What’s the Ultimate Writer Procrastination Tool?

I’ve found it…I’ve found it!!!  If you’re one of those writers who decides to wax the floor before they write, or if you are the sort needs to count the forks and knives before they write, I’ve got a better tool to assist you in your procrastination.  It’s guaranteed to help you avoid writing for days at a time.

What is this magical tool?  I’m glad you asked.  Home renovation, my friends.  It’s the ultimate procrastination tool.  You’ll get so caught up in it that you’ll forget the book you’re supposed to be writing.

I’m sitting in my living room, or what used to be my living room.  It contains but one piece of furniture – a sofa that is covered with a large drop cloth.  Everything else is stacked in our library and kitchen.  The living room looks as though a bomb went off in it and I feel as though I was in the room at the time.  We’re renovating.

We’ve spent the last two days ripping all the moldings off the wall, removing the flooring, and using a mean ugly tool called a sawz-all to remove part of a wall.  This was followed by a trip ‘to the dump, to the dump, to the dump dump dump’ (say it fast and you’ll get the proper cadence).  Then it was off to the big-box store, twice, to give them all our money and to make promises about giving up one of my kidneys and possibly a lung to pay for everything.

Since then we’ve been installing drywall, sanding, filling, rewiring, and rebuilding.  And, as I said, the room and adjacent hallway still looks like a bomb went off in them.  But, as they say, we’re making progress, and in another day or so we may even be able to start painting.  I think our daughter is searching for a new set of parents.  She’s not comfortable in the role of indentured servant.

I’ve given up all thoughts of writing and I think my hands are too sore to do it anyway.  So, if you’re looking for that ideal procrastination tool, renovation is just what you need.  Me, I sit, in my living room, on the sofa with the drop cloth, and I just felt the need to write.

Baseball – Quebec Style

One of my favorite things about living in Quebec City are the Quebec Capitales games I attend.  Baseball and Quebec don’t seem natural, though when I looked into it there is a long history of Quebec baseball teams.  But kids here play soccer more than baseball.  And, for goodness sake, hockey is front page news, and followed with a passion that borders on the fanatical.  The provincial Premier has a hard time getting a word in edgewise during hockey season.

Nevertheless, Quebec has a thriving team – part of a CAN/AM pro baseball league.  While it may be a step down from the Toronto Blue Jays, the game experience is just as satisfying, maybe even more so.  The team ownership understands well that it is providing entertainment and it treats ticket buyers as though we are all friends and most certainly that we are valued.  Humor plays a big part and so foul balls that leave the stadium are followed by sound effects of glass breaking as though some car in the parking lot was taking part in the proceedings.

Kids are also a big deal to the Capitales and every game I’ve attended have short events for the kids between innings.  They also honor kids who are part of the small contingent of young baseball players in Quebec City.

For me, as an American living in this French-speaking city, there are special feelings.  I sit, with 4000+ other people.  They all speak French, though crys of “bad call, ref” do crack the air on occasion.  The umpire calls balles and prises.  Home runs cause the announcer to yell a drawn out “CIRCUIT.” Vendors sell biere froide and players don’t have RBIs, they have PPs.  I still don’t know what PP stands for but does it really matter?

The French creates a different ambiance, though the rhythms of baseball seem the same the world over.  But the most striking thing comes during the 7th inning stretch, when all of these French souls stand, and reading from the big screen behind the right-field wall, they raise their voices in unison and sing “Take me out to the ball game…Take me out to the crowd…Buy me some peanuts….”  It’s AMAZING!!

Oh…one last thing.  The Quebec Capitales, MY team, is in first place by a considerable margin.  At 26 and 18, they’re 5 games ahead of their nearest rival.  And that’s better than the Blue Jays.

 

Canada Post Strike Over – Author Happy

While I wasn’t happy with the way the Canadian government dealt with the Canada Post strike, it has come to an end.  This is significant to me as just before it happened, Amazon’s CreateSpace had shipped me a box of books…my book, Her Book of Shadows .

This is important because I have people waiting for these books, and they’ve had to be very patient as the books have been sitting in a Canada Post warehouse for several weeks.  But they’re here now and I can start sending them out.

Her Book of Shadows – Canada Day Sale

Canada Day Sale  

 

I’ve decided to have a ‘summer’ sales of my eBook, Her Book of Shadows . I’m doing this to formally launch the book now that it’s hit most of the distribution points.  For a limited time, it will be available for 99 cents here..

If you like to read mysteries without serial killers, sex and lots of violence, you’ll like Her Book of Shadows .  This is a mystery that will let you get to know some great characters, let you visit Quebec City, and, it will make you feel good.

