Keeping Warm: A New Fireplace!

We are having a new gas fireplace insert but in today. Yay. Our current one no longer works. So, while I”m waiting and before I phone to see where the installer is at I’ll tell you about my writing group’s January writing challenge. We used to do something called BIAW (Book In A Week) but this year we decided to have an all month challenge. I was feeling quite productive until my cold resurfaced, now I’ve slowed down to a crawl. Time to get back at it. This year I’ve set revising goals instead of first draft goals. I’m finding it a challenge to keep track of progress because there is a lot of backtracking and a bit of jumping around.

Right now I’m stalling over a sex scene. You’d think those would be terribly exciting to write. They aren’t. They’re complicated. It’s a plot pivot in the relationship between the main characters and it’s a very important scene which will set the tone for the second half of the middle, if that makes any sense.. Hopefully things are stirring around up there in my brain and it’s working on sorting out a couple of things.

Here is the old one, and I’m informed by the installer unsafe fireplace. Yikes. Good thing we haven’t used in a couple of years.

New Fireplace 006

Here’s the new fireplace, which is very attractive and modern looking even if you can’t tell from the picture!

New Fireplace 007

I love it! But it’s a bit smelly in here right now as we have to let it run for about five hours so it can season. Good thing it’s a nice day here (only -2 C) and we can open a window.

Have a lovely weekend! And remember to include a little romance in the weekend, like maybe a cuddle in front of the fireplace.

 

Keeping Warm Canada Style!

So, with the windchill, it feels like -45 degrees outside this morning. Yep, you read that correctly.  Does it matter at this point that’s Celsius not Fahrenheit. Nope, didn’t think so. It’s okay though, it’s supposed to warm up to -35 by this afternoon.

If you didn’t know we have some unique Canadian clothing companies here that know about staying warm. Here’s a little bit of Canada for you on a frigid cold day!

Canada Goose 

Manitobah Mukluks

Burton X Manitobah: Memento Snowboard Boot

The Bay’s Olympic Edition Stripped Mittens

If you like Tacos at your house as much as we like Tacos at ours you need this bulk Taco seasoning recipe. So much better than the packaged stuff. An excellent idea for a cold winter’s night.

Bulk Taco Seasoning Mix

Amount: ¾ cups

Ingredients

  • ¼ cup dried onions, minced
  • ¼ cup chili powder
  • 1 tbsp salt (or less depending on your preferences)
  • 4 tsp cornstarch
  • 1 tbsp dried garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp cumin
  • 1 tbsp red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 2 tsp beef bouillon granules
  • 1 ½ tsp dried oregano

Instructions:

Combine ingredients. Store in airtight container in a cool dry place for up to 1 year.

Add 2 tbsp to 1 lb of cooked and drained beef and 1/3 – ½ cup water and cook until done.

Stay warm. Stay safe. And have a great weekend!

A Moratorium on Man Boob Book Covers

Romance heroes are a sight to behold. We get it. Don’t get me wrong, I like to look at nice pair of man boobs as much as the next person but could we please, please call a moratorium. The other day on Facebook I saw some promotion for a lovely heartwarming Christmas romance. It pictured a house out in the country, snow everywhere. A real snow globe moment. With a fence and a cowboy lounging against it, no coat, open shirt, man boobs on display. In the winter.

Brings new meaning to freezing your nipples off.

I mean, come one book publishers. Wake up. No one in their right minds would ever–okay football fans but they’re the exception– be outside in winter without a shirt. Not even romance heroes. Because they’re smarter than that. Hopefully. Or else I’m putting that book down and never returning.

There was another cover. This one with a huge storm brewing in the background. Dark, heavy clouds ready to break open any moment and rain down a heap of trouble. Another cowboy. Hat, jeans, nice belt buckle, oh wait – NO SHIRT. Out on the open plain waiting to get struck by lightning.

You can tell they weren’t boy scouts. They aren’t prepared. They didn’t even know enough to wear a shirt. Let alone a coat. They did have the hat part covered so I suppose they should get points for something. Or maybe those points should go to the powers that be deciding on what book covers will sell the most books.

