Let’s Be Civil

My mom taught me that no matter who or what someone was, you never say nasty things to people or treat them badly or make them feel like they don’t belong, especially if they are family. If they are too difficult, well, you keep your space but you don’t exclude them, make them feel “less than” or be cruel to them. It doesn’t mean you have to be a doormat, but it does mean that even if you don’t get along you treat them with respect. I’ve tried to live up to that in my life – it isn’t always easy. It’s called civility. I wish more people were like that.#letsbecivil

Strange Dream: Smoke and Mirrors

I had a waking dream that was just weird enough I thought I should share. So here it is:

I’m watching the news. There’s a hand holding a cigarette over a black ashtray, smoke swirling up and the shot pans out to Peter Jennings. It cuts to another black ashtray and somebody trying to light a cigarette and it catches then there’s smoke swirling up and we see Peter Mansbridge laughing and saying “I’m going to get in trouble for this probably.” Then he explains this is an introduction for a piece on special effects.

Then it cuts to a woman’s voice talking about a dry river bed and horses and then you see three brown horses walking down this riverbed; a foamy water comes pouring down and the horses wind up with water up to the middle of their chests so the second horse wraps its front legs around the first horse’s chest and third horse does the same to the second. But the foamy water keeps rising so the next thing you see is the three horses with one standing on top of the other and the third on top of that, with the water up to the middle of the neck of the first horse. The woman’s voice over says: “Without special effects, movies would be pretty boring, wouldn’t they?”

Then the next news piece was saying that because of the shooting at the Trump rally, the Republican party is asking for a six month to one year extension to the Presidential election to give them time to regroup.

Then I woke up.

Writing the dream out I realized that the main theme is it’s all just smoke and mirrors (special effects). I did also want to put this out there because I have on occasion had dreams that have come true; I hope that security around Trump is very strong – I’m not fond of the guy but I certainly don’t wish that on him.

Happy birthday to me, happy birthday to me…

LOL nothing special to write about just using my birthday as an excuse for a title. What I’ve been up to lately is a lot of work so writing and other things have taken a bit of hiatus while I attend to long days. However, that should be winding down soon and it’s time to think about gardening and house fix up things that don’t cost a fortune.

In my blog you will notice that there’s a recipe for New Brunswick brown bread. It’s actually Maritime Brown Bread, I just call it that because well, that’s where I fell in love with it lol. But one thing that this recipe does – aside from provide people who are unfamiliar with this wonderful east coast bread a chance to make it – is start a new category for my blog.

I have two unique things that I’ve been given and have held onto for years not quite sure what to do with them. The first is from my family – a great aunt of mine (on my mother’s side of the family) – and it is handwritten and clipped from magazines recipes dating from the early part of the 20th century to about 1940. I love all the cartoons with flapper ladies and from ww1 era, hints for maidens and married women, that sort of thing. The recipes themselves are funny because many of them talk about cooking over a medium flame in the oven and stuff like that from back in the days of wood stoves. I’ve tried to cook a few of those recipes but I’ll honestly have to try to figure them out first. Anyway, I’ve been thinking of scanning and posting those recipes for the sheer historical value of them.

The other recipe book is from “grammie-great” my mother-in-law’s mother and they are pencil recipes no doubt dictated from her mother or other relatives in a notebook. I worry about losing those wonderful recipes (where the brown bread comes from, by the way) and I’m sure there’s some I’d like to try and bring into my repertoire, again so these old family recipes don’t disappear and my son and daughter can pass them down.

Stay tuned for more, many of which may well be unique for the passage of time and tastes can cause good recipes to be lost in time. Here’s hoping I can resurrect a few of those.

Wish me luck,

Predictions for 2015

And here they are, my annual predictions for your reading pleasure. Happy New Year!

I hear the song, “We’re not going to take it, we’re not going to take it anymore!” That’s the theme for this year overall. It’s an overiding theme touching many countries and in more than one aspect. People are fed up with intrusions into their lives. It’s a matter of taking back that which they think they have lost. It varies depending on where you are; for instance in the Middle East, the people who so far have been either afraid to speak or are obedient regardless of their own beliefs (or both) feel a line has been crossed. They will be fighting against terrorists and religions will speak much more loudly against those who use religion as an excuse for evil. They will stand up, they will look at how people are treating each other in the name of religion and in the end, they will seek freedom from rigid dogma. It won’t be pretty, there will be much damage and death but they feel they have no choice. This particular situation will last for several years.

