There are a few memes how if a writer was to be arrested and computer confiscated by the police, our search history might not be in our favour.
Got to say, my search history wouldn't help me out at all. Weapons, poisonous plants and how to sneak them into food or drinks, overdosage symptoms, what drug could put someone into a coma, sabotaging parts of vehicles, etc.
See what I mean? But I swear it's all for research, Officer!
On an innocent search to create my birthday invitations, I came across this ad on the last page in the October 27th, 1923, issue of The Quebec Chronicle to relieve asthma.
How could I not investigate?
Got to say, I wasn't left disappointed when I looked into Dr. J. D. Kellogg's Asthma Remedy.
Made by the Northrop & Lyman Co. Ltd. Toronto, Canada, it gave instructions to pour a half to full teaspoon onto a plate or piece of metal, light it and place an inverted funnel over top so you could inhale the smoke. They suggest using it before bed as it "impregnates the air with soothing effect, thus a allowing restful sleep."
You'd be so lucky if you were to only get restful sleep after using this.
There are two ingredients, and the side-effects are anything, but a cure for asthma.
31% Stramonium is toxic and can cause dry mouth and extreme thirst, vision problems, nausea and vomiting, fast heart rate, hallucinations. If it comes in contact with your eyes, either by hand contact or by aerosolization, can cause blurred vision and can precipitate glaucoma.
The other ingredient, which is also very toxic, is 7% Lobella which has side effects of profuse sweating, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, tremors, rapid heartbeat, mental confusion, convulsions, hypothermia, coma, and death.
I suppose it's hard to be disappointed or make a complaint if you're in a coma, delirious, blind, or six feet under, right?
What vintage ad have you seen that made you do a double take or do some research?
*Edit* - The editor has shared that they won't publish my entire letter in the next issue as it's too long, but will make a correction.
I was truly fortunate and honoured to be asked for a review of my two novels, Hold On & Let Go, from The Townships Sun earlier this summer.
Unfortunately, when I received my copy in the mail and read it, there were not only errors, but a part that deeply hurt.
I wanted to share with my readers and supporters the article and the letter I've sent to the editor to have posted in the next issue.
Please note that both, the editor, and interviewer/book reviewer, have apologized when I contacted them about the issues, and they've promised to publish my letter.
If you or someone you know had read this before I was able to get my letter to the editor out, I want to apologize if the words shared hurt you. Please know that these misinterpretations weren't provided to me for review before being published.
Guess this is one of those "don't always believe what you read" moments that I will need to work through and share with others.
This winter and spring were rough for my depression. I lost all energy and passion with my creative side, which only made my depression worse.
A horrible cycle that just goes round and round.
Work has been stressful and we're in the midst of planning to build our dream house next spring, so to say I have a lot on my mind is an understatement.
But knowing all this never stops me from passing judgement on myself. Putting myself down for the lack of projects I have on the go or not opening my laptop to write.
I went onto Instagram and my anxiety went through the roof because I couldn't remember when I had posted last.
What do I post now? Do I need to explain myself? Do I just post something and hope no one questions it? What happens if something checks in to see if I'm all right?
The thought that I could lose all interest for creative things is terrifying. I know it's not a rational fear and know depression can steal a lot of joy from my life.
It's as if I put myself into this tiny box with such strict categories of what I should consider creativity, which ends up overshadowing all the wonderful things that I am doing creatively.
As an example, I finally took an idea I had since we were in Japan in 2019 and accomplished it. It was hours and hours of hard work, but it came out just as amazing as I hoped it would.
Here it is...
So why didn't I think this counted as being creative? My depression and anxiety had put blinders on me to only believe and focus on my novel. But my creative side made this website and idea happen. An idea that was thought of while waiting for our train and my husband and I brainstormed over for the rest of the trip.
As I've mentioned in other posts, we all need to take it easy on ourselves. The pressure we create and judgement we pass on ourselves is hurtful. I need to remind myself that if one of my friends were talking to themselves the way I do, would I allow them to continue?
I'd be the first to encourage them and point out all the wonderful things they're ignoring or unable to see.
What creative things have you been working on? Was there something you didn't think was creative, but now do? I'd love to hear about them!
I don't know about you, but I have a tough time keeping to one project. Whether it's sewing, writing, crafting, reading, podcasting, or learning new hobby, I'll hop and jump from one to another.
It's not because I get bored, but because I need to learn new things. It might be a way to challenge myself, push to see if I could do something successfully...
Perhaps it's just my self-sabotage to only procrastinate?
A couple of years ago I came across this adorable App called Forest.
If you are looking for an effortless way to help you focus on projects, or a way to keep yourself from checking your phone when you should be doing something else, this App just might do the trick.
I quickly fell in love with it, the more I used and more points I gained. I "bought" more and more trees and shrubs, adding flowers and fountains to my growing collection.
