Archive for December, 2010|Monthly archive page

Just Another Useless New Year’s Resolution?

In Uncategorized on December 31, 2010 at 10:28 am

 So, you’re going to give it another shot.  “This year I am going to complete my …blah, blah, blah, blah. blah.  Kinda like that one where you are going to lose weight, ehh?  So let’s get real.

If you are going to make another writing resolution, before you do, ask yourself a couple of questions.  This is particularly important if you have made those writing resolutions in the past and failed dismally.  How badly do you want to write that book?   Is it REALLY important to you?  Are you hungry enough?  Do you really need to tell that story?  Do you just have to write?  Do you WANT that fame and adulation – and money!!!   Do you have the answers?  OK.

Lots has been written about how to create a routine, get up an hour early, close the door, tell everyone that it is your time and space, etc. so I am not going to go that route.  But if you are serious about making a writing resolution, I want to get you focused on what it is really about.  And that is priorities and balance in your life.

Married?  Kids?  New job?  Taking care of elderly parents?  Single.  Retired? 

We are all in different stages or circumstances so be realistic about what you can and can’t do.   Don’t set yourself up for failure.  If your lifestyle allows for writing four hours a day, more power to you.  If you have just had a baby (see Leann’s article for help) then be realistic.  The key is to make the writing resolution attainable.   If you do this, and you accomplish it, even a goal as simple or small as one page a day, then the routine is established.  The progress becomes evident.   The synergy is self perpetuating.  You are a New Year’s Eve success!

But a caution.  If it is attainable, and you don’t follow through, then you have to deal with this truth.  You are not that hungry – you really don’t have to write.  The money really isn’t that important.  This kind of discovery might be a reality check – which is pretty healthy.  We shouldn’t fool ourselves.

This kind of self discovery isn’t all bad.  It might be disappointing at first, but it might just free you to examine what you really want to write or do.  Ditch the novel you have been struggling with for five years.  Maybe it is time to try a screenplay.  Maybe you want to take that course on cooking that you have always put off.  This admission might just free you.

I believe what is important is balance in our lives.  That it comes down to priorities.  Changing priorities that we need to be aware of and adjust.  When we can do that, and we are in the right place and time or circumstance, with the right resolution (goal) then I think the muse will strike and we will write.  My experience with writing throughout the years has proved to be like that for me.  

So be honest about where you are right now, give that resolution some thought, and HAVE a happy writing new year.


Click here to learn more about Dan Side and his novel “Teacher’s Pet”.

New Year, New Man?

In Uncategorized on December 29, 2010 at 9:25 am

Well, Christmas is over. 

It was… interesting.   You read the poem.  You know what happened.

Now I am sitting on the couch, trying not to sob into my Kleenex, as I think about my New Year’s plans.

I know I should be an independent woman; I shouldn’t need a man to make me happy.

But, honestly, wouldn’t it be nice- just once– to not have to worry about who you are going to spend New Years with?  I keep thinking that one day someone will say “So what’s your plans for New Years?” and I will be able to reply, “Oh, not much.  Rafe and I were talking about Paris, but he isn’t sure if he can leave his multi-million dollar empire right now.”

Or maybe just his independently owned vineyard…

I can’t- I repeat CAN’T- watch Ben and Cheryl snog all night while I am trying to avoid the advances of Ben’s best friend, George.  He tries it every year.  What is a more obvious way of showing someone you’re not interested in them then by telling them you have a transmittable disease?

He still tries.

So I am finally putting this blog to good use.

If you are single, better looking than a frog, and will shower at least a day before the said event you have a shot at taking me out for New Years!

P.S. If you are chosen I am going to need to see some id.

To see more of Natalie’s Blog Posts please click here.

Silhouette In Love

Photographer: Idea go



In Uncategorized on December 28, 2010 at 12:40 pm


She sits in the corner of the coffee shop, shaking as she holds the cardboard tray in both hands, the paper cup wedged into the hollow.  She lifts the tray towards her face and her orange lipstick-smeared lips pucker and grope until the straw finds her mouth.  She sucks. Pulling back suddenly, she waves an uncoordinated arm and cries out “Jerome, over here, Jerome!” 

