An American Author in Canada

Authors take vacations, but sometimes they aren’t for avoiding the keyboard. This author travels occasionally with her engineer husband, and most of the time those are working vacations.

What? It’s not vacation if you’re working.

Maybe you’re right. Or not. The third definition for vacation at dictionary.com says: “freedom or release from duty, business, or activity.” In this case, I’m freed from my household duties and my regular activities for a specific purpose: to incite creativity.

Creativity and Canada are a decent mix, I’ve decided.

High Hopes

Sometimes I spend too much time inside my office. The lovely walls with all their inspirational sayings and plaques of my book covers move like a trash compactor (picturing a scene from Star Wars IV here).

Even when the sun pushes back the gray clouds, all I see are the words that need to be rewritten or revised or edited. The list of projects in mid-completion expands to block out everything else.

In short, the creative space I’ve slaved to build in my home office (and on my back patio) works against me.

This is when I need a change of scenery. Sometimes going to the coffee shop works. Or I’ve plugged in at the library.

But in light of the daunting tasks facing me in the months ahead, my muse begged for something bigger.

So when my husband told me he had a conference in Vancouver B.C. and asked, “Do you want to come with me?” I jumped on it.

All I was hoping for was a new view outside my window, a touch of sunshine and maybe a little magic in the air.

Reality Rules

Several people gave me ideas of things to do while I visited this Canadian city. I smiled and nodded, listening but thinking, “I’m not going there for a relaxing vacation.”

No need to rain on their good advice. I even checked into a bicycle tour of the city because that’s something I’ve decided I will do if I go to Europe with my husband on a business trip. It’s a great way to breathe foreign air and glimpse the local sights, all while stretching the flabby muscles in my legs. Sounds like a win-win-win to me!

The weather app (who needs a weather man when you have a smart phone) advised me that it wouldn’t be sunny during my stay. But the first couple days wouldn’t bring precipitation either.

I could deal with that. I’d be able to get outside and walk along the harbor which is only a block from the hotel. Fresh foreign air: check.

Of course, spending time isolated in a hotel room to write isn’t the same as writing in my office. The maid wants to come in and clean. There isn’t food and water close by to keep me fed and hydrated.

And there are no cats to assist me by climbing in my lap and scrubbing their chin over my typing fingers.

The lobby in the hotel has a small area that would work for writing, but it’s pretty busy, and I’m a person who prefers silence during certain stages of writing.

Was this going to be a bust after all?

Expectations Exceeded

Here’s what I wanted to accomplish on this vacation: draft the third installment of my sweet contemporary romance series.

That meant 20,000 words in four days, which is about an average accomplishment for me when I’m in the drafting phase of a story. Five hours of writing per day equals 5,000 words.

Of course, I only had three days in Vancouver. The Monday and Friday of the week were travel days.

Monday was sunny and gorgeous when we arrived. Much better weather than in Portland when we left at 4:30 in the afternoon. My muse perked up her ears and gazed out the window on the cab ride from the airport to the hotel.

Priorities:

  1. Find a place to get coffee and breakfast (sorry, Marriott, I’m not paying $20 to eat breakfast)
  2. Scope out restaurants with great people-watching views for budget-friendly lunches
  3. Set up a snack-stocked writing area at the desk in the hotel room

Oh, Starbucks, how do I love thee? I know plenty of people aren’t fans. Fine. But for less than half the price of the Marriott offering I get a mocha grande (non-fat, no whip) and a yogurt, fruit and granola parfait. Sounds like the perfect breakfast to me.

Better yet? It’s directly across the street from the hotel.

Three blocks down, I locate Waterfront Food Court. Yes, it’s exactly what it sounds like: a mecca of variety in eats and bountiful bodies to watch.

Day one, I enjoy falafel and Greek salad while reading on my iPhone and stealing glances at the people flooding through the seating area. Day two, should I eat salad or grab a slice of pizza?

I love having choices.

I packed healthy snacks in my suitcase, but my husband didn’t want me to starve. So he snagged a bag of pretzels and white cheddar popcorn from the offerings at his conference. (I’m pretty sure the popcorn is for him since I don’t like cheese on mine.)