I’ve noticed a couple of times lately, authors on Facebook asking opinions about covers or asking readers to vote on the one they prefer. I like that idea. Let’s do more of that. Then maybe publishers will get a better idea of what readers are looking for in book covers. Sexy people with their clothes on, especially during winter or a storm. Readers can see them undressed, in all their glory, later on. Inside the book, using their imaginations.

I love sexy covers. But I also don’t want a stockpile of naked man chests in my TBR pile. Whether it’s my ereader or the literal pile on my nightstand. I like the book covers with landscapes. I also seem to be drawn to ones that are black and white. or have objects significant to the story.

So I went to my Facebook page in search of a cover without a half-naked someone on the cover. I scrolled down and down, until I gave up.

So how about you? Had enough of man boobs on covers? What to see a different type of cover? Do you have a favorite book cover?

Decorating in Discontent

Confidence-1I hate when that happens and I’m usually pretty good at not going there. But the last couple of days I did just that. It’s time to come back from the dark side. Because it does lead to darkness. You start to question your commitment. Worse your abilities, and it’s all downhill from there. Before you know it you’re wallowing. It’s lowering to admit. I don’t want to be the person who gives into jealousy and it’s poisonous head games. That’s when I knew I had to nip this shit in the bud.

First order of business. Figure out what’s making me crazy. I’m in the midst of a writing challenge. Not NaNo but within my own small writing group. My goal is to write a 1000 words a day. By no means an impossible task. I’m two-thirds of the way through. Writing first drafts always make me in turns euphoric and cranky. Add to that, I’m impatient to get to the revising/rewriting part of the process. I love revising. But writing the last third of a story, tying up all those lovely threads, pushing towards the end, makes me double crazy. And doubtful I’ll find a resolution that doesn’t completely suck. Cue my lurking insecurities.

So what do I do? I go to Goodreads. I visited the other day and was checking out new-to-me authors and looking for something to read. Because that’s what you do when you’re doing your level best to avoid your own writing. Found a couple of books I thought looked promising with 20,000 ratings and 2,000+ reviews each. When I checked further I found neither one of the stories were for me. <delete> There I saved you from my rant on selfish, abusive heroes.

That’s when jealousy moved in, signed a lease, and decorated in discontent.

I hate when that happens. It makes me feel small and petty. Not to mention unproductive. And unhappy. That’s when I have to start asking questions. Like what’s really wrong? Because it’s not poor Goodreads fault. And people like the books they like, end of story. They don’t need any more reasons than that to talk about the ones they loved reading. We’re as unique as the stories we prefer.

stress

So, lesson learned? Writing first drafts stress me out. What should I do to avoid more stress? Perhaps this is the month to reread a book. One of my favorites and an old friend. One I know will not only soothe my battered brain but inspire me. And I’ll try to remember I’m not trying to find a cure for cancer and stop taking myself so seriously. Sheesh. I’ll take a walk. Get some fresh air. I’ll choose to be positive and productive.

Three of my favorite writers are Tara Janzen, Suzanne Brockmann, and Nora Roberts. How about you? Do you reread books? Think of them as old friends? What do you do to keep from stressing out?

I Can’t Resist a Craft Show

Coldstream Pottery

Coldstream Pottery

 

This past weekend saw my Mom and I schlepping our hinnies down the aisles of the annual Best To You Arts and Craft Sale. Three and half hours later we were tired, hungry, and peopled out. But also productive. I was on a mission and I think I scored some pretty good stuff. I’d much rather shop for Christmas gifts at a craft show then the mall despite the noise and the crowds.

But you always have to get a little something for yourself, as a reward for…something. Things I always watch for:

Pottery mugs with a hint of blue in them.

I collect handcrafted Christmas tree ornaments.

My special find were wooden vintage picture postcards from Cedar Mountain Studios. I thought they would make a wonderful future giveaway.

Maybe you’re not a craft sale junkie. Maybe you’re a crafter? Or DIYer? Maybe you just like to look at crafts others have made on Pinterest? Me too. You can find me there too!

Today is also the first day of my writing group, The Saskatchewan Romance Writers, November Writing Challenge. Yay! Can’t wait to finish this story. We report our ups and downs on Facebook. We cheer each other on to whatever goal we’ve chosen. Mine is a 1000 words a day until the story is finished. I’m about two/thirds of the way through and struggling away at what is the hardest part of any story to write, for me anyway. The time where some things are wrapped up, some things are only started to be revealed, and your stringing others out. The hero and heroine are indulging in their need for each other and navigating new found feelings blissfully unaware of what’s coming at them.

