They said I need to go somewhere . . .

I work for an airline, booking flights and helping our guests as they join tens of thousands more guests trekking back and forth across North and Central America every single day.

I hear all about the beautiful weather, the bad weather, the flawless flights and the flawed flights. The beaches and the mountains, cloudless days and star-studded nights. Meeting new friends and rekindling old friendships. You name it, I’ve heard it.

So now, I have eleven days off work. The world is at my fingertips. “Where are you going to go?” my coworkers asked on my last day. After all, the first thing most people who work in the travel industry do when they have a good chunk of time off, is take a trip SOMEWHERE. At the end of March, Calgary still has six weeks of possible, and probable, snow. Cancun, Hawaii, Aruba, St. Maartens. These places do not expect snow.

Yes, it would be fun to take in some of the sights, to dangle my feet in an ocean. But at the destination of each of those flights, there are hotels, restaurants, tours, souvenirs. All these things take money. And money is the last thing I need to be spending frivolously. I looked into the possibilities. If I did go ‘somewhere,’ it would have to be a one day trip (no hotels.) What did I want to do when I got there? That’s easy. Pull out the computer and write. Edit. Rewrite. Find an agent.

So I compromised. I dug through photos of great times past, and came up with the perfect solution.

Budget Beach, AB

Budget Beach, Alberta

The beach scene in the background is Laguna Beach, CA, taken in 1993 on my first trip to Southern California. The trees are in Los Angeles somewhere near City Hall from a 1997 trip, my third trip to Disneyland. The wine glass (yes, it lights up) is from a daughter’s fantastic one-week-to-plan-it backyard wedding in 2007 although the drink pictured was new which my granddaughter enjoyed after I took the picture (I don’t like raspberry ginger ale but it looked nice in the glass with a dash of orange juice and a strawberry. I couldn’t find my little drink umbrellas!) The sand is from our stash on the porch that we use on the icy sidewalks, just to remind me what I’m “missing,” not that we have ice on the sidewalks right now but it’s a symbolic thing. I considered sprinkling sand on my bedroom floor so I could squish my toes in it, but common sense and my daughter both said no. Those are, however, my toes, which you can see have had a virtual pedicure to go with the virtual manicured thumb. To complete my basement beach experience, my space heater blows a nice warm breeze over me while a tranquil nature CD produces the ambience of waves breaking on a beach with seagulls screeching on the wind.

I can even ‘go to the spa’ because my office chair has a massage function.

And now, without spending a dime, I can play on my computer and end up in the same wonderful (albeit imaginary) worlds I would be in if I were, in fact, on a real life beach, without the sun glare on my screen and the worry of salt and sand getting into the ports. Knowing me, though, I probably wouldn’t have even left the air-conditioned and secluded hotel room!

What can I say? I write fiction . . . I make up my own worlds!

Share some of your favorite vacation memories so I can pretend I’m sitting on the beach with you, enjoying a wonderful conversation with a friend!

Cheers!

It all Started with a Bear . . .

This is a lesson on the snowball effect.snowflake

As you know from my previous entries, I was planning a trip to Phoenix to see my sister (who was also visiting Phoenix and we met up there) and I planned a day trip to Flagstaff for some serious research into Caleb and Ana’s world. (Those are my best friends, and they live in my books, in case you didn’t know that already.)

And then the bear came along—just before the flight and—Look. I’ll just tell the story, which is not about my imaginary friends.

Early in October, I was working, booking flights, answering questions, trying to not get too excited that my trip was fast approaching. A lady wanted to book a flight from London, Ontario, to Phoenix. Not too unusual, as that is a destination for a LOT of Canadian snowbirds. She knew what flights she and her husband wanted and proceeded to tell me. As our airline doesn’t fly direct from London to Phoenix, they would be coming to Calgary and getting the connecting flight to Phoenix. Imagine my surprise when she wanted the exact same flight I was already booked on! We chatted while I booked their tickets, and I asked, as I often—but not always—do, what was drawing them to Phoenix.

