Sunday, December 4, 2016

The sounds that live in us



What is it about sounds that seep into our soul? And, why is it that the sounds of night lodge most deeply and forever in our psyche?
Saskatchewan: The cramping solitude and loneliness of the Canadian prairies captured in the mournful tones of the train whistle—reverberations that carry for miles across the hard packed snow, sounds that haunt me still; that cause an ache in my heart for all the things lost. An ache that brings tears to my eyes all these years later.
Alberta: The squeal of crotch rockets roaring down the boulevard near our house—I shivered then and shiver again now as I cannot shake the image of bodies sprawled on the tarmac seeping blood onto the road and bikes, marooned some yards away, reclining on their sides, wheels spinning crazily, denying any connection to their riders.
Mali: The crowing of roosters—not just at dawn. Roosters crow whenever they damn well please and they please to crow all night long. Donkeys don’t sleep at night either. Instead, they bray on the other side of the mud brick wall sending us jumping a few feet into the air each time we hear the grating and drawn out love song of their heehaws. Heartbroken and heartbreaking commentaries on life.
Mexico: More roosters—these ones crowing day and night. And which clown thought it would be funny to set my cell ringtone to “rooster?” Add the whine and squeal of a semi’s brakes as the drivers realize they really should slow down for the red lights of the town. And, from time to time, the sound of metal crunching against metal followed by the wail of sirens.
British Columbia: The mournful tones of cruise ship and ferry fog horns and we’ve come full circle. Not trains, but once again, at night we hear, those drawn out echoes rolling over the water, sounds that render us vulnerable to bouts of loneliness and even despair.
Good or bad, sleep or no, could we live without the sounds that anchor us to our environment, to life?
www.darlenejonesauthor.com 

Thursday, December 1, 2016

We watch America fall



THEN:
One man whipped a populace into a frenzy and we got WWII.
NOW:
One man whipped a populace into a frenzy and we’ll get _______?
I have no idea how to fill in the blank on this one. As a white Canadian, it would be easy to say, “Everything will be okay.” But, I don’t believe that for a minute.
I do know that I can’t bury my head in the sand. I have to watch the news, know what is happening, and do what I can in my corner of the world to help protect those who are at risk of being injured or killed.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Castles in Canada – Victoria, BC

With the visit of Prince William and Kate this week, this post seems appropriate.
Victoria’s very own – Craigdarroch Castle.

Craigdarroch Castle is a definitively Victorian experience. It is a shining example of a “bonanza castle” — massive houses built for entrepreneurs who became wealthy during the industrial age. In this case, the industrialist was Robert Dunsmuir, a Scottish immigrant who made his fortune from Vancouver Island coal.
This legendary Victorian mansion, built between 1887 and 1890 on a hill overlooking the City of Victoria, announced to the world that Robert Dunsmuir was the richest and most important man in Western Canada.
He died in 1889, leaving his entire estate to his wife Joan, who lived in the Castle until her death in 1908.
The immense fortune of the Dunsmuir family is reflected in the four floors of exquisite stained glass windows, intricate woodwork and fabulous Victorian-era furnishings.
Learn more: https://thecastle.ca/about-the-castle/dunsmuir-family/ 

www.darlenejonesauthor.com 

Friday, September 2, 2016

Back to School



OVERHEARD

Two young moms:

A - The teacher wants them to read 15 min a day.
B - But they're boys.
A - I know. Sports are more important to them.

Teacher of grade 7:

Student:  Mr. R. your hair isn't really blond.
Mr. R.:  Nope. It's very silver white.
Student:  But why? You're only like 20 something, right?
Mr. R.  Oh, yeah, 20 something. 馃槀馃槀馃槀

Principal of junior high:

We’ve got kids who have come from refugee camps, so things like getting those kids to line up is a challenge because for them what they saw in a line up was, "I’m going to have to beat my neighbor to get to the rice." It’s trauma inducing. So,  in this school we have to address our processes and how we do things because we can traumatize the kids just by doing stuff that we take for granted.

School secretary:

Student: Mrs. A. I can't go home.
Mrs. A. Why not?
Student: I can't unlock my bike.
Mrs. A. Why not?
Student: I swallowed the key. 

www.darlenejonesauthor.com 

Sunday, August 28, 2016

The Good Old Days



God, my mom could tell you about prairie life—the loneliness and isolation—no neighbours for miles and miles.

