Wednesday, 31 July 2013

I Enjoy What I Do

I love Nova Scotia. Love, love, love it.

I’m not someone who has to go away to appreciate what our province offers and I’d rather not hop in a car and drive miles to get to work. I enjoy what I do as a freelance writer and editor, working from home, and I wake up most days more than ready to go. Sometimes I find I have too much early-morning energy and it’s hard to just go and sit at the computer.

So I don’t. For instance this morning around six o’clock, I went to swim at Fox Point Beach with friends. Most days, this lovely soft sand beach has calm early morning waters.

Sometimes the sun is just rising when our toes slip in to check the temperature but today the sky was sunless silver and the water was warm, like bath water…calm as poured glass. The perfect beginning for a still, grey day.

It’s not always the same. It’s variable and that’s why it works for me.

One day last week there was a golden glow on the water and the sky reflected it, gilding everything that was wet. On one morning, the water and sky were identical grey except for a fine line of brilliant tungsten flame flaring on the horizon, as if a seam had torn open. On a couple stormy mornings the seas been rough with huge frothing waves breaking on the beach. Instead of heading home, we waded out beyond the foam, delighted by warm surface water and huge swells.

Most mornings the air is damp, the sea calm and sounds carry, crystal clear. We can hear the put-put of fishing boats off shore and the seagulls, with wings spread, that reel and screech high above us.

At the ends of the Fox Point Beach, seaweed, hobbled to cobbles, sways back and forth, to the lap and draw of waves – like branches waving in the wind.

Gentle wave action wrinkles sand underneath, to a cool Sahara. And schools of little fishes, and crabs the size of my hand, swim by or scurry sideways beneath my feet as I tread water. The crystal-clear water reminds me of the child I was and fills me with a child’s sense of wonder. And creativity. And clarity. And grace.

While we float – three women in our declining years – we laugh and tell each other how lucky we are…to be drifting and floating on the swells that build to waves, just off the shore, at the beginning of another glorious summer day.

After our morning dip, I feel more than ready to work and it feels good to sit at the computer and pour over each page I read or write.

Generally, editing is a solitary business, especially when it’s done over the Internet. Most of the time I like working alone, in the comfort of my home, moving from space to space and room to room, following the sunlight. Still, there are times when it demands too much attention, and my mind and body balk.

I head for the Trellis Café with my laptop for a close-to-home break. Trellis doors open to the local coffee crowd just before eight o’clock in the morning.


I order the Trellis Breakfast, set up my laptop, and work there…sometimes into the afternoon. When I get home it feels good, like I’ve been on vacation. Though I’ve worked for hours, I am refreshed and do more at home because of it. The Trellis and Fox Point Beach and my home are addictive and stimulating for different reasons.

The Trellis Restaurant is also a gallery for local artists to display their work. The pieces change every two weeks, and new works replace art that’s sold. In June I remember an interesting display of painted skateboards.

Before that, paintings by Charmaine Porter, an Aspotogan artist, hung there. I happened to be Trellising the day the artist placed them – she told me she’d travelled to the Middle East to visit her daughter. Those memories and images of her time there inspired her recent works. I saw and appreciated her desert images, over and over, whenever I glanced up from my work. Charmaine said she prepared each canvas with magenta and then applied the dry, cool sand tones on top…leaving the underlay as vibrant, coloured lines, occasionally peeking through. The strength of that beneath colours made the calm sandy tones vibrate and feel alive. Like going to the Trellis does for me.

Art is addictive and I can’t afford to buy the art I like, or the to take the time to go to different galleries and shows. I’m thankful for The Trellis Café. Thankful for their strong coffee, the wonderful food, the conversations, and for the changing art on Trellis walls. Like looking through an open window, they provide the shore, haunting portraits, colourful blooms, and for me,  they’re like a time away. After a break to look around, I relax back into work.

And, on other days, if I still have work to do, after spending hours at my desk, there are the jam sessions. On Thursday nights musicians gather at the Trellis and play and laugh and sing for hours. A well-spent hour there also does the trick.