Money. Deflation will accelerate. What started with oil will branch out into other commodities in a domino effect. Money lenders (banks, etc.) will decry the devaluation of things because they are losing, but people rejoice. There will be bank foreclosures but no bail outs. They have to draw on their own reserves and behave more fairly to customers or the customers will walk. Because again, the theme is “we’re not going to take it”. Ditto with other credit instruments. These companies will be forced to reduce interest rates and fees, even reduce balances inflated by interest and fees accumulated because of more collusion and finangling coming to light.

Light is going to be shed on a lot of dark things, from inside sources and as a result of legal cases and audit/investigations. My sense is that the mega corporations will feel it the most but it will also affect governments. The thing is, when you look at the possibility of bailing out mega corporations people aren’t going to take it. Not the companies who took the jobs and ran to third world countries, not the banks that took the bailout money and left people with impossible mortgages and loans. They will demand that reparation be made to the people, not the few millionaires and billionaires who benefitted in 2008. Part of the outrage the people feel is that they are finally getting a break with low prices for things like oil and low interest
rates on loans. Why would they support using their tax dollars to create a situation that would potentially raise the cost of things again?

The protests and riots we’ve been seeing in 2013 and 2014 will be amped up in 2015 literally all over the world. Everyone has a complaint and darn it, the world’s going to hear – and it will be thanks to social media. The previous grip that governments had over their citizens is going to be loosened even more thanks to innovative technology like that which was used during the recent protests in Hong Kong. The people will be one step ahead and if clamping down will happen, then our brilliant minds who are in their teens, 20s and 30s will find another way.  I don’t know why Microneasia comes to mind but I’m putting out here since it’s what I think of when I was thinking about this topic.

North Korea – someone is going to find a way to sneak the internet to people to show them what they’re missing. Most of all though, they’re missing the family from their divided countries. Something internal is going to happen that opens the door a crack all the while the status quo will be what’s shown, at least until there’s a change in government. I don’t see that happening in 2015 but it’s coming. There may be help from China because they see a threat there and sabre rattling can get tiresome – China won’t be amused over something that happens around June I think.

China – currency problems. They can’t go back to the old ways, people won’t stand for it. They can’t continue in quite the same way so there may be a little more opening of doors in and out. I’m thinking that a more global government is forming behind the scenes, in part because the threat of World War III is very real and not many countries have the stomach for that. China is key player there I think.

Japan – oh dear.  Another massive earthquake?  More close to Tokyo.  This is a country that is going to need help soon, I’m thinking people will be admitted as refugees.  Around April again I think.

Australia – you gotta love Australia and we will, more than we do now.  Something fun comes out of Australia, a happy relief to the tensions, it’s a person and an amusement?  I see a man’s face – young dark hair, but he’s connected with something that is just really fun – a game or toy perhaps?  It makes us laugh whatever it is.

Russia – I think the Ukrainian situation will die down and some peace will be attained because it has to, their thriving economy isn’t anymore and it gets worse in 2015. There’s a shakeup in government coming there too.

Scandals – oh yes, what started in 2014 is the tip of the iceburg. If you’re into numerology, 2015 is an “8” year. Things aren’t going to be able to stay hidden, we’re going to see more of those. Rightly or wrongly – I say that because a lot of scandal is unfair, for instance who is sleeping with who. Should we care? On the other hand, people who are conducting themselves in a matter that is hurtful and illegal that’s another matter. It’s the latter we’re going to see more of. People are tired of the war against drugs and we will continue see more legalization of recreational drugs and governments will get on board when they realize the benefits of tax money received and less cost on policing.

Weather – 2014 was our year of water, 2015 is our year of fire. Fire in the sense of volcanic activity and fires coming from earthquakes. I think it’s going to be hot summer and a dry fall and winter. This winter is more normal than last.