All three priorities met. Better yet? The walkway along the harbor was better than I imagined. Check it out.

Look! Canadian Geese in Canada.

 

Pedestrians on the left and bicycles to the right. Ingenius!

Yes, there are TWO lanes on the path. One of them is for foot traffic and the other is for bicycles (and a few in-line skaters whooshed by, too).

I wanted to share my thoughts on the city, but my post is getting long. Look! A topic for a future post. SCORE!

Is there such a thing as a working vacation for you? Or does it have to be about relaxing and sightseeing?

Why our World isn’t ready for Superheroes

No_Superheroes

In a world where people cry over dead gorillas and ignore starving or abused children, we need heroes. Now more than ever. But the world isn’t ready for superheroes.

Thanks to my new site tagline (thanks Social Media Jedi Kristen Lamb), Holding out for a Hero, there is likely to be more posts about what it means to be a hero, heroes in real life and so on.

If you don’t like Captain America, I promise not to make it all about him. If you prefer the anti-hero character type, I’m happy to direct you to some other site.

In my world, good and evil have distinct lines. Evil is never based on personal opinion or preference but by the clear and present danger it causes.

Now, to get this post back on track. There are three major reasons it’s obvious our world isn’t ready for superheroes. I will be using film and real-world examples to reinforce my points. (There will be Captain America references – so sue me!)

Media Inflammation

Everyone is plugged in to the internet. Our phones notify us of updates to social media or our news sites. If we want to know the score for the big game, it’s a click or two away. (And there’s an app for that!)

There’s nothing wrong with being informed, but how well should we trust our sources of information? After all, who didn’t see the posts claiming Jackie Chan died a few months back. Some things are pure hype.

And other posts are an attempt to get a reaction. When I wrote this post, various articles about the Stanford University rapist bogged down my Facebook news feed.  Oh, and the gorilla incident I mentioned in the opening paragraph.

The articles became memes touting personal opinions – and calls for crucifixion of the criminal and the judge who gave him a “light” sentence. Whether I agree with these sentiments or not, the fact that a crime like this can blow up to become a worldwide discussion topic illustrates my point. (According to statistics, 300,000 rapes occur on US university campuses every year, but we’re only hearing about this ONE.)

The Fear of Power

With great power comes great responsibility – Uncle Joe Parker

People who have power fear people who might gain more power. And governments tend to be the biggest fraidy cats of all. This is the reason why information is controlled in so many parts of the world.

Because knowledge is power. If you know the truth, you can act upon it. If the truth can be concealed or packaged as a falsehood, then knowledge loses its edge.

Image from Marvel-movies
Image from Marvel-movies

In Captain America: Civil War, this truth was clearly demonstrated. After an accident during the apprehension of a terrorist, the United Nations met in an uproar. How dare The Avengers have collateral damage during their mission! Who even gave them permission to go into an African country anyway?

The governments feared the power of The Avengers (and they should). However, their fear wasn’t based in reality. If the team hadn’t stopped the terrorists, biological warfare would have been unleashed elsewhere in the world. Thousands of innocents would have suffered and died.

The UN didn’t care about the outcome, they wanted to control the power. What if The Avengers decided to step into the UN’s business? Who could stop them? But if the UN controlled their missions, the balance of power shifted into their favor.

Don’t be fooled. I used a fictitious example to prove this point, but the news headlines talk about dictators, warlords and plenty of others who exemplify this truth.

Just call us Sue-Happy

Think about some of the amazing rescues you’ve seen in superhero movies or the comics. These are when average people are saved from fires, explosions, criminals and accidents.

Now imagine this scenario. Spiderman sweeps into a burning building and removes two children, an elderly couple and even a cat from the flames. Just in time, too. The building collapses.

What if there was another unconscious person inside? Their family is incensed that Spidey discriminated against them by rescuing a stupid cat instead of their uncle.

And they sue him. Or the fire department. Or whoever they think they can get the money from.

You get burns from HOT liquid?