What about the bear? you ask. There was something about a bear. You said a bear!
Be patient, dear ones.

They were going down to meet their yet-unborn first grandchild (a girl), who would be just a few days old when they got there! (A plan hatched in my brain. Just a smidgen of an idea at that point.) She asked my plans, as I had told her I would be on that flight, too. I briefly mentioned my sister and my research plans, but I just touched on it because I was nearly excited as she was about that baby. (Sorry Caleb. Sorry Ana. I was excited about seeing where you met, but this was a real live baby event. I’ll stop now before my imaginary friends decide to stop speaking to me.)

She wanted to choose seats so I asked what their preference was. She chose (completely unprompted by moi) the seats immediately in front of my already reserved seat! She said she wanted to try to find me on the plane and I told her I’d be the one kicking the back of her seat. We laughed and the call ended.

A few days before the flight, I bought this little bear from the airlines store. Just a little pink The Pink Bear in YYCbear wearing a hoodie with the airline’s logo. My plan was to sneak it onboard and have it waiting in the seat for the new grandma. A bit tricky as I didn’t know what they looked like, and we would be pre boarding together. The day finally arrived. At the airport, I met Anne in the check-in area. She gave me some check-in advice and asked about the little pink bear poking it’s nosy little nose out of my bag. I told her my story and it suddenly seemed rather silly. Still, she wanted my picture and before I made it through US Customs (cleared in Calgary-it’s a Canadian thing to clear US Customs at a Canadian airport) and then security—both in record time, of course!—she’d posted the picture—and my brief story—on Facebook.

I was at the gate before the United Airlines flight before mine was even boarding. So we sat there, we two, the little pink bear and I, and watched the comings and goings of a lot of people. Before anyone else on the Phoenix flight arrived, however, Miss Bear was tucked safely out of sight in my bag. When the gate agents arrived, I took my precious gift over and asked if they could sneak it onboard and gave them Miss Bear’s seat number. So now, my pink bear story has grown by two gate agents and three flight attendants and Miss Bear is securely buckled into her seat. Needless to say, the bear was a surprise and a big hit with Grandma and Grandpa and it turned into quite the ice breaker, as the twelve people sitting in those two emergency exit rows became friends (and a better emergency team because of it, I’m sure.) Not life-long friends, but oh-so-friendly. Fortunately, the team work aspect didn’t get tested. It was a friendly flight.

And all because of a little pink bear.

The Pink bearBut wait. It didn’t stop there. That bear started gathering good vibes. My boss saw the Facebook picture and read the story. She nominated me for an award with the company. I knew I had little chance of ‘winning’ the final spot but I had been nominated and felt like a winner already. I’d never had a boss do anything like that for me. I felt the warm fuzzies as if Miss Bear was right there hugging me.

A few months go by. I’d all but forgotten the nomination, but of course, I had my warm fuzzy memories of how my little idea had touched a few people and this made me feel the way I had wanted the new grandparents to feel. Then I received a corporate email inviting me to a Celebration. I asked my boss about this and she said it was because of the bear. Yes. THE Bear. I joined about fifteen or twenty of my co-workers as our specific actions  were read by the management. I felt rather out of place. I mean, one person had came up with a money saving idea which was implemented, another devotes hours and hours of overtime, and the HUGE ways the others had contributed. All I did was give a grandmother a bear. You may well imagine how surprised when I saw several eyes being dabbed as my story was read. A comment was made a little later on in the same meeting about how we need to listen more to our guests, like the way that [Peggy] had listened to the guests.

Wow.
Just Wow.

