Monday, August 14, 2017

I've Been Dreaming Photo by: medilo
I can't believe it's been so long since I posted, but I've been dreaming. That means I've been writing what I've been dreaming.

Last night I was a demon. I had red eyes and long teeth. I could leap vast distances, and my jaw unhinged like a snake to swallow larger prey. Being a demon didn't seem to frighten me. It was the unrelenting darkness before me that made me wake in a cold sweat. When I slept again, I was a chambermaid in a cheesy motel and I had a pink uniform.

No, I'm not writing a lot, but I am editing. Her True Name: Volume Two is two chapters away from the completion of the second read-through. I've fixed a few things and checked the flow. It doesn't feel ready.

On the advice of a friend, I started a dream journal. It's a way to deal with my father's passing. She believes that I'll get book ideas from it. What I am getting is more strange cities and even more hotels than before. The airports and airplanes are still there, and there's a new symbol.

There's a blue car now. It's a rickety old thing, maybe a Ford or a Chevy or something European from the sixties. It putters in the sky and along mountain roads. It hits the ditch often because it's both an automatic and a standard, and I need to but both gears in 'park'. It makes me think of my father, especially since I've never dreamed of it before last month. What does it mean?

I can tell you that I'm working on a project, off and on regarding my dreams. It's a collection of blog posts, drabbles and short stories. Just things I've dreamed up in the past that don't fit my brand. I don't know if any of the dreams I've had since Dad died will be there. None so far, but that doesn't mean anything yet.

I'm just wondering where these odd thoughts are taking me. What's in store for me? Is my father trying to say something to me in my sleep? Why the shabby little blue car?  Are you as curious as I am where this is going? Guess we'll find out. Eventually.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Happy Canada Day!!

Canada is celebrating 150 years as a country, and I am soooo proud to be Canadian. Here's why:

Multiculturalism: Anywhere you go in this country you can experience a smorgasbord of culture and diversity. Ever been to Heritage Days? Go! There are pavilions of food, dance and merchandise that are irresistible. I own two saris, thanks to my friends across the street. They are Fijian, and Tara makes the BEST curried chicken livers you will ever taste. I don't even like curry, but I can't resist hers...creamy with just the right amount of spiciness. I love them as family. If you get a chance to experience a culture not your own, do it! And share yours with them.

Hockey: We all love hockey. It's not our national sport, but when playoff season comes and our teams made it....everyone is a fan. Because it's REALLY FUN to watch. Exciting. Yes, American teams always win, but most of their players are Canadians. Not kidding. Google it.

Our National sport is Lacrosse: Google that too.. It involves people catching a little ball in tiny nets on the end of sticks and the pros make it look easy. It's not.

Beer: We make pretty awesome beer. Molson Canadian, Labatt's, Kokanee and too many craft beers to mention. I like mine with Clamato juice, which is another tasty Canadian invention. Tastes like thinnned tomato juice with savory salty elements of clams. It's subtle.

Clamato juice: I could drink it straight. When I'm certain in writing modes, I like to make a 'virgin caeser'. The real caeser drink was invented in Calgary, Alberta, and predominantly made with clamato juice, vodka, Worchester sauce, a hint of lemon juice and Tabasco sauce,  and celery salt on the rim. When I first started drinking, it came with a celery stalk. Nowadays you can get it with bacon, pickled asparagus or a bean pod, or even half a grilled cheese sandwich. Anyway you drink it, it's brilliant.
And Tim Horton's! Double double.

Canadians care: We rally. We take care of our own and others. Nine -eleven saw Newfoundland opening their homes to grounded people around the world when jumbo jets were forced to land in their airports. Newfoundlanders, known for their open hearts didn't fail them. There are still stories of their generosity.

When Alberta suffered a drought, Ontario farmers drove tractors hauling hay to feed our cattle, over a THOUSAND miles to feed Alberta cattle. Does anyone know how important that was? Alberta is normally a rich province, so we send fire fighters, grain, volunteers and money where needed. We all take care of our country and the people within it..

Healthcare: Ending on a serious note, but the more I see American politics, the larger my gratitude for our system. We all pay for it, whether we need it or not. But we'll all need it eventually, for one reason or another. I've seen the bills that American people post on Facebook. I can't imagine what it must be like to endure thousands of dollars of surgery---and then try to recover with the knowledge that you have thousands of dollars of debt because of it. And for the families....Just because you don't want to die or live with excruciating pain. Awful.

My point is: It's good to be Canadian. I wouldn't live anywhere else in the world.

