Thursday, December 20, 2007

Dancing in the Rain

I'm a quote junkie. Anyone who has followed this blog for any length of time has probably figured that out. Quotes are sprinkled throughout my novels. I keep a journal filled with my favourite ones. How I admire those thoughtful people who can capture the essence of a wise idea in a pithy line or two.
A couple favourite quotes have helped me find direction in recent days.

Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass... it's about learning to dance in the rain. (author unknown.)

My mother is dealing with difficult health issues right now and making decisions on how best to care for her has consumed all my waking hours for much of the past few months. I keep telling myself that I'll resume the rest of my life once this 'storm' has passed but it's now dawning on me that this situation isn't going to blow over like a storm does. It's here to stay, in one form or another. It's time for me to learn to dance in the rain, to care for my mother and continue with my own projects. Now that I have given myself permission to do that, I'm back to mulling over an idea I have for my next book. So far I have imagined the characters. I have imagined the problem they are facing, their 'internal conflict'. I even know (sort of) what the outcome of the story will be. What I have yet to decide is whose voice will tell the story and what external conflicts there will be, those events that run parallel to the internal struggles.

Here's a quote that describes this exact place that I'm at with this project.

"No one but an artist knows the peculiar delight of being summoned by a work which, as yet unborn, lies with all its potential undisclosed within the dormant darkness of the creating heart. (Mr. Golightly's Holiday)
I have yet to type one word of this book, but I am definitely being 'summoned' by it. It's an exciting place to be at. The hard work has yet to come.

And one last quote, which I think explains why so many of us forward on inspirational pieces via email, or, like me, forward our favourite quotes.

"If you find something good share it with anyone you can find. In that way the goodness will spread, no telling how far it will go." (Forest Carter, The Education of the Little Tree)


The photo above was taken from

Thursday, December 13, 2007

I'm counting the days...

My favourite day of the season is approaching and no, it's not Christmas Day. It's the Winter Solstice, when the days stop getting shorter and begin to lengthen again.

In the meantime, I'm grateful for Christmas lights which brighten these long, dark nights of December.

Most of our customs, symbols, and rituals associated with Christmas are actually linked to the Winter Solstice celebrations of ancient Pagan cultures, including bringing light to these long nights. (Obviously the Pagans didn't have electric Christmas lights, but that's where the whole idea of lighting the night originally started.) Other customs borrowed from the Pagans include feasting, decorating our homes with greenery and expressing love by exchanging gifts. The actual birth of Jesus was in the fall but December 25th was the day chosen to represent his birth in order to tie it in with the winter solstice rituals that had already been long established. For those uncomfortable with the term 'Christmas celebrations', perhaps calling them 'Solstice' celebrations or even 'Pagan' celebrations would be a good alternative. Whatever we call it, thank goodness for the light and beauty and love that we surround ourselves with at this darkest time of year. Let's all raise a glass and toast the ancient Pagans sometime this season for without this celebration of light to break up the winter it would seem even longer.

Speaking of light, the colourful picture above features Cara, my daughter, dancing as the Sugar Plum Fairy a few years ago. She, and her sisters, are the ongoing 'light' in my life.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

My Ultimate 'Fantasy' Adventure

About a year ago I listened intently as a friend described her trip to Rwanda and the guided trek she took into the mountains in order to spend an hour 'hanging' with a group of wild silverback mountain gorilla. I was fascinated with her story.

A few months later there was an article in our local paper describing much the same experience. Once again I was captivated by the story and tried to imagine what it would be like to stand five feet away from a 500 lb wild gorilla in his element, no bars between us, making eye contact with him and wondering if this was the day he would decide he was fed up with gawking tourists and become aggressive. Strangely, I'm not eager to come face to face with a bear on one of our local mountains, so why the desire to meet the gorilla?

Today there were two more accounts of the same wonderful experience in the Vancouver Sun. I read them, mesmerized. They described the excitement, the wonder, the thrill of watching a 2-yr-old gorilla showing off for them, pounding his chest so hard he fell over. It sounded much like the antics of so many 2 year old children I've known. How I yearn to experience such a wonder, and yet to do so I'd have to face some of my greatest fears.

I am not a risk taker. Never have been. Just travelling to Rwanda, adjusting to the culture and giving up my creature comforts would be a stretch for me. Add to that a hike that might be more strenuous than I could handle and the potential danger of actually coming face to face with these marvelous creatures ... well, I don't know if I could actually step onto the plane when I consider all of this.

And yet... there's just something about these magnificent beasts. After all, they share 98 % of our DNA. The Rwanda guides say it is like meeting your relatives. I imagine that is true. Apparently they look at you, really look at you, like a fellow human being, sizing you up. When I look at them in pictures their intelligent faces always make me pause. I feel I am looking into the eyes of someone familiar... almost a deja vu feeling. It's not like looking at a cat or dog. This is a fellow primate. Their expressions are so wise and thoughtful, so incredibly like one of us, yet not quite. Take a long look at the picture at the top of this post. Study his eyes. Do you not feel you 'know' this creature?

I often wonder... how did humans evolve away from this great beast, this creature who, unlike us, lives in complete compatibly with Mother Nature. Maybe we can find some answers in observing them, that is, as long as we don't pass on any of our diseases to them, and if the poachers don't get to the remaining 700 of them that are left on this planet...

Perhaps it is time to abandon my fears and plan my own trek. As we all know, life is too short to put off until tomorrow what we could do today.
Who's in?

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Santa's Elves Dropped By Today

Yesterday I came home emotionally drained and sad from visiting my mother in the hospital. To my surprise and delight I found a cheery elf here, busily decorating our home for Christmas. The Christmas carols were playing and she brought shimmering light to a very dark day.

Today I came home to find that two elves were now at it, finding ways to make our home look fresh and festive, a wonderful bright respite in yet another dark day.

I know these two elves will do what they can to help with the Christmas shopping too, should I call on them. Perhaps they are actually Christmas angels in disguise.

There is a third elf, an elf-in-training, who I know will step in with her own contributions when the time is right.

In these dark days of my mother's illness, I have been given the gift of light.

I am truly blessed.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Is it my imagination....

or does the Christmas frenzy start earlier and earlier each year? It is still November and my dear husband has already been to an office Christmas party!

