Spring Projects In The Good House

Here we are and it’s almost June! This spring seemed to be our month for projects and some spring cleaning. I’m guessing it’s the same for lots of people who usher in spring this time of year and have projects in need of doing after a long winter.

And it’s true that physical activity promotes brainstorming, even if I’m not aware it’s happening in tandem with carrying out my other responsibilities. I’m happy to say I’ve had a few ah-ha moments this spring. Little bits I can’t wait to incorporate into my work-in-progress. I love revising! It’s one of my favourite parts of writing – adding in the layers and little details. And the satisfaction of tying all the plot threads together. Sometimes you have to get out of your own head to make that happen. And although I feel like I haven’t gotten much actual writing done lately, I’ve done a lot of thinking.

It’s also raised some important questions about my next writing project. I have an idea in mind for my next endeavour but whether that will be a romantic suspense or suspense with romantic elements is a surprising question I’ve found myself asking. Which has led to thoughts about branding and how I want to move forward.

It’s also helped me figure out which direction my Downtown Eastside series will take. In the beginning I had planned on three separate stories (because trilogies are my favourite) with three separate sets of heroes and heroines. But it’s really Sophie and Caleb’s story. If When I proceed, the next two books will continue with the intended plot lines and new secondary characters but the lead roles will be played by Off The Grid’s hero and heroine. I love those two and I’m not ready to be done with them and I don’t think they’re done with the story. Each story will continue to be a standalone book although the theme of the story will continue through to the next book.

The best time for planning a book is while you’re doing the dishes. —Agatha Christie

It might be the dishes, which I don’t do by the way, or it might be something else. She who cooks does not clean around here. And I do most of the cooking. But here’s a bit more on the major and no-so-major projects happening around the Good household. Projects that very much needed to be done!

Culling and decluttering of closet!

Closet Reorganiztion

Also, new his and her hangers. Colour coding makes me happy.

New Hangers

Culling and decluttering of garage. Much bigger job! Not quite finished by it’s more than on it’s way to being done.

Before:

Garage Makeover

After:

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Finally, the rest of the old fence has been replaced with new PVC fencing.

Fence Complete

And lastly spring planting has begun and the flowerbeds are filling with colour! Fingers crossed the plants actually survive. While I love flowers, I do not have a green thumb!

Spring Flowers

There were a couple of painting projects we hired the professionals to do. More on that later. Maybe. Unless you’re bored senseless!

What are some seasonal projects you’ve tackled lately?

 

Books, Mothers, and Memories

I remember trips to the library to pick out books with my kids. Me pulling them along in our wagon. Loading up on books and coming home to read. Cuddling up and turning the pages. Maybe we’d read the story before, or maybe it was a new to us story. Those times are among my fondest memories. I still remember their favourites: Something Out Of Nothing by Phoebe Gilman, Have You Seen Birds by Barbara Reid, Arthur books, Franklin books, Berenstain Bears books. Matthew and The Midnight Pirates by Allen Morgan and Michael Martchenko. Okay, maybe that was one of my favourites. And every time I read Love You Forever by Robert Munsch I tried not to cry.

“Goodnight stars,

Goodnight air,

Goodnight noises everywhere.”

Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown

I remember going to the library with my mom, who is also an avid reader. Our small town had a cozy little library but it seemed huge to me. And full of possibilities. I’m so very glad she introduced me to the idea of a room filled with books for the borrowing. Thank you, Mom!

Another memory. We lived in a farmhouse on a mixed cattle/grain operation. In the winter, we kids often ended up downstairs playing games or watching television. My mom stayed upstairs. You could usually find her sitting over a heat register on the floor reading a book. That was her escape time. Because we moms need those.

The Gift of Reading

My sister takes the Adorables to the library. And when she comes to visit it’s one of the first places my mom takes her. Bedtime means story time or reading time depending on the age and ability of the child. I hope that’s one of things my kids will remember when they get older. All those trips to library. All the books. The words. The pictures. The love that went into reading them. The time spent.

Some of you might enjoy this article: The Simple Practices to Nurture the Motivation to Read. Whether you’re reading to your kids, your siblings’ kids, the neighbour kids or your grandkids. Maybe you volunteer at a shelter, a community centre, or a library.

Book Recommendation

I’m wrapping up reading All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, which is our May book club pick. And what a fantastic read it is! If you find yourself in need of some respite, this is the book for you! An engaging delight for the senses in the form of a captivating story with intriguing characters.