And winds—always winds—blowing  the top soil away, or packing the snow into drifts sometimes as high as the house and so hard the cattle and horses could walk on them without breaking through.

And the poverty; fried potatoes and eggs three times a day all winter because that was all they had, walking nine miles to town with a dime to buy a box of corn flakes and taking the penny change home to her mother.

Wearing hand-me-downs from her aunts—flapper dresses that didn't fit, the neckline hanging much too low on her gangly teen body. Wearing her brothers' long johns under her dresses—long johns that bagged and sagged under those flapper dresses (imagine how lovely that looked), her legs rubbed raw from her rubber boots—the only boots she had. Using goose fat to try to cure chapped skin.

And the terrible depression that ensued from it all.

We moved to the city with its modern conveniences when I was ten. Mom was not sorry to leave those “good old days” behind.  


Saturday, August 13, 2016

Email lists: What do you want from the author?



For most authors marketing their books is tougher than writing them.
Numerous blogs, webinars, and courses provide advice. The general consensus, at the moment, (I say this advisedly, because a month or two from now, the direction might be quite different) is to build an email list of subscribers.

I’ve subscribed to a number of author emails lists. Some email only to announce a new book, which means I hear from them once a year or so. One gentleman emails about his latest release and also writes about the state of publishing and marketing. This author is prolific. His emails come every few months. Yet another sends fascinating tidbits a couple of times a month related to ancient history—you won’t be surprised to learn that his genre is historical fiction. One woman writes weekly with sage advice and tips about writing.  Then there’s the guy who sends out short bits daily.

So, for an author trying to market his or her books, what is the magic “email” answer?

We’re told:
·       Offer them books, extra chapters, character profiles—al for free of course.
·       Email often—once a week at least.
·       Don’t email too often—once a month will do.
·       Keep your emails short.
·       Provide long, informative emails.

The thing is, with all these emails floating about, I don’t know that anyone has stopped to ask subscribers what they really want. So, here’s the question of the day:

Once you’ve decided to sign up to an author’s email list, what do you expect to receive from that author and how often do you want to hear from him or her?


Friday, August 5, 2016

Could reincarnation be real?


I believe in reincarnation. How else to explain that sense of d茅j脿-vu? How else to explain the dreams of childhood that came each and every night like never ending reruns of some television show? How else to explain the meeting of those dreams in reality years later?

As a child I had recurring dreams, some scary, some reassuring, all puzzling for they were of places beyond my farm yard experience. Rooms with wooden slatted doors: I’d never seen one of those in real life. Vast high roofed buildings with wide open staircases; we surely had none of those on the farm.

When I encountered the doors as an adult, when I climbed that stairway in the new airport as a teen, I knew I had lived before. Nothing else could explain the clarity of the dream, the exact match of that dream image to reality.


http://www.buddhanet.net/e-learning/reincarnation.htm
www.darlenejonesauthor.com 

Friday, July 22, 2016

The Persistent Author



I wrote a book, something I’d yearned to do since childhood. I naively thought I’d start at page one and proceed in a logical fashion to “The End.” Instead the story came together in fits and starts with a whole lot of organizing, reorganizing, writing and rewriting—much of it done at night when I suffered from insomnia. Scribbles on yellow sticky notes, written in the dark, barely decipherable in the morning, eventually came together as a novel.

In all of my childhood dreaming, I had never considered the roller coaster of emotions that would come with the author role.

Initially, I told no one about my writing, rather embarrassed to presume to have the ability to put myself somewhere among the ranks of my favorite authors. But 

I couldn’t just leave my baby, er, I mean my novel, sitting on my computer so I joined the provincial writing guild and became a member of a critiquing group.
We were strangers on a mission, all new to the business of being an author, but determined to succeed and intent on helping each other reach our goals. Meeting once a month, nervousness morphed into confidence—not only of our own work, but also of the members’ genuine desire to help, not insult or hurt.

From the critiquing group I progressed to working with a writing partner sending work back and forth, brainstorming ideas, and making corrections. With a completed manuscript it was time to search out agents. I trotted off to the post office and, hands trembling a little, handed my letters over to the clerk.

I waited, impatiently for the post man. Replies did come—eventually. My heart beat faster, my hopes rose. I tore open the envelopes.  Rejection. Rejection. Rejection. Hopes dashed, I glared at my computer, gave it a figurative kick and left it standing alone and lonely on my desk. This period of gloom lasted anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours after the receipt of one of those letters.

