Monday, October 9, 2017

Happy Birthday to the Classic Novel JANE EYRE

In October of 1847 - one hundred and seventy years ago - the classic novel ‘Jane Eyre’ was published by Smith, Elder and Company. The author’s name on the cover was ‘Mr.’ Currer Bell.

But ‘Currer Bell’ didn’t write the book, but Ms. Charlotte Brontë (April 21, 1816 – March 31, 1855) from the village of Haworth in Yorkshire, England. Charlotte had been writing and submitting short stories and poems to publishers under the name of Currer Bell, and despite her stories being rejected, she kept writing. It is said that in 1846 while on a trip with her father to Manchester, England in which he had to have surgery, Charlotte began writing ‘Jane Eyre,’ a semi-autobiographical novel that would help cement her firmly in literary history for generations to come.

Back then women simply were NOT 'writers', never mind published writers – writing was deemed appropriate only for men. So when THE END was written on the final page of ‘Jane Eyre’, Charlotte Brontë knew her male pseudonym would have to yet again accompany her manuscript to prospective publishers. She and her sisters had already cloaked themselves with men’s names in the literary world – much-needed if their work was going to get noticed – and a book of poems had been published under the co-author names of Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell - Currer for Charlotte, Ellis for Emily and Acton for Anne. Emily and Anne also published individually under their male pseudonyms.

Six weeks after sending out the manuscript, ‘Jane Eyre’ was published and was an instant success. Charlotte earned 500 pounds for that book; twenty-five times her salary as a governess, which was a tremendous amount for those times. Controversies, myths, fabrications and cover-ups of those times obscure the true story of how the real identity of Currer Bell – as well as Ellis and Acton - came to be, but the authors’ true identities as females didn’t seem to affect the success of ‘Jane Eyre’ as the book launched Charlotte into the literary world, forging close relationships with William Thackery and Elizabeth Gaskell. But it was during the writing and publications of her not-as-successful next novels, ‘Shirley’ and ‘Villette’, that Charlotte was met with family tragedy. The deaths of her brother and sisters brought on a loneliness that seemingly forced her into a loveless marriage. She soon realized the duties of marriage and caring for her ailing father made writing impossible and she died of pneumonia during her pregnancy not having written anything further of note.

Fast forward 170 years….

I first read ‘Jane Eyre’ in my grade nine English class, and I was instantly hooked – a forever fan. Yes, the writing style of that era was something new to my 80's child-self. I was used to Nancy Drew books, Sweet Valley High, Sweet Dream teen romances, Danielle Steele and I was just starting to dabble in Harlequin romances (I read A LOT in my teens). Not that there was anything wrong with what I had been reading up until then, but written works from the Victorian Era was quite different and challenging for my 15-year-old self.

And I’m so very, very thankful the school’s curriculum had us read this classic novel. We analyzed and over-analyzed the novel, and countless essays were penned with fervour about the classic (the beginning of my writing career!). Reading the book at that age broadened my world, whetted my writing taste buds, ignited my romance reader/writer ways, and initiated my appreciation of historical literary fiction. Would I have ever picked up such a book later in life if I hadn’t been handed that classic? Maybe, maybe not. We can never know what the future holds. Charlotte Brontë had no idea that her novel in which she had to disguise herself as a male author to get published would be still appreciated 170 years later, either.

My life-long love of the book is still strong. I have numerous editions of the beloved story of which I have re-read countless times over the years, I once met a hunky English-man with a dog named Pilot (spoiler alert) - HELLO Mr. ROCHESTER! - I’ve watched many Hollywood renditions of the story on the big screen and love them all (despite the movie critics’ cranky ways), and I still love the famous line that goes….

But no more spoilers! You must read it!

Despite my love for the novel and appreciation for historical literary fiction I’m not a historian, and any errors made here are strictly my own: may the ghost of Charlotte Brontë haunt me forever due to my inadequacies. But when she does come visiting to scold me for my historical shortcomings, she better be ready as I’ll have cake and tea waiting to celebrate the birthday of her timeless novel that will always hold a dear place in my reader heart.
(painting of the Brontë sisters by their brother, Patrick Branwell Brontë)


Be sure to check out the Brontë Society, a group committed to the preservation of the Brontë Family and their works.

Articles of interest: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/art/art-news/12057053/National-Portrait-Gallery-to-reveal-mysteries-of-shadowy-Bronte-brother.html

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Summer's Over - Fall is Near

It's been a long hot, busy summer. When I wasn't busy working outside the home, I was busy with my family at home. New places of employment for many in my house prevented us from going anywhere, but that's okay - it just meant I could explore and enjoy where I live! Although my writing suffered a tad, other goals were met like publishing a much-loved story of mine, Street Notes (Opal Moon Press). I'm so thrilled and honored to have my book as part of this new line of young adult fiction!