Wait. It really and truly didn’t stop there. You see, I do listen. A cute little three year old was in the background during a call last week, asking his mom about their trip to (drum roll, please) Phoenix the next day. “Who you talking to, mom?” “The person who is driving us to Phoenix on the plane.” Well, after I got over the shock of being promoted to CAPTAIN, I thought that was just the cutest thing. Mom was a little frazzled, and I was helping ease her stress (details not important) but I wanted to share that sweet little conversation, so I posted it on Facebook. The Likes and Comments started pouring in. The Flight Attendants on that flight were excited to meet the family. Others watched from the virtual stands.

We were all pumped up, all these friends I had never met, a team working together. Again. One of the comments came from Anne, who had originally posted my story back in October, so I wrote to her to let her know the impact she’d made on my life by doing that one simple thing.

That in turn made her feel good to know just how her one little post had blossomed. On two separate flights, Airport agents and Flight Attendants felt good because they’d joined in the fun, my boss felt good because she had done something nice for me, my executive team that held the celebration felt good because they loved the story and were able to share it.

Great Attitude SnowballThe thought occurred to me: How many times do we, in general, pass up an opportunity to perform one little act of kindness because we feel it won’t make a difference in the long run? That nobody cares.

Instead, just do it. That act of kindness might seem little to you, but to another it could be a huge day changer. And when you add all the people who are touched by it, even if only by the story of it, the little act grows and grows, and becomes even more acts by even more people and it keeps on growing, until you can’t even imagine how many people may have felt better even if only for a second—

All because you gave one little pink bear to a stranger.

Time for a Little Literary Yard Work

Lately, I’ve been sending queries off to agents and spending a lot of time waiting. Not idle time, mind you, but it’s given me some time to go through, over and again, my writing and tidy it up a lot.

You know . . . fixing typos and spelling, ensuring punctuation is not only correct but consistent, making sure grammar is spot on.

No surprises here!

No surprises here!

The path through my literary landscape was well balanced and esthetically pleasing. The gate at the beginning told you this was the beginning. There was just enough color and diversity to even things out. I had little labels on all the unusual things to explain where that came from, how this grew, and even why and something exotic and seemingly out-of-place was included in my garden of words. Everything was nicely labelled and laid out so anyone viewing it would know exactly what was planted there.

A garden is a wonderful place to go and just sit on the bench and take in the surroundings. A place to relax and just look (from that ubiquitous ornate wrought-iron bench) and see everything as it is. Sometimes, that exactly what you need. You see everything from your comfortable seat and since you know it all just from that one sitting so that when you close the gate at the end of the path, you have no reason to go back.

What kind I find here?

What can I find here?

Then, yesterday morning, as I was walking down to fetch the trash containers from the alley, I looked down at the path I knew so well, and found some late blooms on the wild rose bush, and a toy that had disguised itself as one of those blooms. A rustling noise near the fence brought me to a breathless standstill. What was there? A mouse? A mole? A rabbit? Just the wind? I looked for clues but the mystery remains. Back on the pathway, the moss binds the stonework yet there was a single dandelion and I wondered at its lone presence. Why not more? Why one at all? A few steps later, the soft moss disappeared, leaving the pavers bare. Again, I ask why? What happened here that left the stones bereft of the gentle moss? Would it make a difference if I move some of the plants around so the sunlight hits the garden differently?

And I realized immediately what I needed to do.

“Show me—Don’t tell me.” Who among writers hasn’t heard that time and time again?

I don’t want just tell you what you need to focus on moment by moment. I want you to wonder what’s under that rock, what made that noise. I want you sitting on the edge of that uncomfortable metal bench, wondering what’s going to happen next. Then I want you to jump up and dig around; I want you to find out what’s happening.

I want you to ask, “How did I miss that? Was it there in the background all along”?

Of course it was there, but I want you to come back again and again to discover things you missed the first or second or third time!

So I’m pulling out the deleting hoe and weeding out not only the unnecessary words, but I’m chopping out entire scenes if that’s what it takes. I’m taking out my copy, cut, and paste shovel to rearrange events and scenes to make a more exciting and interactive garden.