Even those who try not to notice her, not to stare at the woman with the wild hair and childlike smears of lipstick and eyeliner, even those who pretended she is not here, can’t stop themselves from turning to look.   And then we all turn to look for Jerome.

Gradually quiet conversation resumes, as people with fearful smirks and gently raised eyebrows turn back to their companions.

“Did you see her eyeliner? A black smudge, must be half a centimetre thick, way below her eyes?

“OMG! And that fake beauty spot, it’s huge.”

“Shhh…she’ll hear you .  She’s right there.”

“Why do you think she’s drinking coffee through a straw? And why doesn’t she take the cup out of the tray?”

“Jerome! Over here.  Jerome!”

“Where is this Jerome?”

Silence again for a few moments while we all look uncomfortably around for the poor fellow. Sip our coffees, turn the pages of our newspapers and scroll through previously read text messages.  Some people steal furtive glances.  She is really quite fat, wearing black leggings.  The fat bulges over her waistband and between her thighs so she can’t comfortably close her legs.  I look away again with the sense that I’m invading something, someone, deeply vulnerable.

“But wait, guys, what do you think, should I get the Aritzia coat or the one from Eddie Bauer?”

“Well the Aritza one is stylish and will keep you very warm.  The Eddie Bauer one is very thick too, and it’s a bit cheaper…”

“She’s just taken a huge hand mirror out of her purse.  Who carries such a huge mirror in their purse?  She’s putting more lipstick on.  Don’t look, don’t look now…OMG!   It’s all over the place.  She looks just like a clown.”

“Well obviously she’s not.”         


The little scene above is not, in fact, a work of fiction but something I witnessed a couple of weeks ago while Christmas shopping with my daughters.  The words, “Jerome! Over Here, Jerome!” have resounded in my head ever since then.  Who is Jerome?  Why would he not come when she called? Does he even exist?  And why was that strange looking woman drinking coffee from a cup balanced in a tray and drawing it through a straw?  Why was she made up so grotesquely?  Had she come from a Christmas pantomime, a home for the mentally unstable, or is there a more sinister reason for her oddness?

I am always excited when my curiosity is piqued by real life cameos such as this because they hold the seeds of intriguing characters and interesting stories.  In his book, “On Writing: A memoir of the craft” Stephen King says that, for him writing a story is more an act of excavation than anything else.  I know just what he means.  It is in asking the questions, and allowing my imagination to provide the answers, that the story emerges.   

All I had when I started my novel “Mungo Joudry” was a mental picture of a man waiting in the early morning on a boat.  This was not even a scene I had actually witnessed; it was just a figment of my imagination.  In asking and answering questions about why he was waiting, I have now written over 50,000 words and I am fascinated every day to find out what will emerge on the page next.

Cultivating the art of observation, and seeing past the obvious to the potential, helps a great deal when it comes to crafting interesting and credible characters.  This is a skill which, as a writer, goes everywhere with me and relieves the tedium of standing in the queue at the grocery store or sitting in the doctor’s waiting room.

Join me in this fun exercise.  Who is Jerome?  And who is the bizarre woman who was calling him?  Drop your thoughts in the comment box and let’s allow our imaginations out to play.


Click on the link below to read an excerpt of Linda’s novel “Mungo Joudry”.

White Cup Of Hot Coffee And Photo Frame

Photographer: nuttakit


Writer’s Inspiration

In Uncategorized on December 26, 2010 at 3:05 pm

Look here every Saturday for a weekly writing exercise that will get you warmed up and inspired to return to your novel.  Who knows, it could turn out to be your next short story or even the next chapter of your novel!  When you complete the exercise, share it with us by posting it on our blog as a comment. 

Write about an important, big-time event in your childhood.  Write in first-person as if you are, once again, that age and it just happened.  Use child-appropriate language.  Don’t worry if it turns out to be more fiction than fact.  Start with: Yesterday was…

Good luck, and have fun!


This week’s inspiration is taken from the book, The Write Brain Workbook, by Bonnie Neubauer.

Is it Possible to be a Writing Mom?

