I’m in the Zone, Leave Me Alone

I’ve fallen into my writer’s cave again but this time around it is not quite as dark and scary a place as it was a few weeks ago. In fact, I’m not sure I even crawled out of it, but there are slivers of light now where before there was only dark.

I'm in the Zone

For this new book I dusted off a manuscript I’d written for NaNoWriMo nearly four years ago. I kept almost every character, renaming many along the way. For some reason with Book Two – which sadly doesn’t have a proper name yet – I gravitated towards names starting with J. There was Jessica, James, Jocelyn, and Jeremy, and a prominent last name of Jamieson, and every time I had a new character to add, a J name was the first to pop into my head. Apparently this is not an unusual phenomenon in the novel writing world. So I’m not weird. Or maybe all writers are weird. You decide.

So I had all these wonderful characters. I loved each and every one of them. But the plot of said NaNoWriMo book? Well, it sucked. Truly.

And I had another idea I loved that had sparked during one of the final rounds of edits on Redesigning Rose (something I’m learning occurs with me during the editing stages. As I write this blog post and edit Book Two, I am already plotting my next novel.)

So I decided to marry the two, something that was infinitely more difficult than I ever could have imagined. But I’ve done it. I stripped away everything from that shitty old draft except three scenes and rewrote/wrote my new story with all the old characters. And it’s mostly finished. I’ve slotted the biggest pieces of the plot puzzle together. Finally.

I have some minor tweaks and oodles of line-by-line rewriting to do to polish the draft before handing it over to my beta readers. And I’m determined. I really want to finish by September 15th. I don’t know if this is possible, but I didn’t think my last deadline was possible either and I did it. And I also never thought writing on the subway was possible, but I’m doing it. I can crank out 850 words on my iPad during my 40 minute commute. That’s more than I write in an hour at home. I’ve even discovered a way to edit Book Two on my subway trips even though it’s a copy and paste affair into my writing software when I arrive home. Scrivener, please, please, please keep working diligently on your iPad app!

I’m studying anything and everything right now, observing for even the tiniest of details to add. Nothing is off limits. My manuscript is never far from my thoughts as a sentence tweak here or there pops into my mind at random times. I have notes everywhere. I get so deep into my writing zone underground on the subway that I’ve almost missed my stop several times, something I’ve rarely even done with reading.

Speaking of reading…

I’m so far in the zone that I haven’t picked up a novel in over a week. I don’t even know why I wrote all the words leading up to this because that says it all right there.

Blog Roll – What I’m working on….

My talented and fabulous friend, Samantha Stroh Bailey, author of the fantastic novel, Finding Lucas, has challenged me to answer this blog roll on writing – Read about her fascinating writing process HERE.

And keep reading to see who I nominate to participate…


My current manuscript is about a woman who has an unusual way of dealing with conflict that one day falters and simultaneously exposes all of her deepest darkest thoughts, anger and angst to the very people she’d been hiding it from. 

In addition to revising this manuscript (Draft #1.5) I’ve also just begun pondering a plot for another novel which I expect I’ll write after this one. It gets complicated in my head sometimes.


It’s been said that every story has already been told, so, with that in mind, I think it all comes down to voice. While my novels are often serious, I tend to add levity and humor to situations and scenes, and I really enjoy the psychology of a first person novel, exploring why people do the things they do and say, and their motivations and experiences and inner dialogue.

One day I would like to be brave and try something new like a dual genre story hopping from past to present or even a few of the historical fiction ideas that have been bouncing around in my brain for the last two decades. One day, one day.


I love a strong female protagonist. I love putting them through hell. And then I love writing their happy endings.


I wing it. All of it. AKA: I’m a pantser, flying by the seat of my pajama pants. I have a vague idea and then I let it percolate. I write bits and pieces down, writing more and more as the details of the story reveal themselves. I admit, it isn’t pretty much of the time. It’s clunky and awkward, but I don’t really know any other way and it seems to be working. Mostly. Oh, and staring into space occurs frequently – daydreaming is a large part of my process. There are random AH-HA moments as I figure out something important complete with fist pumps in the air and a lot of thinking about the best way to drag my heroine to hell and back and what’s going on in her mind.

