Monday, November 29, 2010

To Blog or Not to Blog...

That is the question. Or at least it’s one I’ve been wrestling with the last few weeks, ever since my group blog, Prairie Chicks Write Romance, disbanded. I’d enjoyed blogging with the group so much that I decided to start one of my own. And besides, blogging is a good way for a writer to promote herself, right?
I’m not entirely sure. With the Chicks, I was posting once every two weeks for the past year. Since I started my own blog, I've been sticking to a schedule of three times a week. After only a month, I’m already finding it tough to keep up the pace. Will the time and work that I put into my blogs translate into more sales, or at least traffic to my website?
It depends who you ask. I recently took a promotion class from writer Terry Kate ( who believes that a writer is better off guest blogging than trying to keep her own blog flush with fresh content. By guest blogging, a writer will often reach a different audience at every blog. That means that more people will be exposed to her work than if she stuck strictly to her own blog.  
Others have differing opinions. Penny C. Sansevieri, writer, promotion expert and editor of “The Book Marketing Expert Newsletter” says “…does blogging even matter? Yes, it does. In fact, many SEO [search engine optimization] experts cite that a blog (when used regularly) can increase website traffic by 25%.” Notice that Ms. Sansevieri says “when used regularly”. Aye, there’s the rub. You can’t blog inconsistently and expect reader to follow you, or even care what you have to say.
So how often should I post? To be honest, I started looking around the Internet for answers, hoping someone would tell me it’s okay to blog less frequently. I got mixed results.
Susan Gunelius at suggests I should decide what kind of growth I want for my blog and then post accordingly. She's even created a handy guide:
·         For maximum growth: post multiple times per day to drive the most traffic (3-5 times or more is considered best for power bloggers).
·         For steady growth: post at least once per day.
·         For slower growth: publish at least every 3 days or 2-3 times per week.
·         For very slow growth: posting less frequently than 2-3 days per week is most appropriate for bloggers who maintain blogs as a hobby with no strategic plans for growth
Terri Panjanen at Suite 101 argues that since most readers will “follow” your blog with an rss feed, frequency is not crucial:
“…readers will come to your site as soon as you do post something, even if it's not daily. Since they no longer have to actively go looking for new material, most people don't care how often you post. What matters is that you post things that they are interested in and want to know more about.”

In her article in the November/December 2010 edition of Writer’s Digest, Monica Bhide says “if you update too much or too little or on anything other than a regular schedule, people stop paying attention. Period.”
For the record, only blogs that deal with current events or celebrity news need to blog multiple times a day. My blog deals primarily with writing topics. The world of writing doesn’t generally have breaking news that I need to blog about more than once daily.
I've come to the conclusion that the frequency of blog posts is important, but probably not as important as the regularity and quality of the posts. I’ll talk more about content next time.
If you’re a blogger, how often do you post? Would you like to post more often, or do you think you’d like to cut down on your posts? Do you agree that the quality of the posts and the regularity with which you post them is more important than how often you post?

