Imagine you own a humble shop in a big city.  What product or service you sell isn’t important.  The point is that it is your shop, you run it your way and it keeps you happy.  You don’t have a lot of customers, but that’s OK.  You don’t have high expectations for your shop and your customers probably don’t have high expectations either.

One day, you can’t open the shop because you need to do some work on your car.  The next day, your sister needs a hand.  After that, there is that course you should have taken when you were much younger.  Opportunities and challenges are multiplying.  You get through a bunch of them and then head back to your shop.  And that’s when you think, “I should have put an ‘On Vacation’ sign up!”  Your palm hits your forehead, but you aren’t any smarter for it.

I hate the expression, “Do less to do more”, but that’s where I am right now. I’m not complaining, I’m fortunate to be where I am.  Until I can get through a few more projects this summer and fall, I won’t be able to operate my humble blog the way I would like.  I’m going to try to make some time to read other blogs (something I also enjoy) and I might get in a few quick posts, but nowhere near all the ideas I have.

Have a great summer (or winter) and thanks for dropping by!

The basic idea of the Secret Miracle is that 54 writers were asked questions about how they wrote. The questions and answers were grouped into 7 chapters:
1. Reading and Influences
2. Getting Started
3. Structure and Plot
4. Character and Scene
5. Writing
6. Revision
7. The End

The follwing are some of the questions:
What do you look for in a novel?
Has being a novelist changed the way you read novels?  Has it changed the way that you appreciate or interact with art generally?
What was the trigger for your last novel?
Do you do any research before you begin writing? If so, do you find it helpful, or does it constrain your imagination?
How much do you know about the plot of a novel before you begin?
How polished do you try to make the prose in a first draft?
What is most distracting for you?  How do you deal with it?
Do you write in sequence?
How do you get to know your characters?
When/how do you show a draft to your trusted readers?
What makes for a successful conclusion to a novel?

While it is obvious that this book is meant to be read by writers, it is also interesting as a general look into the creative process.  The range of answers and the reasons behind them are fascinating.  The question and answer format makes it a book that can picked up and put down at the reader’s convenience.  (I like these kind of books when I am busy, but still need to satisfy my need to read.)


Title: The Secret Miracle
Sub-Title: The Novelist’s Handbook
Editor: Daniel Alarcon
Publisher: Holt Paperbacks
Copyright: 2010
ISBN: 978-0-8050-8714-7

I’m not a technophobe, but I have been slow to get into e-books.  No particular reason, mostly because I still find a lot to read in traditionally printed books, especially the non-fiction I have had to read recently.  So, for various reasons, my first e-book purchase was the children’s book “Doug the Dung Beetle: The Long Roll Home” by Martina Zeitler.

This book is a fun way to introduce a child to dung beetles — not in a stale, factual way, but through a story. The full colour illustrations are wonderful and the text is delightful.  While some may be squeamish when it comes to why dung beetles are called dung beetles, to most it will be interesting and to all it will be memorable!

By the way, if you want more from the talented Martina Zeitler, check out her website: http://justoutsidetheboxcartoon.com/ .

Title: Doug the Dung Beetle: The Long Roll Home
Author and Illustrator: Martina Zeitler
Imprint: Smashwords Edition
Copyright: 2013
ISBN: 9781301773398
Website:http://justoutsidetheboxcartoon.com/ .
Kobo Link: https://store.kobobooks.com/en-CA/ebook/doug-the-dung-beetle-the-long-roll-home

PS I purchased the book through Kobo: https://store.kobobooks.com/en-CA  The experience was excellent. I had no problems at all; everything was simple and straightforward.  I would recommend using Kobo, too.

I learned something recently:  “Don’t be so quick to judge.”  I know, I’m a slow learner.  Technically, I learned this lesson a long time ago. What I actually did was apply it to another situation.

A short while ago I was in a car accident.  Luckily, neither I or any of the other people involved were hurt.  The cars were another story.  The funny thing is that to many of the drivers that were delayed by the incident, it didn’t look like much.  What they didn’t see was that the entire rear frame of my car had been distorted so much that is was digging well into the rear tire.  The car that hit me was also undriveable.

As I waited for the tow truck to arrive and I watched vehicle after vehicle go slowly by, I learned to read lips and expressions.  When things were said, I read some swear words and the word “move” also came up.  A bit of anger and contempt, too.  There are signs around the city that remind drivers to move off the road for small collisions.  I couldn’t do that (I really wish I could have), but that was lost on the other drivers who were truly being inconvenienced by the accident.  They couldn’t tell that the car was a “write off”.

And, here is where the lesson comes in.  In the past, I have driven by other “small collisions” that I also thought should have resulted in the drivers moving to the side of the road.  I may have been right, but I now realize that I may also have been wrong.  (I can feel slightly good about not getting angry and cursing anyone — who wants to be in an accident?) At this collison everyone was calm and composed, that may not be the case for others.

So now, while I still agree that for small collisions drivers should move to side of the road, I don’t assume the collision is small and the drivers are able to move their vehicles.  It has also primed me to look at other areas of my life where I may be quick to judge.  And, while it has been very inconvenient and slightly expensive for me since the collision, I am grateful that I got to learn something without a more serious consequence.

Therefore, I will conclude with: drive safely and be nice to each other.

There is a Greek expression that roughly translates as, “One bean at time, the bag is filled.”  Recently, I tried this approach with some creative writing.  I have been very busy in my non-work hours, but I decided to write a short story.  It took a month, but that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.  Every day I made some progress and it gave me a little bit of joy until I finished.  Then, I had a lot of joy!

Going through this process made me admire the discipline of the English novelist Graham Greene.  Apparently, he wrote exactly 300 words each day.  Not 295 one day and 314 the next day.  He would even finish in mid-sentence.  (That would probably happen almost every day.)  It sounds a little excessive, but he did finish over 25 novels, so it is hard to criticize.  I don’t know what he thought about beans.

I drove by a school this evening and I noticed a new inspirational message.  On the flip side of a sign that mentioned parent teacher meetings and exam dates were the words, “SUCCESS IS THE ONLY OPTION.”  At first, I just sighed and wondered if there was only one option, doesn’t that mean there are no options.  And, did the person who put this message up think of these kind of things.  Then, I realized it was possible, as long as the students gave 110% of their total abilities.  Well, no need to worry about the future, everything is going to be fine.

Being sick sucks.

OK, there is nothing new about that statement. And, since it is the common cold that I’m getting over, I know that there are worst things that can happen to a person.  I haven’t lost sight of that, so I am grateful that it was just a cold.  Still, this cold muddled up my plans.  But, during my sickness I did get some unexpected encouragement.

On one of the days where I was coughing  quite a bit, I decided to try some lozenges.  Of course they didn’t cure my cold, but they temporarily reduced my coughing.  What was interesting was that the lozenge manufacturer has printed some upbeat slogans on the wrappers.  You can see them in the photo below.  My French is poor, but even looking at them in English, it appears one says, “Return to the arena, Champion!”  (The other one should be something like, “You know you can do it!”)

It may not be much, but it made me smile.  And it did make me want to return to the arena, at least to go skating or play hockey.  Hopefully everyone is happy and healthy, or will be real soon!

Halls Wrapper

Halls Wrapper

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