Sunday, October 31, 2010

Hallowe'en Night Blahs

I've got those pumpkin-flavoured, midnight-coloured, Hallowe'en Night blahs.


Last night I dropped my daughter off at her best friend's for Hallowe'en. This morning I dropped my son at his best friend's. I have lots of work to do so this is a good thing, right?

Blech!

Usually I love Hallowe'en. I dress up - or at least apply a little blood for the occasion. Not this year.

I would have been munching on treat-sized chocolate bars by now. This year I bought Double Bubble Gum. I just can't get into the spirit.

In my lay psychological opinion, I'm suffering from the inevitable separation anxiety that parents have to go through when their children no longer rely on them for their entertainment. I'm happy my kids have friends to hang out with  -- friends I don't have to worry about. That's a bonus. But I'm also a bit bummed out.

Maybe next year I'll put on my dead face and dripping blood to scare the next generation of kids.Or maybe I'll don my Starfleet uniform, pin my Captain's pips and communicator pin on and tell them to live long and prosper. Or I could pull out my wizard's garb and magic wand.

Tonight, I'll put a bowl of Double Bubble on the stoop and a sign on the door...

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Fame and Fortuna: A Page-a-Day

I'm in the midst of editing El Paso Trail for the Text Novel Contest and editing Ghost Writer for my CWC Mentor; I have three newsletters to produce and other contract work coming in. So, how do I spend my day off? Planning for NaNoWriMo and trying out One Page Per Day.

This November, I'm going to write the sequel to El Paso Trail, a mystery/romance set in the old west. The working title is Fortuna and it will start something like this...



Fortuna Chapter 1

The stage coach jolted to a stop, brought up short by the hastily reined in horses. A horrible wet sound cut through the panting of the horses, swearing of the outrider and the general hubbub of spectators.

"Damn and blast!" said the driver. "It's too late!"

The outrider jumped down and ran around to the door of the coach, opened it, and pulled down the steps. A gloved hand appeared, followed by neatly turned ankle clad in a short jean boot the exact colour of the chocolate brown trim on her perfectly tailored rose pink travelling suit.

The young ladies in the assembled crowd sighed with awe even as the young men gave a collective gasp of appreciation for the beauty of the young woman.

This couldn't be the new teacher.

An older woman stepped down. Her mature beauty and similar attire, in dove grey and black, suggested that she was the young woman's mother. They were probably traveling through to California.

A bucket appeared at the door of the coach next. The outrider took it and handed it off to an unwary bystander.

A clean and polished, but worn leather boot poked out followed by an ungloved hand that the outrider took firmly. The owner of hand and foot was a pleasant looking woman who might even be quite pretty when she wasn't pale and shaky, She gave the outrider a wan smile as he released her hand, then smoothed out the creases in her buff skirt and straightened the cuffs of her bottle green jacket. Where the other women had reticules that matched the trim on their suits, she had a worn leather courier bag.

This must be the new teacher.

The crowd waited expectantly for two young children to descend from the coach, for the teacher was a widow with two daughters.

Mr Chet Winters, was not misled. His discerning eye saw that the less fashionable lady's clothes were of equal quality and tailoring to the other ladies. He went directly to the older woman and offered his hand.

"Mrs Reardon, I presume?"

The matron inclined her head in a regal nod.

"You would be Mr Winters, the banker and head of the school board," she said, proving that she too was able to put the clues together.

"Indeed, ma'am. And these are your lovely daughters Morgan and Caitlin - a little older than we expected. Nonetheless, on behalf of the Town and School Board of Fortuna, welcome."

Marshal Hugh Birke watched the spectacle with amusement.

Almost a year ago he had been tricked into accepting the badge from Texas Ranger Jase Strachan. The former marshal, a dude named Strothers, had been murdered and the Ranger had acted as town marshal until the murder was solved.

Birke had been pulled into the situation because he made the mistake of standing up for the Ranger's young deputy, Marly Landers. As he suspected at the time, Marly was a girl, not a boy. Now she was Marly Strachan and, as far as he knew, she still had the Ranger's badge she had been awarded for her part in catching Strothers' killer.