Friday, November 26, 2010

The Sedentary Writer

Last September when author Regan Taylor ( noticed that her left ankle was swollen, she thought she must have twisted it, although she couldn’t remember having an accident. She’d been preoccupied by the death of her much-loved 22 year-old cat Molly and the adoption of two new cats. So she treated the ankle for a sprain by icing it, keeping it elevated, and taking aspirin. But nothing helped. Two days later the pain became so excruciating that she took herself to the nearest hospital.   “I went over to the emergency room thinking I was just a big baby and they’d give me something stronger than aspirin and send me home.”
Regan was shocked when the doctor told her she had a blood clot, or deep vein thrombosis (“DVT”). DVT can be developed in a number of ways but the three main ones are by a blood clotting disorder, being bumped, or sitting for long periods of time. The risk of DVT is the reason that passengers on long flights are encouraged to stand up and walk around every so often.
An ultra sound showed that the clot ran from Regan’s groin to her ankle. After more investigation, her doctor confirmed that what she’d thought was a bout of pneumonia back in June was probably a pulmonary embolism. Part of the clot had broken off and travelled to her lungs, causing shortness of breath and fatigue. Regan was told she’d been very lucky. If the clot had travelled to her heart it could have caused a heart attack. A clot in the brain might have resulted in a stroke.
Regan works in an office full-time in addition to career as a writer. Although she walked about two miles a day prior to becoming ill, she spent long periods of time sitting, as do most writers. Aren’t we told that the correct attitude for a writer is BICHOK (butt in chair, hands on keyboard)? Medical researchers believe that BICHOK is hazardous to our health; the effects of our increasingly butt-bound, tech-driven lives has been called "sitting disease" and it can be deadly.
According to Women’s Health, sitting disease can result in many other unhealthy possibilities:
  1. Obesity – Weight gain is most commonly caused by overeating, lack of physical exercise and genetic predisposition. When you sit for an extended period of time, your body starts to shut down at the metabolic level, says Marc Hamilton, Ph.D., associate professor of biomedical sciences at the University of Missouri. When muscles—especially the big ones meant for movement, like those in your legs—are immobile, your circulation slows and you burn fewer calories. Fat-burning enzymes responsible for breaking down triglycerides (a type of fat) simply start switching off. When we sit all day, those fat burners drop by 50 percent, says James Levine,M.D., Ph.D., of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, and author of Move a Little, Lose a Lot .
  2. Diabetes - The less you move, the less blood sugar your body uses; research shows that for every two hours spent sitting per day, your chance of contracting diabetes goes up by 7 percent.
  3. Heart Disease – When you are sedentary, enzymes that keep blood fats in check are inactive, increasing your risk of heart disease.
  4. Depression - With less blood flow, fewer feel-good hormones are circulating to your brain.
  5. Spine and back problems – According to Douglas Lentz, a certified strength and conditioning specialist and the director of fitness and wellness for Summit Health in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, "When you sit all day, your hip flexors and hamstrings shorten and tighten, while the muscles that support your spine become weak and stiff." This has resulted in a threefold increase in chronic lower back reported by women since the early 1990s.
So what can writers do to reverse this trend? Get up and move!
Think NEAT (non-exercise activity thermogenesis) That's the energy (i.e., calories) you burn doing everything but exercise. NEAT can be fidgeting, folding the laundry or simply standing up. A few simple suggestions for burning more calories:
-          Stand while reading emails or talking on the phone.
-          Walk while conferring with colleagues.
-          Limit TV to two hours or less per day.
-          Walk on a treadmill while watching TV.
-          Park your car farther away from the mall and walk to the entrance.
-          Take the stairs inside of the elevator.
NEAT is in addition to regular exercise. Everyone needs at least 30 minutes a day.
Regan Taylor is now recovering. She was started on a course of Coumadin, a medication that thins the blood and helps to dissolve clots. Because it took 14 days for the Coumadin to reach the correct levels in her blood, Regan needed injections of another medication, which was injected into the subcutaneous tissue of her abdomen. She had a lot side-effects and complications, from excessive bruising to inappropriate bleeding. She must monitor everything she eats and drinks because so many foods, alcoholic beverages, over the counter drugs, and even multi-vitamins interfere the absorption of the Coumadin. The good news is that her doctors expect that she will only need the Coumadin for about six months.
In the meantime, she’s made some changes in her lifestyle. “I set my alarm at work to make sure I get up and walk the length of the building (at a minimum) every hour. Even if I get up to go to the printer or copier, I make sure I take a longer walk once an hour. At home I get up every hour as well and walk up and down the stairs 2-3 times.”
And being a writer, even Regan’s health scare has become grist for the mill. “I’ve met some really interesting people that have some wonderful attributes I will give my characters.”
Do you sit for long periods of time? Do you get enough exercise? What do you do for exercise? Do you experience any of the unhealthy side effects of a sedentary lifestyle? What can you do to increase your NEAT factor?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

All in a Day's Work

Click here for picture credit
As I mentioned in an earlier post, I work for the professional associations of both the veterinarians and the animal health technologists in my province. These talented and caring people do remarkable work, and their work isn’t limited to companion and farm animals. Sometimes, the clients of veterinarians and AHTs are a real wild bunch.
Meet Huey, a wolverine with a toothache. Huey is a resident of the Assiniboine Park Zoo and he’s about to get a root canal whether he wants one or not.
Click here to watch a video of Huey's root canal. He may not be happy about his dental surgery, but he'll feel a whole lot better after it's all done. Have a speedy recovery Huey, and good luck with your next root canals!

