E-Books or Real Books – Which do you prefer?


( I love a library full of real books)

This week, the Word Press weekly writing challenge asked that I vote for my preference: e-books or paperbacks. Then I could  write a blog post about why I voted as I did.

I found it hard to vote because the poll wouldn’t let me choose both options. I imagine I am not unlike many readers of today – I love the convenience of my Kindle but I wouldn’t give up books I can hold in my hands without a fight. In the end I chose the paperback option because if I were forced to give up one or the other, I know which one it would be.

I have found that some situations lend themselves to the convenience of my Kindle. I grab it whenever I leave the house. It’s great for those inevitable waiting times because it allows access to a wide variety of reading options. A forty-five-minute wait at the doctor’s office is different from a five-minute wait at the bus stop – or say an overnight wait to get your soon-to-be five-year old signed up for Kindergarten in your catchment area (I kid you not – my daughter and son-in-law just went through this – it’s a crazy world).

I have read books on my Kindle that were every bit as engaging and gripping as books I held in my hands to read. I have forgotten I was using an e-reader and have actually reached forward with one hand to try to turn a page rather than just click the page turn button.

My Kindle has expanded my book reading choices. In the past I wouldn’t have put out the cash to take a chance on certain books. For 99 cents to maybe $2.99 and the instant gratification of whisper-net technology, I’m quite willing to try out something new. And that’s a good thing, especially for a writer. I’m all for broadening horizons.

Why do I still believe that when I settle into the recliner with a fresh cup of coffee or a glass of wine, I need to hold a real book in my hands? Or that cuddling into bed at night to read would not work with my Kindle?

It may be an old fashion idea related to value. Many traditionally published novels are expensive when purchased for an e-reader ( expensive compared to so much that is available in e-format, but still not as expensive as buying a hardcover.) Why would I go out and spend $20.00 to $35.00 for a hardcover and feel that has more value than spending $18.00 for the Kindle version? It’s a good question and the only answer I can come up with is that with a hardcover, I hold something tangible in my hands. It has weight and it takes up space, ultimately gathering dust on a shelf somewhere in my home. I could pass it on to my husband to read or lend it to a friend. The former would not touch the Kindle to save his soul, but in the case of lending a book to a friend, I would so rarely do this voluntarily that it makes a thin argument.

It might have to do with being a book hoarder. (Which, by the way, might explain my reluctance to lend.) Seeing all the books on the shelf is a visible sign of successful hoarding and gives me a guilty ping of pleasure.

Maybe it is the inherent distrust that a fifty-plus-year old has about electronic gadgetry. What if the Kindle breaks down? I do know that all my purchases are safe with Amazon. It’s just too bad that knowing with the rational brain and believing are two radically different things.

And then there is the issue of upgrading. I’ve never felt the urge to upgrade a book. I am now on my fifth laptop in less than ten years and I have to admit, all the old ones still work. I didn’t upgrade due to system failure – I wanted the new and improved model. I purchased my Kindle two years ago. There are much nicer ones on the market now. Thus is the nature of electronic wizardry.

I suppose I should acknowledge all the trees that could be saved if everyone read e-books instead of the paper and ink kind. It’s a valid issue, but what about the amount of energy that is needed to supply the mainframes and servers of the worldwide web so that e-books can exist and fly through cyberspace to our readers? Surely we should consider that as well. But, like many issues, nothing is black or white. With online purchasing there is no need to build and maintain large stores that consume energy resources, while of course employing real people. I’m starting to make my own head spin by going back and forth so many times.

When all is said and done – here I sit – spanning two worlds of the written word – one foot firmly planted in the old world of print media and the other tip-toeing through the new world of electronic books. And the truth is this – I don’t want to move either foot.

Crisis Situations – Are You Happy With the Way You Respond?


Today’s DP Challenge – Honestly evaluate the way you respond to a crisis situation. Are you happy with the way you react?  This challenge really got me thinking!

The answer, in a word is – no!

