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I’ve been all over Pinterest lately and if you’ve caught the bug than you know what I’m talking about. That website is crack!

One thing I’ve noticed is that I re-pin a lot of bridges. Especially narrow people-bridges. After awhile it dawned on me that I love bridges. I don’t cross a bridge without stopping, just for a moment, before taking that first step. Driving across a bridge always feel like cheating and I inevitably crane my head, whipping it back and forth trying to see everything before it falls behind. I’ve done this all my life and yet never really been conscious of the act, the thought.

I’ve always known how much I loved shorelines, this magical place where two worlds touch, my own and a wholly different alien one. I can visit but I can’t stay in the water forever.

Bridges hold a similar mysticism for me. as a magical place, a boundary. I think I will include this in my current work in progress. It seems like just the perfect fit.

Want to see some pictures of awesome bridges? Of course you do!

Capilano Suspension Bridge Vancouver, British Columbia

Capilano Suspension Bridge Vancouver, British Columbia. This is one of the places I will visit when I go back to British Columbia.

Like something from one of the Myst games. I could live here.

Deep in the rainforests of the Indian state of Meghalaya, bridges are not built, they’re grown. For more than 500 years locals have guided roots and vines from the native Ficus Elastica (rubber tree) across rivers, using hollowed out trees to create root guidance systems.

This reminds me of the local conservation areas. So many little rustic bridges to keep the trails above the swampy ground.

This is a bridge that is just off my walking/running route. Some days I detour away from the much more spectacular lake view just to cross it.

Crossing my bridge from the homeward direction.

It’s all about the little details.

What are the ordinary things in your life that make you stop and take notice? Where do you find magic?

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There is much that I love about winter. It has a unique beauty to it and so many opportunities for fun activities. It also gives me ample opportunity to sport all the cold weather knitting projects I’ve embarked on since I learned to knit this fall!

However sometimes in the cold months when the sky is always overcast and it feels like everything is coloured in dull greys I get nostalgic for the warmer months. So to tide us over until the seasons change here area bunch of pictures I took on my phone last spring and summer. And tomorrow I’m going to go play in the snow so when it does get warm I won’t feel like I squandered the winter.

What is best about the spring? The bright showy flora of course!

A flowering tree in early spring

A rose-bush just outside my front door

There is a little cafe about 5 minutes walk from my house. It’s a great place that offers tasty gluten-free pizza and in the summer it has a patio sandwiched between itself and the antique shop next door. The building walls are old and worn and there are climbing vines all along them.

The vine wall on The Laughing Buddha patio.

When the sun shines down through the leaves they glow with life.

Ramsey lake is a mere half hour walk from my house.

Sunburst through the clouds

Enjoying the empty lake in the early morning...

Except for a distant fisherman...

and a lone rower...

and a few friendly Canada geese. (The canoers are late-comers.)

My balcony is a great place to hang out in the warm weather. I like to sit with my laptop and write or just enjoy the view of the creek. Sometimes I prepare food out there, especially if I have a lot of grating or peeling to do. It’s especially lovely in the rain.

A view of the trees along the creek in a summer downpour.

This winter I discovered that my only viable window for keeping plants is too cold and most of them died off. I’m sad but I’m looking for solutions and I’ll try again next year. I did manage to save the avocado plant grown from seed in the yellow pot along with a second that was in water on the counter when I took this picture.

L to R: Polka dot plant, sprouted avocado, basil, lavender shoot, dieffenbachia.

Ah summer squash, So light and delicious on a hot day. Yes I can find it and cook it in any time of year, and I do, but there is something special about a zucchini salad with fresh lemonade out on the balcony in the sunshine. The picture below is of a fabulous recipe for eggplant slices marinated in tamari (a type of soy sauce without gluten) and artificial smoke and baked in the oven about ten minutes or until chewy/crispy. It’s divine even if it’s pretending to be something it’s not.

Vegan Bacon (ostensibly)

I love my neighbourhood! It’s a lovely place full of pretty little houses and yards without being pretentious and a smattering of small apartment building and rooming houses. My neighbourhood has a very bohemian feel to it for a little mining town in North Ontario. It might be the affordable housing attracting students and artists/musicians combined with the open-minded and welcoming atmosphere fostered by the long time residents. It’s just a lovely place to live.

