Tuesday, December 31, 2013

More Ch-ch-ch-changes: Year in Review 2013 (Part Two)

The mountains? What's so big about the mountains? They're just big piles of dirt, right? You know, you really can't appreciate the majesty of the Rocky Mountains, or any mountains for that matter, until you're staring them in the face. Not in photos. Not on the TV. For realzies. Even Sam, who wasn't even sure he wanted to do a road trip to one of Canada's most stunning parks, as it would drag him away from his computer for longer than it takes to go to the bathroom, was impressed. So was I. So was Dave. And just LOOK at the colour of that water! It's not Photoshopped – that's the real colour! And boysohboys, it's cold. Colder than that beer you've got chilling in the fridge.
We took a boatload of photos during our weekend trip to Jasper, but some of our best pictures were taken on the way home. Dave snapped this one at the side of the road, southeast of Jasper on the way to Rocky Mountain House. I'm going to have this one blown up, framed and hung in our living room. 

Growing up in northern Ontario, we Websters have seen plenty of black bears but we'd never seen a mighty grizzly until our trip to Jasper. This one was munching berries at the side of a curvy mountain road. And yes, I took the picture with a long lens from the safety of the Jeep. 

Sam officially became a teenager on September 5 but we celebrated his birthday early because he headed back to Ontario August 20. *sigh* Because it was a special occasion I ordered him an ice cream cake from Dairy Queen. Everybody raves about those things but I think I like real cake best. You?

Sam's first ride on an airplane! Don't worry, he didn't go alone. I flew back "home" with him and spent a few days visiting folks. I also attended a "renewal of vows" ceremony for a couple of dear friends. I wish I could share their photo, but they're shy. It was, however, a wonderful occasion. As for Sam, he handled the flight like an old pro. Hardly nervous a bit!

Cold Lake is aptly named. The ice doesn't go out until the end of May and the water stays too cold for swimming until it's almost time for freeze-up. I stuck my toe in it earlier in the summer and the darn thing froze and fell off. I did finally go for a swim on Labour Day weekend (after I dumped a Diet Coke all over my dumb self and had to rinse off before I attracted bees). Our neighbours, Michelle and Gerald, took us out to a "secret" beach which was quiet and sandy and gorgeous. One of the best things about moving here was meeting our neighbours. They're good people and, bonus, they play euchre!

Two weeks after we went swimming we were bundled up in winter coats! Despite the cooler temperatures the weather was sunny and fantastic for the last bit of camping we did, at a campground right here in Cold Lake. We joined Michelle, Gerald and our other new friends Rob and Krista (and Krista's mom) for a memorable weekend soaking up the very last bit of summer.

I love this photo of Dave snuggling with Misty in our trailer. Just had to share it with you.

It was like giving birth after three years of labour. 

I spent many happy hours in this chair on my front porch, reading mostly, sometimes blogging, sometimes just catching a snooze. I finally had to give it up when it started snowing, but come spring you can find me there, ass in seat, smile on my happily unemployed face. I gotta say, if you can find yourself a sugar daddy, I highly recommend you hang onto him tight.

I am mostly thankful for making new friends in a brand new place. It honestly feels like we've been here for years. Our house was packed with people on Thanksgiving, including Dave's nephew and his family from Edmonton, Matt and Shauna and their kids (where Dave rented when he first arrived) and Michelle and Gerald next door. In the photo above is Michelle, Gerald and Matt hanging out at our dining room table. Of course we missed our friends and family back home, but having new friends makes it hurt less.

Believe it or not I got my shite together in the fall of 2013, finally publishing Weezie as well as a collection of my Friday Flash stories. Above is the high-tech drawing I photographed and sent to graphic artist Steven Novak, who did both covers for me. I always thought, as a graphic artist myself, that I would do my own covers. But I am presently without InDesign or Photoshop on my computer and, believe me, it's a lot cheaper to hire someone to do the work than it is to buy the programs. Anyway, Steven does great work. Somehow he manages to translate my scribblings into the covers you see above and below.

You can tell your life is kinda boring when the big news of the month is Dave building a fenced dog run for Misty to poop in.

Now that I'm an unemployed bum we don't need two vehicles so we sold the trusty Dodge that I drove all the way across the country in. Me and it bonded, I think, and I wasn't entirely pleased to see it go. Thankfully the fresh green in our bank account helped ease the pain. 
I worked hard and fast getting Friday Girls together, hoping a free release would draw attention and readers to Green Eggs & Weezie. In all honesty, it didn't do as well as I hoped. Maybe, just maybe, some wind will find its sails in the new year. 

And never freakin' goes away. It started snowing November 2 and it hasn't stopped or melted. There were a lot of -26 C days in November. A lot. A lot a lot a lot. That's a lot, in case you were wondering. A lot.

Cold Lake is Canada's largest air force base so there are a lot of people running around in uniform, including our neighbour, Gerald. (That's him grinning at the camera.) On Remembrance Day we travelled to Lac La Biche to watch Gerald march in the memorial service. It. Was. Awesome. I am so proud of our neighbour, and of all the women and men in uniform who protect our beautiful country. If you've never been to a Remembrance Day service, please take the time to go. Your heart will swell like the Grinch's, I swear.
If your better half asks you that, do not, I repeat, do not answer "yes" without first seeing what he or she wants. Dave said, "yes," and the next thing he knew he was painting our family room. 