There are many types of gardens and needs for every type: Neatly labelled, or motivating, or secretive and compelling.

Woodward Park, Tulsa OK

Woodward Park, Tulsa OK. Alluring beauty.

The garden path in my backyard in late September is nothing compared to the magnificence of Woodard Park in Tulsa in April but both have exciting secrets to be discovered. You may never find even find all of them.

The fun is all in the search!

Where Does the Time Go?

I don’t know how Doctor Who does it. How does he manage life on multiple timelines when I find it hard to mange just one?

Right. He manages it by doing what he has to get done, then he can time travel back and it seems like no time has passed, yet he has accomplished so much!

I need one of these. . .
Click for ACTION Shot

 

 

I need a Tardis. Don’t we all?

 

 

 

I’ve been so inundated by my new job with WestJet Airlines, learning and learning, and then learning some more, that it just seems like I never have a chance to blog. I think about it but then Life comes up. Work, hockey, dance, work. Repeat. Mostly the work part. I haven’t even had time to FLY anywhere!

I’ve been writing query letters, making sure they meet the specific requirements given by the intended recipients.  Praying that maybe this time, just maybe…

In the meantime, while waiting to hear back from the agency, I’m going through the manuscripts. Polishing it up. Hopefully leaving little for a proof editor to correct. Looking for overuse of the word “of” or “as” or “which” and rewriting to avoid using them if possible. Correctly using (spaces, no spaces,) the ellipsis. Watching for Point of View and making sure it remains constant throughout the section. Completely re-writing the plot and major action in the second half of the first book, while leaving the basic story untouched, then going through the following stories to make sure all references to that original action are updated. And making sure I’m spelling names the same way all the way through, and keeping spelling consistent, i.e. using American English vs British (and Canadian) version when my Canadian computer so desperately wants to be British. It’s a challenge in itself! Every time I spell color, my spellchecker questions it and wants to change it to ‘colour’, except in WordPress, which is American and just changed my colour back to color. Just a moment while I got back and insert the ‘u’ again. Silly computers.

(By the way, I was reading through to make sure what I wrote spontaneously made sense, and found the word ‘of’ at least five times where a better phrase could be used, and I changed it.)

I took an hour or so off to visit a friend in the hospital last Sunday. Walking from my car to the building, I passed the bike racks. I was compelled to take the picture. I must share what I saw. You wouldn’t believe me if I just told you what I saw. I would love to hear from you what you think is happening here!

I have no words for this.

I have no words for this.

 

I had a theory but it really doesn’t work with the fact that we just had snow two days before this picture was taken.

What do you think?

 

 

 

Why I Chose to Write Science Fiction

sometimes I dream of living in another star system like this

Because this is what I see when I star gaze during the day.

Yes, I did enhance the picture a little, but not a lot.

But consider this. That is what writers do. They take real life and work a little magic to make it a little more interesting, enticing, enchanting, while leaving it real, believable.

The truth is there, the sundog was real, the clouds really were in the shape of Saturn’s rings but with a little imagination…

Picture yourself living in the Earth colony on a planet in star system a thousand light years from Sol, accessible only by portal travel. Your home planet twirls and dances through the dusty lanes and rings of your star, a yellow dwarf similar to Sol. The planet lying within your orbit is cloud covered, like Sol’s own Venus. Even in its current last quarter phase, its perpetual canopy of clouds reflects the light of your sun, sending brilliant polychromatic rays through space.

You live in the northern half of your planet, which is currently in the middle of what would be a twelve year winter, if one were using Earth reckoning. Yet, you find yourself looking up from the dirty frozen ground beneath your feet to behold the beauty stretching out in the heavens above you, and even though the splendid rays from your cosmic neighbor warm nothing but the cockles of your heart, the awesome beauty of the universe inspires you and you know that you can survive until the thawing times.

Beautiful snowy days 2013Until such visions no longer inspire me, I will continue to write with the conviction that one day, our kind will travel the stars.