Thursday, December 20, 2012

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Happy Holidays!

Saturday is the first night of Hannukah, Christmas is approaching,
and the shoppers are busy.

When we're near this store in the mall, we get to observe lots of temper tantrums drama.
Shhh... Don't tell Santa.

But one thing everyone agrees about:
these elephants and giraffes are very cool!


Saturday, November 10, 2012

Seasonal Excuses

Seasonal Excuses

by Barbara Etlin

I can't submit my short story in July.
Vacation season starts now.

I can't submit my short story in August.
August is the slowest month of the year. No one is in the office.

I can't submit my short story in September.
The kids are starting back to school and chaos will ensue.

I can't submit my short story in October.
I need the entire month to prepare Halloween costumes.

I can't submit my short story in November.
I'll be busy doing NaNoWriMo instead of submitting.

I can't submit my short story in December.
Everyone knows no one in publishing does any work between mid-November and New Year's Day. They're partying or hung over, if they're in the office at all.

I can submit my short story in January.
The editors will be back from their six-week-long vacation and will be rested. However, my manuscript will be lost in the huge slush pile that collects between mid-November and January.

I can't submit my short story in February.
Winter is too depressing. I'm going to hibernate.

I can't submit my short story in March.
The kids will be on March break and chaos will ensue.

I can't submit my short story in April.
April is the cruelest month. (Don't ask me why. Ask T.S. Elliot.)

I can submit my short story in May and June,
so I'd better hurry and write something.

Copyright 2012, Barbara Etlin , all rights reserved

Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Leaves Of October

Happy October 21!

Today M and I celebrate the day we met, Thursday, October 21, 1976.
M, thanks for calling a scary stranger--me! That October was cold and snowy and all the leaves were long gone. I remember wearing a winter jacket and boots on that first date, October 23.

Of course, for those of you who remember that I just turned 39 again, I was a mere child when I went on that blind date 36 years ago.



Friday, October 19, 2012

Monday, October 8, 2012

owlet enjoys tickling

Video of an owlet enjoying being tickled

Friday, September 28, 2012

Stuff on Friday

1. Famous

means getting your own table at Chapters.

Do you think they put enough books on the J.K . Rowling Table?

2.  Furry Favourite

3. Fall

Why can't we skip right from fall to spring?

4. Funnier

What I hope to be after taking this online course:

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Sting and Stevie Wonder: "Fragile"

A fantastic duet, performed on Stevie's 60th birthday. I love Sting's solo version, but Stevie just blows me away.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Dream a Little Dream *for* Me

I've always envied the authors who say they get ideas for their novels in their dreams. My dream life has been quiet on the Useful Idea front.

Woody Allen giving me advice on writing -- yes.
Agents telling me to go to conferences to meet them (before I got my own agent) -- yes.
Editors urging me to finish my novel and submit it to them before they die of old age -- yes.
Novel ideas -- forget it.

Until last night, when my subconscious provided something interesting and different. A strange SF/horror thriller type thing. Not my usual genre or style at all. But so cool. I resolved to write it down before I forgot it.

When I woke I wondered whether it was familiar, after all, so I used Google to research it.

It wasn't fresh and different.

I had dreamed about Dean Koontz's novel, "Watchers."

Thanks a lot, subconscious.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

George Carlin's Modern Man

Here's an example of creative use of cliches, by the incomparable George Carlin.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

September 13 birthdays

sailboats in Kingston, Ontario harbour

Happy Birthday, September 13


talented YA writer, Robin Prehn

and Liz, multi-talented children's writer and artist/illustrator, Liz Jones

the birthday twins!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Sneak peek at Janet Gurtler's WHO I KISSED

YA author, Janet Gurtler, has posted a peek at the beginning of her next novel, WHO I KISSED on her blog.

Take a look. It's fabulous!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Almost Wordless Wednesday

Gibbous moon floating in a sea of pink clouds at sunset

Monday, July 9, 2012

Thoughts for July 9

Today is my birthday. I'm 39 again.  :-)

M got me a gorgeous owl plate!

It's for decorative use only, so it will have a place of honour on the wall.

For my birthday, I'm treating myself to a tai chi class,
which I'll take with M.

Today Echo gets the last word on aging gracefully
leash dancing with a repost of his poem, "Believe You're a Puppy."