 

Review comments:

“This is such a well written mystery, and full of make you laugh out loud lines. I loved the setting of Quebec City, and the snippets of the French language scattered throughout made it so authentic.” — esldonna

“How refreshing to find that Larry Marshall’s first is a who-dunnit in the best tradition of well crafted stories of crime solving.” — Polystamper

“This is a beautifully crafted book, full of interesting convincing detail and engaging characters.” — Janet Guerrin


Book Description:

In Her Book of Shadows, retired cop, Scott Riker, lives with his wife and daughter in Quebec City where he heads a group of interventionists. Directed by Quebec business mogul and philanthropist, Luc Duchesne, the group uses their talents and resources to stand between people in trouble and the criminal elements who would do them harm.

Riker agrees to find Jodie Burke, a teenage girl whose parents say ran away. But when Jodie’s friend turns up murdered on the Plains of Abraham, it becomes clear that Riker faces something more than just a runaway girl. Time is running out and he must find Jodie and prevent whoever is trying to kill her from succeeding.

Riker struggles with his emotional involvement in the case, caused by the similarities between his daughter and Jodie Burke. This, and his attempts to reconcile his risky business with his role as father and husband add to his internal conflicts but maybe the two roles can be compatible.

 

Super-charge Your Imagination: Turn Off Your iPod

It’s well-established that the human brain works best when it’s not distracted. In spite of that “sure, everyone knows that” statement, most of us constantly bombard our brains with twitter feeds, Facebook, and email. And when we’re on the move, we’ve got earbuds in our ears, as we travel to be the beat of our favorite drums.

Right now I am brainstorming my next novel and it occurred to me that one of my methods may be worthy of description.  I walk a lot, or at least as often as I can. When I walk I usually listen to an audiobook which helps me with my to-be-read pile. But when I need to figure out some twists and turns in my writing, or when I’m developing characters, I will often walk, and walk. This works for be and the ‘trick’ is to leave the iPod at home. It makes me smarter… every time.

Well, maybe not smarter but if I my brain has nothing to do but think, it thinks and it I pose questions to my thinking brain during a long walk, my brain responds. Instead of the iPod I take a notebook and pen with me to capture the thoughts.

I’ll think and walk, think and walk. And when something comes to mind, I’ll stop and write it down. Then I’ll think and walk some more. Today I went with a goal of figuring out what my antagonists were doing and what their relationships would be to one another. It’s a plot involving collusion and bribery and I needed to figure out the interconnectivity of the pieces. Not exactly, of course, but enough that I know where to put the pieces on the chessboard.  Heck I needed to know what pieces there would be.

After a two hour walk I had a diagram that showed those relationships and some brief notes about what sorts of characters I needed and how they are associated with each corporate entity.  The walk also spawned notes for three scenes that just came to mind.  One will show something about the theme of the book. Another illustrates the relationship between two of the principle characters. And the third is a humorous scene and, to be honest I have no idea how it will fit, if at all. Not a bad result for a couple hours of clear thought, all because I turned my iPod off.Oh, and as I did this “writing session” I burned some calories, worked on my tan, and I got to see a mother mallard duck with her newly-hatched brood of ducklings.

Cheers — Larry

 

The Only Writing Advice You’ll Ever Need.

We read all forms of advice on how to be a writer, how to become an author, and all the ins and outs of getting published. But sometimes you come across someone able to boil the process down such than anyone can understand the message. James Scott Bell is one such person. Once you hear his advice ask yourself if you can follow his advice.

 

Well, can you? Will you?

Cheers — Larry

Spring Has Sprung In Quebec

Our winters are long here in Quebec but normally, by the end of April spring will let us exit from our burrows and enjoy the sunshine.  This year was different.  It rained, and rained, and rained.  The trees were even grumbling.

But finally, at least a month late, spring has sprung.  I was out walking and snapped a few photos of my favorite place, Riviere St.-Charles.  I thought I’d share a few of those photos with you.

Along the river are apple trees in full flower as well as some ash trees.  The yellow dandelions help round out the blaze of color.

If you’ve read Her Book of Shadows, my new mystery novel, this is the location in Parc Brebeuf where a rather intense scene takes place.

And I couldn’t resist quickly snapping this photo.  The dog was happy to have his picture taken but the little girl was less thrilled so I apologize that it’s not a sharper image.

 

Is Ignorance Really Bliss?

I guess you’d call this a ‘guest post’ as the text is  written by  my sixteen year old daughter, not me.  In her English class she was tasked with writing what she called “a rant.” I think it more to be an advocacy paper but either way, she was supposed to come up with a topic she felt important enough and that she was passionate about for a rant.

She is discussing the most fundamental problem of our modern society as it affects our dialog, our politics, our economics, and our beliefs.  Before turning you over to her, I should add one – English is my daughter’s second language.  Oh how I wish I could write like this in French.  Without further fanfare, I give you Jodie Côté-Marshall.

 

Is Ignorance Really Bliss?

by Jodie Côté-Marshall

Less than a few decades ago, what qualified someone as “smart” or “intellectual” wasn’t solely based on how he or she performed in school or in other academic situations. Watching the news, reading the paper, being well informed: those were common things that people did in order to be aware of what was going on around them. Nowadays, that concept isn’t as popular as it once was. The younger generations have chosen to minimize the amount of information they get in spite of the fact that they have access to all the information they need. In other words, people have chosen to shut out all knowledge at a time when being knowledgeable is crucial to our society.