When I think about swimming in the ocean, a Trellis meal, art shows and Thursday night jam sessions I smile because these ‘distractions’ are not only wonderfully part of where I live, but they allow me to work harder and longer at home.

How and where could life be better than this for a freelance editor and writer, with too much energy, not enough time, and the desire to work from home – or very close to it?

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Monday, 29 July 2013

How Knitting is like Writing

by Dawn Torraville-Cairns

I write, for the most part, paranormal romance. One of the things I like about writing is how everything else prepares you to be a writer. For example, knitting.

When I first discover an interesting knitting pattern (story), I am so happy and excited to get started. NOW. I lay out the pattern (story), pick out just the right needles (outline if I'm lucky, theme if I'm not), and go shopping for the perfect wool (characters).

I'll stand in the wool store, looking for hours for just the right one that I need. I search for the right texture (names), thickness (character flaws and quirks), and hope I get the right yardage (backgrounds) that I need for my pattern (story).

Then the harder work begins. No longer imagining the results, I start knitting (writing) the pattern (story). I'm having fun. I'm being productive.

About half-way through, the unthinkable happens. The pattern (story) hits a snag. Maybe, I'm using the wrong needles (theme/outline), maybe the pattern (story) is misprinted (plot holes), or maybe I'm just not following the instructions (from the characters) properly. I get frustrated. Annoyed. And then, sometimes, I stop.

But more recently, I've started giving myself a external reason to finish (deadline). Telling myself that I want it done by a certain date doesn't work. I need a concrete, people-waiting-on-me, reason. The finished pattern (story) may not be the best, or the prettiest. But it's done.

Then I find a new pattern (story)...

What other activities remind you of writing?

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Friday, 26 July 2013

Royal Babies and Romance Babies

As I write this, the new royal baby has finally arrived – Prince George Alexander Louis of Cambridge. The media is hungrily waiting for more photo ops and information about him. In the last few weeks, coverage of the impending royal birth reached a fever pitch even when there was nothing to report but speculation and rumor. From all that (not to mention the vast sums paid by magazines to publish the first pictures of celebrities’ newborns) I can only assume there is a huge market for baby news of all kinds. In other words, “Babies sell.”

They certainly seem to for series romance. Many book covers feature sweet babies and young children on the covers, sometimes without any sign of the hero or heroine. Secret babies, babies by surrogate, abandoned babies, twins and triplets are all strong story hooks that appear to sell well. Even when the main story is entirely child-free, an epilogue featuring a pregnant heroine or new baby often seems to cement the couple’s happily ever after. 

I would love to see some statistics about the ages of readers who buy books that clearly feature babies or young children. My gut feeling is that they are women who have not yet had a child or whose children have grown up. Certainly that was my own experience with writing books involving children.

When I wrote my first romance novel back in the early 90’s, my children were very young. A friend used to call writing my “sanity-retention mechanism.” After a day of unglamorous parenting and housework, I would escape into my Georgian-era story, swanning off to the theatre or the pleasure gardens in gorgeous gowns. Needless to say, my heroine did not have to plan her social engagements around finding a sitter, the way I did. Nor would she have a romantic moment interrupted by the screams of a toddler in the throes of an ear infection. 

My second book had a pregnant heroine whose infant made a brief appearance for the last couple of pages of the story. Book three had a scene with some children who didn’t belong to the hero or heroine. Books four and five were entirely child-free. Book six was part of a continuity series and I was assigned a story with a heroine who was the nanny of the hero’s young nephew. I think my editor realized that a mother of four and former teacher, I should be “writing what I knew.” After that children began cropping up in my stories more and more frequently. 

