonderful at mothering. I’m thankful for books who tell the stories of mothers and mothering. What are some of your favourite fictional mothers?

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Reading Improves Your Mental Health

“Reading is the sole means by which we slip, involuntarily, often helplessly, into another’s skin, another’s voice, another’s soul.”  Joyce Carol Oates

May 1st to 7th is Mental Health Week here in Canada, not sure that holds for the rest of the world but it doesn’t really matter. Mental health is a subject for all 52 weeks of the year anywhere on the planet. I’m only just realizing how important a well rounded self-care regimen really is to one’s continued mental wellbeing. And seeing as my mental health isn’t always within the optimal range you could be fair to say I’m a slow learner. Good thing it’s never too late to start taking care of yourself.

Three websites listing MANY resources for those who are suffering or who know someone that is:

I wish I could list links for the planet, but hopefully the links above give you an idea of what information and resources you can search out in your own country or region.

But most importantly: Ask for help or seek advice from a professional – give your mental health the attention it needs and deserves.

I can say from personal experience, you won’t regret it. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy gave me important tools to manage my symptoms of depression and anxiety. But in reality it’s of benefit to everyone as we all have to deal with life’s challenges, stresses, and demands. Learn how to manage negative thinking or inaccurate thoughts. Learn the difference between positive thinking and realistic thinking. Make your mental health a priority!

We all need and deserve breaks. But we can’t all jump on a plane or boat and spend a month in Bora Bora. There are numerous ways to relieve stress that won’t put you in the poor house.

One of my favourite ways to relieve stress? Reading. Of course, reading has many benefits, but it’s also a way to reset and recharge. Six minutes of reading can reduce your stress levels by 68%. In the last few months I’ve taken to reading print books again, after having all but given them up. It was a craving really, a desire to hold a print book in my hands. There’s a term for this – slow reading. I guess it’s no surprise that I’m back to reading print (I haven’t given up ebooks!) as I’ve embraced a more mindful life style. Science has proven slow reading reduces stress, increases your ability to concentrate, and improves your sleep.

I’ve just started a wonderful (so far) book: The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware! Good thing because this month promises to be a busy one.

When travel journalist Lo Blacklock is invited on a boutique luxury cruise around the Norwegian fjords, it seems like a dream career opportunity.

But the trip takes a nightmarish turn when she wakes in the middle of the night to hear a body being thrown overboard – only to discover that no-one has been reported missing from the boat.

How do you stop a killer, when no-one believes they exist?

Funny how reading about murder allows me to relax! What do you do to relieve stress? And please, offer book recommendations! I’m always in need of a great book to read.

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