Because I love animals, I’ve always thought that being a veterinarian would be a great job. If you weren’t in your current profession, or if you weren’t a writer, what job do you think you’d like to do?

Monday, November 22, 2010

Winter Pursuits

Lou in full winter gear

Winter has hit with a vengeance. The thing I hate most about winter, aside from the cold, the dark, and the never-ending shovelling, is how hard everything becomes. Driving is more difficult, and schlepping through the snow on foot can be tricky. Even walking the dog is more difficult. Some days, it takes longer to get myself and Lou dressed than to actually walk. Lou is not happy about putting on her winter boots. In fact, she pretends to be very hard done by, and practically rolls her eyes at me. But once she has her boots on, she can trot comfortably through the ice and snow.
On the upside, winter is a great time to snuggle up with a good book. I lucked out at my local bookstore the other day and hit a sale on romance novels. I bought six books for less the regular price of one new book. Score!
I’m making a conscious effort to not only read more in the next year, but to also read some authors I haven’t tried before. I love reading, but in the last couple of years I seem to have pushed it to the back of my to-do list. But no more. My early New Year’s resolution is to read at least two books a month. So with my recent purchases I’ve got half a year’s supply.
Four of the books I purchased were by favourite authors Mary Balogh, Susan Mallery, Jennifer Crusie and C.J. Carmichael. Luckily, I was also able to pick up a couple of books from two authors I haven’t read before. I’ve been wanting to read something by Christine Rimmer ever since she was a guest blogger at  Prairie Chicks, and now I finally have my chance. “Christmas at Bravo Ridge” will be the first of my new stash to be read. The other new-to-me author is Kristan Higgins. I’m looking forward to reading “The Next Best Thing”.
Do you hate winter, or are you one of those strange people who actually enjoys snow and ice? And what are you reading this winter? Have you tried any new-to-you authors lately?

Friday, November 19, 2010

A Motivating Force

Olympian Clara Hughes

This week Canadian Olympian Clara Hughes , 38, announced her plans to return to the sport of cycling for the 2012 London Olympic games. By the time the London games roll around, she’ll be nearly 40, often the age when many athletes are thinking about retiring instead of gearing up for a new kick at the can.
But Clara Hughes feels her best race is still to come.
Let me tell you a little about Clara. In 1996 Clara won two medals in cycling at the Atlanta Summer Olympic games. She went on to win medals in long track speed skating at three winter Olympics in 2002, 2006 and 2010. Clara is the only Canadian and fourth ever athlete in history to win medals at both the summer and winter Olympic games. And she is the only athlete in history to win multiple medals in winter and summer Olympics.
Clara is not only a remarkable athlete, she’s a remarkable person. In honor of her $10,000.00 personal donation to ‘Right to Play’  after winning gold in Torino four years earlier, Clara made a donation to the local Vancouver charity ‘Take a Hike’ with her $10,000.00 bronze medal bonus in 2010.

When asked by CBC Sports why she wanted to compete again and if she felt she had something to prove to herself or others, Clara answered this way:
“No, I've never had anything to prove, and I've never tried to break any records or win more medals than anyone, or medal here or medal there (laughs). That's stuff that's just been a result of putting everything I have into what I love to do, and this is a continuation of how I've always gone about sport … the ultimate pursuit of personal excellence, of bringing my best self to the line and, hopefully, setting an example for kids and people that anything is possible.

When you give everything, magic can happen…And that's what I always tried to show people that were watching, particularly young people, that it's the effort that matters. It's what you bring of yourself that matters, and that's why I'm doing this and what I want to bring of myself if I'm good enough to make this team.”

I’m truly awed by Clara. She’s a great athlete and a great human being. What I find so totally inspiring about her is that she puts everything she has into everything she does. She is always going for her personal best.

I wrote the other day about my lack of motivation for finishing needed revisions on my current WIP, and how the thought that they are “good enough” keeps seeping into my brain, even though I know the WIP is not good enough. And then I think of someone like Clara Hughes, who keeps striving for more from herself even after all she’s accomplished. How can I just give up? Clara’s example shows me that I have to give the best of myself, no matter what I’m doing.

Is there someone or something that inspires you to do your best?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Why Can't I Revise?