In the summer there are always garage sales going on but sometimes people put out stuff out for others to take. Sometimes it ‘s the usual furniture and old electronics but often it’s more interesting fare.

There were several pairs but I had to run home and get my camera and by the time i returned only this poor lone pair was left, waiting for someone to love them. I salute your pluck unwanted 80's cast-off.

Birdcage free to good home with someone more willing to embrace their inner pack rat than me. I like to imagine there was an ad on Kajiji reading "Curbside birdcage for rent - suitable for family of birds or squirrel couple without children. Pets welcome. No smokers.

As I said, tomorrow I will go out and enjoy winter while it lasts and generally be happy in the moment. Tonight I’m thinking of warm sun and swimming and all the green things waiting to grow.

Enjoying the summer day from my kitchen.

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I still remember the first time I heard the term Writer’s Block. It was on the show Golden Girls, an 80’s sitcom about four mature ladies living as roommates. Blanche Deveraux, a southern belle and very randy senior citizen, had decided to write romance novels. After sitting fruitlessly in front of a typewriter for hours she swept out of her room in her long flowing negligée and declared she had writer’s block. Estelle, the oldest of the bunch, sat on the couch witnessing Blanche floridly describing the difficulty of her situation: the frustration, the waiting, the straining! As Blanche waxes on Estelle slyly compares Blanche’s writers block to constipation.

It was a funny scene.

At the time I thought it must be awful to suffer from writer’s block but I was young and the writing compulsion was only just beginning to surface. I had no conception of what it might actually be like to be a writer. Since then I have gained a little more experience. Certainly I’ve sat in front of a blank page but there was always some avenue to coax a story out of me; some glimmering shard of a first phrase or sentence to build on.

More difficult is when a scene stumps me. Perhaps I don’t know how a character will react or how to make the scene convey what I need it to or maybe I just don’t know what happens next but never do I feel blocked.

If I don’t know what a character will do or say next I can do character exploration exercises or write possible options and revise as necessary. If I’m having trouble making a scene say what it needs to I start by outlining those things so I have a clear picture of what I need and then explore what elements within the scene will meet that need. If I don’t know what happens next I review what happened before and what that will naturally lead to. I may get stuck in a scene but there are always ways to move forward. And if I think that I need some time away from a scene to get it right then I use the time to work on the next scene or another project. And there is always another project.

I might get scene-block or even novel-block but writer’s block? I don’t believe in it.

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I have always been a pantser. When I get an idea it generally has an opening scene and one or more great characters. The story flows naturally from there. At most I would jot down the major points and a few scenes ahead but I figured the story might shift drastically so I thought that loose was better. It worked for me and the drafts that resulted seemed pretty solid.

Back in June I finished a first draft that I considered worthy of editing. It was wonderful, it was awesome and it was also an unholy mess that would need pain and blood and tears to turn into a “real book”. In other words it was a first draft and much as I loved it I needed a break. I backed it up in triplicate, closed the file and put it from my mind.

What to do in the meantime? All through writing that other draft I’d had a few stories try to tempt me away. I had been good, giving them no more than a few pages each just to make sure I recorded the idea completely. Now I was free to do more.

I decided to experiment with an outline. I figured, this isn’t my REAL book so I’m free to use it to learn new things. The outline took ages longer than the time I allotted it. Then just as I was ready to begin writing I realized I had pages of character outlining to do as well. It took as long to get to the writing as I had allotted for the entire project!

Once I began writing the going was slower than I anticipated. Slower than my last project in fact. And yet it was steady progress. Most importantly I was producing a cleaner draft than I ever thought possible. There might even be passages that could make into a final draft with little or no revision. Whoa.

What I have learned from this is the value of an outline in ensuring that my first draft is a clean and concise vision of what my eventual novel should look like and I guarantee that the amount of editing that will be necessary on this book is far less than that REAL novel I wrote (and still plan to return to). I have a new tool that saves me time and is making me a better writer. Shiny! I won’t be going back. I’m just too lazy not to put in that extra work in the beginning.