Reading

Marie Laure lives with her father in Paris within walking distance of the Museum of Natural History where he works as the master of the locks. When she is six, she goes blind, and her father builds her a model of their neighborhood, every house, every manhole, so she can memorize it with her fingers and navigate the real streets with her feet and cane. When the Germans occupy Paris in June of 1940, father and daughter flee to Saint-Malo on the Brittany coast, where Marie-Laure’s agoraphobic great uncle lives in a tall, narrow house by the sea wall.

In another world in Germany, an orphan boy, Werner, grows up with his younger sister, Jutta, both enchanted by a crude radio Werner finds. He becomes a master at building and fixing radios, a talent that wins him a place at an elite and brutal military academy and, ultimately, makes him a highly specialized tracker of the Resistance. Werner travels through the heart of Hitler Youth to the far-flung outskirts of Russia, and finally into Saint-Malo, where his path converges with Marie-Laure’s.

There are many things about this novel that are wonderful. That make reading it an experience to be savoured. One of the small things that I took away from it is the importance of creativity. Of books, of music, of art. And how those things can soothe, even for a moment, a tortured soul.

Happy Mother’s Day on Sunday. What’s a treasured book memory of yours?

W Is For Wrap Up #AtoZChallenge

W Is For Wrap Up

A to Z April Blogging Challenge 2016

Because I’m pretty much done even though it’s only Day W in the A To Z April Blogging Challenge. I’m blogged out. But I made it almost two thirds of the way through the alphabet so I’m calling it a win.

What I’ve Learned

  • I already knew it, but this challenge reinforced the fact there are a lot of clever and interesting folks out there sharing their stories, struggles, perspectives, and information.
  • Creativity and curiosity make for passionate people.
  •  Everyone loves quotes.
  • It is not possible to wing it during this challenge. Even though I had a topic list for every day it was still a lot of work to do on the fly. For me anyway. If I were to do it again I’d spend time writing and scheduling posts well in advance. This would leave me more time for visiting other blogs.
  • If I were to do it again I would zero in on a very specific topic.

This challenge came along at a great time. I needed to set aside my work-in-progress for a bit. The A to Z Challenge allowed me the opportunity to keep writing but switch my focus. These types of challenges are another way for me to fill my creative well and interact with others. I’ve done photo challenges and Instagram challenges because I love taking pictures. I’ve done NaNoWriMo and many other writing challenges. I do well within a flock, I think.

Community is a key thing for everyone, however big or small in whatever endeavour whoever you are.

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Do challenges inspire you?

L Is For Love Stories

L Is For Love Stories

A to Z April Blogging Challenge 2016

Romance novels are written primarily by women. They are read largely by women. They are written for people who believe in love. In hope. And who are in need of a bit of respite from the stress of everyday life. Whether we read them for comfort, solace, or entertainment. They are necessary.

How Romance Novels ‘Imagine a World in Which Women Can Win’

They are varied. They are pertinent. They matter.

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NEW YORK TIMES MAGAZINE named DIAGRAM OF THE HEART as one of the best photo books of the year. It’s the compilation of images with translations about Muslim romance novels from Northern Nigeria. There’s a small but vibrant cottage industry of Muslim women writing romance novels, littattafan soyayya, in Northern Nigeria, a region best known for the acts of terrorist group Boko Haram. The writers face off with Islamic censors, and they sell their books in some of the same markets targeted by Boko Haram suicide bombers. The books are about love and marriage. Some are subversive and speak out against human trafficking and child marriage, while others are submissive, advising women on how best to please their husbands, offering fantasies of escape, and tales of the poor girl marrying the rich man. Guided by the themes of these novels, “Diagram of the Heart” explores romance, tradition, love and loss in the lives of women in Northern Nigeria.

G Is For Gone Fishing #atozchallenge

G Is For Gone Fishing

A to Z April Blogging Challenge 2016

Had I been super organized for this challenge I would have had all my posts written and scheduled in advance. I’ve done a lot of organizing my life in the last two years, but I haven’t reached that pinnacle of success yet. Maybe next year. I had better start thinking about it in May.

But then I wouldn’t be able to tell you I’ve gone fishin’. I’m not really fishing. But I’m gone for the day. Making lunch for my daughter and her friend and then hanging out. After I drop her friend back home there are errands to be done. And then it’s book club.