I think one of the reasons that can explain this phenomenon is the fact that interests have completely shifted from big world news to plain-old gossip. As long as your favorite singer or actor has his or her name spread out across a glossy magazine cover, major political and economic issues will be out of the picture. In my opinion, something is terribly wrong. As a citizen of planet Earth, it is your duty to be aware of the major conflicts and discoveries going on in your world.

Another explanation for ignorance is that most people are very self-conscious about their image. According to the modern teenager, knowing things is not very “cool.” In fact, a lot of kids get bullied in school because they’ve dared to show others that they know things. Those who have kept their mouth shut have been spared from the bullying. When a person denies being smart, their ignorance is not bliss, but insulting to those who are actually proud of their intellectual capacities. It is completely illogical that those who know more should be frowned upon and considered abnormal.

This rant isn’t about bullying, nor is it about trying to equalize all stereotypes. It is about convincing people that knowledge and understanding the world is one of the most valuable things a person may possess. It is not a crime to know things and it is not a crime to want to know things. It is up to you now to choose whether or not you want to forget everything that I’ve just told you. Whatever choice you make I ask you to remember this one last thing: while you may not need the world to continue being you, the world will always need you to continue being the world.

 

 

Louise Penny Wins Another Agatha Award

She’s done it again!  Four years, four books, FOUR Agatha awards in a row.  Nobody has ever done this…ever…nobody.

Though Louise would probably not even know my name, I feel especially good about her success as an author.  Sure, she’s a very good writer, as her award winning Gamache mysteries attest.  And yes, she lives in Quebec, like I do.  But what endears me to her comes other things.

The most important is how great she has been towards my daughter, Jodie.  You see, I’ve been a writer and editor most of Jodie’s life, but I wrote columns and articles for magazines – non-fiction.  Jodie was more interested in the magic of fiction and those who created it.   She was interested in become a writer herself.   She was 11 years old when Louise Penny released her second book, Dead Cold and she came to Quebec City for a signing session so I suggested to Jodie that we go so she could meet a “real author.”

Jodie was so excited and I’m sure she thought she was going to get to sit around with this ‘famous’ author telling tales and getting advice.  I remember hoping that she wouldn’t be disappointed by the brief time she would likely have with Louise as she had her sign a book.

But Louise was, well, Louise.  She was so gracious, somehow making every single person feel as though they were important to her.  And she started asking Jodie questions about her writing.  Louise gave Jodie a big hug.  By the time Jodie left she felt she had a new friend and, frankly, I think she did.  Louise insisted on a photo with Jodie.  It’s one of Jodie’s prized possessions and I present it here.

Jodie’s now sixteen and she has become a superb writer, in both French and English.  She’s less sure about being a writer as a profession but, as I said, she’s only sixteen.  We’ll see.

As we’ve attended all of Louise’s annual signings here in Quebec I’ve learned from her.  She doesn’t know that, of course.  Her books have taught me much about writing, telling a story that doesn’t draw on violence and chase scenes for its appeal.  Rather, Penny novels draw on underlying themes and characters that involve you in their lives.  Though she writes murder mysteries, she’s also writing ‘feel good’ books.  But Louise has taught me much more than that – much more important things.  She’s taught me kindness, humility, and how to value readers.

Thank you, Louise, and congratulations on your Agatha.  Here’s hoping that Trick of the Light garners a fifth.

Cheers — Larry

 

Do You Allow Yourself Writer Embarrassment?

My favorite TV show is Castle.  I mean, what’s not to like?  A bestselling mystery writer following around a good-looking female homicide cop?  It doesn’t get any better, particularly if you’re a mystery novel geek like I am.

The interesting ‘twist’ from this show is that there are actual mystery novels being written under the name of the lead character, Rick Castle.  Recently a new Rick Castle website has been launched to promote the book series, including the upcoming release of the third book in the series, Heat Rises.

While the whole notion of fictional characters writing real books is appealing to me, what really caught my eye was a small section where Rick Castle answers questions and he’s asked:

What do you do when you have writer’s block?

Castle’s answer: “I don’t believe in writer’s block. I believe in writer’s embarrassment. That’s when you’re so embarrassed by the horrendous drivel you’re writing that you can’t bear to see it on the page. After all, you can always write something. I’ve discovered that giving yourself permission to write poorly is the gateway to writing well.”

Personally I’ve never believed in writer’s block, muses, and the rest of the mythology associated with writing.  And I think Rick Castle (whoever the actual author is) is right on the money.  If you realize that your delete key is a powerful tool, you can bypass all the writer’s block nonsense and get on with the writing.  Do you allow yourself writer’s embarrassment?

Cheers — Larry