Tuesday, January 30, 2007

6 pairs of glasses, 1 pair of contact lenses - and I still can't read a map

I have always been proud of my ability to travel light - one rucksack and I'm away. It's all down to rolling you see.

Or at least it used to be. Right up until I discovered I needed six pairs of glasses. 'Six pairs of glasses,' you gasp. I know you gasp because when I was your age I would have gasped. But that was then. This is now.

Everything had been going spiffingly. I've always been short-sighted and started wearing contact lenses when I was in my twenties. The only glasses I needed were sunglasses. Then, a while back, I noticed someone had shrunk the print in newspapers, on the back of cereal packets and even on blogger's 'verifying letters'. (Fortunately, blogger does produce a second lot of letters which are larger and spaced further apart should one fail to reproduce the first lot of letters accurately.)

At this stage I was still under the illusion that if my near vision was worsening, then that would counteract my distance vision and the two would meet nicely in the middle, shake hands and reintroduce me to 20/20 vision. Sadly, it doesn't work that way. It seems that it is perfectly possible once you reach a certain age to be both short-sighted and long-sighted at the same time.

What this has meant in pracitcal terms is that I now have the following:
1 x contact lenses; 1 x reading glasses to wear with contact lenses; 1 x sunglasses to wear with contact lenses; 1 x reading glasses to wear without contact lenses; 1 x reading sunglasses to wear without contact lenses; 1 x distance prescription glasses; 1 x distance prescription sunglasses.

And what this has meant in terms of travelling is that I can no longer sling a rucksack on my back and laugh at my fellow passengers making their arudous way across to the baggage collection point while I trip merrily out of the terminal to start my holiday an hour ahead of them. Instead I have had to purchase a proper suitcase and waste precious holiday time watching a giddying array of identical coloured suitcases gyrate their way slowly and painfully around on the groaning, hiccuping carousel.

Still, there is one good thing to come out of all this. When my husband asks me as we're hurtling along a manically busy, 10-laned interstate in Los Angeles or New York, to look at the map and tell him which road we need to get to the hotel, I merely apologise and explain that unfortunately I can't help as my reading glasses are still in my suitcase. It's marginally better than admitting that even if I had the right glasses perched on the end of my nose, I still wouldn't have a clue which road to take.


Thursday, January 25, 2007

These boots...

...are made for walking,
and that's all they're good for.
One of these days these boots...

Dare I finish?

It's bad enough resorting to a down-filled parka (masking all the curves I work so hard to retain), cramming a hat down over my ears (thus matting down my baby-thin hair), and wrapping a wool scarf around my neck and chin (which, once doffed, sends my matted-down hair springing in all directions, thanks to the wonders of static electricity). But the boots, come on...the boots can be fun, no?

long black bootsI have my long black boots, guaranteed to draw the male eye (ask anyone), but useless in minus 20-odd degrees Celsius. And I also have my trusty ankle-high RootsTuff boots, good for slippery slopes but not much use for protecting dryclean-only trousers. And now I have my Cougar boots, which I picked up at a Boxing Week sale. I figured I'd be able to walk without falling — I've wiped out twice this winter, once in a pair of pumas and not long afterwards in said gorgeous boots above — and also save on the weekly drycleaning bill.

Sadly, all I've managed to do is pummel my self-esteem. When I look down I see not slender, delicate feet but the wide, splayed feet of a duck. When I catch my reflection in a store window, I cringe. Is that me with the big butchy boots and the trouser legs bunched up at the knees? Yes, indeed-y.

At lunch I typically climb down from the exalted heights of the university and walk to the centre of Montreal. For those of you who don't know Montreal, it boasts an underground city second to none. Tourists love it and so do the natives. For instance, if you work downtown, you can walk just about anywhere without braving sub-zero temperatures, from numerous tall office buildings/skyscrapers to restaurants, shops — you name it. Monday I walked to my husband's office, bundled up as usual, and from there we had lunch and shopped, all without him having to don a single outerwear garment. I, however, well...you can guess. (Thankfully, he's completely infatuated still.)

