Monday, September 30, 2013

Missing: One Mini-Pad

I was getting undressed this morning to have a shower and realized my mini-pad was missing. I am never without a mini-pad. Forget diamonds – when a gal gets to a certain age it's a mini-pad that's your best friend. That and vodka. 

I thought maybe it got dislodged and was stuck to the inside of my pajamas but I turned them inside out and it wasn't there. 

Maybe, I thought, it was stuck to the back of my thigh. I felt up my own leg (cheap thrill) and no, it wasn't there. Nor was it on my back or in my hair. I honestly don't know how it would travel from my underwear to my hair, but you never know. 

I even checked the bed and for one horrible moment imagined Dave going to work with a used mini-pad wrapped around the back of his neck. So I phoned him, and thank gawd, no mini-pad. That would have gone over well with a garage full of mechanics. We would have had to move. Probably to Outer Siberia. Just so we wouldn't hear the laughing.

I have no geezly idea where this stupid mini-pad is. With my luck it'll show up at the most inopportune time. Like tonight. We're having the neighbours over for dinner and I have visions of the dog trotting out of the bathroom with it plastered to her head.

Friday, September 27, 2013

A Quiet Exuberance

In between bouts of self-loathing I've been working away on my novel. Quietly, you know. Chopping here, slashing there, duct tape slapped over my yap to dull the screaming.

This morning, though, something miraculous happened. After a few blissfully exciting days working with graphic artist Steven Novak (aka Mr. Awesome), I OK'ed the cover.


As I'm writing this I'm gritting my teeth, in a good way, and rolling my eyeballs faster than a hydro meter wheel with the hot tub running. Such is my excitement!

I heard about designer/illustrator/author Steven from author GP Ching, whose book covers I admire endlessly. They're glamourous and richly done, beautiful in every way, and they attract readers to Gen's marvellous writing. I know how important cover art is – as a retired graphic designer, I spent years making words look good. As a reader, I find myself clicking 'Buy' on Amazon based on the cover. The old adage is you can't judge a book by a cover but, in this digital world we live in, that little thumbnail means the difference between selling your book or letting it languish. Granted, if the writing inside is terrible, nothing can help you. My hope now is that my own writing is equal to Steven's work.

I'm not sure when my book is coming out. Soon. Very soon. I'd like it to be done in time for my birthday in October, a present to myself and yet another excuse to eat cake.

In the meantime, help me celebrate Steven's work! The orange is the same shade as you'll find on the Dr. Seuss classic Green Eggs & Ham, and the lovely curvaceous woman with the wild red hair is exactly who I was thinking of when I sat down to write Weezie's story. It's funny, when I was working as a graphic artist, I would CURSE the clients who weren't sure what they wanted, who made me do revision after revision after revision, and yet there I was sending Steven through the same hell! My apologies, dear Steven, and my sincerest thanks for a job well done.

The cheque is in the mail ... really, it is ...

Saturday, September 21, 2013

It's Freaking Great TV, Yo

Mr. White - I hope he bites it.
What a fabulous week of TV watching it has been. Dave and I have been like gluttons at the bus stop buffet table, rolling about in a blissfully bloody trough of Game of Thrones and Breaking Bad.

Jesse Pinkman, king of the bitches, endearingly sweet - I hope he lives.

The Breaking Bad final episodes have been gut-wrenchingly incredible, haven't they? At the end of last Sunday's show I didn't know whether to scream or cry, so I did both, because there's nothing like setting every dog in the neighbourhood into a full-blown howl. Every night it's the same thing around here. Everything's quiet, dark settles in, the streetlights come on, and every flea-bit mongrel between Cold Lake and Bonnyville starts barking. It's an arf-a-palooza out there and I keep waiting for some beefy oil patch dude who has to get up at 4 o'clock in the morning to throw open his window and yell "SHADDUP" but it never happens. The dogs just yip and woof and bawl until they get sore throats or something.

Mike Ehrmantraut - I loved this guy and cried when Mr. White killed him.

There's only two more episodes of Breaking Bad. I can't imagine them being worse/better than the last one but I saw The Pink Man himself on the Jimmy Kimmel show and he said something like, "You think last week's episode was messy? Wait until the last two – they get waaaaaaay messier.. bitch." I can hardly wait. When it comes to Walt and Jesse and the gang, the messier the better.

Hank Schrader - he started out as such a goof but he became
one of my favourite characters, ever, on any TV show.

If you haven't seen this show yet, you don't know what you're missing. I remember my boss back in Bracebridge always yapping about it, telling me about a chemistry teacher who starts cooking meth to make money for his family. The premise didn't sound all that exciting, right? Mr. Chips In The Kitchen? Big deal. But I picked up the first season at Wally World (because there's no point watching any series unless you start at the beginning) and Dave and I didn't do ANYTHING else for an entire weekend – except to run back to Scrawl-Mart and buy season two. The writing is phenomenal. The acting is phenomenal. It makes every other show on TV look like it was written by the cast of Romper Room.