I usually respond really well to deadlines. In fact, normally I go into total panic mode when faced with a deadline and work my butt off to get done in time. But right now I’m faced with a deadline and I can’t get myself motivated to really hit those revisions hard.
I’ve been doing a lot of thinking, trying to figure out why this time is different. Why can’t I revise?
Part of it is just plain busyness. I’m busy at work. We’ve got a conference coming up this weekend and I’ve been putting in more time at the job to get ready for that. On the home front, we were just away a few days on a mini-holiday. I want to host a Grey Cup party on November 28 (hopefully the Riders will be in it. For US readers, I’m talking about Canadian Football and my favorite team, the Saskatchewan Roughriders.) And Christmas is coming and I haven’t done any shopping or baking.
On the writing front, I’ve got a novella coming out in January and I need to arrange some promotion for it. I should research some blogs and write some guest blogs. I should figure out how to best use Twitter.  I should figure out how to do stuff on Facebook.
I’m getting overloaded with shoulds.
I’m starting to hyperventilate just thinking about everything I should be doing. I think I’ve become so overwhelmed I can’t seem to do anything.
But that’s only part of it. When reading over my manuscript, there are parts of it I really like just the way they are. Then there are parts I’m not so happy with. Those parts are okay, but could be much better. I should be thinking of ways to revise them, but there’s a little voice in my head that keeps whispering “Good enough”.
One of my goals has always been to submit my best work. But this time I’m tempted to skip the hard work. Maybe it’s just plain laziness, being overwhelmed, or maybe it’s fear, but I’m having a hard time facing those revisions.
I know what will happen if I don’t submit my best work. I’ll get a big dose of the R word – rejection.
A little browsing on the Internet has helped. I ran across Nathan Bransford’s blog entitled “JK Rowling and The Art of Being a Clutch Writer”. In it he talks about how JK Rowling could definitely have rested on her laurels and submitted inferior work. Heaven knows, people would have bought the last Harry Potter books no matter how badly they might have been written. And heaven knows, JK Rowling must be faced with distractions that mere word peddlers like me can only imagine. Yet, like a pinch hitter in the ninth inning, she stepped up to the plate and hit one out of the park. She made sure her latest work was even better then the work that came before. Bransford says she’s a clutch writer.
That’s what I want to be, a clutch writer. A writer whose work gets better each time out.
So, somehow, I’m going to sit down at my computer and make my manuscript better. Somehow, I’m going to get excited about my work. Does anyone have any suggestions as to how I might accomplish that?

Monday, November 15, 2010

Family Reunion

Cenotaph at Toronto's Old City Hall

I'm back from my mini-holiday in Toronto. It was wonderful to spend time with our oldest daughter and to get to know her boyfriend, who I've only met once before, a little better. I enjoyed being together as a family. With daughter number one living in Toronto now, the four of us don't get to do that too often anymore.

Since the last time we were in Toronto in June, our daughter has gotten a new full-time job and a new apartment. Unfortunately, it's just a one-bedroom apartment which meant that hubby and I slept on an air mattress in the living room. Ughhh! My aching back! I’ve never been so glad to see my bed in all my life.

But despite the less than stellar sleep, I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. We got to see a bit of the city and do a little shopping, mostly stuff for our daughter. We also got to see my husband’s nephew and his family for a wonderful visit and a fabulous meal. It happened to be my husband’s birthday so we were treated to a to-die-for chocolate birthday cake.  Our extended family is quite spread out, so we don’t get to see our nephew’s family often enough either. It was a real family weekend.

The weather was fabulous for mid-November, and we did a lot a walking, busing, and subway riding. November 11th was Remembrance Day, and shortly before 11 am, we were on a bus on our way downtown, when the driver asked for a moment of silence to remember our fallen solders. I thought it was a lovely gesture. Unfortunately, we just missed the big Remembrance Day ceremony at Toronto’s old City Hall, but we got to pay our respects at the cenotaph after the services.

Dundas Square, Toronto

I’ve never been to downtown Toronto before, so it was all new to me. Lots of things to see, lots of people on the streets. I have to admit it’s a bit overwhelming. Big city living is exciting, but I’ll stick with life in the slow lane, thank you very much.

So now I’m back home and ready to continue revisions on my current manuscript. Or at least I will be after work. Or maybe after Pilates class. Maybe tomorrow.

