Saturday, January 23, 2016
Hello, I’m Victoria and I’m pleased to meet you. I’d rather get to know you than have to write about myself but as my publisher Books We Love suggested we share something of ourselves so our readers can get to know us, I’m creeping out from under my writing stone.
You can take it from that statement that I’m something of an introvert, a trait I believe many writers share. However, I think I came by that attitude as a form of defence. Being a first born I had something of a Type A personality, taking charge even as a child. Once, on overhearing my parents discussing how they were to get to an upcoming regimental dinner and dance, I marched from my grandmother’s house several blocks to the taxi driver’s house and promptly ordered a taxi for them. I was five years old.
But, being constantly on the move as an army brat drove me into myself and my books. My Dad was classed as a Permanent Staff Instructor to Territorial Army units, but we were anything but permanent. After the third move when I was about eight, I can clearly remember thinking there was no point in making friends. In a year, or less, we would be packing up and moving on again. I started making myself as inconspicuous as I could at each new school I arrived at and although friendly, I chose to not make close friends. As such I was considered something of an oddity and left pretty much alone. Because I read so much I usually had an answer for everything in class, something else that did not endear me to my class mates although my teachers praised my efforts as they totted up my house marks.
My biggest passions were reading and horses. My parents could never understand where this passion sprang from and were less than understanding when I left home to work in a hunt stables. I was in my element with four horses in my string and loved everything about them from Thor's weird sense of humor, Doctor's pleasure in cuddling, Zulaika's fascination with birds and Tangerine's inability to walk, he was a constant jogger. I was at the age, of course, where boys and horses were on a par, until one boy beat the horses by a head and we were married. We produced three children, before parting company fifteen years later.
I’d tried writing as a teenager, lurid tales about Virginia, Girl of the Golden West. Virginia was my alter ego, the girl I would loved to have been. She could ride, shoot, was incredibly brave and did everything I would never have dared to do. I wrote about her freedom with utter longing. Unfortunately, my parents read one of my scribbled stories and laughed until they cried. Probably rightly, but it was a long time before I took up the pen again.
My working life after the horses and the family was a series of office management positions, some interesting others not. In my mid-30’s I took up horse riding again and gained a great deal of pleasure from being around them again. In between times I had variously been on one committee or another, starting with the PTA, then Cubs and Scouts for my boys and Junior Red Cross for my daughter. I was on our family horse riding club committee for years, helping to organize and run shows.
After meeting and marrying a Canadian, I made Calgary, Alberta my home. While my immigration processing proceeded, I volunteered for various organizations until I was able to legally obtain work in my new country. This time I went into apartment management, something that never had a dull moment. You never knew what people were going to do next from the super nice, young professional man who was arrested for drug dealing, to the cheerful hooker I had to evict under the ‘wrongful use of premises’ clause in the lease agreement. After the apartment buildings I managed properties for a self-storage company. No lack of stories there I can tell you! I guess my childhood managing ways came to the fore in the end.
These days I can look back on my varied positions and see how each one involved record keeping and writing of some kind, usually reports. I ran my riding club’s newsletter for a couple of years, wrote a book for my daughter and finally, with huge encouragement from my new husband, took up writing for myself. With my first writing group I was membership director and assistant newsletter editor, then editor for about two years. As such I attended most board meetings. With my second writers group I again managed memberships before moving on to Program Director for monthly meetings and workshops. Whereas some people are intimidated by organization I find great satisfaction in working out all the parts of the whole and making them work together. I guess that five year old still lurks beneath my skin!
These days, and fortunately retired from formal employment, I continue to write, read and volunteer at Spruce Meadows, the world class equestrian centre just south of Calgary. I enjoy hiking and trail riding in the summer. I snow shoe in winter. I’m involved in the AMBER study, a five year study being conducted by the University of Calgary on the effects of diet and exercise on breast cancer patients.
Yes, I’ve beaten that beast twice now. I was first diagnosed in 2006, had treatment in 2007 and had follow up hormone therapy from 2008 to 2013. One year after that it was back again. In 2014 my course of treatment was very different as I refused chemotherapy, radiation and hormone therapy. Instead I chose surgery for a complete bilateral mastectomy and altered my diet and lifestyle. All the reading and research I did during my first course of treatment convinced me it was not the best for when I faced it again. Along with discussions with my own doctor, my surgeon and oncologist, I consulted with a naturopath and nutritionist. I researched several clinics that were having huge success in treating their cancer patients with alternative therapies. My friend Maxine helped me enormously in researching various superfoods to help boost my immune system. And from my early 30s, when one riding instructor recommended I take up yoga, I still go to class and practise at home most days a week.
