Friday, November 05, 2004

I know this blog was supposed to be a chronicle of the writing life... but somehow, life keeps getting in the way. I wonder, sometimes, how long it will be before I can get back to some sort of productive schedule at the computer. Dani is egging me on to produce at least a few words a day and to this end has created a nom de plume for me at the website. To be more accurate, it's a nom de plume for both of us as we are working on a collaborative project.

If you don't know about NaNoWriMo yet, it's pretty cool. The lengthy acronym stands for National Novel Writing Month. Each November, countless would-be novelists crack open notebooks, sharpen pencils, and flex their carpal tunnels in an effort to write 50,000 words before the end of the month. The website has tons of info, networking, and fun stuff (plenty, in fact, to distract even the most dedicated writer!) for moments when enthusiasm sags...

Five days into the month you may ask, "How is it going?" I must admit that Dani has completed more that her share of the word-count so far but I have surprised myself by writing more than I have for months. Together we've written about 5000 words - not bad, all things considered!

And so, rather than an update on Nikki's Critterville, I will sign off and try to write a few more words before life, once again, gets in the way.

Friday, October 29, 2004

Breezy - 1980-2004

If I were the superstitious type, I might consider staying in bed on the 13th day of each month. October 13th was a miserable day, all in all. Poor old Breezy decided to roll in the corner of her paddock and in the course of getting up, broke her back leg. The most ironic part of the horrible accident was that the 13th was supposed to be her retirement party. To that end, I had picked up a lovely Shetland pony cross (Emma) and her two best friends, pygmy goats Molly and Casey. These three critters were in the horse trailer waiting to unload when the drama in the paddock unfolded. Perhaps this was Breezy's way of telling me she did not approve of the whole retirement concept.
They say tragedies come in threes and, true to form, Breezy's sad demise was just the first of three deaths that day. My truck has not started since the 13th and neither has my laptop computer. Strange, hmmm?
Photo credit goes to Dani who, thankfully, took a whole series of really lovely portraits of Breezy this summer.

Friday, September 24, 2004

Because a picture is worth a thousand words, here is one of the lmiited edition prints I've unearthed... Posted by Hello
And from the "As if I didn't have enough on my plate department...", here's a new project to check out...
Finally, finally, finally - Dad has let me into his studio! And what a treasure trove it has turned out to be! After years of hoarding original paintings, drawings, Artist Proofs and some copies of several limited edition lithographs made over the years, Dad has finally agreed to let me catalogue some of the goodies he has stashed away. I attribute this change of heart to his recent literal change of heart (well, installation of a brand spanking new heart valve, anyway...) During his recovery this summer he had plenty of time to reflect on his 'I'm not showing my paintings to anyone - you can sell them after I die' attitude of recent years. With the new valve ticking away he has come to the conclusion he might actually have a few more paintings in him yet... To make room for the new, he's decided to let me sell much of what I find tucked in the various nooks and crannies of his studio. This is quite an amazing move for a man who has always locked his studio door and kept everyone out...

Other recent activities include the amazing Barnathon project. Many, many thanks to those who spent last weekend pounding nails, hauling gravel, pouring cement, hefting lumber, drilling, screwing, sawing, etc., etc., The barn looks so much better now that Tony's stall door is no longer listing (the result of too much butt-scratching on the door frame!). Alas, we were so busy labouring away, only one or two photos were taken... I shall try to obtain copies and post them here so you can see what we've been up to. Thanks again to Hermione, Emily, Nikki, Holly, Glen, Desiree, and Dad for your hours and hours of back-breaking work! And thanks, too, to Danielle for catering the event - your pancakes made it bearable to wake up in the tack room after a slightly chilly campout!