Yay!

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We’ve read a lot of great books. Books I never would have read left to my own devices. Like Missing Sarah: A Vancouver Woman Remembers Her Vanished Sister by Maggie deVries. The idea for my novel Off The Grid came from reading Maggie’s recounting of her sister’s life.

My Top Five Book Club Picks!

The Red Tent by Anita Diamant

The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown

Fall On Your Knees by Ann-Marie MacDonald

Clara Callan by Richard B. Wright

Are you a member of a book club? Want to share a favourite book recommendation?

Others blogs for your reading pleasure!

C Is For Courage #AtoZChallenge

C Is For Courage

A to Z April Blogging Challenge 2016

Cultivating your passions requires courage and a constant refuelling of commitment to the process. The courage to dream. The courage to start.

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The courage to plan. To prepare to make that dream a reality. To learn, revel and rejoice in the process. To find like minded people to accompany you on your journey. One of the biggest steps I took along my road to becoming a writer was join a writing group. To find like minded people to learn from and who support my efforts. I put myself in front of people and own that need to put words on paper. I’m also a part of an online community of writers who are dear to me. Writers who struggle, who are always willing to listen, offer suggestions, and their time. Ones  who understand the road I’m traveling, especially as it pertains to writing romance and how little value some other authors have for my genre and therefore my efforts.

And above all it takes courage to limp along when nothing is going as planned or you can’t make out the details of the road ahead.

writing

It takes courage to put yourself out there to be judged. The learn how to take constructive criticisms and to deal with the haters. I’m still learning how to be a writer placing offerings at the feet of readers. Still finding my way from learning to owning my process.

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I hope you find the courage to start what you’ve been putting off. Find the courage to continue should you feel despair. Or summon the courage to end what isn’t working.

Travel your way around the blogosphere and see what others are saying about the letter ‘C’.

Maybe you want to share your thoughts? One small step you took?

Why My To-Be-Read Pile Is Smallish

Is Your To-Be-Read Pile Manageable?

An interesting question was posed on Facebook the other day: Is owning books as good as reading them?

Say what now?

Because why would you own a book you weren’t planning on reading? That’s like…I don’t know what it’s like exactly. I mean I have books on my shelves I haven’t read, not because I don’t plan on it. I want to read them, I just haven’t. Yet. Pride and Prejudice I’m looking at you. But good intentions matter, right?

Jane Austen

Then I remembered being invited to dinner years ago. I immediately gravitated to her lovely bookshelf. I’m always interested in a person’s book collections. I remarked on how careful she was with her books and asked how she’d like a particular one. Her response? She’d bought it figuring it would look good on her shelf. She was right. It did. It fit right in with the other books she had no intention of reading. And since she was and still is a lovely person we laughed about it. I mean not everyone is a reading nerd and that’s okay.

And books are beautiful. Check out any number of book related hashtags on Instagram: #bookstagram #booklover #bookporn #bookphotography, to see why others think so too.

All this love for books is heartwarming! Really it is. Buy books! Lots and LOTS of books. Buy my books. If you read them even better. Reading rocks! But I’ve heard of people who have downloaded hundreds and hundreds of books thanks to the wide range of free books, 99 cent books and the like. So again…

Is Owning Books As Good As Reading Them?

Who am I to tell people what they should or should not be doing? Some might be comforted by the all the possibilities. The reasons people buy books is as varied as the people themselves. For myself, I can’t face a toppling to-be-read pile. Knowing all those books are there waiting is to much pressure. As it is I’m freaking out because I’ve been reading Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert for months. I love it but non-fiction doesn’t sweep me away like my preferred fiction does, and these last few months I’ve needed the escape.

The Lake House by Kate Morton

This lovely book, The Lake House by Kate Morton, is one of the few books on my TBR pile. On my ereader waits Norah Wilson’s The Standish Clan trilogy which is set in the fictional small town of Harkness, New Brunswick. In Norah’s words these stories are sweet, sexy and romantic. And this trilogy is just the first of many series to come under the Hearts of Harkness banner!

The+Standish+Clan+Trilogy

There are a couple of other books waiting in wings. But right now I’m reading The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah for book club. And listening to Better When He’s Bold by Jay Crownover in Audible when I’m on the treadmill.