Now that my busy, demanding toddlers have grown into bright, independent young adults, I miss having little ones around. Eight out of my last ten books have children in them and since I’m writing a series about a group of governesses, it’s safe to say that trend will continue for awhile. J

Do you like reading romance novels with babies or young children in the story? If so, what is it about those stories that appeals to you? -- by Deb Hale

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

my turn on the bloggin’ site

           turn on the bloggin’ site...I thought ‘what can I write about?’ Then thought again. Well, there are many things. That’s the problem when you’re creative, but unfocused. But I’ll start by saying how very proud I am to be a member of RWAC and of the great accomplishments this group has achieved with the unbelievable amount of talent and sharing among the group. It was like watching a newborn, then a toddler taking steps, coming to full maturity and finally flying with inner wings. Congratulations to all of you! And a special Thanks to Tory, who traveled long, dark roads so we could call ourselves a chapter in the very beginning when there were only three. Her vision has come a long way.
            When I relocated to Virginia Beach and re-invented myself, the only thing I took with me was the ‘art of being persistent’, which my husband likes to call stubborn and the idea of someday being published. I like to think I never have to give up on the idea...and someday, someday.
            Being a long-distant member continues to inspire me, so keep up the writing life chapter members and the creativity flowing...there’s a lot more stories to be told and always room for another book on the shelf.
            I’ve currently got my BIC, butt in chair, working on THE MYSTIC COURTYARD, a medieval time-travel about a beautiful alluring librarian/witch meeting her erotic fantasy as a Knight’s Templar.

--Georgiana Harding

Monday, 22 July 2013


There is a thing going around Facebook and the blogosphere this week called Sevens. The idea is that a writer selects the first full paragraph or 7 lines of dialogue from p7, p70 or p170 of your WIP and share, then tag seven other writers.

So for your reading pleasure, I hope, here's the first part of p. 7 with Lily talking to Luc in The Devil Made Me, book two in the Speak of the Devil series.

            “I’m your telephone,” I answered.

            He leaned over me, one hand on the brick wall behind me. “It’s true. You are our only communication link to Heaven. But that’s not why you’re my angel.” He brushed the hair that hung down in front of my right eye back behind my ear. “You think I saved you, but you saved me.”

Speak of the Devil is currently available on Amazon & Barnes & Noble. The Devil Made Me should be released early next year.  - by Shawna Romkey

Friday, 19 July 2013

Our books are up for bid in the Litters n Critters Online Auction

Our writers' group has donated a basket of our books, plus a $50 Chapters gift card to help raise funds for a local animal rescue group called Litters n Critters.

One of our paranormal YA authors, Shawna Romkey is featured in the video clip in the link below in her role as fund raising coordinator for the rescue group. 

There are four dogs requiring surgery from their time prior to being rescued: Whiskey who needs eye surgery, Tri-Pawd who needs one leg to be removed, and Annie and Teddy who need oral surgery.

There are lots of great books in the prize basket from Donna Alward, Pamela Callow, Cathryn Fox, Deborah Hale, Taylor Keating, Jennie Marsland, Bev Pettersen, Shawna Romkey and Julia Phillips Smith, with donations from Tara C. MacDonald and Kate Robbins.

A great time to get a bunch of summer reads and help out four grateful dogs.

To place a bid, leave the amount in the comments section of the photo. To check out the other items in the auction, CLICK HERE. There's some lovely bling for both humans and dogs, fashionable coats again for both humans and dogs, hotel stays, restaurant dinners, original art work and more.

Auction began Wednesday July 17th and wraps up on July 25th at 8:00 pm.

Photo by Helen Tansey

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Wednesday, 17 July 2013

The Writing Life

In a perfect writing world, I would write up a pristine outline incorporating all the required elements. I would then proceed to write my first draft over a couple of months at which point, upon finishing, I would set it aside for a month. Clear my head. Take a breather. After that, I would read through my work, make notes and then revise at leisure, pouring over every nuance, word, piece of dialogue and character motivation, spiffing it up until it shone like a…uh…well, something shiny.  Ahh, the writing life.

In theory, it sounds so wonderful. In reality…well, in reality it can be an entirely different beast as I discovered while completing my first manuscript under a publisher’s deadline. I had six months to write and revise a manuscript from scratch, about half the time I had been taking. I started chanting, “Failure is not an option.”

Things started fine. I had a great idea, breezed through my outline and started writing. It was awesome! At least until the original plot idea decided to implode one month in. Deep breaths. No problem. I can do this. Failure – still not an option.

I revised the idea. Re-outlined. Re-wrote. Reverted to the fetal position while hyperventilating into a paper bag when the second outline fell apart in spectacular fashion. Another month lost. Four months left.