Sadly the hot, dry summer months in these parts brought record-breaking, tragic wildfires around our province. Perspective is always being thrown back at me reminding me to always remember to make the most of what we have during the time we have. Although over the course of a few weeks we were covered in wildfire smoke and ash, there were a few weeks I was able to get out with my camera and enjoy some sun - I'm a lucky girl. Despite how extremely busy I was, I swam in the local lakes, practiced archery, read when I could, and focused on my family. I guess this is me writing a condensed first-week-of-school 'What I Did Last Summer' essay - oh how I loved writing essays when I was in school oh-so-many-moons ago!

Now with summer over and my one son back in school, routines will set back to normal - whatever normal is - and I hope to get back to writing, and on a regular basis. I have been chomping at the bit to write, but other things - and goals - took up my time and energy. I have learned that sometimes a break away from what we love can only strengthen the passion that brought us to that love in the first place. I had lots of time for thought and reflection and I look forward to jumping into fall that will race to the end of the year with a renewed perspective and fresh energy.
I can't wait for nights curled up with a book, getting out in clear, crisp, sunny fall days with my camera, writing in the early mornings, and setting and meeting new goals. Starbucks' Pumpkin Spice Latte's are calling my name, a shawl/wrap I am knitting is eager to be finished and worn, and I think this year I want to buy a pair of kitschy fall boots.

I wish you all a happy fall season. Stay safe, hug your loved ones (and often), call those who aren't local (and often), enjoy every moment of what you have, and always take time to read a book.

xo




Wednesday, August 16, 2017

New Release - Street Notes

I'm proud to reveal my new release - Street Notes - published by Opal Moon Press, the young adult line of After Glows Publishing!

Available for sale in ebook format right now at Amazon and at Chapters/Indigo.

Blurb: All 15-year-old Nick Zinsky wanted was a guitar of his own and a necklace for his mom, and he wanted to buy both on his own, without anyone’s help.

Nick’s mom want him to focus on school and not get a job. But Nick is anxious to save up, so he spends the summer and weekends busking downtown with a guitar loaned from school – a secret he has to keep from his mom, his music teacher, his friends, and especially from the school bully, Beau.

But when a music competition is announced where the prizes would solve all Nick’s problems, Nick lacks the confidence to enter.

Can he find the courage to enter and will it make his problems disappear?

Author note: ‘Street Notes’ is a story about bullying, a teens’ struggle for independence, and about learning that sometimes it’s okay to ask for help.

This book was previously published with the title “Newbie Nick” in June 2014.

Hope you'll check it out!

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Happy Canada Day, eh?

Here we are - the moment we have been waiting for. The build-up for Canada's 150th birthday has been a big one, and there are festivities everywhere! If you are one to brave the crowds (unlike me), I hope you have a great time out there - lots of sunscreen, lots of water, and lots of patience!

For me this long weekend means some time off work and not only spending time with friends and family, but also tackling a huge to-do list. But aside from all that, it's a time to be thankful for where we live, our sense of fellowship and pride, and our freedom to think, write, and speak freely. I am proud of where I live, proud of who I am - and just proud to be Canadian!

So while I'm busy getting through my to-do list, I'll be embracing my friends and family, enjoying a bit of Tim Horton's, enjoy saying 'Happy Canada Day, eh?' to everyone I meet, and wearing proudly wearing red.
Happy Canada Day, eh?

Saturday, June 24, 2017

My Eclectic Never-Ending To-Be-Read Pile

I have books, and lots of them.

I have books I save because they have been signed by the author specifically to me.

I have books I love beyond words and they reside on a keeper shelf to save forever.

I have books that are reference books, mostly for writing and inspiration, that I refer back to time and again; they have their own shelf.

Then there are the books I have won, bought and been given as gifts. Those gems are in my to-be-read pile.

Or more like shelf.

Or to be honest - shelves, closets, cupboards and drawers.

Yes, many readers have to-be-read piles - like an actual PILE of books - but I have shelves of to-be-read books, and any place I can store them. The 'to-be-read pile' is a general concept, I know. Many people DO have books waiting to be read on shelves and not in actual piles, but if I kept them in piles, I'd have nowhere to walk on my living room floor.