I've never been much of a 'Christmas' person. There are just too many expectations at this time of year and most of these things I'm not good at. If I had my way, I'd 'unplug the Christmas machine' and create simple, family-centered traditions that wouldn't include shopping malls or racing from one event to another. However, when it comes to Christmas, I don't have my way.


A couple of years ago I came across a list of Seasonal Strategies written by Harold Rosen who was then the minister of the North Shore Unitarian Church. With this list, Harold invites us to "look behind the all-too-familiar things, and see the Larger Reality they represent." I review this list at the start of each Christmas season and I'm now far more successful at keeping my "mental and spiritual health intact."

I offer Harold's list here, an early Yuletide gift for anyone who takes the time to read my blog.
May your ramp-up to Christmas be only as frantic as you wish it to be.
Season Of Symbols

Gifts - they are more than stuffed boxes covered with shiny paper and ribbons; they are tangible tokens of all those thoughtful things we wanted to 'do' for our loved ones and friends, all year long, but never got around to it.

Cards - the are more than donations to Hallmark and overtime pay for the postal service; they are humble hints of the much we'd like to say if only time, emotional strength and eloquence abounded.

Lights - they are more than electrical fire hazards and jobs for the handy-person in our midst; they conquer the darkness of season and soul with a glimpse of celestial spendour.

Carols - they are more than memory-markers and excuses for extra choir rehearsals; they are auditory proof that heaven is nigh, and that the layers of tradition can heal the layers of our pain.

Angels - they are more than plastic ornaments on trees... they are those whispers we hear just in time, saying "you have what it takes.' 'Good deeds can be fun.' 'Things pass, but Love abides' and 'all will turn out well, despite appearances.'

In peace,

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Creating an Animal Friendly World

"Teaching a child not to step on a caterpillar is as valuable to the child as it is to the caterpillar."

Bradley Miller

This picture and quote were taken from the Peta website.

So beautiful in its simplicity.

Nameste, Shelley

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Gestation period of a book (or the neurosis of an author with a soon-to-be published book)

The gestation period of an elephant is 22 months. Those poor elephant mothers! But then elephant mothers aren't like human mothers. Unlike us they likely accept their condition without worry or anxiety. I doubt thoughts of 'what if?' run through their large elephant heads. They just carry on, accepting what is, feeling heavy with the weight but not stressing over it.

Human mothers stress over ever little ache, pain and twinge. Am I gaining too much weight? Not enough? Is my baby going to be healthy? Will it have all its fingers and toes? My ankles are swelling! What does it mean?? Hmm.... I'm quite sure elephant mom's don't worry about swollen ankles.

The gestation period of a book is almost as long as that of an elephant, and the author is plagued with as many worries as the human mom. As I get closer to the launch date of my spring '08 book, Gotcha!, I'm becoming more and more fretful. Did I tie up all the loose ends? Are the characters believable? Did I overwrite such and such a scene? Is the ending sappy? Flat? Is it a truly stupid story? Will the reviewers hate it? Should I withdraw the manuscript and send back my advance money??

I remember the final weeks before the birth of each of my daughters. I loved the feeling of the wee baby feet kicking against my abdomen, the baby hiccups, the image of my unborn child curled up inside of me. But did I ever worry! How would the birth go? Would there be complications? Would I be a good mother? Would my child be healthy?

It's hard to believe that a soon-to-be published book can be as anxiety-arousing as a new baby, but there really are many similarities. Like the mother about to enter the hospital, knowing she has to leave her dignity at the door, the author also feels vulnerable. And unworthy. The soon-to-be mother wonders if she is up to the task of raising a child. The author wonders if she has actually written a worthwhile story. Should the new mother have remained childless? Did the publisher make a big mistake in agreeing to publish the author's book?

I know intellectually that worry is a useless emotion. I also know that Gotcha! will find an audience, or not.

All three of my daughter have grown to be fine young women. They are each doing a wonderful job of making their own way in the world. Each of my books has done the same. I enjoyed writing them. Each story felt worthy enough to become a book as I wrote it. I have received wonderful feedback from readers that reassure me that the the paper they were printed on was not wasted. That's what matters in the end.

I hope that each of my daughters will strive to leave the world a better place, whether it is through kindness, wisdom or through one of their many talents. I also hope that each of my books will leave a positive imprint in the hearts and minds of my readers.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

New York City, Here We Come!

On Friday I'm going to New York City with 15 other women, mostly women from my bookclub. We will spend four full days taking in the sights, smells and tastes of this amazing city.

Seeing the shows, the architecture, visiting the restaurants and museums, it will all be fun, but mostly it will be wonderful to spend four carefree days with other women who are at roughly the same place on their life journeys as I am. We will all take a break from being mothers, wives, short-order cooks, dog-walkers, employees etc. to bask in friendship and camaraderie.

"I believe that these circles of women around us weave invisible nets of love that carry us when we are weak and sing with us when we are strong. Let's lean back and let the arms of women's friendships carry us and help us to know ourselves better, and live our lives together." Sark.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

I am a new auntie... again!

I just received my copy of Kim Denman's latest book, Rebel's Tag. Inside is this acknowledgment: My thanks to those tagged by the moon and ever-deserving of rubies, Shelley Hrdlitschka and Diane Tullson. Inside Diane Tullson's newest book, The Darwin Expedition, she too acknowledges Kim and I for our help in the writing process.

Diane, Kim and I are a writing group. During the writing of each of our books we are there for one another from conception to release. We brainstorm every new idea that is presented. We encourage each other to persevere when the writing becomes agony and we read first, second and third drafts of each other's manuscripts and provide feedback. Seeing each of Kim's and Diane's new books get released is every bit as exciting as seeing my own launched. In fact, it's almost better. Like childbirth, there's a lot of anxiety and worry around the launch of a new book. With someone else's, you get to hold it, admire it, love it but you're spared the worry about whether it's any good and whether or not it will be successful. As great aunties, we have faith that each book is perfect as is, no matter what happens.

I am truly blessed to be a member of this small group. Without them... who knows? Many, many times they have encouraged me to continue with a project when it feels hopeless. They have steered me in directions that I would never have considered. They have propped me back up when I've fallen down. Their writing is truly inspirational and their wisdom runs deep.

Writing books can be lonely work, but it never has been for me. I know that Kim and Diane are always just a call or email away.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Shades of Grey

I have just finished reading this book by Jodi Picoult. My daughters and I have been gobbling up each of her novels. She's a master storyteller but what I love most about her writing is the way she explores those 'grey' areas, those situations which seem, on the surface to be black and white, right or wrong, but are, on closer examination, grey and murky.