I woke everybody up at the crack of six, just like when I was 10, and we all went downstairs to our freshly painted family room for presents! My mom came out to visit December 15 and she's spending a few weeks with us. It's great to have her here, it really is, and Ben-Ben has glommed onto her like fuzz on a humbug. I got an ice machine for Christmas. AN ICE MACHINE. As the person who has made ice for her entire life, I must say this is one of the best presents I've ever gotten. Better than diamonds. Better than world peace, even. If I was Miss America I would give everyone an ice maker. And a visit from my mother, because both are good.
I'm finally getting my money's worth out of Netflix. My poor mother, she's been subjected to two-three hours, every night, night after night, of Lost. I never watched the TV show when it was actually on TV but I remember people raving about it. One day, for some reason, we started watching it on Netflix and now we're in some kind of Lost Hell. Last Sunday we watched Lost for 10 hours. My eyes and my ass are cramping. I don't think my mother can get out of her chair. And Dave is starting to look a lot like a cross between Sawyer and the Doc. I think we've only got 52 more episodes to watch... ermagherd. Whatever you do, don't tell me what happens. DON'T EVEN THINK ABOUT IT. 

Monday, December 30, 2013

Ch-ch-ch-changes: Year in Review 2013 (Part One)

This is a long post, people. I understand if you've got other, more important stuff to do beside read my drivel. So much has happened in the past year that I wanted to take the time to explore all the changes in my newly minted life, like a diary entry one would make at this time of year. Cause this blog has always been, and will always be, my diary and you guys will always be the sneaky farts who steal my key and see what I've been up to ...

(heh heh)

Did I mention we're the outdoorsy types? At the end of 2012 we made a resolution to camp every month in 2013. We started out on course, spending a snowy night in our backyard, but our resolution soon crashed when our lives changed in a huge way.

Everybody's a daredevil in Niagara Falls but Dave and I became real life daredevils early in the year. After several happy and profitable years working at a family-run car dealership in our area, the dealership was sold, leading Dave to question whether or not he wanted to stay with the new owner. He decided he didn't, so he began looking for work at other dealerships in the general area. Nobody was hiring, even someone with Dave's experience and training. He looked further afield, even into towns up to two hours away, but Ontario's struggling economy meant no jobs. I also had a nagging feeling that my job wouldn't be lasting forever at the newspaper I worked for in Bracebridge. Our brother-in-law, also a Chrysler mechanic, knew a guy who went to Alberta and made a mitt full of money. Apparently they were desperate for guys like Dave in "Oilburdah." Out of curiosity we Googled Chrysler jobs in Alberta and immediately found a listing in some place in northern Alberta called Cold Lake. Dave called. The boss wanted to meet him and suddenly we agreed to flying out west for an interview. The week before we had spent in Niagara Falls. I hadn't been there since a field trip in Grade 8 so we hopped in the car, put our worries in our old kit bag, and smiled through all the tacky tourist stops Niagara has to offer. One of the other daring things I did in 2012/2013 was cutting off all my hair. I had decided I was sick and tired of colouring it so, with inspiration from Lisa (who blogs at Diary of a Square Toothed Girl), I cut off my long brown locks and began life grey. Boy it was short. Almost a year later and it's touching my shoulders again. Thank gawd. It looked hideous in this photo.

It was the first time Dave had ever been on a commercial airline. I hadn't been on one for decades. Neither of us had ever been west of the Manitoba border. So it was a pretty big deal when our local yokal selves boarded a West Jet flight for Edmonton, Alberta. When we arrived in Edmonton there was a rental car waiting for us, paid for by Cold Lake Chrysler. We stopped at Denny's for the lumberjack breakfast, which steeled us for the three and a half hour drive north. The first part of Dave's interview was at Bonnyville Chrysler. When that went well, we drove another 40 minutes north to Cold Lake, to meet the general manager and to see where Dave would be working – IF he took the job. At first we thought he'd take it. But when we went to talk to the local mortgage manager at the Royal Bank, we were told that we wouldn't qualify for a mortgage – this despite the fact that Dave had an excellent credit rating and had been an RBC customer all his life. Her negativity was the main reason Dave decided not to take the Cold Lake job. The guys at the dealership were disappointed but nice – they told Dave if he ever changed his mind to let them know. About a week later, Dave had a word with the RBC mortgage manager, Darlene, in Huntsville. He told her how awful the Cold Lake experience was and Darlene was appalled. She apologized profusely on the other woman's behalf and, after crunching a few numbers, said it wouldn't be any problem at all to get us a mortgage in Cold Lake. We thought about it some more, then decided WHAT THE HECK! Dave called the dealership in Cold Lake and took the job. We thought THAT whole process had its ups and downs ... the real rollercoaster was yet to begin!

We had always promised to take the kids to Niagara Falls. After we decided to move, we realized we wouldn't have a lot more chances. So, two weeks after we had been on our own, we got back in the car with Sam, Angus and Jess (Gus's girlfriend) to do some more sightseeing. We had a great time and I'm so thankful we went. Times moves quickly – kids don't stay kids long. You have to make the most out of every moment together. I love those kids ... to infinity and beyond.

I can't describe how sad it was, watching Dave pull out of our driveway early in the morning, a U-Haul full of his mechanic's tools, a suitcase full of clothes and the GPS. We had decided I would stay in Bracebridge and sell the house while he started work in Cold Lake. We didn't know how long we'd be apart and both of us were bawling as Dave started on a marathon drive halfway across the country. We're not kids, you know. We're middle-aged old farts who should be settling in for the final haul of our lives, not picking up stakes and moving a zillion miles away. Daredevils, that's us. Crazy daredevils in a U-Haul.