Tyrion Lannister - my absolute favourite character on Game of Thrones.
Smart, sensitive, nice and dead sexy.

There are other shows on TV I'm nutso about. The Walking Dead, which gets going again October 13 (WOOT!), Mad Men, Orange Is The New Black and, gawd help me, Love It Or List It (one of these things is not like the other.... I know... ). But the only show right now that even compares to Breaking Bad, for me, is Game of Thrones. My writer buddy Linda McLean got me hooked on this show (have you noticed it's always word of mouth that sells something good?). One day at writer's circle she said she spent all weekend watching Game of Thrones and was mesmerized by the absolute misery of the thing. So off I toddled to Wal-Nuts to pick up the first season, which was, like SIXTY BUCKS (don't tell Dave, he'll kill me). I put on one episode and me and hubs were glued to the boob tube for 10 hours. When it was over I stumbled back to Hell-Mart and spent another sixty for season two. 

Arya Stark - love this girl. She's all feist and spark and honesty.

What do we like about it? Same as Breaking Bad – great acting, great writing (the TV script is co-written by David Benioff, the author of one my favourite books, City of Thieves. Go buy it.) The characters are human. The bad guys can be good. The good guys can break bad. They're endearing and troubled and you cheer for them and you curse them, all at the same time.

Jamie Lannister - I hated him in the beginning. He was a HORRIBLE
person. But thanks to fantastic writing and acting, I now find myself
rooting for him. He lights up the screen and I love the relationship
developing with his stalwart guard, Brienne of Tarth.

Season three debuted on HBO a few months ago – while we were traversing the Great Country of Canada with a U-Haul and a puking cat – so we missed the first few episodes. In a historic display of willpower, we decided to wait until the season ended, and then pick it up when it went to reruns (since it's not available at the Wal-Mart Campground yet). I checked it online to see when it would start and marked September 17 on my calendar with a big red marker. That was last Tuesday. Every night since, HBO has played two episodes every single night and every night Dave and I have been glued to the TV for two happy-happy-happy hours (sorry, I was channeling Duck Dynasty for a moment). 

Samwell Tarly - good-hearted and awkward. I hope he muddles through.

Tonight's the last two episodes of the season. Tomorrow night is the second last episode of Breaking Bad. Then Dave and I go have our eyeballs massaged.

This video mash-up of Breaking Bad moments is just phenomenal, by the way. Pass me a tissue and we'll watch it together. "They've got some skills, yo."

Friday, September 13, 2013

At Loose Ends

Settling in, trying to see where I fit in, what I'm supposed to do ... some days I'm at a complete loss. Some days I lay around and watch home improvement shows on TV. And try to improve my Candy Crush Saga score. Some days I have maniacal energy, trying to do everything at once because that's how I always got things done in the 37 years I've been working.

At 15 I tried selling Avon door-to-door. (I think that lasted about 10 minutes.)

Then I was slapping frozen "cheezeboigers" on the grill at the Markham Burger & Dairy Bar, where the scowling Greek owner named George, who sounded exactly like John Belushi on Saturday Night Live, was always telling me, "Coffy make coffee, two Peepsis, hamboiger, hamboiger."

I was a waitress. Once. For part of a summer. Until I was picking up plates one day and accidentally dropped a butter knife covered in yellow mustard all over a snooty man's white golf shirt. He had no sense of humour, and then I had no job.

I did these things – badly – knowing that I would go to college and become what I really wanted to be when I grew up.

A reporter.

(Imagine a glowing light surrounding that word, and angels singing from heaven.)

I studied community journalism but left school early to get a job because this was in the early 1980s and a recession was making jobs incredibly difficult to come by (thanks to my cousins Debi and John for putting me up and tipping me off about the job in the first place). I figured it was more important to get my foot in the door than finish up the last month of college and, as it turned out, I was right. Only a few of my classmates wound up pursuing newspapers as a career.

The job paid crap. By the time I paid my rent, car payment and bought gas, I was broke.

The hours were long. I had meetings just about every night (council, school board, community groups) and every weekend was full with events like fall fairs, regattas, hockey games, curling bonspiels and bowling banquets.

