Wednesday, November 30, 2016

10 Gifts for the Writer in Your Life

I was inspired to write this post when I saw that Donna at GIRL WHO READS included The Hitwoman Under Pressure in her fabulous list of 10 BOOKS TO BUY THE BOOK LOVER IN YOUR LIFE.

So here's my list of 10 gifts for writers:

1)  Coffee (or whatever their liquid fuel of choice is). If they like to write outside of their home, a cafe gift card is always welcome.

2) A massage (or a gift certificate for one). It's not easy to be hunched over a keyboard for hours at a time.

3) Your attention and support. Look, I get it, most of what a writer does take place in his/her head, but that doesn't mean it's not real for him/her. Find out what your writers is excited about, or worried about. Ask if there's anything you can do to help.

4) Books -- Writers love to read. Again a gift card will be most appreciated.

5) Headphones -- So they can shut out the real world. So they can rock out while pounding the keyboard. So they can listen to audio books.

6) An artist date. -- Help your writer refill their creative well. Museums, concerts, plays, botanical gardens, a trip to the sea, a hike in the woods, a short class in an artistic discipline other than writing.

7)  Something for the writer's workspace. A candle, a chair, a lamp, a timer, a piece of art, office supplies (can't go wrong with a gift card for this either!), a planner. (I used the Your Best Year in 2016 and will use it again in 2017. Just be warned that it's designed for Creative Entrepreneurs so if you're writer isn't at that point yet, it won't help them as much. )

8) Technology -- Hardware, Software, Apps -- Oh my!

9) Write a review of their book (if they're published).  Trust me, we love them!

10) A fun and frivolous writer's gift. Just look at the choices you get when you search for "writer gift"
at Etsy. Soooo much fun stuff!

Tell me Killer Friends: What are your favorite writer gifts?

Monday, November 28, 2016

A Writer Walks Into A Bar...

I spent six days in Toronto recently visiting my sister. In case you're unfamiliar with Toronto, it's Canada's largest city. To put that in perspective it's also the fourth largest city in North America. It's a great city and I love spending time there. A short amount of time anyway. After five or six days I crave the quieter pace of my much smaller city, which boasts a population of approximately 240,000 folks.

That means Toronto does things on a bigger scale like the Royal Ontario Museum and the Art Gallery of Ontario. Very impressive places and I was fortunate enough to see the AGO's latest exhibit - Mystical Landscapes: Masterpieces by Monet, Van Gough and others. It was fantastic and inspiring and a host of other things. Being in a bigger city also means sampling a host of unique boutique type places like Famous Last Words, a literary cocktail bar.

It's named after a classic book of the same name written by Timothy Findley. With bookshelf wallpaper, 11,000 Scrabble tiles covering the bar, and hundreds of books on the shelves the ambience is set . The menu resembles a book with pages numbers and a glossary. Be still my heart, the drinks are named after books. One of the ones I sampled was called Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shyteyngart. They give as much care and attention to their list of mocktails as they do their cocktails.

It go me thinking of what cocktails I would create for my books. But since I'm not a mixologist I'm having a challenging creating new ones. But I believe Lily from BACKLASH would prefer a nice pinot grigio. Kate from EXPOSED doesn't drink alcohol but downs coffee. Grace from GONE, my work-in-progress, sticks to beer.  

Right now, with the weather turning chill,  I'm wishing for a nice dairy-free hot chocolate. What do you like to sit and sip? Morning, evening or anytime in between?

Friday, November 25, 2016

Black What?

Okay, so we all know today is Black Friday - that day when people shop with rampant abandon to get 'blockbuster' savings on a 700" flat screen or that tiny car for their kids or whatever.

I don't do Black Friday.  In fact, I did all my regular shopping so that I wouldn't have to be near any stores through Monday.  If we run out of milk before then, we're screwed.  Ya know what I'm sayin'?  I do not want. 

Yesterday, I heard about stores opening on Thursday for Black Friday savings.  Umm... Black what?  I also heard about Black Wednesday.  Black what? 

I'm confused.

I know when I lived near family, we made it a big deal to gather together and go to the mall on the day after Thanksgiving.  We never got up early.  We never waited in long lines.  We got there when we got there and if there were savings involved, great.  We gals (it was always the gals + kids) would shop and then do lunch and then shop some more, if we were so inclined.  Oh, there were lines at the checkouts, but not like there are today.

If I remember correctly, the worst lines were at Toys-R-Us.  That place was always a madhouse.  But each of us Meissner gals - having either kids or grandkids - needed to make a stop there.  It was all good, though.  No fighting over the last Cabbage Patch doll.  (Mom tells a story of the year those came out.  Madness.) No crying over missed opportunities.  Okay, maybe there was some crying.  We did have the kids with us after all. 

We shopped in a pack.  If my daughter wanted something but she was in my cart, a sister would put it in her cart when the Kid wasn't looking so we could maintain the Santa factor.  I did the same for them.  Or they would distract her so I could put something in my cart - under my coat - and I did the same for them.  It was nice.