I asked Dave to take pictures of his trip so I could see what he was seeing. He was so cute about it, taking "selfies" at various points along the way, using the Jeep as a tripod for the camera. He made the trip in four days, driving 10 hours and more every day. It's a long drive across Canada. You need lots of motivation and even more coffee. On much of his trip across northern Ontario he was without cell service, driving on icy snow-covered roads. I worried about him, needlessly as it turned out. I think he probably had the trip of a lifetime.

Selling a home is tough even when everything goes according to plan but nothing, it seemed, was going right for us. Our little log cabin across from the Muskoka River was as dry as a bone. It had never flooded, ever, as far as we knew. But after someone put an offer on our house, the river flooded its banks. It wasn't just our place – it was everywhere in the Muskoka and Haliburton area, everywhere that was anywhere near water. That wasn't the worst of it, though. During a home inspection, asbestos was found in our attic. The people who were buying our house contacted a lawyer and said they didn't want it anymore – which left us high and dry because we had already purchased a house in Cold Lake. Suddenly we faced the reality of TWO MORTGAGES and were panic-stricken. Luckily there was another family interested in buying our place, even with its flooded front yard and assorted warts. I just about had a heart attack with all the stress. The only good thing was Dave flew home to help sandbag the yard and save our house trailer and other belongings. The house, thank goodness, stayed high and dry. On a positive note, we enjoyed watching Canada geese float around in our yard and we had no grass to cut.

It was really, really hard being away from Dave for so long. Not only did I miss HIM, I also missed all the things he did. Suddenly I had to figure out how to use the snowblower and later, the lawnmower. I took out garbage and scraped dog turds off the lawn. I packed almost the entire house all by myself. Everything I did, I did by myself. Life wasn't fun without him, that was for sure. We spent a couple hours every night on the telephone, like teenagers, with about a million tears and I-love-yous and I-miss-yous blubbered into our phones. Meanwhile, Dave seemed to be settling into his new job and the community. He was already making friends and had moved in with a work colleague, Matt and his lovely wife Shauna and their two kids. We were beginning to feel that we had made the right decision. Dave took this photo of a rainbow over Cold Lake and it really did seem to be our pot of gold. Right at about the same time he took this picture, I got a buy-out package from work and suddenly was unemployed. It was a good thing, as it turned out. I mean, I was going to leave anyway and the lump sum payment helped pay the moving costs. But still, it was a sad moment. I had worked in newspapers all my life and knew they were on the way out but my actual lay-off came as a shock. I haven't worked since. What saddens me the most is the rather abrupt way I "retired" from the newspaper business. No party. No farewell. Just take the money, pack up your stuff and go. There should have been cake, you know? *sulks*

I hate moving. I swear I'm never moving again. (Of course I have said that before.) When we were making final moving preparations (i.e. heavy lifting), Ontario was sweltering under a heatwave and packing became a sweating, gruelling nightmare. Thank goodness for friends and family who helped us. The hardest part was winnowing our "stuff" down to fit into one U-Haul, one truck and one house trailer. We got rid of so much! Still, we felt like the Beverley Hillbillies as we finally hit the open road. We had planned a slow journey across the country, camping as we went. Our first stop was Chutes Provincial Park outside of Sudbury. After that we stayed at Pancake Bay (beautiful swimming, beautiful view of Lake Superior), Neys (nice park but it stormed and we stayed in our trailer) and Sleeping Giant (fabulous wildlife but mosquitoes the size of helicopters). We had wanted to stay at Blue Lake Provincial Park but we stayed in a hotel that night instead, after the park staff were ignorant to us. Everyone else at every park was wonderful about all our gear, helping us get situated and finding parking for our ginormous U-Haul. But the folks at Blue Lake were anything BUT helpful so we left. The hotel room in Kenora was way more comfortable anyway! After that we stayed in hotels in Winnipeg (Manitoba), Yorkton (Saskatchewan) and Lloydminister (Alberta). We arrived in Cold Lake eight days after we left Muskoka, but because our house closing wasn't until July 8, we camped at Cold Lake Provincial Park for a week.

I wouldn't recommend travelling across the country with two cats but it wasn't as hard as I thought it might be. Ben-Ben (above) turned out to be an excellent traveller, sitting in the front seat checking out the scenery. Our other cat, Dodge, acted like he was being killed. Every day, being killed. It was pathetic. Sam came along for the trip and spent the summer with us. It was wonderful, having him here in Cold Lake. I can't even tell you how much I miss not seeing Angus and Sam all the time. I can't think about it without crying, so I'm definitely not going to go on about it here. *gets kleenex*

JULY 8: MOVING DAYThe months leading up to this point were so busy and emotional and just plain crazy that I almost thought moving day would never happen. But it did. We moved in and we've been here ever since. 

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

A Christmas Wish For You

Sam and Ben-Ben on Christmas morning a few years ago.

I've been on the blogger naughty list these past weeks but I didn't want the holiday season to go by without touching base with you, my dear friend.

I know this year has been a challenging one for you, but through all of it, you have remained solid and strong. Oh sure, you've collapsed on your bed many a time, sobbing your heart out – I mean, haven't we all? But there you stand, regardless, facing yet another Christmas and another whole year, with optimism, excitement, grace and enough cookies to feed a small nation.

My sincere hope is that you find peace in your generous heart, and happiness, and at least a bit of the love you have shown me. Oh, and a big honking present under the Christmas tree.

Merry Christmas, my friend. Merry Christmas.

Monday, December 9, 2013

A post with Pat!

Patricia Flewwelling, sans hat.

