Category: Distractions Page 1 of 2

The Art of Words

As a person who finds herself inspired by words, I surround myself with wordy things. Books by the hundreds, typewriters of all shapes and sizes, even a writing-inspired tattoo (and another to come soon).

And then there’s artwork. My favourite pieces I own (apart from this painting by Brandon Bird which is the first thing you see when you walk into my house) all have to do with books and writing. There’s the large-scale print of a couple embracing under a tree that’s actually made using the entire text of Wuthering Heights, and the vintage typewriter ads, including this one which is pretty much exactly what I look like when I get on a real tear.

This is what I hung in my dreamy little writer’s shed tonight:

Tragedy #388 by Benjamin Dewey

Tragedy #388 by Benjamin Dewey

It makes me chuckle every time I see it. The poor wolfman! No one will ever read his comedic space opera.

I love the Tragedy series, btw. We have a bunch of them and I’ve gifted several more, but this one has been stored away until my retreat was complete. You can see them all, and buy your own prints, from the Tragedy Series Tumblr, which I strongly encourage you to do.

Giant Cringe

Just for fun, I went back today and read the a couple chapters from the first draft of The Unravelling. It’s been so long since I’ve started it, and I’ve been through so many revision drafts that I didn’t really have much of a feel for the original manifestation anymore. Back in those days I didn’t outline and just let the words flow freely, at best spending a bit of time each night before I fell asleep dreaming up what I was going to write the next day.

Let’s be kind and say I’ve come a long way in a year and a half.

It’s actually kind of encouraging, if you look at it from the perspective of seeing how much I’ve learned since I started out. And the bones of the story were always good, there was just a lot of fat to be trimmed.

In all the cuts, I’d forgotten some little details, things that weren’t at all important to the development of the story, but make the characters richer in my mind. Things like the fact that Poppy was the fourth of eight children. Or that Callie’s job used to be designing websites. And revisiting characters that I subsequently cut completely from the book was kind of fun too. One has since reappeared in a slightly different characterization in The Unseeing, which just goes to show the importance of never deleting previous versions.

The next question is whether I have the courage to revisit my NaNoWriMo 2011 novel. I haven’t so much as opened the document again since November 30th of that year. But it, too, was a learning experience and while I’ll never even attempt to publish it, it was my first step toward authordom, and for that I’ll always hold it fondly in my heart, even if I have to read the whole thing peeking between my fingers.


I’m kind of bored tonight. It’s a bit of a stretch to say that anagrams have much to do with writing, but they’re still fun. There aren’t too many interesting ones with just my first and last name, but when you throw in my middle name, you get gems like:

– redescribe moth loins (not being an entomologist, I think I’ll pass)
– herbicide rots melons (no shit?!?)
– lost herbicide sermon (maybe if they hadn’t lost it, they’d know it would rot their melons…)
– herbicide snot morsel (I don’t know how to respond to this)
– incredible mesh torso (This is quite possibly my superhero name)
– incredible shoe storm (The current condition of my closet)
– incredible moth sores (Possibly located on their loins?)
– recombined loser shit (Ouch.)
– smooth line describer (A career with endless potential!)
– describe hotel minors (“Well, officer, one of them had a skateboard…)
– describe mother’s loin (Umm, no thank you.)
– bisected rhino morsel (It’s what’s for dinner.)
– bicolored semen shirt (I really should do some laundry.)
– moldier obscene shirt (I really should do some laundry.)
– Hitler’s bodice sermon (One of his more famous speeches)
– more bristlecone dish! (It’s what’s for dessert.)
– broiled ostrich semen (a sauce for the bristlecone dish)
– retch inside bloomers (if any of the above don’t appeal to you)
– become hired nostrils (now that’s useful career advice)
– become doltish rinser (not so sound advice)
– biochemist nerd loser (awwww…)
– bitchier models snore (I however, don’t)
– embolic shit endorser (buy yours today!)
– chiseled tin sombrero (it hangs above my incredible shoe storm)
– horrible incest demos (tickets at your local Ticketmaster)
– stone crib demolisher (trust me, I’m doing you a favour)
– horns bleed eroticism (oh my.)
– coiled hermits’ boners (oh my.)
– mini roosters belched (not your usual wake-up on the farm)
– merino bedclothes, sir! (they sound so comfortable!)
– most credible heroins (if I ever become a drug dealer, this is how I’ll describe my product on my business cards)
– bile directs hormones (I’ve always wondered where they came from)
– their bosoms reclined (mine are still pretty perky though)
– coltish reindeer mobs (downright dangerous, frankly)
– shoot Berliner medics (but only if they overcharge)
– boil censored hermits (since we’re already maiming people)
– Berlin dooms heretics (officially not a nice place to live, what with all the shooting and boiling)
– morbid, chestier Olsen (I think that’s Mary-Kate)
– mindless robotic here (hey, it’s my day off)
– hire demonic lobsters (they’re good for dirty work)
– cheerio, blond misters! (and to everyone else reading)

courtesy of

Award Time

I’m honoured and grateful to be nominated for the Liebster Award again, by Sarah, a fellow writer who blogs at …and then there was Sarah. I’ve been nominated before and made up a list of nominees, but I like the questions that Sarah chose so much that I wanted to answer them. Here, first, are eleven random things about me, as per the rules of the award.