When we hear about people in the news we are quick to judge. They should have done this. I would have done that if I were them. But if there's one thing I've finally learned in my 51 years it's that nothing is ever as it seems. We will never really know what it is like to be another person, what motivates them, what makes them tick, even if we have lived with them for many years. We don't understand how the experiences they've lived through have shaped their world views, their way of justifying what they do. We don't ever fully know another person because we are not living in their bodies, their minds. What does it feel like to have an overwhelming need for a drug? An overwhelming rage that makes us violent? All we know is what seems obvious from the outside looking in, knowing only what we understand from our own life experiences. As Picoult shows us in her books, there is always so much more to consider.

People are complicated beasts. We must not judge too quickly. Let us be kind to one another, listen as best we can, and hope, that by sending compassion and love out into the world, we can ease the torment that lives in the hearts of so many.


Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Joy of Editing

It's been a year since I signed a contract for my new novel Gotcha! (formerly The Gotcha Gods). The manuscript has now been returned to me for editing, in preparation for a spring release.

In one way it's a good thing if a lot of time passes between the writing and the editing. I am not nearly so attached to the story anymore and can see it with fresh eyes.

On the other hand, I have to read the book again to refamiliarize myself with the story before I can even start making the suggested changes. A lot has happened in the past year, and the details of the story are starting to fade from my mind, even though I wouldn't have thought that possible a year ago.

When I'm in the midst of writing a book it feels as though I am actually living it with the characters. My poor friends have to endure my constant rattling on about the people in the story as though they are real, as if what is happening to them really matters and I am the only one who can save them, (which is, of course, true). During the writing I find it hard to separate my own life from my fictional life, but, just as in real life, time has a way of distancing us from what seemed incredibly important only a year ago.

I have been blessed to work with the same editor for each of my books. He is too kind, gentle and wise to use the editing marks shown in this comic strip even through he may secretly wish to. His editing style is to write questions on stickees and stick them to the passage in question. This time the manuscript is completely covered in lime green notes, each with a red-inked question scrawled on it. Katie really dislikes her mom. Can this be softened a bit? What's a double-dutch routine? Is this a little too much? Why did it take 5 weeks to tell her?

As I read these questions my initial knee jerk reaction is to pick up the phone, call the editor and holler, "Didn't you read the book??? I can't soften this because of blah blah blah. This is not too much because of blah blah blah. It took 5 weeks because blah blah blah." But I don't. I force myself to sit on my hands and reflect for a few minutes. Then I remember. If he, the perceptive editor wonders about these things as he's reading the story, won't other readers wonder the same thing? I have learned from experience to trust his instincts. Through careful editing a book always improves. With this one, there are no major rewrites to be done, thank goodness. I will soften Katie's relationship with her Mom even though I think that what's written is quite typical of an angry teenager. I will explain how the game is played more carefully, even though I thought I'd already done that. I will take out the reference to double dutch skipping as it must not be a term younger people (like my editor) are familiar with. Through additional writing, I will answer the questions. In the end, despite my reluctance, it will be a better book.

I know this much to be true.


Sunday, October 21, 2007

Healing Rain

I set my alarm last night to be sure to wake up in time for yoga class this morning. Just like services at my Unitarian church, yoga is spiritual and meditative, but it's also physically challenging, the perfect way to start a Sunday.

Unfortunately, the phone woke me before the alarm. It was not good news. My mother was in the ER and had been there for almost 24 hours. Anyone who knows my mother knows how desperately she doesn't want to 'trouble' her family. The message I received was that she was there but she did NOT want to see anyone.

We've heard that before.

The rain hammered against my windshield as I rushed to the hospital, my stomach in knots. Flashbacks from every other visit to the ER were coming in waves. I remember my own scary emergency visits, anxious episodes with my husband and children, and various trips there for my mother. Each one was was filled with pain, nervous tension, uncertainty.

I found my Mom huddled in a chair, looking small and fragile. The excruciating stomach pain that had prompted her to call an ambulance and go to the hospital the previous morning was gone. Now she was weak, hungry, and desperate to get out of there.

There were two other elderly ladies in the room with her. Each of them was waiting, and it seems to me that that's what you do in ER. Wait for test results. Wait for doctors. Wait to be released or admitted. So much uncertainty. So little privacy. Not even a door on the bathroom, only a curtain.

As we waited I watched the medical staff go about their duties. Thank goodness for these wonderful saints who are willing to work in the ER. It is not an occupation for an emotional weakling like me.

After a couple of hours I left my mom with some trashy magazines and a promise to return later and then dashed back through the monsoon to attend a memorial service for my friend, Buff, who died exactly a year ago. It was a beautiful service with a couple professional vocalists, (people who Buff had helped get their start in the business) an open mike for those of us who were brave enough to share memories and a reading from his just-launched biography. Buff's father read from some of the many heart-warming letters he received after Buff's death and there was a slide and video presentation. Buff's dad was a trooper, taking many of us aside and telling us what we had meant to his son. The drumming of the rain on the church roof gave sound to the tears that were being shed inside, healing tears. It was a beautiful tribute, and I only wish more people had been able to attend. The thousand plus attendees at his service last year had dwindled down to about seventy five, but I know that even in my own family, one of my daughters had a commitment that made it impossible for her to attend and another had to leave early.

After the service I received the good news that my mom had been released from the hospital and was resting at home. As usual, we don't know what caused the pain and can only hope it won't reoccur.

Tonight the rain is still pounding against the window. I'm thinking of my mom and sending healing energy her way. I'm hoping for a wee break in the weather, just a hint of sunshine will do. (Winston would really like to be taken on a walk a little farther than the backyard fence.) I'm trusting that the memorial service will have brought some closure and healing to Buff's dad and the rest of his family. And... I hope to make it to yoga class tomorrow, to restore my equilibrium.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Okay okay...

For those of us who find the idea of writing a novel in a month a little daunting (see previous post) here's a contest that anyone could manage. In fact, why not dust off that wonderful piece you wrote 5 years ago and send it off? The entry fee seems a little steep, but the prize is $2,500, which is more than some novels will ever earn for you!

Writers Union Short Prose Competition:

Eligible Writers: Canadian citizens or landed immigrants who have not been published in book format are welcome to enter.