Thursday, August 26, 2004

In response to an email request from a reader, here is a map of Kenwood, the ficticious suburb just outside Victoria, BC where the StableMates novels are set. In real life, this is similar to the area of Cordova Bay north of Mattick's Farm and south of Dooley. The quality of this image isn't great, but all the new editions of the StableMates novels (the series now has seven books...) include a copy of this map. Thanks for asking!Posted by Hello

Saturday, August 21, 2004

And here's me... about as formal as I ever get.  Posted by Hello

Formal nights aboard the ship were lots of fun. Here's Dani in all her finery making the oh-so-tough decision 'Chocolate sauce, or no chocolate sauce on the Baked Alaska...' Posted by Hello

Saw tons (literally!) of ice on the trip... but under clear, blue skies... couldn't have asked for better weather. Actually suffered from heat stroke one day! Posted by Hello

Skagway's friendliest resident... Seen here at the local watering hole.  Posted by Hello

Made it! Here's a photo of me in front of my temporary home up in Alaska. Dani and I had a really great time and enjoyed a complete and total break from the crazy schedule back at our land-based home. Read 'Ida B' while away and highly recommend it! Posted by Hello

Monday, July 19, 2004

It seems I can either live life or write, not both. The days are full and bizarre... there is nothing like dealing with serious family illness to make one sit back and contemplate one's own mortality, count blessings and all of that. Despite plenty of challenges these days, there are also plenty of blessings. This past week, my brother visited from Tokyo (he has lived there for the last 16 years or so). While here he decided it was high time that we went whale watching.  

First, we all had to put on the orange, hooded survival suits.
Then, the tour guide showed us where the whales were likely to be feeding.... south end of Saturna Island, though we were told they might have moved 30 miles from there by the time our open aluminum boat arrived....
After quite a bashing on choppy seas, we settled into position to wait and were rewarded with a glimpse of distant fins...


This was pretty cool, but then the whales headed right for our boat and we were treated to an incredible display far better than any marine world show... 

Needless to say, this was quite the amazing outing. Reminds me why I love this place where I live. It also makes me wonder why on earth we wait for out of town visitors before we indulge ourselves in the pleasures of our surroundings.... This was my first ever whale watching trip and I've spent many, many years on the coast.
This same, wonderful brother decided that Christmas was a long way off and presented me and my daughter Dani (now 17!!) with an early Christmas gift - an Alaska cruise! We leave on August 7th. We are so excited we can hardly stand it!! If the scenic delights were many on my three hour whale watching expedition, what will a week in some of the most gorgeous scenery in the world be like? Stay tuned...

Monday, March 29, 2004

Here's a photo of Iago
the savvy barn cat who knows to keep her distance from those hefty horse hooves.
And another one...

down in the forest where we are building yet another fence.
Here's a photo of our back yard... Sigh. This is why I love living on Vancouver Island!

Tony is the chestnut horse. When I first acquired him last year we called him 'Bony Tony.' After nearly a year of steady eating, the nickname no longer fits!

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

My goodness - another busy month. This post is the first time that I've ever used my new voice-recognition software to compose an entry. I must say that I'm quite impressed with the software even though I'm still in the training phase. In fact, the problem isn't that the software doesn't understand me or can't keep up with my speaking, the problem is that I can't think clearly enough to compose sentences fast enough to dictate them. The result is lots of hmmms and emmms and errrrs (I confess I had to type in those last three words) which then need to be edited out.

Another problem that I've discovered is that my office chair squeaks really loudly. My tireless software keeps trying to interpret these noises and offers me various strange alternatives. And another problem that I hadn't anticipated the is that this is the beginning of allergy season here on the West Coast. After I've been talking for a while, I become quite congested. And as I get more congested, the number of errors increases. Luckily, this is easily remedied by blowing my nose.

The whole process of speaking out loud watch my words appear magically on the screen is completely surreal. However, if I stick with this and keep training the software to understand my particular speech idiosyncrasies (maybe I need to create an allergy season profile and another one for winter?), I should be able to produce a written work at a phenomenal pace. How cool is that? I don't even have to worry about aggravating my carpal tunnels! And if you're wondering whether or not I have to cheat and use the keyboards to insert punctuation -- no! This incredibly smart system actually understands the difference between my spoken words (which, by the way I speak at my normal, rather rapid pace) and whatever commands I need to give to my computer.