Honestly, I feel like I just got interviewed by Oprah. Except author Patricia Flewwelling is neither African-American, nor is she American, nor does she have her own TV show  ... come to think of it, Patricia is nothing at all like Oprah, other than she asks some insightful questions and sparks honest long-winded answers during her interviews.

I know Patricia from the Muskoka Novel Marathon, the annual July write-fest in Huntsville, Ontario, that thrusts writers in a room for three days and tells them to write novels. It's also a fundraiser for adult literacy programs. People come from all over Canada and elsewhere for this event. Patricia comes from Montreal, and it's a wonderful thing that she does.

Patricia is one of the fastest writers at the marathon, she has the best hat collection, and she's one of the most popular and generous. Not only does she regularly raise a ton of money for the event, but last year she also mentored a graduate from the local literacy program and helped her participate in the novel marathon for the first time. Isn't that fabulous?

Patricia is always generous with people around her, including me. She spent hours on the phone with me one night helping me through a rough writerly spot and for that I am eternally grateful. 

Lately she has been using her blog, Nine Day Wonder, to actively promote struggling authors like myself. If you would like to be interviewed, you should get in touch with her. Knowing Pat, she'll be more than happy to give you a hand.

In the meantime, drop by and say hello! I'd love to show Pat a little bloggerly love and support!

P.S. Sorry, I haven't been around all that much lately. As you know I was pretty sick in November but I did get my Remicade treatment a few days ago and am starting to feel better. Thank you all for your good wishes and kind words. You all mean the world to me, you really do. oxoxo

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Guess what? People get old!

Antonio Sabato Jr., Dawn Wells, Anthony Anderson and Teri Hatcher.

I just saw actress Teri Hatcher on a cooking show called Chopped and she looked awesome. Natural, you know, not all carved like a Christmas turkey, or so many other Hollywood stars.

Me and Dave started talking about good she looks, because we're such style icons, and we wondered how old she was. So I googled her and what did I see? Her name amongst a list of other Stars Who Haven't Aged Well.

We were, like, What The Fudge? LEAVE THE TERI ALONE! She's elegant, gorgeous! Not a plastic Barbie doll – just a beautiful, intelligent looking 49-year-old.

Geez,  I am so sick and tired of this world's obsession with eternal youth.

Note to world: if they're lucky, people get old. Old is good. Old is beautiful. 

Plastic surgery is not. Just look at Robert Redford or Meg Ryan or anyone else that has butchered their face trying to be something they're not.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

My Fat is Pissed Off

So I've got these bumps on my legs. They're the result of something called erythema nodosum. Don't ask me to pronounce it. I can barely spell it. Suffice it to say the bumps are inflamed fat.

I have no idea what I did to piss off my fat. Maybe it was that diet last year ... otherwise known as The Year of the Carrot.

Yeah. I know. Fat is bad enough at its regular size. It's really bad when fat swells and gets fatter.

The bumps, which are all over my legs below the knees, and are about the size of ping pong balls, are tender and sore. Them I can deal with – what's a few bumps on legs that are already elephantine, criss-crossed with varicose veins, and hairy? The other stuff that goes with them isn't so nice. I have a low grade fever, all my joints are achy, I have an annoying dry cough and I'm short of breath. Like, so short of breath that I can't walk to the bathroom without wheezing. Most of all, I don't have the energy to do anything. I've pretty much given up finishing Nanowrimo. Dave does most of the cooking and it's all I can do to make the bed in the morning and have a bath. Blogging, Facebook – even my beloved Candy Crush – the fate of my books, reading, none of it holds any appeal. And I'm weepy, crying at the stupidest things.

Erythema nodosum, which is relatively rare, is a common by-product of Crohn's disease, and I've had it a few times. Generally my Crohn's medication, Remicade, sends it packing, but I've never had it this bad before. There's not much that can be done about it that I'm not already doing, and the good news is, it doesn't usually last longer than six weeks. In the meantime, I'm lazier than your great Uncle Fred, and spend my days lolling about the sick couch, wheezing and whining.

I am tempted to stick a sewing needle in one of the bumps to see what comes out. I'm thinking they're either volcanoes of goo, or those pods in Cocoon, full of tiny, fat-inflamed aliens.

By the way, the only reason I'm posting today is because I was just downstairs watching Dave paint the family room and I accidentally spilled a cup of paint. Dave was not impressed. I helped clean up, apologized profusely, and ran like the wind ... bumps and all.

P.S. - Yes, that's my smelly foot in the photo. I didn't want to steal someone else's bumps from the internet so I took a photo of one of my own, at the risk of grossing you out. But hey, don't my toenails look pretty? :)

Friday, November 8, 2013

Crazy Days and Old Friends

Our snowy subdivision this morning.

Hang on a sec. I need more coffee for this post.

I've been so busy this last little while. Busy and depressed and hyper-excited and... did I mentioned depressed? Yah, it happens. Depression hits at the oddest times and for the oddest reasons, but the reason I'm feeling down in the dumps is I'm questioning Nanowrimo and my ability to get it done. Can I whine for a sec? IT'S SO BLOODY HARD. I don't mind writing when I'm in the thick of it, the "zone" as Stephen King describes it and I LOVE writing when it's fecking DONE. That's my favourite writing, the done stuff. I don't mind writing short stories, I enjoy blogging, but sitting down to an entire novel just hurts my lazy-assed head. It literally scares the shite out of me. See? There it is on the floor. A big pile of steaming shite. (Oh wait, sorry, that's cat puke.) There. I'm done whining. I'm behind, yes, but I'm not giving up. In fact, I had a satisfactory session this morning and plan to knock off another 1,000 words this afternoon.

