Saturday, January 30, 2010

Happiness is...

Thanks so much to the lovely ladies at Anne Spollen's Author Blog and Chasing Empty Pavements! They've both seen fit to award me the Happy 101 blog award (aka Cupcake Award!). If you want to see what makes me happy, check out this post.

This is a great award to get more than once, because who doesn't appreciate MORE cupcakes! As it happens I'm actually making a couple of batches of cupcakes today for some family birthdays -- chocolate with chocolate icing & golden with butter-cream icing. We have a few family members who don't like chocolate. Hard to even imagine :)

As with all else in life, this makes me think about my characters. What's the one thing in the world that would make them happiest? Surprisingly, not cupcakes! Both of the mcs in my Steampunk ms have family members who've been killed, but I'm going to keep it more realistic than having them get those people back.

My male mc would like to avenge the murder of his best friend - the old man who raised him. Vengeance, more than justice, would make him very happy. Steampunk England is a tough world.

My female mc would like to be safe. Again - tough world. She's been living by her wits on the streets. For a teenage girl at the time, this is no easy task.

Our poor characters. Life is not easy. We sure put them through turmoil! Most of us live much safer, happier lives (I hope), and what would bring us happiness would not be as basic or elemental.

So, what about your main characters? What would make them the happiest? Would it be an actual item or something much more basic than that?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Mysterious Steampunk

I'm guest blogging over at Michele Emrath's blog, Southern City Mystery, today. It's my first time doing a guest post! I'm a little nervous..., but I don't suppose I should tell anyone that, should I? :)

I'm talking about Steampunk and what a great genre it is for mystery writers. Victorian England is an awesome setting for murder & mayhem. Add in a few steampunk devices? Fantastic!

Pop on over to Michele's and check out the post. She's got a fabulous blog - I know you'll enjoy visiting!

Have you done any guest blogging? Any advice? Hmmm. Should probably have asked that earlier...

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Breakthrough Moment!

Phew! For a bit there, I wondered if I would find an ending for my Steampunk NaNo.

If you've been following my blog for a bit, you might remember I blogged about this ms a while ago. Endings come first for me. I don't outline, but I pretty much know where I'm going anyway. Not for this one. I got images of the mc skulking around alleys with his tinkerings, but no ending.

I figured it would just happen. Silly me. :)

Tonight while I was typing - okay, deleting the last 2 chapters - I finally listened to the mc. He wanted to go sideways and I'd been resisting. Again, silly me.

Sideways we went. And suddenly he stumbled onto a secret that connected all the little clues I'd left throughout the ms. Weird. Exhilerating. But weird.

1000 words flew out of my fingers before I could blink. I'm not done yet. In fact, there's a fair bit to tie up now. But I know where I'm going!! Please feel free to toss some confetti!

What's your best breakthrough moment?

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Parker & Living Life

I need about six hours uninterrupted time in order to produce about two hours of writing.
-- Robert B. Parker

The writing world lost one of it's own on Monday. Robert B. Parker died while writing his latest Spenser adventure.

I imagine he's grinning a little grin about where he died. I hope so. I think many of us probably smiled when we first heard it.

I've read a ton of Parker's books over the years. I enjoy his sparse style, his wry humour and his unique characters. Spenser, Sunny, Jesse. They've all become quite real to me.

I love Parker's quote above. I can't even imagine 6 hours of uninterrupted time, but I totally agree with the quote anyway! Writing is so much more difficult than "outsiders" usually imagine - maybe this quote will give them a little insight.

Here's another one of my favourite Parker quotes:

I had achieved the most important things in my life when I married Joan and had the sons. Given the choice between Joan and the boys, and being a writer, I world give up being a writer without a blink.

Life is to be lived - and then written about! It needs to be lived first. As writers, we have to remember the important things in our lives - family, friends & the rest of the real world. It's easy to disappear into our private worlds, but I'm afraid our written worlds won't be very interesting if we stay there. I think Parker would agree.

Sunday, January 17, 2010


Martin Luther King Jr changed the world. His courage and perseverance are legacies to all of us. Can you imagine living in those times? I hope not.

