Friday, August 31, 2012

Summer Wishes

It’s August 31st and I’m absolutely thrilled – sort of. It’s a full moon (not that really has anything to do with anything), the cool, crisp mornings are making my early morning walks that much more brisk, and the shadows are changing daily with every hour.

I have been waiting for this moment for the last two months, and it’s finally here. But in end, I really don’t want summer to end.

Although summer is technically not over until sometime mid-September, I consider the hot season over as soon at the calendar changes and the kids go back to school. People scoff at the sight of school supplies, Halloween paraphernalia and Christmas wrap showing up in stores near the beginning of August, whereas I jump for joy at the signs of what is right around the corner.

Summer is not my favourite time of year, as you have guessed. There is no escaping the hot, dry, constant heat that practically chokes me to death. My pores go into overdrive, gasping for air, and my face is constantly one big oil slick. I have sweat in places we won’t mention; deodorant is pointless.

Just as the grass and trees gasp for water, I long for a rain. As a west coast girl born in autumn, rain is in my blood. The rainless summer has me missing the green of grass and trees, even though the leaves fall all too quick. Their changing colours take my breath away – but it’s not the same as the gasping for air in the heat.

I love dark mornings, and even darker evenings. Give me flannels, boots and scarves, and I’m happy. Cozy up after dinner with a blanket, candles on, and a good book (or night time sitcom) and I’m happy. Who needs sitting outside with the mosquitoes sticking to the sunscreen on your neck?

Yet despite my counting down the days to fall, I have learned not to wish it away, and I try to keep my boys busy and active in the summer, fostering memories for all. They are growing too fast, and time races by just as a fast as the seasons. One day I won’t have them to flip over rocks on the beach looking for crabs, nor will I have broken water balloons to clean up outside. I keep them stocked with freezies and ice cream, and 7-Eleven is their second home. I need to open a savings account to save for Slurpee money next year.

But then, as every year, it ends all too fast, the flipping pages on the calendar a blur. One minute I am bemoaning the end of school - our routine, broken - but deep down know that another grade, another chapter of their lives, is over. Then I am torn between rejoicing that it’s back to school – back to a routine - and being sad that yet another school grade has crept up.

Despite me longing for summer to be over, time speeding by has taught me to be careful what to wish for.

As I think about their first few days back to school, and wonder if they will have to do the traditional ‘What I did during the summer’ essay, which inevitably I will have to help them with, I run through my mind all that we have done these last two months. Kids sometimes have short, selective memories, the question of ‘what did you do this summer’ often met with a shrug, downcast eyes, and a mumbled ‘Nothin’.’

I recounted all that we did (for the essay I will likely have to write). Hikes in the woods near and far, swimming in secret lakes near and far, travelling far to camp near a lake, and travelling near to camp near a beach – I realize we did a lot, heat be damned. Slurpees, fishing, movies, and just hangin’ out - we had a great time.

And that’s just it – time.

Soon I won’t be able to do all those things with them, not because of the weather and seasons changing, but because with every season they get older and farther away from the nest. I am aware of time passing all too quickly – just as summer slipped by before I could wish it away. One day I won’t have my young kids with me to flip rocks, hike, swim, or ply with Slurpees. Autumn will always return; their youthful days of hanging out with me will not. Deep down, despite my own misgivings, I want summer back – who cares about my pores, sweat and useless deodorant.

And as the full-moon rises on this August 31st, September 1st arriving while I sleep, I won’t make a wish. I have learned to be careful not to wish away something I might truly want. I guess I don’t want summer to end – I want it back.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Vancouver Island Chapter of Romance Writers of America Fall Workshop - September 15 2012

The Vancouver Island Chapter of Romance Writers of America Proudly Presents Their
Fall Workshop 2012 With Eileen Cook, E.C. Sheedy, and Harlequin Editor Susan Litman

When: September 15, 2012, 9:00 to 4:00 (registration from 9:00 to 9:30)

Where: Bowen Park Complex, 500 Bowen Park Road, Nanaimo, BC
Cost: $20 RWA Members; $30 Non-RWA Members. $40 for walk-ins or if registering after September 7. Includes lunch and coffee breaks. (please visit the chapter website to pay by paypal at

Morning Session: Revisions (or Why There Are So Many Wine Bottles in My House) with Eileen Cook

You’ve written “the end,” but the process isn’t over. This workshop will discuss the four levels of revision: story level, structure, character/conflict, and polish. The workshop will focus on the conflict level in particular. Stories are conflict, without enough tension the story falls flat. Editors and agents constantly encourage writers to look for ways to ramp up the conflict in their novels. By turning conflict resolution techniques upside down, participants will discover new ways to increase both external and internal conflict. Participants will leave with a leave with a list of conflict increasing techniques and practical examples they can use in their own work. With tips and suggestions attendees will be ready to move from first draft to completed manuscript.