Did you know it's snowing here? Like fecking Christmas, it is. I hate mentioning the weather here in Cold Lake, Alberta, because my Mom is coming to visit us in December and she's freaking out about the cold. Note to self: call her and tell her we paid our gas bill so she doesn't need her parka.

I saw on Facebook this morning that Alberta music icon Jann Arden was working on her novel AT THE SAME TIME AS ME. So I sent her a message, saying we're sameys (which means "stalker," no doubt) and then I had the audacity to send her a link to my free book! HAHAHAHAHAHA! I crack myself up, I do.

So today is FREE BOOK DAY! Starting today, and for the four days after, I'm giving away Friday Girls on Amazon. I'm really trying to get it on Amazon's Top 100 Free Books list. Why? Here's my evil strategy:

  1. Being on the list attracts attention from PEOPLE I DON'T EVEN KNOW so I can stop annoying my friends. With me so far? I thought you'd like that part... Getting noticed is the hardest part of being an indie writer. Right now poor Weezie is buried under hundreds of thousands of books. Nobody would notice her if they fell over her, and if they don't notice a book, it doesn't matter if it's the next 50 Shades of Purple, nobody will buy it and Weezie will die. *sob* (She told me she wants lots of crustless sandwiches and good church coffee at her wake.)
  2. People who read my free book will be so enamoured of my mad writing skillz that they will seek out other books by the same author and they will buy Green Eggs & Weezie, by the thousands, and I will be rich and famous and be able to afford to order pizza three nights a week. 

That's my whole plan. I know. You're thinking genius, right?

So please. Go download my book. You don't need a Kindle. You don't need a credit card. You just need a computer to download the thing. I don't even care if you read it. Oh wait. That's a lie. But I'll start with you downloading it and then I'll pester you for more ... (evil plan part deux).

Here's the links:

In the U.S., go to Amazon.com.

In Canada, go to Amazon.ca.

In the U.K., go to Amazon.co.uk.


I wonder if Jann Arden downloaded my book yet?


More about the book. Sorry. I know. You want to punch me in the face right about now. I'd like to thank the following bloggers for mentioning Friday Girls. If you've got time, drop by and say howdy!

William Kendall says he's something of a rogue and a scoundrel but he's always been super nice to me. Plus he really loves cat photos. How bad can he possibly be?

Kristy, over at Ramblings of a Mad Woman, shoots straight from the hip. That's why I love her. I also love her because she says she loves my writing. You know, which never hurts, right?

Sue Harding over at I Refuse To Go Quietly, is a wonderful gal. We have a lot in common, we absolutely do – like we're old and we hate writing sometimes. Only she knits and I have no idea what a freaking purl is. I tried to be witty over on her post. You can be the judge on whether or not I succeeded.

Alex J. Cavanaugh is probably known to most of you – and to most of the planet! He's the bestselling author of three space/science fiction novels and he's probably got the most popular blog on the whole wide web. Lucky me, everyone's favourite ninja gave me a shout-out.

If I've missed anybody, please let me know. And if anyone else wants to post a link, I will be your BFF forever. Y'know, or for a day or two. Depends how much coffee you have ...


Maybe Jann Arden will want to be my new BFF now. Wouldn't that be great? She lives just down the road from me. We could eat nibs together. And walk our dogs. And wear each other's clothes...


Today is the Oh, How I Miss You Blogfest in which participants, like me, list the bloggers I miss and list the bloggers I would miss, were they to drop off the face of the planet or be eaten by maggots or accidentally fall in their chipper shredder.

The way things are going in blogland, my list of absentee bloggers could be really long. But I'm going to limit it to three:

Alan W. Davidson
Alan, I miss you... you and your Newfoundland shenanigans and your gentle nature and that fecking ridiculous red fez you sometimes wore. I miss you so much I even miss that stupid fez. I met Alan through #FridayFlash and was wowed by his storytelling skills. He wrote a story about a dog in a Walmart parking lot that I still think about, years later. Please come back to the bloggy world, Alan. It's not the same without you, bud.

Laurita Miller
This seems to be a theme. Laurita – dear, sweet Laurita – has the classiest blog I've ever seen. Calling Shotgun combined her thoughtful, wonderful writing and beautiful photographs. She told stories about The Rock that inspired me so much I just had to visit. And meeting Alan and Laurita was one of the highlights of my entire life. Unfortunately I can't provide a link to Laurita's blog because it's open to invited readers only. But trust me, it was wonderful.

CJ Hodges MacFarlane
CJ introduced me to #FridayFlash, which literally changed my life. For a while there we were hot and heavy, writing back and forth, talking on the phone but, unfortunately, life got in the way and we drifted apart. She doesn't blog anymore either, and that is just a crying shame. I loved her spark, loved her talent, loved her whole big generous personality and I miss her like crazy.

Honestly, I don't want to list bloggers I would miss. Because I would miss all of you. And that's the truth. Y'all make the world a better place and I may not get around to you all the time, because I'm a selfish idiot, but when I do I'm always impressed with what you've done with the place. Keep on keeping on, because you're special, and if you were to stop writing, I would miss you. oxo

To see other bloggers taking part in the blog hop, visit Alex's blog. He's got the list!


Jann Arden hasn't called yet. Damn!


Today is also my friend Mark's birthday. Happy birthday, ya old fart! (He's the same age as me. I'm allowed to say that.)


And one more thing... are ya still there? WAKE UP!!! Geez Louise...