Refusing to give up, I started to write a second novel while preparing more queries for the first. Eventually a fat envelop arrived. My heart lept. This had to be good, right? All the others were skinny with little “Dear Author” notes inside. A fat letter had to be a positive response. Not! Rejection and pages of agent advertising urging me to spend a bundle of dollars on various services they just happened to be able to offer. Angry and frustrated, I debated quitting. Any sane person would give up. Not me. I persisted. I kept writing.

It was at the Willamette Writers’ Conference (not the first conference or workshop I’d attended, by any means) that I first heard about self-publishing. My writing partner and I pitched to an agent. She was positive, asked to see our work. Elated, we drove home plotting our future. A couple of weeks later we received identically worded rejections from this agent for two very different genres and writing styles. Angry at first, frustrated beyond belief, then overcome with laughter, our determination solidified. That was it! No more agonizing. 

Future defined. We’d self-publish.  

Persistence paid off. I now have six books published (a four novel science-fiction series, one collection of short bits, and a contemporary novel) available in all formats. Ideas are swirling in my head for book seven. Now to get them to settle down into a logical order so that I can write it.  

www.darlenejonesauthor.com 


Friday, July 15, 2016

It's so quiet here



“We need you to interview a couple who have applied to teach in our province,” said the government voice at the end of the line.

“O-kay,” I said wondering why they couldn’t do it themselves.

“They’re from Lebanon and they only speak Arabic and French.”

Aha, that explained it. We had many immigrants coming into our city from war torn areas of the world and the Lebanese civil war was on-going at the time.

“We need you to evaluate their French language competency.”

A date and time were set and I met the couple in the appointed government office. I talked to each of them in turn.

The wife was shy and timid, but her French was fine. The husband was more willing to talk about conditions in Lebanon.

“I was a teacher,” he said. “They took my job away and sent me to work at the airport. Every morning I said good-bye to my family not knowing if I would see them again. Every morning a guard pointed a gun in my chest and asked me to produce my identification. The same guard. Every morning. As if he didn’t know who I was. We were so lucky to come to Canada. We had to come. I couldn’t risk the lives of my wife, my children.”

He paused for a moment as if gathering himself. “It’s so quiet here. You have peace. It’s so quiet here.”

All these years later, especially as I watch the news of war and strife around the world, one phrase echoes in my head. “It’s so quiet here.”






Friday, July 8, 2016

Joys of Deciphering English



Uzo (my writing partner from Nigeria) writes:

When I am at a loss as to what a word means or how to write something, I consult my English dictionary. But then it's English we are talking about; a vast somewhat complex language. It appears changes are being made every two or three years. And who am I to question another man's language?

I imagine traditional speakers of English hold different views when it comes to the application of certain words. Take for e.g. "fell" in the sentence "His face fell." In the Oxford dictionary there is an example like that along with its meaning. If as a writer, one is trying to convey to his readers that Jane is discouraged by her test results, how does he do so without being wordy? Do I simply say Jane looked discouraged? I am sure a good editor will point that out to me as "telling" how Jane feels. Yes, a writer doesn't have to "show" everything, but when he does, he either is talking about a body part or anything around his book's character(s). And from what I gather excessive use of "...ly" words make for lazy writing. So we are back to creativity in writing. How much description is bad and what sentences are now a clich茅 or not grammatical enough?

I write:
English is a horrendous language to learn. Culture plays a role too of course. I was getting my teeth cleaned yesterday and the hygienist, who is Vietnamese, said that her nieces and nephew are half-breeds. She used this expression because her sister and brother married white Canadians. I told her that "half-breed" has a terrible negative connotation coming from racism. When I was a kid, native Indians, (or to use the current politically correct term, aboriginals), who had an Indian parent and a white parent, were referred to, in a very derogatory way, as half-breeds. Of course she was completely unaware of this. Now, people use the term bi-racial. So I would say my granddaughter is bi-racial because she is half Mexican and half white Canadian. 

At the same time, the complexity of English offers a multitude of nuances of meaning and that, of course, is where the difficulty lies. The article I sent you is just one writer's opinion. She makes some very good points, but I disagree when she says the expression "his face fell" has the reader picturing his face on the floor. In fact “his face fell” is perfectly understood by native speakers to signify his shock or disappointment. 

How much description is bad? It's too much if the reader skips over parts. It's too much if it doesn't advance the story. Before television, books had huge passages of description that readers enjoyed, but with all the visual media we have now, readers don't have the patience for that sort of thing. But then there is also danger in too little description if it leaves the reader puzzled as to what is happening. We, as the writer, have the scene clear in our heads. It has to be clear for the reader too. 