Eligible Entries: Nonfiction and fiction prose, up to 2,500 words in the English language, are eligible. Eligible works have not been previously published in any format.

Deadline: The postmarked deadline is November 3.

Entry Fee: Please submit a $25 fee per entry.

More information can be found at

Good luck!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

An invitation from your imagination...

If you need a little kick start to write that novel, read on ~


This is your imagination. I know work, school, and general craziness have been keeping us apart lately. But there's something we need to do together this November. It's called National Novel Writing Month. For it, we'll bash out a 50,000-word novel, from scratch, in 30 days. You and me. Writing a book. Together. I need you to sign us up. Because I don't have any arms.

Your imagination
ps. there's a separate contest for young people, too!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Going Meatless

As a child I thought vegetarians were as odd as Hare Krishnas. My mother planned our evening meal around whatever meat she'd defrosted that morning. It was what I knew and what seemed 'normal' to me so when I grew up I began cooking the same way.

In the late eighties I joined an environmental group run by some truly interesting women. Our focus was to find ways to live 'greener' in our own homes and to educate our community on these issues. A few of the women in this group were vegetarian and at first I thought they were somewhat 'on the fringe' but they never pushed their views on the rest of us so I didn't think much about it. Then one evening one of them brought a video to our meeting. It was based on a popular book at the time (Diet for a New America) and it showed the negative environmental impact of raising beef for human consumption. At first I resisted even watching the video as I had no interest in becoming vegetarian, but I was there and had nothing else to do, so I watched it.

One powerful fact from the video stayed with me. I learned that if the grain and water that is fed to North American cattle could somehow be diverted to third world countries, no one on the planet would go to bed hungry at night. I thought long and hard about that. I knew that one person (me) giving up meat would have no impact on the big picture, nor would any hungry person suddenly have a meal but somehow giving up meat just seemed 'right'. I wanted to support the idea of a plant-based diet, and besides, I'd never liked thinking about where my pork chops and hamburgers came from in the first place, so why eat them?

That was 16 years ago. The only meat I have eaten since then is seafood, but I hope to give that up eventually too. I cook meat for my family but they also think it's 'normal' to have meatless meals. I don't push them to give up meat, but I do encourage them to think about where their meat comes from, and let them know why I choose free range, organic meat for their meals. It's better for the planet, the animals and them.


About 2,000 pounds of grain must be supplied to livestock in order to produce enough meat and other livestock products to support a person for a year, whereas 400 pounds of grain eaten directly will support a person for a year.

M.E. Ensminger, Ph.D. Internationally recognized animal agriculture specialist, former Department of Animal Science Chairman at Washington State University.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Mother Love

These pictures recently made the rounds on the internet. According to the story, this mother tiger's babies died shortly after birth. She became listless and the zookeepers thought she was depressed at losing them so they devised a plan to cheer her up. They dressed these piglets in tiger skin coats and put them in the pen with the tiger. How easily they could have become her lunch! As shown by her face, she not only accepted them, but she cheered right up, too.

The strength of animal instincts always astounds me. I've observed many kinds of dogs on my daily walks with Winston and the behavioural traits of the various breeds are fascinating. The dogs that were once bred for herding still herd their owners, running back and forth at their heels, keeping them on the straight and narrow. The working dogs proudly carry a stick or a prized tennis ball. Winston, whose ancestors were hunting dogs, runs in wide circles on either side of the trail, flushing out imaginary birds. Terriers 'tear about' after rodents. No one taught them these behaviours, they were just born with them. (And don't get me started on migratory birds. Those instincts are too mind-boggling to comprehend.)

But mother love (and probably father love too though I can only speak for mothers) must be the strongest instinct of them all, and it must be the same for mothers of all species. Mother Nature built this trait into our characters in order to preserve each species. There's nothing a mother wouldn't do to protect her young.

The look on the tiger's face says it all. She doesn't care what her babies look like or where they came from. She loves them unconditionally. It's as simple as that.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

So maybe you can teach an old dog new tricks

Most of my adult life I've intended to try yoga. Everything I read about it led me to believe it would be a good fit, yet for some reason I never took the plunge.

Last week, thanks to some serious prodding by my friend Paul, I finally attended my first class and now I'm kicking myself for waiting so long. It's everything I hoped it would be and much, much more.

I left that first session with an indescribable feeling of well-being, a natural high. Since then I've experienced classes with 4 different teachers and each session was varied but just as wonderful. I'm not very flexible and can't do everything the teachers demonstrate but it doesn't matter. The practise encourages you to do whatever feels comfortable. There is no sense of competition, or even comparison. Meditation is a big part of the experience and finding inner balance and peace is stressed. I've never been a big fan of stretching but that has all changed. The room is beautiful with a waterfall cascading down one wall and a view of the forest through the windows. The candles are lit and the background music creates a mood that helps you transcend the world you leave at the door.

I've only had a taste of what the ancient art of yoga has to offer and I look forward to learning so much more.

I will now check yoga off my list of things I must try some day. Next on the list: tap dancing! Who's in?


Friday, September 28, 2007

Take Him To The Stars

It has been almost a year since my friend, Buff Schemmer, took his life and yet every time I hear a motorcycle coming down the street I think, "Here comes Buff. I wonder what's on his mind today?"

And then I remember. Buff won't be visiting anymore.

I think about Buff every day, but he was in my thoughts even more over the past few weeks as I read the final galley proofs of an autobiography on him that has been written by Phillip Whitford. Months ago, when Phillip first asked me to read a rough draft of the book, I hesitated. I was just beginning to heal from the tragedy of his death and I felt that reading a book about him would reopen fresh wounds.

But I did read it, and I've read two subsequent drafts.

I will paste my review of the book below. It will be posted on the Take Him To the Stars webpage where information about the book, its launch and a host of other things can be found, but let me say this. The book is written with tremendous compassion, wisdom, and keen insight. Reading it brought increased healing as I learned so much about the man that I did not know. Feelings of guilt over my own sometimes rocky relationship with Buff have been put to rest. I was the best friend I could be to him, and he was also being the best person he could be. Neither of us was perfect.

My Review:

After months of painstaking research, digging deep and conducting many interviews, Phillip Whitford has written a book that connects the thousands of interlocking puzzle pieces that make up Mike (Buff) Schemmer’s life and in doing so has formed a complete image that makes sense of the complicated person that Buff was.