Not only that, if I do have to make a correction, the software learns from its earlier mistake and is less likely to make the same error again. If only I were so smart!

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Seven days since the crack on the head and finally, finally, I can chew a bagel without wincing. Have been rather distracted over the past few days due to the Western Book Reps Book Fair (or whatever the event is called...) The schedule was pretty brutal for a few days there... Monday and Tuesday started with author breakfasts commencing at 7:15AM!!!! (what are these people thinking??? Authors are not conscious that early... I'm certainly not conscious that early...). Then, spent hours cruising the publisher/book rep tables in search of cool new titles and, after staggering home with bags full of ARCs (Advance Reading Copies) and all kinds of publisher promo items to give away at various bookstore events, we had to do things like feast and dance late into the night at the annual dinner/dance hosted by Bolen Books at the Union Club. Despite the hideous hour, it is always great to get a chance to hear authors speak at the breakfasts - highlights included Dean Griffiths and Troy Wilson dressed in superhero costumes, witty presentations by Susan Juby and M.A.C. Farrant, and being introduced to several new authors (well, new to me...)

Last night was the February meeting of the teen book club at the bookstore (this month's selection was ENDER'S GAME), so by the time I arrived home, brought the horses in, and hit the sack, I was more than ready for a good night's sleep!

Saturday, February 07, 2004

After so long being distracted, busy adjusting to life as a caregiver, scrambling to find sufficient income to feed the nags, etc., it feels unspeakably marvelous to be back at work on Tarragon #3. Wrote a couple of pages yesterday and about to type/edit another section now. Still feeling blissfully happy to be alive. Jaw healing remarkably quickly - still can't chew anything too solid, but the swelling almost completely gone and I can now force my teeth together.

Spent a little time today (after an embarrassingly late sleeping-in session - wow - haven't slept this much since I was a teenager! nothing like a knock on the head to cure insomnia!) transferring several hundred photos of the Great Nevada Adventure from various CDs to my new, bigger, now-not-so-empty hard-drive. That was such a cool trip! I can hardly believe that we actually did it... I mean, what was I thinking????
Here she is... the mad, mad mare of Saanich (seen here a few days after I bought her in Nevada...)

Exact location: Sand Mountain.

Thursday, February 05, 2004

There is nothing quite like a near-death experience to make the grass look a little greener... Yesterday, thinking we should take advantage of a glorious spring day, sunshine, mild breeze, the whole bit, Dani suggested we go out for a trail ride. I jumped at the chance, of course, as I don't get to do a whole lot of riding. So, off we went, me on Breezy, Dani on Tony. We cut down to the trail through a neighbour's place, but took a route that still required a stretch alongside a busy road.

On the way back, we decided to explore another option - a short-cut through a different field that would eliminate all road travel. Ironic, then, that this effort to find a safer way home nearly killed me!

To get to the field from the trail (the Lochside Trail, just north of Sayward Road, in case anyone knows the Saanich Peninsula), we had to navigate a fairly steep bank, cross a shallow/narrow creek, and go up a low bank on the other side. After Dani snapped off branches from bushes and trees growing on the bank, she was able to lead Tony down fairly easily, travelling at a bit of an angle so the horses didn't have to go straight down. Though Tony wasn't overly impressed and Dani got her feet a bit wet, he followed calmly and emerged into the field completely unscathed, interested mostly in snatching a bit of grass while waiting for Breezy to follow.

Poor Breezy, being a beast of the desert, has a few issues with water, and though there was a perfectly clear way down the bank, she decided that there was no way she was going to descend to the bottom where, heaven forbid, she would get her feet wet. She wound up defying gravity and her aging hocks and traversed the steep bank sideways, doing wild-eyed sidepasses through uncleared brush and saplings. Seeing there was going to be trouble, I leaped over the creek and, still holding the reins, tried to encourage her to move forward, into the water.