In Uncategorized on December 24, 2010 at 12:45 pm

For the past eight months, since giving birth to my son Charlie, I’ve asked myself this question several times a day.  In those first few months, the answer was a definite NO.  No, it was not possible to nurse every hour and a half, change diapers, feed myself, keep my house decent, deal with the strange things that were happening to my own body and be a writer too.  The exhaustion alone was reason enough not to write.  Unable to think straight, unable to form a sentence verbally, let alone write down a fictional sentence was truly impossible.  At that point, I couldn’t have cared less about Owen Vandenkirk, the protagonist in my novel.  I was ready to give him up completely for the other little boy in my life.  But I didn’t like it.  I didn’t like ignoring my novel.  I thought about it daily with much regret and guilt. 

Thankfully, I have a writing group that is open-minded and flexible and after a few months, when the number of night feedings decreased and I re-entered the world of the living, I did return to my novel.  It is not easy to find the time and the motivation to write when there’s a little one usurping your life.  And I’ve had to accept that while Stephen King may think it should take no longer than three months to churn out a first draft (as he states in On Writing), those of us in the real world know that this is nearly impossible.

In my struggle, I have found there are a few things we can do in order to find the time and the motivation to get back to our first babies, our novels.   

  1. Store-Bought Purées:  While I get a lot of satisfaction from making my baby’s food from scratch, it can be a time-consuming endeavour.  And guess what, you can buy it, in cute little jars, pre-made, no blender needed.  While these jarred foods were full of fillers and sugars when they first hit the shelves in the 1950’s, today they are relatively healthy and free from harmful additives.  Feeding your baby a mixture of store-bought and homemade purées will provide him with good nutrition and will get you out of the kitchen and into your novel more often.


  1.  Nap Time / Bedtime: Nap time is a parent’s best friend, and if there is a God, I think that sleep was his or her little gift to parents.  While it isn’t possible to spend every nap time writing, try to set aside 2-4 naptimes a week that are dedicated to writing.  This takes discipline.  No matter what needs to get done – laundry, dishes, puréeing sweet potatoes – you must ignore it and spend that precious time writing.   Same goes for bedtime.   While it may be tempting to veg in front of the telly with a glass of merlot, novels don’t write themselves, so get off your butt and start writing!


  1. Daddy/Baby Quality Time:  When your husband gets home, give him the baby, grab your journal and get the hell out of there!  If you stay home and try to work in the office or in your bedroom, it will be much more difficult to write.  You’ll hear the baby whining and you’ll want to step in and save him, or you’ll think about how it will only take five minutes to scrub the tub.  Get out!  Leave them alone.  It’s good for your baby to spend quality time with his daddy.


  1. Grandparents are Good Babysitters:  Take your parents or in-laws (or neighbours, friends, strangers from the street) up on their offers to babysit.  Grandparents are dying to spend time with their grandbabies.  Afraid to leave the baby alone with those crazy old people, well, they brought you up and you’re okay, right?  Trust them.  Your novel depends on it.


Hopefully these tips can be of some help to the writing moms out there, and if you, dear reader, have any other tips for writing moms, please post them!  The more, the better.  My final word on the topic is to be kind to yourself.   When you fail to reach your monthly goal of thirty pages, or you fall asleep on the couch with that glass of red, don’t be angry at yourself.  Be as flexible and gentle with yourself as you are with your little one.  Admit that it’s hard, and if you don’t reach a goal, it’s not because you’re lazy or a bad writer, it’s because you are, above all else, a good mom.

Now, to losing the baby weight…

By Leann Leyten

I Love You Mummy

Photographer: Rob Wiltshire


The Stockings Were Hung On The Coat Rack With Care

In Uncategorized on December 22, 2010 at 9:00 am

‘Twas the night before Christmas, and all through our flat,

The wine had been poured, Cheryl in her Christmas hat.

The chocolate wrappers were scattered on the table and floor,

As I frantically clutched my stomach and moaned, “No more!”

Ben was asleep and snoring in Cheryl’s bed,

As he quickly buggered off after he was fed.

I in my sparkly dress, and Cheryl in her gown,

Were slumped on the couch after our night out on the town.

When from the hall table, the phone gave a loud ring,

I sprang from the couch, to see who was calling.

“Just me dear!” She sang into the phone,

White I silently groaned and wished I wasn’t home.

With Cliff Richards playing in the background, it could be no other,

I knew in a moment it must be my Mother.

