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Spring 2017

We got to really enjoy the weather this weekend. We had two great days of sunshine followed by a rainy day (which was great for writing and reading). On the sunny days we got to finally take the dogs out for their first walks of the year. They are small, and hate the cold and hate dog shoes, so they don’t go for walks in the winter. They were so happy to finally get to patrol the neighborhood. We also spent time in the back yard, cleaning it up, which means Cheese also got to spend time with us outside. The poor thing would love to be outside all the time… until she heard a loud noise, that is.

We had some fun away from home. We don’t go out to eat often, but we always say we want to try places around us. Last week we went to The Works that is near us, and this weekend we tried Wild Wing. We’re glad that we found two new places to bring people when they visit!

We also went to the Friends of the Ottawa Public Library’s Mammoth book sale. As usual, I said I wouldn’t be getting anything, thinking of how full my shelves already are, but $9.00 later I came home with a nice little stack of fiction and non-fiction, including some Stephen King books that I want to re-read. FOPLA is run by volunteers and their sales raise money for the library. They sell books at their locations at different libraries across town, and then they run this sale once a month. Their books are those that have been donated as well as decommissioned library books. There is always a new and huge selection.

After the book sale we went to the movies and saw Power Rangers. It was a nice little movie with some fun nostalgia. Both Alex and I were waiting in baited breath to hear “it’s Morphin time!” and we were so excited to hear the old theme song and see the zords running – haha! I liked the diversity in the film, and I’m on team “make Tommy a girl for the sequel”, but I’m still annoyed that the “girl armor” had the different chest plate.

I went into this weekend a little overworked, so I really needed the rest. And by the time 4theWords was recommended to me, I was ready to “pick up the pen” again. I enjoy the “gamification” of writing, it’s something a little different that feels like it helps to take the pressure off, and gives you fun little rewards for your character!

Productivity-positive noise

As long as I can remember, I’ve had to sleep with a fan on for noise. The dead silence of night is absolutely deafening to me. I’m lucky that I married a guy who is the same, because that could have been an issue! Fans are considered white noise, which, like the color white, is pretty much all the frequencies put together and bouncing back at you. This helps block out individual noises that could be distracting (source). To me, it’s just meditative and soothing.

When I was in school, I had better concentration when there was background noise while I was studying. It could be music, or TV reruns (which I don’t find a distraction, but a comfort). I’ve always been different with writing though. If I listen to music or try to write with the TV on my mind will wander.

When the days of laptops came around there was so much disdain for the writers who went to coffee shops to write, but as soon as I had a laptop I jumped on that bandwagon. Yes, I did it at first to “feel like a writer,” but I found out that there was some magic in there that really did boost my productivity.

Of course, there’s no such thing as magic. Some thought on the matter was that it’s just fun (I agree), or that people work because they don’t want to feel like they are there not doing anything, or that their mind is making them work because they feel competitive with other’s there. For me, I completely buy into the idea that it’s the noise level. The chatter, the machines, the music: they all add up to creating a noise level that isn’t too loud or too quiet. It makes sense. I’ll go to another coffee shop if my closest one is too crowded, and I don’t get quite as much done if I’m at a place that is dead.

So, should I try to use noise to recreate the productivity magic at home? I love the idea that you can set a ritual and “hack your brain” to switch into productivity/writing mode when it hears something specific. I just haven’t found the right thing for me yet. I tried having certain playlists made just for the project I’m working on, but lost more time trying to find the “perfect playlist” that I should have been using writing.  are working on (for me, I can’t use songs with lyrics). I tried Brain.fm, which came highly recommended, but that wasn’t right for me. I’ve seen some writers recommend “brown noise” and some articles touting the greatness of “pink noise,” but I really just don’t get all of that sciency-stuff.

I’m a sucker for a good productivity hack, but this is all getting too complicated for me. In the end, I’ll sleep with the fan, work with the TV on, and treat myself to occasional coffee shop writing. If you have any good (and easy to do/understand) ideas, let me know!

Wattpad and Patreon

I’ve joined Wattpad!

It only took two workshops from the lovely Linda Poitevin to convince me of the benefits of the platform. I guess it also took me over a year to feel like I was ready enough as a writer to do it. The first workshop of hers I went to was by the Capital Crime Writers and Ottawa Public Library in October 2015. I even found my old tweets from then!

The latest workshop was this past weekend at the Ottawa Romance Writers Association. Here Linda mapped out for us how the popularity of Wattpad and serial reading is growing worldwide (especially among the younger demographics) and she explained how linking to a free excerpt to a fully-published ebook can lead to more sales. She used her own data and charts to show us exactly how Wattpad affected her sales. It’s really quite staggering.

In addition to the fun Wattpad announcement, I’ve also recently joined Mandy Rosko’s Patreon, which in my mind is the “Mandy Rosko exclusive fan club”, where she has made it easy for subscribers to get her backlist and newest ebooks! As a higher-tier subscriber, I get one-on-one Skypes once a month where Mandy has been giving me motivation (and cracking that whip). As a result, I’ve had a higher wordcount last month than the previous ones, I’ve started using the terrifying “Write or Die” (NOT in kamikaze mode though), and I’ve also picked up Fire Emblem Heroes on my iPhone and become VERY addicted to it. What? A healthy life isn’t about all writing, all the time!

Steampunk Short Story Collection

It’s official! Our Eight Ripple Press Steampunk short story collection will be launched on October 1, 2017. It is called: “Steamy Cogs: A Steampunk Romance Collection.” Jackie Lefebvre is returning to edit, and Olivia Moore will be the cover photographer (as she was for December Wishes). We also have several returning authors: Bonnie Lynn Carroll, Laurie Stewart, and Raeanne G. Roy. I’m also excited to have Bess Hamilton as our newest author!

Some people have asked “what is steampunk?” but that’s a bit of a loaded question. Google defines it as:

steam·punk (ˈstēmˌpəNGk/) noun

noun: steampunk; noun: steam-punk

genre of science fiction that has a historical setting and typically features steam-powered machinery rather than advanced technology. “if you like steampunk, this is a great book for you”

a style of design and fashion that combines historical elements with anachronistic technological features inspired by science fiction. “the essence of steampunk is homage to vintage fashion with a modern, sassy twist”

Usually they take place in Victorian England, or the Wild West (as mine will) and have a gritty feel to them. I’m on pins and needles waiting to see how each of our authors shape theirs!

Our cover design will be revealed in April, and we’ll update the Facebook page with all of the progress.

Book Reviews: Mechanicsville (YA) by Laurie Stewart

Fair warning, I don’t normally pick up YA, or books this dark and gritty. However, I was familiar with Laurie Stewart’s work, and having enjoyed her magical way of spinning a tale in the past I decided to take her up on the offer for review copies of her Mechanicsville series.

In the synopsis for book 1 Stewart tells us what her themes are: isolation, change, and loyalty. These play out with a trio of Ottawa teenagers who live in Mechanicsville, a low-income and dangerous area of the Nation’s capital. Ashleigh is the street-smart, tough-as-nails kid who leads the other troubled youth with her “bad ass” attitude, but really she longs for someone she can be safe and herself with. Samantha falls from privilege and has to cope with change, and Faraj embraces loyalty to his own detriment.

The book is very compelling and I found myself wanting to read all of it in one sitting. The unique first-person perspective resets each scene with the new narrators POV and allowed the reader to have compassion, or at least understanding and insight, into each character.

The situations the teens encounter are extremely heavy and several scenes were very disturbing. Stewart doesn’t pull her punches. She writes these scenes well and gives her audience the chance to have real and visceral reactions to terrible issues.

In book 1 the antagonists were more abstract, but a few villains materialize in book 2, preparing us for the final battles the protagonists are sure to face in book 3. We want them to overcome their demons and get on the “right track”, but Stewart doesn’t make any promises.

My biggest takeaways from these books were first, how nice it was to have such a diverse cast. Book 2 increases the cast size from 3 POVs to 5. I found myself really rooting for Ashleigh and wanting the story to return to her perspective the most. In the end, it was really her that had the most character development and story conclusion, happy or sad as it may have been.

After finishing book 1 I was glad I could start book 2 right away. It picks up where the last one left off, with the characters dealing with their new situations. I was glad to see the return of a surprise character, and the addition of a new teen, Willow. She has completely different challenges than the others, yet is a much-needed lighthearted addition to the ensemble cast.

Book 2 more or less leaves off in cliffhanger way, leaving many loose threads and a lingering feeling that with this set of teens, the tides could turn at any second.

I felt in this book (as in the first), Ashleigh had the most developed character arc. She not only has her own problems, but cares about her friends and other people who are suffering in the world. She’s struggling to balance between what she is expected to do and what she feels her duties are to others. I’m excited to read the next part of her story, and eagerly awaiting the announcement of a book 3 release date!

BOOK ONE: A Test of Loyalty, 200 pages published by Covid Moon Publishing August 30, 2015

BOOK TWO: Alone in the Night, 190 pages, published by Pronoun October 30, 2016

 

Winterlude 2017

Winter is always a challenge for me. The cold weather depletes my energy and motivation. It’s different than in November and December, when you get to look forward to all the cozy holidays. January and February just feel like an endurance test.

What’s more, there have been many Februarys for me that have presented the extra challenge of a new job. This year was one of those. I moved from my position in Tunney’s pasture over to one downtown. It’s offered me new challenges, new writing topics, and a great bunch of people, all of which have made me sure that I made the right move, but that doesn’t mean the adjustment period was less difficult.

My commute is now longer, and I’m riding the bus instead of commuting. I’ve managed to deal with that by using my commute time wisely. Often in the mornings (hello early days) I sleep, but every afternoon I write for an hour on the Scrivener app on my phone. I’m also getting to get a nice walk in every day, walking the 15mins from my work toward Alex’s.

Another benefit of working downtown was getting down to Winterlude this year. It was way too cold for me to want to stay long or go ice skating, but the sculptures were cool!

I’ve also started to be more involved with the Ottawa Romance Writer’s Association (ORWA). It’s exciting to be more involved with the writing community and to start to make real contacts (perhaps even friends). I’ve even started to help with the website, because I think this powerful group of women shouldn’t be hidden from the rest of the local romance writing community. I hope I’m able to help more writers to join, and to strengthen their career as a result.

Another big first for me came in February – my first rejection letter! I’m way more happy about it than I should be, I suppose, but to me it’s just proof that I’m actually doing it (writing). Plus, they gave me great notes that I 100% agree on that will help me fix it, and maybe I’ll resubmit.

I’m working on the next short story collection. It was postponed (which was a good thing, after all the stuff in Jan/Feb that was going on) but now we have our editor on board and all of the writers, and we will announce it soon!

December Wishes Book Launch

Today marks the launch of our second short-story collection, December Wishes!

I’ve always loved Christmas stories. The books, the kids’ specials, and all of the cheesy Hallmark Channel movies are a big part of my enjoyment of December. There’s something so nice about suspending all of our worries and letting ourselves focus on the magic of the season.

That’s why a Christmas anthology was high on my list of projects I wanted to do. I didn’t just want to create my own story, I wanted to bring together stories from our varied authors to demonstrate just how different that magic could be for everyone.

Our authors didn’t let me down. In addition to my story, which took a journalist to the secretive North Pole and Santa’s workshop, we also got a story about an angel, a story about an intergalactic journey home, a story about how Vampires (and Vampyres) spend the holidays, and a contemporary romance. None of these were assigned, it just turned out that our authors gave us completely different holiday story subgenres. A little something for everyone, or, if you’re a little nutty like me and happen to love ALL THINGS CHRISTMAS, then it’s five different tales for you to enjoy.

I’m proud of this fun little project, and I really enjoyed my time working with each author and the two editors for this book. If you get a chance to pick it up, I hope you like it!

Poppies

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The red poppy is the Canadian national symbol of remembrance for the men and woman who gave their lives during military service around the world.

When I moved to Canada I learned about the poppy tradition as a military spouse. It always warms my heart to see others (outside of just the Military Community) showing their support for the troops and veterans while wearing the poppies. It’s something I deeply respect about the Canadian people.

Remembrance Day is November 11 (the 11th day of the 11th month) and on the 11th hour the country holds two minutes of silence to remember all who have fought for the country. This tradition holds roots from when armies stopped fighting in WWI in 1918 (Armistice Day).

However, Canadians wear poppies and recognize their veterans and troops for more than just the one day. Poppies pop up on jackets and shirts during the “Remembrance Day period”, from the last Friday in October until November 11, when the poppies are then left at gravesides, memorials and cenotaphs.

As an outsider, it’s hard to jump in and join a tradition, but wearing the poppy is something that anyone who wants to thank veterans and troops can do. There is really no right or wrong way to wear a poppy. As long as you want to honor veterans and troops, then wearing one is all that really matters. Just place it on the left-side of your jacket or shirt (closest to your heart).

There are different sizes and styles of poppies and none are wrong. This year, an estimated 20 million poppies will be distributed by the Royal Canadian Legion from the boxes left by cash registers at retail locations, or the tables manned by volunteers outside stores.

These small plastic flowers are held on your clothing by a straight pin, which could lead to either sticking yourself throughout the day or to losing the poppy. The Legions prefer for you to not alter the style of the poppy by subbing out the pin (although it is allowed), so consider using an earring back or getting a poppy keeper from the branch if you have issues with the pin.

The Legion poppies are given out for free, but donations are accepted. The donations go to the Poppy Fund, to help veterans and their families.

Back from cruising with Mickey


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It’s been a heck of a few weeks!

Hubby had been away for two months teaching, and the day after he got back we took the pets to camp (the pet kennel). They love it there, or at least the dogs do. Who can tell with cats? Then we hit the road to NYC for our 10 year anniversary cruise for 5 nights on the Disney Magic to the Canadian coast!

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The cruise was fantastic, and I wish it would have lasted many more days. I guess I also wished that we were traveling to warmer weather, but it all worked out for the best since Hurricane Matthew was heading in and cruises were changing their itineraries from the Bahamas to the Canadian coast anyway.

We got a lot of much-needed rest on the at-sea days. On the days when we were in port (Saint John, NB and Halifax, NS), we got up and walked around town, then went back for a late lunch and rested until the evening show at 6pm, and then dinner at 8pm, and then some after-diner activities (such as the lavenous Mike Super magic show). Oh, and probably the most “Disney magical” part of our trip was being seated for dinner every night with two other couples that proved to be great table mates. I never thought we’d end up with such like-minded people (sharing love for Disney, Marvel, Star Wars, etc) and even wrangled coloring sheets and crayons from our server for the last two nights!

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We went to the museum in Saint John, New Brunswick (not to be confused with Saint Johns Newfoundland). During our tour through the museum my writer brain started wondering about life for the wives of these sailors. Saint John was a major port for sailing, back when ships of wood were made and used to transport. The wives would accompany their husbands on the ships. To my delight, there was a book on this topic in the museum gift shop, and can’t wait to start reading!

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I felt a bit guilty for sleeping and resting so much on the cruise. But I forget that in the two months hubby was gone I wasn’t just doing double chores (caring for the house, myself, and 4 furbabies alone), but I also worked a full-time day job (with 45-60 min commute each way), wrote and submitted a novel to a big publisher, wrote and submitted regular 5k word ghostwritten fiction bi-weekly, wrote a short story for a Halloween anthology, and, oh yea, PUBLISHED THAT ANTHOLOGY. That means co-editing each of the other four stories, project managing between authors and the other editor, formatting the interior, working with the cover designer, getting the ISBN and bar code, submitting for publishing, working on marketing… etc… sigh… I guess THAT’s why I slept a lot on the cruise! (If you’re interested, it’s available here: Amazon.com | Kobo (Canada) | Amazon.ca)

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Last Monday was Canadian Thanksgiving. We skipped it, as we were basically still full from the cruise. We did lentil and bean soup instead, a light meal we needed. It was hard to get back into the swing of things last week, and I’m still struggling to get my word count up, but I need to since time waits for no one! We’re already working on the December novel!

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These faces were glad to be home!

Writing meetings

Only one week left of being the “only human” in the house. Also, only 5 workdays left until we get to CRUISE! Ahhh… I’m completely looking forward to 5 days of RELAXATION. Touring Halifax and Saint John, watching movies on deck, going to the shows, eating fantastic meals, and reading and writing. I wish it was for longer than 5 days, but I’ll take what I can get, and I plan to fully enjoy it!

Otherwise, last week was pretty great. I went to my first meeting as a member of Capital Crime Writers, and their guest presenter, Debra Komar, was SO interesting. She was a forensic anthropologist before she retired a few years ago and began writing. I’ll be taking her book on the cruise for sure!

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Besides enjoying listening to Debra, I also enjoyed being with other writers. Writing is isolating, and it’s hard to get out of your own head. Being around others who are supportive of each other and encouraging is super important. It’s something I love about the different conventions I get to go to (none so much as Dragon Con, which I have no idea when I’ll next get back to) – the cheering on of each other. I’ve been a long-time disciple of the thought that it’s so necessary to help each other out, because lifting others up means creating a quality industry. The more good writers there are, the more excited readers will be to keep reading.

I’ve been listening to some writing lectures, and the one today on plotting by Carolyn Banks talks about how ideas can haunt you. If the idea (one you create, or maybe on you hear on the news) is that good that it keeps in your memory then it may be good enough to develop into a story. That makes a lot of sense to me, as there are some things that just stick with you like a ghost in your mind. They’ll eventually go away if you avoid them long enough, but the word “haunted” to describe it is such a good one.