Thursday, 30 June 2011

Sacrifice & Release

Writers are a strange breed. We absorb our surroundings. Observe everything from a distance and close up. Every experience is logged into our psyche to be used at a later date for a story. This past Monday, I was doing just that as I rode in an ambulance for the first time.

Allow me to explain.

I’m a believer in giving blood. After all, it’s in me to give. Three people benefit from my worthy sacrifice. I was on donation #39 – an old pro at this blood letting thing – so I knew the drill well. Go get my hemoglobin examined to see if I’m okay to donate. Check. Go answer a multiple of skill testing questions (BTW, I’ve never handled monkeys before). Check. See a nurse, get blood pressure and temperature taken, then answer some more awkward questions. Check. If you passed the nurse’s assessment, then it’s on to waiting your turn for a gurney. Check again.

The process of giving blood is also well, a process. Your arm is propped up on an arm rest, you relax back in the chair, the nurse swabs your arm with a disinfecting agent for what seems like forever (okay, a minute), then a vein is chosen and tapped just enough to make it rise for the occasion. A needle is then injected into this site and the blood letting begins. I choose to look away for this particular ritual because I swear the size of the needle’s gaping hole looks as if it’s smiling back at me like a hungry crocodile. Once the needle is in, I relax, play with a rolled up paper towel in my hand to ensure flow and the whole process is over between 8 to 12 minutes. By this time, I know I’ve earned my coffee and cookies, and pretty much feel like a super hero.

That feeling didn’t last long. Super heroes are most likely immune to gravity. Me – not so much. As I got my card signed by a wonderful volunteer, I started to feel light-headed. I knew I had to sit down and fast. I didn’t quite make the chair and fell flat on my face. The next thing I remember is a woman calling my name. At that point, my super powers had left me, and I felt weak and numb. My chin was cut, my ego bruised (along with the left side of my face). Stubbornness had got the best of me. 911 was called and the ambulance came. In all this, I kept my sense of humour in tact and absorbed the experience like a sponge during a deluge, as any true writer would do.
The Canadian Blood Services Staff are amazing. Like a colony of ants when something goes awry, they move with precision and strategy to take care of the things most important. I was cared for, fussed over, checked over, and rushed to the closest hospital within twenty minutes of my fall from grace. Now that’s service. I want to thank all those on hand for ensuring my welfare – Janice and Cathy in particular – and for seeing to it that I didn’t deter others from donating that day by putting a screen up in front of my fallen frame. (It would have been bad advertising, I had commented in my stupor).

As I went on to survive the ordeal – the hospital drugs helped a ton – the next day I got a call from a nurse working with the Canadian Blood Services. It was professional and pleasant, except for the part where she told me I couldn’t give blood anymore, at least for the time being. Part of me died in that moment. I was released from my duty, I thought sadly. Cut from the team I had been a part of for such a long time. I hadn’t even made it to 40 donations. No more ‘Donor for Life’ pins to come in the mail. No more coffee, cookies and comrades. I was shell-shocked.
Then, it occurred to me. Everything happens for the best (and for a reason). Maybe, through this blog, one of you, your friends, or any kids you may have or know of over the age of 17 could take my place. Just one person needed to replace me. That’s it. Think about it. You can make a difference to three people. Think about it. You could save a life. Think about it. You can do a beautiful thing.

Just think about it. Then, if you decide to take my place, call 1-888-236-6283 or go to  and make an appointment to give.   

Monday, 27 June 2011

Eat The Frog First!

Mmmm! Sounds yummy. Actually it’s not bad advice. No. Really. It’s not.

From the words of Brian Tracy, life coach and self-help guru, he urges people to eat the frog first. What he means by that is any job you keep putting off – like painting the porch, or outlining a novel, or cleaning out your eaves trough – should be done first so it isn’t hanging over your head, draining you for the rest of the day. No pun intended on the eaves trough thing – it just happened! So in essence, whatever it is that you keep avoiding or is your most difficult task (the frog), do it first (eat it now), that way you’re free and clear to do what you really want to do for the rest of the day.

What a concept!