This draft is going to be a little different than my previous pass it to beta readers, edit, then hand over to my editor. This time I’m passing it over to none other than Samantha Stroh Bailey before my beta readers. We are miraculously at the same point in our manuscripts and have set a strict deadline of August 1st to swap. Then, a week later, we’re having dinner and drinks and a heavy discussion about our respective manuscripts. Have I mentioned that I’m a perfectionist? And that Sam’s an über-editor? I’m a basket case! But nothing like a tight deadline to instigate momentum.


What doesn’t work is editing a bunch of loosely strung together ideas although I have been improving on this front. I end up slashing and cutting and rewriting and moving chunks of the story around to make it cohesive. I also have to go back and add information or delete it as the story changes as I go along. One of the perks of plotting (or so I hear) is that this doesn’t happen as often, although I’ve heard a plotter or two say their stories end up changing half way through regardless of how much planning they do. Unfortunately I have to do a few rounds of edits before passing it over to beta readers for feedback.

For this novel I’ve been playing around with writing and editing on the subway for my work commute which is working very well for me – I suspect the lack of internet connection and other distractions is what works here. I do, however, tend to act out what my characters are doing to ensure I’m getting it right. I mimic their sneers, their grimaces, when they wrinkle their noses, how they move their arms, etc. I also mutter aloud when I’m working. Often. And I talk to myself and sigh a lot. This is not conducive to subway writing. I’m certain one day I’ll be hauled off a train and be committed.

And…*Rubs hands together.* Who do I want to nominate?

I’ve selected three women who not only do I admire and whose books I love, but I’m in absolute awe of how quickly they manage to rustle up a new novel! And a wee bit jealous! I’m hoping that by nominating them they’ll share some of their secrets!

K.C. Wilder, author of Fifty Ways to Leave Your Husband, Seattle Postmark and Wrecks.

Brea Brown, author of The Secret Keeper series, Let’s Be Frank, and Daydreamer.

Juliet Madison, author of Fast Forward, January WishFebruary or Forever, Starstruck in Seattle and I Dream of Johnny.

Jennifer Weiner Fan Girl

I’m meeting Jennifer Weiner tonight at her Toronto signing. EEEEK! I’m meeting Jennifer Weiner, the queen of chick lit and women’s contemporary fiction! I’m going to bumble over my words because I have so much to tell her. I’m very confused as to what to thank her for most:  

  • For inspiring me to write.
  • For championing women’s fiction and chick lit.
  • For writing incredible books.
  • For writing one of my favourite books, Good in Bed.
  • How the first-ever review at my book blog, Novel Escapes, was Certain Girls five years ago last Friday.
  • For the writing advice she gave in an interview when Certain Girls released about how quickly pop culture references become dated, and how readers like physical descriptions of characters.
  • For the break up with a (not-so-lovely) boy after we fought when I’d purchased the hard cover copy of Good in Bed when I struggled to pay my rent at the time. It was the best “Book Investment” I ever made as I describe in THIS post.
  • How a book of hers made it to my wedding with “the one.”

Do you think she’ll grant me that much time!? How I wish we could go out for a dinner. I have so much I need to tell her. #fangirl 

Bookish Dreams Come True

Sometimes dreams do come true. But mostly they’re made up of hard work, struggles, perseverance, and maybe a little bit of luck. But when they happen, they’re breathtaking and magical moments.

I don’t often say it, or even really think it – maybe because I feel I could always be doing more – but here it goes… deep breath…  I am proud of myself.

Whew, that takes a little (okay, a lot) for me to say that. Is it too pompous, too arrogant, too much? Too bad. I am. And it’s not something I’ve ever really been able to really say about many things in my life. And it feels fabulous.