Mistake! Breezy took my encouragement as an invitation to leap into my arms! Have you every tried to catch a 1220 lb bundle of wild-eyed terror? Nasty. The last thing I saw was this wall of white chest coming at me like a hairy avalanche and then my head became the filling in a horse/tree-trunk sandwich. A sickening cracking/crushing sound echoed in my skull. Excruciating pain shot through my jaw and then I found myself being tossed backwards into a low fork in the tree.

Somewhere in this process I let go of the reins and Breezy plunged through the creek and out into the field where Dani grabbed her and came back to the creek to see what had happed to me. All she could see were my boot soles hanging over the tree fork. She said it looked like I had been dropped out of the sky and she couldn't imagine how I had wound up hanging upside down in the tree.

Meanwhile, I was doing an inventory of damage. Neck seemed to be ok. Arms and legs were working fine. I could breathe. I was pretty sure that judging by the noise, I had shattered my skull, so I was a little surprised I was actually able to do such a calm body-damage check. The pain in my jaw was astounding and I decided that despite my wooziness and nausea, that was likely the worst area of trouble. This decided, I reassured Dani that there was no need to call an ambulance, and extricated myself from the tree (slowly!).

By this time, Breezy had got a little dancy, so I decided that given my unsteadiness and the distance left to walk home, I would be safer on board, hanging onto the saddle horn. To Dani's horror, on I climbed and we made our way home. Dani, bless her heart, scurried around and put the horses away, fed them, threw the tack into the tack room and then took me to the hospital where I was met with many, many versions of "Wow - you are lucky to be alive!" and "You should have been a major head trauma case!" As it turns out, the shattering sound was my riding helmet, not my skull... and despite amazing swelling and bruising, and some superficial cuts caused by the helmet buckle, all the damage to my jaw was to soft tissue. 48 hours from now my teeth on the left side should once again meet up and I'll be back to crunching my way through even the crispiest of potato chips!

Monday, February 02, 2004

Just arrived home from one of the many fabulous films playing this week at the Greater Victoria Independent Film Festival. Saw Ham and Cheese the other night, How to Be a Model tonight, and tomorrow have tickets to the one about the parking meter dudes. True confession: I really, really want to work in film. Documentary. Mocumentary. Feature (drama/comedy). You name it, I'd love to give it a try. Doing what? Well, flexible on that front, too. Acting. Directing. Writing. Making sandwiches for the people who actually know how to make movies. I'm not fussy. So, there you have it... my little secret.
You know, it is a miracle that I ever manage to finish a book. Just look at the state of this blog!!!! (Notice a theme here?) Actually, part of the problem is that blogs don't come with built-in deadlines. Though, that is only part of the problem.

Fact is, have had a dreadful year - starting at about last Christmas (2002) when my mother drove her car off the road (see photos posted a few entries back). This was the beginning of a very, very stressful series of events that lead to her eventual diagnosis of suffering from Pick's Disease.

This is a rare type of dementia that strikes people far too young and causes all sorts of strange personality changes and behaviour problems. Needless to say, I've been rather distracted! So distracted, in fact, that both my current book projects have been delayed (the new Tarragon Island book and the sequel to Jo's Triumph). While pulling back a bit on my usually intense writing schedule was fine as a short-term solution while my father and I shifted gears into caretaker mode, January marked the beginning of my new, revised writing schedule.

With any luck, I'll be able to get both manuscripts done before the summer arrives.

Meanwhile, over at Annick Press, Grandparents' Day is cruising along toward completion. Though this is officially a Fall, 2004 release, I should have advance mock-ups in hand later on this spring. I am really excited about seeing the finished illustrations by Benoit Laverdiere, a talented (if quirky) artist from Quebec.