Thursday, 16 June 2016

Write what you know? What do I know?

My talented friend, Alexis Marie Chute (who accomplishes more in 5 minutes than I do in a year...oh, to be a high-energy person!) recently posted a "write what you know" reminder on instagram.  Upon seeing this advice, I had my usual reaction of, "I don't KNOW anything!  I haven't done anything!"  Since I married young, have only had a few jobs, have only taken a few college courses, haven't travelled much, and have spent the last nine years barely surviving the raising of little kids, I feel like I don't have a lot of interesting personal experiences to draw from. At least none that I want to write about.  Then I realised that I do have something: Random trivia that I've read about over the years.  My obsessive personality likes to read everything possible about whatever topic is most interesting at the time.  And I tend to retain a lot of it.  So here is a list of things that I DO know something about (even if I've never actually done many of them and they'll probably never help me win a game of Trivial Pursuit):


  • medieval history (most recently, the Plantagenet dynasty thanks to library audiobooks and Dan Jones)
  • medieval heraldry
  • medieval reinactment groups
  • period-appropriate medieval and regency costumes
  • wilderness survival
  • how to do projects without reading the directions or following the rules
  • how to furnish a house with second-hand items
  • Harry Potter
  • latin names of plants...although I'm never sure whether the name that comes to mind when I see a plant is the correct one until I look it up and prove myself right.
  • L. M. Montgomery's books and life (her journals are fascinating)
  • potential problems in renovating an old house
  • building
  • furniture refinishing
  • living in the country
  • tea
  • writing
  • master's degrees that I'd love to get, but both can't afford and don't qualify for (since I don't have an undergraduate degree...can't I skip that part? Or win the lottery so I can do both?)
  • And much more that I can't remember now, but I'm sure will float to the surface of my mind when I'm trying to remember important things like picking up prescriptions, or when was the last time I cleaned the bathroom?
Now, how can I use all this to write a novel?


Sunday, 17 January 2016

Book Review: The Painter's Daughter, by Julie Klassen




The Painter's Daughter, by Julie Klassen, is set in regency England, as are all her books as far as I know. 

Sophie Dupont, daughter of a portrait painter, assists her father in his studio, keeping her own artwork out of sight. She often walks the cliffside path along the north Devon coast, popular with artists and poets. It's where she met the handsome Wesley Overtree, the first man to tell her she's beautiful.
Captain Stephen Overtree is accustomed to taking on his brother's neglected duties. Home on leave, he's sent to find Wesley. Knowing his brother rented a cottage from a fellow painter, he travels to Devonshire and meets Miss Dupont, the painter's daughter. He's startled to recognize her from a miniature portrait he carries with him--one of Wesley's discarded works. But his happiness plummets when he realizes Wesley has left her with child and sailed away to Italy in search of a new muse.
Wanting to do something worthwhile with his life, Stephen proposes to Sophie. He does not offer love, or even a future together, but he can save her from scandal. If he dies in battle, as he believes he will, she'll be a respectable widow with the protection of his family.

The heroine, Sophie, is so relatable, with her insecurity about her looks and her talent, and the mistakes she's made. She is sometimes a little too meek, but I think that's what got her into the mess in the first place. I love that we get to see a glimpse of her hidden passion in the very first scene, as she hurls a portrait of herself off the cliff. 

I love the current trend in inspirational fiction to allow flawed, damaged, or even "soiled" heroines. The Christian historical romances I read as a teenager nearly always featured a chaste and virtuous girl who never once had a passionate thought, and whatever scrape she was in at the beginning of the story was no fault of her own. Real, confusing, heartbreaking passion is refreshing.

Stephen, our dashing and scarred hero, has his own flaws, and his own secrets, and I love him for them. He is a problem-solver. A fixer. And does his best to fix Sophie's problem.

Plot:  I like the way the plot progressed, with Sophie being torn between absent, irresponsible Wesley and present but distant Stephen.  Sophie and Stephen's need to keep up appearances with his family adds even more tension into the mix.  As I read, I was braced for some horrid betrayal, which I thought would be inevitable, and which I hate.  I'm way too empathetic to bear such a thing.  Yet, (SPOILER! sort of) it never came and consequently I loved how Julie Klassen let the story unfold.

When I was halfway through through reading the book, I stayed up way too late reading, then dreamed the rest of the story after I finally went to sleep.  The real ending is much better than what my subconscious came up with,

Now I would love to read a story about Sophie's sweet little sisters and their selfish mother. Perhaps, The Painter's Stepdaughter for your next book, Ms. Klassen?

I was provided with a copy of this book by Graf-Martin Communications in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions expressed are my own.

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

My Real Job


My daughter (age eight) told me yesterday that I should get a real job.  And it broke my heart.  I know she only says that because she thinks daycare would be fun.  But it hurts to think that maybe she doesn't value the same things I value.  It is important to me that I be able to pick up the kids from school, help them with their homework and piano practice, and be there to teach them to be good and kind and helpful and loving.

This job I do all day, every day, and even every night as I'm tucking my son back into bed because the wind is too loud or he's feeling sick or he's too bored to sleep, is real.  It takes all of my energy and all of my thoughts and all of my heart.

I've never been a great housekeeper, even though that is part of my  very real job.  But I do keep trying.  I get enough mental criticism from my own mind that I don't need it from others.  What I need is encouragement.  And to have them believe in me.  And to find worth in the goals I am striving for.