If you think I’m exaggerating, let me remind you that McDonald’s paid millions to a woman who burned herself on their coffee. Why did she win such a silly lawsuit? Because there was nothing WARNING her that the coffee was hot.

Seriously? Because even a two-year-old understands that something on an electrical burner is HOT.

Perhaps these lawsuits wouldn’t happen because who knows who Spiderman really is. But there would be even more pressure to discover his identity. Would it keep him from making his nightly runs stopping crime and rescuing victims?

Maybe. Maybe not.

In any case, these are only three reasons that screamed out when this topic jumped to the forefront of my mind.

What other reasons are there that might hold superheroes back? What do you see in our world that deters heroics more than it encourages them?

Realizing You’re Already Amazing

A few months before I graduated from college, I met Holley Gerth. Not in person. Through her book, You’re Already Amazing, but it was like we sat down day after day and talked about my dilemma.

You know, what’s going to happen when I finish college. Will I continue working as an educational assistant and pursue my writing dream on the side? Will I jump into a master’s program to become a teacher? Can this fledgling idea for a novel fly into something larger than life?

I had a dream. Since I was old enough to read, I dreamed I would write stories. My words would send people into magical realms like C. S. Lewis did for me. Or these books would comfort others in confusion, as Judy Blume had done for me.

I wrote stories, poems and filled notebooks with my personal struggles. Then I grew up. I really despise those four words. Truly.

Because adult hood is filled with advantages, but often it includes abandoning dreams that fostered a soul through childhood and motivated her during the ugly insecurity of teenager-hood.

I wish I had known Holley Gerth back then.

Let me introduce you to her now, so you don’t have to wonder about finding a purpose or abandoning a dream.

You’re Already Amazing

AlreadyAmazingBookBetween the covers of this book, I met the sweet-spirited counselor, Holley Gerth. She poured a cup of coffee. We sat on her sofa. She talked, and I listened.

Reading this book felt like a conversation. After she shared wisdom and insight, she asked me to delve into my own heart. I spilled ink on the pages.

Her next words responded to that transparency – as if we were sitting across from each other.

This is the best thing about every book from Holley. It feels like a two-way conversation. The probing questions and activities at the end of one chapter open up questions that are answered in the next chapter.

In order to use the new LifeGrowth Guide she’s releasing this month, you should read this book. Each chapter of the new guide tells which chapters from the book correspond to it.

Sure, she has excerpts from the original book in this guide (and plenty of new coaching and counseling), but experiencing the original book helps this guide make more of an impact.

By the time you finish, you’ll have a “mission” statement for your life and an idea how you can start fulfilling it.

It was this statement that assured me of my own path. I worked through her You’re Made for a God-Sized Dream book before I settled on a course of action, but the seed was planted with this book.

Do you feel like you’re standing still in your walk with God? Does each day seem like a duplicate of the one before?

You’re Already Amazing will help you understand why you’re feeling these things. Then it will show you how to move beyond those debilitating emotions.

LifeGrowth Guide

YAA_LifeGrowth_Guide_Cover_1024x1024I jumped at the chance to preview this new guide when Holley offered the opportunity to her blog followers.

I loved the original book, and since I plan Bible studies and retreats for the ladies in my church, I saw this guide as a possibility for either activity.

After reading through this new book, and watching a few of the videos, I’m certain it will uplift women at any stage in their life.

Divided into six sessions, the book works as leader and groupie guide. In fact, it could be used solo, as a woman read through You’re Already Amazing and used the questions and activities in this guide to supplement her journey.

It’s intended to be used with a small group. In fact, it has powerful potential to bind women closer together and encourage them to lift each other up. What better way to carry out Paul’s admonition for the older women to teach the younger (Titus 2:3-5)?

The reading and activities in this guide are meant to be completed before the group session. Each session begins with a short video chat from Holley, which sets the stage and opens the conversation for that chapter. After discussing the questions and helping each other digest the truths, there’s another short clip to end each session.

In the back, there are helpful outlines to be used by group leaders or facilitators.