I had to think about what I’d been ‘putting off’ in the last while. Washing the kitchen floor was up there (doggy drool doesn’t count), and outlining my novel for the Muskoka Novel Marathon(checkprevious post on June 20th) is a close second. Also getting sponsors for said novel marathon is high on the list too. Which got me to thinking – why do we procrastinate over eating that frog? I mean, I’ve eaten frog legs before (yes, they DO taste like chicken), but I’m thinking Mr. Tracy was talking about a live, slimy one.

The energy we waste worrying over eating that ‘frog’ is exhausting. Like pulling off a bandage, it’s better to do it in one quick tug. This all comes down to time management, a precious commodity these days. It’s a skill worth learning. And sometimes it’s down right hard to nail. It’s a matter of bearing down, gritting your teeth and just doing it. Nike had that right. Just do it!

Now, where did I put that mop?

Monday, 20 June 2011

Muskoka Novel Marathon Madness!

Hey, folks, I’m chomping at the bit to share this next blog with you! In less than a month’s time, I’ll be putting the finishing touches on my new novella, The Legend of the Timekeepers I plan on writing during the 2011 Muskoka Novel Marathon. What’s a novel marathon, you ask? It’s when you get a group (32) of writers together in one room, at one time, and try with all your might to craft a novella – or for the brave and impetuous, an actual novel – in three days. Yes, you read that right – IN THREE DAYS. Call it madness. Call it chaos. Call it insanity.

I prefer to call it writing for a purpose.

All the money that we – the writers – raise through our sponsorships is handed over to the Muskoka Literacy Council. This wonderful organization offers free instruction in literacy, numeracy, computer and basic life skills to out-of-school teens and adults. “Our students,” says past president, Susan Lowe, “have degrees of difficulty with reading and writing or numeracy which greatly impacts their lives and their ability to contribute meaningfully to society.”

Ms. Lowe is 100% correct. I should know. I’ve tutored some of these adults and found it shocking on how they were unable to deal with day to day simple tasks. Tasks that you and I take for granted. Tasks like reading a driver’s handbook. Tasks like writing a grocery list, a cheque or filling out an application for a job. Imagine that – not being able to do any of those things.

Please support this wonderful cause! Other writers who are participating in the novel marathon are: Martin Avery, Paula Boon, Jacqui Morrison and Karen Wehrstein. I urge you to support one of these fine authors! Follow the links to their websites and check them out. They’re a dedicated bunch, and you may find you click with the books they have to offer.
The 2011 Muskoka Novel Marathon takes place from Friday, July 15 to Monday, July 18. If you’d like to sponsor any of the above authors (or even yours truly), please go to and check out how you can do that.

And to those of you who are sponsoring me in this year's novel marathon - thank you for your gift of empowering others! 

Thursday, 16 June 2011

An Interview With Jordan Jensen

SHARON: I’m here at the baseball field in White Pines, getting ready to introduce Jordan Jenson, who happens to be in the middle of pitching practice. ‘Sup, Jordan?

“Whoa! What the …” Jordan halts a pitch in mid-air. “Oh, no, not now, my game’s gonna start in twenty minutes.”

SHARON: This won’t take long, Jordan. Five minutes tops.

Jordan snorts. “Five minutes too long.

SHARON: As my granddaughter says, ‘suck it up, buttercup’. First question: Obviously, you like sports, what don’t you like?

“Does Amanda Sault being on my Timekeeper team count?”

SHARON: Your five minutes just turned into ten.

Jordan throws the ball into his mitt a tad too hard. He winches. “Okay, okay, I’ll play nice. I don’t like having to wear this thing all the time.” He reaches down his purple jersey to pull out a light blue stone dangling on the end of a glittering necklace.

SHARON: Details, please. What exactly is that thing?  

“It’s called a Babel necklace. Every Timekeeper needs one to time travel. The stone acts like a cell phone to summon us for a mission. First it glows, and then it vibrates, giving off a warm, tingly feeling that radiates throughout my entire body.”

SHARON: What’s not to like about that?

