Tech challenges, a happy toddler & a Twitter surge  — plus Sundae Sundries: links for writers & travellers, both virtual and real

Tech challenges, a happy toddler & a Twitter surge — plus Sundae Sundries: links for writers & travellers, both virtual and real

Readers of this blog — I <3 you! — will already know that I went to a painting worship last Sunday, given by the talented Joyce Burkholder. It got me all revved up! I’m painting a bit every day, mostly following YouTube videos. (Awesome.) I love it.

What I don’t love is that I can’t figure out how to share photos of paintings with you here. Our rural Net connection is never great—especially on week-ends—and our bandwidth is limited, so I’m putting off syncing my enormous photo library to iCloud. Which means, basically, that photos I take with my iPhone do not end up on my computer. Yes, I emailed them to myself…but they never showed up. And that’s another story.

Not fair sharing my Tech headaches with you! Everyone suffers.

And besides, I have a nicer photo to share, one I came upon recently, one that is already on my computer. This is granddaughter Kiki at our daughter’s wedding at the end of May. Such pride and joy!


{Photo by the wonderful Danielle Blancher of Toronto.}


It has been a week of highs and lows. Early in the week I learned that writer and friend Paul Kropp died. So sad. Such a shock!

I also learned that an on-line interview of me had been posted to Jane Friedman’s blog.

I’m very pleased with this interview. It is a rare pleasure to be interviewed by someone who has dug deep and asks interesting and pertinent questions. I like that the questions focus on the broader issues having to do with publishing in general.

Jane Friedman has an enormous following—there was quite a flurry of attention on Twitter. Nice.

And through all this, I write … It is coming along.

This week’s delicious Sundae Sundries

(Is it a coincidence that I’ve developed an unrolling passion for ice cream this summer?)


Links for writers  …

• One of these days, I will emerge from my plot maze. In the meantime, I grab onto every life raft within reach. (I know, mangled metaphors.) Julianna Baggot is a wonderful writer — I interviewed her here and here some time ago — and her own plot analysis tool is intriguing.

Be aware when research and prep become a crutch. At some point, you need to actually start WRITING. Indeed! That said, I read a research text late one night. The information gave me what I needed to finally write the scenes.

• I’ve been listening to a new Elizabeth Gilbert podcast: Magic Lessons. It’s a run-up to a book she has coming out at the end of September: Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear. I’m enjoying the podcast and I’ve ordered the book. :-)

Links for all us time-travellers …

5 Creepy Victorian Fads. I do believe this stuff.

High tech tools used to understand medieval manuscripts.

A link for real travellers … 

For a More Creative Brain, Travel.

Have a great week!

Watercolour therapy, #BuzzFeed, spies & faux letters — plus Sundae Sundries: links for writers, readers & other dreamers

Watercolour therapy, #BuzzFeed, spies & faux letters — plus Sundae Sundries: links for writers, readers & other dreamers

What a surprise! “13 Brilliant Authors You Probably Didn’t Know Are Canadian” C’est moi, #3, and on BuzzFeed, no less.













I’m posting this on Saturday, because I will be going to a watercolour workshop tomorrow, given by Joyce Burkholder.

I enjoy learning about brushes, paints and paper, colour and line. I’ve taken over a table at home, and poke away at a painting off and on all day, usually following an instruction video on YouTube. This is my latest, following this on-line lesson by Matt Palmer.









Painting is a lovely thing to do between spells of writing and research. For me, right now, it’s all about learning technique and how to use the tools. (And, I must say, learning patience, as well.)  You can see all my paintings my website page.

I’ve been researching (and writing about) the daily routine at Hortense’s school in Saint-Germain-en-Laye. I was excited to discover Lettres de deux jeunes amis, which I took at face value, as letters between girls, one a student at Madame Campan’s second school in Ecouen. I was dismayed to learn that they’re fiction … yet written by Madame Campan, so in fact they are still of great value to me, because she would correctly describe how her school was run.

This week’s delicious Sundae Sundries


Links for writers & other creatives …

• I love Amanda Hocking’s board on Pinterest: Writing Tips & Tricks & Other Helpful Advice. And, while you’re on Pinterest, check out my own board: Tools & Toys for Writers.

• One of the items on Amanda Hocking’s Pinterest board (see link above) caught my eye: Writers: Get Into the Writing Mood With This Free Online Tool.

Too cool! AudioSparx is a music site for film-makers, but it’s free for writers, who only want to listen. Click mood upper right, and click on the emotion of the scene you wish to write. (Ignore the occasional “review” word popping up.)

I just clicked on “Canned Monkeys” track in Hectic, but soon I’ll be switching to something in Confrontational as I prepare to write a scene in the WIP. This is fun, but it is also seriously effective.

Links for perpetual students …

• Readers of this blog know that I’m a Coursera enthusiast. I’ve just signed up for Exploring Beethoven’s Piano Sonatas, because playing piano is one of Hortense’s many talents.

• For fans of Historical Fiction, this is a great course: Plagues, Witches, and War: The Worlds of Historical Fiction. Coursera courses are free, and once signed up you may watch the lectures at your leisure.

Links for readers …

• Poor Doris Lessing! M15 spies followed writer Doris Lessing for more than 20 years. They even came with her on vacation. 

Have a great week!

An island, a bookclub & writing muddles — plus Sundae Sundries: links for writers, readers & other creatives

We returned Monday from a weekend with my daughter and her family at their new home on Amherst Island.


{Rural mailboxes; DH disappearing into the lighthouse on their property; Kiki in the outfit she picked out for her mom’s birthday dinner.}

On Wednesday I met with members of Bonnechere Books, a local book club, in the most charming setting possible:


They had wonderful questions to ask about The Shadow Queen, which they’d all just read. In talking about the evolution of that novel, I realized how fanciful it is—and questioned whether or not I wasn’t being too literal in writing Hortense’s story.

I’ve been thinking a lot about James Patterson’s MasterClass, which I mentioned last week. In editing a manuscript, he writes at the top of chapters that aren’t working: BE THERE. That’s a good rule of thumb throughout the fiction-writing process.

“Take everything that’s bright and beautiful in you and introduce it to the shadow side of yourself.” —Parker Palmer, in his Naropa Unviersity commencement address. (From the wonderful blog Brain Pickings.)

Here are my Sundae Sundries … this time mostly for writers. These were popular articles in my Flipboard “magazine” this week.


Links for writers & other creatives …

The Little Known Secret to Pixar’s Creative Success. Take heart! “Every idea starts out as an ugly baby.”

The 5 Things Productive Writers do Differently.

• An Elizabeth Gilbert TED talk: Your elusive creative genius. I’ve been listening to her new podcast series, Magic Lessons, coaching creatives. I like it.

• We all knew this, but it’s shocking nonetheless: Homme de Plume: What I Learned Sending My Novel Out Under a Male Name.

• I love Debbie Ridpath Ohi! (@inkyelbows) Back Burner Writing, Essential Apps and How I’m Squeezing In Extra Writing Every Day.

Links for all book lovers …

• A post I linked to on Facebook got a lot of comment. The subject: our love for the smell of books. When I worked as an editor in publishing, I relished the smell of a newly-printed book. Google “books smell” and you will find quite a lot on this subject. Here are two:

Where Does the Smell of Old Books Come From?

3  Reasons Why Booknerds Love the Smell of Books

Have a great week!

Sundae Sundries: links of interest to readers, writers, historians & other romantics

Sundae Sundries: links of interest to readers, writers, historians & other romantics

DH and I are visiting our daughter and her family at their beautiful new home on Amherst Island. (The photo above was taken on the ferryboat over and tweaked with the SnapSeed app.)

As well, inspired by the James Patterson MasterClass linked to below, I’ve (finally!) tackled my WIP outline again.

Here is my week in delectable links ….


Links for writers …

• I gobbled up this MasterClass course on writing by James Patterson. It was worth the price of admission. I’m not likely ever to be a reader of James Patterson novels, but I came away with a great deal of respect for him and his work.

• Here is literary writer Joyce Maynard’s account of taking James Patterson’s class: An Accomplished Writer Takes a ‘MasterClass’ from a Gargantuan Selling Writer. I agree!

• Readers of this blog will no doubt notice some of my ADHD tendencies. I know I’m not alone! The ADHD Guide to Writing.

• Because of said “tendencies,” no doubt, I am inspired by this image of the working desk of Robert Olen Butler (the author of one of the best books on writing, From Where You Dream).

  For both writers and readers …

• A great Paris Review interview with feisty writer Ursula K. Le Guin.

• Also on Ursula K. Le Guin: On ‘Starting Late’ as a writer. On this theme (am I feeling my age?): You’re never too old to write your first novel—especially at 40.

Links for flâneurs through history …

• Jane Austen’s reading list. Charmed to see Conduct Literature for Women on this list.

Link for Napoleonistas …

• Napoleon, Josephine and a giant bill for Cologne.

Have a great week!


Sundae Sundries: links of interest to readers, writers, historians & other romantics

Sundae Sundries: links of interest to readers, writers, historians & other romantics

This week was especially speedy! I gave a reading at the Bonnechere Author’s Festival on Wednesday night, and on Friday the “children” and grandchildren arrived and a long weekend of festivities began!

Here is my week in delectable links ….




Links for writers …

• I got sidetracked—as I do—looking into scriptwriting software, and bought Final Draft on sale. I doubt that I will ever write a script, but this software offers interesting structure techniques that intrigue me.

• Exploring script templates, I found one on creating character that I like very much. I especially like considering your character’s “humanizing trait.”

•  7 Ways Writing a Screenplay is Different That Writing a Novel.

How To Write a Screenplay: The 5 Step Process.

The Heartfelt, Unpublishable, Captivating, Shallow, Sound, Abandoned, Reclaimed, Worthless, Most Excellent Potential Novel, by Tom Bentley. I related to this account in a rather painful way! :-(

For both writers and readers …

• The line-up for the 2016 San Miguel Writers’ Conference looks awesome! It’s from February 10-16, the perfect time of year to get a break from winter in sunny Mexico. Go for it! You will not regret it.

Links for flâneurs through history …

• Medieval Urine Wheels. Just what you always wanted.

• Inspired by a Two Nerdy History Girls blog post on Etiquette for the Victorian Gentleman, I read The Gentlemen’s Book of Etiquette and Manual of Politeness.

• The ‘Natural Beauty’ Ideal of the Regency.

Link for Napoleonistas …

Napoleon, Josephine and a giant bill for Cologne. Not everything in this article is accurate, in my opinion, but there are interesting details I like quite a lot.

Have a great week!

View of the lake at our cabin :-)