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I wrote my first novel, Smudge's Mark, in a closet. No joke.
Saturday, February 28, 2009

Twit, twit, twit!

So glad I'm not the only person who still uses the term "twit". In Neil Gaiman's latest blog post he uses that very word.

When I use the word "twit" - oh, say, like when someone cuts me off while they're merging into traffic and I've got the right of way, for instance - my kids look at me like I've grown an extra ear out of my forehead. "What did you call him?" they ask.

I bet no one who read Neil Gaiman's post said that. They probably just said, "Yeah, you're right. What a twit." Like I did.

Or, maybe they didn't. Maybe it's a generational thing. Maybe saying "twit" is like wearing leg-warmers, converse sneakers, and your pants tucked into your boots. Maybe saying "twit" won't be trendy til next month.

Maybe I'm just making a big deal about nothing.

Either way, I'm just glad I'm not the only person who still uses the term "twit".

And when I do hear a leg-warmer and converse-sneaker-wearing kid say it on the street, I'll just smile to myself, knowing that term is soooo yesterday.
Thursday, February 26, 2009

Newborn Inspiration

Oh boy, here we go, I said to myself last night as I got out of bed and stumbled downstairs to retrieve my artist's-style notebook, yet again.

Once inspiration hits, it doesn't stop. Not even when my body's exhausted and just wants - needs - to sleep. Not when I'm trying to eat my dinner while it's still hot - or at least still warm. Not while I'm sitting in the orthodontist's office, waiting for my son. Not even while I'm trying to blog... Excuse me, I'll be right back.

Inspiration is demanding, you know. I almost feel like I've had another baby. Almost. Like a newborn, inspiration demands to be noticed, held, cradled, rocked, fed, and then burped. And it wants it now! Whatever you're doing must wait. (Side note: Inspiration burps are never small and cute. They're big and messy, easily filling a few sheets at a time!)

But I'm not complaining. Oh, no, I'm definitely not complaining! Like with a newborn, the mysterious creature who has been growing, hidden away in a secret place for what seems an eternity, has finally come out to make itself known. The wait and anticipation of this moment has been far too long, and the result is far too precious, to bemoan the present responsibility of meeting its every demand. And although at times it feels like your very life is being controlled by this new entity, you wouldn't have it any other way.

Now, the real challenge is having the wisdom to balance nurturing, guidance, and cultivation so it has the freedom, within realistic boundaries, to bloom and mature into its full potential.
Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Goodbye, Fat Charlie

I'm sad to have to say goodbye to Fat Charlie. And Spider.

Anansi Boys, by Neil Gaiman, is a supernatural and intriguing experience, that is satisfyingly grounded in reality. It has just the right blend of creepiness, suspense, humor, and shock-moments.

Fat Charlie Nancy is probably the most ordinary person you could ever meet. Or, at least you think - and he thinks - he's the most ordinary person you could ever meet. See, Fat Charlie has no idea that his father, who has just recently dropped dead mid-song on a karaoke stage, was a god. Nor did he have any idea, until recently, that he has a brother who inherited all their dad's special talents. "If you need him, just tell a spider. He'll come running," Mrs. Higgler, an old family friend, tells Fat Charlie one night.

Well, as to be expected, that's what Fat Charlie does, although he blames the foolishness on the fact he's had one too many to drink. Sure enough, the next morning there's a knock on the door. Fat Charlie invites his brother, Spider, in. The moment Spider steps foot into Fat Charlie's house is the very moment the course of Fat Charlie's ordinary life is intercepted and derailed. His brother ends up being way more than Fat Charlie had bargained for. And now he refuses to leave.

Through many strange and supernatural events, Fat Charlie ends up finding out the truth about his father, his heritage, and himself all while dealing with the complexities of the various relationships he finds himself in. Neil Gaiman has spun a fantastic tale in Anansi Boys.
Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Violence of Ideas

Never know when an idea will whack you up-side the head. Could be

While driving in the car,
While showering,
While putting on make-up,
While stirring a pot,
While reading,
While listening to music,
While throwing up,
While chasing your dog down the street,
While talking on the phone,
While ignoring the phone,
While unplugging the phone,
While unplugging the toilet,
While watching a movie,
While putting a load in the washer,
While putting a load in the dryer,
While thinking about putting a load in the washer or dryer,
While teaching,
While eating,
While sleeping,
While drinking, (although these ideas rarely make sense afterward)
While breaking up a fight,
While starting a fight,

You get the picture. Ideas can come from anywhere, at anytime, from anyone or anything.