Which means I’m going to need some new music. So after as a reward for 1000 words written I’ll be heading to iTunes to see what inspires me for tomorrow and the day after. Right now I’m listening to Aaron Lines and The Lights of My Hometown. It’s working my fictional small prairie town of Aspen Lake is calling and scenes need to be written.

Yep, I love what I do.

Happy writing! If you’re not writing, then happy reading! If it’s neither of those two, then press on and enjoy the hell out of whatever it is you’re doing! And remember to reward yourself and add to your precious collections when you’re able.

 

Rocky Mountain Inspiration

Easter and Calgary 2013 025We spent a lovely, lively four days with my sister, brother-in-law and two nephews in Calgary, Alberta, last week. Alberta is the neighboring province to our west. We also took a little  with a side trip to the picturesque town of Banff located in the Rocky Mountains that divide Alberta and British Columbia.

How’s that for a geography lesson? A teacher I am not. That’s my sister! She’s also a foodie. So we ate very well while we were there. Porridge with a variety of toppings for breakfast, homemade tomato for lunch, trout for dinner. Lawd, it was delicious. Good company and good food make for good times!

My husband and I lived in Calgary for four years after we were first married. We loved it there, but it just wasn’t where we were meant to live. I love my wide open prairies and my small city. But I still enjoy going back to the mountains and we hadn’t been there for far too long. Writers gain inspiration from all kinds of settings. But there’s something about being surrounded by the majesty of the Rocky Mountains that stirs the creative juices. For a romantic suspense writer the possibilities are endless. Every setting comes with it’s own dangers. With it’s own storms. It’s own extremes. Own challenges. There are high divides, passes and alpine lakes here. Variations in weather and season. These mountains are home to moose, bighorn sheep, mountain lions, black bears, and others from butterflies to eagles. It is a rich environment to draw from.

Easter and Calgary 2013 054

Easter and Calgary 2013 057

Easter and Calgary 2013 066

What settings inspire you? Have a favorite book set in the midst of a mountain range? Do you pick books because of setting?

Don’t Be Such a Girl

“Now, should we treat women as independent agents, responsible for themselves? Of course. But being responsible has nothing to do with being raped. Women don’t get raped because they were drinking or took drugs. Women do not get raped because they weren’t careful enough. Women get raped because someone raped them.”  Jessica Valenti, The Purity Myth: How America’s Obsession with Virginity is Hurting Young Women

Because the words “Don’t be such a girl.” are the gravest of insults.

“Equality is not a concept. It’s not something we should be striving for. It’s a necessity. Equality is like gravity. We need it to stand on this earth as men and women, and the misogyny that is in every culture is not a true part of the human condition. It is life out of balance, and that imbalance is sucking something out of the soul of every man and woman who’s confronted with it. We need equality. Kinda now.”  Joss Whedon

Because it’s the second decade of the 21st century.

“I want a Zero Tolerance policy on All The Patriarchal Bullshit.” Caitlin Moran, How To Be a Woman

Because…

206

What Women Want

100I found a flyer in the mailbox yesterday advertising this weekend’s What Women Want Expo. Kind of like a trade show with booths showcasing different products and services. I didn’t see anything extraordinary that would tempt me to spend the money for a ticket, but it did get me thinking.

What do woman want? I’m sure the gambit of answers is as varied as there are women on this planet. Maybe even beyond. We all wish the universal hopes of peace, health and happiness, for ourselves and our sisters, indeed everyone! We want to do good in the world, raise our children to be responsible, caring adults, and all other host of noble wants. Find a partner for example.

Just what do women want in a relationship? According to Harlequin’s 2012 Romance Report we want a sense of humor, a killer smile, and an accent. That’s right, we want Hugh Jackman! I can’t disagree.

Deal breakers in relationships? Too needy, too dependent of cellphone, too many FB photos with ex, and my personal favorite – the grammatically challenged.

But the most shocking thing? The top resource for romance advice is Cosmo.

Really?

The others were equally scary. You’ll have to check those out on your own.

But what about the little things that make each of us unique? What do we want that’s fun and inspiring and makes us smile. I love hats. The bigger, the floppier the better. I envy the Queen her hat maker. You might not.