One of the "joys" of being a writer is trying to find the balance in all of this.


Uzo writes:

Half-breed. Ah! We used to call white people half-caste. I thought that was cool until I got into senior secondary. Imagine how embarrassed I was when I was corrected. I felt terrible because one of my very good childhood friends was a white girl. She's bi-racial - Nigerian and German.

Friday, June 24, 2016

What are the aliens up to now?



Hi, I’m Curtis. Mrs. Jones—that’s her on the camel—put me in one of her books called EMBRACED. Sounds pretty mushy to me. Anyway, she says I have to tell you a little about the story.

Miss D, my school principal came to me one day with this page of scribbles. She thought it was some kind of code and she wanted me and my buddies to try to figure it out. I like Miss D and all. She’s not bad for an adult. You can talk to her and she doesn’t make fun. But, sheesh, a code from aliens? Anyway, to keep her happy, I said I’d help.

Thing is, once I started studying the scribbles, I could see messages. I told Miss D that Coder Guy (that’s the name Miss D gave to whoever was sending the messages) wanted her to fix things. Of course she asked what things? I didn’t know so I made up some stuff. Miss D wrote letters to newspapers using my ideas and the things she asked for started to come true.

She even let our class write letters on this fancy paper she had and the things we asked for came true too. Kinda spooky, eh? But fun. Secretly I wished Coder Guy could get rid of my zits and help me lose weight so I wouldn’t be such a geek. I didn’t tell Miss D that, but Coder Guy must have read my mind or something cause now I’m taller and better looking and the girls are starting to talk to me. Miss D says everyone changes, but for me it happened awfully fast so I think Coder Guy did it.

Now Miss D is in the hospital. She’s all screwed up by the messages and the letters and this guy named Sam. I think she really liked him, but he dumped her or something and that sent her over the edge. I’m going up to the hospital to see her now.

Oops, Mrs. Jones just told me not to say too much. Doesn’t want any spoilers for her book so you’ll have to read it to find out what happens. But she did tell me I could let you read an excerpt so here’s one for you.

Gotta go see Miss D now. Hope you like the book.

EXCERPT

“More drawings?” Curtis gestured at the papers she held.

Abby looked down at the pages and willed her hand to stop trembling. The three pages of code drawings seemed to shimmer and shiver with a life of their own. “Yes. Three pages. From Friday, Saturday, and last night. They’re pretty … they’re … pretty well done, I’d say.”
But Curtis was no longer listening.  He waved the papers she’d just handed him and almost shouted with excitement. “These are amazing. Way better than the first drawing you brought us.”

Abby stifled a small grin, but she had to agree. The drawings outclassed her scratches a million times over. “My friend developed instant artistic talent.”
“I’ll say.” Curtis shuffled the pages back and forth. He shook his head slowly and muttered “wow” over and over. Finally he looked up at her. “Miss D, thanks for getting so many. Now we have four to compare. We’ll see if there are any repeated patterns or sequences of symbols. Your friend is great to share these with us.”

“No problem.” Oh God, I’m such a liar. Of course there was a problem, and not just because she was lying to Curtis. My friend. How lame was that? The mere existence of the pages was the real problem. Some nights the clickings chattered incessantly in her fillings, almost driving her crazy.
Those were the nights of very little sleep. The weekend had been eerily silent. That was a new phenomenon since Friday, no clickings, instead Coder Guy had begun leaving the pages filled with drawings. Either way—no escaping the code.

A while back, she’d grown tired of sharpening the pencil she used each night and replaced it with a pen, which was now almost out of ink. She’d have to remember to get out a new one tonight. Or maybe not? What would happen if there was no writing utensil?

“What’s so funny?” Curtis asked. Abby hadn’t realized she’d laughed out loud. The lack of pen wouldn’t stop her night visitor. She stifled another burst of laughter she knew bordered on hysteria. Truth was, much as the pages of code scared her, she’d be devastated if no more came. The person—being, alien, Coder Guy—was an integral part of her life now; his existence had established a rhythm that kept her balanced. Or so she thought. Maybe she was completely off her rocker.


Friday, June 17, 2016

Reality of Writer's Lives



Writers’ lives often seem exotic and mysterious. Growing up, we read about the eccentricities of Hemingway, the excessive drinking of James Joyce, the desperate days of Jack London…. Artists in any genre are often seen as exceptional characters. They starve, cut off their ears, have several lovers, engage in dramatic fights, drink, and drink some more.

