Bug Zoo

Bug Zoo

 

You are not going to believe this!!! Today, I went to the bug zoo in Victoria, not willingly, mind you. My granddaughter dragged me there. And, NO, I did not touch any of them and I did not think any of them were pretty, and NO, I did not buy one of the suckers with a cooked insect inside, but I do admire the ants for their industry and the incredible ant hill/farm they have created.

http://www.victoriabugzoo.ca/

Tacos de camarón

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Hungry? Time for tacos de camarón (served with hot sauce, or for us northerners, mild tomatito sauce) at our favorite seedy bar in Mexico. Yes, it’s seedy with lots of drinking and dart games and drinking and eating and drinking … but, we’re not about to let that stop us. We take the munchkin and go early enough to beat the crowd, chat with the staff who’ve already placed our order–they saw us coming–and enjoy our tacos (and beer) in peace.

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Around the corner and down the street

in small town Mexico, we find little delights.

Walking home from the beach, we often see people out for a trail ride. The horses live just off main street a few blocks away.

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Off for dinner in the next town (a few minute drive away) we find the main street blocked off for the Spring parade, the floats all manned by the kindergarten classes of the area.

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Then we see a charming painted wall on a street leading to the beach. I want to live in one of these houses, if only they were real.

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AgfaPhoto

 

HELP! I have a major dilemma

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Your response is vital information for authors. We strive mightily to market our books, but are restricted in our efforts by vendors who insist we place our novels in categories and genres.

For example, I struggle to pick a genre for my Em and Yves series. People ask me about EMBATTLED, book one in the series.

Is it?

Science fiction?  Sure. Aliens from other planets are involved, but it’s not hard-core technical sci-fi and it’s set mostly on Earth.

Paranormal Romance?  Would seem so. There is a love triangle between an alien, a human, and her human lover.

Contemporary?  Definitely.  Lots of world events as the alien tries to make Earth a better place.

Mainstream? For sure. Lots of world issues—enough to capture the interest of many readers.

Urban Fantasy? Fits the definition. Urban setting with supernatural or magical elements.

Adventure? You bet. Jujitsu training, hand to hand combat, war, soldiers, terrorists….

Now, how do I roll all of that into one genre? What would your advice be?

 

Purple Hibiscus – the role religion plays

Purple

Some readers see my books as anti-religion. Others ask me if the heroine is God. When I began writing my first novel, religion was the farthest thing from my mind. I was focused on romance, adventure and sci-fi elements that could bring some magic to my story.

I’ve abhorred organized religion for many years and many reasons. I’ve particularly been enraged by missionaries. Their self-righteous imposition of their beliefs on others seems to me the greatest of sacrilege.

Then I read Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. The legacy of missionary zeal, the brutality of missionary zeal is laid bare. The power and the danger of missionaries is brought home through the story of Kambili and her family.

Fifteen-year-old Kambili is the dutiful and self-effacing daughter of a rich man, a religious fanatic and domestic tyrant whose public image is of a politically courageous newspaper publisher and philanthropist. No one in Papa’s ancestral village, where he is titled “Omelora” (One Who Does For the Community), knows why Kambili¹s brother cannot move one of his fingers, nor why her mother keeps losing her pregnancies.

Papa, of course, passes on the lessons he has learned in his own childhood, taught by brutal Catholic missionaries; the abused is the abuser. Rigid religious instruction, intolerant and unforgiving, is the tool with which this man terrorizes his wife and children.

Most frightening of all is the family’s acceptance of this man’s behavior, and long after the abuse ends, the lasting desire for his love.

 

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The best kid’s birthday party ever

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The munchkin beating on what’s left of her Peppa Pig piñata.

The best kid’s birthday party

Happens in the street. Yes, the street. In Mexico, that is. And it’s the party our munchkin has chosen for her birthday.

Tables are set up for the cake and food and gifts. Chairs line the sidewalk and curb. The piñata is strung up over the street. Everyone comes—kids, parents, grandparents.

Chicken or pasta salad is served on tostadas, agua de jamaica (made from hibiscus petals) is the favored drink.

The kids play, everyone eats, and then it’s time to sing as the children from youngest to oldest take turns trying to break the piñata. Usually it’s up to one of the teens in the crowd to administer the final blow so the kids can scramble for the candy that tumbles out.

Group photos are taken and candles lit, Feliz Cumpleanos sung to the birthday child, and cake served.

Several hours later, replete and happy, the kids go home with their parents, toting their goodie bags.

 

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10 tips for readers

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There are many articles about writing and many lists of writing tips for the novice authors. Pretty much every well-known author has such a list attributed to him or her.

But how often do we come across a “Tips for Readers” list? I have never seen one so, as an avid reader, I’ve decided to do one of my own.