Let me tell you a little story – because that’s what I do.

A few years ago my husband Bruce and I were visiting my dad and stepmom at their lovely home in Osoyoos, BC. It was the Canada Day long weekend.

Canada Day dawned as warm and beautiful as you would expect a July day in Osoyoos to be. We decided to walk down to the community park by the lake to enjoy the festivities – open stalls of people selling this and that, live music, brave souls being tugged up into the air clutching to the ropes of large, colourful, kite-like sails to paraglide over the lake – the motor boats used to get them airborne zooming loudly away from the shore, local colour in the form of a huge, yellow, floating banana, loaded down with screaming swimmers as it whipped around out in the waves of Osoyoos Lake, and of course – the massive Canada Day cake to be shared out amongst the crowd.

Chairs were set up in front of the band shell and the cake was clearly visible on a table nearby. Bruce and I had been milling around enjoying ourselves – we sat down for a couple of minutes to listen to the opening number from a local band. As the song was winding down, I could see the mayor and an assortment of local dignitaries getting ready to start cutting the cake. I stood up and gestured for Bruce to follow me – I wanted to position us a bit closer to the front for when they started handing out slices.

We had just left our chairs and were moving forward when pandemonium broke out. A very large motor home came down the small hill from the parking lot above, out of control, pushing a motorcycle and car in front of it. This mad train of vehicles whammed through the stalls and the crowd, passing right by us and crashing over the chairs we had just moments before been sitting in.

I froze where I was standing. It was only later when I replayed the scene that had unfolded before my eyes that I realized other people reacted quite differently. Bruce moved so quickly that he was able to catch a woman who had been sent flying – blood pouring down her face from where her shattered glasses had embedded themselves in her skin – before she even hit the ground. I stood completely frozen while the motor home continued its path of destruction, knocking several more people over like match sticks and pulling down a few stalls. It ground to a halt quite suddenly against a tree at the edge of the slope of grass that led down to the lake. I was still frozen in place when Bruce returned to my side – other more qualified first aiders had rushed to assist the woman he had caught.

I wonder to this day – would I have stood that frozen in place if the motor home had been bearing right down on me?

We never found out what caused the motor home to crash through the crowd. Several people were injured, a couple of people seriously so – but no one died.

So – there you have it – in the event of a crisis people have a few choices – fight, flight or freeze. Given the nature of the crisis, any one of these three options could have their own merits. The problem is being locked into one response regardless of circumstances.

The whole experience certainly left me wondering about my value (or lack of) in a crisis situation. This daily post has given me an opportunity to revisit these wonderings and I am no closer to any answers. But I certainly enjoyed perusing the photos we have of Osoyoos and remembering the fun visits we had there with my dad and stepmom, Ann.

(The photo above is a beautiful sculptured fountain that sits on the waterfront of Osoyoos Lake.)

Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge – Resolved


Be it resolved that freedom of expression matters.

This is my contribution to the daily post weekly photo challenge – resolved.

We took the above photo of an Albuquerque mural, entitled – New Mexico Heroes.  The city is absolutely chock a block full of public art – all due to one of the oldest public art programs in the US, which began in 1978 with the passage of the Art in Municipal Places Ordinance.  One percent of city construction funds are set aside for the commissioning of or purchase of public art.

If you ever have a chance to visit Albuquerque you will see just how successful this program has been.

The mural banner, obscured in our photo by a beautiful tree, reads: Freedom of Religion, Freedom of Speech, and of the Press; the right to assemble and to petition the government.

Witter Bynner is one of the three people depicted in this mural. He was an early, openly gay writer, scholar and poet. A long-time resident of Santa Fe, he lived in what is now the Inn of the Turquoise Bear.

The following is a poem by Witter Bynner. (1881 – 1968)


I lay on a dune and slept,

Sharp grasses by my head:

While armies far-off warred and wept,

I joined the earth instead . . .

Until I moved my hand

And was awake again

And shook myself out of the sand

To the cold wind of men.

