I finalled in the Daphne!

It was Saturday morning and I was writing in a local Starbucks. My cell phone made a noise. I looked down, a message from my husband. Yippee, maybe he’ll join me for coffee. I read the words as they scroll across the top of my phone: “Hi Hon You’re a FINALIST in the Daphne contest. Love …”

WTH. It couldn’t be. It simply couldn’t be. I’m not that good. I never, in my wildest dreams, imagined finalling with my first entry. I was looking for feedback, nothing more. I take a deep breath. It would be so nice to believe this message.

My fingers dial home.  He picks up. “Are you serious?” I ask. The harshness in my voice draws looks from nearby coffee drinkers.

“Yes,” he says. He tells me about his conversation with a woman  from the Kiss of Death Chapter. Tears stream down my cheeks. I tremble with every word he says. Could this really be happening? He must have it wrong, but the thing is he doesn’t know words like Daphne and Kiss of Death. They are words that belong to me and my writing world. He tells me she plans to phone back.

I pack up, with  tears, I cannot stop, streaming down my face, and head for the door.  I cry all the way home, hug my husband, and make him repeat his story–  a hundred times. Then the phone rings. It’s the lady from Carolina. I soak in her information like a gift from the universe, thank her profusely and start to wave my arms wildly in the air, because I don’t know what else to do. It’s true — I finalled in the Daphne.

Some moments in  life hit you hard, and this was one of them, for me.

***

How about you? Do you have a special moment that hit you like a hammer in the night?

Picture:  Daphne Du Maurier (1907-1987), British author and playwright of Romantic Suspense

“Many of her works have been adapted into films, including the novels Rebecca (which won the Best Picture Oscar in 1941) and Jamaica Inn and the short stories “The Birds” and “Don’t Look Now“. The first three were directed by Alfred Hitchcock.” (Wikipedia)

Circled by Thieves – Six Sentence Sunday 29/04/2012

This excerpt is from the beginning of my second book in the Nederlander Series, which opens in Delft (The Netherlands).

     “You’re wrong,” rasped the frail spinster, “dead wrong. Think you’ll get rich by listening to me ramble on about my life…” Her voice broke, as the dry desperate cough of a dying woman convulsed through her body.

Kaat Kees squeezed the woman’s hand, thin skin wrinkled over brittle bones.  Outside, thieves circled like wolves ready to pounce at the first opportunity. They could smell her vulnerability. The old woman had what they wanted. Kaat shivered. Over my dead body.

***

To read more six sentence Sunday excerpts go to: ***

All comments are appreciated:)

Memories of going home

I’m back home home again. I wrote this post before I left and thought I would share it now.

As the time to leave approaches, my excitement about “going home” grows.   Memories flow through my mind of past visits. I thought I’d share one.

About thirty years ago, we traveled by car three thousand miles to visit my Mom. It was the last time I saw her. We traveled in an old truck, my husband, myself and two young daughters.  When the girls first heard our plans they asked if we were going in a covered wagon. Everything in life was new to them then. The trip was full of adventures big and small.

We took a ferry from where we lived, in the pristine wilderness of the  Haida Gwaii,  and drove down through British Columbia to cross the border into the States. Then we crossed the  country to the great lakes, and came back up into Canada near Sault Ste Marie. We drove through Ontario and  ended up in the small city of  Cambridge. We saw mountains, forests, prairies and all manner of people,  and towns along the way.

My youngest daughter was three. She cradled the doll she called Stinky  in her arms through the strange landscape, it’s cloth face faded from being loved so well. “It’s going to be alright,” she whispered in her ear. We camped under the stars in a small dome tent, listened to crickets, and watched the sun rise over stunning landscapes. We threw rocks at a visiting skunk by our campfire. Days became punctuated by stops for ice cream cones. The truck was our home on wheels.

When we drove  into my sister’s driveway, my frail mother, who only wandered outside when it was absolutely necessary,  sat on the edge of a red brick  garden wall. She was waiting for us, and had been for hours. Tears, that I could not stop,  flooded my face. We embraced and the visiting began. We had a week  together. It was a wonderful week. But the time came when we needed to leave, and start the long journey home.

I knew with a certainty, a certainty I didn’t want, that it was the last time I would see my mother. Her hold on life was weakening.  I held her tightly, feeling every bone in her light body. There was nothing tying her to life but her strong spirit and it was growing weary. She was never the same after my Dad died. I didn’t want to let go of her, but I had to. Life for me and my family was calling me elsewhere.

***

How about you? Do you have memories of going home that you hold dear?