I don't need to do any of that anymore.  I don't buy gifts in stores, for the most part.  Everyone I love except Hubs is hundreds of miles away.  Online catalog shopping in the best.  Or cash for the Kid.  Or I pick up little things while I'm grocery shopping.  I might pay a little more because I'm missing out on the Black Friday deals, but I'm okay with that.  Which proves I'd pay money to stay away from crowds. LOL

So, yeah, all this Black Friday, Pre-Black Friday, Black Wednesday stuff confuses me.  But, hey, if it's your thing, have at it.  Stay safe.  And good luck with your bargain hunting!

Do you do Black Friday?  If it a nice experience for you, or are you one of those who hate it but do it anyway?  I know Mom and one of my sisters will be out there in the crowds sometime today, so remember to be pleasant to your fellow shoppers.  ;o)

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Friday, November 18, 2016

What Do They Look Like?

Eons ago, in another life, I was having a book discussion with my then significant other.  Okay, it was more like an argument.  He absolutely insisted that a particular character was a brunette and I was totally certain she was a blonde.  It actually got to the point where he stomped over to the bookshelf, flipped through the pages furiously, and stabbed a finger at the passage that proved he was right.  Well, I'll be damned, she was a brunette.  :shrug:  In my head, though, she's still a blonde.

And, for me, that's what it's all about.  Not whether the author created a character to look a certain way, but the way that character looks in a reader's head.  This is probably why adaptations of books for movies or television irritate me so.  I have my own concept of a character in my head and it never matches what the casting director has seen fit to put on the screen. 


As a writer, I understand the need to have readers see what is in my head, to describe everything exactly.  But I also understand if the reader doesn't adhere to my image.  I want readers to see what they want to see.  So, I try to describe just enough to let the reader come up with their own idea.  The only time I've gone beyond this, I think, is with my Once Upon a Djinn series.  I found a cover model who is the embodiment of how I see Jo.  (My apologies if she doesn't match how you saw Jo, but I needed a full frontal model for this series.) 

When you step in, though, you run the risk of changing a reader's image.  Humphrey Bogart will always be Sam Spade to me.  Gary Sinise is now and forever Stu Redman.  That little girl actress will pop up as Scout whenever I read the book.  Dorothy will always have the face of Judy Garland.  It is what it is, but I had different ideas of Stu and Dorothy before I watched the movies.  (Yes, I read The Wizard of Oz before I watched the movie.  Long story.)  Now, my original images are erased and replaced.  Which is kind of sad, but there's nothing I can do about it.

So, anyway, I hope I provide enough information to give readers a platform on which to build their own image of my characters.  I suspect for some it's not enough, but I can only do what I can do. 

What do you think?  Do you like everything described perfectly or would you rather build your own mental image? 

Wednesday, November 16, 2016


Maggie and the gang are back!

Order on AMAZON

Maggie Lee’s done a lot of questionable things that have made her question her own sanity. Chaperoning her niece’s class trip is one of them.

Not only must she attempt to corral a bunch of energetic kids, but at the same time she has to argue with the talking lizard in her bra, avoid a mysterious doppelganger, and chase down runaway horses!

And that’s just the beginning.

With her relationships and alliances in flux, Maggie is uncertain of what her next steps should be. Caught between the family drama caused by the return of her sister, Darlene, and her own efforts to save an innocent boy, Maggie struggles to make the right decisions and protect lives that hang in the balance.

Can Maggie navigate these latest landmines, or will relationships, or even a life, be lost?

Monday, November 14, 2016

My Self-Care Regimen

I know many of us find it challenging to take care of ourselves. We have a lot going on and little time to get it all done. Each of us have our own unique challenges that are no more or less difficult than our neighbours. Add to that, the world seems to be in an angry, scary place right now. War, strife, conflict, and disillusionment to name a few of the dizzying forces at work right this minute across the globe.

And some of us are headed into the holiday season, which according to an already prolific amount of commercials we need to start thinking about posthaste. I gave up on the notion of holiday perfection several years ago, that doesn't mean I'm not tempted to go overboard every. Single. Year.

I stumbled upon this micro poem by Nayyirah Waheed some time back. Beautifully said. Radically true.

all the women.
in me.
are tired.

All this means I try to practice self-care. Here are some of things I try to remember to incorporate into my week:

Restorative Yoga: Even though it's class I've paid good money to sign up for, there are weeks I'm tempted to just say home that evening. Like a lot of things, the tough part is getting there. Once I'm stretched out on my mat and doing the breathing exercises, everything else fades away.

Breathing: Deep breath in for three seconds. Deep breath out for three seconds. For three minutes. Morning and night. It really does help me focus.

Reading: One study suggested that reading for a scant six minutes can reduce stress by 68 percent!

Mindfulness: Being in the moment means I spend less time worrying about the future.