Beginning with Buff’s early years, Whitford describes the awkwardness Buff felt in school when his physical size never matched his social maturity. We get a peek at the many unhappy incidents that Buff endured, including abuse and bullying by peers and teachers that were instrumental in shaping the man he was to become. The story then progresses into Buff’s adult years where Whitford, with tremendous wisdom, contrasts the passionate, exuberant man we saw on the outside with the troubled, lonely and depressed person he was on the inside. Whitford even manages to make sense of why Buff ended his life so tragically, allowing the reader to find closure.

This biography of Buff Schemmer does not gloss over the prickly edges of Buff’s character, but accurately portrays the complex man he was. At the same time, Whitford reminds us of Buff’s incredible accomplishments: his unrelenting efforts to protect at risk children and adults, his thousands of volunteer hours spent coaching countless children, and his passion for writing and theatre. In the end, this book shows how Buff could and did help everyone but himself.

Buff’s life ended far too soon, but Take Him to the Stars is a powerful legacy of a remarkable man.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

What goes around...

Matthew was only 10 years old when he began dropping by my classroom at the end of the day. He'd never been my student but we became acquainted when I coached a team he played on. I'd invite him into my room and put him to work hanging artwork or tidying up and while we worked he'd chat about himself. I could tell he was an unhappy little guy but he claimed that his Grade Five teacher was special and that he was helping Matthew turn his life around. In fact, Matthew was so impressed by this teacher that he vowed that he, too, would become a teacher so that he could make a difference in the lives of troubled kids.

Fast forward 15 years. I am no longer teaching school but am writing novels for children and teenagers. That same school I once taught at invited me back to do an author presentation for their students. I had a terrific morning with three classes of Grade 7 students. While I was working with them, I noticed a young teacher sitting at the back of the room, listening intently, but I focused on the students and didn't pay much attention to him.

At the end of the session the students and teachers filed out of the library and back to their classrooms. I began cleaning up my books and didn't at first notice that the young teacher had returned to the library and was waiting to speak with me.

"You don't recognize me, do you," he said when I finally noticed him. He was fidgeting, clearly uncomfortable.

I shook my head. "No. "

"I'm Matthew. I used to be a student at this school and I often came to visit you in your classroom."

I'm sure my mouth dropped open. Little Matthew had grown up and done exactly what he said he was going to do, and here he was teaching at the same school that he'd once attended. We chatted for a few minutes, and then he began to look uncomfortable again. "I often think of you," he said. "And I even thought of writing you a letter. I wanted to thank you for always listening to my problems." He shoved his hands into his pockets and looked away. "Now that I'm a teacher I find that I, too, have students who want to hang back at the end of the day and talk. When I grow impatient with them, I recall how you always had time to listen to me. Remembering that helps me find the patience for my own students. I'm glad you came here today so I could tell you that."

I thanked Matthew, and we both went on our way, but for me, my life was permanently altered. I am so grateful that Matthew came back into the library and told me his story. Knowing that I made a difference in someone's life, and that it is now being 'played forward' is a gift I will always treasure. How incredibly lucky I was to run into him.

As I drove home that day I began making a mental list of people from my own past who I wish I could thank. First on the list would be my own grade five teacher. She was one of the gifted ones and it was because of her that I chose to become a teacher myself....
What goes around comes around.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Restocking the fish pond

"In order to create, we draw from our inner well. This inner well, an artistic reservoir, is ideally like a well stocked fish pond... If we don't give some attention to upkeep, our well is apt to become depleted, stagnant, or blocked... As artists, we must learn to be self nourishing. We must become alert enough to consciously replenish our creative resources as we draw on them - to restock the trout pond, so to speak." (Julia Cameron)

When I finished writing Sister Wife last June I knew I'd depleted my artistic reservoir. I felt emotionally drained, without a burning desire to start anything new. That's when I started this blog. It has encouraged me to write something, anything, fairly regularly, and I've come to enjoy it.

But the summer has come and gone and I still haven't started a new project. Julia Cameron (author of the above quote) suggests that we take ourselves on artist dates, at least once a week, in order to keep the inner well stocked, and in my case, to begin restocking it. With that in mind, I set out, with Winston, to visit a local church that has recently painted a labyrinth in its parking lot.

A labyrinth is a circuitous path, an ancient symbol of our life journey. It combines the imagery of the circle and the spiral into a meandering but purposeful route. Walking it represents a journey to our own center, our deepest self and back again with a broadened understanding of who we are.

The church parking lot was empty so I tied the dog to a tree and entered the labyrinth. At first I felt a little foolish as I wandered back and forth along the path, but as I got a little further into it I was able to quiet my mind and relax. Unlike the maze, in a labyrinth there are no dead ends, and everyone who walks the path will eventually reach the center. I quickly realized why this walk leads to meditation. You have to focus hard on your feet and the windy path just ahead of them in order to stay on it, and this clears your mind of all other clutter.

I've been told that if you ask yourself a question as you enter the labyrinth, the answer may unfold before you complete the journey. When you reach the centre, you enjoy quiet reflection for as long as you like and then you follow the same path out again. From there you can take the insights from your walk into your everyday life. Knowing this, I asked for insight on my next writing project. What should I write about? Who should the audience be? Should I step away from teen fiction for awhile and try something new? Should I dust off an old, unpublished story and rework it?

I walked to the center. I walked out again. Did I receive the answers to my questions? No, (and no big surprise there) but the experience reminded me of something I'd discovered years ago when my youngest daughter was in kindergarten. I'd write like a demon all morning while she was in school and then walk over there at lunch time to to pick her up. Many, many times, as I walked to the school, not even consciously thinking about my writing project, an answer for a problem I was having with it would suddenly come to me. Over and over this phenomena took me by surprise.

It must be the same principal with the labyrinth. The next time I visit it I will breathe deep, clear my mind, and enjoy. The answers I may receive won't be the ones I might have thought to ask, but I know I will come away more balanced, refreshed, and with insights that came directly from the universe, or even, more likely, the center of my deepest self. I will expect to be enlightened.


Monday, September 17, 2007

I'm mad!

A young person (YP) I know and love parked her car at the side of the road and went to work. When she finished her shift at her minimum wage, part time job she returned to her car and discovered that someone had backed into it and left the hood and driver's side of the car smashed in. The person who hit her didn't leave a note, nothing. This was upsetting to YP as she knows she will have to pay the $750.00 deductible to get her car fixed and that equals a lot of long shifts at work.