I spent every Monday morning in the darkroom, processing a week's worth of film and making prints. I'd be there for six or seven hours at a stretch, inhaling noxious chemicals and developing the eyesight of a mole. When I emerged, I had to finish writing any stories I had left to the last minute, then help out in the production room where the paper was laid out with the help of an x-acto knife and melted wax. It was a badge of honour to cut yourself but bleeding on the unfinished galleys meant starting over from scratch. By the time the paper was "put to bed," it was late. At one of my first jobs, the Milton Tribune, our crew didn't finish the paper until the next morning. Things were more coordinated at the Port Perry Star and we usually finished by 10 o'clock, which gave us time to have a drink at the local watering hole. (It's where I met my first husband – he was the bartender and he used to make fun of the "rag" I worked for.)

Sometimes I took the paper to the printer's and waited for them to fill the van with a whole town's worth of papers. If that was the case I was up at the crack of dawn. Usually though I wandered into the office around 8 a.m. to help stuff flyers into the paper and prepare issues for mailing. When that backbreaking work was done, I had my own delivery route: I took papers to post offices and stores in the northwest corner of our township. Like the mailman, I delivered papers in all kinds of weather, including one time during a wicked snowstorm when I put the van in the ditch.

Delivery took all day. If I was lucky, I'd get to go home and go to bed. Often I had to go home, grab a shower, and head out to cover a meeting.

By Wednesday morning I felt like had been run over. But I dragged myself into the office for our weekly "story meeting" in which we discussed news and events that needed coverage in the coming week. The rest of the week was a blur of covering stories, phone interviews, photo ops and writing, writing, writing. Newspapers were big empty vessels in those days, not crammed to the top with advertising as they are today. It took a lot of words to fill those pages and I became adept at writing long feature stories to take up space.

I remember, back in high school, freaking out about having to write a 1,000 word essay. We were given a month to write something that long! At the newspaper, it was nothing to crank out 5,000 to 10,000 words in a week. There was no time for agonizing over every word – it was a matter of typing your fingers to the bone and moving on to the next story.

There was no overtime. No lieu time. The job consumed all of my waking hours and I loved it and I hated it and I couldn't imagine myself ever doing anything else.

I left my last newspaper job in May and I doubt if I will ever work for another one. The internet truly has killed newspapers. People don't need to wait for the weekly newspaper to arrive in their mailbox – they see it on Facebook, or Twitter. They hear it on the car radio, or on the 6 o'clock news. Everywhere, all across the world, newspapers are dying. Even the biggest, most successful of the once mighty media giants are going out of business.

Some day I'm going to write more about my newspaper life.

For now, I'm just trying to figure out what to do with all this free time I suddenly have, now that I don't have to fit laundry, dishes, cooking and rest-of-my-life in the short time not spent at the office. I'm like a bird that has been encased in a gilded cage, suddenly freed, and not sure what to make of the wide world that is waiting for it to fly.

I think I'll take a lesson from my cat, who spends every morning in his chair, his ancient arthritic bones soaking up warm sunshine. He doesn't worry about the why, or the wherefore or the how-to.

He just does.

I think I want to be him when I grow up.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

It's Bouncy, It's Sexy and It's FUN!

I'm really excited right now. About a book. Yeah, I know, you've heard people babbling about books all the time to the point where you're sick to death about hearing it. Right? But I just started reading a new book and it's got the BEST happiest, bounciest, sexiest heroine I've come across in some time.

Genevieve Jack
I had no plans to buy a book yesterday – I've already got an absolute stack of uncracked ones staring at me like mooching dogs at a Sunday picnic. But one of my Friday Flash buddies, GP Ching (aka Genevieve Jack), was advertising a free book on Facebook so I thought, what the hey. It's free, and it's GP, what's to lose?

About an hour ago I opened The Ghost in the Graveyard and seriously? The thing just grabbed me by the knackers and wouldn't let go. The story bounces from one page to the next and I was turning pages as fast as I could. I only stopped, just now, to come downstairs and pen a note to GP saying how freaking great her book is. Then I thought, what the heck, I'd give her a plug here as well.

Warning: it's a book for grown-ups so if smoulderingly sexy scenes aren't your cup of tea, give it a pass. Everyone else? Cozy on up to the most refreshing and kick-ass romance heroine I've come across in a long, long time.

Bonus: The second book in this series, Kick the Candle, has just been released. It's fabulous to know that when I'm kicking through Graveyard, I've got a Candle to light my way.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Do You Have To Be A Writer To Be An Insecure Writer?

Who am I kidding?

What was I thinking?

My writing is not unique.

It is barely interesting.

I have nothing to say that hasn't been said a million times before.

I have no burning stories to tell.

I've tried writing and I suck at it and should take up something else. I just don't know what that "else" is.

I'm at a crossroads, I forgot to buy a map and my GPS is broke.

(Poor, poor pitiful me.)

P.S. - Congratulations to Alex J. Cavanaugh on the second anniversary of his Insecure Writers Support Group! Two whole years of encouraging writers who, by nature, are insecure. You're doing a great service to the world, Alex. Thank you!