And the best kind of idea is one that does just that: whacks you up-side the head. I had that experience this morning and it was just the thing I needed to drag myself out of the writing funk I've been in for... oh... let's see... forever!

The brilliant idea came from one of my offspring; the one who is most like me. He and I have the same, vivid imaginations that often work overtime and land us in the middle of some pretty bizarre dreams. This morning, like many mornings, he said, "Hey, wanna hear the nightmare I had last night?" My husband usually pretends he doesn't hear these kinds of questions and busies himself with... something. Anything. Probably because it's already enough for him to endure MY bizarre-o "Hey, wanna hear about my dream last night?" stories. But I, on the other hand am ready to call in sick and let my son take the morning off school so there's enough time to hear every detail.

But it wasn't until half-way through my class this morning (Yes, I did the responsible mother-thing and went to work and took my son to school. On time. The re-telling was left to be continued... I'm still hanging!) As I was saying, it wasn't until half-way through my class this morning that the idea grew biceps, triceps, and other-ceps and Whack! Luckily for me, the students were taking a test so I grabbed my mini-notebook out of my purse and wrote like mad. Four pages later, I realized that the idea that was birthed from a half-told re-telling of a nightmare, totally solved a plotting problem I'd had; the plotting problem that was so annoying it was the reason for my writing funk. The Zombie-pocalypse saved me! (No, my next book isn't going to be about a Zombie-pocalypse. It was the circumstances surrounding the Zombie-pocalypse that fed the idea that whacked me!)

Now, how to get him to let me leach his creative genius... I'd better check out the bank account. This one's gonna cost me.
Monday, February 23, 2009

Thanks, Little Miss Deep Thoughts

I just read a posting from a friend of mine who blogs deep thoughts about life, and in it she made a statement that went something like this:

"I feel I'm either on the verge of death or a revolution."

Have you ever felt that way? Like you're being faced with a decision to either kill the idea that you can ever change something in your life, something that you know to be skewed, or somehow try to find the courage to take steps to completely revolutionize that thing so that it is unrecognizable - maybe even counter -to what you've always done, thought, or been?

I have. Many times. And I have chosen both options. But, in the end, the prefered result has always come by tackling the road to revolution. It's much harder work and often I find myself defaulting and retreating in defeat, telling myself it's easier to just surrender and let the issue in question die. Just forget it and be, do, and think what I've always been, done, and thought. That way I won't risk being misunderstood. Or judged. Or accused. Or worse. But then what? What happens if I don't act, if I don't take a stand and make a change? Right. Nothing.

But, when I (or you) initiate a revolution (I'm still speaking of a personal one, here, not against someone else!) then your potential and your reach expands exponentially. But there is a key; a very important key I still have to remind myself of, always: revolutions aren't meant to be fought, much less won, alone.

So thank you, Little Miss Deep Thoughts, for your posting. And may we all find that certain Someone to help us revolutionize our lives so we can be all we were designed to be.
Sunday, February 22, 2009

Publishing gods, American stamps, luck, and kissing quirks

Well, I've done it! It's in the mail. Got my American stamps this morning, printed off my submission, proofread it, and stuffed it all into a brown manilla envelope. I'll be making contact with the gods of publishing in N.Y. once again.

But I can't say I'll be hugging any rejection letters this time 'round!

Wish me luck! Especially since the stamps didn't come anywhere close to a winning slot-machine. The only thing these stamps touched was my lips. (I kiss my submissions before sending them off. What can I say? Everyone's got their quirks.)

Small 'g' gods, American stamps, luck, and kissing quirks; in the end it's all in the hands of the big 'G' God of the universe...
Saturday, February 21, 2009

Just Curious

In keeping with my silly games theme tonite...

Which one are you?

I'm Little Miss Messy. I know there isn't one of those: Just give Mr. Messy some long eyelashes and a handbag. See the resemblance? Thought you would.

Claudia needs...