I’m happy, healthy and love my life. I have a super group of friends, I visit my family in England as often as I can and have a great deal to be thankful for. While some women worry about maturing (hey, that’s what fine wine does!) I wouldn’t want to be any age again. Been there, done that, I’ll just enjoy now and what’s ahead.
Friday, January 22, 2016
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It’s Freaky Outside This Comfort Zone
Yeah but what a view
This blog is around writing and life in general and why you don’t get what you say you want. Now you probably heard the term, Comfort Zone, before. I always wondered if Comfort Zone meant something to do with a nice cozy couch or snuggling in my warm bed and does being outside of it mean my electric blanket doesn’t work.
I took some personal development courses many years ago and learned many things about myself and what I attract in my life and how I see the world through my unique set of rose-colored glasses that we all have. Even if I don’t wear glasses, nor even like roses. Yeah, sorry I’m not a vegetarian and have been known to snarf down the odd burger and salty deep fried onion rings. Might have to stop for a snack that sounded good with or without the triple yummy sauce, pickles and bacon and melted Applewood smoked cheese. That’s it, never write on an empty stomach. I’ll be back in fifteen.
Burp. Now, back on the topic. Everyone has their own comfort zones around everything they see, do and interact with in life. For some, like the pope, he’d have a huge comfort zone around using the fword and would have a hard time stepping out of it. Where others like Myley Cyrus has very little around strutting around nearly naked on stage in front of thousands of fans and even less on human decency. Don’t even get me started.
I learned that criminals in a study would pick out the same person time and time again to mug. So while a person doesn’t usually want to get hit over the head and have their wallets stolen, they are attracting it to themselves by the way they portray themselves to the outside world. All about comfort zone. Why do children of alcoholics marry alcoholics? Again comfort zone. While some comfort zones are nice, others are ugly and until I learn what mine are I will attract to me certain things time and time again. I need to become conscious of what it is I’m putting out there and how I want to attract different things into my life.
I learned many things in the Context Associated series, well worth trying if there’s any in your area. But the most important to writers is this. In today’s world the idea of self-marketing is of utmost importance. Gone are the days of company paid book tours. The internet has changed our lives and while you may get a novel published either via self or through an ebook company it is up to you to do your own marketing. Just ask the aging rock stars of the world. I don’t think you’ll ever see another Bon Jovi or Rolling Stones rock group making hundreds of millions off music sales and doing world tours.
I’ve been busy learning that I have to step outside my comfort zone and believe in myself and my writings. Just like Ronald McDonald believed once he took off his clown outfit he could cook a mean burger. I’ve been linking, blogging and posting on facebook and lately twitter. Hated twitter, as a writer what can I say in 140 letters? Give me a novel to write and different scenario, Comfort zone. I have to believe that my writing is better than good. It is great and I can and will put myself first and out there. Yes, that is stepping outside of what most insulated writers do. Yup. It’s easy to sit in a room and bang away at typewriter keys, oh sorry another changing thing of the times. How many of those do you think they sold last year? So go ahead and put your foot on the center stage in front of billions, or at least here’s hoping. Get Twittering, Insta whatever, facebooking and using whatever new medium pops up these years. There is the old story of a writer who gave up and filed away his ideas for kids books. Until one of his friends said, after reading the dust collecting book on his shelf. “I think there’s a market for green eggs and ham.”
Make your New Years Resolution as Mrs. Frank’s. I bet her context around comfort zone was stretched when she said, “I put that Sh*t on everything.” Look where that got her.
So get out there and put your books and life in front of the world.
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Thursday, January 21, 2016
I will start of this post by telling you a bit about myself - since it's been suggested by my publisher BooksWeLove.
I have been a creative for as long as I can remember, beginning with hand-sketched drawings when I was about eight, and progressing to painting with acrylics at around ten.
I also began writing when I was about ten, after a hippy substitute teacher took over my grade six class for nearly a year. When he arrived, guitar slung over his shoulder, I moved to the back of the classroom. As the weeks went on, I slowly moved closer to the front.
After many months of listening to classical poetry, and learning the stories behind each poem, we progressed to writing our own poetry and then short stories. More time was spent outside the classroom (writing poetry and short stories) than was spent in it.
It was a year of enlightenment for me, and one I will never forget.
By eleven, I was editor of the high school newspaper and began writing non-fiction articles for my local council. Over the years I have written for national and international magazines, written sales pages for internet sites, as well as undertaking business writing. (Sometimes you just have to put money on the table.)
Throughout all of this, my love for writing fiction, particularly romantic suspense, has never waned.