The days of big thinkers were never ordinary. They partied all night and slept all day.

How much of those stories are pure myth? What do modern day authors really do?

It’s likely that authors aren’t unlike anyone else. They get up, have breakfast, go to work, make dinner, spend time with their families, read, watch TV, sleep. Perhaps there’s a glass of wine with dinner, a night out with family or friends, a trip or two, a bit of body boarding at the beach. Nothing to make them stand out.
For a look at the day of a few famous authors see http://ow.ly/mCAW301n6dS


Friday, June 10, 2016

Self-Publishing—who’s making the money now?



In the early days (2010) John Locke loomed large on the horizon as the first self-published author to sell one million books. Amanda Hocking and Hugh Howey were not far behind. We did the math 1,000,000 X $0.35—and jumped on the band wagon. We all thought we too could be as successful as these pioneers. 
         
   Phase 2 of self-publishing saw the emergence of a plethora of “how to”—how to write, edit, publish.
-       Want to write a book? Get out of your own way.
-       The Snowflake Method
-       The Layered Writing Method

Many blog posts one could read for free, but how did we know the blogger had any real expertise? We turned to books instead, however a large number of these books are also penned by unknowns, so we had to pick wisely. It quickly became almost compulsory to attend writing conferences as we hoped to find expert advice from the pros.

Phase 3 carried formatters, editors, and cover artists along for the ride. And those of us who were smart hired them to have our books be as professional as possible. If the big publishers wouldn’t take the time to look at us, we’d do it ourselves, and we’d do it right.

Phase 4? Ah, yes, another plethora, this time of advice on how to use social media to promote your books and the great debate about pricing and the wisdom or stupidity of making your books free;  all of this along with numerous book marketing sites. Some listed your book for free, others charged a fee. The problem of course was determining which were most effective, which really had the following to get your book “out there.” BookBub rose to the top charging what are exorbitant rates for most struggling authors, yet it is the one we all aspire to be on.

And, Phase 5? Perhaps the cleverest of all—“How to Market” courses with lovely videos, webinars, and supplementary materials, seemingly (from what one sees on the screen) prepared in the comfort of one’s own home. For the mere sum of $500, $600, $700 or more, you’ll receive the magic answers. Many of the presenters are Indie authors themselves. These “experts” promote strategies they claim worked wonders for their own sales, which makes one question why they are doing all the work necessary to create and present these courses instead of writing more books.

As we wade our way through the phases, weaving back and forth in an effort to produce the best possible book and find the elusive magical hook that will reel in readers, it’s phase 5 that intrigues the most. Convince 1,000 or 2,000 or 3,000 authors eager for sales to buy your course and you’re laughing all the way to the bank.





Friday, June 3, 2016

Going to Heaven One Day?



Tell us about your most recent release.
EMBROILED is the fourth, and last, of my Em and Yves series. And when I started I only intended to write one book. I guess I write like I talk. The books can be read as “stand alone,” but probably are more enjoyable if read in order.

Is there anything you want to make sure potential readers know?
I read once that readers of fiction like best the books from which they learn something. I hope I’ve accomplished that with my books. The story line takes the reader to many parts of the world that I’ve had a chance to visit or live in; Mali being the most significant for me. The poverty was heartbreaking. I didn’t have a magic wand so I wrote the books as a way to wave that magic wand and make things better for the world. Too bad it’s all fiction.
What is the most demeaning thing said about you as a writer?
When I first started writing a member of my critiquing group told me I couldn’t learn. I know I’ve proven her wrong.

How do you react to a bad review of one of your books?
If there are constructive comments, I take heed and try to incorporate that into future writings. If it’s an “I don’t like it” kind of comment I shrug it off. Reading tastes are unique to the individual. If it’s mean, I do what my mother said, “consider the source.”

When are you going to write your autobiography?
My daughter was reading my first book and said, “I hate it. I’m reading and enjoying and all of a sudden I see you.” So perhaps parts of these books are my autobiography. Em loves the Sahara. I do too. Em goes to Egypt. So did I. Jasmine works in Mali. I lived in Mali for a time. Abby goes to Paris. I love Paris and have been several times. Emily goes “up there” and who knows, maybe there really is a heaven and I’ll see it one day.  