I really don't understand racism. I mean intellectually I understand it, but I just don't get it. To me, it's like hating someone because they have a different shoe size. I was lucky enough to grow up naive and oblivious in a small Canadian city.

My first best friend was a First Nations girl. I told my mom one day I wanted to have black eyes & black hair. She laughed & said, "Not in this family." I didn't understand her comment, but it stuck with me. I don't like being confused, but something about the way she said it made me feel like I was supposed to understand it, so I didn't ask for an explanation. It was a loooong time before I realized people with Scottish heritage generally don't have black eyes.

In high school I became best buddies with a girl born and raised for a few years in China. By this time I was a little more aware, so it was pretty obvious her features were Asian, but I still didn't notice really. She was an amazing athlete and I always envied her the confidence she showed. We bonded over sports & are still friends today though we live many miles apart. I didn't know until years later her confidence was a facade. She'd come to Canada & school speaking no English. It was years before she made real friends because of the language barrier. Her confidence was an act, a good one. She told me later, she was thrilled to find a friend who never asked her about what it was like to grow up Chinese. Oblivious little old me never really thought about it.

Kids today are a LOT more aware of things than I ever was. Naive just doesn't cut it these days. They know there are differences. And they love it. They discuss it and they celebrate it. I have kids from 8 cultural backgrounds in my classroom. There is no racism. Zero. Zip. None.

And I'm not naive anymore. I watch. I listen. I know. They're not just talking the talk. They're walking the talk as well. Best friends happen across language barriers, across cultural boundaries. In my class, we do a LOT of group work, a LOT of partner work. Partners and group members are chosen randomly. Always. No one complains about working with a classmate. Ever.

So... Thanks Martin. We owe you a lot. We will remember. We will keep up the dialogue. Because there are some parts of our history that should never be repeated. And with your help, we'll make sure your dream becomes a reality.

Thursday, January 14, 2010


The wonderful Stephanie Thornton over at Hatshepsut: The Writing of a Novel awarded me the Super Sweet Award. Makes me happy just looking at it! Who doesn't need a little cupcake love now and again? Thanks so much, Stephanie :)

This award asks me to name 10 things that make me happy & then pass the award on to some friends. Piece of cake! (Pun intended - sorry)

So, what makes me happy?
1. Family & friends of course :)
2. All of you!
3. Libraries - the smell, the sounds, the people, the comfy chairs and the books!
4. Northern Ontario - we have some of the best scenery in the entire world!
5. Tigger... bouncy, trouncy, flouncy, pouncy, fun, fun, fun, fun, FUN!
6. Large, fluffy snowflakes when there's no wind at all!
7. Fringe, Firefly, Torchwood, Battlestar G & of course Star Trek :)
8. Music - pretty much all kinds. Pretty much.
9. Hockey. I AM Canadian.
10. My Olympic mitts (sorry for the reminder Elspeth!!!)

Now, to pass the yummy award on to some of my blogging buddies!
1. Debra Schubert over at Write on Target. Deb was the 1st total stranger to comment on my blog, retweet me & become a follower. Thanks so much!
2. Elspeth Antonelli over at It's a Mystery- I may have the mitts, but Elspeth's getting the actual Olympics!
3. Mason Canyon over at Thoughts in Progress. Mason writes a great blog & has the most amazing line up of guest bloggers!
4. Alexa over at Not Enough Bookshelves. Alexa has great info on and input into the YA scene. Cover Wars is one of her regular features.
5. Belle over at Ms. Bookish. Belle is an eclectic blogger with great insights!
6. Livia Blackburne over at A Brain Scientist's Take on Creative Writing. Really intriguing insights into the workings of the brain!
7. Donna Carrick over at Donna's Blog. Donna is a great writer & friend on Twitter!

If you haven't "met" some of these folks, check them out - you won't regret it :)

So what makes you happy? Just one thing!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Blog Buddy Contests!