Friday, June 9, 2017

It's the Little Things

I was five. We're learning to write my name.
I'm beginning to remember things Dad taught me, big and small. I guess when you're trying to get yourself back, stuff will come up.

Today I watched a man filling his tires at the gas station. He kept filling his tire, looking at it, trying to feel it. Filling it a little more, filling it a little bit again. Where's your tire gauge? Why don't you know to use one?

When I got my first car, Dad bought me a tire gauge. He explained what PSI meant, and where I would find the information I needed for my specific tires. He taught me how to read the gauge, and check my treads.  Thanks for that, Daddy, It's come in handy.

Other useful things Dad taught me:

How to skate: I was five when dad whooshed up to me on his Bauers and asked, "What's wrong, Princess?" I wailed-- "Daddy, I can't skate!"  He showed me it's not like walking...more like gliding. He demonstrated how to use feet and leg muscles to push outward and propel myself forward. I remembered yelling "Daddy, I'm skating!" Important? Maybe not, but it's the first thing I remember him teaching me.

When in doubt, grow tomatoes: I learned of an acquaintance who committed suicide. Mom sent me out to hang with Dad, who was in the garden. He saw my tears and kept me distracted by teaching me everything he knew about tending to healthy tomato plants. To this day, tomatoes are my favorite thing to grow, eat and can.

How to fly: Dad loved his Cessna 177 Cardinal, maybe as much as he loved his kids. He REALLY loved to fly, and he shared that gift enthusiastically. Everything I know about aviation, I learned from him. He made sure we knew how to control AND  land the plane just in case something happened to him in the air. So in case of emergency, I have the confidence to get a single engine aircraft safely to the ground.

He shared interesting books: 1. The Wealthy Barber-Dad felt I should learn things about investing that have stuck with me to this day. 2. Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follet-Dad was very much affected by the novel, walking around sad and hungry even days after he finished it. It taught me empathy and when I think about my own writing--I remember the depressing details that made Pillars such a work of art. 3. Holographic Universe-It's a valuable read about the mechanics of reincarnation. I didn't consider myself bright enough to understand metaphysics, yet I absorbed all of it.

The lawnmower: When I bought my house, he bought us a lawnmower as a housewarming gift. He wouldn't allow me to choose the cheapest one. He also taught me how to check the oil and the absolute importance of it. I always think of him every time I mow the lawn. We still have that mower and it's been 13 years.

Honesty: My father was a contractor--an instrument mechanic in the oilfield. He remained so for twenty-two years, and retired on his own terms. He was successful because he was a good worker and an honest business man. He was trusted. We've taken that lesson to heart, and that is why we are rarely unemployed for long.

Take Risks: Dad was fearless. He drove from Manitoba to Alberta to look for work and went from there. My father took electronics  at NAIT but jumped at the chance to become a pioneer in the field of instrumentation. Then he challenged the exam for his ticket. My father took a job in a new town and moved his family there before we'd found a house to rent. My father used my college fund to start his contracting business. It all worked.

This is my first stepping stone to becoming myself again. If you have memories of things you've learned from your parents and taken comfort in, it would be my pleasure to know of them.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The Black Joke

Dad and me. April 1977
I wasn't sure I should write this blog. Too personal, too much self-pity maybe. But this is how I purge my heart. I'm a writer, and this is what I do. Bear with me. If grief and loss are something you don't wish to read about, stop now. I'm trying to sort through stuff.

On April 2nd, 2017, my father passed from heart failure. He was only seventy years old. I know seventy is not young, but it's too young to die. Especially for my father. The word 'spry' doesn't begin to describe him. Spry describes seniors who still have the get-up-and-go. He was never old in the first place.

Four months ago, my father had a heart attack, and the family was blindsided. My father quit smoking forty years ago. He rarely had more than two beers at a sitting. He only ever had a weight problem at Christmas, when everyone would gift him with pistachios. He ate those like a squirrel preparing to hibernate. He had all his blonde hair, and always looked ten years younger than his actual age. How the hell did this happen? We don't know, but he never recovered.

I can't begin to tell you how angry I am. Why?! Why him? Why does my mother have to live without him after 46+ years? Why did my 94 year old grandmother have to live to see the death of her third child? Why was he the first one to die? Why did he have to suffer so much in the last four months of his life after 70 years of fantastic health? Why wasn't I there for him? Why didn't it rain for his memorial like it does for good people? Why was it sunny and cold? Dad couldn't get warm anymore, so why did it have to be sunny AND cold? Stupid Alberta weather. WHY?

