Wednesday, 30 January 2008

I get rewarded for lying

People may think that authors think only of themselves while clawing their way to the top of the New York Times Bestseller List, but that is not the case. They lean on each other, encourage each other, and applaud their fellow authors' successes.

Many of my blogging buddies participated in a very special debut book launch yesterday, the paperback release of Patry Francis' The Liar's Diary. Patry was recently diagnosed with cancer and is unable to participate in the necessary book launch tours because of her illness. I didn't find out about the online launch until late in the game, but I participated in a fun little lying contest on Church Lady's blog.

My cheeky poem about Jack and Jill garnered me a gratis copy of Patry's book. Isn't the cover intriguing?

I wish Patry a speedy recovery and I'll read her book with great interest.

Friday, 25 January 2008

Six Things

I know I did something similar before, but it was back when I first started blogging. Since Richard at Smart Like Streetcar tagged me, I figured it was time for a refresher course. I happened upon Richard's blog through Stephen Parrish, and since Richard settled in the Maritimes and takes wonderful photographs of his Nova Scotia surroundings, I like to visit again and again.

I won't tag anyone this time, but feel free to tell me your six random things about yourself if you wish.

First of all, many of Richard's six random things are similar to mine -- I'm beginning to wonder if we're related.

1. As I said in my profile, I have roots in Canada from waaaay back. My dad is a direct descendant of the first Cormier in Canada -- Robert Cormier who arrived as a carpenter from La Rochelle, France, landing in Fort St. Pierre in 1644. Dad's mother is an H├ębert. Her descendants arrived in Acadia around the same time. She also has Basque roots, something I discovered while researching a novel I'm working on. No wonder I have a unibrow! Apparently, it's a Basque trait. Fortunately, the unibrow is under control, but I digress...

2. My grandfather on my mother's side was raised on a reservation in Nova Scotia. His mother was Mik'Maq. My brother and sister have Indian Status, but I don't because the paperwork is such a pain. Don't ask.

3. I have loved horses since I was about four. I started drawing them at about the same time. I'd never been around them except for what I saw on television and in books. Maybe I was reincarnated from a horse.

4. I read LOTR about ten times since I was a teenager. I often imagined I was a hobbit every time I walked through the woods across the street from my home. My kids gave me Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales for my birthday, and I have a big book of maps of Middle Earth.

5. Speaking of reincarnation -- when I was around six or seven years old I had recurring dreams of being a foot soldier in some war. I wore puttees around my legs and trudged at the end of a long line of soldiers, with smoke and gunfire all around me. I often woke to the sound of marching. I don't know where the heck it came from, unless it was possibly from a former life. Maybe I should start writing historicals?

6. This one is lame. I don't have a sweet tooth -- no attraction to chocolate or cake or ice cream. However, I can't resist salty and crunchy stuff like chips, peanuts and popcorn.

p.s. Is the star blue? It's supposed to be yellow but it's blue on my screen. Huh.

Monday, 21 January 2008

Evil Editor Launch Party!

Evil Editor is my favourite enigma on the blogosphere. Back in 2006 when I started writing, I stumbled on a blog that offered advice on query letters. Evil Editor and his Minions helped me polish my query letters and first paragraphs in the most hilarious way.

With our permission, EE posted various writers' first paragraphs and we were challenged to add another 200 words or so to give these first paragraphs an amusing twist. He picked the funniest and favourites and published them in his own book, Novel Deviations. I was fortunate to have one of my continuations appear in one of his first books.

We have a lot of theories about his real identity. He posts his picture as a mutton-chopped gentleman, but I have other ideas about his actual persona.

There will be a blog party dedicated to the release of EE's book 'Novel Deviations 3' on Thursday, January 24 on Church Lady's blog. It runs all day, so be sure to drop by for a lot of fun.

Saturday, 19 January 2008

Bad Hair Day

My Dad calls me Witch. Not because I'm crabby or less than average-looking. Witch has been my nickname since I was about seven years old, when my hair grew to unmanageable lengths.

I hid behind my hair. No matter how much my mother brushed, braided or sprayed, within minutes it would look like it had been through a combine. Once in a fit of impatience she took the scissors to my bangs, right up to my hairline. I was mortified that everyone could see my unibrow, but that's another story.

Even today my hair takes on a mind of its own. I plead, beg, cajole and sometimes wrestle it into submission. When it finally behaves, it makes my whole day better.

Hair determines our mood, our outlook on life, our self-esteem. Hairstyles and lengths pinpoint a particular decade like the long hair of the seventies and the mullets of the eighties. People judge other people by their hair. Your hair may determine whether you get that big promotion or are doomed to linger in the copy room.