I’m a writer – what does that mean?

I’m a writer – what does that mean? Always turn a question like that back on its ear – What do you think it means? A recent email from a friend challenged me – she said – you say you’re a writer. What about all the other things you are? Isn’t being a writer the culmination of so many other selves? What about saying you’re a person who writes? How would that be?

Then along comes a posting by Grumpytyke  who writes about those who self-identify as writers. A few questions are posed: What is the difference between saying one is a writer or self-identifying as an author? And why is it that some very popular bloggers who write about writing come off sounding way better writing about writing than actually writing? Glad to say, no names were mentioned.

OK – so here I sit at my laptop – thinking and coughing and coughing and thinking. I have the quintessential holiday cold. I’ve been trying to do this DP Challenge thing of posting every day for a week. I’ve dragged myself off the sofa and out here to my laptop in an attempt to get a post together that won’t sound anything like the way I feel.

What does it mean to me when I make a statement like – I’m a writer. I know that at any given moment in time, I’m so many things, a mixture of so many possible and real selves – all clamouring for expression. In the moment of self-identification, I choose from a myriad of possibilities. Who hasn’t been at a workshop, or in a class, or at a party and the moment comes when you must introduce yourself – the question explicit or implied is – what do you do? The implication is clear – the person asking this question does not want your life story – just a quick bit of info that will put you in one kind of box or another. They are likely to make a judgement  – you’re a stay-at-home mom, a middle-aged grad student, a corporate bigwig, a professional, and on it goes. You’re categorized and filed away – maybe in the trash bin or in a place convenient for future reference. It just all depends.

We throw out an identity, of the many we currently have running like background software, which fits the situation or our need at the time. Feeling intimidated, I might say – I’ve always been an educator of one sort or another. At a grandchild’s birthday party, I’m happy to identify as Brit or Emma’s grandmother. A chance meeting with a stranger might find me trying out the line – I’m a writer and seeing how it goes over. The idea that we are many things to many people, including ourselves, is a truism.

On the question of saying – I’m a writer versus I’m an author – it strikes me as a distinction between published or not. But that raises the thorny issue of self-published versus traditionally published. The whole nature of publishing is undergoing such radical change we seem in need of a sort of literary DSM. (Diagnostic Statistical Manual – the bible in certain circles when it comes to getting everyone on the same page to discuss various mental health labels and diagnoses.) With such a guidebook in hand, we could figure out what someone means when they label themselves as a writer, or an author. Does writing a great post that is published up into the blogosphere mean one is an author? And if that makes you an author, then surely self-publishing does, as well. Complicated, shifting distinctions that will keep all of us on our self-identification toes for some time to come.

I’m imagining right now that I am at that party and someone has asked me what I do. Here is my list – a work in progress. I’m a mother, a sister, a daughter of parents who have now both departed this world, a grandmother, a wife, an auntie, a friend, a sister-in-law, an educator, a person with a Master’s degree in counselling psychology, a person who came close to having a PhD in educational psychology, a trauma counsellor, a counselling supervisor, an author of articles printed in peer-reviewed journals, a writer of a novel that will soon be self-published, a blogger, a reader, a cook and washerwoman, a person who loves the garden, a dog owner, a lake dweller . . . enough already. I managed to bore myself. What about this? . . . I live in a circle of people whom I love and care for and they love and care for me. I’ve done a few different things in my life and now I am a person who writes. Will that satisfy?

I’d love to hear a few of your thoughts on self-identification – how do you handle this complex issue? What do you say at the holiday party or workshop?


Did I mention I was also a wee bit of a traveler? This photo was taken of me on the Angel Flight funicular in the Bunker Hill district of downtown Los Angeles – a really great way to manage a couple of daunting hills!


Sunny Wind Sculpture Memories for a Rainy Boxing Day

Today’s rain makes me nostalgic for our recent trip to Southern California. Near the pier in Santa Barbara, we purchased a beautiful wind  DSC_0549 (2)sculpture from artist, Lee Coulter. Besides creating the most amazing art, Lee is also an aspiring writer. He and I exchanged plot ideas in the warm sun while Bruce decided which sculpture we would take.