Speaking of anger, you know what's an insensitive thing to say to a grieving co-worker? "Smile!"and "Cheer up!" I seem to have misplaced my sense of humor.

Why him? I'm the one who is overweight, drinks and smokes. Why him and not me? I see old people walking the mall, and I wonder why they continue to live when he didn't. I shouldn't be so selfish. I can name at least five people from my home town of Fox Creek who could ask themselves the same thing after they lost a parent before me. Why them? Maybe the Black Joke is an odd chuckle when it isn't you.

Grief is HEAVY. I can barely move. I think my sister and I wanted to be brave. Jody got the phone call at work, and finished her shift. I got the phone call on my days off--Sunday, and went to work on Tuesday, without any time off. We're proud of our work ethic. Now I'm scared it's going to kill us. I can't speak for my sister, but I didn't take any time off for that first week. I had reasons that I'm still trying to justify.

I wanted to honor is memory by being strong. Neither of us ever called in sick, and we felt a sense of duty and loyalty to our jobs. Jody and I learned our work ethic from our parents, and we felt the need to keep it. And I'm speaking for myself when I say I worked because I feel a sense of guilt.

I had a disturbing dream after learning of my father's death. I dreamed that I was at an airshow, with all manner of aircraft flying through the air. I noticed these hot air balloons, they were black, dark blue, and dark red striped. They had jesters on them, and were piloted by men in jester costumes. Thick black smoke streamed from beneath them.

It was time for my plane to leave. I watched out the window, nervous about bypassing these strange balloons, and how did they get away with belching pollution like that? We passed them and I noticed with increasing agitation that we had entered the stratosphere. I could see the shape of the earth. It was then that I noticed I wasn't buckled in.
He got that plaque for the most miles flown to that event in Rimbey.

I used to say that God had a strange sense of humor because the biggest mystery was what happened after death. And you had to die to find the answers. Now I know death is the Black Joke, and it's not funny.

I went to my mother's house. She gave me a whole stack of unused socks to give to my husband. Turns out Daddy was unable to wear them. Something about them not being warm enough, and he wasn't able to pull them up by himself. Actually, he was in such bad shape, mom had to pull them up, despite the fact that she needs a walker everywhere she goes.

So I took the socks from the bed where my mother placed them, to the spare bedroom where my father slept the last four months of his life. They couldn't even sleep together because Daddy had to sprawl because he couldn't breathe. I'm holding an armload of unused socks, and my duffle bag is right next to the spot on the floor where my mother found my father's body.

I wonder.. Did he cry out for help? Was he able to? Or did he choke on the fluids building in his lungs? Was he cold? Was he scared? His left hand was still on the bed. Did he know what was happening to him? Was he trying to get up? Next thing I know, I am sobbing and trembling into an armload of socks.My Poor, Sweet, Daddy.

What have I learned from this? Never ask the universe for a little more time off from work. In fact, don't ask the universe for anything. It will make stuff happen in ways you don't want. Keep your family close. You'll never know when you'll need them, or worse--when you'll lose them. Let love be your motivation. That's what I've learned.
One of Dad's last photos. They used it for his obituary.

Right now, I'm trying to rest. No edits, no research, no new writing. I don't really have much of a choice, since dad's death has sucked my energy away. But death is a natural conclusion to life, and we will all lose someone we love at some time. This is my time to mourn, and when I'm done, I will honor my father by chasing my dreams. It's just going to take some time for the cracks in my shell to heal.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Worry Dolls and Sleepy Inspirations

Or...How to Use Worry Dolls to Keep Those Late Night Ideas Until Morning.

This last Christmas my husband bought me a set of six Worry Dolls. He got them from a store here in Edmonton called Ascendant Books. (I LOVE that store.) It's a place where you can get your tarot cards or your palm read. You can buy crystals, sage, yoga tapes, incense, fairy houses and paraphernalia, and of course BOOKS. Books on anything and everything metaphysical. The store has a fantastic vibe, kinda magical.

That's where he bought the Worry Dolls. Use these little treasures at bedtime. You tell a worry doll what's keeping you up at night. Tell one doll about how you're stressed about bills. Tell another you're worried about your friend who's having surgery. Tell another that the job interview tomorrow has you nervous--anything that might keep you awake.

The idea is that THEY do the worrying FOR you. I find it helps. When the things that bother me sneak into my brain, I remind myself that the dolls are keeping my problems. They aren't mine for the night. It's physiological, and you have to let it work.