Dearest daughter, you will have your whole life to hang out with your friends.  But your childhood here, with mom and dad and little brother, is so fleeting.  And guarding it is my job.  You're nearly half grown up already.  I want to be here for the rest of it.


Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Proof that I'm no poet

I was really bored on the flight from Calgary to Victoria. With the turbulence, reading made me sick, and I felt like I had been knitting all day. My seatmate's long legs kept me from digging around in my bag for my headphones. I used to write poetry when I was a teenager. None of it was any good. Nor is this one. I always feel cheesy or fake when I try to be poetic. Additionally, I have no clue about poetry's conventions and rules. Enjoy!
---

The sunset taunts as it lays
on a horizon of blue-grey cloud
spread in drifts far below me.

Ever before me in my westward journey,
never changing, never setting.

It rests and waits for me,
its smooth orange glow
holding a promise of the rest
that I know I will find eventually.

Until then, I fly,
sitting too long and thinking too much.

My fingers fly too, with needles and yarn,
as my mind, awkward and rusty,
composes poetic nonsense
from a muse long banished. 

Calgary at dusk. 

Friday, 24 April 2015

What I Love About Our New House

Well, it's about time for some positivity around here! My recent posts have been full of Big Feelings, but have been rather on the depressing side. So let's walk through the new house—with words, because I don't have very many pictures. (All photos taken by me at the home inspection, and purposely chosen to show a minimum amount of the current owner's things, out of respect.)

To start with, I love the neighbourhood.  It has a mix of traditional house styles, like colonial, craftsman, farmhouse, etc. Ours is more on the farmhouse side of things, or would be if it had a bigger front porch and a steeper, more gabled roof. Our street is lined with trees on the boulevard, and in 15 years the street will look just like the beautiful riverside neighbourhood that I've always loved. 

The front porch is a little bigger than the one on our duplex, but not quite big enough for a swing. But that's OK because I have the perfect bench for it. And visitors will be welcomed by a cheery red door, which opens into a real entry instead of straight into the living room. I was quite impressed with how pretty the tiles in the entry are (and by our realtor's gorgeous shoes!).


As you walk into the house, the living room is to your left, with its big southeast-facing bay window that I adore. The room also has an awkward corner fireplace, which is not ideal. I've never liked corner fireplaces, or gas fireplaces (although I do concede that they're more convenient than the wood-burning ones that I love). It's going to take some creativity before I'm happy with it. I've never liked corner fireplaces. But, as The Nester says, it's a "lovely limitation," and I'll be gleaning ideas from the way she worked with her own corner fireplace.

Except for the entry and bathrooms, the entire main floor, stairs, and upper floor have gleaming hardwood in that variegated blonde colour that makes me think "Swedish farmhouse" for some reason.  Maybe because it's exactly the colour and sheen as the pine Ikea table we had for the first eight or so years of our marriage.

Between the living room and kitchen lies a broom closet (Yay! Our duplex doesn't have one!) and a powder room. But the curious thing about the powder room is that it is also the laundry room. This room is going to benefit from my time spent browsing Pinterest. I'm really excited to work on it. It has a lot of potential, and will look amazing when I'm done with it.


The back left corner of the house holds the kitchen. I get a white kitchen, finally! I don't care that the cupboards are that plastic-covered MDF instead of real wood and the counters are basic dark grey laminate. It will look pretty for now, and there's plenty of time to upgrade if we choose later. One thing I will definitely change ASAP is the backsplash. It is currently shiny white 4-inch square ceramic tiles in impeccable condition. But to me they look like they belong in a bathroom. I think that's because they're so much shinier than the cupboards. (You can keep up with my ideas for the new house on Pinterest)

The back door and closet are in the kitchen. I'm really going to miss my mudroom, tiny as it is. But we can make it work, as long as we work hard on developing tidy habits once we move in.

A lovely, large dining room is in the other corner of the house, with a huge window looking out on the deck. I've never had a dining room before. I've never actually lived in a detached house before. This room is just the right size for our big farmhouse table, and wide enough to have a lot of versatility too.


Upstairs, the main bedroom is at the front of the house, with another big bay window. The room is huge, and what it lacks in versatility, it makes up for in floor space. The closet is weird. It takes up one entire long wall, is not walk-in, and is accessed via three evenly-spaced bi-fold doors. This will eventually be remedied. I don't yet know how, and it may take me a few years of thinking before I come up with something.


The ensuite bathroom isn't as big as we would have liked, but it is definitely bigger and more functional than the teeny tiny one we've had for the last six years. It has potential. And a window.
The other upstairs bathroom looks exactly like every other basic bathroom you'd expect to find in a house like this.

The kids' rooms are a nice size and look out to the backyard. It will be fun getting them set up.
We were lucky to find a finished basement in our price range. And it's nicely done, with a large and versatile rec room, and a large bedroom/office/whatever. The small bathroom actually includes a jetted tub, which is funny (but nice!). The house has an excessive number of bathtubs. Our main problem with the lovely basement is the 2 smallish storage rooms. We will have to carefully curate what we keep in there. But that is actually a good thing, and will keep us from being burdened by unnecessary junk.

To finish off this wordy tour, one of the best perks of this house is what it doesn't have: loud traffic! It's a really quiet street. I've driven by several times (like a stalker), and it's always peaceful.

Now I feel better. One of the things that makes the issues I mentioned in my last post harder is that we have to wait so long to move into the new one.  If I could immediately start working on the new house, I wouldn't have the time to dwell on the disappointment of my ideals.