Back to the drawing board. I pared down the plot. Did yet another outline, buffed up the character motivations and conflicts. Started writing. Okay…this is good…this is working…this is…total utter crap!! Ack!

I bypassed the hyperventilating and went straight for the wine. Major changes were made. Three months to go. I made up a writing schedule to determine how many words I had to complete each day to leave myself time for revisions.

I told my husband to remember me fondly and I would see him again after my deadline date.

I typed like a woman possessed, finished the first draft and jumped into revisions. Realized halfway through revisions I’d made a fatal error. Banged my head against my desk until my husband suggested a brain injury would not facilitate the process. He also suggested putting in a car chase despite the fact the story takes place in 1876.

I fixed the error and kept going. Three weeks left. I wrote mornings, lunch hours, weekends. Then, two days before my deadline I had a major epiphany. Or a brain bleed. They were becoming hard to tell apart at this point. Either way, there was no time left to implement it. None. Nada. Zippo.

I sent my manuscript to my editor meeting my deadline. In my email to her I described my epiphany and hoped she didn’t seriously question why the publisher had signed me. A day later the doubts crept in: Had I gone too plot heavy? Did I tie up all the loose ends? Did the motivations hold up or fall apart? And why didn’t I take up basket weaving instead??

Then I jumped into writing my next book.

Ah yes…the writing life.

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Monday, 15 July 2013

A Woman With Many Hats

This is my first time posting to the Romance Writers of Atlantic Canada blog and I’m super excited about it. But now I ask myself, what the heck am I going to write about? When it comes to fiction, I can come up with hundreds of ideas, but ask me to write something without vampires or criminals or werewolves and I’m lost. So I’m going with what I know: being a woman with many hats and struggling to wear them well.

So you’re probably asking yourself what being a woman with many hats means. Let me first tell you about myself. I am a mom, a published writer, a wife, a maid (comes with the territory of being a mom and a wife), and a military nurse. A typical day for me involves working eight or twelve hours, coming home and cleaning and/or cooking, having a quick bath, getting my uniform ready, tucking my kids in and then—if I have time—writing for an hour or two depending on whether I’ve fallen asleep or not. Now, don’t get me wrong, my days off are much more relaxed, but the days that I work I pretty much don’t exist for my family. It’s a very difficult fact to accept. But I chose my profession and I chose the military so I really shouldn’t complain, should I?

What matters to me most? It’s the same thing that probably matters to most women: my family, even though when I became a commissioned officer I swore country before self and have had to spend many months away from them. I struggle everyday to be a good nurse, to be a good mother and wife, and to find the time to do something that keeps me sane (yes, that would be writing). Being a woman in today’s world is hard, especially when we wear so many hats. More often than not, I struggle with feelings of inadequacy in both my work and professional life. The only way I’ve managed to cope with this is reading and writing. These beautiful activities let me escape my life and allow me to live my life through the characters I create. They let me forget about the stress and time constraints I work under and that for over five months this year I will have clocked over five months away from my family for taskings and courses.

What's sad about this is that I know I’m not alone, and that there are so many other women out there who struggle to do the same. So I wonder how they cope. How do they deal with feeling overextended and finding and achieving a happy work-life balance? Honestly, I’d love to hear your thoughts. How do they stay sane? Please leave a comment and tell me all about it. 

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Friday, 12 July 2013

Fiction, the Good Lie – No.1 : Specific Details

by Magi Nams

"Fiction is a lie, and good fiction is the truth inside the lie." Stephen King, On Writing

"Good fiction is made up of what is real, and reality is difficult to come by." Ralph Ellison, Advice to Writers

These two quotes sum up the theme of a writing workshop I and a dozen other writers/hopefuls attended two years ago in Great Village, Nova Scotia. Newfoundland author Michael Crummey led the workshop and told us that "good writers put the real world on paper," that "most fiction is true with added elements," and that writing "good fiction is like telling a good lie that others believe."

