Daily Archives: July 9, 2011

About Time Flying, Insects, Progress and Welcoming a New Week

I’ve been here at St. Peter’s Abbey in Saskatchewan for one week now, and I still can’t spell Saskatchewan without the help of spell check.

Last night the huge storm I’d been waiting for with great anticipation for the last seven days swept through this region – thunder, great bucketfuls of welcome rain, sheet lightening, fork lightening – a true prairie storm and I slept through the whole show! Disappointing, but also indicative of how tired I was as week one drew to its thunderous close.

Most of the other writers feel the same way as I do: very satisfied with week’s accomplishments but mentally drained. And physically too. St. Peter’s has a wonderful, new weight/exercise room and it is here where I go to challenge my body (they’ve got every machine imaginable) and rest my mind (I literally stop thinking thanks to the two big screen TVs, alternately tuned to a 24 hour news station or MTV. I’ve learned that you can’t survive an hour of Sixteen and Pregnant without a complete zone out), otherwise you would might want to march yourself to the loony bin.

This morning dawned cool and sunny. The grass is damp and the humidity blew out of town on the wings of the storm. Even the mosquitoes — easily the size of small planes — seem to be on hiatus. Speaking of skidders (they call them that in Ontario, because, I think, they skim across the water), yesterday one of the writers I’ve become friends with, Virginia Eckert, and I trekked into Meunster, bravely facing down the approaching storm for a little shopping excursion.

Through Wind and Rain They Marched

There is a Co-Op store there, as there is in every town, no matter how small and it was here we discovered the most magical of all tools — a mosquito executor. It’s sort of an electric chair for mosquitos disguised as a badminton racket.

Ms. Eckert Demonstrates How to Kill a Monster Bug

This magic wand made the evening cocktail hour much more enjoyable. The bugs are a problem here. I don’t step outdoors unless I’m covered in clothes and bug spray. These critters can bite through a hoody or a jeans like a knife through butter, but there’s not much they can do about a couple of volts of current running through their blood-hungry bodies.

I love to sit in my small room in the daytime and work. From my desk, I can see the blue sky, broken only by the tree branches that lean over my window, and the best part of all? I can hear the wind. It sounds like a someone whispering “shhhh” in a musical, soft voice. If I need a change of scenery, the abbey has a large, well-stocked library and always the weight room.

It’s not uncommon to write for six or seven hours a day — uninterrupted and in my own rhythm. I am very pleased with the progress of the book I am working on. Two nights ago, we all read from our work — never an easy thing to do with a first draft, but because we all know each other a bit, I didn’t feel too nervous and it helped me to hear my words out loud.

What a talented group though! Part of the advantage of going away to a retreat is the interaction one has with the other writers, and we have one artist here is well. There is lots of idea-exchange and discussion around writing all the time, but especially at meals.

I am not totally enamoured of the food — it’s good, but really heavy on the meat, so I often skip lunch and try to stick with salads and soups at night. I have a stash of trail mix and some yoghurt to get me through the long gap between breakfast, which is good and dinner.

I actually saw this in the Co-OP:

Burger in a Bag

It’s burger in a bag…and yes, it does have a prairie green tinge to it!

I do miss the markets and the fresh, organic food Vancouver is so blessed with and I MISS FISH…
It’s good and probably especially good for writers to get out of their comfort zones — keeps the mind alert.

And the biggest surprise of all? The Abbot, who we call “Abbot Peter,” because that is his monk name, is a really friendly, enjoyable man. He took us on a journey, but that’s a whole other story. I’ve been to a Vespers and I was at an early morning service today and I am going to a mass at the lovely cathedral across the tracks and down the road on Sunday. We are going to get a ride with one of the brothers, who is conducting, if that’s the word, the service.

I am fascinated by their ability to believe…but no closer to believing, but I love the music 🙂

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Guest Post: Tips for Writers, Sort Of by Deborah Coonts

Tips for Writers, Sort Of
By Deborah Coonts,
Author of Lucky Stiff

Let’s get this out right up front — I have an authority issue. Rules and me, we mix about as well as fire and gasoline. So, if someone tells me how to do something, odds are, I’m not going to follow that path. The results are usually either brilliant or disastrous. I am very familiar with the latter, but not so much with the former. But at least I did it my way (yes, I feel a song coming on). After trying many professions (some had no appreciation for independent thinkers, imagine that), I finally landed on writing — primarily because, as you might have suspected, I am eminently unemployable. Curiously enough, I’ve discovered that writing is what I should have done all along.