I don't usually do these silly things, but I did this one for some reason.

Google "your name needs" (ie: "Claudia needs") and list the first ten things that come up. It could be funny... or not.

Here's what I got:

1. Claudia needs to channel all this energy somehow
2. Claudia Needs to Get Off Early
3. Claudia needs a loan of US $475 to be paid over a period of 6 months
4. Claudia Needs Shows!
5. Claudia Needs all the healing vibes she can get
6. Claudia Needs to die
7. Claudia needs to convince herself that she should just go and get the iPhone
8. Claudia needs everything
9. Claudia needs a dress
10. Claudia needs to find out what's really going on

Okaaaay, but not sure about #6, unless of course they mean my hair. But that would be dye... hmmm...

And, please, no one buy me a dress. iPhones gladly accepted.

I've got seven syllables for you...

Cor-a-line was fa-bu-lous!
Friday, February 20, 2009

Just in Threes?

They say good things happen in threes. Right now, I'm thinking they're right.

The first email I opened this morning was from a lady I've been in contact with from Kolkata, India. We've been emailing since around last spring, but I haven't heard from her in about a month. So receiving the email was a much-anticipated event, which just so happens to make it the third good thing that's happened to me this week. The reason I've been in contact with this lady from Kolkata, India is because she and I are planning on starting a small business together.

Why the heck would I hook up with a woman half-way around the globe to start a business? Simple. To distribute and sell handmade items made by the women she is rescuing from slavery so they can live free and independent lives.

For years I've wanted to do something to help stop the exploitation of women, specifically those forced into slavery. About a year ago, I started seriously thinking about what I could do, besides just sending money to legitimate organizations that are on the ground and in the trenches. Sending money is important, yes, but for me, personally, I feel the need to do something more; to become more personally involved. That need eventually helped me decide to start a business that would sell handcrafted items made by rescued women so they can earn an income and become independent; so they have a way out of the situation they've been forced into.

But, living in Canada, how would I get these items? I don't have the money to hop a plane and spend time in another country collecting these things. I would have to find someone, on the ground on the other side of the globe, who had a similar idea and would be willing to partner with me. But, again, how would I do that?


So I started researching. And, with even more intensity than when I research a novel, I contacted countless organizations who might be able to direct me to the right individual, or individuals. And, after months and months, the work paid off, as hard work always does.

So that's what finally led to the exciting email I got this morning. Things in India are shaping up. She has 4-6 women who are serious about getting out of the trade and she is going to start training them in April! Nothing else could have made my day like reading those words! It's really happening!

So, I guess they're not completely right. Good things don't just happen in threes - they happen in four-to-sixes...
Thursday, February 19, 2009

Another Sweet Surprise

Yay! I'm finally going to go!

I came home from work this afternoon to find a silver envelope on my laptop keyboard. The writing on it looked suspiciously familiar...

Coraline 4 '2', it said, in silver ink.

I ripped open the envelope to find a "Cineplex Night Out" coupon inside. (You know, the one worth 2 admission tickets, 2 soft drinks, and popcorn...)

Somebody knows I really, really want to see that film...

And, as if the tickets weren't surprise enough, that somebody is actually willing to go with me! Although - he happened to mention when I phoned him to give him a hug through the wire - he's also willing (maybe more than willing) to let me take my daughter, "if she really wants to go" with me.

I think she does.

And I think he's happy about that!
Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Buying to Make a Difference

What a nice surprise on this dreary February day! I just got my Sari Bari bag in the mail.(This is a picture of the actual bag) It's amazing! And much bigger than I thought it would be. Which is good considering all the random junk I end up carrying around with me.

If you're looking for a new bag, or throw blanket, consider visiting Sari Bari and ordering one from there. They are all hand-stitched in India, using 5 layers of vintage saris. And the name of the woman who made it is on a small tag, attached to the item. You may need to wait for a new shipment as they only come about once a month and sell out quickly. I recommend signing up for shipment notifications. It's worth it.