Michael asked us to describe the difference between a good lie and a bad lie. We brainstormed and came up with the following criteria for a good lie: conviction, consistency, verifiable and convincing details, no traps (don't overdo it), sincerity, eye contact. And for a bad lie: body language doesn't jive with story, inconsistency, anachronisms, exaggeration, overstatement, too insistent, bragging/drawing attention, vagueness, contradiction, too much detail. Michael stressed that, as when telling a painful truth or a good lie, "good writers don't flinch away from the hard moments." They "maintain eye contact all the way through."

We did two exercises which focused on the concept of readers needing concrete, specific details to buy into an author's story, to enter the world he or she has created, to believe the lie, if you will. For the first exercise, we left our notebooks behind and took a brief walk around the yard of the home where the workshop was held, using our five senses to collect specific, convincing details. Then we went back inside, and Michael gave us five minutes to write a description. Here's what I wrote:

Shoes clunked on wooden steps. Gravel grated and crunched underfoot. Hostas formed mounds of white-edged green heart-shaped leaves next to spirea with faded parasols of flowers, and daylilies still thrusting trumpets of burgundy rust into the air. Wet grass caressed sandaled feet, its dampness cool. Air a moist, warm legacy of the underbelly of periwinkle clouds that towered above the white steep-roofed church. Fallen apples laced with scab exuded the scent of rot. Scarlet runner beans spiraled up kinked poles that together formed tines of a rake puncturing the sky. Three dogs yipped and squabbled, their voices juxtaposed against the background burr of a tractor and swift passage of rushing tires on the highway. Pigweeds and timothy bore heads of seeds among flowering tomato plants lost in an overgrown garden.

I'm the outdoorsy type and enjoy observing the natural world, so I naturally gravitated to the above exercise. However, I found the second descriptive exercise much more difficult. After imagining a character (name, gender, place of birth, age, birthday, place of residence), we had five minutes to write a description of a room in that character's home, again including specific, convincing details intended to convey information about our imagined protagonist. After staring into space for far too much of the allotted time, I produced a few drab, unconvincing sentences.

From those two exercises, I learned that I have strengths and weaknesses when it comes to writing specific, convincing details. I now pay much more attention to the interiors of homes and other buildings, and to people, in order to gather a sensory store of details for future writing projects.

Description just for the sake of description, as in my paragraph, doesn't advance a story. All those specific details must serve a purpose and are most effective when presented via a character's perspective, thus conveying mood, tone, or providing insight into that character's persona or a conflict which must be resolved. Readers crave the human element in fiction, so for our readers to judge our descriptions as 'good lies,' we as writers must intertwine descriptive details with true human emotions so the combination resonates with readers.

Today I reworked my description of the yard to include that essential human element. Here's how it reads now:

Dan's boots clunk on the porch's wooden steps. I step carefully, leaning on him. Gravel grates and crunches under our feet when we cross the driveway. Alongside the garage, hostas form mounds of white-edged, heart-shaped leaves beside faded parasols of spirea flowers and daylilies still thrusting trumpets of burgundy rust into the air. Wet lawn grass caresses my bare toes in sandals, its dampness cool. I limp beside Dan, feeling as though as much has been cut out of me as remains. Fallen apples laced with scab exude the scent of rot. The scarlet runner beans I planted spiral up kinked poles resembling a rake's tines puncturing the sky. Three dogs in the neighbour's yard yip and squabble, their voices juxtaposed against the background burr of a tractor and swift passage of rushing tires on the highway. The air is warm, moist September air, legacy of  the underbelly of periwinkle clouds towering above Great Village's white steep-roofed church. This time is a reprieve, I know. The future holds more cutting. But for now, at last, at last, I'm home.

Magi Nams includes plenty of specific and hopefully convincing details in her contemporary romantic fiction with an outdoors/science twist. Ditto for her nature/travel blog at

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Finding something new to write about…

by Donna Alward

Romance writers walk a fine line sometimes. There are often reader expectations – sometimes for tone, sensuality level, tropes, whatever. The trick is finding a new way to deliver the sort of story your readers expect. And the more stories you write, the more challenging it can get. My pal Liz Fielding blogged about it on The Chocolate Box a few weeks ago – being in the middle of a book and realizing a character already did such and such or you’ve already used that name or premise and trying to come up with something different – and yet the same.