Are there any occupational hazards to being a novelist?
Addiction to the computer! I go through withdrawal if my access is cut off for some reason.
How many people have you done away with over the course of your career?
Four and you have to read the books to see who and why.

Ever dispatched someone and then regretted it?
Nope. Although my husband is ticked off with me for dispatching a couple of the characters in the last book.

Do you ever wish that you had an entirely uncreative job, like data entry or working in a factory?
NO!!!!!!!! That would drive me crazy.

Do you believe in a deity?
I took four books to answer this. I consider myself an atheist, but some readers of my books think the heroine is God. Others accuse me of being anti-Christian. I’d like to think there is something up there.

What are the most important attributes to remaining sane as a writer?
Have a life away from the computer and work out which I do regularly.
Have you ever read or seen yourself as a character in a book or a movie?
I’d love to be Em. She has great adventures.

What is the single most powerful challenge when it comes to writing novel?
Marketing! It’s worse than writing. It’s time consuming and discouraging. The people who have read my books and taken the time to review them have been very positive. The trick is to get more readers to give them a try.

How much impact does your childhood have on your writing?
Tons. I was an only child on a farm with no television. Books were the most important thing in my life then (still are) and there were precious few of them available to me. I read the same ones over and over. I still read books I really like more than once.

Why do you think what you do matters?
You know, maybe it doesn’t, but I’ll always believe books are the soul of our society.


Friday, May 27, 2016

Out with the old - In with the new



The other day, our granddaughter came home from school and asked my husband to ask her to spell I cup. He obliged. “I see you pee.” She giggled. This was apparently the height of grade one humor that day. My husband retaliated with this. “I got a new book from the library. It’s called Rusty Bed Springs by I. P. Nightly.”

Of course she didn’t get it. She didn’t have a clue about bedsprings—in fact, neither did our daughter. Only we elderly can bring up a mental picture of an old cot we had when we were kids and see the springs the joke refers to.

This exchange got me thinking about the circumstances that determine each generations’ experiences and the memories they will have of their childhoods. And it’s not just jokes and mental pictures of what we grew up with.

Without getting into the whole sphere of technology that has dramatically changed how we live and interact, I’d like to focus on books. I read to my granddaughter daily, and she reads to me, Slinky Malinki and Stickybeak SydTake Away the A, The Day the Crayons Quit, OH NO! (or how my science project destroyed the world), The Girl Who Hated Books….

Her bookshelves are full of wonderful tales, but there’s nary a “Once upon a time” to be found. And if you’re looking for a prince to rescue the damsel in distress—forget it. At the bookstore the other day, I looked, out of curiosity, for some of the fairy tales of my youth. Were the stores still stocking them? Were people still buying them? I found one, but that was it.

That’s not to say, my granddaughter has no classics, for on her shelves you’ll find Madeline, The Pokey Little Puppy, Corduroy, and a few Dr. Seuss which she loves and—is it sacrilege to say?—that I can’t stand

I sometimes feel nostalgic for those fairy tales of my youth and the memories I cherish. Back then, I loved the “Once upon a time…” opening for it meant a journey into magic and adventure.

But, for my granddaughter’s sake, I’m glad they are not on her shelves. I’m glad she’s reading about independent girls who can fend for themselves. I’m glad she’ll have different memories to cherish, stories of strong and self-reliant girls for that, I believe, is the greatest gift we adults can give our daughters and granddaughters.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Would you, if you could, live with aliens?


Would you, if you could, live with aliens?

One of the joys of writing fiction is the freedom to imagine and create something beyond the realities that we know. I’ve always believed that there have to be other life forms in the vastness of our universe. Heck, there probably are ghosts too. I’m sure I saw the ghost of our dog after she died. Then again it could have been an hallucination.

But, back to my question. In my Em and Yves series, aliens toy with Em, use her to “fix” Earth, play with her emotions and her sanity. None of it fair, of course, but then every novel needs some spice. Of course, I had to give her a chance for a bit of revenge so I let her wild emotions impact the aliens, much to their horror.

As I wrote books 2, 3 and 4, I wondered if Em or any human could or would leave Earth,
leave everything they held dear, likely forever, to go live on another planet with other beings. What would it take to tempt a person to do such a thing? What reassurances would they need? A promise to be able to return home, the opportunity to bring their family with them…?

Would I? Could I? What circumstances would lead me to make that kind of decision, to go into the unknown?

I don’t have answers for myself and so I ask, would you, if you could, live with aliens?