“Just wondering how you are doing with all of that bloody snow.

I’ve had Carlos shovelling every five minutes, you know.”

I assured her we were fine, though Cheryl was getting a cold,

When I was told to keep warm and sanitize anything Cheryl may hold.

She told me of her Christmas plans, though they’re the same each year.

As the years go on, she is losing it a bit, I fear.

I leave on Christmas morning, to my Mum’s house I go,

With packages wrapped all in paper and bows.

Mum grabs them one by one the second I arrive,

She doesn’t even ask me about the long drive.

She anxiously waits by the tree to open them all up,

While I am in the kitchen pouring vodka into my cup.

She oohs and aahs over every single one,

And then asks me for the gift receipt once we are done.

Aunty Beryl always joins us for our Christmas tea,

Then gets sloshed and knocks over the tree.

We end the night by singing our favourite Christmas songs,

Though Mum trying to sing the high note in “O Holy Night” always goes wrong.

I promise to be there first thing in the morning,

Hang up the phone, but Cheryl is already pouring.

A glass of wine as courage for tomorrow’s big day,

In anticipation, I’m sure, of what my mother might say.

I shake my head but remember some have no family to visit at Christmas time,

Though, if they are sad about this they are welcome to mine!

All kidding aside, I look forward to seeing Mum and Aunty Beryl,

And yes, even singing the dreaded Christmas carols.

A new year is upon us, which is exciting yet scary,

I’ve made some goals, though I would be lying if I said I wasn’t weary.

Resolutions to make and break, hoping to lose the Christmas weight fast,

And wouldn’t it be great to have a handsome, rich boyfriend at last!

I started this blog, not really knowing what to do,

And for its success, I feel I owe thanks to all of you.

So for those who have been reading, you are all a beautiful sight,

Merry Christmas to you all, and to all a good-night!

To learn more about Natalie and what she is up to, please visit Natalie’s Nook.

Christmas Image:

Photographer: Salvatore Vuono



In Uncategorized on December 20, 2010 at 5:50 pm

 “Ugh…I’ve been through my novel so many times and rewritten so many passages that I just can’t see how it can be improved any more.  Everything feels fixed to the page.” 

This frustration was expressed by one of the writers at our group meeting last Monday.  He recognises the need to improve his novel but just doesn’t know how or what to change any more. 

He has gone “cold” on his manuscript – he has gone through it too many times and can’t see it objectively any longer.  This is how Sol Stein characterizes the revision problem in his book “Stein on Writing”.  Stein advocates a “triage” approach to revision which prevents the writer becoming desensitized to his or her own work.

Basically this means fixing the most critical problems first i.e. the primary causes of a manuscript being rejected. Only after triage should we begin general revisions.   Here are the triage steps:


  • Protagonist / hero – there are many ways to examine your main character but here are a few questions which may help you ensure the hero is humanized, well-rounded and credible:
    • What particularly do you like about your character? Make sure this is not unconsciously autobiographical.
    • How would you feel about spending your annual vacation with your main character?  Would you get bored or irritated?  Remember you are asking your readers to spend many hours with this person, make sure to keep them interested and engaged.
    • How well do you understand your hero? For instance, if they were your friend and you were to win the lottery, would they be happy for you, jealous, avaricious?
    • Does your character change or grow during the course of the novel? The reader will not want to go through a long journey with your hero to find that he or she has learned nothing.  Your hero needs to evolve.


  • Antagonist / villain – make sure your villain is multi-dimensional.  Even bad people have a sense of humour, do kind things occasionally and can pretend to be good when it suits them. How bad is your villain? Is he capable of being charming and enticing?  Is he just badly behaved or is he morally deficient?  It’s up to you of course, but make sure you understand the degree and nature of your villain’s badness.


  • Minor characters – even these are important if a scene depends on their credibility.  Make sure they are life-like.  Sometimes just one little detail is enough to give life to a minor character.



Remember what Michael Hauge said about the essence of a story?  See Eating the Elephant.  Each story has a main character, the hero, who has a powerful desire and experiences conflict in trying to attain this.  To keep your readers interested, your hero must have huge obstacles to overcome, the stakes must be high and his adversaries formidable.  Even a love story contains these elements where the hero needs to overcome great barriers to win his lover. 