I want to submit my current WIP before the deadline for submission on December 31. But so far I haven’t been able to fire myself up and get into the right headspace to do the necessary revisions.  I haven’t exactly figured out why. I’ll be exploring my lack of motivation in posts to come.

Do you have anything, writing or otherwise, that you’ve been putting off? Have you had a chance to go on any mini-holidays lately?

Friday, November 12, 2010

Discovering Your Story

I just read an excellent article in the September 2010 edition of “Romance Writers Report” that got me thinking about how I “discover” my story. In her article “The Importance of Discovery”, Lani Diane Rich, talks about the process of finding the story you want to tell. By this she means learning about your characters and what they need to learn to get to their happy ending.  It means knowing your story and your characters so well you know what they will do in any given situation. It means finding out what the story’s about.  She says “Any time an idea comes to you about your story, you are discovering that story.”
Ms. Rich argues that the writer needs to take the time to discover her book before she sits down to write it. Discovery will happen, one way or the other, either on the writer’s terms or on discovery’s terms. If finding out about your book happens on your own terms, you spend a few weeks thinking about your book, and doing various exercises to help you learn what you want to write. Maybe you’ll do some pre-writing; two or three chapters that never make it into the novel, but contain crucial information for you as the writer. Ms. Rich says, “On its terms, discovery will find you smack in the middle of the second act, sit its fat butt down on your manuscript, overwhelm you with writer’s block until you pay the toll, which is, quite simply, time and attention.”
I think I know exactly what she is talking about it. Here’s a tale of two novels (or novellas, at least) from my own experience.
Scenario number One: In the fall of 2009, my publisher, The Wild Rose Press, put out a call for a series of romantic suspense novellas featuring a blue diamond. I was intrigued by the concept, but I had no clue what to write about. I did a little research about blue diamonds, but sometime before Christmas decided I just wouldn’t be able to come up with anything before the deadline on March 31, 2010.
But my brain must have continued to unconsciously think about it. Sometime over the Christmas holidays I had an idea about setting the story in occupied France in the middle of World War Two. My husband and I talked over some scenarios based on the history of the time. From those conversations I came up with a rough outline of what I thought the story would be about.
Then I went to three friends and set up an instant messaging meeting with them. I had sent them my rough synopsis earlier, so they knew what the story was more or less about, but they really helped me to flesh out the characters and the plot. My friends Janet Corcoran and Karyn Good even helped me to come up with the name of the novella: “Flawless”. By the time I actually started to write the story, I felt I knew everything I needed to know. I wrote the majority of the story during the Saskatchewan Romance Writers annual “Book in A Week” in January 2010 and finished editing it in time to make the deadline of March 31. I am currently under contract for this story with The Wild Rose Press, and it will be released January 5, 2011.
Scenario Number Two: An idea comes to me: it’s about an angel who visits an elderly man with the promise that she will take him back in time so that he can have a second chance at love. I madly began writing this story without doing much research or discovery to figure out what the story is really about. The result: the story is about a third to a half finished, and I’m not sure where it will go, or if what I’ve written so far is any good. I haven’t looked at the story in nearly a year.
Ms. Rich says it doesn’t matter if you’re a plotter or a pantser when it comes to discovery; it still has to happen. “Discovery is where you find the pieces [for your plot]; fitting them all together comes later. If you’re a plotter, it’ll come before you write. If you’re a pantser, it’ll come during. But, to have the pieces ready and gathered before you start writing—that’s the trick. That’s discovery.”
Ms. Rich gives us five ways to help us make discovery happen:
1.       Read at least one book a week. I have to admit that since I really took my writing seriously a few years ago, my reading has gone way down. Part of the problem is lack of time. Any free time I have, I want to spend writing. I’m also concerned with letting the work of other writers seep into my own work. Ms. Rich says sometimes the pieces of the puzzle to your own work can be hidden or pointed to in the works of others. There is nothing wrong with being inspired by the works of others; it is a time-honoured tradition. Just don’t copy or loosely paraphrase, which is plagiarism.
2.       Create a soundtrack. Many writers like to listen to music as they write, although I find I need silence. Ms. Rich recommends creating a soundtrack of ten to thirty songs that relate to particular characters, scenes, or themes of your book. Play them over and over again, while you’re exercising, driving, doing the dishes. That way your mind stays on your book. Keep a notebook handy to jot down ideas as they come to you.
3.       Do a collage. Ms. Rich insists the collage doesn’t have to be great art; it just has to make you think of your book. Find pictures of TV or movie stars who will stand in as your characters, or houses and locations that could be your setting. You don’t even have to use poster board and glue. For “Flawless” I went to the Internet and found a picture of French chateau and photographs of Resistance fighters and others wearing World War Two era clothing that made me think of my story. I kept them in a file on my computer, but you may want to print them out and keep them in front of you.
4.       Engage in creative hobbies.  I can’t knit, crochet or do cross-stitch, but I think I know what Ms. Rich is on to here. Some of my best ideas come to me in the shower or when driving. The part of our brains that creates is free to play while the other part is engaged with another task.
5.       Watch movies and television that inspire you. Wow, you mean I can now call my TV habit research? All kidding aside, movies and TV can get you into the storytelling zone. Ms. Rich recommends watching comedy if you’re writing a romantic comedy, and a suspense if you’re writing romantic suspense.
One final word. Don’t take discovery lightly. Take the time to learn about your story. If you don’t know your story well enough you can wander down paths that take you no where. Avoid the frustration. Take the time to play.
What sort of “discovery” do you do for your books?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Leaving on a Jet Plane
By the time you read this, I may be airborne. My husband and I, along with our youngest daughter, are flying to Toronto to see our oldest daughter. She moved there a couple of years ago to go to university, and has stayed on past graduation. We haven’t seen her since her graduation in June, so we’re looking forward to seeing her.
Her birthday was the other day and she turned 27. It’s hard to believe! It seems like only yesterday she was a baby. Of course, I’m not getting any older.
Aside from visiting our daughter, I think we’ll do a little sight-seeing and a little shopping. And we’re going to see our nephew and his family who also live in the Toronto area. I’m looking forward to this little mini-vacation.
But on the other hand, I’ve got a full plate here at home. I have a manuscript that needs editing and a blurb and synopsis to write if I want to submit before the deadline. I’m trying to get this blog off the ground, and my website always needs work. Don’t even get me started on the work I still need to do on Facebook. I feel guilty for leaving. Almost.
There never seems to be enough time for the writing, or for all the necessary promotion. But that can’t mean I take time away from family in order to write.
I know I need to can the guilt. Family always comes first. But when life gets crazy, what do you do? Do you let something go, or do you put it in high gear and try to do everything?