Next week I join the ranks of the downtown office workers. Hallelujah.

When's the last time you remember reading a romance featuring a waddling, down-laden heroine? See, you get the picture.

Are you ready boots? Start walkin' ...all the way to the dustbin!


Monday, January 22, 2007

Martyr to the Craft

Thankfully, have now reached the point where the book is pretty much writing itself, and the end is in sight. (Still quite a long way off-- in fact little more than a speck in the distance, but just about discernible on a clear day if you have extremely good eyesight. And binoculars.) The fact that I'm not still stuck in endless revision of the first 3 chapters is, I'm delighted to say, entirely thanks to Amanda and is absolute proof that meeting up with friends and indulging heavily in champagne and chocolate trifle is an essential aid to the writer's craft. You see, it was on the occasion of our thrusting literary power-lunch before Christmas that she let me into the secret of the 'fast draft' tecnique.

Basically (according to my personal writing guru and soon-to-be bestselling author Amanda-- 'You Had Me At Halo' coming out in August 2007) you just start writing and don't stop. Don't edit. Don't spend 45 minutes poring over Roget's Theasaurus for just the right word (she recommends the use of thingy where you can't think of the word you want. In some cases I actually found that, once I'd written it, thingy did indeed turn out to be just the right word...) Don't torment yourself over a scene that isn't flowing-- just break and fill in some brief notes then move on. And what made the biggest difference to me-- don't ever read yesterday's work. Halleluijah. And in that small sentence I was released from my 3 month cycle of spending one day writing, and the next day deleting and re-writing.

So, it's on its way, and I'm totally loving my new hero-- to the extent that I'm actually considering changing the heroine's name to India and making her a statuesque (I think artistic license would make that an acceptable alternative to 'matronly'?) 36 year old mother of three whose talents include nit control and hoovering up Polly Pocket accessories. Of course, there's always the very real risk that when I do go back and allow myself to read over what I've written I'm going to discover that a) the whole book is utter rubbish and b) I've subconsciously already substituted myself for the heroine, and will have to go through changing the I to she and the me to her on every page.

It was, incidentally, in the same selfless spirit of dedication to our art that drove Annie and I to meet up for lunch on Friday, drink lovely wine, giggle inordinately and gorge ourselves on tapas. Research, you see. Who knows when one might have a tricky Peking Duck-eating scene to handle?


Thursday, January 18, 2007

Genre identification crisis

Two things happened recently that made me consider I might not be a natural romance writer.

Firstly, I requested and received two books for Christmas. One was entitled 'The Crossing' - a book written by an Olympic rower and a tv presenter about their race across the Atlantic in a rowing boat. The other was entitled 'A Long Way Down' - a darkly comic book by Nick Hornby about four strangers who meet on a rooftop with the intention of commiting suicide. Checking other romance writers' Christmas books received lists, I couldn't help noticing that they tended to be, er, romances.

Secondly, I attended a romance writing workshop whereby we had to seek out the most romantic paragraph in one of our favourite books. Strangely, there were no romantic paragraphs in either of the above books (although the rowers did miss their other halves incredibly) and the Diary of Adrian Mole, whilst he is in love with Pandora, doesn't really have the heart-thumping, leg-trembling, mouth-drying, eyeball-exploding, ever-fizzing Pepsi, kind of romance in it either. Nor does Pooh's Greatest Adventures or any of Bill Bryson's brilliantly funny travel books.

So, I've decided to invent a new genre just so I can write it. It's going to be humour-adventure-travel - otherwise known as HAT and I reckon it should appeal to anyone in a secure institution or under the age of six.


Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Word whore

That not-so-innocent little phrase could mean anything. That I collect words: scribble them down in tattered old notebooks like aging spinsters squirrel away trinkets, memorabilia, and other remnants of the past. That I am prolific to the point of redundancy. Or that I'm a writer-for-hire ready to sell herself to the highest bidder.