  • Start with the most memorable scene in your book.  If you can’t remember it in detail, then it is not memorable enough.  Strengthen it.
  • Now think about your least memorable scene.  You will probably need to browse through your manuscript.  Don’t read the book!  Remember you don’t want to desensitize yourself.  Just browse through until you find it.  Then fix it.  If you can’t fix it then cut it. If necessary include essential information from this weak scene in another one.
  • Now you have a new least memorable scene.  Go through the same process with this one, and the next, until you have reviewed and strengthened or cut all the weak scenes from your book.

Stein likens this process to the work of a surgeon.  Be ruthless, and like a surgeon, fix or cut out anything which will weaken the body of your work.


From memory jot down the three most important actions in your novel.  Is each action motivated in a way that you would accept if someone else were telling you the story?  The overall credibility of your story depends on the three main actions being well motivated.  This is essential to the success of your story.  Don’t rely on coincidence.  Create and develop motivation throughout.  Now look at the other significant actions in your story.  Does anything happen which seems to happen just because you want it to?  If it does not arise out of the desire of your characters, then establish motivation or eliminate the action.

Sol Stein says that only once you have gone through this four state triage process should you begin the general revisions.  Following this process means that you won’t make minor changes or major rewrites earlier in the novel which have to be changed once again, when you realize you have a fatal flaw with one of your characters, scenes, main actions or motivation.    And this way you won’t have to read the entire thing over and over again, from beginning to end, dulling your senses and making you stale before you have a good final draft to present to a publisher.

If you have finished a manuscript and are revising, congratulations!  If, like me, you are still working on your first draft then taking this advice on board early may help you produce a better first draft. 

Thank you for reading and keep writing.


Writer’s Inspiration

In Uncategorized on December 19, 2010 at 4:54 am

Look here every Saturday for a weekly writing exercise that can get you warmed up and inspired to return to your novel, or it could even serve as your next chapter!  When you complete the exercise, share it with us by posting it on our blog.

  1.  Choose ONE word that most appeals to you:

Tree               bread                    necklace              papaya                 elephant              costume

        Volcano                couch                    tire                         dipstick

  1.  Choose ONE setting that most appeals to you:

At a zoo                        During WWII                      On a spaceship                  Under a starry sky

                                        On the beach                     On a subway

  1.  Choose ONE of the following phrases that will  begin your piece:

If I could start again…

The lightning struck…

It was the last day…

He started the car…

She flicked the switch…

Start your story with the chosen phrase, and incorporate the setting and word that you chose.

Grisham a no show at Second Annual Christmas Party

In Uncategorized on December 18, 2010 at 7:24 pm

Yes, dear readers, John was a no show at the annual WriterstoAuthors Christmas Party.  We sent the invite priority post, but there is the possibility that Canada Post lost it. 

Nevertheless we carried on.  Emily and Linda battled through the snow together arriving first.  Duane followed shortly thereafter, and AN HOUR later Andrea and Leann wearily pulled into the driveway having first visited Hamilton then Burlington on an interesting, somewhat round-about route to my house.  When asked if they would like something to drink, dear sweet, quiet Leann blurted out, “Alcohol, something alcohol”.  Guess it was a little trying.  I should point out that they have been to my place at least three times before.  It must have been the snow that unnerved these intrepid two.

Speaking of alcohol, although we never imbibe during our regular meetings, this was a meeting/CHRISTMAS PARTY, and so by the time everyone arrived, well let’s just say that I had started celebrating early.  That is my excuse for not remembering who presented me with the Cadbury Cookies and the Toblerones.  Now I am sure I thanked them but just in case – thank you, I love you guys. 

I know I thanked Leann for the home-made cookies (carefully baked by her husband I might add).  His secret to these mouth-watering beauties – a Cadbury’s caramel baked right in the middle of each one!  They were a hit with my wife.  Leann did mention to me, as an aside, that he makes them for the staff at his school where he teaches – but she is sure it is just to impress them – you know – that a man could actually bake cookies.

Many topics were covered, particularly how we could improve our blog site for you cherished readers.  We came up with a number of ideas, some of which we have already put in place.