Today she went to the ICBC claim centre to report the damage. This is the part that makes me really really MAD. The situation was frustrating enough, she had done nothing wrong, was going to be out of pocket $750, but then the claims adjuster proceeded to ridicule her!

I know I know. Mr. Claims Adjuster would say that he was just doing his job, that he has to weed out the dishonest clients, that insurance fraud is rampant, but did he need to use that tone of voice?? In her polite and respectful way she told him that she only works part time, so then he asked her what she did with the rest of her day. "Do you just sit around and twiddle your thumbs?"

The conversation went downhill from there, he twisted her words around, made unfair accusations and by the time he was finished she felt like a criminal yet she was the one who'd had a crime committed against her! Was it really too hard for him to conduct himself in a professional manner? Would he have spoken to the YP's tall and robust father with the same sarcastic tone of voice?

I wonder how Mr. Claims Adjuster feels when he goes home at the end of the day? Victorious in his war against insurance fraud? Oh wow! He really showed her who was boss!

I suspect that if we dug a little deeper we'd discover that this person was bullied when he was younger and is now dealing with his latent anger by bullying back, under the guise of 'work'. Perhaps he deserves my compassion instead of my anger and maybe in time I'll be able to muster up a little pity, but right now I'm just mad. Spitting mad.

“The best index to a person’s character is (a) how he treats people who can’t do him any good, and (b) how he treats people who can’t fight back.”
— Abigail van Buren


Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Treading Lightly

Did you know that 4 to 5 trillion plastic bags are produced world-wide each year? The negative ecological impact from just producing these bags is alarming, but then where do they end up? Sure, some are reused to line garbage cans or to ‘scoop poop’, but in the US alone 100 billion plastic grocery bags are thrown away annually. That’s a lot of bags eventually ending up in landfills and spilling out onto every other surface of the planet, choking and suffocating countless numbers of marine seabirds and mammals.

But there is good news! This is one environmental problem that isn't complicated. Each of us can make a difference by using reusable cloth bags when we shop.

In the past few months I’ve noticed a sudden increase in the number of us carrying our own bags into the grocery store. Hurray! It’s just another small step, like purchasing free-range eggs (see last post) that shows the planet we care.

Now, if I could only remember to lug-a-mug when I go to coffee shops...

I’m working on it.


Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Happy Eggs

David Suzuki is one of my heroes. He writes a column for the Vancouver Sun called Small Steps where he lists simple things that each of us can do to make a difference to the health of our planet. All the little things we do will add up to make a big difference.

One of the little things I do is support the Vancouver Humane Society. This society works hard to promote and ensure the humane treatment of animals.

In recent months they have focused on the plight of battery chicken (egg-laying hens that are kept in small cages.) On their Chicken Out! website ( they describe the living conditions of these chicken.

"In battery cages, there is no space for hens to flap or stretch their wings. When they try, their wings sometimes become trapped in the bars of the cage. Vertical space is limited and hens are often unable to stand up fully and raise their heads without hitting the bars of the cage.

Their beaks are sliced off with a laser or hot blade to prevent pecking at other birds.

The birds are clearly suffering from extreme feather loss, and you will even see some escaped birds left to languish on a pile of manure three feet deep.

Battery barns in Canada hold thousands of cages, each holding five to seven birds, in tiers of two to eight cages high, with farms averaging 17,100 birds."

All it takes is one small step by consumers and we can end this cruel treatment of hens. We simply have to purchase free-range eggs (or Happy Eggs as my family calls them.) (The picture at the top of this post is of happy, cage-free birds.) The eggs of cage-free birds cost a little more, but it is worth it. Just check out the photos on the Chicken Out! website and you'll never buy eggs from battery chicken again.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007


I once had a creative writing teacher who told our class the following.

"To become a successful writer," he said, "you have to do two things. First, you have to toss your TV out the window. Second, you have to marry someone rich."

It was good advice, especially the TV part, but I think he could have added one more item to the list. Avoid Crazymakers.

Julie Cameron, in her book, The Artist's Way, describes Crazymakers as "those personalities that create storm centers. They are often charismatic, frequently charming, highly inventive, and powerfully persuasive. And," she adds, "for the creative person in their vicinity, they are enormously destructive. You know the type: charismatic but out of control, long on problems and short on solutions."

In short, they will sabatoge your writing time.

Early on in my writing career my life was filled with crazymakers. It seemed that every time I found a few hours to write and was just getting into the flow of a project my phone would ring or the door bell would buzz and one of the many crazymakers in my life would be there, sucking me into the eye of their storms. By the time I was able to hang up or they had moved on, I was totally derailed and could not get back into the project. Crazymakers never ask if it is a good time to call or visit, or if they are interrupting something. They just give it to you with both barrels.

I don't have as many crazymakers in my life anymore. I'm not sure why. Maybe I've became more protective of my time. Call display on the phone certainly helps and my real friends always understand that writing is my work, and that I have a truly miserable boss (me). When I give writing workshops and the participants ask how to become successful, I give them this advice: become tyrants with your time. Schedule writing into your week, and stick to the schedule. Don't let anyone steal your time, and that's really what it is. Stealing.

Most writers don't have the luxury of full writing days. They have to write in the margins of their lives, between paying jobs, carpooling the kids, maintaining a home and making meals. It's hard to squeeze in writing time, and when you do, you feel selfish, especially if you are not yet published. But that is the irony. To become published you have to spend hours, years, mastering the craft. You have to send out submissions and accept rejection letters. Above all else, you have to persevere. You have to write. And write. Expecting your family and friends to give you the time to work at your craft is not selfish. Avoid the crazymakers. They are not your friends. Your friends want you to be successful.

Remember that.

Here endith the sermon.

Oh, and don't forget, get rid of the TV.


Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Favourite Quote

Recently my book publisher asked me to fill out a questionnaire in preparation for the launch of my next book, The Gotcha Gods. One of the questions asked was, what is your favourite quote?

Hmmm. I love quotes. I even collect quotes. I went to my journals and searched for something perfect, the quote that would sum up my beliefs and values succinctly and beautifully. No luck. They were all lovely, but each of them spoke to only part of my life, like friendships, writing, or finding inspiration. I left the question blank, but felt bad about it.

Later it came to me. Desiderata.