Some of the books waiting in line to be read are new books (new-releases or used/new to me) and some are cherished copies I have pulled off my keeper-shelf waiting to be re-read.

And no sooner do I make a pact with myself to a/don't buy anymore books until b/I have systematically gone through my to-be-read shelves - and I DO make a barely-there dent in my to-be-read pile - when I 'accidentally' come home with 'a' book or a 'few' books...

It's not that I don't want to read the books I have waiting in the wings, it's just that I'm like a crow - I pick up any shiny new thing I see along the way. I can't help it.

Here are just a few of my books in my to-be-read pile. Some are re-reads I have pulled off my keeper-shelf to re-read, some are new-to-me books. No book is more important than the other - some books in my to-be-read pile are based off mood. I hope this eclectic list of my books waiting to be read (or re-read) inspires you to branch out and get reading!

It's Kind of Funny Story - Ned Vizzini (April 2007)

I saw the movie first, got the book second. But then is - and it's kind of a funny story - I didn't even KNOW about this movie until it happened upon it on Netflix one night AND THEN I didn't even know it was a book first! So what did I do? After loving the movie I raced out to get the book. This has been patiently waiting on my to-be-read pile...must get to it!

Blurb:

Like many ambitious New York City teenagers, Craig Gilner sees entry into Manhattan's Executive Pre-Professional High School as the ticket to his future. Determined to succeed at life-which means getting into the right high school to get into the right college to get the right job-Craig studies night and day to ace the entrance exam, and does. That's when things start to get crazy.

At his new school, Craig realizes that he isn't brilliant compared to the other kids; he's just average, and maybe not even that. He soon sees his once-perfect future crumbling away. The stress becomes unbearable and Craig stops eating and sleeping-until, one night, he nearly kills himself.

Craig's suicidal episode gets him checked into a mental hospital, where his new neighbors include a transsexual sex addict, a girl who has scarred her own face with scissors, and the self-elected President Armelio. There, isolated from the crushing pressures of school and friends, Craig is finally able to confront the sources of his anxiety.

Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte (October 16, 1847)
A classic I was introduced to in English class in high school, I instantly fell in love with everything about it. The era, the style of writing , the characters, the story - all of it. I have read this book countless times over the decades (gasp!) and have many reprinted versions sporting various covers. This classic will always be my fave (I once met a real-life 'rake' whose dog was named Pilot - I swooned. I really did).

Blurb:

Having grown up an orphan in the home of her cruel aunt and at a harsh charity school, Jane Eyre becomes an independent and spirited survivor-qualities that serve her well as governess at Thornfield Hall. But when she finds love with her sardonic employer, Rochester, the discovery of his terrible secret forces her to make a choice. Should she stay with him whatever the consequences or follow her convictions, even if it means leaving her beloved?


The Outsiders - S E Hinton (April 24, 1967)
A classic I read in school, got a crush on Dallas and Ponyboy but on the page and on the big screen, this timeless story has me coming back time and again, always on the keeper shelf and never far from my heart.

Blurb:

No one ever said life was easy. But Ponyboy is pretty sure that he's got things figured out. He knows that he can count on his brothers, Darry and Sodapop. And he knows that he can count on his friends—true friends who would do anything for him, like Johnny and Two-Bit. But not on much else besides trouble with the Socs, a vicious gang of rich kids whose idea of a good time is beating up on “greasers” like Ponyboy. At least he knows what to expect—until the night someone takes things too far.


Fearless Writing - William Kenower (May 2017)

I love a good writing reference book, and I know from the blurb this one will help keep me going in my own writing. I just gotten myself out of a writing slump, and I know this will help keep me on track - fearlessly. Writer's get hit with lack of confidence, doubt, insecurity and fear with their writing. I know from the blurb this will help me get on track...

Blurb:

Find the courage to create your best writing life.

Whether you're a fledgling writer or a veteran with years of experience, fearlessness--that elusive blend of self-acceptance, confidence, and curiosity--is the defining quality of those who find fulfillment and success. Truly fearless authors banish writer's blocks with ease, receive critiques gracefully, and infuse their passion for the craft into every word they write.

Filled with insightful wisdom and practical advice, Fearless Writing teaches you how to thrive as a writer, no matter your genre or career path. You'll learn how to:
Find and enter a Flow state in which writing is a natural, deeply satisfying process.
Quiet both internal and external critics and embrace the inherent value in your work.
Use love, emotional engagement, and curiosity as the guiding principles for what you write and how you share it with others.
Overcome rejection, procrastination, and other obstacles that stifle your creativity.