In novels, there seems to be a lot of emphasis on hair. Heroines have long, flowing tresses and the ultimate hero has close-cropped, curly black locks.

How much do you notice hair or write about hair in the novels you read or write? Do the main characters have long hair or short? Red, brunette or steely grey? Is there too much hair?

In the world of Happily Ever After, does everyone have a good hair day?

Sunday, 13 January 2008

The Lure of the Desert

When I was a girl, I read voraciously. It never occurred to me that I would wish to craft such stories when I grew up.

Being a horse lover, I picked up books about horses with the guarantee that I would love the story. The Black Stallion series and Black Beauty come to mind, as well as those of Marguerite Henry.

The mystique of King of the Wind took me to faraway places and gave me the assurance that one can succeed no matter what their origins. The Godolphin Arabian was one of three horses that formed the original stock of all racehorses in the Thoroughbred Registry.

Naturally, my newfound knowledge led me to the sport of Thoroughbred racing, where I followed the careers of such champions as Secretariat and Seattle Slew. I had a major crush on Secretariat (as far as a reasonable human can have a crush on a horse) and my father tried desperately to get me tickets for the last race of this incredible champion at Woodbine Racetrack. Alas, he couldn't get it and I was reduced to watching the race on a tiny black and white portable television.

I rode my bike as if I was a champion jockey, flying around the clubhouse turn to victory. Dad took me on a few tame trail rides but I still imagined I was in a race every time we accelerated to a tame trot.

When I was a teenager, I visited my father while he was on assignment in Algeria. Of course, my romantic feelings surfaced as we made arrangements to ride Berber horses across the plains north of the Atlas Mountains. Images of Bedouin tribes riding across the desert filled my mind. I even imagined the possibility of being kidnapped and sold to the white slave market. Yup, I had a vivid imagination.

We set out on a ride through rocky terrain - my dad, his girlfriend, the guide and me. My horse was a bay, a little fractious and nervous. The ride proceeded without incident until we turned for the journey back to the stables.

It was then that the mare decided to take the bit in her mouth and bolt. I tugged with all my might but was afraid of losing my balance and falling to the hard earth. In a vain attempt to keep my seat, I lifted my bottom from the saddle and grabbed a handful of mane, just like the jockeys I'd seen on television. The wind made my eyes water and the horse kept running faster and faster. My fellow riders were quickly left behind.

To the south a line of trees worried me. What if my horse simply crashed into them? To my relief she curved left and followed the line of trees to another treeline. However, she didn't slow. I thought for sure we were destined for a big collision.

The thumping and lumping finally led me to lose my seat. Just as we approached the trees, I bounced from the saddle and flew over the mare's head. I landed on my feet just as she skidded to a halt.

There we were, Berber mare and me, heaving great breaths with both sets of knees shaking. My arms were still wrapped around her neck and my head was pressed against her sweaty hide.

I don't know how long it took for my companions to catch up, but it seemed like minutes.

The first thing my dad shouted was, "Are you all right?"

His girlfriend (much later to be his wife) yelled with delight, "Sandra, that was fantastic!"

It was then that I decided I liked her.

The guide apologized for the mare's bad behaviour and offered to switch horses. I rode a magnificent grey Arabian back to the stables, admiring the shadow of his arched neck on the stoney ground.

You would think that such a harrowing experience would put me off riding forever, but in the thirty years that followed I landed on my ass countless times (never my fault, of course) and I wouldn't hesitate to ride again.

Saturday, 5 January 2008

Okay, more hockey...

I can't help it -- the damn stuff is in my blood although I never strapped on skates until I was a teenager. Bad Ice concentrates on the major league, but today I'll talk about the kids.

Hockey tournaments.

It's a Christmas tradition. Some parents hike to the next town or maybe the next province for a tournament, but the IIHF hosts its annual World Junior Hockey Championship in different countries. This year the IIHF championship tournament is in the Czech Republic. Many Canadians make the trip. It starts on Boxing Day. These boys won't be with their families for Christmas, but they don't care.

Some started in house league, some in rep hockey. They're from all over the country.

For Canadian boys, it's not enough to win the silver. When you're in the finals, you're so close. Silver isn't the target. It's the gold or nothing. I watched the bronze medal game between USA and Russia, and the winning Russians were thrilled to win the bronze. It's not the same in the final game. Silver is better than bronze, but it's not the gold.

Scored in overtime, one Canadian player is on his ass in the crease and the other slaps the puck in the scrum. The Swedish goalie remains on his stomach, his face hidden in his gloves. A full five minutes later a linesman comes over and pats his back, asking if he is all right.