The killer had escaped, but two of his cohorts had been captured. They hadn't been aware of the murder plan, but they conspired to assault Strachan and Landers. They had been given a year's parole, bonded by the best friend of the deceased, Mister Matt Egan. Now, one of those fellas, Jed McKinley, was his deputy. The other, Tom Tyson, was a thorn in his side.

Birke kept his eye on Tyson. For once his habitually sullen expression was gone. He was gazing with rapt attention at Miss Caitlin Reardon.Of course, a lot of the men were gazing with rapt attention at Miss Caitlin. A few of the older men were giving Mrs Reardon the eye. No one was paying much attention to the paler sister.

"Jed," Birke said, elbowing his deputy in the ribs, "go fetch a cup of water for Miss Reardon. She looks like she could use it. Better hurry."

He split his attention between Tyson and Miss Reardon, ready to step in if either gave him cause for intervention. If he hadn't needed to make sure Tyson didn't cause trouble as he had promised, Birke would have offered Miss Reardon his arm, maybe lead her to a seat in the shade and sit with her till her colour returned.

Instead, Jed rushed forward in time to catch her as she wavered. He took her elbow, led her to the bench outside the office and received her gratitude for the cool water.


(copyright Alison E. Bruce)







Sunday, October 10, 2010

Thanksgiving


The bread is drying in a bowl. Soon I'll saute the giblets with leeks and mushrooms, un-case the farmers' market sausage and chop fresh sage. While I mix up the dressing, concoct a vegetarian stuffing for my niece's roast pepper, and prep what ever else I can prep ahead of time, I'll probably catch up on TV shows I've missed during the week.

This is my ritual the evening before Thanksgiving and Christmas when my kids are with their Dad. Which brings me to the first thing I always give thanks for every Thanksgiving: my family.

When I was growing up, we always had Thanksgiving and Easter at our home in Toronto, and Christmas at my aunt and uncle's in Montreal (well, Beaconsfield actually). We were a close knit family on my mother's side.

On my father's side, he had one sibling living - my Aunt Ruth - but she didn't have kids. We always visited on holidays but generally only stayed over in the summer when my sister and I could run off our energy in the fields on her farm. My cousin Arlene, my one other close paternal relation, was married when I was a toddler and didn't have children until I was old enough to babysit. We became closer later in life.

By the time my sister and I started having kids, we had stopped regularly making the trip to Montreal - then Ottawa - for holidays. For one thing, most of my cousins also had kids and many were coming in from out of town too. Visiting before or after the holidays is more practical now. We started getting together at our parents' for holiday meals, or at my sister Joanne's.

The last family meal we had with Mum was Thanksgiving 1999. She was as well as she had been in months and able to enjoy her meal since she had stopped taking chemotherapy. A couple of weeks later, she admitted herself into hospital. She died within the week.

Now I think on it, the last holiday meal we had with my sister was also Thanksgiving. We set up the table so that Joanne could sit at it from the hospital bed in her living room. Her condition was already deteriorating, but it was a happy Thanksgiving. We were grateful that she was still with us.

The following year I hosted my first Thanksgiving meal. I had been doing most of the cooking for the last few, but this time we were spending the holiday in my home. This was also the first year my daughter Kate got involved with the cooking. Since then she has been baking bread, making the pumpkin pies and generally creating mayhem and delight in the kitchen. We joke that when she moves out, I'll be the one that needs the housewarming gifts since most of the bake-ware belongs to her.

Although we didn't get together with my aunt and uncle for the holiday meal, we still called and chatted. The phone would get passed around so everyone could say hello. Thanksgiving was the last time I talked to Aunt Yang. We often emailed or called each other at other times, but that fall was busy for some reason and it was November before we knew it. I was thinking I should call and instead I got the call. My aunt had passed away in the night.

Now, at this point, you might think that I should have developed an antipathy to Thanksgiving. At the very least, I should be wondering what shoe might fall next. It's still my favourite holiday.

I am grateful for the years of delicious, traditional meals shared with my family. I am grateful for the happy memories and the sad ones - because the sad ones come out of love too.