Diseases – there’s a new type of pox that I think will be coming and it could be widespread. When I think of this I see the Americas and it may emerge first in South America. There’s something unusual about who it affects the most but I can’t quite put my finger on what it is. This seems to be late summer, fall when it  becomes noticeably present. Ebola will subside by summer. I think there’s going to be a breakthrough in ALS and MS (it ties in with the link to their similarity in loss of myelin).

Canada – I think there’s going to be the federal election around late spring, there’s some undercurrent of something simmering that makes it better not to wait. My guess is that there will nearly be a tie between the Liberals and NDP with Conservatives a distant 3rd. Green party will pick up a couple of seats.

Energy – I still think there’s going to be a home electrical generating unit that will be available to people at a reasonable cost very soon. Getting one will be difficult, not because of cost but because of a high demand. This is also a good job creation industry as factories are built to make these units and similar devices to adapt to other items.

In summary, this year is a whole lot of shaking going on, earth wise and people wise. There’s going to be great number of changes that make the end of 2015 be very different from today.

Yup, I’m a winner in Nanowrimo but where do we go from here?

I am very happy that once again I’ve got a really good start on a book.  It’s tentatively titled Late Night Cleaners Club however it may not be staying with that title.  It depends on whether I work what I had originally intended for that title into this book.  It’s hard to say.

A synopsis:  Doug is a middle aged man who visits his mom in Fredericton for Thanksgiving.  When he gets there, he realizes that something is wrong, his mom is not herself and what’s worse, she thinks his father is in Toronto.  He’s not.  A trip to the doctor confirms his suspicion – his mother has dementia.  Since she is barely able to handle things at home, Doug decides he better take leave from his job and go to Fredericton to take care of his mother.  His wife is not amused.

This book is a journey through memories and follows the decent into silence that dementia is; it’s about a mother’s love, a marriage hanging by a thread, and the exploration of relationships that happens when you are faced with a serious illness of a close family member.  There is humour, touching, sad moments.

This is a book that I think people will appreciate.  At 50k words it is not finished; I expect that it will be about 150k when it is.

I do have a promise that unlike my 2012 novel that is about half way at 75k words I will finish this one.  My 2012 book is a humorous fictional novel that deals with what it’s like to work for the government (think Yes Minister but from the point of view of us minions, not the DM level).  For various reasons I’ve shelved it for the time being but it will be completed in due course.

What’s next for me is continuing on this new novel and finishing the edit of the first edition of Off-Air after which it will be (I hope) approved for Amazon and Barnes & Noble.  I will also be illustrating and publishing my children’s story The Troll of Barondale and compiling a book of essays and a book of short stories.  So you see, I’m busy.

The two published novels, I Ching Jukebox and Off-Air are published under pen-name Genève Blue because fiction is indeed fiction and that’s my way of putting space between the real me and pure imagination.  Other publications, such as Polariods Get Yellow (my illustrated book of poetry) and my essays and short stories are published under the name Catherine M. Harris.  Yup, that’s me.

So stay tuned.  As you can guess I am really happy with my latest nano attempt.

Now about Nanowrimo: I have read and been part of discussions on the merit and the foolishness of trying to write a novel in a month.  The fact is that how quickly and indeed how people write is individual.  For me, this exercise forces me to put aside extraneous things and get busy.  The hardest thing I find is just having the time and the perseverance to not take several years to finish a piece of work.  It’s easy to get distracted with life so I appreciate this month of writing time.  It doesn’t always work – last year’s effort got as far as about 2k words when I knew that what I was thinking of would take research and I just wasn’t all that into it.

50k of words is a novella.  As a short story writer and poet used to trying to condense emotion and thought into a short space initially that amount of words was a daunting experience.  However, once I saw that it gave more space to truly explore deeply the characters and their emotions I have learned that novel writing is an experience that I use for my more complex ideas.  I don’t write as many short stories as I used to because I now look at them for ideas that require a short punch – not an entire world and bevy of characters.  I view this as evolution.

I have been told that you can’t just sit down and write a novel.  There needs to be a story board and plot outlines and character sketches to attempt it and for those people who do this, all the more power to you.  I envy your organizational skills.  For me though writing comes from a space that I can’t explain.  I see a sentence – my first line – and everything just flows from there.  It’s how I’ve always written and how I intend to continue.  Whether a novel takes me ten years or two is irrelevant.  It’s how the inspiration hits me and that’s all.