Monday, November 8, 2010

Puppy Love: The Office Edition

My dog Lou
I work two part-time jobs, one as a bookkeeper for a provincial veterinary association, and one as secretary/admin assistant/bookkeeper for the provincial animal health technologists association. Both associations have a common goal; to look after the health and welfare of animals.
So it probably comes as no surprise that one of the questions I was asked when I interviewed for the job with the animal health technologists was whether I had a pet. Of course I do! My dog Lou is the love of my life. Before we had Lou, we had cats for over twenty years. And before that, when I was a kid growing up on the farm, I was surrounded by animals.

 As much as I love Lou and all the other pets I’ve had, I’ve never considered bringing any of them to work with me. That wasn’t even an option. But my current colleagues, and our employers, think that happiness is a warm puppy. And it might even make the office a more enjoyable place to work.
So let me introduce the four-legged colleagues that I share office space with.
Michelle started bringing Indigo with her to work shortly after she began working with us this past summer. Indy is a laid back kind of girl. She’s also a big girl. Being a Mastiff, she has a huge head and a wide chest. Indy is not what you’d call a high energy dog, which is a good thing because at her size she’d be pretty hard to handle if she was a bundle of energy. But she’s a sweet, affectionate pooch, who loves to come to visit me a few times during the day for a little scratch and some loving. Michelle found Indy at the Humane Society.


Huey was recently adopted by Andrea from animal services (aka “the pound”), which meant that he was found running loose without any identification. He is absolutely adorable! Andrea started bringing him to work to give her three cats a break; apparently they didn’t take it well when he moved in. We think he has some kind of terrier in him, perhaps Jack Russell terrier. But whatever breed he is, he’s got a big heart. I love Huey for the enthusiasm of his daily greetings. Nobody else is that happy to see me in the morning!