Searching for Beautiful - Nyrae Dawn (March 2014)

I haven't read this before, and I'm very much looking forward to it. I'm a fan of young adult fiction, and I love following rich characters on their journey's of self-discovery, coming of age, and enlightenment. I know from the blurb this will be a good one!

Blurb:

Before it happened…

Brynn had a group of best friends, a boyfriend who loved her, a growing talent for pottery. She had a life. And then…she had none.

After it happened…

Everything was lost. The boy she now knew never loved her. The friends who felt she betrayed their trust. The new life just beginning to grow inside her.

Brynn believes her future is as empty as her body until Christian, the boy next door, starts coming around. Playing his guitar and pushing her to create art once more. She meets some new friends at the local community center, plus even gets her dad to look her in the eye again…sort of. But letting someone in isn't as easy as it seems.

Now…

Can Brynn open up her heart to truly find her life's own beauty, when living for the after means letting go of the before?

***

My collection of books keeps growing, which only proves frustrating as it makes me wish I had more time to read!

And of course, partway through writing this, I made a trip to the bookstore and got some more....

Friday, June 2, 2017

Reading and Writing and Everything in Between...

My time, mind, and body had recently been immersed and nearly swallowed-whole by other endeavours and life events, both good and bad. My reading and writing had suffered. But the distractions, the good and the not so good were, I realize now, needed, teaching me the never-ending lessons of perspective, gratitude, self-awareness, self-confidence, and enlightenment. So as some things have settled but others have accelerated, I’m making/finding/keeping time to read AND write. I never thought I’d say that as for much of my life reading and writing have consumed me, but maybe the break was needed with the benefits yet to be realized.

But despite the distance from the written word – both mine and of others – words were never far from my heart and soul. I’d jot down ideas – concepts, potential book titles, themes and plots. I’d have a book always at hand, and although I wasn’t reading in my usual voracious way, I DID still read, any amount good enough for me at the time.

So here I am, back on track, and with a few books, and magazines, on the go. My notebook, pen and laptop are humming…

And I can WRITE about what I’m READING, which in turn has only made me read more!

What I’m reading:

Write Naked by Jennifer Probst

Never judge a book by its cover.

How true that is. When I first saw ‘Write Naked’ on the shelf I suspected the book would be all about writing romance – and the ‘naked’ side of romance. Wrong. Written by a multi-published, award-winning, list-achieving romance author, this is a ‘what I learned along the way’ book with tips, lessons-learned, and honestly shared ups-and-down. Jennifer’s writing-journey in ‘Write Naked’ has me captivated – not only with her personal, down-to-earth voice, but with helping me get my writing life back on track, and deciphering what I want – and don’t want – to do with my writing. I’m loving every page, and every chapter has me thinking – and getting inspired. I’ve learned to just strip down, get naked, and write from the naked heart – and not to market and what everyone else is doing. The writing market is a fickle one, always changing without warning or reason. At the end of the day, I’ve surmised from the pages, just write and all will work out in the end.

Blurb: Learn how to transform your passion for writing into a career. New York Times best-selling author Jennifer Probst reveals her pathway to success, from struggling as a new writer to signing a seven-figure deal. Write Naked intermingles personal essays on craft with down-to-earth advice on writing romance in the digital age. Probst will teach you how to:
• Commit to your current work-in-progress, get focused, and complete it on schedule
• Reveal raw emotions and thoughts on the page to hook your readers
• Assemble a street team to promote and celebrate your books
• Overcome writer's block with ease
• Develop themes that tie together your books and series
• Write the most difficult elements of romance--including sex scenes--with skill and style
Regardless of the genre, every novelist faces a difficult task. Creating authentic characters and an engaging plot are challenging enough. But attempting to break into the hotter-than-ever romance genre, which is constantly flooded with new titles and fresh faces? It can feel impossible. This is where Probst's Write Naked comes in. To survive--and thrive--you need the help and wisdom of an expert.

Written in Probst's unmistakable and honest voice, Write Naked is filled with the lessons and craft advice every writer needs in order to carve out a rewarding career.

Blood on the Beach by Sarah Harvey and Robin Stevenson

I just started reading Blood on the Beach and I'm hooked! I’m a big young adult fiction reader (and writer) and I love getting down to the nitty-gritty of teen life – the dark, the happy, the coming-of-age, and everything in between. The writing in this contemporary/mystery/thriller written by two multi-published young adult authors is down-to-earth, blunt and honest, cuts to the chase – and most importantly keeps you turning the pages in anticipation. Kids, like adults, get themselves in to trouble and make wrong choices, but it’s how they see themselves out of those wrong decisions, and what they learn, is what matters.