Fellow #FridayFlash writer Janel Gradowski released her second book in The Bartonville Series this week. The Queen of Bad Decisions follows up on Must Love Sandwiches. These books are well-written, smart, funny and FAST. Janel's idea is to give busy people enough of a taste to curb their reading appetite, so each book in the series includes a novelette, two short stories and a few recipes.

The characters in her books all live in an artist's colony and, because Janel's a foodie, she always makes food as important as her lively characters. Happy launch, Janel! I hope you sell books like hotcakes!


Oh wait! Come back! I lied – I do have one more thing. Recently I won some bling from CBC's Canada Reads promotion and yesterday it arrived! Check out that awesome book bag and three books from Canadian writers. Jealous? You oughta be! Now go download my free book. Go on! Git!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Friday Girls

Swishing skirts, high heels and Cadillac-bound,
It's the Friday girls, the Friday girls, the Friday girls.

When I was trying to come up a name for my short story collection I just fell in love with "Friday Girls." The very idea conjured up images of kick-ass women, confident in their abilities but all too human, kicking up their high heels and heading brashly into the weekend. But the name was also practical. Most of the stories were, after all, written about "girls" of all ages, and most were written for #FridayFlash, the Internet meme that transformed me from a journalist who wrote just-the-facts-ma'am into a bonafide fiction writer.

If you've never heard of #FridayFlash, let me quickly explain. It's the brainchild of Jon M. Strother who came up with the idea of writers, from all over the world, concocting a story of 1,000 words or less and posting it on their blogs every Friday. These stories were tweeted and Facebooked with the hashtag #FridayFlash, which enabled other writers (and readers) to find the stories, comment on them, share them and give positive feedback – thus boosting the confidence and visibility of the writers.

I have bloggy friend CJ Hodges MacFarlane to thank for turning me onto #FridayFlash, something I immediately fell head over heels with. There was such a rush in seeing what other people said about my stories. And there was such immense satisfaction in sitting down in front of a computer screen, with little more than an idea, and coming up with a real live story. Usually I had no idea what I was going to write until I started writing and it always amazed the heck out of me when a story turned out right.

Plus, I met the most amazing people. People who were just like me – struggling writers with the self-confidence of fleas. We shared the same dreams, the same goals and the same fervour to get those stories written, week after week.

I wrote a story the week before my wedding. I wrote one on my honeymoon. I wrote when I was crazy busy, and I wrote when I was ill. Bloggy friend Alan W. Davidson said I was "addicted" to #FridayFlash and he was absolutely right.

As my confidence increased I turned my attention to my novel, Green Eggs & Weezie, and, for the most part, left #FridayFlash behind. But I never stopped thinking about my "Friday girls" and I tried not to lose touch with the writing community that changed my life.

I'd like to thank Paula Boon for editing my stories, and Lou Freshwater and Jon Strother for providing introductions, as well as Steven Novak for the beautiful cover. Mostly I want to thank the writers of #FridayFlash who liked, or at least pretended to like (!) the stories that took a little bit out of my heart.

I think you'll like these stories. I'm hoping they make you smile, or make you cry, or at least make you think. These are my girls, the daughters I never had, my friends, my relatives, and they're as special to me as the women in my real life.

Starting tomorrow, for five days, Friday Girls will be free to download on Amazon. I'm working on getting the paperback version together (as well as writing a new novel during Nanowrimo, gawd help me) and should have that together in the coming days. (That one won't be free, however!)

Would anyone care to post a blurb about Friday Girls on their blogs? Doesn't have to be a big deal. Just a blurb that it's out there and it's free for five days. And if you read the book, and you like it, I'd sincerely appreciate a review on Goodreads and Amazon. It's a jungle out there in book publishing land and you really need the help of your friends to get a book launched. I hope I'm not too big a pain in your butts but please know you are soooooo appreciated.

E-mail me if you need cover art or a blurb or a link or money. Oops, sorry, don't have money. I'm a writer, remember?

Friday, November 1, 2013

It's Nano Time!

That's the 2013 Nanowrimo logo. Doesn't it suck? I'm almost embarrassed to post it here. It's like Nano hired some six-year-old with a Commodore 64. Well I won't be ordering a t-shirt this year, that's for sure.

It's 8:23 a.m. here in Cold Lake, Alberta. If you haven't noticed yet, I'm procrastinating. My office is upstairs, calling my name, and yet here I sit on the living room couch, blogging. Oh well. Just a few words here before I head upstairs to write a lot of words. Honestly I don't know what I'm so worried about. I have an idea. I have an outline. I have time and lots of coffee. It's just that starting a new project is so intimidating ... and the doubts – the doubts are enough to send you round the bend. What if I can't write anymore? What if the words don't come? What if, what if, what if???

I could talk myself into a panic attack if I wanted to. I even dreamed about Nanowrimo last night. Oh well. Nothing to be done now except climb the big wooden hill, park my lily white butt behind the desk and start writing.

Good luck to everyone doing Nano this year! If you want to be my writing buddy, look me up. My top secret buddy code name is Matthiasville.


One more thing before I go – I had to share this photo I took last night. It's Ben-Ben, our opera-singing cat, sitting in the camp chair I had set up next to the front door for Hallowe'en. There were so many kids (175)  there wasn't a lot of point in moving far from the door – thus the chair. Anyway, Ben sat there quite comfortably, watching the kids come and go. I think he enjoyed the evening more than anybody.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

A Sunny Day

Just now, sitting on the back stoop, arms resting on my knees, dog snug against my leg, on a bright day that is now waning into late afternoon.