Eileen Cook is a multi-published author with her novels appearing in eight different languages. She spent most of her teen years wishing she were someone else or somewhere else, which is great training for a writer. Her latest release, Unraveling Isobel, came out in January 2012. You can read more about Eileen, her books, and the things that strike her as funny at Eileen lives in Vancouver with her husband and two dogs and no longer wishes to be anyone or anywhere else.

Afternoon Session: Building Suspense with E.C. Sheedy

This workshop will cover just what suspense is and how to achieve it in your own work. In order to make this more relevant to the participant examples of work from writers attending the conference will be chosen by Edna. A page or two of participants’ work will be asked for in advance by Edna. These will be used in the second part of her workshop to show how to build and increase suspense in a scene. All work will be treated with the respect Edna believes all writers deserve.

Multi-published author E.C. Sheedy is fascinated with people, both good and evil, and the secrets and lies that bind them. She writes about change, and the danger that truth and honesty brings to her characters’ lives. Her writing is dark and her villains twisted, but hope, salvation and love always triumph. E.C. Sheedy lives on Vancouver Island. Visit her web page,, for more fascinating facts.

Pitch Appointments

Pitch your manuscript to Harlequin Editor Susan Litman, via Skype. Appointments are on a first come, first serve basis. Space is limited!

Susan Litman came to Harlequin ten years ago after several years working in film development in New York. She is an editor for Harlequin Special Edition, but acquiring for multiple series including Harlequin Romantic Suspense and Love Inspired Suspense. Susan started reading in first grade and never stopped—and she’s got the (over)crowded bookshelves to prove it! In her spare time (what’s that?!) she reads cookbooks, watches Mad Men and Revenge and still obsesses over the unresolved mysteries of Lost. You can follow her on Twitter at or Facebook at

To Register: Send your name, address, telephone number, if you’d like a pitch appointment, RWA affiliation (if applicable), and method of payment to Please use the PayPal buttons found on the chapter website of or send a cheque payable to VIC-RWA, and indicate if you would like a pitch appointment, to:

P.O. Box 53553
RPO Broadmead
Victoria, BC V8X 5K2

Hope to see you there!

Monday, August 20, 2012

The Key to My Heart

The soaring summer temperatures drew everyone outside, but the fast-rising mercury sent everyone scurrying just as fast for shade and air conditioning. Sweating with the rest of them, I was happily walking along minding my own business when I passed a white van. Its doors were open, surrounding buildings providing just enough shade for the men huddled inside. Hunched over in the confines of the small space, they picked their way around machinery and tools littering the van’s floor. My imagination started to hum but I didn’t stop to ask what they were doing because, as I said, I was minding my own business.

Now before you think I was kidnapped and hauled away by these men in a white van, calm down and read on....I lived to write this, didn’t I?

Just as I passed the van, the telltale high-pitched, scraping and grinding of a key being cut stopped me in my tracks. The sound was still fresh in my mind as I had only just had one cut a few days before at a hardware store. But a key being cut in a van?

Before my imagination got the better of me and I started thinking jewellery heist, I figured I better quell my concerns.

The kind man huddled in the van with his assistant at his side confirmed yes, he was cutting keys; his open, friendly demeanour told me this was legal. Part of me was disappointed as witnessing a heist would have made such a great story. We exchanged a few pleasantries, I thanked him for his time, apologized for bugging him (I have to do that lot in my line of work – I bug people), and went on my merry minding-my-own-business way.

As I walked away thinking how cool it was to see a mobile key cutter – sheesh, you’d think I had never met a locksmith before – I realized that although many things during these ever-changing, fast paced times are slowly becoming extinct (think payphones), one thing is still a constant – keys.

These little pieces of much-cherished metal we lose, use as a tool, use to scratch our ears with (ew), make copies of (sometimes illegally), and lock them somewhere we wished we hadn’t, are much needed and I wonder if they’ll ever become ‘old.’

So I couldn’t resist and had to persist and went back to chat-up the locksmiths. What a great story this was going to be!

Emerson, owner of Emerson’s Locks Ltd, regarded me sceptically, wondering why I took such an interest in what he was doing. I assured him and his assistant Steve I was no quack, but didn’t let on I secretly wished to witness a jewelry heist. They were most patient and answered my questions, all while still trying to work in the blistering heat.

As Emerson pointed out, keys will not likely become a thing of the past – they will always be needed. Even though electronic key fobs, pass cards and the like (never mind keypads with secret codes, OH! and fingerprint readers and voice readers and eyeball scanners and...) are common place in these heightened security times we are in, a master key will always be needed.

Emerson has been working in the locksmith trade for over 30 years, owning his business for the last six. He’s seen it all – fixed it all. With his key cutter in front of him, tools everywhere, and his spiffy van to haul it all, he’s got a pretty good gig going. The air-conditioning repair man was busy that day; business hopping a few months a year. But a locksmith keeps running year- round.

That hot day when I was bugging Emerson, all while he was trying to work in the heat, he had the key to my heart – patience for me and a story. Thank you, Emerson, for taking the time to talk to me, despite the heat and my thousands of questions (even though no jewellery heist).

Need a key? Lock jammed?
Call Emerson’s Locks Ltd
Victoria, BC
(250) 389-2966

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

When Camping, Eat Donuts

Sunscreen – check.
Insect repellent – check.
Fishing rods and worms – check.
Toilet paper – check.

We packed up the truck, camping gear and supplies secure, and set out on the five-hour trip to our annual family vacation in the woods. Missezula Lake, 30km in the bush in Princeton, BC, was our destination. The Okanagan heat would be a killer; deodorant, near useless. We had one goal in mind, and it wasn’t only for the fishing and the great outdoors.

But let me go back before I go forward.

Off highway 3 in the Similkameen region of British Columbia, the town of Princeton was established in the 1860’s, originally a mining town. As with all things mined or harvested resources ran out, and the cozy little town almost faded into nothing. But with a resurgence things picked up for the historic town, and it’s still going strong.

Bridge Street runs through the town leading you to a one-lane bridge crossing the Tulameen River, taking you to highway 5a. About 15 minutes down the highway is Summers Creek Road, a forestry road leading to Missezula Lake.

And yes the lake was our destination, but the great outdoors wasn’t the only thing on our minds. Before heading to the lake, we always stop in town. ‘Princeton’s Loonie Bin and Dollar Store’ at the corner of Bridge Street and Harold Avenue has something more precious to us rugged campers than copper or gold – or toilet paper, for that matter. What sits behind glass among the rows of camping gear, household supplies and greeting cards are Princeton’s most prized commodities.

The holiday long weekend during which we arrived found many stores closed, including our favourite discount store. We knew we would head back to town at some point during our week-long stay – a tradition for us - but the gluttons we are couldn’t wait and we stopped at the ‘mine.’ The ‘closed’ sign on the door teased shoppers and tested our patience. We would all have to wait yet another day for fresh baked DONUTS.

We wait all year for our camping trip, the hours and miles travelled well worth the object of our stomachs. Anticipation for the typical camper is usually the escape to the wilderness and all things camping. For us, it’s the sugar.

Starving and with heads hung low we carried on to the lake. Over the gravel road we wound through hills and valleys to eventually enjoy all things camping - in a cabin minus hot water, no less. I arranged my hairspray and eyelash curler in anticipation for the trip into town. Looking good, even while camping, is imperative, especially when dining on the sweet delicacies.

Finally the day came; our trip into town for ‘supplies’ couldn’t come soon enough. The 45-minute drive to and from town was worth it. Over the dusty forestry road we raced as fast as the potholes, ground squirrels and deer would allow us. Cows from nearby ranches mooed at us to slow down, and finally at highway 5a, we sped to town.

The store was open - our camping trip would be ruined if it wasn’t - and we raced inside.

Sales clerk Sam (‘no pictures of me, please!’), patiently waited while we drooled on the glass case protecting the treats, her patience further tested with our incoherent demands for Boston Cream and raspberry filled donuts. As I peppered her with questions about the store, the men-folk raced outside eager to shove as many flour and oil concoctions in their mouths as they could.