Sure, you can get into your phone, but you'll kill whatever plant you had decided to grow for a set time and now you have a brown, crispy skeleton of a plant in your lush garden.
When I have a writing date with girlfriends, I set my phone in the middle of the table, each one of us choosing a different plant or flower each 20 minutes we set to not talk, just write.
My podcast co-host has jumped on the app too and she'll send me screenshots, which helps get my butt in gear to sit down and focus on my projects.
It gives you a little boost of confidence and a pat on the back when you view your garden.
That's right. I grew a full moon tree, wisteria, and apparently one and a quarter watermelon this afternoon. Who knew I could grow a perfectly cut slice of watermelon, all ready to go.
Do you have any tricks to help you focus?
Like all artists, I do my best writing and am the most productive when I'm set up just-right.
Though create a playlist as a soundtrack to my stories, I only listen to them during my planning for inspiration or build it when the book is done. As I mentioned in my last post, I think it's fun as a reader to listen to and get into the story more with a book soundtrack. See and hear the world like I did when writing it.
But for the life of me, I can't listen to music and write at the same time. It distracts me and the next thing I know, I'm singing along, and my fingers are no longer on the keyboard.
Days where I'm snowed in or the weather just isn't cooperating to do anything else but write, my mind isn't jumping from one thing to the next. There aren't any guilt trips I'm throwing at myself for not enjoying the sunshine or mowing the lawn.
Keep in mind though, the mundane tasks we all hate to do are best done before we sit our butts into the chair or comfortable couch. That heap of laundry on the coffee table can give a mean side-eye.
A coffee or tea, which I can honestly say I forget about most times, is next to my notebook and pens.
While notifications are silenced or completely off from my phone, I do have one app that I have running. Stay tuned for my upcoming post for this cute app that helps avoid distractions and encourages you to accomplish things.
Puppy cuddles (or old senile dog cuddles) are great... until it turns into a non-stop cycle of needing to be let out, whining for supper at 2 in the afternoon, or when they get into a full-on brawl because one of them dared to boop the other accidentally. Good thing they've lost a lot of teeth, or I'd have to add a vet visit to the list.
Preparing your spot, whether it's in the same place every time, or you can move from couch to office, then a corner in a café, is the real secret.
Getting up to get a pen can turn into baking cookies or forgetting about the coffee you forgot about an hour before you put it in the microwave the first time can turn into opening YouTube watching Trixie and Katya's UNHhhh. Then you're in a downward spiral and soon you're spamming friends with links...
Not me of course, these are things that can happen, or so I've heard.
What is your set up? What can or can't you have with you?
Have you ever heard about book soundtracks? Not the ones that are from the movie that had started off as a book.
Soundtracks that authors create.
As you all know, my writing transports you back into Canada's 1930s and 1940s. As a lindy hopper and vintage lover, the music of those eras always pulls me right in and they sometimes make an appearance in the story.
In the sequel to Hold On, one chapter in Let GO Kate and Ralph dance to Hey! Ba Ba Re Bop and only get off the dance floor when their feet can't take it anymore.
When a character sits down and watches a movie, picks up a book, or turns on the radio, are you the sort of reader who looks up the movie, title, or song? Will you now?
Here are my book soundtracks for you to enjoy. Perhaps you'll want to read Hold On and Let Go again while the soundtrack plays in the background.
It's not always easy, is it?
Especially when it come to something you love and hold dear to your heart.
I took the opportunity a few months ago and placed bids on different services, one was to raise funds for Ukraine and the other the WFWA (Women's Fiction Writers Association). Agents, authors, editors, coaches, and others donate their time and services to help authors.
Bids can start as low as $5.00 with $1.00 increases to starting at $250.00 with $50.00 increases.
There are multiple kinds of critiques that are usually on the list of services:
It's an exciting event to be part of, but then comes the time you "meet" with the donors who you then need to share your work with... and get feedback.
For myself, and I believe most other creators/artists, the fear of failure is something that holds us back and turns us into procrastinators. But you need to remember this is your work, so you have the last word in how you want things to turn out.
*Knock on wood* I haven't had any negative experience from those I've connected with. (A mentor assigned to me is a whole different story and blog post perhaps)
I'm currently working with Kristen Owens on my query letter and Samantha Skal on my query package and they're both beyond amazing. Both are supportive, encouraging, and understand the creative process, knowing how it can be nerve-wracking to share our work in hopes that it's not absolute garbage.
Both work differently, but together they had asked me the perfect questions and offered advice that really helped me make my query letter shine. It does need a final buff to make it really shine, but I will be forever grateful to them both.
My synopsis is a whole other ballgame, I loathe the dreaded synopsis. I think most authors do, to be honest. Writing +100K words and spending countless hours and months editing is a piece of cake compared to condensing your entire book into 1200 words.