In addition to running a website for writers for over ten years, I have been writing coach on a one-to-one basis for several writers. Working as a staff trainer for about twelve years certainly helped in this area.
On a more personal level, my husband Alan and I recently celebrated 41 years together. We have two adult "children" and six grandchildren, three of whom have lived with us for the past twelve years. It's a challenge at times, but you do what you have to do.
For a little over fifteen years, I have dabbled in creating greeting cards, which I find to be very relaxing. Many a plot problem has been solved in my craft room! I have recently begun art journaling, as well as canvases. (YouTube is a wealth of information for just about any topic!)
On that note, here is a card and canvas I made for my granddaughter's 15th birthday this week.
The image is a Prima Doll, with several different (but similar) images in the range. Since it was for a teenager, I made sure there was lots of bling and ribbons on this card.
Here is the canvas I made to go with it.
I am very new at canvases, so it's not perfect, and is very basic, but I'm pretty happy with it, and my granddaughter did love it. (And that's the main thing.)
I hope you've enjoyed this card and learning more about me. Thanks for reading, and I'll see you next time!
My website: www.cheryl-wright.com
BWL website: http://bookswelove.net/authors/wright-cheryl/
Tuesday, January 19, 2016
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Not too long ago, on the way back from the grocery store (imagine this dramatically emblazoned upon the big screen like a Star Wars scrawl), my wife suddenly shouted, “Oh, my God!”
“What? What’s wrong?” I imagine the worst, maybe a spider crawling on the window next to her. (And believe me, with her that is the worst; once she jumped out of her still running car when she saw a spider).
“I’ve got the EZ Brite jingle running through my head,” she exclaimed.
That actually brought me a great amount of happiness. EZ Brite doesn’t exist, nor does the jingle. It’s a fictional teeth-whitening product I created for my new comedy mystery, Bad Day in a Banana Hammock. One of my two protagonists, Zak (an extremely vapid, but good-hearted male stripper), has the jingle crawling through his head at the most inopportune moments. Particularly when he needs to focus on why he wakes up with no memories of the previous night. And next to a dead, naked man.
“EZ Brite makes your teeth clean, EZ Brite gets out the greennnn…”
By definition, an earworm is a memorable piece of music that continually repeats through a person's mind after it is no longer playing. It’s also known as a brainworm; some people refer to it as “stuck song syndrome.” No matter what you call it, earworms are insidious and harder to get rid of than poison ivy.
What really surprised me, though, is the amounts of research scientists have given this phenomenon. A long list of researchers (too long, too boring to list here) has been studying this illness since at least the ‘50s. 98% of the population is bothered by this condition. While it affects both men and women, it tends to irritate women more and stays with them longer (probably due to the natural tunnel vision of men). Suggested cures? OCD medication, brain puzzles like Sudoku and chewing gum.
“EZ Brite, nice and easy, seconds to apply, really breezy…”
Unfortunately, my fictional earworm has been bothering me since penning my book.
But I had relief over the holidays. Radio stations inundated us with even worse earworms. You couldn’t turn the dial without being tortured by Santa Baby. For my wife, it was Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer. Both equally obnoxious earworms.
Chewing gum didn’t help me (my wife can’t stand to be around gum-chewers). Perhaps someday, scientists will actually create a true cure for this sickness that infects 98% of the world. With that high a percentage, you’d think the men in lab-coats would prioritize it. Maybe they’ll create a brain-implanted chip that can turn earworms off. I mean, we can “block” friends on Facebook with relative ease. This just seems like the next logical step.
“EZ Brite goes on quick, tastes so good, just give it a lick…”
And I apologize for contributing to this sinister disease with my fictional earworm.
There are more verses of the EZ Brite jingle in Bad Day in a Banana Hammock. There’s also Zach’s tough, take no guff, ex-detective sister, Zora, who has three kids in tow and one on the way. She’s also very cranky. Stir in a murder mystery involving a plastic surgery enhanced femme fatale, a frighteningly large and deadly European chauffeur, a dead politician, a gleefully loud politician, a Hillaryesque politician’s wife, a competitive male stripper in a fireman’s outfit, a conspiracy theory hermit, aging hippie parents, and squabbling kids and maybe—just maybe—you’ll be distracted enough to not add a new earworm to your minds IPod.