If you guessed the last description most closely resembles yours truly, you're right. Okay, so I don't write trash. I'm not a jaded journalist willing to spout whatever propaganda currently incites the masses. I'm worse — a technical writer who writes treatises on software applications, policies and procedures, even university guidelines and academic course descriptions. Give me a suitable per diem and I'll write, edit, proofread and typeset anything your slightly scientific heart desires.

Yesterday I told my current client that I'm hitting the road because another, more interesting opportunity presented itself. I was within my rights, I argued, because they'd been giving me less than half the hours originally indicated (i.e., sorely depleting the family coffers) plus the work was more suited to a junior writer (i.e., they were paying me way too much for brain-numbing work). I feel bad, of course. I'm the kind of person who fulfills promises, meets deadlines, returns emails, and even finishes novels she's written. But with age comes wisdom and the realization that you have to do in life what interests you. Writing interests me. Even technical writing, when it's a brand spanking new piece of software I'm documenting, sure to change the world (well, probably not, but a bit of self-delusion works wonders, don't you agree?).

Gosh, I remember finishing every work of fiction I started reading, regardless of the quality of the plot or prose. Those days are long gone. Sure, when I buy a book I enter into a relationship with the writer but only in so far as he or she meets my expectations. If the writer fails, I bail and turn to the next book. There are just too many books to read.

And too many exciting jobs out there to pass up.

So just call me wh...who..oh, dear, I can't say it...fickle.


Sunday, January 14, 2007

A few words from our newest member

My goals in life are few and small. I only wish for a warm bed, good food and unlimited power. My last goal has, however, been hampered by the following: By nature I'm not a violent person and I'm totally incapable of playing any kind of game because I hate that someone has to lose.

What is a wannabe dictator to do? Especially when she finds herself the slave to furry bodies and (step) daughters with will-bending smiles? I decided to go into writing, figuring I could create and dominate the worlds in my imagination. I will pause so you can all have a hearty laugh at my naivety. Creation is fine, ruling another story. Most of my time I feel like I'm in the literary version of the Alamo and my imagination — the relief troops, as it were — fails to arrive before I beat a hasty retreat behind fortresses of chocolate, biscuits and teas.

Since making the commitment to writing two years ago, I've had loads (okay 4 or 5, but sometimes it feels like a huge, heavy load, doesn't it?) of rejections for contests, articles, short stories and my novel. I've also won 1st place and had a couple of my short stories accepted for publication.

Currently, I'm working on another book — this one a fantasy romance, and editing my completed novel (a contemporary romance). Harlequin just sent me a rejection note last week, so my sights are now on Wild Rose.

Since I also believe in Caveat Emptor (Let the buyer beware), I should confess that my posts will tend to ramble, most likely digress into fifteen different points, and I'll post opinions, which in following posts, I'll contradict and deny ever having made. Forgive me. The majority of my day is spent with furry faces that have no use for my words, only my scratching and feeding abilities.

Good luck to everyone with their writing!



Paths diverge

A lot has happened since we started Scribes' Sanctuary back in April of last year:
  • I (that's me, Eva): Received a stunning rejection letter from Harlequin Mills & Boon (Historicals), buoying me up as a writer but ultimately convincing me to return to historical fiction (as opposed to romance) or, alternately, to take up young adult fiction. In the meantime I resumed my contract writing business and I've been writing for hire ever since.
  • Annie: Became convinced romantic comedy might not be her niche — Annie, please correct me if I'm wrong — and had a recent but mercifully brief identity crisis (yeah, yeah, yeah, one of many, don't we know it!) but this time she had her friends here at Scribes to buttress her up.
  • India (last but not least): Realized the dream in September of 2006 by selling her first! book and is well on her way to becoming a successful Mills & Boon Presents writer.
So...some ups and some downs. Not so surprising in the lives of three writers. Now that you know what we have achieved this past year, the mystery surrounding our publishing chances (at least in the short-term) has dwindled somewhat. Thus, we have decided to invite another writer to join us. You all know her. She has been one of our most stalwart supporters and the most prolific by far.

Without further adieu, let us welcome Brown into our midst. May the journey together prove one of the best of your life, Brown. Though our paths may diverge, we shall always meet on common ground here. Forks in the road be damned!


Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Coveting the younger man

The other day while walking through campus, I fell in step behind a young man with glorious locks the familiar shade of ebony. He was perfectly coifed too, with the kind of hair that falls effortlessly into place (or so I imagine). My husband once sported a thick head of wavy black hair. I liked it best when he allowed it to grow long enough to curl at the top, perfect for running my adoring fingers through.

Nowadays he won't let me touch his hair for fear the last remaining strands will fall out. He's just as sexy as ever — there's no paunch to go along with the thinning hair, no missing teeth, no rancid breath. But the poor boy feels old. And I suppose he looks it now more than ever. Over the holidays, while a (hopefully) brief bout of frugality descended upon the household, preventing me from visiting the hair salon for my usual highlight job, I noticed more than a few gray hairs on my own 40-year-old scalp. Being a blond, it's not a tragedy, but still it's a sign of youth passing even when I feel just the same as I did in my twenties, strolling through another university campus with hardly a care in the world. Now I'm wiser, more confident, a tiny bit disillusioned, but I fancy I'll feel the same in ten, twenty, maybe even thirty years (should I be so fortunate).

Although surely by then, I'll no longer covet the crowning glory of a bold twenty-year-old male. Well, actually, I'm not so sure.

Tell me, does your hubby/significant other still fire your imagination (while we're still on that theme)?


Monday, January 08, 2007

Imagination returns

Okay, I'm back from visiting sickly relatives, all of whom, I am pleased to say, are suitably recovered. Whilst driving back I turned my mind to the comments to my last post (I feel I should produce a bugle here and start playing that well-known tune - only problem is I don't have a bugle and even if I did, Iwouldn't have a clue how to play it - which pretty much brings me back to where I left off before the start of this inane rambling) - your comments.

I was touched and heartened by all of them and have added my own comment on the end of them, which (to save you checking back) reads something like this:
I will take a rest (Sue), during which time I will read all my wonderfully witty old manuscripts (India). After resting and recovering from much laughter, I will board my boat (Brown) and row across the Atlantic (Eva) to visit Eva and Brown, who will then swim back across the Ocean with me, meeting up with India and Sue en-route, when we shall all don electric-blue mascara, hold hands and synch or swim.
Following this, I will write my best-selling travelogue based upon the above adventures and become extraordinarilly famous and wealthy.
Now do you get the title of this post?


Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Yay!! It's official!

Getting the call from Richmond to say they wanted to buy my book was fantastic, but two minutes after I put the phone down I was certain I'd dreamt it. Receiving a contract, and then a little while later an advance cheque made it seem a little more real.... But appearing in the New Author slot of the Pink Heart Society's brilliant site.... well, that really makes me feel like it's all happening!

Mills&Boon definitely can't change their minds now, can they?

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Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Happy New Year

I've just been speaking to an old friend of mine on the phone and he asked how my writing was going. 'What writing?' I said. Because, frankly, friends, I haven't written anything worthwhile for about three months. 'Why not?' I hear you ask. (Well, actually, I don't hear you, because this is a computer and not a telephone, and therefore I can only imagine how you might respond to what I write here, but I think, in this instance, 'why not?' seems a fairly likely response.)

However, I digress (some things don't change). As I was saying, I haven't written anything worthwhile for three months. And from the state of this post, you can probably see why. I simply can't do it any more. The creative part of my brain seems to have shut down. It's as though my imgaination has packed its bags and gone away on holiday -without telling me or asking my permission. Or, maybe, it's packed its bags and left altogether never to return. Who knows? Certainly not me.

So, am I downcast about this? Well, honestly, yes, I have been and no doubt will be again. On the other hand, I have the good health and good fortune that enables me to enjoy life to the full. So that's what I intend to do. And who knows, maybe, just maybe, somewhere in the maelstrom of enjoyment, there may come a return to creative ramblings, or there may not.

And the point of this post? To wish you all the happiest of new years, whether your writing is going swimmingly, is merely treading water, or, like mine, has sunk to the bottom of the ocean without trace!