There are books I want to read but haven’t purchased. Books I’m considering purchasing. And release dates for books by authors I’m waiting for. But all in all, I like to keep my pile manageable. Otherwise I’d never get anything done.

Because I’d rather be reading.

What’s in your to-be-read pile? Is it toppling? A neat stack? Nonexistent? Come on, ‘fess up!

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Five Things I’m Doing To Rejuvenate My Life!

We all need a reboot every once. Traditionally holidays are a time to regroup. Time away to Rest, Relax, Rejuvenate. Those three peaceful R’s. It’s been my experience that vacations, especially family vacations – the ones involving children – do not provide ample opportunity for any of the 3 R’s. Case in point – DisneyWorld. Tons of fun! Recovery time required when it’s done. Oh look, more R’s.

But what if you need more than a couple of weeks away to fix what’s ailing you? When you know there are steps that can be taken to improve your quality of life. Or maintain your sanity. And a juice cleanse it’s going to cut it. It probably won’t hurt, but it’s not the whole answer.

That’s the place I’m in because I’m feeling kind of…old. That’s a very alien feeling for me. I guess what I’m really feeling is tired. Maybe a little worn down. Along with overweight and out of shape.

Clearly, a plan of action was required. But did I attack the problem? No. Tired, remember. So, I did one thing. I got the ball rolling. Now it’s picking up speed. I have momentum.

Five Things I’m Doing To Rejuvenate 

  • Restorative Yoga
  • Solo Holidays
  • Controlling My Self-Talk
  • Changing My Diet
  • Exercise

Restorative Yoga: Remember nap time in Kindergarten? That’s kind of what it is. Only better. It’s about aligning your physical self and your mental self by practicing stillness in supported gentle for extended periods of time. There are a lot of props, blankets, and soft lighting. I’ve begun doing an at home version too.

reclined cobler pose

Solo Holidays: I took my first solo holiday, as in by myself, in the fall. I went to Toronto to visit my sister and her family. For those of you who don’t know I have a special needs daughter. We spend a lot of time together and are incredibly close. I feel guilty when I leave her behind. Because my girl? She would vacation 12 months a year, if she could. But alone time was just what the doctor ordered. I had a wonderful, worry-free time. More of this in my future.

Riverdale, Toronto

Controlling My Self-Talk: My doctor recommended an online course offered by our local university after I mentioned that I was not doing as well as I should be mentally. Turns out there were a numbers of reasons why I was feeling shitty. Because, hello Depression. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is very helpful in terms of practical solutions and steps to overcoming a number of things. Turns out healthy thoughts = healthy feelings.

  • Cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) is a type of psychotherapy that helps the person to change unhelpful or unhealthy habits of thinking, feeling and behaving.

Changing My Diet: TMI ALERT My gut was very unhappy. I was bloated. Irritable. Imodium dependent. And operating in a fog. I’ve cut out gluten, dairy and eventually plan to cut out sugar. Happy to say I’m feeling much better. Like MUCH better. I don’t know if it’s because I’m eating less, healthier, or differently, and I don’t much care. It’s working. The photo is my version of Danielle Walker‘s Chicken Cobb Salad found in her Against All Grain cookbook.

Chicken Cobb Salad

Exercise: I’m learning to hate it less. Self-talk, remember? And with this goal? It was go big or fail miserably. I needed some serious motivation to commit. To that end, I registered to walk a half-marathon in September. I cannot begin to explain how terrifying it is for me to even type that out in a sentence. My goal? Four hours to walk 21.1 kilometres. Treadmill. Every. Day. Because right now, I can probably do 4 kilometres.

Queen City Half Marathon

What do you do to replenish, relax, and restore your mind and body?

The following is an article written by Will Wheaton, who I adore on The Big Bang Theory. Seven things he did to reboot his life and why he did them. It’s a great read because, among other things, he’s a talented writer

Seven Things I Did To Reboot My Life

 

Story Settings and What’s Next!

Like all readers I have favourite story settings. Some real, some fictional, most are a combination of both. One of my favourite story settings is found in this incredible novel, now motion picture, ROOM by Emma Donoghue. The importance of place is paramount. One room is five-year-old Jack’s world. Another is the farm Green Gables found in Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables. The inspiration of which is found in Cavandish, Prince Edward Island. I was lucky enough to visit Green Gables Heritage site.