While my share of donuts were inhaled outside, Sam (‘no pictures of me, please!’), patiently told me that Dawn, owner of the bakery/discount store for 27 years, makes the donuts onsite in the bakery at the back of the store. I didn’t have the fortune of meeting Dawn, but if given the chance I would have told her that her donuts put any chain-donut-shop to shame. Fresh, moist, and lovingly made, they deserve to sit behind glass.

This is not your typical discount store, and obviously we are not your typical campers.

Sure the camping trip fosters memories for a lifetime. Tall fish tales are shared around the campfire while we fight off mosquitoes and roast marshmallows. Motor boat trips from one end of the almost 3 square km lake and back add to the fun of later nursing sunburns of my three men. The typical ‘family camping vacation’ stories abound, but it’s what donut baker Dawn gives us is what’s most memorable.

With the truck no longer smelling of sweat and campfire smoke but of donuts, we headed back to the wilderness, our sugar-high making the 45-minute trek back to the cabin, oblivious.

Oh, for the love of camping – and donuts.

Thank you, Dawn.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Goin' for the Gold

As I write this, the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, England is in full swing. Coordinating event schedules with their time zones, folks around the world crowd around televisions cheering for their nation’s athlete. The lucky of us can record events to watch the next day, fast-forwarding through commercials about nail clippers for pet lizards. The diehard fans stay up throughout the night (depending on their time-zone, of course) to watch events in real time. No fast-forwarding through commercials for them.

But one thing I have heard time and again during the Olympics is the phrase ‘not expected to medal.’ I hear it in the media, and even the athletes say it – about themselves! The phrase can be heard in the days of hype leading up to the games – even before the athlete’s plane has landed. Can’t everyone show a bit of positivity?

Many sports’ final outcomes are based on stats, finishing times, previous competition standings, and so forth. Having a healthy perspective on competition is important, though, and not mentally preparing for a loss can be detrimental to the athlete. Being mature, sportsmanlike and level-headed about competition is important – no one likes a sore loser.

But it’s a fine line between setting oneself up for disappointment, being realistic, and speaking negatively.

If there was ever a writing contest where the grand prize was a date with Rick Springfield (our respective spouses aside, of course), and other entrants were the likes of Nora Roberts, JK Rowling, and Stephen King, would I look at the other entrants and not bother entering? Not on your life. Now, maybe in this imaginary contest, Stephen King would be hoping to win the prize for his wife who is maybe a big fan of Rick Springfield herself, I don’t know. But Stephen aside, you can be sure I would be polishing every word I wrote and sending in my entry, tout de suite. I wouldn’t be thinking about the other entrants, giving up hope and moaning ‘I’m never gonna win,’ much the same as ‘not expected to medal.’ With a healthy dose of rationale in my pocket I would think positive, plan my outfit for my date, and brush my hair most enthusiastically – just in case.

You just never know.

Realistic, rational thinking is important – preparing for a loss is necessary. But waking up thinking negative thoughts in the days leading to the contest results would get me nowhere. Doing nothing else but pacing and waiting would eventually turn me into Rick-stalker; an unhealthy and unproductive (and illegal) way of being.

The armchair athlete I am may not know everything about the psychology of sports. And maybe there is more to the phrase ‘not expected to medal.’ But if you ask me, it doesn’t sound very positive. In this age of promoting positive thinking and well-being with books, tapes, motivational speakers and framed positive sayings for your living room wall, you would think everyone, especially the athletes with their coaches paid to motivate them, would know better.

If I walked around all day saying I am ‘not expected to publish,’ or I am ‘not expected to write anything anyone likes,’ well then – I never will. If you don’t give yourself half a chance at something – and it doesn’t necessarily have to be entering contests - why bother doing what you love in the first place? Do it because you love it.

No matter what you do, expect to medal – go for the gold. Give yourself a chance to improve and surpass your own standards. Think and speak positively. And while you’re doing that, I will keep writing and dreaming of a date with Rick Springfield – because, you just never know.

Thanks for reading,

The Write Life Newsletter - Spotlight

Tracy Crump and Marylane Wade Koch produce an e-newsletter, The Write Life. Full of inspiration for writers and readers, this newsletter has a little bit of everything. For those writers out there, subscribe to the newsletter and also receive updates about their webinar, Stirring the Pot: Writing for Chicken Soup for the Soul.

Every issue has a column, Subscriber Spotlight, and August's issue features me and my journey towards publication with Chicken Soup for the Soul.

See attached link and enjoy the newsletter!

Thanks for Reading,


The Write Life Newsletter