After 25+ books, I was starting to feel that way. And yet there was still one hook I hadn’t used yet: the good old “sperm bank” hook.

Are you rolling your eyes?

I did the same thing when my critique partner a few years ago suggested I write an amnesia story for a special project. I took up the challenge and enjoyed it a lot.

A Cowboy to Come Home To
by Donna Alward
So…back to the sperm bank. In A COWBOY TO COME HOME TO, the heroine, Melissa, isn’t interested in marriage. She’s BTDT, and has the scars to prove it. Her husband cheated on her and she caught him – and then found out her best friend knew about it and said nothing. Her best friend, by the way, is the hero, Cooper Ford. Or at least he was her best friend. She hasn’t really spoken to him since everything blew up.

But Melissa *is* interested in a family of her own, so she’s looking at going it solo, much to her parents’ dismay. And Cadence Creek is a small town – she’s well aware that there will be whispers and rumours. But she’s a strong girl. The only problem is the procedures haven’t worked yet.

Yay me! I found something new to write about. But then there’s another tricky bit – and that’s taking something that is potentially cliché and making it genuine. And that comes down to character. Melissa was so hurt from being betrayed, but she was such a sweetheart that I knew she deserved to be a mom if she really wanted it. I admired her strength and determination – especially as a small business owner used to standing on her own two feet. Yeah, it was unorthodox, especially since a lot of my plotlines are a bit more on the “traditional” side of things. But I had a blast writing it and I hope readers really like it too.

Are there any plot hooks that make you roll your eyes, and have you read any stories that made you change your mind?

Twitter: @DonnaAlward
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Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Atlanta bound!

by Victoria Barbour

Five things to accomplish at the RWA National Convention

Tomorrow I hop a plane for Atlanta, Georgia. I'm bound for my first Romance Writers of America National Convention. The conference doesn't begin till next week but my family and I are going early to explore the romantic and hot south!

Of course, all that means is that today I am in full-out packing frenzy, along with trying to keep my overactive mind under control. There are so many things that I want to accomplish at the conference. As a debut romance author with one self-published contemporary romance under my belt, this conference is a great opportunity for me. Industry professionals will be everywhere, and I want to ensure I make a good first impression, and perhaps a lasting one. Agents, publishers, my fellow authorsall of them have knowledge and experience I can learn from.

My heroine in Against Her Rules, Elsie, is fond of making lists. In deference to her organizational abilities, which I can only write about and never hope to achieve in real life, I've created a list of the top five things I'd like to accomplish during my first ever RWA conference. When I guest post again, we can see how I fared.

1.    Soak up as much knowledge as I can about the wild and exciting world of self-publishing.
2.    Try not to be too much of a fan. Some of my favourite romance authors will be there - what happens if I find myself stuck in an elevator with Eloisa James?
3.    Talk talk talk to people! I'm a pretty outgoing person in small groups, but find myself sometimes overcome in a really large setting. I need to make sure my inner shy gal doesn't come to the conference.
4.    Try not to break the bank from book purchases! There's a literacy book signing with hundreds of authors. The money goes to a literacy foundation. The temptation will be great to load up on books. Hopefully the weight restrictions on luggage will temper my spending.

5.    Come home with action items. Lots of them! One of the things I've learned in life is that in every meeting you should leave with at least one action item. If you leave with nothing to do, was that meeting a valuable use of your time? By my estimation, a four day conference with a daily slate of workshops should mean at least 10 action items. Fingers crossed one of those is to send a manuscript to someone!

Victoria lives on the island of Newfoundland, and is fiercely proud of her home. She can imagine no better setting for her works, and hopes that her readers will one day come to witness Newfoundland and Labrador's rustic beauty for themselves.

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Monday, 8 July 2013

Moments with the Master

by Tory LeBlanc

Recently I reconnected with my first great Master, one who is familiar to much of the world. I bumped into him at the Aviation Museum in Ottawa. The meeting wasn’t accidental; I’d gone there in the hopes of seeing him and his cohorts at the museum’s special exhibit.