But, Samantha left questions and comments that will make it easier to work through it. I'm a little more confident now, having an idea of where it needs to go, what needs to go and things to add.
So as scary as it was to ask for help, it's only allowed me to grow as a writer and person.
Sometimes you need a little bit of encouragement and be someone else's cheerleader. A creative mind isn't always spinning, the gears slow and there are days that nothing budges.
But when you have creative friends who check-in and also need accountability, there aren't many lulls. If there is, there isn't any judgement, perhaps from yourself, but they're quick to shake those free from your stubborn self.
Two girlfriends and I meet once a week for a few hours to write and bounce ideas off of one another. We've been "touring" local coffee shops, trying to find the best decaf lattes, mochaccinos, and dry lattes, which eventually all turn into decaf so we can still type without too many spelling errors.
One specific writing date, one of my girlfriends who usually reads announced that she was finally going to start writing. She's had this story in a vault in the back of her mind for years now, and joining us for writing has pushed her fears away.
How amazing is that?
Being creative can be scary, most creative people, if not all, are huge procrastinators. I think it's a fear of failure or wanting perfection. If there's a creative person out there who doesn't procrastinate, please send them my way... I must know their secret!
Do you procrastinate? Do you know why? Has a friend encouraged you to try something you've always dreamed of doing? Do you help someone with their accountability?
I'd love to hear about it!
Books transport us to other worlds, different times, introduce us to new characters, and with historical fiction, we learn bits of history we might not have known. It helps us remember, never forgetting the people who fought for us, gave us freedom, allowed us to have a voice.
My favourite genre is Historical Fiction, especially set during WWII. One of the last novels I devoured was Lana Kortchik's Sisters Of War.
Kiev, 1941: Watching the Red Army withdraw from Ukraine in the face of Hitler’s relentless advance, sisters Natasha and Lisa Smirnova realise their lives are about to change forever.
As the German army occupies their beloved city, the sisters are tested in ways they never thought possible. Lisa’s fiancé Alexei is taken by the invading army, whilst Natasha falls in love with Mark – a Hungarian soldier, enlisted against all his principles on the side of the Nazis.
But as Natasha and Lisa fight to protect the friends and family they hold dear, they must face up to the dark horrors of war and the pain of betrayal. Will they be strong enough to overcome the forces which threaten to tear their family apart?
This was an emotional story to get through, but with the news of Russia invading Ukraine, my heart is breaking all over again.
But what I read and witness on TV these last couple weeks are not part of a historical fiction novel.
Underground subway stations are being used as bomb shelters. People are fleeing their homes with only what they can carry. Families are being torn apart. Men are signing up to fight, knowing their sacrifice can mean more than time apart from loved ones.
Veterans of the Great War celebrated that it was the war to end all wars, only to have their sons enlist for the second world war.
The fears our grandparents experienced, the unknowing of what the world would come to if the Nazis won, the struggles on the battlefield and home front, changing lives forever.
I am unable to pick up a novel set during war at the moment, things I hear on the news should only be kept to the stories I read or in our history text books.
I came across this letter, signed by over a thousand of Worldwide Nobel Laureates, artists, and writers, condemning Russia's invasion and bloodshed. It is a touching letter, their words strong and full of love.
"All individuals have a right to peace, free expression, and free assembly."
The Ukrainians are strong and determined to keep their history, culture, and language. For decades now, they have fought for their freedom, including freedom of their arts.
The Soviet Union took their voices away, banned their work, and faced with repression. During the 1920s and 1930s, a generation of the Ukrainian intelligentsia were later known as the "Executed Renaissance". These artists were executed by firing squad, sent to concentration camps, or exiled from the only country they knew and loved.
Between 1934 and 1940, a campaign was launched to remove and exterminate them. An estimation of 30,000 Ukrainian intellectuals were repressed under Stalin, The Great Purge of 1938 having imprisoned or executed 223 writers. Out of the 259 published Ukrainian authors from the early 1930s, only 36 remained in 1938.
But their attempts to silence and erase their history, culture, and language failed, the Ukrainians a strong and proud country, refusing to back down. As they continue to be today.
You can read more of the history of the Executed Renaissance, here.
If you are looking for a way to support Ukraine as a bookworm, consider purchasing books by some of their talented authors, a small way to let them know that their work is important to the rest of the world and we want more. That no matter how hard Russia tries, the arts will never be erased from Ukraine.
Here are a few popular books by Ukrainian authors that have been translated into English for your reading pleasure.
Fieldwork in Ukrainian Sex
Life Went On Anyway
A Biography Of A Chance Miracle
Our Others: Stories of Ukrainian Diversity
Mondegreen: Songs about Death and Love
Stars And Poppy Seeds
Sound: Shhh . . . Bang . . . POP . . . BOOM!