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In the wake of finishing my WIP first draft I was high on the rush of accomplishment. It felt great (to be honest it still does) and that first burst led me to set some lofty goals.

The July novel. The plan was to write roughly twice what is required by Nanowrimo but in half the time. Just two weeks. I know I am capable of 10k a day when I work hard so two weeks would give me an extra four days, weekends off if you will. I knew this was a nearly impossible goal but there was a sliver of possibility and I was high on success.

In those two weeks I wrote less than 1000 words of draft. But that was okay because I ended up using the time to write a detailed 16 page scene-by-scene outline, something I’ve never done before. I extended my deadline to the end of July and kept going.

2000 words later I was stalled again. I had my main character set up but it was time to introduce the supporting cast and suddenly I needed to know who they were. For the first time I needed to write scenes where multiple important characters interact. This meant being able to differentiate their voices and since not all of them would make it out alive and it behooved me to make them matter before I killed them. I needed to know more so once again I closed up scrivener, picked up pen and paper and got busy. I wrote 10 character sketches of varying complexity.

By this time it was the end of July. I looked at what I had and then checked a calendar and set myself yet another  goal. I would finish by August 15. Another “write a book in two weeks” deadline but this time armed with an outline and character sketches. How could I fail!

Today is the morning of the 11th and I admit it. It is just not going to happen. This book is different in tone and content from my earlier works and writing it has been a painful struggle for each word and sentence. With every step and detour I have tackled new techniques and learned new skills. I have struggled to meet my impossible goals and have failed.

Except I haven’t failed. The entire slow, winding, painful process has exhileratd and excited. The draft I am writing is, so far, the best first draft I have ever produced. It is the most cohesive, it has the least amount of diversions or talking head placeholders and it already resembles a real story. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still just a first draft but I can see already where I have improved between writing the last book and writing this one.

I am ready to push back the impossible goal to the end of August. At that point it won’t be an impossible goal anymore just a difficult one. If the draft doesn’t get finished by then I might even put it away unless I am very close to the end. This July Novel was never supposed to be more than something to do while the real WIP first draft simmered at the back of my brain. I have already gotten more out of the process than I thought possible.

Whatever happens at the end of August I know something else I’ve learned. Setting impossible goals makes me reach harder than setting easy ones. Impossible goals inspire me and that assures me that I am a writer. After all to write is to strive for the impossible goals. It’s a tough industry. Bring it on.

___________

Next post: That book review I promised.

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Sometimes I am a bad person. By this I mean I mess with people. It is always meant to be light-hearted but sometimes I misjudge and things… get out of hand.

Case in Point: For one year boyfriend and I shared a small two bedroom with two friends. I shall henceforth refer to them as Gamer and *poink*. They are both male and they are in a relationship. They were great roommates who have since moved to The Big City for adventure and profit.

Gamer is a gamer guy, he spends a good deal of time slaughtering digital people/monsters. Of the two he is by far the gruffer. He’s a welder now but he worked in restaurants for many years and enjoyed cooking.

One day *poink* and I were at the market and *poink*, knowing Gamer liked squash, purchased a lovely butternut variety for his sweetheart.

We went home and while Gamer was still at work I proceeded to draw a scared face on the squash in marker.

Sad Squash is sad.

Terror is funny, right?

I thought that Gamer would get a laugh and then enjoy a tasty snack.

Turns out he’s a bit of a softy. He was so distraught by the sad face he couldn’t bring himself to eat it. That poor squash sat on our kitchen table for weeks. I tried to convince him that the squash was happy to be eaten and fulfill it’s destiny as an energy source but Gamer was having none of it.

Finally after many weeks *poink* cooked the squash while Gamer was at work.

I thought *poink* might be mad at me for ruining his gift but he thought it was funny and a bit touching that his boyfriend could be so compassionate. I think Gamer thought I was an asshole but was too polite to let on.

Since then I have been more careful when dealing with roommate sensibilities. Having to look at that poor terrified face for two months was a poignant lesson.

Sad squash is - aw fuck it, I'm a jerk.

Seriously, what the hell was I thinking?