My blog buddy, Shannon Messenger, over at Ramblings of a Wannabe Scribe is having a great contest! The contest involves all kinds of goodies. Lisa Schroeder visited over at Shannon's blog the other day. If you haven't read the interview - check it out here! The prizes for the contest include copies of Lisa's books: I Heart You, You Haunt Me, Far From You & Chasing Brooklyn. Great contest! For all the details & the official entry form, pop on over to Shannon's blog :)

Sara McClung, another fabulous blog buddy, is having a contest as well at her blog, The Babbling Flow of a Fledgling Scribe.  1st Place Prize -- The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman, Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Brown & Dave King AND The Dark Diving by Bree Despain. 2nd Place Prize -- Lament AND Ballad by Maggie Stiefvater. Click on Sara's blog link for the rules and ways to earn bonus points!

Awesome prizes ladies!!!

There are a LOT of contests going on this month. Don't miss these 2 in the hustle & bustle! Their blogs are fun and informative - have fun checking them out!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Public Speaking & Cool Mitts!

Woohoo!! My Blogger account finally allowed me to update the editor and I can now post photos and images. Exciting stuff! A few of you asked about the Canadian Olympic mitts I'm so excited about, so I thought I'd include them as my first offical pic. They're super warm as well as full of awesomeness!
On to business.

It's Orals month in our school board. I don't know if all boards do orals, so I'll explain a bit. Each student is required to present a 3-5 minute rehearsed and remembered speech in front of the class. It used to terrify me. I wouldn't eat that day or the day before for fear of throwing up in front of my peers. Orals can still terrify students.

Because I know exactly how they feel, I always start off the unit by telling them of my fears and horror stories (which are pretty awful). Then I remind them of what I do for a living. You have to be able to speak in front of people in order to be a teacher. They always get a giggle out of the thought of me shaking in terror!

Then I take them step by step by step through the process. We brainstorm topics. They choose a few and brainstorm subtopics for each. We debate the pros/cons of each choice. We talk about the amount of research needed for each.

Once they've chosen, mini-lessons include: how to write a hook for an introduction, how to create a satisfying conclusion, how to draw in the audience, how to balance your subtopics so you don't lose your audience in the middle, how to vary your sentences and your topics to keep it interesting, ...

During the process, several students used webs and outlines. Others have cut up their speeches and changed the order around.

From the very first day, at the end of each session, every student stands up and "talks the oral" for 5 minutes. All 30 of them at once. I record times on the board so they know how much they have and how far they have to go. After about a week, they also work in partners (different person every day). They say their orals to their partner. When they're stuck, the partner prompts them & on they go. A critique session is also included.

The end result is I have students who are comfortable saying their orals, who don't need or want cue cards, who enjoy their topics and who are excited for each other to do well.

One of my students remarked how similar writing an oral is to writing a report or a story. Smart cookie. Very similar to the regular writing process indeed.

Although I do a lot of my brainstorming and planning in my head rather than on paper, I do kind of follow this method. How about you? Does this echo your process?

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Too Much Information?

Okay - I've put this off for far too long. A bit cowardly I admit, but I've decided it's time.

Recently Anne Riley over at Reading. Writing. Querying. Publishing? generously awarded me the One Lovely Blog award. Thanks again, Anne! I appreciate your kind words and your thoughtfulness :)

I was also awarded the Honest Scrap Award over at Chasing Empty Pavements. Again, thank you so much! It was such a nice thing to wake up to this morning :)

These are two great ladies. If you haven't checked out their blogs yet, pop on over and say hi! You'll definitely feel welcome.

Now I've ignored the instructions for the last several blog awards. Bad, I know, but it's tough!! I'm really quite shy - sharing stuff can be difficult. Also I visit so many fabulous blogs, it's really, really hard to choose only a few! Major trauma.

So, here's what I'm going to do. I'll give a few intersting (???) facts about me. And I'll talk a bit about some fabulous sites you should be visiting.

1. I'd love to live in an old-fashioned farmhouse (with very modern plumbing) with wonderful wrap-around porches.

2. I still have nightmares from reading The Shining in high school.

3. I have so many untended injuries from playing sports when I was younger that I have over 60 places where my bones crack. Really icky! I think my knees are now much older than the rest of me.