People say how good can a book be if you just whip it off in 30 days?  Well, probably pretty messy.  That’s what editing is all about, and that’s where proof reading after the book is edited and published comes in.  The editing is the hard part and most assuredly the longest – at least for me it is.  Some day if I ever get picked up by a publisher I hope that I’ll rub shoulders with an editor that comes with that book contract.  In the meantime I rely on my own skill and those of a few chosen fellow writers to be those extra set of eyes.

In that I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that one of my favorite editors Mark Atherton died earlier this year.  I miss him, and I hope that where ever a soul goes when you die, he’s happy.  He deserves it.

Now back to my novel.





Nanowrimo 2014

Yup, I’m at it again.  This novel is a little different in that so far it hasn’t got any ghosts, lol.  Just the haunted musings of a man caring for his mother who is suffering from dementia, watching his world both close in around him, and fall apart.  There’s a wife and a house in Mississauga he’s had to abandon for Fredericton, a job he’s put on hold while he deals with this, a dog and two cats to care for, and a shit-load of memories to sort through.

Stay tuned.  Don’t know if I’ll publish/finish this one but it’s starting to grow on me.  It kind of has the feel of my short story Karen.

Tips from a Canadian regarding the cold

So I’ve been watching Anderson Cooper and Piers Morgan and having a giggle at all the cold observations. Growing up in Ottawa where -35C windchill isn’t uncommon, here’s a few words for people not used to this:

1. Layer clothing, it’s warmer than big bulky things.
2. Mist does rise from rivers and manholes due to the temperature difference. It’s beautiful. Take pictures at sunrise, catch the hoarfrost on the tree branches, but be careful driving in ice-fog.
3. Very cold snow squeaks underfoot. Things crack mysteriously, like tree branches.
4. Water freezes remarkably quickly including pipes. Keep your taps dripping if your house isn’t insulated. You can also insulate pipes.
5. It doesn’t snow as much when it is very very cold. If it is really sunny, it is colder than when it’s cloudy.
6. Never ever cook or heat with gas or charcoal barbeques indoors. Ever. Carbon monoxide kills.
7. Do not try to stay warm with candles everywhere and for heavens sake don’t put candles or kerosene lamps inside a tent for heat. It’s a huge fire hazard.
8. If you’re cold, keep moving. If you can’t feel your skin you’re in danger of frostbite and hypothermia. Get indoors anywhere until you warm up. Never try to unthaw by running hot water over frozen skin.
9. If it’s too cold for you outside, it’s too cold for your animals. Keep them inside.
10. -42 celcius and -42 farenheit are the same.
11. In Canada cars have block heaters – there are plugs in the front to warm up your battery. Don’t have one of those mysterious plugs? Park the car in the garage or if you can’t, turn it on and run it every few hours. The battery will die and oil gets cold and slow in very cold weather.
12. If you are stranded in snow, make absolutely sure the tailpipe is clear before turning on the car. Like I said in #6, carbon monoxide kills.
13. If you heat with natural gas, and you’ve had a big dump of snow, make sure the gas meter isn’t covered – frozen gas meters can be deadly.
14. Also if you have a big dump of snow, watch out for snow build up and icicles. Weight of snow can collapse roofs, and icicles falling can kill.
15. Don’t let your kids build snow forts out of snow banks and particularly don’t let them play on them where they can slide onto a road.
16. Tree branches near power lines breaking often cause power outages. When possible (not in the middle of the winter in a storm!) have branches trimmed away from power lines if your power company hasn’t. Don’t do it yourself, have a professional do it.
18. Winter driving means going slowly, keeping good distance from the car in front of you, pressing gently (or tapping) the brakes, no jackrabbit acceleration. If you feel you car starting to spin, steer into the spin and keep looking at where you want to go not where the car is, take your foot off the accelerator but don’t brake suddenly. Gain control of the car and then get yourself back in the right spot. And if you’re like me, pull over when you can and stop shaking, lol.
19. And lastly, from a four years old’s (me) experience – don’t be tempted to lick icicles hanging from metal poles. Just don’t, lol.