Monday, January 18, 2016
Well, I must say things have changed drastically since last month. I have spent the holidays in Winnipeg, Manitoba at the Health Sciences Centre. Not exactly how I planned to spend Christmas, New Year's and all of January up to this point. My oldest son, who is respected Equine Surgeon, was admitted to ICU on Christmas Eve suffering from some strange symptoms. He has been in ICU ever since and up until last Monday we had no diagnosis. It is without a doubt one of the scariest things I have ever experienced. A huge team of doctors, encompassing more areas of expertise than I can remember, were stumped. Many procedures and tests followed, some of which were sent to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN. While they waited for results to come in they began treating him for what they believed was most likely to be the cause. A lot of very terrifying conditions and diseases were talked about, most of which did not have good outcomes. We faced the fact that our son might never leave the ICU alive.
Then last Monday night, January 11, which is actually his birthday, one of his doctors came into the room and said he had some news. A test came back positive for a condition that was treatable! It is a surreal feeling to be overjoyed to be told that your son has a rare form of encephalitis. It was the best news we could have gotten, because it was a treatable thing. The chances of full recovery are very good. We are not out of the woods yet and there is a long road to do down yet, but at least there is a road to walk down with a light at the end of the tunnel.
So, the point of me telling you this is....? Never take anything for granted, ever. Hug your kids, tell them you love them, no matter how old they are. Tell your friends what they mean to you. There are no guarantees in life and this has been brought home to me very clearly. Who would ever guess that a healthy successful thirty-five year old would become incapacitated so quickly. In the space of a few days he went from a highly functioning professional to being hooked up to a machine that breathed for him. Take the time to appreciate the glory of the sunrise, the magnificence of a sunset, the diamond points of the stars on a clear night. Dance in the moon shadows on crisp white snow under the full moon. Don't hate Mondays or wish away the cold winter months longing for spring. Live in the moment of each and every day. Come Hell or High Water live life to the fullest to the best of your ability. Wishing you Peace, Joy, Love and Happiness each and every day of your lives.
You can visit my website, follow me on twitter @emilypikkasso and on Facebook
I am currently working on the next book in the Arabella's Secret series. The Selkie's Song is the first book and is available at Amazon and where good books are sold everywhere.
Sunday, January 17, 2016
Our marveklous publisher thought we should let the readers know a bit about us. So here's a bit about me. I've just entered my 48th year of being a published author but not all those years were spent writing. Some of the time was spent being a nurse and storing up material for when I returned to writing.
Now to my original bit. I read at an early age. Now this I don't remember but my mother told me the story. From the day I came home from the hospital, once a week or so my grandfather would read to me. He ran a finger under the words as he read each one. What I remember is sometime between my third and fourth birthday I began to read to my mom and dad. I quidkly went through all the children's books and those mom would find at the library. I wanted my own card. At that time to have a card you had to show you could read. I passed and began a systematic, alphabetical journey through the children's section. When I went to school I thought reading class was boring. When my turn to read from Dick and Jane, I read with expression. Was my teacher happy? Not one bit. She acused me of memorizing the book. My father didn't like this when I told him. He went to school and snagged the principal and told her,no one calls my child a liar. Pick any book off your shelf and open it and tell her to read. I passed that test and was allowed to read books during reading class. Never did learn much about Dick and Jane.
By the time I reached third grade I was reading any book my parents had on their shelves. They were also readers. I read Anna Karenina and gave it as a book report, shocking the teacher but she remembered what had happened when I was in first grade. She did object to the way I ended the book report since I found ways to change the ending. That was when I decided to become a story teller.
Writing plays to put on in a friend's garage was my first venture into fictional story telling. We had a great deal of fun and the neighbors came to our shows. There were many pages of these first efforts that were lost when we moved. But I could make up more. During high school other things came into my head. I liked all my subjects except Geometry and Typing. There was little time for writing stories but I did scribble away.
My father was a steelworker and strikes were common. I knew I couldn't spend my life trying to be a writer. I went to school and became a nurse. Occasionally I was called by one of my instructors not to be so descriptive in my nurses notes or in my case studied. The good thing I I added observing to my skills and I continued reading.
I worked as a nurse, married and had pneumonia. My sister-in-law brought me a bag of books to read. They were all nurse romances. By about the fifth book, I knew I could do better. The writers new little about nurses, doctors or hospitals. I began making notes. But selling that first book took time especially since I decided to start with short stories. In 1968 I sold the first short stories and wrote and sold more. The magazine marked for short stories was going dry. I sold two stories that I recieved money for but the magazines folded before the stories were published. So I set out again to learn how to write longer. In 1972 I sold my first romance - a nurse romance. I wrote some more, raised four children, returned to work as a nurse as they neared college age and writing went on the back burner.
I returned to writing in the late 1980's and had to learn things like queries and the like. In 1994 I was published and since then I've added a few books to my shelf. I'll put some of the covers here. By the way, I still read and write.
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