Perhaps you’d like a more informal group, the guide helps with that aspect. Each chapter includes a hands-on crafty project. A group could gather to watch the short video and then work on that project. Conversations could flow while hands were busy creating.

Amazing Applications

When I finished You’re Already Amazing, three years ago now, I told everyone about how helpful it was.

I’m super excited about the LifeGrowth Guide because it packages my excitement in a format that can help other women.

Let’s face it, some people don’t want to read. They might scan the guide and complete the activities, but they aren’t going to wade through an entire book.

The LifeGrowth Guide could be used by this type of person. It wouldn’t take long before they wanted more of Holley’s wisdom.

My plan for this guide is to use it at the annual ladies’ retreat. I’m going to have to reorganize and condense the lessons, because the sessions really need several days (minimum) between them to complete all the reading and activities.

To get the most from the book, a woman needs to invest time and thought into her answers. Season each page with prayer. Meditate on the deeper queries and return to them the next day.

A two-day retreat doesn’t provide time for all that. But I still think this curriculum will work.

It would certainly work as a weekly or bi-monthly Bible study.

If you had people who really wanted to write a life purpose statement, you could tailor this guide to be used for a one-day seminar. As long as there is ample time for independent thought, three of the sessions could be juxtaposed together and rock a woman’s Saturday.

If your life feels stale or you’re at a cross-roads, you need this book. If you yearn for women to come alongside you, this guide could open the way for that to happen.

Once again, Holley Gerth delivers a piece of her heart to her readers. And she’ll make you realize You’re Already Amazing, too.\

The Problem with Anticipation

Image from sweetauthoring.com

Anticipation. The tingle on your tongue as the triple chocolate pie is being sliced. Your brain fires all cylinders. You’re SO ready for that delectable deliciousness.

Anticipation. Time crawls. A teenager asked to clean his room. “Polar ice caps move faster,” you tell yourself.

Anticipation. Pleasure and pain.

If you’ve ever traveled internationally, you know a day can stretch beyond 24 hours. Maybe even double up making 48 tortuous segments of sixty minutes.

That’s how this day feels. The travel day from the left coast to the right, on my way to the first ever, long-awaited Caribbean cruise.

royal_advantage_freedom_ship_banner_944x435

It might be because it started at 2AM.

I wish I was kidding about this. The cat jumped up, dug at the covers and nudged my hand until I petted him. The sheets were stuck to my back (a common occurrence during my peri-menopausal sleep phases).

My brain kicked on. “Is it time to get up? Go to the airport? Head to the cruise?”

Who needs an alarm when they have a cat?

The problem with feline wakefulness, it only happens when you don’t want need it. The day you count on those kitty paws to get you to the airport on time, is the day the cats abandon you for the back of the recliner.

My husband rolls over, turns off his alarm. I crawl out of the damp sheets, hindered by the cat curled into the bend of my knee. She’s not impressed that I’m trying to get out of bed.

No traffic at 3 am means we make it to the airport in record time. We catch up to the airport shuttle near our favorite parking shelter, which means we miss the bus.

Delightful. This early, we shiver in the near 40 degree weather for fifteen minutes until the next one comes.

I try imagining myself on the deck of the cruise liner. With no former point of reference, this attempt at mind-over-matter warming fails.

Eventually we get to the terminal, check-in, leave our bags and head through security. A short line at four in the morning.

Coffee. Yogurt parfait. How am I going to hand them my boarding pass when both hands are busy with breakfast?

The first flight is a little over half full. My eyes are burning. I close them, hope for rest.

Drink service comes, and I’m wide awake. I give in after an hour of coaxing myself back to dream land and eat my breakfast.

I’ve been hot and shed my layers. Now I shiver and shrug back into the bright pink sweatshirt.

Sleep evades me.

The buzz in my head, only slightly louder than the pounding that says four hours of sleep is not enough, announces the mocha grande skinny has shifted into high gear.

Caffeine. I hate you right now.

Did I really need that shot of sweet goodness with all this anticipation fueling me? Probably not. Live and learn.

Check back here for more musings from my first time cruising over the next several weeks.

What were you anticipating the last time this fever struck?