Desiderata is a prose/poem that I feel speaks directly to me. I have always loved it, from the first time I heard it as a young girl. When I searched for it I discovered that it is attributed to Max Ehrmann in 1952, but I believe I once read that it was first written in the 16th century. One of my daughters recently discovered the music that was written to go with the words. She burned it onto a CD so I can listen to it whenever I want, which is often.

Unfortunately, it is too long to use on an author bio, but I will post it below. Clearly, these are words to live by.


Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons,
they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others,you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.

Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs;
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy.

Max Ehrmann, Desiderata, Copyright 1952.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Backyard visitors

Good news! We haven't seen the skunk for a few weeks. We smell him, he's definitely been to visit the neighbours, but Winston is back to smelling doggy and not skunky. Our strategy of blocking any potential backyard skunk-access holes with chicken wire must have paid off, although the skunk can still walk up the driveway and into the backyard anytime he wants. Fortunately he stayed away the night we had a backyard wedding reception, a sit-down dinner for 100. Can you image??? A direct hit to the dog that night would have caused mass pandemonium. I cringe to think of it.

A little bit of trivia: when I went to purchase chicken wire I discovered it is now called poultry wire. Is this the new, more politically correct term, do you think? Gotta keep those turkeys happy.

A new, more welcome backyard visitor I've had this year is a hummingbird. This is the first time I've had a feeder, and I'm fascinated by these tiny birds. I have the feeder hanging directly outside my office window where I can enjoy their visits.

Amazing hummingbird facts:

Hummingbirds can fly forward, backward, shift sideways and stop in mid-air. (Can a helicopter do all that?)
An average hummingbird consumes at least half its weight in nectar each day. (Lucky birds!)

The hummingbird is the world's smallest bird (but the hardest to catch - see next fact.)

Hummingbirds can reach speeds up to 60 miles an hour.

While lapping up nectar, they can move their tongues in and out of their bill at a rate of up to 12 times a second. (Give that a try why don't you!)

A hummingbird's wings beat 78 times PER SECOND during regular flight. (See how fast you can flap your arms!)

Female hummingbirds' tongues are longer than the males.

Hummingbirds use spider webs as glue to attach the nest to a tree branch and as a binding agent for the building materials.

Whoa! Such amazing little creatures. Mother Nature is one clever gal.


Monday, August 13, 2007

Summer Reading

There's a romantic notion that summer should be filled with lightweight, 'beach' books. Ha! Not for me. For some reason I always spend the summer plowing through one very long book. This year my book club chose Wally Lamb's I Know This Much is True as our summer read for exactly that reason - it is so long and we'd need the whole summer to get through it. I'm almost there, and look forward to reading something much lighter next. That said, I agree with the blurb on the back cover that describes the book as, "A work of astonishing craftsmanship, structural symmetry, and literary self-awareness." So true. The book is truly a masterpiece of fine writing.

Last summer I read John Irving's hefty Until I Find You. It too was a brilliant saga, told in that warped voice that only Irving can pull off. Highly recommended. (But then I love anything Irving writes.)

I also love anything Jodi Picoult writes and in the past year I have read My Sister's Keeper, Vanishing Acts, Plain Truth. I intend to read everything else she has written too, as soon as I can wrestle the books out of my daughters' hands.

Other stand-out books I've read this past year:

Before I Wake ( Robert J. Wiersema)

Ms Zephyr's Notebook (KC Dyer)

Marley and Me (John Grogan)

Escaping Into the Open: The Art of Writing True (Elizabeth Berg)

Looking at this list I'm surprised to see so few teen novels there. Other years I've read only teen fiction. Rejoining an adult book club has clearly changed my reading habits.

On the to-read-very-soon list:

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (a classic I've somehow missed)

The trilogy: Uglies, Pretties, Specials by Scott Westerfield (recommended by my 15-yr.-old daughter)

Dear Catastrophe Waitress by Brendan Halpin (I enjoyed his first book, Donorboy)

The Book Club by Mary Alice Monroe

Between Interruptions: Thirty Women Tell the Truth About Motherhood I believe all the women are Canadian (?) My friend Alison Kelly (actress from Mom's the Word) has a piece in this book. I've seen the cover, it's gorgeous!

These and more I need to squeeze in between the monthly book group selections.

Would love to hear what others think should be on my MUST READ list!

Yours in books,


Tuesday, August 7, 2007

They Liked It!!!

Those wonderful people at Orca Books have sent me a contract for my latest project, Sister Wife! Yahoo!!! The plan is for The Gotcha Gods (or maybe just Gotcha)to be released in the spring of '08 and Sister Wife will come out the following spring. After a long dry spell with no new books, I'm back on the writing track. It's a satisfying feeling.

Sister Wife is set in a town very much like Bountiful, BC, where polygamy thrives. Emotionally it was a difficult book to write so this contract is especially rewarding.

Two activities that a couple characters in the book enjoy are balancing rocks and building inuksuit (plural for inuksuk). Funny thing, I like doing those things too! There's a magic in that moment when you balance a rock in a way that looked impossible. It feels almost spiritual.

On hikes with Winston, my bouncy springer spaniel, we sometimes stumble across inuksuit at the side of the trail. They always make me smile and I stop and build companions for the lone ones. One winter a whole community of inuksuit sprouted up in Cates Park where I often walk. I looked forward to going there each day to see if there were any new ones, and to add my own creations. I never saw anyone else building them, but I felt we were playing some kind of game, a game without winners, losers or competition. That's how my story, Sister Wife, was born. Two of the characters individually build inuksuit on the beach, and wonder about the identity of the other builder.

Ideas come from the oddest sources...

Until next time ~

Monday, July 16, 2007

OutFOXing the skunk

We have a problem. A stinky problem. It's making me crazy.

Each night at dusk a skunk passes through our backyard on his nightly stroll. He's absolutely adorable with his glossy black and white coat, his bushy tail and his shiny black eyes. He sniffs about, looking for grubs, completely oblivious to us even though we are often sitting just a few feet away.

The problem isn't the skunk. It's Winston, our incredibly stupid (but loveable) springer spaniel. How many times does he have to get sprayed before he gets that the skunk is not a squirrel with a stripe? That if he chases it he's going to get blasted with skunk spray, right in the face and up the nose?