Organization: I like things to be neat and tidy therefore I embrace organization. On the other hand, if you couldn't care less about whether things are neat and tidy, don't waste time working your butt off to achieve something that doesn't matter to you.

Also, these things: massages, dancing (in private), walking, hugging, and laughing.

And don't forget to alter your self-care regimen to match the season. Fall and winter mean more baths, hot drinks, movie watching and stews and soups.

What are some of the things you do to take care of yourself?

Friday, November 11, 2016

Eschewing the Extremes

I'm a pretty laid back person for the most part.  And I think that has a lot to do with my preferences.  You see, I like everything pretty much middle of the spectrum.

I don't like spicy food for instance.  Or heavily seasoned.  Everything is created with a light hand.  For instance, my chili is savory and flavorful, but I don't use more than a dash of this or a pinch of that.  A whisper of chili powder, maybe.  Salt, pepper, dill, tarragon - everything in any dish is very light.

I don't enjoy either hot or cold weather.  Ideally, if the outside was between 60f and 80F, I'd find it heavenly.

I don't appreciate loud music but too quiet puts me to sleep. 

I don't drive fast or slow.

I don't do confrontation, but I also can't stay silent when things need saying.

I have no interest in seeking thrills, but I also can't stand being bored. 

About the only extremes I can think of that are part of my makeup are: I used to drink to excess and now I don't drink at all.  But I think with alcohol, when you reach one extreme, then embracing the other is probably the best idea.

Middle of the road.  And it works for me. 

How about you?

Friday, November 4, 2016

The Gardening Bug

I've always dreamed of having a lovely garden and beautifully landscaped grounds.  When I bought my first house back in '98, I used what little extra funds I had to purchase shrubs and perennials.  I did my best to make my place look nice.  A viburnum here, some butterfly bushes there.  Mums and marigolds and irises.  Not everything worked out.  The hydrangea I bought died quickly.  The pepper plants didn't survive either.  I think the big mulberry tree killed those, though, so I'm totally not taking the blame there.

Snowball Viburnum
Now here I am in my second house.  And once again, I had the idea to make the yard something of a showplace.  In the past three years, Hubs and I have done a boatload of work.  We had to dig up the foundation and seal it.  (Who puts in a foundation and doesn't water seal it? Ugh.)  Then we had to find a way to prevent water running down the hill from undermining the foundation.  Those two things gave me my front garden bed.
Then we put in the iris bed.
And the shade bed.
All of those are filled with plants now, of course.  (And the orange paint is gone now, thank the gods.)

It's been interesting trying to find the right plants for the right areas.  And finding plants the deer won't eat.  And finding plants that will survive with the minimal care I offer them. 

Everything was going  pretty awesome until this year.  A super hot and dry June led to a long summer which led to a lot of my plants either dying or looking pretty harsh.  My mums that were so beautiful a couple summers ago look like crap this year.  My forsythia gave one last gasp, dropped all its leaves in July and died.  My lilac bush is pathetic.  Everything I planted in the new sun bed either died or is on its way there.  (Except the marigolds.  Thank goodness for marigolds.)
It all almost makes me want to give up and let the forest reclaim the yard. 

But I have a gardening bug.  Fall is the time for planting and pruning.  It's the time for separating the iris bulbs again.  (Those are motoring right along, despite the weird weather.) Next year, the gardens may be back to their former glory.  Or they won't.  Time will tell.

What about you?  Do you like gardening?  Landscaping?  Do you do it yourself or have someone come in and do it for you?

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

JB's Week in Review

Besides writing, this is what my schedule looked like last week:

Wednesday: I'm taking a class on Creating a Beautiful Life...basically I'm already doing most of what the teacher is suggesting. And yes, I DO think I have a beautiful life -- I was just looking for some extra tips. Nothing wrong with knowing you have room for improvement, right?

Thursday: I took a drive to see a friend who was in from out of state. We had lunch, laughs, and some deep, meaningful conversation. She's a balm to my soul and I felt refreshed when we parted...which was good, because there was a car fire on the bridge I had to take to get home and I sat in traffic for quite a while, lol.

Friday: I attended an evening sponsored by the local SISTERS IN CRIME chapter at a local library. A real life Crime Scene Investigator and a police detective spoke. In particular I found the CSI's perspective to be interesting. Then there was a panel with 4 mystery authors, moderated by another mystery author.  Good stuff!

Saturday: I spent the day helping someone move. I spent the evening at the home of friends who happen to be writers. Interesting conversation and shared laughs.

Sunday: My introvert day. (I needed one!)  I took the dog to a local nature preserve. It's like taking a shot of inner-peace.

Monday: I attended a NaNoWriMo planning meeting at another library. Unfortunately the turnout was low, but there was still lots of writing-related conversation.

Tuesday: I participated in the Introduction to Improv class I'm taking. A lot of hard work (for me anyway) but SOOOO much fun.

Tell me Killer Friends: 

What did YOU do last week? Any great plans for this week?