Monday, July 30, 2012

Partial cure for worries and tribulations

One benefit of writing is that it comes to occupy what used to be 'worry time'.    You know what I'm talking about:   waiting in a doctor's office with only old magazines to read; sitting in an hour long line-up to cross the border or waiting for your flight to board;  or a hot and humid night when sleep seems impossible to find.   In the past these periods of time were ideal for your mind to turn to delicate issues to be dealt with, conversations that ended badly or the co-worker who seems to be conspiring to steal your job.   Why had he said this or why had you done that?   What should you do about your child's mathematics mark?   Should you encourage your parents to move to a care home?  

I daresay some of this is necessary although many things in life have a way of working out with  benign neglect.   Worrying and obsessing over small details can become a habit.   No sooner do you sit down with your sewing in your easy chair or start your morning commute than you run through your mental file cabinet of issues that you can analyze and agonize over.

Writers can find different solutions.   There are always plot lines to be worked out, character development to contemplate or new possibilities to consider for the next sequel or a new work.  This is productive use of your time.  It is safer as well.   No more dashing off of e-mail invectives late at night after stewing on an offhand remark by a friend.   The main downside I have found is that when I wake up the next day I have almost entirely forgotten the fascinating subplot that  that I spent an hour or more embroidering to fruition before I fell asleep.


Wednesday, July 25, 2012



I only came across this term recently and discovered reasonably quickly what it refers to.   Goodreads, a book referral and recommendation site, goes as far as to call it 'squeaky clean fiction'.  Books that have  no overt sexual content and little  swearing.   I think it may also mean no graphic violence.  The term 'cozy mystery' evolved to cover mysteries in this vein.   In the romance genre the term, 'sweet romance' indicates a similar style.

Doing a little research uncovers different motivations for the demand for this type of book which crosses all genres.   Quite often it is used to describe novels with religious content.   This is not the case in any of my books but  some people like to read books that have a connection with their personal spiritual life.  Other times, it is parents of older teenagers that like to provide some guidance in reading choices to their children or teachers of English as a Second Language who are looking for adult themes and characters in the books they cover in class but don't want to offend anyone.  I enjoy The No. 1 Ladies Detective Stories which I would say falls into the category of cozy mystery or clean fiction.

It comes down to personal preference and a quick 'look inside' or spending a few minutes at the bookstore will usually suffice.   I remember reading about a movie, I believe it was called Deep Impact, a visually graphic movie about a meteor hitting the earth, which was threatened with the dreaded 'G' rating.   Despite the incredible images of the effect of the meteor's impact,  there was no blood and no swearing but lots of drama and action.   A couple of actors had to shoot a brief irrelevant scene  which conveniently added an 'F' bomb.   Result:   a PG rating.

Sunday, July 22, 2012


I like to read the blogs of other writers as well as those of some literary agents.   They're relatively easy to find as a group--just google 'writer blogs' or 'author blogs' or 'literary agent blogs'  It's fun and interesting to see what others write and I'm not above being inspired to borrow or adapt a topic myself.   There's a large community of writers and others who work in the field and I enjoy getting different perspectives.

I'm a great believer in not re-inventing the wheel.  Someone, somewhere knows the answer to the most picayune question so instead of bashing your head against the proverbial wall, locate that person who has the answer.   I find it difficult to believe now that there was a time when I used to manually number each page of a manuscript, carefully counting the spaces to get to the same spot on the page.   A more computer literate person enquired, in response to my complaint, whether I'd tried 'Paginate Now'.

I remind myself from time to time of the old saying:   There are no dumb questions . . .
I forget how the rest goes!


There's another issue on this topic:  The template that I use for this blog has a place for me to list other blogs that I follow or recommend.   Many bloggers obligingly list a dozen or more.   As I stated above, I do read other blogs regularly;  a few even make it to my already crowded Bookmarks.   Many are about writing or publishing;   some are not.   However, I don't think I'll be listing them here any time soon.

I was reminded of one of the main reasons for this decision this morning.   When I opened, sequentially, the blog roll listed on a site which has posts that are engaging and informative, I found a number of issues that I wonder if the blog owner is aware of.   One site has a final goodbye post, dated months ago, another states they have moved to another site, several others have not made an entry for over three months and one blog states it is 'by invitation only.'