It's warm compared to yesterday, but anything's warm compared to that: -13C (8.6F). I had refused to turn up the thermostat (because it's October, damnit) and so spent the day shivering. We hooked up the electric blanket and went to bed at 9 o'clock, blocks of ice shaped like feet bumping into each other, yelps to "get over on your own side" in a bed the size of a football field. I don't like complaining about the cold because local folks can hardly wait to see how "the new people from Ontario" will cope with north Alberta's aptly named Cold Lake. We know cold, though. Both of us are hardy crops. The thing is, we're used to a woodstove, where you ignite a few sticks of maple and bake yourself down to your summer underwear faster than it takes to make porridge. The furnace here heats the air, not the house, and, the minute it shuts off, cold gels all feeling left in those icicles we once called toes.

The fighter jets drone overhead. Sleek bees with needlepoint noses. Incessantly practising to save the world.

Inside, I hear my coffee's ready.

Monday, October 28, 2013

It's Not Hallowe'en That's Freaking Me Out

National Novel Writing Month starts this Friday and I'm scared out of my freakin' mind. Honestly, I haven't done any serious writing since who-the-feck-knows and I'm terrified I've forgotten how. Don't scoff – writing is like marathon running. Well, I think it is, not actually being a runner and getting winded when I make the way down the Twizzler aisle at Walmart.

Seriously though, writing is like any kind of training – the more you do, the easier it gets, and the better it gets. I did Nano two years ago (it's when I did the majority of writing for Green Eggs & Weezie) and I remember colleague Mark Kerstetter commenting that he could tell I had been doing some intensive writing because even my blog posts showed some powerfully buff writing muscles. Well, he said something like that. I forget exactly, but the point is he wrote that two years ago and his words still ring in my head, not only as a compliment but as a warning that my writing muscles are now as flabby as their owner.

Still, I'm not going to let that get me down. I am going to write at least 50,000 words during Nano. I will. I make that pledge to you and to myself this very moment. I will persevere. I have to. Because now, at the ripe old age of 53, I am finally starting to think of myself as a Writer. I've been playing around with it my whole darned life but I've never fully accepted it as a description that belongs fully to me. Yes, I wrote as a journalist. Yes, I blog and write short stories. And yeah, I finally realized my lifelong dream and finished an entire book. Still, I was sort of mincing around the title of Writer.

Not now, though. It's do or die for me. I've practically accepted the fact that nobody wants to hire a fat, grey-haired old broad anymore. No, don't scoff – it's true. I've tried. Wait until you're 53 or older and suddenly your old field of endeavour doesn't exist anymore (graphic design in newspapers is almost entirely done in India) and your experience doesn't apply anywhere else. I've tried applying at sign companies and for social media jobs and they've hired youngsters. Nobody wants to invest in a grey-hair. We think we know everything. We want to be paid too much. And, who knows, we could die at any moment so why invest training if we're just gonna pop off one night? Yes, I could work at Walmart. Or the grocery store – IF I didn't have such bad knees. Seriously, I couldn't stand behind the till for more than 20 minutes without crying in pain. Granted, I could lose weight and fix my knees and get a job at Canadian Tire, but why would I? For minimum wage? And be unhappy?

I'm lucky right now. Dave makes just enough money to support us both. You don't have to tell me to be grateful, because I am. This is an opportunity. The opportunity I've been wishing for my whole life. I can be a Writer. Now all I have to do is write. Oh, Nano, you're scaring the crap outta me. But I need you like an alkie needs a bottle of Listerine.


I was intrigued by a comment on yesterday's post from author River Fairchild who wrote: Cathy, published is published. It doesn't matter who published it. You are a business. You are not only a writer, but also a publisher.

She's right. It doesn't matter if you're self-published or published by Harper Collins. But there I was at a party denigrating myself, saying that I was "only" a self-published author. Yeah, I know. It's ridiculous. I know that it's almost impossible to get a traditional publishing contract when publishing companies and bookstores are going bankrupt. I know that e-books are the wave of, not only the future, but NOW. Because I'm also a reader, I know that self-published books are every bit as good as the other ones. I know this. I do. But I have to start owning it.

River is right. (If you know her, you know River is always right.)

I am an author. Period.


Speaking of authors, Marian Allen at Fantasies, Mysteries, Comedies and Recipes invited me to do a guest spot at her blog. (Thanks Marian! *waves*) Please, if you have a moment, drop by and leave a comment. So far I'm the only commenter - I'm beginning to think I drive people away in droves! Just the mere mention of MY BOOK sends 'em a-running! I do understand that you're sick of hearing about me and my book. It's just that it's the biggest thing going on in my life right now. Not working has limited my blogging experience. I find that I have three things to write about: my book, my dog's butt hole and cleaning kitty litter. I think I'll dress up as MY BOOK for Hallowe'en. That'll scare the little feckers who dare come to my door!

So go see Marian. Way you go, Alex ... yup, you too, William and EC. Delores and Deb, stop stalling. JoJo, step away from your sick couch. Geez you guys, somebody give Buzzard and Buttons and Karen a shove, will ya? And stop trampling on Juli, Dana, Deb and Linda!


One more thing - congratulations are in order for Madeline Mora-Summonte at Shellshank Redemption who has just today released her first book! Love the cover. Love the title. And the stories are fabulous – I just downloaded People We Used To Be this morning and already I'm halfway through.

If you buy her book (it's only a buck) and you love it (because you will), don't forget to leave a review on Amazon. It really helps other people decide whether or not to buy it.