Winnie is the youngest member of our little menagerie. Simone got her at animal services. At only a few months old, she’s still in the puppy stage, so she sometimes gets into a bit of trouble. For instance last Friday, we were all working in our offices and we could hear Winnie chewing on what we thought was her bone. Turns out it was Michelle’s shoe. Winnie loves to play and she enjoys a nice scratch and a cuddle. Though she still has a lot to learn, she’s a beautiful girl, and so smart. She’s going to grow into a wonderful companion.
Though none of these guys are purebreds, they’re fantastic dogs, proving that wonderful pets can be found at shelters. And they make pretty good employees too!     
Do you have a pet? I’d love to hear about him/her. Have you ever had the opportunity to take your pet to work?

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Start of a New Adventure

Welcome to my new blog! I’m excited and a little nervous to begin this venture on my own. You see, for the last two years I was part of a group blog called the Prairie Chicks  I’ve always believed in safety in numbers.
The whole reason I helped to start Prairie Chicks was because I was a bit afraid to start my own blog. First of all, I didn’t feel I had the technical skills to start my own blog, and secondly, how much did I have to say?
But after two years, the Prairie Chicks have decided to disband. Everyone had their own projects, blogs, and other ventures they wanted to pursue. And so I’m on my own.
I learned a lot and gained confidence during my time with the Prairie Chicks. It was a wonderful experience, made even more wonderful by working with friends. I learned that, surprisingly, I have a lot to say. Turns out I can bather on for days. I feel ready to start my own blog.
So here I am. If you’ve never read my posts at Prairie Chicks before, let me introduce myself. My name is Jana Richards and I’m a romance writer. I write several types of romances: romantic comedies, contemporary romances, and romantic suspense. A couple of my stories have a paranormal bent, and my latest contracted story, not yet released, is a historical romantic suspense set in World War Two.  I’ve written in a variety of lengths as well, from full length and novella to short stories. I love them all. Basically, I write the story that calls to me, and apparently all kinds of stories call to me. I’m not sure if that makes me versatile or just undecided.
I plan to write posts of interest to other writers on issues of the writing craft. But I also want to write about aspects of my life.
In addition to being a writer, I’m also a wife, a mother, daughter, sister, niece and, employee. Though writing consumes me at times, I still have other interests, like gardening, yoga, golf. I’m kind of a news junkie and like keeping up on current events. I love to read, though there never seems to be enough time.
Right now I’m reading a series from one of my publishers called “The Class of ‘85”. These are stories about a 25th year class reunion of a group of high school students from fictional Summerville, New York. The publisher gave a call out for stories, the only criteria being that at least one member of the couple is a graduate of Summerville High. They don’t even have to actually attend the reunion. The editor wanted stories between 7,500 and 40,000 words.
Back in March of this year, when The Wild Rose Press put out the call for these books, I thought it was a fabulous idea and I wanted in on it. I had just finished edits on my last story and was eager to start another. Things were quiet at work, so I made arrangements to take a week off so I could concentrate on a solid week of writing.
And then my mom had a heart attack. She’s 89 years old and lives about 600 kilometres from me. It was touch and go for a while, but she pulled through. There were many trips back and forth as she recovered. Eventually she was moved into a nursing home and we cleared out her apartment. She’s doing reasonably well now, and is settled into the nursing home which is located in my small hometown.
But my writing suffered. For a while, I couldn’t write much more than a blog post, and even that was tough. I gave up reading a lot of emails and blog posts. Fiction was beyond me for some time.
After about three months, with Mom being looked after in the nursing home, I began feeling the urge to write again. I started a story for the “Class of ‘85” series that I’ve called “The Girl Most Likely”. I’ve recently finished it and sent it off to my critique partner Janet for a look-see. All I can hope for is that The Wild Rose Press will still be accepting stories for this series when I’m ready to submit.
A writer can be as disciplined about her schedule as all get-out, but when life throws her a curve, sometimes she’s got no choice but to step back and let other things take priority.
So that’s one aspect; the daughter. My Mom’s health is still an ongoing issue, and I’m sure I’ll be making several more trips in the future. But I’m glad to do it.
I’m sure life has thrown everybody a curveball or two. How do you cope when something unexpected and frightening happens?