Going Home

Etching by W.H. Boucher (click to see link)

They say you can never go home, but I beg to differ.

This weekend I’m going home. “Home”  being a place created by meeting up with my brother and sister. We aren’t normally within a few thousand miles of one another, so it’s truly special when we’re together. We’ll laugh, we’ll talk… we’ll breath in each others presence. That special gut feeling of being with family, that I miss so much, will hit me, overwhelm me, and soften me in a way that nothing else can.

The last time we got together we chose Las Vegas. Woo hoo, did we have fun watching Cirque de Soleil, eating Chinese Food, walking the strip and soaking in the Vegas culture. This time we’re meeting in Hamilton, a small city in Ontario. It will be quieter and there won’t be the bright lights, but the being together part trumps all.  I’ll get a chance to see my nephew and niece and their children as well. I’m excited.

I understand the line, “You can never go home.” It’s like the line, “The river is never the same,” but I think it misses a big point, in fact, the biggest point in life. The home and the river fundamentally don’t change. The love that lives there will always be there. It may look different. I certainly look different. But the essence remains the same.

So what do you think? Can you go home?

Settings on my mind

Click on the image for the link

I’ve got settings on my mind.

  • Why do some settings work so well, while others don’t?
  • Do  authors choose their settings, or do the settings choose them?
  • What can I do to make the most of my settings?

The two books I’m currently reading have  evocative settings, created in such vivid detail that I become separated from reality and immersed in their worlds.  They are more than a backdrop to the story, they are a dynamic aspect of it, like a dramatic character with no dialogue.

Louise Penny’s Three Pines

I’m reading The Cruelest Month by three time winner of the Agatha Christie Award,  Louise Penny, set in Three Pines, a small town in Quebec (Canada). She uses the same town in a series of mysteries, and her audience never tires of it. Her settings around the town are sinister and melancholy in turn. They never fail to intrigue. The little town is like a mysterious stranger who welcomes you in to their lair to tell you their dirty little secrets.

“Easter in Three Pines is a time of church services, egg hunts and seances to raise the dead.
A group of friends trudges up to the Old Hadley House, the horror on the hill, to finally rid it of the evil spirits that have so obviously plagued it, and the village, for decades.  But instead of freeing a spirit, they create a new one.  One of their numbers dies of fright.  Or was it murder?  Enter Chief Inspector Armand Gamache and his team from the Surete du Quebec.  As they peel back the layers of filth and artifice that have covered the haunted old home, they discover the evil isn’t confined there…” (an excerpt from Penny’s website)  

Suzanne Collins’ Panem

The other book I’m reading (well, listening to on my phone) is, Catching Fire, the second book in The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins. Her setting is post-apocalyptic, and yet I  relate to it like a duck to water. How does she do it?  Is she using  archetypes that haunt us all? Maybe. Her world, Panem, captures my imagination and I cheer for the heroine to survive in it.

“Yes, victors are our strongest. They’re the ones who survived the arena and slipped the noose of poverty that strangles the rest of us.  They, or should I say we, are the very embodiment of hope where there is no hope. And now twenty-three of us will be killed to show how even that hope was an illusion.” Katniss Everdeen, p. 175-176

James Lee Burke and the Bayou

My favorite author, when it comes to rich settings, is James Lee Burke. His descriptions of the Louisiana Bayou bring me to my knees weeping in humble adoration. I can smell the fecundity of the swamps and feel the evil that lurks in the murky water.

What am I brewing in my settings?

Why am I writing about Amsterdam and Vancouver? Do I think about murder when I visit them? Not exactly, but both cities fascinate me and make me want to spin tales of love and danger.

What about you? Do you have favorite settings? Do your settings choose you? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Not Love at First Sight – Six Sentence Sunday 04/15/2012

Another snap of Vancouver, where the story begins.

This is my fourth 6 sentence snippet from Book 1 in my Nederlander Series. The hero and heroine finally meet .

“I didn’t need saving.” She brushed the dirt off her Nike running shorts, as if it would restore her dignity.

He shrugged, and raised a brow, “Next time I’ll leave you to the bad guys. Hey, I’ll feed you to them.”

She stared at him hard. “So you’re, a good guy?”

He scratched his chin. “Yeah,” he said with reluctance.”

Any comments would be most appreciated. Check out other writers at:

A Writer with Stains and Wrinkles

This is how my week went:

Monday was Photo Day

As I explained in an earlier post,  I want to have a decent  profile picture. Step one: find a professional photographer. Done. Step two: visit him. That’s where this story begins.

What could go wrong? I just have to get myself there and smile.

To begin with, I got a bad start. I was busy answering emails…and didn’t leave myself enough time to get ready. Was I setting myself up for failure? MMMMaybe.  I had less than an hour to do the Houdini trick of transforming myself into someone I’m putting on the Internet. I throw on the shampoo, whiz the hair blower, pull up the stretch pants and tell myself, “This is part of being a writer.” Uh huh.

I pull out my trusty stash of makeup, some of which I only wear for special occasions, and splash it here and there, hoping to see some improvement in the mirror. That was my second problem, the here and there part.  I ended up with foundation (think light brown paint) on the sleeve of my white blouse. The clock is ticking. I wash the sleeve. Now I have a wet arm, but what the heck, “This is part of being a writer.” I throw on more makeup, hoping against hope, that it might help, but as we all know more is not necessarily better. Now I look like,  a wet, over-made up desperate writer. Well… at least I’m authentic.

My wet arm is cold, so I decide to change shirts. I know making a wardrobe change at the last minute isn’t the wisest decision, but I yank out another white blouse and put it on. That’s better. Oh….fudge. It’s got a cranberry stain on it from Easter dinner. Not good. It flies in the air. I’ll try another. No that shirt’s not the look I want. It’s too casual. I repeat my mantra, “This is part of being a writer.”

Black, maybe black is the answer. I reach into my drawer and find my black turtle neck. It’s wrinkled, but what the heck. I’m sure he can dewrinkle me in the edits. Will black  take all the color out of my face? Oh hell, I can’t go nude.  I remind myself, “This is part of being a writer.” I look at the clock. I’ve got to get moving.

I throw on my wet, white shirt. It will have to do, but I pack the black shirt for back up. I fly out the door, remembering that, “This is part of being a writer.”

It’s a beautiful day, and the photographer’s office is a fifteen minute walk  through a delightful park. The birds are chirping, the locals are smiling because it isn’t raining, and the cherry blossoms are open. Sounds good, heh. But I decided to wear my brand new shoes. I get half way (i.e., too far to turn back) when I realize my mistake. A blister is forming on my right foot. It feels like the skin is ripping apart. I’ll be lucky to make it. Merde!

I arrive, hobbling, with a wet arm and sweat trickling through that damn make up I slathered on. I hate having my picture taken. It’s right up there with going to the dentist and listening to his drill.  I limp to my photographer’s door, telling myself, “This is part of being a writer.” Really? Wouldn’t self mutilation be easier?

The photographer, Sean Frenzl, doesn’t look like he’s going to bite.  I relax a little. He has a young student assisting him, who smiles sweetly. Okay, maybe I can do this. We talk about what I want, and because I really don’t know what I want this is not easy for me. I mumble that I want to look confident.  He starts taking pictures and assures me that there is no limit on his time. He gives me direction as to where to look, and has me relax when I get tense. He shuffles lenses faster than I shuffle cards. His assistant moves lighting screens (which probably have names) around. I try to keep smiling, hanging on to my mantra, “This is part of being a writer.”

I lost track of time. I was busy playing model. I would guess an hour passed. The picture taking was over and I was exhausted. Honestly, it’s tiring being so wound up. We looked at the photos. Wow! He’s good. Maybe it’s going to be alright after all. I start to breath again. We eliminate some pictures. I notice the wrinkles in my black shirt, but what can I expect of an old standby dug out of the bottom of a drawer. At least no stains or blisters show.

Sean explains that he’ll send me a gallery of pictures and I’m to choose three, which he will then edit. He’s done everything he can to make me feel comfortable, but I’m still sweating. I thank him and hobble out into a light drizzle. I head straight to a coffee shop for a large cup of caffeine (my first for the day) and tell myself, “This is part of being a writer.”

What would I do differently next time?

  1. figure out a set of clothing, and a set of back up clothing (without wrinkles)
  2. give myself enough time to get ready
  3. have some shots without my glasses
  4. wear sensible shoes
  5. breathe

How did shy, silly old me get through this? My mantra, “This is part of being a writer.” I know, it’s crazy, but it worked:)

Note: I highly recommend my photographer, Sean Fenzl. He was professional and soo kind. He also wrote a blog post about our time together! Check it out.

A Critique Group that Rocks

Have you ever struck gold? That’s how I feel about my critique group. The four of us met today to talk about our writing. The ideas flew. I’m grateful to be part of such a dynamic group of writers. They listen, they tweek, and they encourage. It’s like visiting heaven.

Sooo …which picture do you think I should use for Twitter?