Even though I had contemplated his teachings for more than three decades, this was the first time we would meet face-to-face. With every step, my heart beat faster.

I rounded the corner and there he was.

Protected by glass from his adoring devotees, he stared serenely ahead. Yoda, my precious Yoda! Although I’d once fancied Luke Skywalker, and had crushed on Hans Solo for years and years, it was Yoda who’d endured in my head and heart.

Surrounded by Star War costumes, model ships, and film clips, it was not hard to remember the words of this great Jedi Master. His sayings are so famous, they roll off the tongues of any human holding a light saber. Their familiarity in no way negates their truth. Powerful thoughts are they.

Part of their impact comes from the alien grammar. The awkward phrasing makes one pause, to translate and make sense of the words. With that split second of thought, the truth is revealed.

It may seem odd that I chose a fictional character as my first mentor. I write fiction, so perhaps it’s appropriate. Yoda appeared when I was young and impressionable, and needed another way of viewing the world. Over the years, I’ve experienced the truth in many of Yoda’s pithy statements, yet my favourite remains the same. The words that gob-smacked the schoolgirl complacency of being content by ‘trying my hardest’ right out of my head? 

“Try not. Do or not do. There is no try.”

Tory LeBlanc writes contemporary women’s fiction.

Do you have a mentor, real or fictional, who influenced you? What tidbit resonated in your heart?

Friday, 5 July 2013

Talismans, Tokens and Tool belts

by Taryn Blackthorne

I’ve talked about how to squeeze in writing time in other blog posts, talked about what I’ve put in my tool box over the years (get your mind out of the gutter, Nikki), but what I haven’t ever put down is what I need to actually DO THE WORK. I guess this would be what I need in my tool belt. I’d be interested in what other people have in their tool belts as well, so please sound off in the comments!
1. Pen. Sounds obvious, but given that I’m a quirky writer (or person, whichever you prefer), it has to be a certain KIND of pen. My current obsession is a Bic soft feel retractable pen that I can only find in packs of four at Wal-Mart in sporadic intervals. I stock up when I can. They are cheap. They are plentiful. They are retractable so I am not frantically looking for the tops I spit out earlier after nearly choke on them. Yes, this really happened. No, I will not relive the details here for you. I will say it was in public, there were cute, available men there and not one of them gave me the Heimlich.
2. Notebook. Again, obvious, but I have to say it. They must be spirals (So I do not feel shame about butchering it as I skip ahead a few pages from my current outline to start a list about what I have to research while I rip out sheets to write character motivations and bits of dialogue I have floating around in my head or snippets of conversation I’ve overheard in the café I’m writing in) and they have to be full sized. Except when they aren’t. I know, I make no sense.
3. Computer. Given the first two, you may wonder about this one. I can type faster than I can write it out by hand. Yes, I felt the need to say that and no I do not use the hunt-and-peck method. Generally I write all my drafts on computer. But sometimes it just gets stuck and a pen and paper get things going again.  Then I have to type it in. Sometimes the computer stays in the bag; sometimes it’s all that I’m working on. Regardless, it’s my writer’s Blankie and I have to have it nearby.
4. Music. Picked this trick up when I was studying for my exams in high school. Music, for me, replicates the feelings that the characters are feeling. So of course I have specific rules for the type of acceptable writing music I must have. It must have no lyrics, it must be a steady enough beat that I can turn up my iPod and block out background conversations and it must be longer than eight minutes in length. Last night I was writing to a mash up from the Pitch Perfect soundtrack, but I had 45 minute running program by the Chemical Brothers on standby if that ever failed me (let us not discuss the Christmas Carols for Cranky Writer Witch playlist that I use in cases of EXTREME NEED ONLY).
5. Water. Except when I want tea, coffee, juice, iced coffee, lemonade, milkshakes or smoothies. Because it’s important to stay hydrated and I’m in this writing gig for the long haul.
Give me those five things, and I can write anywhere, any time. So what’s in your tool belt? Nikki, stop it. 