Placing a blog on your site implies, to me, a certain obligation to monitor your recommendations.  Is that person or company still blogging, is the quality and tone still similar to what led you to recommend it in the first place?   One more task to add to a multitude of others.   I'll have to wait until I have more time!                      

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Home sweet home!


The two main characters in Operatory of Death and Death at Table 15,  Jaswinder Pandher and Manisha Sunner are both 27 years old at the start of the series.   Both of them still live at home.  A couple of decades ago this would have been unusual.   Young people moved away from home as soon as they finished school at 19, 20 or 21, sometimes to marry, sometimes to take employment.  Of course, two hundred years ago, girls only left home to marry, a la Jane Austen.

But these two young women live in the city of  Surrey which was until recently a suburb of Vancouver, one of the more expensive cities in Canada to reside in.     I read recently that 40% of young people from 18 to 39 years live at home with their parents.  Wages and salaries have not kept up with increases in the cost of living.  Jaswinder and her boyfriend, Jovan and her friend Manisha are part of a trend.  Some ethnic groups tend to stay living at home and enjoy being part of an extended family but the expense of living independently is a definite factor.

Sunday, July 15, 2012


A recent commentator postulated elsewhere that digital content becomes increasingly cheap and eventually is free. I have heard this before and I always wonder if the content producer, the creative spirit, would go along with his or her work being free.  Is the satisfaction of an audience sufficient?  Would they still keep composing, writing, painting?   How would they live?  Would writers retreat to garrets to starve and musicians perform on street corners accompanied by a small monkey with a tin cup?

Will creative expression become a hobby?  Will writers put their manuscripts in a drawer when they finish?   Will painters decorate only their own walls?  Will musicians compose and play at their own children's birthday parties?

There is a lot of free content on the internet.   Is it enough?

Then there is the oft-quoted saying:  "You get what you pay for."

Somehow digital products are in a category of their own.   There is nothing to hold in your hand.   You can't so easily share it with a friend.   Now with something like a cup of coffee from a coffee shop you do have something to hold in your hand but most people are not inclined to share.  Your coffee is gone within fifteen minutes.  When your hairdresser cuts your hair, you can see the result but although it lasts longer than the coffee, there comes a time when it has 'disappeared'.    Neither of these products is digital though and perhaps that makes the difference.   We expect to pay for them and often give a tip as well.

I prefer to apply another old saying  to the work I do and the product I produce:

"The labourer is worthy of his hire." 

Wednesday, July 11, 2012


Humans have a mixed relationship with the organisms with which we share the planet.   We likely think we are the most important, the most significant but I remember hearing somewhere (I believe it was the television series 'Life after People')  that if humans disappeared off the face of the earth, ten years later the natural world would be thriving.   But if bees and ants became nonexistent, survival would be seriously threatened for all. 

Yet, it has been established that extinction of a species is a routine event which has been occurring since the world came into existence.  Have some extinctions occurred due to the natural progression and evolution of the world?   It's difficult to imagine a peaceful co-existence with dinosaurs today much as most six year olds would support the notion.    But never before has human action contributed to species extinctions to the extent that is happening today.   It's beyond the scope of this blog to detail the ways and reasons but this information is widely available and to some extent, widely disputed.    

In my novel, When Bees Die  I tried to explore some of these ideas and concepts and how they would affect individuals, families and society.   These outcomes are not inconceivable but perhaps thinking about them can delay or extinguish the possibility.   One can hope!

"The worst thing that can happen (during the 1980s) is not energy depletion, economic collapse, limited nuclear war, or conquest by a totalitarian government. As terrible as these catastrophes would be for us, they can be repaired within a few generations. The one process ongoing in the 1980s that will take millions of years to correct is the loss of genetic and species diversity by the destruction of natural habitats. This is the folly that our descendents are least likely to forgive us."