Our choice now sits in the rain and wind of the North Island spinning gracefully like a dancer and every time I look at it I am reminded of the warm California sun, a delightful morning exploring Santa Barbara, and a wonderful chat with sculpture and writer, Lee Coulter. Go ahead and check out Lee’s work at: www.windsculpturestudio.com

CSC_0266 (2)edited

When will we ever learn?


Merry Christmas!

I’ve decided to share a post on my blog today that I read recently on the blog of ipledgeafalleigiance. I found this post extremely moving and believe it will make a good read for Christmas day, 2012.  When I first saved the link, I thought I might add my own thoughts and acknowledge the original author’s blog for inspiring my post. I’ve done this before – I think it’s a great way to highlight other people’s blogs and create ongoing dialogue on important topics. When I went back today to reread the Dec. 19th post, entitled – WHEN WILL WE EVER LEARN –  I found that I didn’t want to add my own take on what he had written. I’ll let it stand alone – one of the most powerful messages I’ve read in some time. Please click on the link (the capitalized text above)  – you won’t be disappointed.

She never let herself believe in the magic of Christmas . . .

I wrote this piece of flash fiction today, based on the opening words – She never let herself believe in anything as foolish as the magic of Christmas . . . This was a prompt for an old Christmas story contest that ran in a local paper years ago. I found the snippet in some notes of my mom’s. She was always entering writing contests. I used to think – why on earth would she care if she won a writing contest in a silly, little, local paper. Suffice to say, I was arrogant beyond belief in those days.

I got an email recently that reminded me that Christmas is not always an easy time for people. As I sat down to write, that reality was on my mind and this little bit of story emerged. It isn’t filled with holiday cheer – it doesn’t sparkle and make you smile like a freshly decorated gingerbread house might. But if you are lucky it could make you grateful for what you have. So – here goes.

She never let herself believe in anything as foolish as the magic of Christmas, but this year she couldn’t shake the thought that what she felt was real. It was as if time was standing still – her whole world poised on the precipice – watching and waiting.

It was a surprise – she definitely had not seen this coming. She had watched the early December days slip by like sodden leaves falling battered to the dark earth – each day she dutifully ripped off a page of the tablet on the desktop calendar, feeling as though a part of her soul was crumbled right along with the ball of paper that landed with a thud in the trash bin. Death was everywhere, now. It dogged her footsteps each day when she took Bella, their golden retriever, for a walk through the garden – plants dragged down to the earth by the weight of the West Coast rain. Everything dark and decaying – she supposed it was the way they would all end up one day.

The doctor said they might as well bring Tabby home for Christmas – make the time she had left special for all of them. In the New Year there would be time enough for thinking of hospice care and the end. So she had followed his advice and somehow, against all odds, the magic of Christmas had sunk into her the way the dark brandy her mother used to soak the fruitcake permeated every crumb of the cloth-wrapped loaves. There was a quality to the lights she saw on the streets and in the stores that brought tears to her eyes. They had taken three days to decorate the Christmas tree. The story of each ornament was told as if it was the last time any of them would ever hear that story. Hanging each special object on the tree was terribly important. She wanted Tabby to be able to see them all from the hospital bed that now dominated the living room.

She had never shopped for gifts when the only priority was the present moment – knowing that everything else was soon to slip over the abyss. A CD Tabby would love to hear this moment, a bottle of a light and fresh perfume to mask the ever-present smell of life slipping away, the prettiest flannel nightie to wrap around a body now diminished to skin and bones. And best of all, a stuffed pink bunny – just like the one Tabby had as a toddler – this one brand new and so soft all she wanted to do was stroke it over and over. She couldn’t believe the absolute joy she felt as she wrapped each gift and laid it under the tree. Or the pleasure she took in wringing out of each moment, precious drops of being together – baking and icing sugar cookies, pouring over Christmas cards, playing Christmas music, laughing together as they placed a Santa hat on Bella’s furry head. She knew she was already storing these memories like a miser with every penny that came her way.