Taryn's birth as a Pen Monkey... She hooked her fifth grade teacher with a cliff hanger ending to a chapter and was thus sentenced to her 6th grade teacher because 'she wanted the writers'. It was the first time she had a moniker that didn't involve 'fat kid' and she embraced it for all she was worth. She swore vengeance by pen, absorbed novels like others did candy bars, and waited for the day when she'd moved from writer to author.

You can find her at: Website-

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

The Second Act

by Anne MacFarlane

I’ve been thinking a lot about how I spend my time as I approach another milestone birthday. I’m no longer a parent of young kids, or even teenagers, and a couple of loved ones are struggling with serious health issues. It’s made me stop and consider what I want for my Second Act. Since I plan to live until I’m at least 110, that’s a lot of hours to fill.
Anyone who knows me well, knows I’m an “ideas” person rather than an “action” person. I’m really good with plans - if you want someone to brainstorm a story, I’m your girl - but I’m not so great with the follow through. Unfortunately I’m not wealthy enough to hire assistants to carry out my great middle of the night ideas, and I think publishers really expect you to actually write your own words unless you’re  James Patterson and can hire collaborators, so I have to find ways to inspire myself to action.
The other day I was wasting time searching for inspiration and discovered a site called the Good Life Project, Don’t Just Build a Living, Build a Life.  
You can check it out here:
The videos on the site, at least the ones that I’ve had time to watch, discuss fear and courage and taking chances. It’s about spending your time doing what you love and making a living at it.
And that’s what I want for my Second Act: To make a living with my writing.
I would love to hear of websites, people, books that inspire you.
And do you think of yourself as a person on the first or second, or even third, act of your life?
Have you taken huge detours to get to a place that brings you joy?
Please share.

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Monday, 1 July 2013

Writing Resources: Part I – What’s in your Toolbox?

by Kate Robbins 

One of the first things I learned on my journey as a writer was that I needed a figurative toolbox and that I would never cease to add to it. It’s good advice. The writer’s toolbox is that list of resources used time and again for anything that helps writers write.

Sounds basic enough, right? Yeah, just Google writing resources. Seriously, go do it. I’ll wait…

How many hits did you get? I got 767,000,000. Now, unless you’re a super speed reader, how in the name of all that is holy do you widdle that down to a sensible wish list? And which ones are good?

Step one, and I can’t remember who told me to do this so remind me if you’re out there, pick up Stephen King’s On Writing. Every new writer should read this book for two reasons. One, you’ll give yourself permission to write whatever it is you write and never worry about it. Two, SK lists some basic must have resources like The Elements of Style. And why will you do both of these things? Because Stephen King said so and I don’t care who you are, you’re not arguing with his track record (I’m a huge fan in the meantime). 

Step two, subscribe to Writer’s Digest. My fave, fave, fave online resource for all things writing. Doesn’t matter if you’re writing literary fiction or blurbs for Cracker Jack boxes, this website has something for everyone including resource book suggestions.

Step three, take some workshops, either online or locally. Doesn’t matter. Just find something that resonates with your writing needs and do it. A couple of things will happen. You’ll meet other writers (I’ve gained some lifelong friends), but also learn more than you even realize you need. One of my favourite online courses in now part of a new book by Don McNair and I highly recommend both the online course and the book. Editor-Proof Your Writing is available online at Chapters, Amazon, etc., but if you’d rather benefit from interacting with Don, go to his website at and check out his courses. I would not have grasped author intrusion without his instruction. And I’m now a defogging force to be reckoned with.

Step four, join a writer’s group. I’ve raved about RWAC before and I’ll do it again. I’m with the RWA chapter almost a year now and can’t imagine this journey without them. My local writer’s group has recently acquired some additions and I must say the Scribe Wenches in St. John's, NL have never looked so lovely as well.

My toolbox runneth over. And I love it so I want to share. Below is a list of my fave writing resource books. I hope you find them helpful. I certainly do.

Writing resource must haves:

On Writing
The Emotion Thesaurus
Editor-Proof Your Writing
The Elements of Style
A Natural History of the Senses 
The Careful Writer

Kate Robbins is the pen name of Debbie Robbins who lives in St. John's, NL with her man-beast and two man-cubs. She writes historical Scottish romance.

You can find her here:

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