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I have two To Do lists at any and all times. The first is a general list. For example:

  • unpack boxes
  • clean the cat litter before the cat stages a coup
  • dishes (for previously stated reasons this pretty much never gets crossed off as I tend to lap loads)
  • sort laundry
  • buy cat food, see above
  • write

That last item never really gets crossed off either, it recycles daily and is really only there to remind me that it is the most important item on any list (except the cats food and litter, she gets cranky).

My second list is dedicated to my creative goals. For example:

  • Edit latest flash fiction
  • Write ‘X’ number of words by ‘date’
  • Outline characters for WIP
  • Do Celtx tutorial in preparation for Scriptfrenzy
  • Learn flash
  • Make 10 second flash cartoon
  • Rough draft art for next webcomic installment (unpublished and on hiatus, like so many projects)

I like lists and I like tracking my progress and crossing things off. I have notebooks dedicated to my lists where items from yesterday can be brought to the next page and you can see the progress (or not) of my industriousness like layers in sedimentary rock. I have such a poor memory that I couldn’t really function without them. They keep me on track.

Sometimes though, I use my lists to procrastinate. I especially use that first list to procrastinate on the second.

Which is crazy right? I look at that second list and there is not one thing listed which fails to get me excited. Just sometimes the steps are a little too large and I get daunted or more often I get everything ready and then my self-doubt kicks in. So I wander off and do something else and if that something lets me cross something else off of a list, any list, then I get to feel like I’ve accomplished something. It’s not the same high I would get from a submission-ready final draft of that flash fiction but it’s easier than facing all that fear and self-doubt.

In my defense I usually come back to the second list and get some work done but I’m certainly less productive artistically than I could be. Than I SHOULD be.

Today I procrastinated by making what I thought would be a time intensive fancy dinner that turned out to be quick easy and delicious. I was done and fed in no time and got a lot of little things crossed off my creative to do list. So to celebrate that quick return to my word processor I’d like to share another author recipe.

 

Vichyssoise (Leek Soup)

This soup is more delicious than you.

Ingredients:

  • 1 leek, chopped
  • 4 medium potatoes, diced
  • butter 2-3 tablespoons as desired
  • 3 cups chicken stock (veggie stock for the vegetarians)
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 cups half and half cream (10%)

Optional Extra Ingredients

  • 2-3 tablespoons bacon bits, homemade or store-bought
  • 1 cup of Mushrooms, thinly sliced, I like a blend of crimini and mini bellas (technically these are all the same mushroom at different ages)
  • Chives, chopped

Instructions
Steps involving bacon and mushrooms may be omitted.

  1. Saute chopped leaks and potatoes in a large saucepan (mine is 12 inches with high sides) for several minutes. Until it is nicely aromatic.
  2. Once the smell of leeks and butter are making your mouth water add the broth, salt and pepper, and optional bacon.
  3. Simmer for 20 minutes.
  4. While simmering broth sauté mushrooms in butter until they develop a nice colour. Do not crowd.
  5. Remove both broth and mushrooms from heat and allow to cool.
  6. Add cream and half of mushrooms to broth and mix.
  7. Puree in blender (fills blender twice)
  8. Serve cold or reheat in pan.
  9. Garnish with chives and mushroom.

Serves 6.

Tips

  1. Don’t forget to reheat the garnish mushroom if serving the soup hot.
  2. Keep in mind if you use bacon bits they might be made with dye to achieve their bright colour. You could see this as a disaster or pretend to be Bridget Jones and serve pink soup!
  3. Omitting the mushrooms and bacon I think this would be a highly adaptable recipe. I intend to try several variations.
  • Add citrus and fruit with the broth (veggie), lemon and cranberries perhaps. Nothing too sweet, it should be light and summary. This could turn out horribly wrong. Either way you’ll probably hear about it.
  • Walnuts and almonds, blended into a paste and then blended into the soup. Definitely served cold. It would be so rich and decadent!
  • Stir in some cooked wild rice to the finished basic recipe to add flavour and texture to the creamy soup.
  • Use 35% cream and blend the soup until it stiffens.  Serve as savory mousse appetizer.  (I really want to try this!)

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