I am grateful that my ex and I have worked out a system by which neither of us are deprived of our children on the holidays. I am grateful that my nieces still make sure that they can be with us on Thanksgiving and that their father and stepmother don't object.

I am grateful that I roast a damned fine bird (and that the traditional meal isn't roast beef which I suck at).

Speaking of the bird, I have one waiting to be dressed for the occasion.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Guest Blog: Cheryl Kaye Tardif, aka Cherish D'Angelo

 Ten Tips on Writing Through Chaos

Alison, thank you so much for having me on your blog during my Cherish the Romance Virtual Book Tour, which launches my romantic suspense, Lancelot's Lady. I'm sure I'm not the only one who experiences the challenge of chaos, so today I'll be discussing something not so romantic―writing through chaos.

I usually work out of a nice, quiet office, with the door shut. But in March, we sold our house, moved into a rental and are awaiting completion of our new home, which is being built by Coventry Homes in Edmonton. Half my house is still in boxes, and what is now my office in the rental is actually the family room, a cramped room that is open to traffic and jam packed with stuff. How does anyone work (write) in all this chaos?

Here are ten tips that might help you:


  1. Write early in the morning before the chaos starts. If you're a morning person, this will work well for you. If not, try tip #2.

  2. Write late at night. Write when everyone is either sleeping or preparing to go to bed. If you're not a night owl, try tip #1.

  3. Set up a special area of the house, whether it's a spare room, corner of your bedroom or the garage that is all yours during your writing time. Find a place that has good energy. Then place an invisible cone of silence around you and write.

  4. Make time to write and let everyone know that's YOUR time. No interruptions. Put a sign up so that people in your house know not to disturb you unless your house is burning down.

  5. Be realistic. How much can you really accomplish? How much time can you really devote to writing? How much can you do with whatever is going on around you?

  6. Set smaller goals. Smaller goals are accomplishable. Don't set yourself up for failure. Start small and work your way up to medium goals when you can.

  7. Don't be distracted by the little things. Dishes can be done later. So can the vacuuming. And the dusting. Really. I promise it'll still be there when you're done writing.

  8. Assign others the responsibilities of the household while you're writing. Do it before you start writing.

  9. Be as organized as possible, knowing your limitations. If you know you have to get laundry on that day so that your husband or kids don't have to go out in dirty clothes, put the laundry on first thing and set a timer. Write while the washer is on.

  10. Always ask, "What is really more important at this particular moment―that I do _____ or that I write?" The answer will vary, and that's okay.

I avoid my upstairs "office" at all costs, preferring instead to sit in the living room with my laptop. This room is more spacious and calm, though it is the hub of the house. With the kitchen behind me, everyone passes through, thumping and clanging and talking. Once everyone's gone though, I can settle in to a productive day of writing, while listening to music. It's the best I can do at this time.

That's the key to writing through chaos―doing the best you can do with what you've got.

Lancelot's Lady ~ A Bahamas holiday from dying billionaire JT Lance, a man with a dark secret, leads palliative nurse Rhianna McLeod to Jonathan, a man with his own troubled past, and Rhianna finds herself drawn to the handsome recluse, while unbeknownst to her, someone with a horrific plan is hunting her down.

Lancelot's Lady is available in ebook edition at KoboBooks, Amazon's Kindle Store, Smashwords and other ebook retailers. Help me celebrate by picking up a copy today and "Cherish the romance..."

You can learn more about Lancelot's Lady and Cherish D'Angelo (aka Cheryl Kaye Tardif) at http://www.cherishdangelo.com and http://www.cherylktardif.blogspot.com. Follow Cherish from September 27 to October 10 on her Cherish the Romance Virtual Book Tour and win prizes.

Writers: How do you get through the chaos so you can write?

Leave a comment here, with email address, to be entered into the prize draws. You're guaranteed to receive at least 1 free ebook just for doing so. Plus you'll be entered to win a Kobo ereader. Winners will be announced after October 10th.

Lancelot's Lady is also on Nighthawk Radio Blog

Lancelot's Lady reviewed on Out of the Mug