Here's how I use them for writing ideas:

Every writer has experienced that flood of inspiration that happens just as we're dropping off. You're half asleep, and a really cool thought hits you--something that might make a great story idea. How badly do you need sleep? Do you get up, turn the light on and write it down? Or do you drift off and hope it's still there in the morning?

Most writers choose the former, and they keep pen and paper on the nightstand for just such an occurrence. That means waking your spouse to turn the light on, or maybe you get out of bed and leave the room. You force your eyes to adjust, writing blearily and hoping the resulting plot bunny doesn't hop all over your brain for a few hours more. You hope you'll sleep.

This happened to me two weeks ago. I don't remember what triggered it, but a concept shouted at me. I also had to work early. I grabbed a worry doll from my nightstand without turning on the lamp. I whispered my idea to her. I even gave her keywords. Medieval England. Papal Indulgences. Her True Name:Volume unknown. Then I tucked her under my pillow, and went to sleep.

The next day, I readied myself for work. The day was uneventful. I came home, and changed into my pajamas, remembering I had worry dolls under my pillow. When I saw the third one, I remembered my thought, and ran to my journal to get it down. It stuck!

Guess what? I have a book idea. I think it might even be my next novel. I'm not saying it will work as a novel. And I'm not saying this method will work for everyone. I'm saying give it a shot.

t doesn't even have to be a doll. It can be anything, can't it? If you whisper your idea to your spare bookmark or a hair brush and find it under your pillow the next day, you'll probably find the trigger again anyway. Mostly because you'll wonder why you put it there, right? (Hey you remember that thing I told you about historical corruption and how a certain god-figure did the thing I want to write about?) Try it. See what happens. Best of luck!

Friday, March 10, 2017

Fighting the Block by Being Kinder to Myself

"A clean desk is a sign of a sick mind."
I'm not washing my walls this spring. That's right, I said I'm NOT. Sure I'll still clean my fridge and stove, wash all the linens and dust the hell out of everything, but I'm not washing the walls. I'm taking a load off my plate, since I'm the one who put it there to begin with.

I'm feeling tired. I'm currently editing two books and working full time. It bothers me to admit that it's causing mild Writer's Block.

I hesitate to call it true Writer's Block. What it actually is, is the lack of time or energy to do research and find a useable plot for ancient East Indian humans. When I come home from work, I worry about all the other things I have to get done and stress out because I don't have the energy to do them.

This is how we fight this kind of Writer's Block.

1. We Relax-- Nothing strengthens a bout of Writer's Block like tension. Think Chinese finger trap. The more you worry about it, the tighter the trap.

2. We trust ourselves and our imaginations--This isn't just for writers. You can't force ideas, but ideas flow when you just let your mind be free to wander outside your day to day life. Inspiration can be found anywhere, and it will find you again when the time is right. No need to push.

3. If there's too much crowding the mind, remove a few things--Like the self-imposed obligations of a sparkling clean house and a massive garden I can't actually take care of. I'm a writer. I have no social life. No one comes to my house anyway! Who am I trying to impress?

4. Cut yourself some slack--I just finished two novels, and I'm in the process of editing and improving upon them. That's plenty right there. Maybe now isn't the time to start something new. Maybe right now, it's time to...

5. Find inspiration anywhere and everywhere-- You know what happens when you have your husband's longtime-friend-he-hasn't-seen-in-ages over for dinner? And he's a history freak? You learn things you can use to make the novel you're editing right now into something more interesting, with more depth.

Don't worry, I'm not worried. Just writing this blog proves to me I still have creativity flowing--just not in the direction of something new. It'll come. And when it does, there will be new books to write:) You don't need to wish me luck this time. I won't need it.

Author's Note: I actually wrote this blog three days ago. I practiced what I preach, and today I found a brand new book idea. Now I have to get off social media to write up an outline.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Congratulations to my winners!

Cover by Terra Weston
It's March first, 2017 and it's time to announce my contest winners. I would like to that everyone for participating, mostly on Facebook and Twitter. A few of you also used Pinterest and their own blogs, and I loved that. Thank you <3

First place winner of signed copies of Chasing Monsters and Her True Name Volume One and an Aphrodite's War notebook: Jody Haynes!!

Second place winner of signed copies of Chasing Monsters and Her True Name Volume One: Meghan McKenzie!!

Third place winner of a signed copy of Chasing Monsters: Michelle Ashley Gordon!!

Thankfully all three of you are easy to contact through Facebook. Thanks for all the shares, ladies <3 Again, thanks to everyone who entered. It did my heart good to see the response. I hope my winners enjoy the novels.
Cover by: Anima Black