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I fell in love with the Chesapeake Bay area because of Nora Roberts book Sea Swept. Was fascinated with Tara Janzen’s Steele Street series and her chop-shop turned special ops heroes based in Denver.

My own fictional setting of Aspen Lake is based on a resort area I spent a lot of time at when I was a young child. I also worked there for a couple of summers while I pursued my post-secondary education. I met my husband while working at Moose Mountain Provincial Park. I have very fond memories of this area. And although I’m a city girl at heart I love reading and writing about small towns.

Modelling Aspen Lake after this region seemed a natural thing to do. Especially considering I was a novice at writing. There was a very clear picture on the environment and the social construct of the place in my head and the missing details were easy to find.

But now that I’m writing the final book in this series, I’m starting to think about the next series. For this series, I’m heading Into The Woods…

And into northern Canada. Which provides endless options as that encompasses a vast space.

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“Northern” Canada encompasses all land above the country’s 60th parallel, which is divided into three territories (from west to east): Yukon, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut. Upwards of 90 per cent of the land in all three is strictly uninhabitable, a barren wasteland of rock, ice and snow, meaning most populated areas are located either in the southern region or close to the coast of some lake, river or ocean. Even then, “habitable” is very much in the eye of the beholder. Even in the cities, it’s not at all uncommon for winter temperatures to dip below -40˚(C).  J.J. McCullough J.J.’s Complete Guide To Canada

But how far into the north of 60 to venture, and how far west to explore? What topics do I want to explore with this series. One thing I’ve learned? Creating a setting for your story is more than local fauna and flora, or brick and mortar buildings, although it’s important to get those right too.

Although I don’t write fantasy or science fiction I’m fascinated with world building. And also with the rules of magic. The Rules of Magic, According To The Greatest Fantasy Sagas Of All Time. I’m not reading much fantasy or science fiction at the moment, but I am watching the television version of The Shannara Chronicles.

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The stakes are high. The bad guy is actually a worthy adversary. And the actors are pretty. When they’re not screaming in terror. Because, hello, demons.

In an interesting article by Malinda Lo on world building. In it she repeats Holly Black’s, author of the Spiderwick Chronicles, six questions to use when establishing your world’s rules about magic or science. Also, her thoughts on power, rituals, food, etc. My setting will be a contemporary real-life place. There might not be magic. But I can’t help but apply her questions about rules and power when thinking of developing a potential setting. Because, Power? That’s a theme, big or small, we all explore in one way or another.

  • Who has it?
  • Who abuses it?
  • Who wants it?
  • Who rejects it?
  • What does it mean to each of them?
  • How far will they go to use it, get it, gain it, or deny it?
  • What does it cost them?
  • What does it mean for the people around them?
  • How does their attitude to power break them off into groups?

That’s where I’m at. What are some of your favourite story settings?

My 2016 Word Of The Year

One Word To Guide Me!

Discipline

Discipline! My Word For 2016.

This is a photo of Peggy’s Point Lighthouse, Peggy’s Cove, Nova Scotia which we visited in the summer of 2014. It literally sits atop rock. As in granite. I have no idea how it hasn’t been washed away. One of the most recognizable lighthouses in the world, it’s now operated by the Canadian Coast Guard. The original lighthouse was built in 1868. The keeper lit a kerosene oil lamp at sundown every night shining a red beacon on the eastern entrance to St. Margaret’s Bay.

One Word To Keep Me On Track!

Discipline! I didn’t have to think very hard to come up with my word for 2016. Organization was my 2015 word and I actually felt I achieved some measure of success. Choosing discipline seemed a good way to compliment the work I’ve already been doing. Unlike last year’s word, this year’s choice of discipline is geared towards my writing life. As in setting aside specific times to write and guarding and enforcing it. Working at keeping the distractions to a minimum. And in the end, upping my production.

One Word To Bring It All Together!

That’s a lot pressure to place on a single word. But I find it easier to keep one word front and center, rather than a list of resolutions. Compounded by the fact I’ve never succeeded at keeping one past New Year’s resolution. Ever. And it gives me leeway to set monthly goals and revise ones that aren’t working.

And In The Darkness…Wait! What?

Never mind that. Hopefully at the end of 2016 I’ll have finished one book and written another. All with the help of one ten letter word.

Do you pick a word of the year? One that describes what you want to achieve in the upcoming year?

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