Friday, May 13, 2016

Worth a 1000 words




Photo hanging in a hotel gift shop in small town Mexico. Despair seeps from the paper into your heart. I hate looking at this picture, but at the same time I'm mesmerized by it.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Bring Azer kids home



On Saturday, my family and I traveled to Vancouver to attend a vigil for the four Azer children who were abducted by their father and illegally taken from Canada in August of 2015. Their mother, Alison Azer, searched desperately and located them in Northern Iraq. They are now in Iran.
I cannot fathom her pain and anguish as her battle to have them returned to Canada continues.
Mother’s Day, must have been unbearable for her. My heart goes out to Alison and my greatest wish is that she be reunited with her children long before another Mother’s Day comes to pass.
For those of us lucky enough to celebrate with our mother’s and our children today, let us truly understand what we have. As Alison said so eloquently—”appreciate every little moment.”
For more information:
National Post April 28, 2016
 
CHEK News April 28, 2016

Memories of Mom




I grew up with a mother who had a saying for everything. They were always prefaced with the words, “As my mother used to say….” Her mother was Belgian and my mother claimed that the sayings rhymed in Flemish and sounded so much better. I have to doubt that, for what kid would like hearing these even in rhyme?

When we were playing too rough:
“Someone will end up crying.” Of course someone did run to Mom in tears and then it was:
“If you live long, you’ll get hurt lots yet.” Which wasn’t as callous as it sounds for she always had sympathy for true hurts.

If we stubbed a toe or banged a knee:
“It’s the badness coming out in you.”

If we were upset about something, depending on the situation it would be:
“It’s a great life if you don’t weaken.”
“Live and learn.”
“It could happen to anyone, but the dumbest first.”

If we were swamped with work:
“There’s no rest for the wicked.”
“Never leave till tomorrow what you can do today.”

When something needed to be done:
“If you want something done, give it to the busiest person.”
“If you want a job done right, do it yourself.”

I hated the sayings and swore I would never use them with my own children. And then came the day I heard myself say, “As my mother used to say, ‘It’ll be in the last place you look for it.’”
As an adult, I’ve come to appreciate the bits of wisdom contained in these sayings. One in particular, strikes me—especially when I’m watching the news.
“It takes all kinds to make a world, but some we could do without.”

But, perhaps the wisest of all:
“Believe half of what you read and nothing of what you hear.”



Thursday, April 28, 2016

Tacos de camar贸n



Hungry? Time for tacos de camar贸n (served with hot sauce, or for us northerners, mild tomatito sauce) at our favorite seedy bar in Mexico. Yes, it's seedy with lots of drinking and dart games and drinking and eating and drinking ... but, we're not about to let that stop us. We take the munchkin and go early enough to beat the crowd, chat with the staff who've already placed our order--they saw us coming--and enjoy our tacos (and beer) in peace.


Tacos de camar贸n



Hungry? 

Time for tacos de camar贸n (served with hot sauce, or for us northerners, mild tomatito sauce) at our favorite seedy bar in Mexico. Yes, it's seedy with lots of drinking and dart games and drinking and eating and drinking ... but, we're not about to let that stop us. We take the munchkin and go early enough to beat the crowd, chat with the staff who've already placed our order--they saw us coming--and enjoy our tacos (and beer) in peace.


Friday, April 22, 2016

Black White Divide - San Francisco



In 1981, they’re finally realizing a long-held dream—a trip to San Francisco. Their hotel is half a block from Union Square, an ideal location to visit and appreciate much of what the city has to offer—Pier 29, Lombard Street, the Exploratorium which delights the adults as much as it does the kids, the cable car museum. Of course, they’ve ridden the cable cars several times.

Today they hop on a bus to another museum, only to arrive and find it closed. Not a big problem. They’ll take the bus back downtown and check out some of the stores.

A few minutes later, they begin to think there may be a problem after all as they don’t recognize the route. Another few blocks and they’re the only whites on the bus. Then the driver stops, gets off and a black driver gets on. The streets they pass are rougher and rougher with each turn of the bus wheels. Much too late to get off now so they stay where they are nodding politely as passengers pass down the aisle.

Within a short time they are the only passengers on the bus. The view out the window is of derelict houses, broken windows, weeds, and little sign of habitation. The driver stops and turns to look at them.

“You’re not from here, are you?”

They shake their heads.

He grins. “This is the end of the line. Cross the street.” He points to another bus stop. “Catch the next bus to get back downtown.”