This year hasn’t all been all sunshine and rainbows though. There have been some incredibly tough moments in various spaces in my life, particularly when my health hasn’t been cooperating, but there have been good, great, magnificent, and incredible moments, and those are the ones to hold onto. And sometimes I need a little reminder, so I made a little list…

In the last year or so…

  • I married the man of my dreams, planned our wedding, and planned a book release within two months of each other – last winter and spring was pretty much mayhem.
  • I finished “my” book. I FINISHED MY BOOK!
  • I published said book. I PUBLISHED A BOOK!
  • I’ve met incredible people – Chick Lit Goddesses, my Toronto writers crew, and all the new friends I’ve made, THANK YOU for making me feel less insane!
  • I secured a new job with my dream hours of four days a week, leaving me one day just for me and my writing (okay, mostly for writing. Sometimes I run errands – BAD LYDIA, BAD! But really, the lineup at Costco is so much less painful on Fridays.)
  • I’ve sold books! I have actually sold more than I ever thought possible in my first year, and while I’m not on any bestseller lists, I’m incredibly pleased and grateful to everyone who has picked it up.
  • People actually like my book! Positive reviews are out there. And they’re not by my mom. Promise.
  • I planned and attended BookBuzz Toronto last fall with author Samantha Stroh Bailey and book blogger Kaley Stewart, to great success.

And now for the biggie, the one I’m super excited about right now and uber-proud of:

Ever since I found out about BEA as a book blogger five years ago I’ve dreamed of attending, of wandering around the exhibits surrounded by books and gaping at my favourite authors as they speak and sign their book babies. But now? Now I’m attending having written my own book baby!

I never believed this would happen. Ever. And it wasn’t even in the plan until about a month ago. But now, here I am, packing my bags and attempting to cram in as many copies of Redesigning Rose as possible. I am traveling to NYC, a city I absolutely adore.  I’m going to meet other authors and book bloggers I’ve chatted with online for years. YEARS! And I’m a part of BookBuzz2014, a fabulous event for women’s fiction authors – RSVP to bookbuzz2013@gmail.com if you don’t want to miss the bookish party of the year!

It’s going to be an incredible experience – all of it.

This is also my first solo trip. Which is awesome, and wee bit nerve-wracking, and something I will now be able to check off my bucket list. And it’s a little ironic that I finally watched the video below this morning after seeing it posted all over Facebook for weeks.

So, I give you these two fabulous seventy-year-old ladies flying for the first time in case you missed it the other million times it was posted all over the interwebs.

You only get one life. Conquer your fears and make your own dreams come true.



Fab Book Friday

Have you read a fabulous book lately that you can’t stop thinking about and talking about and are dying for more people to read?

Join me over on Twitter for Fab Book Friday and recommend it some more!

Share your most recent favourite read or share an old book love with the hashtag #fabbookfriday. Add a few words and link it to a review you’re written or to Amazon or both if space allows. Add the author. Tag the publisher. Get creative. Just use the hashtag #fabbookfriday.

Come celebrate your favourite books and find another fabulous reads!

Happy Reading!


Gardening Grannies and Magnificent Mom

Redesigning Rose’s dedication is:

“To my Mom, Granny and Granny, the three strongest women I’ve known.”

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Left to right – Granny at the Lake, Me, Mom, Granny Down the Street

There are thousands of ways these three women have influenced my life, and I can’t even begin to think of who I would have become without them. And one such way is with gardening so I shouldn’t have been so surprised when Redesigning Rose ended up having such a heavy gardening theme.

Granny at the Lake (read this post for the Granny/Granny explanation) was the heaviest gardener of us all. She was president of her local horticultural society and had at least eight garden beds – none of them small. And when my brothers and I spent what we hoped would be lazy summer days at her house on Lake Simcoe every summer, we were always out of luck. She woke us up at 6:00am to weed her gardens. I kid you not. Every morning unless there was a storm brewing we were out there batting away mosquitoes and yanking out as much clover, dandelions and creeping Charlie as our tiny hands could grasp. And her gardens were somehow continuously clustered with weeds no matter how much we clutched and clawed at them. All we wanted to do was go fishing. It’s a bit miraculous that I ended up loving gardening after all that. Weeding the gardens though is another story altogether though. It’s a fond memory now (mostly) and I’d give anything to be able to plop down beside her in the garden and yank out some weeds while chatting.

Granny Down the Street also had her own beautiful gardens that we plodded around in and plucked flowers from. We also watched as her and my grandfather cultivated a large vegetable garden at the “farm” – not a real farm, but a second property they spent summers at an hour away from the city. Grandpa also tended to apple trees, a cherry tree and dozens of fruit bearing bushes containing gooseberries, raspberries, black and red currants. I grew up watching the satisfaction of growing your own fruits and vegetables and have carried that forward through years of growing my own vegetable gardens.