Winston's been sprayed 3 times in the past few months, and twice before that. I've tried to train my family to keep the doors closed in the evening, but too often they're left open, and the next thing we know the dog is tearing about, foaming at the mouth, shaking his head and spreading eau-de skunk all through the house. The first time it happened was at Thanksgiving when we had relatives staying with us for the weekend. At the end of the first evening the dog was let out, but before the door was even shut he came flying back in, and the obnoxious smell was so horrid that it caused a young relative to throw-up, right then and there. Then we had throw-up and a stinky dog to deal with. My daugher came home the next day and said the combination of roasting turkey aroma and skunk smell made her want to throw up too. More recently we were hosting a large gathering of people, a volleyball club wrap-up event, but the party cleared out in exactly 5 minutes flat when the freshly-skunked dog ran through the house. More than one guest has let me know that their clothes still stink of skunk.

If you haven't experienced 'fresh' skunk spray, it's a smell you simply cannot believe. It gets into your mouth, permeates your skin, makes your eyes burn. Everyone in the room, everything in the room absorbs the odor and stinks for months. It doesn't matter how many times we wash Winston, in whatever kind of guaranteed skunk-odor-removing solution, he still stinks for weeks, and the smell lingers for months, especially noticeable when he gets wet. At Thanksgiving our house guests reported that when they returned home after the weekend and opened their suitcases, everything in them smelled of skunk.

What to do, what to do??

When I lamented to my friend (and fellow author) Diane Tullson about my skunk dilemma, she replied with the following...

What the heck was the skunk doing in the yard with so many people around? And wouldn't it be out of skunk-squirt by now? I'm thinking you have a bad skunk. A genuine psycho. A serial-squirter. I think you need to do it in. Ah ah ah, I can hear that vegetarian voice crying for mercy, but no, bring in the guns, Shelley. I'm sure about 48+ Deep Cove residents will support me on this. OH MY. There's probably not a can of tomato juice to be had in N. Vancouver. You're probably not ready to laugh about this just yet.

No, I wasn't.

Another author friend, Kim Denman, always a source of the most intriguing facts, gently explained that the only natural enemy the skunk has is the fox. Therefore, to get rid of the skunk, you simply have to sprinkle fox urine around your property. Sounds logical.

But where does a person get fox urine?

The three of us wondered if human urine might suffice, and we made plans.

This is what the next email from Diane said.

Night vision goggles, that's it! Fill the squirt guns with pee, how about? Get a gun, Shelley. Tell the neighbours to stay away from the windows, put on a nose plug, and do it.

Sadly, I just couldn't bring myself to do it. Instead, I searched the internet and discovered there are pellets available that are made of fox pee. You sprinkle them around your yard to deter the skunk. Not as much fun as squirt guns, I admit, and certainly not as 'fitting', but I'm on the market for fox-pee pellets. If you know of an outlet that sells them, please call me.


Sunday, July 15, 2007

Symposium on the Book

Whoa! Was that ever a learning experience!

Yesterday I sat on a panel at the SFU Symposium on the Book.

Four other authors and 5 panelists teamed up to discuss topics such as reaching reluctant readers, (my topic), historical fiction, humour, censorship and fantasy, all for teen readers.

I was there as a presenter, but I felt like an imposter. I gave my little talk about luring teens into "the wonderful world of the written world" (Orville Prescott) but it felt so lightweight compared to the other presentations. Thank goodness I was able to go first. I'm not sure I would have been able to walk to the podium if I had to follow one of the other fabulous presentations.

And what an audience. Such wise questions and reflections.

On another note ~ one of the Steps to Greater Happiness by Mark Holder is: Get Into the flow - do things you can get passionately involved in. "Bike a favourite trail, do yoga, play hockey. Do whatever lets the rest of the world fall away. Watching TV doesn't count. Be an active participant in something that absorbs. you."

I wonder if participating in the symposium counts. I wasn't particularly 'active', but teen fiction is my passion and the rest of the world certainly fell away. Even my skunk problems. But more about that tomorrow.


Thursday, July 12, 2007

I'm between books... it's finally time to set up a blog.

Book news:

The Gotcha Gods is is coming out in the spring of 08! Hurray! Those wonderful people at Orca Book Publishers agreed to publish it, my 7th book. This one will be dedicated to my daughter Cara who has waited patiently for her book. (I often worried that there would be no 7th book, and then Cara would be my only daughter who wouldn't get one. How could I live with that?)

It's fitting that this one is for Cara as it's based on a grad game (The Bead Game) they play at the highschool she graduated from. She was deep in the throes of the game while I was writing it, so I was able to slide many real life incidents right into the book. But it is a book of fiction, thank goodness. The Gotcha Game (as I renamed it) in my book gets way creepier than it does in real life (I hope!) although I have seen my normally sane daughters turn into paranoid, quivering wrecks during the bead game.

I think I'll launch the book with a Gotcha party, where we play a toned down version of the game at home. I love games.

Sister Wife is written and submitted, and now I go through the long, agonizing wait to see whether anyone will be brave enough to publish it. It is based on a girl growing up in a community where polygamy is the norm (men with multiple wives). As the story opens my protagonist is turning 15 so will soon be assigned to a husband, a much older man, but she's not happy about this. This was a completely different kind of book for me, and it took many years to complete. I think I wrote 2 other books during the writing of Sister Wife. I kept putting it aside, and then picking it up again. I was emotionally drained when I finally completed it. Cross your fingers for me on this one.

An amazing thing happened when I finished Sister Wife. The two other members of my writing group, Diane Tullson and Kim Denman completed novels on the very same day! How strange and wonderful is that?

I should start writing a new book right away, but for now I'm content to enjoy summer, putter in my garden, go on extended hikes, and maybe even sail a little, if the engine on the boat ever gets repaired.

That brings me to the Meandering Muse part of this post. A few days ago The Vancouver Sun posted a list of Steps to Greater Happiness compiled by psychologist Mark Holder. One of the steps was to Reclaim your spirituality. "Go to worship, pray, meditate or watch a sunset. Lie on a blanket in the yard to look at the stars and gaze with awe up on the universe."

Always one to do as I'm told, especially in the pursuit of happiness, a group of us set sail in 3 boats last Saturday night. We never actually see the sun set in Deep Cove because of the mountains so the idea was to anchor together in a bay where we could watch it set over Vancouver Island and then sit back and ponder the stars. In the end, we almost watched the sunrise as well as the sunset as our motor died on the way back to the marina. Thank goodness for our dear friends on one of the other boats who noticed we had not returned so turned around and towed us home.

Did this bring me happiness? It sure did. I haven't laughed so much in a long time. (And the sunset was spectacular too.)