They thank him and do as they are told. On the way back the black/white driver exchange occurs again. All of it such a foreign experience for this Canadian family.




Friday, April 15, 2016

HELP! I have a major dilemma



Your response is vital information for authors. We strive mightily to market our books, but are restricted in our efforts by vendors who insist we place our novels in categories and genres.

For example, I struggle to pick a genre for my Em and Yves series. People ask me about EMBATTLED, book one in the series.

Is it?

Science fiction?  Sure. Aliens from other planets are involved, but it’s not hard-core technical sci-fi and it’s set mostly on Earth.

Paranormal Romance?  Would seem so. There is a love triangle between an alien, a human, and her human lover.

Contemporary?  Definitely.  Lots of world events as the alien tries to make Earth a better place.

Mainstream? For sure. Lots of world issues—enough to capture the interest of many readers.

Urban Fantasy? Fits the definition. Urban setting with supernatural or magical elements.

Adventure? You bet. Jujitsu training, hand to hand combat, war, soldiers, terrorists….

Now, how do I roll all of that into one genre? What would your advice be?

Friday, April 8, 2016

Humor in Writing



Humor can be anything from a belly laugh and the giggles to a chuckle or a smile. As long as it makes us happy to some degree, humor is doing its job. Here’s an excerpt from Book 2,of the Em and Yves series, EMPOWERED—an example of humor in a book that is not meant to be a comedy.
Victor grabbed Jasmine’s arm and dragged her to his office. “Don’t you guys all have something to do?” he said over his shoulder, but none of the men moved. He saw Jasmine look back at them and wink.
“You tell her, Vic,” one of the guys hollered just as he slammed the door.
“Woman, what were you thinking when you came here? It’s not safe and you stand out like a sore thumb.” Victor glared at her. “Please, tell me you’re not that dumb.”
“Belize, I think.”
“What?”
“Belize for our honeymoon.”
“Honeymoon!” He heard the guys hooting on the other side of the door and imagined a whole lot of high-fives taking place out there.
“Yes, good snorkeling. We’ll have to have a society wedding of course. But we can keep it small and limit the photographers.”
“You’re totally nuts.” Victor shook his head in disbelief.
“We’ll make beautiful babies,” she cooed smiling up at him.
“Babies?  Babies!” Victor screeched. “Get this straight. We. Are. Not. Getting. Married. We. Are. Not. Making. Babies.” What did it take to make her understand?
“We are,” she said in a matter of fact way that enraged him even more. “We have to.”
“What the hell are you talking about?”
“Victor, I love you. I can feel you in every atom of my body. My bones feel like jelly when I’m with you. Can’t you—?”
“You don’t even know me,” he yelled as he yanked the door open. The guys scrambled out of the way. With one hand on Jasmine’s arm and the other on the small of her back, he propelled her out the door to the waiting men. Jasmine stopped abruptly and Victor’s forward momentum caused him to press against her. He jerked back as if scalded. Jasmine turned to the audience in the doorway and mouthed, “I’ll be back.” Five thumbs turned up.
“No, you won’t!” Vic deposited her with her bodyguards and stomped back to his office. “Jesus H. Christ! Miss Jasmine Wade Berdin you are one hundred percent certifiably insane,” he said to no one in particular as he sagged heavily into his chair. His bones felt like jelly.


Friday, April 1, 2016

Real worries we face daily

Worried about fanatical groups taking over the world? Worried about China taking over world economy? Worried about big brother controlling our every move?



Those are not the big dangers. It’s household appliances and electronics that we need to fear.

It’s all those little lights controlling us—turn me on, plug me in, recharge me, answer me … Computers, iPads, phones, clocks—they’re all telling us what to do and when.

Then there are the little beeps that set us running. Oops, time to put dinner in the oven. Oops, time to take dinner out of the oven. Oops, time to fetch the toast from the toaster, time to unplug the coffee, time to turn off the timer …

Not to be outdone by the kitchen cousins, the washer and dryer sing to us. Yes, sing. Merry little tunes as we turn them on. Merry little tunes when the cycles finish. Merry little tunes when it’s time to clean the lint screen.

Do we need all this “control?” Are our brains so overloaded that we can’t remember what to do and when? Maybe so, but I for one could do without all the not-so-gentle reminders. The laundry can wait. So can the phone. If the call is important they’ll leave a message or call back. In fact, everything can wait and the world won’t end.

On second thought, I’ll keep the beeps that tell me when dinner is ready.