The best part about these bags and blankets, besides the fact that they are beautiful, handmade, and affordable, is that each purchase price goes toward providing a life of sustainability and freedom for a woman who's been sold as a slave. Yes, as a slave. Slavery still happens today, people, in many forms. It's for this reason that every chance I get, I try to either buy locally or buy to support efforts such as Sari Bari. It's worth it to educate ourselves on a global scale, especially when issues involve the exploitation of fellow human beings. So, I'm going to carry this bag with a sense of respect and honor for the woman who stitched it together, knowing that she's gone through more in her life than I can even imagine.

At least it isn't raining

It's cold, I'm sick, and it's been snowing. I guess I shouldn't complain. At least it isn't raining like it was a few days ago...

I must say I'm glad to have found Sally Gardner on blogspot. She's one of my new favorite authors and she's just polishing her latest manuscript: The Silver Blade. As it is with authors who are in the middle of editing a novel, she hasn't had the time to update her blog in quite some time. I'm looking forward to when she has a moment to jot down a few notes.

As for me, I've got a bit of time since I'm not in the middle of editing a novel and I'm having a hard time focusing on the sequel to Smudge's Mark. So, I think I'll go catch up with Fat Charlie before I have to go to work. To my other job. The one that pays.
Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Yay for friends who vacation in Vegas!

I'm so excited! I'm getting American stamps!!

You try buying American stamps when you live in Canada.

Why do I need American stamps? Well, when you send mail to the US and they require you to include a SASE (self addressed stamped envelope) you're outta luck if you live north of the border. See, I'm trying to get myself an agent... yeah, I'm taking the leap. And they want you to send them a SASE along with your submission. (For the likely "Sorry, your work doesn't fit my portfolio" letter they're planning on sending you.)

Anyway, a friend of mine is vacationing in Vegas this week and - duh - I never even thought to ask her to bring some stamps back for me. So I just texted her. (Sorry for the intrusion, Steve!) And, being the most awesome friend she is, she went right out and got some for me! Being, also, the eternal optimist she is, she only got two. Imagine - two! That only leaves room for one rejection! (Maybe it's cause she's in Vegas and is feeling lucky. I should mention for her to rub the stamps on her slot-machine if she happens to win big...) Anyway, I promptly texted her back and asked her bring at least five. Or twenty-five. Just to be safe. Cause I'm not in Vegas and I don't feel very lucky.

But, hey! What better place to get a SASE stamp from when what I'm trying to accomplish is composed of 1% skill and 99% luck? Give or take a few percentages...

I seriously hope she hits the jackpot!

To watch or not to watch...

Tuesday. The start of another week. Well, Monday usually starts off a new week, but yesterday was a holiday so this week starts on Tuesday.

And Tuesday is American Idol. What a sad way to start the week. To watch tonight, or not... I'm kinda thinking not. I feel like I've been jilted out of the only show I ever watch, for real. It's just become a big joke. Okay, more of a big joke. I admit it's usually pretty lame-o at the beginning anyway, before the voting public cuts the wannabes loose in order to give the stage to the true talent. But I don't think it's ever been completely ridiculous. This year the judges have stooped to an all new low, what with the people they've put through. I mean, come on, Cheek-ring Boy surely deserved a spot before the laughing diva or the clown with the identity crisis, don't you think?

Anyway, this year I think I'll wait to tune in until these people have been sent packing.

(Come to think of it, it's really Sunday that starts off a new week, so we're really already two days in. So, technically, American Idol isn't starting off the week. I feel much better.)

UPDATE: Okay, so I caved... but only to watch Danny Gokey. He's awesome!
Monday, February 16, 2009

Yeah, so, my father was a god...

I'm now reading Neil Gaiman's Anansi Boys. Since I'm a writer of kid's fiction I tend to read kids' books a lot, but every now and then I'll join the land of the grown-ups and choose a book for a more "mature" audience. Luckily for me, since I enjoy his kids' lit so much, Neil Gaiman is one of those authors whose skillful talent reaches many age groups. And it's not even like he's one of the lucky ones who only writes books for kids and adults happen to like them, too. Although, in the cases of his children's books, that's very evident.

I'm looking forward to spending time with Fat Charlie, to see how his life changes after his father drops dead mid-song on a karaoke stage: A father who, unbeknownst to Fat Charlie, just also happens to have been Anansi, the trickster god...