A few minutes later, the camera focuses on his face behind the cage he had never removed. His blue eyes glisten with tears. After all, he's just a boy.

The Canadians are lined up shoulder to shoulder, singing along with their national anthem. They sing like shit but the heart is there. A few 'woo hoos' and 'hi moms' are mixed in.

When the goal scorer is interviewed, his teammates skate to his side and plant sloppy, lip smacking kisses on his flushed cheek. Apparently it's a new tradition. Real guys kiss.

A giant Canadian flag is unfurled on center ice. It's just like the big flag we have at the Husky gas station between Newmarket and Barrie. They're aren't too many of those around, but it's nice to see that they make their way to such events as this.

In the team photo, some hold up one finger for number one, some hold up four fingers for fourth gold in a row.

One boy skates in front of the now empty Sweden bench and applauds their efforts.

Now they climb into the stands with the trophy. I'll bet some officials are a little nervous. The boys allow fans to touch the silver trophy lined in gold. As they drag it to the dressing room, a bottle of champagne is emptied into the vessel. At least some of these boys are of drinking age!

Stephan Legion, out with a separated shoulder, managed to lift the trophy with one hand. He is interviewed in the dressing room and gets pied. He says at least the cream tastes good. He plants a kiss on the interviewer's cheek, slathering his face with white foam.

Most of these boys will be in the NHL within a couple of years. They keep coming.

Maybe I'll do a YA novel about little Mishayla, my heroine's daughter from Bad Ice. She's a kick-ass hockey player, too.

Photo from cbc.ca - (Jacques Boissinot/Canadian Press)

Tuesday, 1 January 2008

Pond Hockey

Today the NHL is hosting its second Winter Classic, where Sidney Crosby and his Pittsburg Penguins will face the host Buffalo Sabres. It's snowing like an SOB right now in Buffalo, and the crowd is roaring with anticipation.

I think the guys in visors will have an advantage in the swirling snow, but they may need windshield wipers. Some may be concerned that such an unusual scenario during a regulation game would be a disadvantage, but I feel both teams face the same variables.

Game On.

The following is an unedited excerpt from my upcoming novel, Bad Ice.

For the rest of the afternoon the pond was alive with the muffled sound of metal blades scraping on windswept, uneven ice mixed with chatter and laughter. Occasionally a cracking sound echoed off the densely treed, steep hillsides when two wooden sticks collided. The sun, a pale white disk, barely succeeded its feeble attempt to penetrate the icy haze in the platinum sky.

Jason took his turn tending goal at one end of the pond. He leaned against the chipped metal hockey net as the action heated up at the far end. He loved watching young people playing pond hockey; it took him back to his own childhood. No referees, no grouchy coaches, no shit-disturbers chirping from the opposing players' bench. Or my own bench, for that matter.
Watching the children in carefree play, as he often did, he felt a mixture of contentment and loss. He wondered what it would have been like if a child of his own had been among them. Well, he thought, maybe I'll never know.

He picked out Mishayla, her flowing honey coloured curls bursting from under her helmet. Then again, maybe there's hope.

She kept up with the Gauthier children with apparent ease. She'll make it far, he thought. Maybe by the time she hit her teens, a professional women's league would be ready to welcome her.

Her mother, on the other hand…

He laughed when Christina awkwardly pushed the puck past Bertie at the other goal, obviously by accident. She raised her arms and squealed with delight. She almost lost her balance and Bertie dropped his stick and reached out to prop her up.

Jason skated over to join the others as they offered congratulatory back slaps.

The daylight turned from light silver to steel blue, and a few snowflakes began to drift about. Jason squinted upward and called across to Bertie, pointing at the sky.

Bertie waved in assent, and placed his whistle to his lips. He blasted a call that ricocheted off the pine trees. Corinne, who had been at the edge of the pond attending to little Barbara, beckoned to the children.

"It’s getting dark, my children; I can hear the cocoa calling me all the way out here. Wrap it up, time to go."

With moans of protest, the Gauthier children gathered their sticks, dumping them on the snow at the edge of the makeshift rink. They climbed up on the tailgate of the SUV, and Corinne helped them to exchange their stiff, frozen skates for chilly boots.

Jason skated toward his friend. "I’ll take these two ladies in a few minutes. I think our novice here needs one more lesson."

Bertie glanced at the still struggling Christina as she inched along the ice, using her hockey stick for balance. Mishayla skidded around her, laughing as her mother squealed in protest. "Yeah, she looks like she could use some help, but I don’t think she’ll be an expert today."

"Not that kind of lesson, idiot."

Bertie raised his eyebrows. "Oh, that kind of lesson. Don't forget this is a family rink."

Photo from cbc.ca