  1. Buy an e-reader. My personal favorite is the Paperwhite, but they all have their good points, so take your pick and carry your library with you.
  1. Take it everywhere you go. You never know when there’ll be a moment or two to dive into a book.
  1. If you can, have a reading app on your phone as well, just in case your e-reader runs out of charge.
  1. Have several book samples on your e-reader to avoid the risk of having nothing to read and being reduced to biting your nails.
  1. Stand up, stretch your legs, and arch your back from time to time. You certainly can’t let pain distract you.
  1. When you don’t want to engage in meaningless chitchat with the stranger beside you, hide behind your e-reader. You might even have to do this from time to time with people you know and like.
  1. Pause for a moment, close your eyes. Let them rest while you ponder the wisdom/wit/humor/deep thought of the novel you’re currently reading.
  1. When people ask what you’re reading lie and say, War and Peace, and then go back to the heaving bosoms and throbbing members.
  1. If you don’t like the book you’re reading, delete it and move on.
  1. Don’t read and drive!

 

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Memory Beats Reality

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Perusing the book shelves in the hotel lobby, I snatched up a favorite I had read many years ago. This will be a delightful reread, I thought, with visions of snuggling under a warm blanket on the sofa and reading to the wee hours of the morning. I’d pretend I’d time traveled to my youth, but now I wouldn’t need to hide under the covers with a flashlight lest Mom notice and take the book away.

Alas, it was not to be. What I remembered as a delightful romantic romp was in fact a rather poorly written story “telling” rather than “showing.” I stopped reading before I got to the end of the first chapter preferring to live with the warm fun memories of the book than the reality that I faced now.

The disappointment with the book got me thinking. How many of our past experiences are better not relived?

For one, a visit back to my childhood home—shattering.  Our house and farmyard, diminished by adult eyes brought me to tears. Where was the enormous barn? It couldn’t be that little lopsided building over there could it? The house was worse—a tiny low ceiling three room structure rotting from disuse, the pattern on the wallpaper I so loved as a child faded to mere shadows.

Travelling is another. My first return trip to Mali was a delight. Three years after coming back to Canada, I revisited the house where I had lived, spent time with the students at the school where I had taught, browsed in the market, lunched with the nuns…. All was well.

Another trip to Mali twenty years later brought heartache. Inundated with refugees from the drought, the city was unrecognizable. Wide boulevards, now populated with rude shelters, reduced to narrow paths. The broad steps to the post office, now crowded with make-shift dwellings, had to be pointed out to me. And most of the people I had known were nowhere to be found.

Now, when I think of Mali and Bamako, my memories are tarnished by that later visit. I push them to the back of my mind and linger over the cherished ones from my years living there.

Visiting my school after retirement was another mistake. The start of a new year carries its own excitement unique to the people involved. I was no longer a player, and while I was welcomed warmly and showered with good wishes, all I felt after the visit was deep depression.

I’ve never been attracted to the idea of reunions and have never attended one. I think, now, that my instinctive rejection of reunions stems from this subconscious knowledge that memories are best left as they are—to be savored, and, over the years, to develop a hazy halo that we can bask in to our heart’s content.

 

 

Secrets

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Secrets

What are they? Why are they kept?

The things we’re embarrassed about, the things we’re ashamed of, the things we’re afraid of, the things we hold most dear—these are perhaps our most guarded secrets. Do we ever share them? And if so, with whom?

We have to trust to share our secrets. We know how people gossip, how perilous our secret might be if shared with the wrong person. This prompts us to stay away from family and friends; to share instead with the stranger sitting beside us on the plane, the one we meet in passing, sitting like us, alone in the restaurant. They don’t know us. They will likely forget our story moments after having heard it as it has no significance for them. Or they may remember it as unique and retell it; with no harm to us as we are the stranger they will never see again.

Some secrets are cherished and nourish our souls. Some carry a heavy burden. Some, we eventually reveal, others we carry to the grave.

Are secrets more prevalent in this time of constant bombardment via our modern technology? Because our lives are so busy, often with little time for introspection, or daydreaming, or sitting alone in silence, do we keep some things to ourselves just to have a “life” of our own, to have a bit of privacy, a sense of mystery. “Ah, ha! Here’s something you don’t know about me.”

I was once asked, “Why all the secrets in your book? What is the significance to your life?

The question gave me pause, made me think. I came to the conclusion that I like the idea of secrets because, as a working mother and a teacher/principal, my life was always so full of people. I loved that and I loved my job, but a bit of me wished for more—I wanted the mystery, the “ah, ha” feeling that I referred to above.

Do I have secrets? Yes. Will I carry some of them to the grave? Yes.

And you?