You see, I’ve always loved stories. But, I wasn’t born a writer fully formed. I know you find that hard to believe, but it’s the truth — although I make stuff up for a living, I never lie. Anyway, when I started writing I was as clueless as a politician with a camera phone and a Twitter account. So, I did what everyone else would do — I just sat in a chair and typed “Chapter One.” Then . . . nothing. I had no idea how to tackle something as intimidating as a novel.

So, I baled and hit the Internet. Curiously enough, I found some “rules” for writing a novel. The first one was “write what you know.” Well, let’s ee, I was a single parent, frazzled and over-worked tax lawyer, living in a very conservative and snobbish small city in Colorado. Hmmm, didn’t sound like good fodder for a bestseller.

The next rule was “write what you read.” I loved romantic suspense. Maybe I could be Sandra Brown — or at least have her wardrobe? This at least got me scribbling madly. But, alas, I was not Sandra Brown. I wasn’t even a marginal romantic suspense writer. Darn.

Okay, next “rule:” Write what you can imagine. Much better. So, I imagined an overworked young woman who was Head of Customer Relations at a large Vegas Strip hotel with a former hooker as a mother, an absent father, and Vegas’s foremost Female Impersonator as a best friend. This story I could write! And it became Wanna Get Lucky?, my first published novel.

Along the way, I’ve developed my own set of “rules” for writing a novel — truisms all learned the hard way.


(I warn you, a slightly used teenager will bring nothing on the open market. Ditto the slightly used husband.) Writing is an all-consuming passion, an exacting taskmaster. If you don’t understand that last sentence, pick another form of self-flagellation other than writing — there are many, or so I’m told.


Writing is an art form. Asking someone to teach you how to write is akin to asking Picasso to teach you how to paint. He can teach you the basics of color, composition, media and whatever, but the expression — the part that makes it art — is up to you. The same goes for writing. Learn the basics of sentence structure, active voice versus passive, showing not telling, and the particular narrative nuances of your chosen genre, then quit taking lessons. Find your uniqueness and let it flow.

RULE THREE: KILL YOUR EDITOR (no, no, not that one! I’m referring to the INTERNAL one!)

Self-editing as you write will kill your story. The goal of the first draft is to get words on the page — as many words as you think might be helpful. Trust me, it is MUCH easier to take words out than it is to add more later. I don’t know why that is, but it is.

And that voice in your head that says you can’t do this, that you can never write a complete novel, much less a good one? Strangle that little SOB right now, BEFORE you begin. You will thank me later. Actually, I prefer donations in lieu of gratitude.


Even if you don’t owe them money, your family and friends will all tell you that your novel is wonderful. Don’t trust them. Find a group of writers — published or not, but make sure they know what they are talking about and their motives are pure — share your pages. You read theirs, they read yours, then you CONSTRUCTIVELY offer and receive unbiased opinions. This can be a goldmine. It can also be a very negative experience, so choose who you listen to wisely.


Put your butt in the chair, power-up the computer and write — everyday. I have written on planes, in casinos, at coffee shops in airports, skanky hotels when I was too tired to remember why I was even there, at family gatherings (a great way to keep out of the fray), in the park, at the gym after being defeated by the Stairmaster . . . in short, my daily word count goal is non-negotiable. I don’t care what your excuse is, you can find the time. I am the Queen of Procrastination, and if I can find a few hours each day to play with words and imaginary friends, so can you. And, some days my imaginary world is much more fun than the real thing. Bet yours is, too.


Have fun. Play.

Enough said.

© 2011 Deborah Coonts, author of Lucky Stiff

Author Bio
Deborah Coonts, author of Lucky Stiff, says her mother tells her she was born in Texas a very long time ago, though she’s not totally sure — her mother can’t be trusted. But she was definitely raised in Texas on barbeque, Mexican food and beer. She currently resides in Las Vegas, where family and friends tell her she can’t get into too much trouble. Silly people. Coonts has built her own business, practiced law, flown airplanes, written a humor column for a national magazine, and survived a teenager. She is the author of the Lucky O’Tool Las Vegas adventure series.

The first book in the series, Wanna Get Lucky?, has been nominated by the Romance Writers of America for the 2011 RITA awards in the categories of Best First Novel and Best Novel with a Strong Romantic Element. Her second book, Lucky Stiff, was published in February 2011.

For more information please visit Deborah Coonts’ website.
You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter

Buy Lucky Stiff on Amazon

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