Saturday, September 28, 2013

Romance Writers find Romantic Hair at the 2013 Victoria Women’s Show

The 2013 Victoria Women’s Show was not only promoting happy and healthy living but also, unbeknownst to them, that of the romance reader persuasion.

I was there to help staff the booth for the Vancouver Island Chapter of Romance Writers of America, promoting not only our chapter but the romance fiction genre and its authors, as well. We gave away over 300 romance novels, the majority of them written by our own local authors. Prizes, candies, bookmarks and information about our chapter were distributed, and many conversations were had with the passing curious – what do we do, how do we do it, and why?

Because we love the romance genre, we love a good story, and we love to write, was our answer.

And in talking with readers, especially those we were trying to tempt with one of our novels, they all said the same thing when it came to discussing what they look for in a book: ‘It has to be a good story.’

How true!

And what fuels a good story is imagination.

Setting, along with how characters look, dress and act, all play a part in the world the writer is trying to create and the world the reader is trying to escape to.

And on that day I, along with a fellow writer, would get to pretend - to imagine - we were a character right out of a historical romance novel - by having our hair done into a romantic up-do.

When not chatting with prospective romance readers at our booth, I was planning what to do at the show after my shift. Would I seek-out the local firefighters who were promoting their calendar (yum), or would I stalk soap opera star, Michael....from the Young and the Restless during his guest appearance? Both were perfect inspiration for romance fiction!

Aromatherapy oil scents wafted around me from nearby booths while I plotted who I would stalk first, when around the corner came Jacqui Nelson, historical fiction author, sporting an up-do to end all up-do’s. With her hair pinned up in a swirl of curl, all she would have to do would be to put on a dress reminiscent of the era of her current novella, Adella's Enemy (August 2013) and she might as well have been on the cover of her own book!

I had only just seen her 45 minutes before, her hair down like mine, and suddenly – a changed woman! After my oogling and fawning over her ‘do,’ she, along with Jodie Esch (Little White Lies – April 2013), told me – no URGED me – to go to the booth by the Richard Mar Hair Academy. They were giving away free up-do’s during the show as part of their promotion, and within twenty minutes a prospective client could have her hair flipped up, twirled around and curled to perfection with a sure hand and nimble bobby-pinning fingers.

My writer-friends didn’t just urge me to go get my hair stylishly coiffed, they all but kicked me out of our booth!

So waving farewell to not only my writing colleagues, I made my way to the Richard Mar booth.

I was excited and nervous - yet skeptical. My hair, thicker and straighter than my friend Jacqui’s, could never be twisted and turned into a ‘do’ as elegant as hers.

I perched in the chair and my stylist, Niki, got to work. I was sure she would throw up her hands in despair, “I can’t do a THING with this girl’s hair!”

20 minutes later Niki asked for the camera I held in prayer in my sweaty hands. After a final squirt of hairspray here, and a bobby-pin adjustment there (I would later count 51 bobby-pins), she snapped a photo and handed me my camera.

I looked and the screen and.....

....started crying.

I LOVED IT!

I had no idea my hair could look like that! How did she do that!?! And with MY hair? I had never had my hair done like that – ever. I felt more royal than any princess; more glamorous than any Academy-award-winning starlet.

I got myself under control. No sense ruining my ‘look’ with blotchy, blood-shot eyes. With a hug and a few photos with Niki, off I went, carefully making my way through the crowds. I was eager to get back to our booth and show the girls my hair.

And when I say carefully, I mean CAREFULLY. I was afraid to turn my head, sure one false move would send the bobby pins flying, the curls unraveling. I wished I had a neck brace, however unflattering, to ensure my head stay perfectly still. I worried someone, or something, would snag my precious ‘do.’ Maybe a dog-cone would have been best. I was the recipient of admiring glances along the way, although by then, many others had had their hair done, as well. But no amount of admiration would quell my worries..

Needless to say, the hair survived the short trek to our booth. My writerly friends ‘oohed and aahed’ over my do, and Jacqui and I posed like the starlets we were for photos. And yes, Jacqui DID say she felt like one of her characters from her historical novel.

My hair survived the rest of the day and through to the next morning – I wore a kerchief around my head when I went to bed. My family of men were supportive, doing and saying all the right things – one said I looked like Princess Leia but better, and the other helped stage multiple photo-shoots of my hair so I could forever preserve the moment on film. The show was a success for our chapter and its authors, and for two of us, we looked and felt like the heroines in our stories.
Jacqui Nelson and I with our new hair.


Featured in photo, left to right Jacqui Nelson, Jodie Esch, Bonnie Edwards, Lee McKenzie


Featured in photo, left to right Susan Lyons, Me, Leanne Ihmels, Jacqui Nelson, Jodie Esch


Special shout out and thanks go to the staff at Richard Mar Advanced School of Hairdressing. Find them at 1675 Douglas Street in Victoria, BC, or visit their website at www.richardmarschool.com

For more information about the Vancouver Island Chapter of Romance Writers of America, visit www.vicrwa.ca




Friday, September 20, 2013

No More Nails

At 40-something years old, I have never had a manicure.

I’ve had a pedicure, sure, but why that and not the other, I don’t know.

As a kid I had really bad, BAD nails. I would bite them to the quick, leaving them red and raw. I had no aspirations to have nice nails when I ‘grew up,’ so I didn’t care.

But then I married, and a pretty ring on my finger only qualified the need for nice nails, so I got to work. I worked at not biting them and worked at willing them to grow. But every time my nails were near-perfect, one would break. I often walked around with my hands in the air, as if a doctor preparing for surgery, afraid to touch anything. To touch something meant a sure break or chip. I had a few bottles of nail-strengthener-polish, and a few bottles of ultra bright pink and red polish always as the ready. I hoped the bright colours would make my hands look more glamorous and mature, especially with a ring on my finger. Usually the strengthening polish didn’t help, but I worked nightly to keep those nails, what there was of them, looking sleek. I never had, nor wanted, the long eye-gouging kind – and they never got there, either – but what I did have, I was happy with.

But then, of course, when I had babies, there was no time for any of that, and having long nails while handling delicate newborn skin proved catastrophic. There was no time for the maintenance of long nails, nor was there any place for them in my new baby-filled life. With the demands of my new life, naturally weak and thin nails didn’t stand a chance, anyways, especially with all the washing and cleaning I was doing.

But then the babies grew up, and those ‘babies’ didn’t need me to bathe them anymore. Yes, time was still a factor – I didn’t have the time for such pampering – but I was changing. I wanted to finally, again, have nice nails.

And for a while, I did.

With the old bottles of nail strengtheners and polishes long gone, I was on a mission to get every bottle or tube of new-and-improved nail strengthening/growing/enhancing/elongating/ non-chipping/smoothing chemical available. And some of them worked! I worked in an office, so typing was a challenge, but I managed. I had every kind of tail tool available – every kind of nail file invented. Nail clippers were NOT my friend – oh no. I pretended was a professional manicurist, everything at the ready. I was determined to have lovely long nails, and nail clippers were NOT in my toolkit – that would just be wrong.

So again, for a while, I had nails. Still not the long, eye-gouging kind, but long enough that I could tap a counter top in exasperation (but gently – didn’t want to chip any), and long enough that I waved my hand around, I looked somewhat glamorous.

But then....

My deep-seated aspirations to be a writer started to bloom. My kids were really young, I was working, I had sort-of long nails, but things weren’t just ‘working’ with my new-found hand glamour. Computers and the internet were just starting to bloom into our world, so for the most part, I would write in long hand then, if needed, I would type my stories on the computer and print them out (on a dot matrix printer!) to send to potential publishers. But then as my writing career bloomed, so did technology. Computer use at work became more common, and I was writing more, which meant more keyboard time on our computer and later, my own laptop, at home. My nails were getting in the way.

And just to add to it all, my babies were by then growing faster everyday, which meant they were busier every day, which meant my whole house was busier. Keeping up with work, busy family life which included meals, laundry, cleaning, and homework, as well as trying to keep up with my own writing, meant something had to give – something I just didn’t have time for.

My nails.

Not only were they getting in the way with typing, at home and at work, but I didn’t have the time to keep up with them. I would let them grow a little bit to at least look a bit ‘girly,’ but long gone where all the bottles and tubes of nail-enhancing goo, and those little nail kits? Never mind those.

Now my kids are in their teens, and slowly my life is sort of becoming my own – sort of. But I’m a busy girl as I still have a house to run and, added to that, I have many writing projects on the go. I have a laptop at home, a mini laptop I carry with me and I type at work all day. Having long nails of any length really get in the way; slipping and sliding off the keys. And besides, I have too many other things in my life that still take up my time, and frankly, other things I would rather be spending my time on. I’m a writer, and for me that means no nails. And that’s fine.

And I just don’t really care anymore – or at least right now.

I’m not sad at the sight of my ‘unglamorous’ hands – the nails I, for so many years, desperately tried to have. These are writers’ hands, and I’m proud of them. Many writers, I’m sure, have lovely long nails they can wave around at writing conferences and look all professional and glamorous, and that’s fine. But I don’t know how they can type.

Now, along with a thesaurus at my side when I write, I have a notepad, pens, and nail clippers, always at the ready. A gift of a manicure is not what I need.

I guess it’s like I traded-in my nail polish and manicure set for a pen and keyboard – and I, along with my nails, are just fine with that.

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Being Famous Doesn't Matter

I had already waited and waited and waited.

I had a feeling that they might come that day.

And on that day, I waited and paced and waited some more, watching the clock for the approximate time to arrive.

I knew the window of opportunity I had, give or take 15 minutes.

I knew that if I didn’t catch him, to beg him to just hand it over, that I would have to go elsewhere to pick it up the next day. I had already waited long enough – waiting another day would just NOT DO.

Who was I waiting for?

The mail carrier.

And what was I waiting for?

A box of books - and not just any old books.

My author copies of “Not Your Mother’s Book....On Being a Parent” (Publishing Syndicate, LLC) were enroute in the mail, and I was itching to get my hands on them. Two of my stories were published in the book, and I couldn’t wait to see them in print!

And I knew if the box was too big to fit in to the mailbox, the mail carrier would leave me one of those package-pick-up card-things to retrieve the box from the post office - the next day.

And I couldn’t let that happen. I knew if I was standing right there as he sorted the mail into the mail slots, I would have that box in my greedy little hands faster than he could evade a postal-carrier-hating dog.

So I waited and waited. I kept running up to the mailboxes to see if was there – nope. No mail carrier.

Then, while diligently working on The Next Great Bestselling Novel, I heard a truck. And whaddya know? It was the classic red and white Canada Post truck - in front of my house!

OH YAY!

Out the mail carrier ambled, carrying my really big box in his arms.

I jumped out of my chair faster than he could lope up my front sidewalk and flung open the door. I couldn’t believe he was actually bringing it right to my door! He must know I’m famous – that’s why!

“Hi!!!” I giddily sing-songed, trying not to jump up and down. He must have thought I was nuts (most people do, so this was not a big deal).

“Package for Lisa....” he started.

“Yes, that’s me!” I interrupted, all but tackling him for the box in his hands.

“That’ll be $25.10 for Customs...” he said.

Queue the sound of a needle scratching along a vinyl record.

“WHAT?” I screamed? (I didn’t really.)

“What?” I kindly, politely exclaimed in a lady-like, professional manner.

He glanced down at the accompanying paperwork.

“Yup, sorry to say, there’s a Customs charge of $25.10.”

Queue the sound of my shoulders slumping so hard I swear I dislocated a shoulder.

He took in my dislocated, shagging shoulder and said, “I’m really sorry about this – it really sucks, I know.” At least he was compassionate about it all.

But I swear he held it away from my desperate, quivering body, as though worried I would grab it and dash back in the house before he could collect.

Not only was I astounded that I had to pay anything at all, never mind that much, but I had no cash on me.

“I don’t have any cash. How about a cheque?” I brightened, smiling wide. I hoped my charm would do the trick.

“Nope, sorry - no cheques. It will be at the post office for pick-up tomorrow, though!” He tried to sweeten the moment with that consoling fact.

Um, the box is here, right now, in my front yard – I want it NOW! Not ‘tomorrow.’ I miserably whined in my head.

So with shoulders still slumped, I took the package-pick-up card-thing from him (I ended up getting one of those after all), and could only quietly watch as he walked away - carrying my box of books.

I turned away. I couldn’t bear to watch it go back in his truck.

And then he drove away.

It was awful. Talk about a kid being teased in a candy store. Or a dog teased with a bone. Or a.....

It was all too much for my famous self. I went back in the house and slumped around, waiting and watching the clock AGAIN, because I knew that the package would be ready for pick-up after 5:30, not TOMORROW.

So later that evening, after a stop at the bank and with package-pick-up card-thing in hand, I scurried to the post office just a few skips away. I held my breath as I handed over the package-pick-up card-thing, and.....there it was (big sigh of relief). I paid my dues then grabbed the box faster than the post office clerk could give me my receipt.

MINE! ALL MINE!!!! I wanted to cackle.

But my lady-like, professional, famous self would never cackle like that.

Maybe.


Not Your Mother’s Book....On Being a Parent (Publishing Syndicate, LLC, October 2013) has 68 light-hearted and funny stories about parenting and raising kids. Two of my stories, “Lessons Learned from Apollo 13” and “Saved by American Chop Suey” are featured in this new book that can be found at www.amazon.ca




Monday, September 9, 2013

What's That Smell?

My friend was having a garage sale and as we were VIP’s, we were invited to come the night before for her ‘early bird sale.’

YAY!

So off we went, money in hand, eager for a deal or two. My husband was on the hunt for vinyl records – the man of the garage-sale-house is an avid collector. And me? Well...I didn’t know what I was after.

We had lots of laughs and giggles as we perused her goodies. My husband did find some records, including a 45” vinyl of Rick Springfield’s ‘Jessie’s Girl.’ And while I purchased a bunch of toddler clothes for my sister’s kids, a new tote bag and some Tupperware for me, my boys graciously helped my friend by putting up signs on the street.

As we were leaving, we joked back and forth, “Hey, is this for sale?” My husband pointed to her potted plants outside. “Hey, what about this?” I pointed to her Christmas decorations stowed up in the rafters of the garage. “What about those shoes?” I pointed to her shoes by the garage door.

As we joked about her selling her worldly possessions, my husband pointed to a box.

“And what’s in there? Is that for sale, too?” My husband teased my friend, assuming it was something personal and not for sale. She had yet to really separate personal items from sale items in her garage.

It was an old-looking box with snap/secure closures and handle, and just big enough to be a....The hairs on the back of neck tingled.

“Oh, that’s for sale, too! That’s a typewriter.”

GULP!

I knew it!

As my husband picked up the case, I could tell by the weight it had to be ‘good.’ I started to get the shakes. He put it down on top of another box on the garage sale floor, and I kneeled before it, as though in prayer at an altar. Up close – OH THE SMELL! That old, musty, antiquey kind of smell! I flipped open the closures....and....

I flipped open the closures and slowly lifted the lid. The first glimpse of telltale keys had my heart quickening – and not just from the overpowering smell. I lifted the lid fully, and...

A Royal! A REAL LIVE ROYAL typewriter right in front of me!

And it was OLD!

I started laughing and crying all at once. You would too if you were a writer/antique lover. My friend, who isn’t a writer, thought I was nuts. My kids and their friend...well they already knew that about me.

I stroked the keys: classic raised ridges encircling the letters made me drool. The metal ribbon spools underneath the cover were shiny and pristine. And what looked like an instruction manual was clipped to the inside of the lid.

I didn’t care if worked, if it smelled, or if it was rigged with a listening device – I wanted it.

Through my tears I asked my friend “How much?”

She shrugged, still looking at me like I was nuts, “I don’t know...$20?”



I didn’t even need to look over at my husband for agreement on the price. I didn’t even need to respond with a cry-muffled “I’ll take it.”

“We’ll take it.” Was all I heard him say.

Money was exchanged. I hugged her, my husband, and grinned at my kids who I could barely see through eyes that were blurred with tears. I didn’t need to be able to see them clearly – I knew they were looking at me like I was nuts.

We got it home, I cranked up the Rick Springfield 45” record, and opened the box, again.

Oh the glory - OH THE WONDER!

This wasn’t going to be scrapped for parts like so many do for jewelry or decor. This was going to be displayed, loved, and drooled over (note: drool is not good for antiques.)

What I thought was an instruction manual clipped to the inside was actually a guarantee/warranty between seller and buyer, from Duncan, BC, dated in typical perfect 1930’s handwritten script of that time, dated November 16, 1937.

And it was mine – ALL MINE!

I dusted it off, and ceremoniously placed it beside my other antique typewriter, a Smith Corona from the 50’s (both beside an iphone charger sitting on the same shelf). After a sigh, a few sniffles, and a flip of the 45” record now sitting idle on the turntable, I took the carrying case downstairs and put it in our bedroom which has become a kind of storage place for things we don’t know what to do with.

Later, I sat down on the couch for an evening of R&R after my night of excitement. Rick Springfield was safely tucked back away in its records’ sleeve, and MY Royal typewriter was just off to the side, the recipient of my ever-loving glances.

Sniff sniff. “What’s that smell?” A few of the menfolk of my house complained.

“Oh, it’s just the typewriter. It’s VERY old and VERY mine. The old smell will go away in a bit.”

Later when I went to my bedroom....sniff sniff. UGH! What’s that smell! The whole bedroom smelled of ‘OLD!’

I realized it was the carrying case, and although closed, it really stank.

So I put it in the crawlspace where it could stink all it wanted, in there.

The next morning when I went up to the living room where my BEAUTIFUL ROYAL typewriter was, I barely got up the stairs when....sniff sniff...UGH! What’s that smell?

The typewriter had stunk up the whole living room.

Well THAT is definitely NOT going in the crawlspace, NO SIREE! I live in a house of three men and one cat. If I have to put up with them, they can put up with the smell of a beautiful antique, I figured.

After numerous complaints over the next day or so, a few ‘mountain fresh’ scented dryer sheets were placed underneath it, hoping to ward off the smell.

Gradually, and with my ears plugged from listening to the complaints of the smell, the smell subsided – a bit. I have been actively researching how to de-stink antiques, but without much luck.

So there it still sits, finally loved again after being stored away for so long....with dryer sheets tucked all around it.

Good thing I have a brand new box.









Monday, September 2, 2013

Keeping in Touch While Pender Island

The BC Ferry Queen of Cumberland toot-tooted its arrival. ‘We’re here!!!’ I squealed, clapping my hands. The truck full of men I was in didn’t mimic my girlish excitement. Let me clarify – the truck of men including a 17 and 13-year-old. Yes, they were excited to be on our adventure, but I’m the minority, and my antics sometimes embarrass them.

The ferry wobbled and shook as it docked at the Pender Island Ferry Terminal. It was evening, so all we could see, other than the cars waiting to board to leave the beautiful island, were rocky beaches flanked with Douglas firs, cedars and arbutus – everything the Gulf Islands are known for. I was anxious to explore the beaches – I hoped to see pods upon pods of Orca whales.

There are no skyscrapers, no office-buildings, no big-box stores lining the streets of outdoor shopping malls. Yes, there is a little shopping area, Driftwood Center, complete with grocery store, pharmacy, bookstore and little cafes, to name a few necessities, but we were there to slow-down and get away from it all, and to ‘be one with nature.’ Oh, and of course, to be together as a family without any outside distractions. We were kind of looking forward to being ‘cut-off’ from the world as we knew it, for a bit.

Ahem – saying all that, however, the three men in the car were actively texting from their cell-phones as fast as they could. We weren’t sure what kind of cell-reception we would get on the island, never mind at our campsite.

To be fair, the island isn’t completely cut-off from the e-world as we know it. Business’ I had looked-up online have, obviously, a website listing email addresses and phone numbers. They aren’t totally behind the times as many might think.

But like I said, we were there to get away from it all, to explore one of the Gulf Islands we had heard so much about, and to disconnect and be together as a family, if only for a few days.

We made our way down the winding streets of North Pender Island looking for our campground. It was dark and with only a few streetlights to guide our way. We had never been there before, so even looking for the campsite was an adventure in itself.

‘Look on the bright side - lucky for us it’s not raining.’ I chirped to my now quiet men-folk. We knew we were going to have set up camp in the dark.

We found the campground, wound our way along the gravel campground path in the pitch-black of night, and found our campsite – the same campsite I had reserved online. We couldn’t see much - the morning light would show us what kind of site we had. We set up without much angst; our Coleman lantern lit the way. And after me jumping up and down and clapping my hands, ‘We’re here, WE’RE HERE!’(I’d like to note that my three men, in their cool, aloof, macho way truly WERE excited, as well), we crawled into our tents. The fun was about to begin!

The next morning while all three men snored the tarp right off the tents, I crawled out of ours with only one thing on my mind – outhouse. And yes, when in nature ‘do as the deer-do’ and all that, but...

And not that I was overly ANXIOUS to experience the wilds of an outhouse, but....

The morning light revealed the most perfect campsite - never mind campground - there was to see. I knew there was cold running water from a tap, perfect for washing my hair, and other than outhouses, I knew we were going to be roughing it – despite being only a few minute’s drive from the Driftwood Center (the bakery was also calling my name). I guess you can’t fully take the ‘city’ outta me...

So I made my way around the campground, most anxiously looking for the telltale little hut with only 4-feet within which to move around. No wonder they make them so small – who wants to spend a lot of time in there, anyways?

Business quickly done – thank God – I explored the grounds a little further. There was so much that we didn’t see when we first pulled in the night before: fir trees covered in Grandpa’s beard moss, Shelf mushrooms happily multiplying on the sides of cedars, and the red bark of Arbutus trees peeling away to reveal younger red bark underneath (I wish that would happen to me).

Ahhhh, sweet bliss: to be away - from everyone and everything, I sighed.

(I also wondered if I could make it to the Driftwood Center for a coffee and bakery treat before the men-folk woke up.)

My meanderings found me at the campground entrance, and by then I figured I better head back.

But then....BUT THEN!

What is that? I sure as heck didn’t see THAT when we first pulled in the night before!

A payphone! A REAL LIVE PAYPHONE! With a digital screen displaying dialing instructions – yes, I guess those are needed nowadays. And what’s that? $1 per 15 minute call!? What the heck happened to 25¢ a call and blab forever? (It should be noted here that it took me forever to find that ‘cent’ symbol – even THOSE are going out of style!)

Cities like Victoria, where we live, are a maze of busy streets. The sidewalks are laden with folks bustling about - with their heads down. Their cellphones, iPhones, iPods, or iPads – whatever gizmo is the trend du jour – have them crashing into lamp posts. And with all the electronic means of communication able to fit into pockets, purses or briefcases, one thing has become almost extinct in many parts – the payphone.

Okay, let’s be honest – the near extinction of the payphone is not only due to the advent and social rush of social media on social-impeding gizmos. Illegal activity is partly to blame for the extinction of the seemingly archaic invention of communication. Rarely do I see a payphone anymore. I’m sure my kids have never even used one.

I knew it was there for emergencies – smart thing to have. But wow! I truly didn’t expect THAT when ‘roughing it.’ I hadn’t seen one for years!

Still musing about the payphone-sighting, I did, indeed, go to the bakery and sit with a coffee - I was on vacation, after all, despite ‘camping.’ I was relaxing - being away from it all - and marveled at the rare sighting (I never would see any whales).

And low and behold, I got cell-phone reception.