Best of luck Madeline! So happy for you!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Freakin' Amateurs

I am such a dumb-ass. Yesterday I was at the neighbour's for one of those kitchen parties (you know, with the utensils that cost more than a trip around the fecking world). My neighbour, who is sweet, introduced me to everyone as a "published author" and I modestly explained that my real last name is Atwood, which made them look at me like a bug, and then I said, "no, no, I'm a self-published author and everyone looked relieved because they weren't in the presence of greatness after all.

The sales lady asked me if I had my book edited and I said, well, yes, I have writer friends who edited it for me to which she replied, "I have a friend who self-published a book," and she proceeded to tell me that the book wasn't all that interesting and was absolutely full of spelling errors.

"Huh," I said, because I didn't know what else to say. I'll tell you what I was thinking, though. I was thinking, smugly, that my book is almost typo-free. I was thinking that her friend must be a fecking AMATEUR to put out a book with so many typos. I was feeling all, uppity about my typo-free self.

I will concede that there may be the odd mistake here or there, because nobody's perfect, but I am confident there are very few spelling mistakes in Green Eggs & Weezie, thanks to the eagle eyes of a whole bunch of my editing buddies.

So I looked at her, and smiled graciously, and thought how freakin' fantastic I am compared to her poor spelling-challenged friend.

Pride always goeth before a fall, yes it does.

Last night I was pleased to discover Amazon.com had released the paperback version of my book.  I was all, like, hooting and happy, going over the amazingly professional blurb that I had written for the back cover and then used as a promo to sell the darned thing. This is what I wrote:

Down-to-earth, darkly humorous and wise, Cathy Olliffe-Webster’s debut novel, Green Eggs & Weezie, casts a wry eye over what can happen when even the best marriages go bad. Through the beguilingly earthy Weezie Polk we learn that it’s not a good idea to whack a cheating husband with a Dr. Seuss book; that Anthony Bandero has nothing to do with a Brazilian wax; and that it’s never a good idea to pee your pants in jail.

Anthony Bandero.

ANTHONY BANDERO? Who the feck is Anthony Bandero????

My blood ran cold. I had meant to write ANTONIO BANDERAS, you know, the famous Latin heart-throb and all-round stud-muffin actor, and yet, in a moment of absolute idiocy, I had spelled his name COMPLETELY WRONG, thought it looked just fine in editing and then, not only put it on the promo, but also had illustrator Steven Novak put it on the back cover!

Yep, uppity me, typo-free since never.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Hey! I'm Over Here!

Squee! Come visit me  today over at my bloggy pal Delores' place, Under the Porch Light, where I'm spilling my guts and Delores is passing Kleenex for nose-blowing purposes.

Did I mention that when I blow my nose it sounds exactly like those noisemakers on New Year's Eve?

Yeah ... Not proud of that. But I AM proud of hanging with Delores, so drop by, ok?

Oh, and bring coffee and doughnuts. Delores didn't have time to shop!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

What Does This Remind You Of?

I was watching Dave build a fenced run for the Misty-dog today, you know so bigger dogs won't come along and eat her while she's trying to poo, and also so I won't have to stare at her bum hole all day.

This is a good thing, although I fear the lack of bum hole observation will mean I will have nothing left to blog about. You know, besides my BOOK and I'm darned sure you're sick to absolute fecking DEATH of hearing about THAT.

So anyway, I was sitting on my double-wide arse watching my man work (as I am wont to do) and I noticed the fencing material lying in the grass and I thought, huh, that reminds me of something. I thought about it for a few minutes and then realized what it was.

You know how you haven't shaved your legs for a month and you put on pantyhose and the hair sticks out?

Yeah. Just like that.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Tell Two Friends - And So On, And So On ...

I don't really know how to market my book. I mean, I know. It's all laid out there on the world wide web. But other than throwing myself at people in the grocery store and yelling READ MY NOVEL, I'm not sure how to reach the vast jillions of people out there.

I am, however, reading a book called Indiestructible: Inspiring Stories from the Publishing Jungle and it's helping me make sense of the ordeal that marketing an indie novel seems to be. It's not a how-to book, but it does lay out the experiences of authors from around the world. Some of them are published the traditional way; some are published through small presses; and some are entrepreneurs, completely self-published (like me).

I'm really enjoying the read. It gives me energy and, more importantly, hope. If you're a writer, any kind of writer, I recommend you give it a look. It cost me one whole buck on Amazon – and it could be the best buck you ever spend.

Still, I honestly believe the best way to market anything is through word of mouth. A couple years ago I was at my friend Tammy's for a visit and she started talking about some book called 50 Shades of Grey that had her absolutely hooked. "You HAVE to read this," she said. "I just can't put it down!"

Believe it or not I had never heard of 50 Shades until Tammy mentioned it. And because I love Tammy, I bought the book. I wonder how many copies of that infamous book were recommended exactly the same way?

I guess that's why I mentioned Indiestructible to you. Maybe I'm not over at your house, comfortably settled into a lawn chair with a Diet Coke, chatting about a great new book and waiting for the men to grill a few steaks. Maybe this is the best we can do, at least for now.

By the way, I just finished reading Stephen King's new novel, Doctor Sleep. For the first three-quarters, I was like, meh, it's merely OK. But as I reached the finish line King showed that he has still got it, in every conceivable way. When I finished the book I bawled like a baby, such was the emotional wallop that story packed. Like Tammy once said, "You HAVE to read it!" But since Stephen King has a few dollars and readers more than me, I suggest you read Green Eggs & Weezie first. :) And then tell two friends, just like this Heather Locklear Fabergé ad from the '80s: