Saturday, December 17, 2011

Reflecting on "Reflections"

Last year, I wrote “Reflections”. It was supposed to be my 2010 30 day NaNo challenge, but it actually took me twelve months to complete it. The story went through numerous rewrites, the characters morphed from male to female, and the book took on a life of its own.

I tried to let Willow go, but somehow she slipped into the book. 

Over the past couple of months, I have been implementing edits. After so many rewrites, I am amazed at the number of small issues that still exist within the text. There are areas of the book that don’t flow very well; there are choppy sentences awkward phrases and bits that simply don’t make sense. Each time another section is reviewed, more inconsistencies arise and errors are revealed. Thankfully, I have an excellent editor, who also has a terrific sense of humour.

Well, everyone could use a good looking Dane now and then . . . 

She has a knack of pointing out the mistakes or areas that are poorly written, without making me feel as though I am completely inept – like most writers, I can take care of that feeling without any external help. Her comments are direct and to the point, and she doesn’t try to manipulate the story-line or character development into something I didn’t intend. Often, we find the same issue and come up with the same solution. When this happens, I know the right person is editing my book.

I had already rewritten this section when I saw her note. It made me laugh.

Every writer needs a good editor, proof-reader and supportive beta readers. Without them, a book cannot receive the polish and shine it deserves before being released into the world. Thanks to the few who have been so supportive over the past year, “Reflections” is well on its way to being released early this spring. I can hardly wait to receive the first proof copy in the mail. 

*This is the cover for the proof copy only, it will not appear on the actual book.



Thursday, December 1, 2011

Emerging from NaNo Land

I’m coming out of NaNo Land in a bit of a haze, knowing there’s still much to do, but happy with my accomplishment. November was National Novel Writing Month, during which time thousands of authors sat glued to their computers, pounding away on the keyboard aiming for a word count of 50 000. This meant a target of approximately 1600 words a day. Broken down, it doesn’t seem like all that much.


Except – you have to account for all the small stuff that happens in between. This month seems to have been one trial after another. Between sick kids, hockey tournaments, family obligations and the everyday chaos that follows a family of six, I barely found time to write. The end result was me frantically scrambling to write over 9000 words on the final day of November.




Did I succeed? Of course I did! So now, I have a not-so-shiny new novel to edit, explore, shape and tweak until it becomes the work of art it is meant to be. It’s a fantasy book geared towards children aged ten to fourteen, depending on their reading levels and interests. My goal was to create an engaging story for mature readers, while implementing challenging language and appropriate content. Not an easy task for someone who has been focusing on Women’s Literature.



Of the three books I have written, this one was probably the most difficult, as I stepped out of my comfort zone, tried something new, and focused my energy on a much younger audience. Currently, the very rough draft is in the hands of a couple age-appropriate beta readers. Here’s hoping they enjoy this draft as much as I enjoyed the challenge of writing it.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Newvember Book & Mug Give Away Contest

In celebration of Newvember I am giving away one signed copy of Remember Newvember and a very unique mug - the perfect combination for curling up with a hot chocolate while reading a great book on a crisp autumn day! Keep it for yourself, or give it away as a gift. 


How it works:

  1. At least FIVE different days during the month of Newvember, post one new to you activity on Remember Newvember FB page (https://www.facebook.com/RememberNewvember). It doesn't have to be earth-shattering, just something new to you.
  2. If you aren't on Facebook, you can play here, by posting in the comment section. 
  3. Your name will be entered into a random draw for EACH time you posted. That means the more new things you try, the more chances you have to win.
  4. Contest winner will be announced December 1st. 
  5. Share the contest, spread the word and have some fun. 

Happy Newvember Everyone!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Dreamy-Man-Voice

I had a hard time tracking Sawyer down to get a character interview. When I did, he was reluctant to talk about his part in the book. I can’t imagine why...

I did, however, manage to convince him to fill in one of those silly Facebook / internet quizzes that get passed around.




THE QUIZ: 

Can you fill this out without lying? You've been tagged, so now you need to answer all the questions HONESTLY. 

Here we go... 

1.What was the last thing you put in your mouth? 
Tea and a morning glory muffin – it was a bit dry, to tell the truth.  

2.Where was your profile picture taken? 
On stage at the Rustbucket during one of our gigs. I’m the one playing the drums.  

3. Can you play Guitar Hero? 
Sure. I’m a drummer. Guitar Hero is a piece of cake. But seriously, why would I waste my time on a video game when I can play the real thing.  

4. Name someone who made you laugh today. 
Now, that’s a tough one. I don’t think I’ve laughed yet today. Let me think about it. No. I definitely have not laughed yet today.  

5. How late did you stay up last night and why? 
I’m a night person, so I would guess I went to bed around midnight.  It’s not something I usually keep track of. 

6. If you could move somewhere else, would you? 
Nope. Toronto will also be my home.  

7. Ever been kissed under fireworks? 
Of course I have. You don’t get to be thirty without kissing someone under fireworks – or at the very least feeling like there’s fireworks when you’re kissing.  

8. Which of your Facebook friends lives closest to you? 
Willow – of course. We live in the same building.  

9. Do you believe ex's can be friends? 
Of course they can be – well, unless you did something really awful, then maybe not. Or – maybe not for a very long time. I guess it all depends on your ex. 

10. How do you feel about Dr Pepper? 
Really? What a strange question. I don’t think I feel anything about Dr. Pepper. I could take it or leave it.  

11. When was the last time you cried really hard? 
Huh?  You’ll have to read the book to get that answer.  

12. Who took your profile picture? 
Back to the picture? I think Olive might have taken the picture – it’s hard to say, it was a while ago.  

13. Who was the last person you took a picture of? 
I don’t even own a camera.  

14. Was yesterday better than today? 
No. Every new day is better than the last.  

15. Can you live a day without TV? 
Probably not. I’m addicted to all things electronic.  

16. Are you upset about anything? 
Well – if I told you, I’d have to kill. Ok – so that was very cliché. Again, you’ll have to read the book to the very end to see what my current emotional state is.  

17. Are you a bad influence? 
Uh – probably.  

18. Night out or night in? 
Out – definitely a night out, always.  

19. What items could you not go without during the day? 
I couldn’t be without my cell-phone and laptop (I do work in IT). 

20. Who was the last person you visited in the hospital? 
I don’t think I’ve ever actually visited anyone in the hospital. At least, not that I can remember.  

21. What does the last text message in your inbox say? 
Kind of a personal question, don’t you think? Well, since I’m being honest, my last text says something like: R U 2 busy 2 meet up? 

22. How do you feel about your life right now? 
My life is a bit of a mess just now, but I’m picking up the pieces and getting everything sorted out.  

23. Do you hate any one? 
I can’t think of anyone off-hand, so I guess that would be a “no”. 

24. If we were to look in your facebook inbox, what would we find? 
You wouldn’t find much, mostly I use my phone for texts and e-mail. Facebook is fun, but it can be a dangerous place to play. 

25. Say you were given a drug test right now, would you pass? 
Yes. 

26. Has anyone ever called you perfect before? 
Willow might have thought I was perfect at one point, but aside from my mother, no one has ever called me perfect.  

27. What song is stuck in your head? 
I’m a musician – there’s always a new tune floating through my head. But I have to say, I’m partial to Mumford & Sons’ Little Lion Man, is currently running through my head.  

30. Someone knocks on your window at 2:00 a.m., who do you want it to be? 
Uh . . . read the book?  

31. Do you want to have grandkids before you’re 50? 
Since I’m not married and don’t have any kids that I know of, I doubt that’s even an option. If it is, it would mean my non-existent teenager would be a parent – so – no, I do not want to be a grandparent before I’m 50. 

32. Name something you have to do tomorrow. 
Go to work and then practice with the band.  

33. Do you think too much or too little? 
Sometimes I’m pretty sure I don’t think as much as I should. If I did think things through, then I would have an easier time staying out of trouble.  

34. Do you smile a lot? 
Sure – when there’s something to smile about.
  

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Bee in the Yellow Jacket

My son decided he wanted to write and illustrate a children’s book this summer. He sat down, mapped out the story and came up with an idea for the artwork. Each day he wrote a little, edited a bit and molded plasticine into vibrant pictures, rich in texture and imagination. He worked diligently until the project was completed.



The story is about an adorable little stinging insect who thinks he’s a bee. Harry sort of looks like a bee, he acts like a bee and is often mistaken for a bee. However, small differences start to become noticeable. Harry isn’t covered in a fine layer of hair like his friend Bill. It also seems that Harry has a bit of a weight issue – he’s too skinny.



So Harry sets out on a journey to discover exactly who or what he is. His adventure takes him into the city where he discovers there is more than one kind of stinging insect. Once Harry finds his own kind, he settles in to learn all he can about his heritage – but he never forgets about his friends, the bees.



It’s a cute little story with adorable pictures.  My pride for this child is overwhelming; this is quite an accomplishment for an eleven-year-old boy. AJ is currently waiting to receive his proof copy before making it available on Amazon. 


Saturday, August 27, 2011

Thrills & Chills at La Ronde

Now that our youngest two boys have reached the lofty heights of 1m, 37cm (54”) and can enjoy all the rides, we decided to take them to La Ronde for the day. Located on Île Sainte-Hélène, it boasts of being Eastern Canada’s largest amusement park with over 40 rides and attractions. We had perfect weather, a comfortable 23 degrees, and the lines moved very quickly. The park allows you to bring your own food and drinks (no glass containers or alcohol, of course), which made going for our family of six even more affordable.


For the most part, the boys and I had a terrific day of roller-coaster hopping – that’s pretty much all they were interested in. At the end of the first ride, my youngest exclaimed, “That was excellent.” He had a look of pure joy on his face. This was probably the most thrilling experience he had had in all his nine years. My oldest, looked a little green, but was a trooper and followed us to the next big event. If it whirled and twirled, we tried it – the Vampire, the Cobra, Vertigo, the Monster, and the Goliath, just to name a few. The boys loved all of it. Admittedly, my stomach isn't what it was twenty years ago, but I managed to keep up with them.


Then came the Ednör-Attack. The thrill rating was high, the height requirement only 1m, 32cm (52”). My oldest and I opted out of this ride, only because it was the end of the day and our tummies had had about all we could take. The younger boys and their dad ventured off for the one hour plus wait. J and I had a lovely time, chatting, sharing a beaver tail and wandering around the park – we had no idea the others were in roller-
coaster-hell.


When they came off the ride, the two youngest were completely white and practically in tears. It seems the ride jostles you back and forth, so your head is repeatedly banged against the safety bars. The bars were padded, but firm enough to leave extensive bruising on a small child. It’s an amusement park, we knew there was a chance of bumps and bruises – but we weren't expecting this. My 13-year-old fared a bit better, but he’s nearly adult sized.


So – our advice to parents visiting Montreal and looking for a little thrill-seeking? Go ahead and enjoy your day at La Ronde, it’s part of Six Flags, so if you already have a season pass, your day is free as a visitor. Just remember that the height requirements on the rides are only guidelines. A little research would have saved us a few headaches – literally. 

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Writing in the rain

I love the rain: the sound, the smell, the damp seeping into everything. I especially love the rain during the day, when the clouds move in to play hide and seek with the sun, and the temperature suddenly drops ten degrees. Something about it clears my writer’s mind, opens my creative vision and accesses all those words that are stored deep down inside.


Perhaps, it’s recessed memories that activate my imagination and force it into overdrive. When I was a child, storms meant no television, no electricity and not much to do except stay inside and stay dry. So we would read, or in my case, I would write. Mostly I wrote nonsense: silly poems, short stories, bits of this and that. Quite often I find these scribbles coming back to me and they end up hidden, like a small gem, amidst the ramblings of my adult writing.


Sometimes I wonder if other artists find their creativity hidden weather patterns, or phases of the moon. I write every day, but words come to me easier and my muse is far more vocal when the skies are overcast. 


Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Thanks to all the writerly-types in the virtual world.

I used to think writing was a solitary activity. A picture of a lone person in a dimly lit room, surrounded by leather-bound books, wielding a fountain pen comes to mind when I think of an author. A cigarette might rest forgotten in an ashtray; an undefined drink rests half-full on the corner of the desk. Perhaps a dog might be curled up on an old rag-rug that covers the imperfections of the hardwood floor. I wonder how many other people hold this image of a writer in their heads.

I can’t write like that. The silence deadens my creativity and dim lights kill my eyes. I don’t smoke, and the drink on the corner of my desk can be recognized as Smirnoff Ice or even just a coffee. There is often a dog curled up at my feet – but she’s on bare linoleum and usually begging for the munchies I have close at hand. I can’t even remember the last time I held a fountain pen in my hand, or any other writing instrument, for that matter.



The more distractions I have, the more productive I seem to be. My music of choice can be anything from light acoustical guitar sounds to raunchy, hardcore punk ruckus. In addition to Word being open on my laptop, Facebook, Twitter, Authonomy, Blogspot and GoodReads can all be found waiting at my fingertips. They easily provide a minute or two of distraction between plot points, bits of dialogue or lengthy descriptive paragraphs. Is this writing ADD?

I don’t write on a schedule, if I try, nothing comes out. I just sit and stare blankly at the screen. However, when I know the house is a mess and my parents are due to visit within the hour, the story demands to be written and just can’t wait. When my children need dinner or help with their homework, my characters insist on being heard. When it’s the wee hours of the morning and my body should be sleeping, my brain decides to wake up and be productive.

The best part about being a writer in today’s world is the constant interaction with other writers. I think I would go crazy without it. They understand that your characters are giving you trouble and refuse to be written they way you intended; they fully grasp the importance of using a semi-colon over a comma or a full-stop. Most importantly, they are encouraging, supportive and always offering up words of wisdom from their own stockpile of writerly experience.



So – thanks to all of you who make writing the adventure it’s meant to be. It’s comforting to know that writing isn’t meant to be a solitary practice after all.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Editing with Audio

Editing has to be one of the most difficult and tedious aspects of writing. Would I be a complete nerd if I admitted to liking it? Taking that rough, unpolished piece of writing and transforming it into the art it was meant to be gives me a bit of a thrill. Especially when I am able to smooth out the stubborn kinks I had difficulty addressing during the first rough drafts.


There are so many different ways to go about editing your document. Creating timelines and lists to ensure plot and character development; creating spreadsheets to maintain continuity and keep track of small details; or just reading the work through, over and over and over. The thing is: how do you know when your work is really ready for that final print version?

The answer for me is simple. Record it.

For the past month, I have been recording Remember Newvember with Irondog Studio. I thought creating an audio book would be a fun way to get a bit more exposure and offer another media for those who commute to work or don’t like to read, but enjoy listening. In my naivety, I thought the recording would only take as long as it would to read the book – about five or six hours, total. I had no idea what I was getting myself into.



To start with, one hour and twenty minutes of recorded material took over six hours to record. That was the first day. I was nervous, and uncomfortable. Mr. Zee insisted I wear headphones so I could clearly hear what he was hearing. I don’t like to listen to my voice under normal circumstances; can you imagine how it felt to hear it in stereo? The experience was a little creepy and took some time to get used to.


As I got more comfortable, found my own reading cadence and rhythm, I realized what a great tool this experience was for editing. I had thought my book was pretty much print-ready. I had already released it as an e-book, knowing that if necessary I could make corrections easily enough, but I had honestly thought it was well-polished and error-free. Reading the book aloud, slowly, to an audience of one, proved otherwise.



While I read, I found minor typos, a few grammar issues and awkward wording. Most importantly, I was able to figure out where the words flowed well, and where they just sounded weird. Mr. Zee was excellent at pointing out too many sounds that were similar; or highlighting sections that just didn’t make any sense. In all, the entire experience turned into one huge editing adventure, and not just the audio recording I had anticipated.


At this point, there remains one more session to complete the voice recording. In total, I think the recording aspect will take about twenty hours of studio time. Then, Mr. Zee will work his mixing, editing and audio magic so that we have a lovely finished product. I know there’s more to it than that – but that will have to wait for another blog.

Remember Newvember by Jennifer Bogart Audio Cover Draft

Even if you don’t use the services of a recording studio, taking the time to read your work out loud to your dog, cat, spouse, child or neighbour (offer them whatever it takes to get them to sit and listen for twenty-plus hours), really does help with that final bit of polishing to make your work really shine. 

Friday, July 1, 2011

Freedom to me is probably taken for granted . . .


The Concise Oxford Dictionary (the only one I actually own because I won it as part of a literary award when I was in grade 8) definition of freedom is as follows: 
  1. Personal liberty, non-slavery; civil liberty, independence; liberty of action, right to do; power of self-determination, independence of fate or necessity.
  2. Frankness, outspokenness, undue familiarity; facility or ease in action; boldness of conception.

I live in Canada, so I have never had to contemplate what freedom might actually mean to me. On a small scale, it means sleeping in on holidays and Saturday mornings, it means sinking into a good book at my leisure and not keeping a clean and tidy house at all times.



On a mediocre scale it means I get to choose which language I educate my children in (we chose both French & English), what activities they indulge in (hockey, fencing, swimming, diving, biking, fishing) and whether or not I should stay in my current job (actually, I don’t have a job – I’m a full-time mom & writer).

On a larger scale it means I walk down the street in relative safety. I say what I want to who I want and the only real consequence is how my moral consciousness deals with whatever tumbles out.  I have choices galore. I get to vote for members of parliament, the mayor, the local school commissioner, and express my opinions about all things political through which ever venue I choose (Facebook, Twitter, Blogger, local journals, national newspapers, or even a television station) without worrying about any type of negative back-lash.



In all, we have it pretty good here and I wouldn’t trade my home for anything. Our winters are harsh and our summers are scorching, but our social environment is a rare gem so it all makes it worthwhile in the end.

This post is in conjunction with the Blog-A-Licious Blog Tour a fantastic blog hop that brings together bloggers of all genres, backgrounds and locations. In today's hop, the blog featured before Remember Newvember is Holes in my Soles. The blog featured after mine is Life Through Lucylastica’s Lense. Please stop by and say hello plus some are having giveaways and contests. Enjoy! 



Other blogs in this tour include:

1. Sonia Rumzi - http://soniarumzi.com/

Friday, June 24, 2011

Writing to me is an incredible adventure . . .

Today's post is in conjunction with the Blog-A-Licious Blog Tour a fantastic blog hop that brings together bloggers of all genres, backgrounds and locations. In today's hop, the blog featured before Remember Newvember is The Riddle of Writing. The blog featured after mine is Grace Elliot Author. Please stop by and say hello plus some are having giveaways and contests. Enjoy!


Join Me!


Blog-A-Licious Blog Tour
When I first saw the theme for this blog tour, it made me think of an elementary school paper I once had to write. That paper was more along the lines of “what school means to me” – but I approached the topic with the same hesitation. Writing is a personal journey of expression, and for each person, it covers completely different territory.





For as long as I can remember I have been a story-teller. As a small child, I took great pleasure in creating my own paper-dolls and then developing elaborate stories for them to enact. As I grew older, those imaginings made their way to paper. At the ripe old age of eleven I wrote my first novel entitled “Planet X”. It was only a classroom assignment but it stirred something deep within me. While others in my class moaned and groaned about creating story-lines and working on character development, I was completely in my element.


At age thirteen I tried my hand at writing a romance novel. Written on legal pads while I was supposed to be selling corn at a roadside stand, I was certain that story would be published by Harlequin teen and I’d be an instant best-seller. From there I progressed to fantasy novels and more romance stories, most of them saved to a floppy disk via the reliable Commodore 64. It’s doubtful they will ever see the light of day.


As adulthood loomed over me, I needed to become more serious, study harder and daydream less. At the time, I didn’t think I could make any real money using only my imagination and a hand-me-down IBM computer. I set creative writing aside and pursued a career in technical and copy writing. This was probably one of the biggest mistakes I made in my life. While technical writing helped hone essential skills, it sucked any ingenuity right out of me.


Fortunately, I had children – lots of them. They helped me access the imagination I had tamped down deep inside. They gave me an excuse to take time off from a nine-to-five job and focus my energies on them. Their imaginative play invites creativity to flow and I can’t thank them enough for giving me back my own childhood dreams. Now they are older, more self-sufficient, and I have started my writing journey all over again.

To me, writing is not only an escape into my imagination; it’s an opportunity to connect with my psyche, make sense of the world around me and deal with all that life throws my way.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Try one new drink every day for 7 days . . .

Recently I took a little time off from writing and skipped off to Jamaica with my husband for a little “couple time”. We stayed in an all-inclusive resort that boasted breathtaking scenery, beautiful beaches and scrumptious food. Couples Swept Away was the perfect get-a-way for couples needing a break from the doldrums of everyday.
Keeping in the spirit of Newvember, I decided to try one new drink every day for the seven days we were there. Admittedly, I probably tried more than seven, but these are the drinks that stood out most, or made an impression:
Day One - This one was a Frozen Rum Runner at Rick’s Café .

 
Rick's Rum Runner by Jennifer Bogart
 
Blended white rum, blackberry brandy, banana liqueur, pineapple juice, grenadine & lime juice – this had to be one of my favourite drinks. I liked it so much I had to have two.


Day Two: The Shark Bite and a Red Stripe (the Red Stripe wasn’t mine)

Shark Bite & Red Stripe by Jennifer Bogart
This drink consisted of strawberry syrup, pineapple juice, OJ, Blue Curacao and rum. It’s much prettier than it tasted. I found the flavours to be a bit bland in comparison to many of the other drinks I tried. Still, the layering of the different colours was worthy of a picture.


Day 3: Lychee Martini as big as my head


Lychee Martini by Jennifer Bogart
Made with Soho lychee liqueur, vodka and a lot of lychee juice (there was probably some pineapple juice in there too). Luckily I had some help to finish it. To be honest, I think James enjoyed it more than I did.


 Day 4 - Mango Margarita from Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville.


Mango Margarita by Jennifer Bogart
Ten dollars I'll never get back . . . won't be doing that again in Jamaica! It was bitter, and not as tasty as some Margarita’s I’ve had. Sorry Jimmy Buffett.
Day 5 - a Bob Marley.


Bob Marley Drink by Jennifer Bogart
This one pretty much knocked me on my ass. It was concocted with Grenedine, Creme de Menthe, banana liqueur and "over-proof rum" (151%). I couldn't feel the sunburn after this drink.
Day 5.5 - had to sneak this one in, it's more like a dessert - chocolate martini.

Chocolate Martini by Jennifer Bogart
This one in particular was a “gift” from the couple at the table next us. They wanted to know what I was drinking, so I shared. She liked it so much, when her husband went to get her another, he brought me one too.
Day 6 - my favourite beach drink, a Coco-Loco

Coco Loco & Remember Newvember by Jennifer Bogart
I really didn't think I liked coconut - just goes to show you really don't know until you try!
Day 7 - It's not a Blue Lagoon, but I don't can't remember what it was called.
Pretty blue drink by Jennifer Bogart
I do remember it didn't taste quite as good as the coco-loco.
There was much more to our vacation than alcohol. I also went snorkeling for the first time, climbed up a 100 foot lighthouse and drank coconut water straight from the coconut. We walked the beautiful beaches, bought a tremendous amount of handmade jewelry, slept, ate, and slept some more. In all, it was a fantastic vacation.