4. I once owned a purple plastic record player. I wore out innumerable needles on it. Loved it!

5. I get a little giddy when I'm shopping for school supplies! There's nothing quite like prettily coloured post-it notes, fresh pencil crayons, bulletin board borders, name tags and new books. Heaven!

6. I can't choose favourites - be it books, movies, or just about anything else. Instead of 1, I choose a list. I don't even like selecting kids for jobs at school. All of their names are in a jar. Whenever I need something done, I choose from the jar. They love it!

Okay, enough already. On to my blogging buddies. I avoided choosing people to whom I've passed awards already. I think. Sorry folks!

I'm only choosing 7. I did it totally randomly by putting the numbers 1 - 79 (the number of blogs on my blog roll) into the site! How's that for avoiding the pressure? :) I never was very good at choosing favourites! See #6 above.

#67 - Mary Brebner
#22 - Helen Ginger over at Straight from Hel
#46 - Yvonne over at The Organic Writer
#69 - Julie over at The Climb
#9 - Shannon O'Donnell over at Book Dreaming
#20 - L. Diane Wolfe over at Spunk on a Stick
#10 - Natalie Whipple over at Between Fact & Fiction

Phew! That was mildly exhausting! Ladies take your pick of the 2 awards and do with them what you will. No pressure :) I believe the official rules are to tell 10 true facts about you and to pass the award along to 7 bloggers. Follow as you see fit. Have fun!

Monday, January 4, 2010


“It is the inspiration of the Olympic Games that drives people not only to compete but to improve, and to bring lasting spiritual and moral benefits to the athlete and inspiration to those lucky enough to witness the athletic dedication.”
-- Herb Elliott

“We cannot hold a torch to light another's path without brightening our own.”
-- Ben Sweetland

The Olympic Torch relay came through my city last weekend. It was a chilly -25 degrees Celsius, but nothing can stop the torch. Everyone just threw on a pair of long johns and out we went.

Great experience. We were lucky with our spot along the route. They switched torch bearers right in front of us, so we got to see the flame up close and personal! Very, very cool!

Total strangers laughed, hugged and cheered together, proving the Olympic Spirit is also alive and well. There's nothing quite like the Olympics to give the spirit a boost.

I love the way people cheer for people -- regardless of race, creed, gender or any other qualifying factor. The Olympics is often more about effort and perservence than winning. So many stories can bring a tear to your eye.

I love the ideals of the Olympics: people doing their best together. Slightly paraphrased, but you know what I mean. It certainly isn't always perfect in reality, but the ideals are incredible. In some sappy way this reminds me of the online writing community.

Over and over and over again the writers I meet online amaze me. Whether it's help with a technical issue, advice on how to tackle a plot problem, a unique perspective on how people write, an honest critique, or a much needed boost to the spirit, the online writing community is there. People helping and supporting people - regardless of any qualifying factors :)

Through blogs, Twitter and writing sites, I've come to know and appreciate so many wonderful people. Inspiration and support at every turn. Thank you, thank you, thank you for all of your help, advice and support.

Sappy speech over :)

Do you find inspiration in the spirit of the Olympics? Or the magnificient folks you've met online? (Please tell me it's not just me!!)

Saturday, January 2, 2010


Steampunk is a fairly new idea for many people. I've run into a lot of writers who don't know much (if anything) about it. I'm no expert, but I'm learning!

As many of you know, my NaNo novel is a YA Steampunk story. It's my first foray into the genre, and I'm finding it a lot of fun. I like playing around with the Victorian setting. I enjoy the research I've been doing to learn more about the timeframe.

The characters are a lot of fun too. My characters are lower class, and that makes it a bit different from some of the Steampunk I've read. My main characters rely on creating new machines and selling them for their income. They're also trying to solve a couple of murders and keep one step ahead of the killers who are now after them.

Calista Taylor over at A Steampunk Reverie is currently holding a Steampunk Short Story Contest. The entries are up on her blog. For a great introduction to Steampunk, pop on over and check out the stories. You'll be amazed at the diversity of the writing. Some will make you shiver, some will make you laugh, others will make you wonder. All will keep you entertained.

Have you ever read any Steampunk? Do you enjoy trying out new genres in your writing or do you prefer to stick with what you do best?