Here are five other off the top of my head things I want:

  • I would like to have a pajama party in the library. We could call it Sleeping Among the Stacks. There’d be snacks.
  • I want to remember words like PIQUE, JUKEBOX, ULU, and ZU and finally win a Scrabble game.
  • I want a really, really great women’s magazine without a singular focus like fashion or food or Oprah.
  • I want to find a kickass recipe for gluten-free pizza crust.
  • I would love to take a cooking class with my girlfriends.

Not so complicated but they’d make me smile. How about you? What do you want?

Because of Something Margaret Atwood Retweeted

Sometimes you read something that moves you and your first instinct is to share it with others. And sometimes you hesitate to share the incredible thing you just read. And then I thought those feelings of hesitation are the reasons I must share.

Sam Ambreem

She’s a ranter not a writer.

He Said (TW)

After all, people have a right to make up their own minds.

How To Get Noticed In A Downpour

It’s raining books. Yes, it is. Some three million books were published last year. Nightstands and shelves are stacked with books, digital and otherwise. A plethora of books is good news for book lovers. Choice is always a good thing. It also means a bevy of authors are busy vying for the attention of the book buying public. Most of us are struggling to stand out from the crowd, trying in vain to garner reviews which will influence all those lovely bibliophiles out there to part with their money. It’s a cut throat book-selling world to be sure. But how far is too far to go in reaching for elusive bestseller status?

Debunking The Bestseller: This post came to my attention through one of my yahoo groups. Soran Kaplan defends his decision to use a company called ResultSource to help him hit the bestseller lists with his book Leapfrogging from day one. He addresses the nebulous distinction of gaming the system versus working the system. I don’t even know what to make of this…I had no idea you could purchase these kind of services.

Smart Bitches, Trashy Novels: Susan Mallory answers questions about marketing and her decision to develop a Review Squad. Free books to two hundred of her lucky readers in exchange for an honest review. On Amazon the more reviews you have the easier it is to find you. Fair enough but, um, isn’t this a little like asking your friends or ‘a sure thing’ for a review? And aren’t these the kind of reviews we’re supposed to ignore?

Is it wrong or sketchy to influence public opinion? Or in this case lists and algorithms? It happens all the time in every aspect of life. Perhaps the real question should be do we buy books based on popularity? Of course, we do. That’s why there are lists. And Goodreads. Do we see a title on a bestseller list and figure it must be worth a little investigation because, well, it’s on a bestseller list? Do we wonder how they got there? Are positive reviews by readers just another way to pass on good news? Kind of like online word-of-mouth, only not really?

What say you?

* What follows is more preachy business about Freed to Read Week and one of my favorite authors.

The river flowed both ways.

Above is the first line of The Diviners written by Margaret Laurence. I should come clean and confess to loving Margaret Laurence to whom I was first introduced to in high school English class by way of her novel, The Stone Angel. I went on to discover A Jest of God, and The Fire-Dwellers. But it was her book The Diviners which grabbed my heart and never let go. Morag Gunn is a protagonist like no other.

Blurb:

The culmination and completion of Margaret Laurence’s celebrated Manawaka cycle, The Diviners is an epic novel.

This is the powerful story of an independent woman who refuses to abandon her search for love. For Morag Gunn, growing up in a small Canadian prairie town is a toughening process – putting distance between herself and a world that wanted no part of her. But in time, the aloneness that had once been forced upon her becomes a precious right – relinquished only in her overwhelming need for love. Again and again, Morag is forced to test her strength against the world – and finally achieves the life she had determined would be hers.

The Diviners has been acclaimed by many critics as the outstanding achievement of Margaret Laurence’s writing career. In Morag Gunn, Laurence has created a figure whose experience emerges as that of all dispossessed people in search of their birthright, and one who survives as an inspirational symbol of courage and endurance.

The Diviners earned Margaret Laurence her second Governor General’s Award for Fiction in 1974. It also drew great criticism from religious and conservative groups. They lobbied to have it banned from schools and libraries.

Writer Timothy Findley observed: “no other writer in Canadian history suffered more at the hands of these professional naysayers, book-banners and censors than Laurence.”

They hoped to ban The Diviners “in defence of decency”. I am eternally grateful they didn’t succeed.