The living room was dark now as she sat curled up in the recliner. The rest of the family tucked away, dealing in their dreams with their own versions of magic and pain. Tabby was asleep at last, the high sides of the hospital bed pulled up, the glint of the morphine drip catching the light from the Christmas tree. She traced the line of the IV tubing with her eyes before it snaked under the blanket. Her gaze shifted to the window and she saw the snow falling in huge, fat flakes to the ground. The trees, branches thick with the snow were already bowed under the weight like so many white garbed priests in supplicating prayer. The quiet was deep and total.

Her world was reduced to moments now – this last Christmas Eve, tomorrow the last Christmas Day. Tears washed down her cheeks and she was unaware. She knew the magic of Christmas she had felt this last week wouldn’t change the fact that Tabby was going to die. Very soon now she was going to bury her seventeen year-old daughter – bury her before her grown-up life had even really begun.

She rose silently and walked to the hall closet to grab a coat and her boots, a pair of gloves and a scarf. Out on the snow-covered lawn, among the tall trees, she turned slowly. Her head was thrown back. The snow fell on her face. She watched the flakes twirl  and twist far away above her. All that was – was now. All that mattered was this moment. It was all she had. Maybe all she would ever have.

xmas  star - peace on earth!

The Editing Process


In today’s post, I’ve decided to share a couple of examples of the editing process for Disappearing in Plain Sight. In the first paragraph below, an editor has very kindly and with great tact pointed out some needed changes. Think about whether you would have noticed the need to make the type of changes she suggested.

On her first evening at the A-Frame, Lisa-Marie grabbed a novel from the coffee-table (remove hyphen) and flopped onto the sofa. She began to read, which (faulty pronoun reference: to which word in the main clause does this “which” refer?) wasn’t so bad (perhaps: and she didn’t mind spending her time that way) since she loved to read (repetitious: books?), but she usually got to pick reading over other options. Here there were no other options – no TV, no internet, and no phone. It was like being captive on an episode of Survivor. The dogs were curled in a ball (faulty image: sleeping? lying?) beside the sofa and Lisa-Marie stretched out a foot every now and then to rub each of their bellies in turn. The inside of the cabin was eerily quiet – in fact the whole area around the cabin was dead quiet and dark. Lisa-Marie had never seen it so dark outside anywhere (redundant: omit) in her life (misplaced phrase: never in her life).

Here is how that paragraph now reads in the completed manuscript.

On her first evening at the A-Frame, Lisa-Marie grabbed a novel from the coffee table and flopped onto the sofa. She didn’t mind spending her time with a good book but she usually got to pick reading over other options. Here there were no other options – no TV, no internet and no phone. It was like being captive on an episode of Survivor. The dogs were lounging comfortably beside the sofa and Lisa-Marie stretched out a foot every now and then to rub each of their bellies in turn. The inside of the cabin was eerily quiet – in fact the whole area around the cabin was dead quiet and dark. Never in her life had Lisa-Marie seen it so dark outside.

Editing is hard work, as anyone who has done some knows.  I really struggled with the final line, but in the end I made the suggested change. In some ways I still think – Lisa-Marie had never seen it so dark outside anywhere in her life – sounds better.

The above example paragraph didn’t appear in earlier drafts. The next one did. Here is how this paragraph read in the March 2012 draft:

Izzy’s dark, twisting curls were piled high on her head and tumbled down over one bare shoulder. A number of small, white roses wove through her hair and a large pair of silver hoop-earrings danced around her face. She wore a softly feminine, off-the-shoulder, white, cotton dress, with a tight-fitting bodice of embroidered shirring attached to a flouncy skirt that fell well above the knee. Her hair and dress combined with her bare feet made her look like a dark, garden Goddess. Though Lisa-Marie sat right beside Justin and he turned to smile at her often, seeming to include her in everything he said, his eyes were on Izzy so often a painful lump lodged in Lisa-Marie’s throat.