Blurb: Eight teens are dropped off on a remote west-coast island for a week-long treatment program called INTRO (Into Nature to Renew Ourselves). The story is told by two of them: Alice, whose police-officer mother believes Alice might have a substance-abuse problem, and Caleb, who assaulted his abusive stepfather. They are joined by six other miscreants and three staff: a psychologist, a social worker and an ex-cop. On the first night, one of the girls disappears from her cabin. There is a panicked search of the island, but she is nowhere to be found. The adults seem oddly ineffectual in dealing with the crisis—and then the ex-cop gets sick and dies. The radio has been sabotaged, and there is no way to call for help. When the social worker also becomes ill, the kids decide to take matters into their own hands and track down the killer.

Fix-It and Forget-It Big Cookbook: 1400 Best Slow Cooker Recipes! By Phyllis Pellman Good

Yes, you CAN read a cookbook cover to cover! And with 1,400 recipes at that!

I love my crockpot and the abundance of recipes for everything from the down-home to the more adventurous palates is right in this perfect-sized book. Fix-It and Forget-It Big Cookbook has 1,400 simple recipes with ingredients for every budget there is something here for everyone. From beef to chicken to meatless recipes – from desserts to breakfasts to hot drinks – the possibilities are endless. Just put it all in, turn to low or high, set your timer, and go about your day (and get some reading and writing done instead of cooking!). This book is one of my go-to books and I love it.

And it keeps my taller-than-me family of men happily and heartily fed.

Blurb: Finally, all in one handsome volume, the best 1400 slow-cooker recipes!

New York Times bestselling author Phyllis Pellman Good has gathered the biggest collection of tantalizing, best-ever slow-cooker recipes into one great book.

The recipes in this amazing treasure are all—

• Collected from some of America’s best home cooks.
• Tested in real-life settings. Carefully selected from thousands of recipes.
• Eight small “galleries” of full-color photos of delectable slow-cooker dishes from the collection add sparkle throughout the cookbook.
• Absolutely manageable for those who lack confidence in the kitchen.
• Convenient for those who are short on time.
• Will bring a “make-it-again” request from all who are lucky enough to enjoy these tasty dishes.


And what about that never-ending to-be-read pile? See next post....

Thank you for stopping by!
Lisa


Sunday, April 16, 2017

Busy Easter Bunny....

I'm a busy girl today. Not only am I counting all my blessings during this special time, but I'm cooking a turkey, WRITING, getting outside on this sunny day to practice archery, 'helping' the Easter Bunny (my own little Easter Bunnies still asleep in their beds will never be too old for the Easter Bunny to visit), and most importantly....spending time with family and friends. True I won't be with my family in Vancouver (an expensive ferry ride away), but they are with me all the time in mind and spirit. The world of the internet makes maintaining relationships staying connected a little easier, and although nothing can replace being together in person, at least we make the most of what we DO have - each other - and stay connected all the time.

As I write this I'm about to get the turkey in the oven (I had to thaw it in the bathroom so the cat wouldn't get at it), then after a quick shower and spackling-on of make-up, I'll sit down and read for a bit. I made all my veggies yesterday and I actually cut-down on the amount I do, making more of one thing instead of 5 different things so I could have time for family and friends - and time to just BE. I've been in in a constant state of whirlwind go-go-go lately, and I'm trying - and this is not the first time - to slow down. Every time I put myself in check and nearly crumble under an avalanche overwhelm-ness, I remember I have to slow down. I'm getting better at it - I am - but it takes work. Another Easter is here - weren't we JUST celebrating Easter 2016? - and a lot has happened in my life in that year. A lot. But one constant is to slow down...and always count your Easter Eggs. Too much can get in the way of stopping to smell the roses - or in this case, to count your Easter Eggs. I take on too much, do too much, and although I could never say 'no' to too many chocolates, I know moderation is key - and with everything.

Easter is a time of reflection, remembrance, new beginnings, and renewed hope for the future. It's a time to stop and be with family, something I work year-round to do as best as I can, and a time to just enjoy what we have. I have the freedom and means to write what I want, when I want, and believe what I want, and how I want. I can take this time, yet again, to set and start anew, and know the future is bright no matter what tries to get in my way. I take time to read quietly from the abundance of books I have, and later sit back and watch my house full of men banter and bicker over turkey dinner. Yup - life is good.

I hope you have a lovely Easter and take time to hug your family, celebrate all you have, and just as equally important - to count your Easter Eggs - you have more than you realize.