I've recently discovered we have a real, live Chipotle right here in Toronto! I'm so excited! Chipotle is my absolute favorite fast food type restaurant, and I usually have to wait til we travel to the US before I can have it. I'm even a fan of Chipotle's on Facebook and there are days I'm tempted to get in the car and drive across the border to the nearest one! (Actually, one day a few months ago, my husband was driving back from Michigan and he brought a burrito home for me. It was a bit cold and parts of the tortilla had become somewhat pasty by the time I got it, but I didn't care. It was CHIPOTLE'S!)
I have a "tide-over" burrito place that's only a few minutes from my house, down on the Lakeshore: Burrito Boyz. It's great, too, but Chipotle rocks the world of burritos. And now we've got one not even 20 minutes from where I live! No more cold, pasty, 4-hour-old Chipotle burritos for me.
If you've never had a Chipotle burrito, you've never truly had a burrito! Go get one, now! I just did.
(Does the word "burrito" sound weird to you now? It does to me.)
Sunday, February 15, 2009

Uh... maybe not today

I got the sudden and brilliant idea to take some me time and go see Coraline today.

But then I re-considered: it's Valentine's Day and it plainly wouldn't be cool to step out without my hubby. So I've decided to go some time during the week. I just really must see it in 3D before the Jonas Brothers and mobs of screaming girls take over every theatre in the city!

Hope you're having a happy Valentine's Day and are eating lots of chocolate! I'm about to indulge in some more myself... before I go see a movie BOTH of us want to watch ;)
Friday, February 13, 2009

"Death and all his friends"

Have you heard about the mummies they've just recently unearthed in Egypt? How cool would that be - to be part of an expedition that uncovers secrets of ancient people and their customs and rituals? I'm fascinated by the peculiar ways people throughout millennia have lived their lives and, notably, the ways they've revered and respected death.

When I was in Austria during the summer of 2008, we came across a town called Hallstatt. Within that small, quiet town on a lake there is a crypt full of skulls and bones of the people who had made that town their home. The custom of these people was to bury their dead in shallow graves and then dig them up some 10 years later, after the natural process of decay did most of the dirty work. Family members would then clean and bleach the bones and, as the picture above shows, they would decorate the skull with symbols that represented that person and they would include the date of the person's death. Then, the skulls were displayed, and the large limb bones were stored, in the crypt. Fascinating! But the reason they did this wasn't even some religious, ritualistic reason. It was purely practical - they simply didn't have the physical land-space it took to keep people buried.

This morning, while I browsed the pictures of the Egyptian mummy discoveries, I couldn't help but wish I was in that tomb with them. Not as a mummy, of course, as an archaeologist. How thrilling to uncover hidden secrets of humanity's intriguing history that have been buried since 2,800 B.C. I try to imagine who these people were, what life was like for them, who took the time to bury them with such honor, what the purpose behind the burial ceremony was, and how these people aimed to send their loved ones off into the afterlife well prepared.

That's one of the ways humans are different from the rest of Creation: Humans live knowing there's some kind of a purpose to life. Or, at least hoping there is. It's evident throughout all of history in the way people respect those who've passed on. Every culture has its own unique way of paying tribute, which says: Each life stands for something. Each life is unique. All of life is sacred; both in the here and now and - if you're of this belief as I am - the ever-after.

So we should make it count. Before they lower the lid.
Thursday, February 12, 2009

Waiting and Reading in the Rain

It's February and it's raining. Raining! This is Canada. I'd rather have snow in February. Snow doesn't give me a headache.

Still waiting for news on how Smudge is doing... Wish someone would tell me something - anything. The suspense is killing me, slowly. Does it always take this long?

I'm now reading The Prophet of Yonwood by Jeanne DuPrau. It's about time, really, considering it's been sitting on my bookshelf for over a year. I'm really enjoying it; it's one of those books I think about when I'm not reading it. Maybe because the themes are ones I can relate to and I'm intrigued by what influenced Ms. DuPrau to write this story in the way she did. Now I'm feeling the need to re-read the other two books, too. Then I'll pick up the fourth installment.

Don't you love spending time with a good book that feels more like spending time with a friend than simply reading a story? There's nothing like it. Can you relate? Or is that kind of experience limited to introverts, like me? (I can imagine my extroverted husband's eyebrow raise as he reads this, questioning my definition of 'friendship'.) I've come to realize, living with a couple of very logical people, that we who spend great chunks of our time inside our own imaginations often view and interpret life quite differently than those who mostly spend time in the real world :) And that's a good thing.