Below is the same paragraph, streamlined slightly, as it went to the editor. Lengthy descriptions of what my characters were wearing got weeded out as I rewrote and rewrote. Still work to do, though.

Izzy’s dark, twisting curls were piled high on her head and tumbled down over one bare shoulder. (faulty structure: either: curls were piled high (passive) on her head and they tumbled down (active) or: Although Izzy’s dark, twisting curls were piled high on her head, some of them tumbled…)A large pair of silver hoop-earrings danced around her face. She wore an off-the-shoulder, white dress. Though Lisa-Marie sat right beside Justin and he turned to smile at her often, seeming to include her in everything he said, she saw that his eyes were on Izzy so often it made a painful lump lodge in her throat. (awkward distance between “though” and “she saw”/faulty construction: try two or three sentences here)

And finally, the finished product:

Izzy’s dark, twisting curls were piled high on her head and they tumbled down around her face. A large pair of silver hoop-earrings danced and sparkled whenever she turned. She wore an off-the-shoulder, white dress. Lisa-Marie sat right beside Justin and he often turned to smile at her, seeming to include her in everything he said. Still, she saw that his eyes were at least as often on Izzy. A painful lump lodged in Lisa-Marie’s throat.

What I have learned of editing is that good writing is stripped down to the basics. I needed a multitude of detail to write the story because it helped me know the characters inside and out. As it turned out, the reader didn’t need to experience the characters in the same way that I did. I’d love to hear your thoughts on these examples or your own editing process – the struggles and the things you’ve learned.

Open Your Mind

Open up your mind to the possibility that 1 + 1 can equal 48, a Mercedes Benz, an apple pie, a blue horse.

DP Challenge – find the 3rd line on page 82 of the closest book at hand and write your blog post based on that line – the above line comes from, Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg.

(I know, I know – you’re asking yourselves – was that book really the closest to hand? Honestly – I was printing up yet another hardcopy of the never-ending story for yet another round of final edits and reading blog posts while I waited and this book was lying right on the desk next to me when I read the DP Challenge.)

So, what on earth does that sentence, in all its glorious isolation, mean to me?

For a writer, it could mean that a good story is a story with a twist. The thing that will really grab a reader is the unexpected – the blue horse when it seemed as though the author was going to pull out the same old same old. And this seems to be true for all areas of writing from big things like plot to little things like a common metaphor or analogy – give it a twist and you get people’s attention.

But wait – another part of my thought process has just kicked in here – what about the other side of this equation? What about the times our reader desperately needs 1 + 1 to equal 2 – go to hell with the Mercedes Benz and apples. The reader needs to believe in some constants in the worlds we writers create – that there are things to connect with and that these important touch points aren’t going to be blown off the map. What about that? Don’t we owe our readers that, too?

OK – maybe it’s like this . . . As writers we strive for what I used to understand, in another life, as internal consistency. (I was once a skilled university researcher – cue the band and the ticker tape parade, please.) We give that important twist when we highlight the fact that life is complicated. There are no easy answers, nothing lasts forever, and change is inevitable. The only thing you can count on is that just around the corner life is going to bite you in the butt.

The constancy that the reader needs – almost as much as they need that important twist – is captured in the fact that the characters we have created, the situations we placed them in and the various ways they react, are all things the reader can identify with – we allow the readers that precious aha moment when they say to themselves – right, I see how that could be.

So, fellow writers bring on the twist – your own version of a Mercedes Benz, an apple pie and those good old blue horses – just leave the reader knowing that in the world you created, there is some underlying 1 + 1 equals 2 consistencies to count on.

I present this picture of the Walt Disney Concert Hall designed by Frank Gehry. It seems to me that the reality of this building gracing the street of downtown LA represents a huge twist of reality and yet it is there – real – consistent with some internal rules of architecture and building that defy all logic