  1. I am so very, very left-handed, the only one in my family for several generations. Both my kids are as well, despite the statistical improbability with a right-handed father.
  2. I’m an avid home canner and preserver. Most of my spare time in late summer and early fall is spent canning, pickling, dehydrating and freezing, and our family spends very little on groceries in the winter months.
  3. My front yard is a vegetable garden, and a good portion of my back yard is too. Even though we live on an average city lot, we’re able to grow much of our own produce in the summertime. My favourite thing to grow is either swiss chard or kale, and my biggest failure is squash.
  4. My favourite cocktail is a bellini.
  5. My favourite hot drink is an almond milk chai latte.
  6. My husband and I honeymooned in Ireland, spending a good bit of the trip backpacking and staying in a different village every night. We met a lovely woman who, upon parting with us, gave us a book of traditional Irish names and told us that we would name our children from the book. It turned out that she was right.
  7. If I could only eat one food for the rest of my life, it would be sushi.
  8. My favourite guilty pleasure show is Storage Wars. Other than that, I really don’t watch much TV at all.
  9. I used to collect shot glasses from all my travels, and before I stopped, I had over two hundred from all over the world.
  10. Ten years after buying our house, we’re finally starting to buy and hang artwork that we love. That’s about the speed we get stuff done around the house.
  11. My favourite tattooes are the starfish on top of my feet. I live in a landlocked city but love the ocean, so every time I look down at them I feel like I’m at the beach.

And Sarah’s questions to her nominees, which will be much easier to answer than thinking up things about myself:

1. Everyone has realistic goals and dream goals. Name one of your dream goals.

I’ve always wanted to make and sell homemade soup at the farmer’s market. I love making soup and giving it away to friends.

2. Name a book you’ve read that is generally considered by critics and the masses to be a good book by most, but that you did not enjoy.

Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian. I couldn’t even finish it, it was so overly violent and difficult to read I gave up about two thirds of the way through.

3. Is there any genre of music that you can’t stand, under any circumstance?

I don’t like to say never, but country music and hardcore rap really grate my eardrums.

4. Where is the most interesting place in the world that you’ve been?

Oh, this is a hard one. I hiked the West Coast Trail on Vancouver Island eight years ago, which was incredible despite the fact that I broke my wrist partway through and had to complete the trip in a splint made of driftwood. So that’s my most interesting travel experience. My favourite place to travel is Abaco Island in the Bahamas, but I don’t know if it’s the most interesting… Joshua Tree National Park in southern California is stark and beautiful, with a landscape that seems almost extraterrestrial. It’s pretty cool… really, I can’t pick one place.

5. Name a current trend or meme (last few years) trend that you can’t stand.

Mommy blogging. Can’t. Stand. It. It’s gone from sharing humorous anecdotes with close friends and family to monetizing children’s lives and oversharing personal details without their kids’ permission.

6. Do you play any MMO games? If so, which?

None, never have. I’m not one for video games, except puzzles and Tiger Woods Golf.

7. Any interesting phobias?

Ha! This is a complicated question. The short answer is yes. Phobias and the anxiety related to them have shaped much of my psyche and how I relate to the world. To varying degrees, and at various points in my life, a phobia of enclosed spaces, open spaces, air travel, medications and other substances. The main character of the book I’m writing right now suffers from a severe phobia of touch, and while there are lots of other things going on in the story, ultimately it’s a story about one person’s journey to overcome a phobia.

8. Has there been a book, song, or movie that has changed your life? How?

Oh, man. I inhaled so many books as a kid. I remember the first book that really blew my mind – that showed me just what storytelling could do – was Watership Down. I still read it every year or two, and I can’t wait until my kids are a bit older so  can share it with them too. And the Nancy Drew books were what got me starting to write mysteries myself.

9. If you had the power to change one law in your country, what would it be and why?

They’ve changed so many laws in the past two years in my country (Canada) I think I’d be more in favour of changing laws back. Reinstating environmental protections would be high up on the list, or maybe a law to ensure that no private/for-pay medical care of any type would be allowed.

10. Do you share your blog with people you know in real life? Why or why not?

Absolutely, although most of them don’t read it since it’s not all that interesting with its narrow focus on writing. It’s certainly not a secret or anything.

11. Is Schrodinger’s cat dead or alive?

Physics actually makes my head pound, so without trying to parse the question, I’m going to say alive. Poor kitty.

And Then A Funny Thing Happened

I’ve been almost entirely preoccupied with Callie, Matthieu and Dane for nearly a full year. The three of them fill my thoughts constantly. So I was surprised recently when, at the back of my mind, another voice appeared. She was quiet at first, stealing into my thoughts every once in awhile when the others were silent, but over the past month or so she’s been gradually getting louder and more insistent. I’m here she says. Listen to me for a bit. And I do. I find I’m listening to her a lot.