My mom also had elaborate gardens lush with colour and scent for every season. She gave us each a little patch when we were small to plant something and take care of it. I grew strawberries and loved watching them sprout off another shoot and root and grow. Her gardens were luscious and gorgeous to look at, and we helped her along the way, but I think it was her sanctuary, a slice of peace each summer which must have been rare raising three young children.

Right now my own garden grows slowly one year at a time. The house my husband and I currently reside in is a temporary home, and we are reluctant to throw a lot of money and energy into something we may leave soon. This makes me sad sometimes, but I still love puttering around outside, planting small seedlings in the spring and watching them grow. I love the peace I feel in the garden and the creativity it sparks in me. At the cottage things are a little different as we do have a large vegetable garden and nothing brings me more satisfaction than walking outside and gathering everything we need for a meal.

Here are a few photos of our vegetable garden and its bounty and one of an interesting cucumber we managed to grow… and if you love gardening, or even just like it a bit or are thinking about giving it a whirl, check out Redesigning Rose.


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Cottage Garden


One of our more interesting accidental creations.































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Writing Tips I’ve Learned from Watching Soap Operas

Flopping down on the couch to catch up on with my soap folks at the end of the day isn’t high on my priority list. I do, however, still enjoy watching batches of episodes while working on Novel Escapes, my blog, or whatever marketing and chit chat I’m doing online. I’ve watched General Hospital for close to thirty years and have watched various soaps since I was in diapers with Granny and Granny. Yes, they both wanted to be named Granny. Confusing to mini-people, my brothers and I labeled them Granny Down The Street and Granny At The Lake based on where they lived, and it stuck until I was thirty and Granny at the Lake left this world.


Granny at the Lake and Lydia - Val's Wedding2

Granny at the Lake

Lydia and Granny Down the Street

Granny Down the Street









My maternal granny, Granny Down The Street, called them her “stories” and watched As The World Turns and Guiding Light which she sadly outlived both of. My paternal grandmother, Granny At The Lake, called them her ‘soaps’ and watched Another World and General Hospital. I’ve watched all of these at one point or another with them, sometimes cuddled on the couch, sometimes lying on the floor with my feet kicked up in the air while reading a book, and very often baking cookies in Granny At The Lake’s small kitchen with her tiny black and white TV crammed on the corner counter. To this day, I love cooking and baking when there’s a television nearby to watch, particularly soap operas. Fond memories die hard.

I’ve seen it all over the years from the devil (during a very brief stint with Days Of Our Lives in university) to mobsters to hundreds of characters risen from the dead. It’s all very implausible yet I keep watching. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s the tie to my grannies or maybe it’s that watching all the drama can make you feel better about your own life when it’s not where you want it. Maybe I just want background noise and something I don’t have to pay close attention to.

A soap opera is the first thing I ever tried writing that I can remember. I was thirteen. Determined, I hammered away on the ancient typewriter we had – yes, I am that old. I find it very odd now how I thought I could do this. But now that I am older and have some experience with life, I find I can actually write about it.

Here are a few lessons I’ve learned about writing based on my soap opera watching:

  • Repetition is bad. Soap operas are the worst for this. I often refrain from whipping my converter at the television when it occurs. But I get it. They’re looking for a new audience and often have to explain things should someone new be watching. This isn’t needed in novels, however. No one is picking up a book at page 113 wondering what happened before that point. Just a nudge of memory here or there should suffice if drudging up something a reader might not remember immediately.
  • Keep things interesting and moving. No one likes to watch/read the same thing droned on and on about – part of the reason I’ve stuck with General Hospital is that their plot actually moves along at a quick clip. You can tune out for six months and come back having (almost) no clue what’s going on.
  • Interesting characters are move fun to watch/read.
  • Cliché and one dimensional characters are boring to watch/read.
  • Make things believable – and if they aren’t you better have a good reason for it happening.
  • Tension should fluctuate. Too much and it becomes unbearable, too little and it becomes boring.

Have you ever found writing tips in unusual places?