 Jordan adjusts his baseball cap. “It’s kind of embarrassing when it goes off. It’s like the stupid stone has no sense of timing and summons at the worst possible times – like during track and field practice or when I’m about to pitch a game. Only my Coach understands.”

SHARON: Wait …your coach knows about you being a Timekeeper?

Jordan rolls his blue eyes. “No. I’m talking about the Coach in my head.”

SHARON: That makes perfect sense. Do you see dead people too?

Jordan’s cheeks turn red. “I knew you wouldn’t understand. Most people don’t.”

SHARON: Sorry. I’ll play nice too. Could you shed some light about the Coach in your head?

Jordan looks around, making sure we’re alone. “Promise you won’t tell anyone?”

SHARON: Scout’s honour. (I even flash him the appropriate three-finger sign)

Jordan sighs. “I really don’t know where to start. I’ve been hearing his voice ever since I can remember. It just comes to me. I decided to call it the ‘Coach’ because it’s kind of like my mentor. It believes in me, says the right thing at the right time. You see, ‘Coach’ cuts through the crap, tells it like it is and helps me out when things get tough. I listen, decide, and then make my play. It works for me, and has gotten me through some jams.”

SHARON: Gees, where can I get me a Coach like that?

Jordan smirks. “You’ve probably got one. You’re just not listening hard enough.

SHARON: Are you being smart with me, young man?

A full blown smile lights up Jordan’s tanned face. “Hell, no, that’s Drake’s department!”

SHARON: Is now a good time to tell you I was never a scout?

Monday, 13 June 2011

Back To The Future ... Sort Of

I hope you enjoyed my interview with Amanda posted on May 19th. Check it out if you never got a chance to read it!

In a past writing life (circa 1996-98), I had written a plump, juicy paranormal romance about a Shapeshifter and New York City police detective before Stephenie Meyers ever had a Twilight in her eye. This story caught the interest of a literary agent, but that’s another story, and another blog post. My first attempt at writing for young adults was in 2000. Yeah, I know, that’s a hop, skip and jump into the present time, isn’t it?  The title has since morphed from THE TIMELINERS: THE ARCH OF ATLANTIS to THE LAST TIMEKEEPERS AND THE ARCH OF ATLANTIS. I’ve made many changes to this manuscript. Good changes, I believe. The one thing I’ve never changed was my character’s point of view. I wanted to give ALL the kids in my story their own voice. So with each chapter starts a new point of view. The adults are mainly there to help move the story along, while the kids are the stars and the problem solvers, as it should be in any young adult story.
During the past eleven years, I’ve also noticed how many changes have taken place in our ‘culture’. Stuff like cell phones. Stuff like texting. Stuff like Skype. And don’t get me started on iPods, the huge assortment of mp3 players, laptops, notebooks, ereaders and electronic tablets like iPads. The most difficult thing I found was taking an out-of-date manuscript and updating it. Making sure I had all the gadgets tweens and teens were using, needed or wanted. It was a challenge, yet fun at the same time because I got to learn all about what the ‘NOW’ generation is tuned into. The thing is, electronic gadgets – much like us – keep evolving and changing.

And that’s the plus side about writing a time travel book/series – my characters can’t access or use their electronic stuff. No cell phones. No texting. No Social Network. Egad! How will they cope? I guess you’ll have to stay tuned and see.

In my next blog, I’ll pass the baton over to Jordan Jensen.  

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Releasing The Flying Monkeys

Epublishing versus Traditional publishing. Independent versus Legacy. David versus Goliath. Okay, where’d I put my slingshot?

Lately, I’ve been reading up on a variety of blogs about the ‘yellow brick road’ of epublishing. Please check out J.A. Konrath’sblog if you want any information on how ebooks are revolutionizing the book industry. He’s actually the author who convinced me to go the epublishing route with my books. At first it was hard to wrap my head around this unchartered territory. No agents. No traditional publishers. No distributors. Just me sending my products (books) directly to you (the reader) via your favourite online bookstore (Amazon, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, etc.). That’s it. A couple of clicks of a button and you have a new book downloaded to your ereader in a matter of seconds. No muss, no fuss, no getting out of bed. It sounded scary. Scary and wonderful.
The other day I saw a bumper sticker that said, ‘Don’t make me release my flying monkeys’. I laughed. Those flying monkeys in the Wizard of Oz scared the poop out of me when I was a kid. They were the Wicked Witch of the West’s evil henchman. In a way, those flying monkeys represent those (people/establishments) who seek to control you. And like J.A. Konrath points out so boldly in his blog, this is what Legacy Publishers (Big Six Publishing Houses) are trying to do to established and new authors – control them and control their rights. He (Konrath) explains that little by little the brick and mortar bookstores will downsize (not completely vanish) until a balance has been restored. And if you think Konrath’s wrong, ask yourself where the closest CD music store is. And where have all the Blockbusters gone? For years, publishing houses have called the shots, and now authors get to play the publishing game and receive what is rightfully theirs – a decent royalty cheque for their hard work. Woo hoo!

It’s a great time to be a writer. It’s even a greater time to be a reader. Now, will somebody get this flying monkey off my back?

Monday, 6 June 2011

It's Payback Time!

Over the weekend I attended my BFF’s birthday celebration at her cottage. It was a biggie, a milestone, a rite of passage. No need for boring details like numerical facts, but now her age rhymes with ‘nifty’. That said, milestone birthdays have a nasty habit of making you reassess and evaluate your life so far. Did I make the right decisions? Did I choose the right path/partner/career/school/friends? Should I have gone left or right? Or the biggest question of all – was it stupid of me to put that info up on Facebook?

Regardless of what we’ve done or said, or not done and not said, it’s in the past. Many of the things of my past have come back to haunt or heckle me at times, so I end up putting those memories (exaggerated most of the time) in my stories. At least those lessons aren’t wasted! It’s only when you start looking in the mirror and finally seeing the real you (yes all of it – wrinkles, zits, dark circles under the eyes and hair where it shouldn’t be), that you begin to understand what all of those decisions you’ve made throughout your life have done to you. Your biology truly becomes your biography, as Carolyn Myss has pointed out in one of my favourite books called ‘Anatomy of the Spirit’. And sometimes you’re happy with the end results – of what you see in the mirror – other times you’re not.
This leads me to what my BFF asked me way back in 1995 while having lunch. She flat out asked me where I saw myself in 10 years. I stopped shoveling food in my mouth. I grabbed my wine glass. Whoa. What? Ten years? I was only in my mid-thirties. Yes, I was doing the retirement savings thing, working down to pay my mortgage, raising a family, just married off a daughter, and running a graphic trade shop with hubby, but nothing really came to me. Then, not even a month later, I began receiving synchronicities and patterns that led me to take a writing course, then later join a writing group, then in two years learn to write a book, then write another and another, until it was 2005. I couldn’t have predicted that in a million years. It was truly my call to action, and a decision I’ve never regretted, all because my BFF asked me a simple question.       

As for my older and wiser BFF, and what she did with her ten years - so  far, so good!

Thursday, 2 June 2011

!0,000 Hours

It takes about 10,000 hours to acquire any skill. Imagine that. 10,000 hours.  Break it down and that’s 250 straight 40 hour work weeks. I believe it. I don’t exactly know what ‘hour count’ I’m at in my writing career, but I know it’s a hell of a lot more than 10,000 hours.

I also know that between the years 1995 and 2011 I have definitely developed the skill for storytelling. Fifteen years ago, I didn’t possess this skill. I could create a story in my mind, but translating these thoughts into structure, dialogue, plot, characters, scenes, conflicts and climaxes was a pretty hard gig. It took practice and more practice. And it took a lot of perseverance and patience. I learnt all I could about the craft of writing through college courses, correspondence courses, workshops, my writing group, a supportive literary agent I'd never signed with, an editor, beta readers, self-help books and the internet. And I’m still learning. The process of writing a good book never ends. A book people would read. A book I can be proud of.
So remember, if you’re in the midst of developing new skills, cut yourself some slack. Rome wasn’t built in a day.