- E.O. Wilson, 1985

E.O. Wilson is an American scientist and researcher and the world's leading expert on ants.  (Wikipedia)  He is still Professor Emeritus at Harvard University from which he retired in 1996.  He won the Pulitzer Prize (with another scientist) for the work  The Ants.

There is another quote, attributed to a different scientist, Albert Einstein which is on the back of the softcover version  and on the first pages of my e-book   When Bees Die.     This quote is as follows:

“If the bee disappears from the surface of the earth, man 

would have no more than four years to live. No more bees, no 

more pollination … no more men!” 


Sunday, July 8, 2012

Artwork and Illustrations

Much of the artwork and illustrations used in my novels is from a company called Dreamstine.  You can find them on-line.   They have photographs and artwork available for free and for purchase at a reasonable price.

When I  have a particular photograph or artwork concept in mind it can take some time to find one that matches my internal vision.   Sometimes I find one that improves on my idea.  If you purchase the softcover version of When Bees Die you'll see that there is a small photograph of a bee on the back cover.  There is also a photograph of a bee on a gerbera flower in an earlier post here.  Dreamstine has many drawings and photographs of bees available and it can be difficult to choose.  But even more difficult to choose than which bee, was which Yorkshire Terrier!  (see post below)


Does this look like a field where pollination workers toil?


Wednesday, July 4, 2012

How to Find a Book

Works of fiction have been divided into many genres over the years with new ones being added on a regular basis.   If you check out Amazon's lineup you will find Romantic Fiction, Action and Adventure Fiction, Memoirs and Contemporary Fiction.  But that is just the start.   There is children's fiction, erotica, Fantasy, Science Fiction, and Historical Fiction.

Some of these categories have many books or e-books under that listing.   For example, Historical Fiction has over 22,000 offerings, probably more than the entire collection of some public libraries.  It can be difficult for readers to sort through the offerings so in that way further specification could be useful.   Now, if you know exactly what you are looking for you can type that in the search box.   This feature would also work if you can't remember the title or author but remember and can describe some aspects.  A very little can suffice.    I know I am bored when I try to see if I can get a particular book to come up based on some aspect.

For example, if I remember the opening line from Pride and Prejudice which advises that a single man of large fortune must be in want of a wife, I get some unusual suggestions but one does give the title, if not the exact Jane Austen work.  If I enter Mordor assuming this is the only aspect of Lord of the Rings (either the movie or the book trilogy) that I recall, I will be shown a Lego Lord of the Rings mini Mordor Orc figure.   Who knew?  But now I have the title.

Eventually the game deteriorates to looking for one of my books through various and obscure means.   I'm often impressed how Amazon's no doubt mighty computer system can ferret titles out from small clues.   So, 'Surrey restaurant Mystery' does cause Death at Table 15 to come up and 'Dental assistant Mystery' does call up Operatory of Death.  Most amazing of all to me, the mere entry of the pseudo-word 'Reconstitutionalists', the oppressive government in A New Premise, brings up that title and that title alone.  But now I'm beginning to wonder if the said computer has become wise to me.
Sometimes authors must seek new cures for writer's block!



Sunday, July 1, 2012

What is 'cozy' exactly?

I don't know who came up with this word to apply to a certain type of mystery.  (Wait, I could probably google that and find out!).   I've read different definitions on various author websites:   they're the type of books you read in front of a fire with an afghan on your lap (the blanket, not the dog!)   They're the type of book you take to the beach, they're a 'light' read.  A website that features cozy mysteries,  describes the books as set in a small picturesque village or town with the kind of people you know as your neighbours--except for the murderer, once you know who he or she is.  There is no gory violence and limited 'adult' situations.   A few laughs along the way are enjoyable as well.

Everyone has different tastes and wants something different out of their reading experience.   I think that applies to movies as well.   I've found I don't like reading a book or seeing a movie that leaves me upset, traumatized or feeling guilty for being alive, healthy and happy.  I realize it can be a terrible world, but much as I would like to, I cannot solve the world's problems.   Other people have a different point of view.  As others have said, it would be a boring world if we were all the same and liked the same things.

I think authors tend to write what they like.   The genres I write in are interesting to me.  I hope they will give readers an entertaining read and something to think about.   But no nightmares.