Having moved to the dining room table, I handed out the mystery envelopes to each member.  I had cleverly made up an assignment for all.  To write a poem (secretly) about another group member (names chosen – secretly).  It turned out to be an interesting, frightening, laborious task, loved and despised by one and some.  The reading of them was fun however, so I was vindicated.  Leann showed off her knowledge of us by accurately guessing who wrote which poem about whom.  Clever girl.  (A line from the movie ———–)  Duane will know which movie.

The critiquing that night was unfortunately short, even though the meeting party went long, I think it was a success.  Not bad for a bunch of wannabe writer/authors who signed up for a course and ended up friends. 



Natalie’s Nook- Entry 4

In Uncategorized on December 16, 2010 at 1:57 pm

Still fuming from last week’s epidemic at Marks and Sparks I decided to finish my Christmas shopping online.  And you know what I discovered?

They have everything on this Internet’s Web!  You can buy a replica of King Tut’s tomb!  I’ve never seen one of them in Marks and Spencers, so quite frankly they can stuff it can’t they?

Once I was finished the shopping though, I got to exploring this Internet a bit more.  It’s amazing the wonderful things that are inside my computer (and the utter crap).

Then I came across the most glorious site: EVERYTHING FORUNDERAQUID

And you wouldn’t believe it, everything is under a quid!

I was scrolling through adding things to my cart when I saw Extend Your Lashes Miracle Solution.

Now, I have always hated my eyelashes.  They’re the only part of me that is naturally blond (I feel it might have been a bit of a mix up, so I have pencilled it in to discuss when I go… you know… upstairs.  That and my thighs that won’t get any smaller no matter how many of those crouching things I do).

And the most wonderful part of it is it arrives the next day!  So when I got home from work today I was thrilled when the little box was sitting on my doorstep.

I read the instructions carefully (I even read the French- though I can’t understand it- in case I missed anything).  The box said that it was specifically designed for people that have short stubby eyelashes and that they guarantee their product will make you hate your eyelashes no more.

The first step was a gloppy paste, which the bottle said was supposed to make your lashes grow twice their length in twenty minutes.  Thrilled I began putting the paste on and then thought, why don’t I put on twice as much and maybe grow them twice, twice as long!  So I slopped on more paste on my eyes and then had to get Cheryl to help because I couldn’t see anymore.  She wanted to do hers to, but I insisted she at least wait until I was done or we both wouldn’t be able to see.  (And even if it was for only a minute, I wanted to have nicer eyelashes than Cheryl.)

The glop started tingling after about five minutes.  It started out as a little itchy here and there, but after about ten minutes a light burning sensation started to occur.  Determined to have the most beautiful eyelashes though, I thought, I’ve already made it ten minutes, what’s another ten?

Well about a minute later the burning went from minor to major.  Cheryl got out our little hand fan and blasted it on my face while I bounced up and down trying to create a wind current.  In the end I had to rinse it off at the eighteen minute mark, but because I put twice as much on I was still ahead of the game.

Well, actually I couldn’t really see much because my eyes had got slightly swollen, though Cheryl assured me they looked great.

“Er- yeah… they look great.”  Cheryl leans forward while squinting and studying my puffy eyes.  “Maybe we should leave the second step until tomorrow, you know, to be on the safe side?”

She’s always been a pessimist.

After a few words of encouragement, Cheryl finally opens the bottle for the second step.  Apparently it was another paste, though more like a nail polish, and it was going to die my eyelashes jet black.

No more need for mascara- guaranteed!

Cheryl started to paint on the paste, which was actually nice as it was freezing cold, so my swollen eyes appreciated it.

This was only supposed to stay on for five minutes, which compared to the earlier twenty minutes was a breeze.  And the cooling sensation was very peaceful.  In fact, I almost felt I was getting lighter by the second.

After the five minutes I sighed while Cheryl wiped my eyes with a damp cloth and took a quick intake of breath.

Excited by her reaction- I mean obviously they looked fantastic if she was that shocked, I grabbed the hand mirror to see my results.

At first it was hard to adjust my sight, as my eyes were still slightly puffy.  I pulled the mirror closer and then jerked my hand back.

They were right, I don’t hate my eyelashes anymore.

I haven’t got any now.

*To learn more about Emily Harper and her novel entitled “White Lies”, please click here.