She’s a funny one, this girl. A bit of an enigma. She tells me lots about her childhood, but little about her present or the trials she’s facing. She says we’ll talk about all that later, but in the meantime, there are things I ought to know…

Callie was kind enough to give the kid a few pages of my time today (she’s not enjoying having her early days re-written, it seems) and just like that, this girl-without-a-name became real, a person on paper, instead of a hint of an idea in my mind. There are a few things I need to get down before she’ll settle back into her quiet corner, waiting until Callie et al. have said their piece. The funny thing is, I don’t even know where she came from. It sure wasn’t the lightning bolt of inspiration I experienced with The Unravelling. Maybe she was born of discarded bits of other ideas. Maybe she’s always been there. It’s pretty clear at this point that she’s not leaving.

Now I find myself with a whole new tree of folders in my writing directory, a fresh set of topics to research and a document to store stray ideas as she feeds them to me. There’s monsters, and magic and a giant identity crisis – all the things I love in a story. I’m intrigued by all this – it’s a completely different process from what I’m used to. Callie’s story is so driven by music and I see and hear her in things all around me. This is like little whispers from the ether I have to strain to hear.

Is it possible to be working on two completely different books at the same time? Is that even wise? I might be about to find out.

Today I’m Back

My tomatoes are done – 190lbs put in jars for the year in five whirlwind days.

This photo is so artfully composed. You have the empty jars. The full jars. The produce. The giant pot. The tomato splatter on the floor. It’s everything about canning all together. Courtesy my lovely husband.

A lot of canning is repetitive and doesn’t require much brain activity. Chop, peel, scoop, stir, ad infinitum. That leaves a lot of time for thinking and plotting and shaping scenes. Last night I finished my last batch and today I’m ready to write. To hell with cleaning the kitchen.

August and September

Canning season. The bulk of our preserved food for the year gets put up in these two months. It all comes into season at once, and it’s a hell of a lot of work keeping up with getting it all processed and put away. Subsequently, my writing time has suffered. I sure don’t want to sit down at my computer after spending three hours pitting cherries. Same goes for making 10L of spaghetti sauce. And then there’s the garden, which is a whole other workload. It’s my favourite time of year, to be sure, and nothing feels better than looking at my fully stocked cold room at the end of it, but it’s not my favourite time to be a writer, because I’m scrambling to get in any time at all. Guess I’ll just keep telling myself that I can’t write anything at all if I have to take another job to by store-bought food (or I’m starving).

It’s A Start

In a tiny, tiny first step towards some sort of future organization, I made a doc called “Things for Later” that I put a couple of minor ideas I didn’t want to forget – snippets of dialogue, actually – that I hope will grow to be a more comprehensive list of plot points for this series. I’m not sure how to organize it, and I may not even try, just write them down as they come to me with some sort of note at the beginning indicating where it might fall in the timeline.

It’s kind of a big deal for me, she-who-does-not-outline. And after my tremendous efforts yesterday, it’s a good way for me to take a bit of a break from the book without being entirely unproductive. I think I’ve got the next week’s worth of writing set up nicely in my head anyway, so might as well focus on something different tonight.


Or I could just play Bejeweled all night instead. Whatever.

Retreat, Retreat!

I gave myself a mini-getaway today, taking over my parents’ vacant condo to sit on their balcony in the sunshine and write for the afternoon. I need to do this more often, even if it’s just at home. I normally write late at night, anywhere from 10pm to 1am, but doing it during the day, outside with the sun on my face and a beautiful view of the park and the river, really can’t be beat. Birds are chirping! Beez are buzzing! Golfers are cursing when they miss their second putts! Rather than jumping online when my mind needs a bit of a break, I can just gaze out over the city for a moment or two and then get back to my work, without having the interruption in my train of thought that internet distractions usually cause.

I never did think of the idea I’d lost the other day for the start of chapter 9, but I like where I’m going instead, so that’s all right, I guess. And, in keeping with my new no-wifi rule – I don’t know the password to my parents’ network anyway – I wrote 1,100 words in just over an hour, and every one of them came easily.

It’s good to be a writer today.

Why Didn’t I Think Of This Four Months Ago?

Fact: When I write, I’m often distracted by other things online, switching back and forth between my doc and various browser tabs that have nothing to do with research.

Fact: My usual output is anywhere from 300 to 700 words an hour.

Fact: This week I’ve had very limited internet access because I’ve been away from home, out in the sticks, but I’ve still managed to snag the rocket stick when I wanted to write.

Fact: This afternoon I couldn’t get the rocket stick but I decided to write without it anyway, figuring I’d give up quickly after I couldn’t research some tiny point.

Fact: I actually wrote 1,300 words in an hour. That’s probably a speed record for me.

Fact: From now on when it’s time to write I’m going to turn off the wifi capability on my laptop and only turn it on in cases when I actually need to. Facebook doesn’t count as a need.

Fact: It took me about 100,000 words over two novels to discover this about my writing routine.

Fact: I’m a little slow on the uptake sometimes.

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