So, I think I'll go pour myself another coffee and find out what my 'friends', Grover and Nickie, are up to now. Maybe they can help me chase away this headache...

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Can you say "p-r-o-c-r-a-s-t-i-n-a-t-i-o-n"?

Just thought I'd come back and post a picture of Toby, the cutest dog in the world.
Cause I don't want to do laundry.
Or dishes.
Or vacuuming.
And I've hit the 2 o'clock writing wall.
Maybe he wants to play...


I just spent another good chunk of time at www.coraline.com
Love the book and the site! I'm sure the movie's pretty amazing, too, especially when I consider the fact that some of my friends have reported that it's "weird", "strange", and "odd". (My kind of film!)

They obviously haven't read much Neil Gaiman :) I think he's brilliant!
Monday, February 9, 2009

'Longsuffering'? That's about right...

This is the rough image for the cover of Smudge's Mark. Of course the final image will have my name and the book's title on it. It'll be interesting to see how much it will have changed before the book is actually released.

It's weird to think that I'm blogging and website-ing long before you even know that Smudge, Tessa, and Gil exist. I wish I could introduce them to the world - - yesterday!

Waiting is so hard... I'm not well-known for my patience level - or 'longsuffering' as some would call it. Actually, that sounds about right to me; longsuffering.

Well, okay. Long, yeah. Definitely. Suffering, not so much.

Well, maybe a little.

During the last few years, my emotions and perseverance have been tested like they've never been tested before. Oh, it's a good testing, (by that I mean that I'm glad I'm getting published - I know there are lots of people out there who'd give their eye teeth to be in my position) but that doesn't necessarily make it easier. Becoming a published author is altogether a thrilling, exhausting, exciting, nerve-wracking, overwhelming, nail-biting, frustrating, life-changing experience.

It's amazing anyone comes out of this process normal.

Jacob Moon

I love Rush. And I love what my friend Jacob Moon has done with "Subdivisions". So good he even got an email from Geddy himself! Check it out:


BTW - In regards to last night's Grammys - Coldplay is the winner at my house!
Sunday, February 8, 2009

With or Without?

Contentment is the most prized possession.
With it
We are on top of the world, lacking nothing.
Without it
We are hopelessly striving for the top
And lacking everything it takes to get there.
Friday, February 6, 2009

I just bought a bag!

And I bought a blanket just before Christmas.

But, let me tell you, they're not just any old bag and blanket. They're from Sari Bari.

There are only a few things I look forward to getting in my inbox. Sari Bari emails are one of them.

Let the fun begin...

And so it begins...

Being a somewhat private person, I never thought I'd ever post my life in the public eye. But, here I am, blogging away. Heck, everyone's doing it! Why not?

Life is never boring, is it? Unless of course you're my 12-year-old daughter. Her facebook status always boldly declares her boredom with life. But, considering the drama she spews on a regular basis, I have a feeling "I'm soooooooooo bored" is just something to say when you've got nothing better.

Anyway, I can truthfully say I've never posted "I'm bored" on my FB page. No way! Not with everything that's been going on these last few years, namely the publication of my first children's fantasy novel, Smudge's Mark. Editing the manuscript could have been my full-time job, if I didn't already have a (paying) job. Getting paid to do full-time work is always a good thing, but not always a guaranteed thing, as anyone who's ever labored over editing a book knows! Well, all that work is finally going to pay off really soon. Smudge's Mark is being published by Simply Read Books and will hopefully be released this spring, 2009. I've even gone ahead and started up a website: http://www.smudgesmark.com/ Check it out sometime. (Are my friends sick of hearing that yet? Ask them.)

I've also become a member of http://www.jacketflap.com/ children's book networking web space. Yikes! Networking! Is this idea that I'm an author really becoming real? "Networking" sounds so official.

Anyway, here I sit listening to Viva La Vida on my iPod, (I'm thinking I really like the idea of a Strawberry Swing) contemplating the concept of "networking", and still wondering why the heck a private person like me is blogging.

Maybe I'll find out one day...