Off to dance with my leash...

Friday, July 6, 2012

Ode to Joy

Here's a flashmob version of "Ode to Joy" that is truly joyous.

The expressions of the crowd are priceless.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Henry V at Stratford

Last Sunday we saw the first performance of the year of Henry V at Stratford, Ontario's Shakespearean Festival. Because it was a preview, and the play's first performance, I don't feel that I should write a review.

I was thrilled to see one of Shakespeare's plays at Stratford. We hadn't been there since 2005, much too long for me to go without Shakespeare. Since my first time there, as a teen, I've always felt that I belonged on that stage. Although I've switched my ambition from acting to writing, the Festival Theatre still has that irresistible attraction.

We had mostly sunny weather and it was a lovely change of routine, as well as giving me my theatre fix.

The Festival Theatre.

We were lucky to be there on the same day that someone was trying to sell his vintage MGAs!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

"We few, we happy few..."

Where do you think I'll be this afternoon?

Friday, June 15, 2012

Bogart - article by Robert Fulford

Interesting article in The National Post about why Bogie is still so intriguing to audiences.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

What a hoot!

Today I received a wonderful package
delivered by Owl Mail.

Children's writer and illustrator,
Liz Jones,
designed these owl shoes for me.

Thanks, Liz!

For details on how to get your own personalized shoes, contact Liz.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Re-vision: a new perspective

During our move from a house to a condo in November 2010, we discovered a nearby Chinese restaurant. It was open late and was convenient for those late-night dinners we often needed.

During the fall and winter we got used to its kitschy decor, including year-round Christmas lights, plastic flowers, tall ficus trees and hanging plants. The latter could have been real or fake, until we noticed the leaves turning yellow and falling down.  I wondered how the trees and plants could survive in such a dark environment.

One day in March 2011, we came for dinner and were surprised to notice a skylight in the centre of the ceiling.

"You put in a new skylight," I observed to our waiter. "We like skylights." We told him about the tromp l'oeil skylight which we had painted on a canvas and attached to the ceiling of a first-floor room of our former house.

"But the skylight isn't new," he said. "It's always been here."

Then we realized that, when the sky was dark in the winter, we couldn't see the skylight. During spring's longer days we could see light shining through the skylight.

Revising a manuscript can be like that. For a long time everything looks bleak and dark. But one day, the sun shines through and you can finally see the beauty that always was there.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Stevie Wonder Quotations

...for his birthday, May 13.

"You can't base your life on other people's expectations."

"Just because a man lacks the use of his eyes doesn't mean he lacks vision."

"Ability may get you to the top, but it takes character to keep you there."

"When you're moving in the positive, your destination is the brightest star."

See my blog post last year, featuring a portrait by artist, Kevin Slattery, and my original poem, "Stevie Wonder's Sunshine."

Happy birthday, Stevie!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Echo's Leash Dance Video

I took this video of Echo on April 7.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Eagle Owl Becomes Surrogate Mother

An Eagle Owl named Flea was feeling motherly but wasn't able to mate with another owl. She then became a model surrogate mother to some chicks.

News story from Der Spiegel Online.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Adventures at the Erma Bombeck Writers' Workshop

Tulips in front of the Kennedy Union Building of the University of Dayton 

M's second standup comedy routine at the Erma Bombeck Writers' Workshop was a hit! He had only five minutes, which we had carefully timed during rehearsals. But then, on the same day as the gig, everyone's time was reduced to 4 1/2 minutes. And the organizer of EBWW said he would be firm in using a hook to make sure everyone stuck to the time limit. (The "hook" turned out to be a 30-second warning of progressively louder music drowning out the performer.) M realized that his last joke would be cut off, so he stopped after his second-last joke, ending gracefully and with a big laugh. What a pro!

Another performer at the standup was the fabulously funny Debby Garfinkle! Unfortunately I didn't get a chance to say hi to her. I had to remain in position to videotape M's performance and no one knew when they would be called on stage.

On Friday and Saturday we attended classes on attracting readers to your blog, making money by being funny, using humour in travel writing and more. M attended a standup comedy bootcamp.

We learned lots, laughed lots, and had a great time.

The G.M. buildings in Detroit dominate its skyline.

A walk by the river in Windsor, looking at the Ambassador Bridge.

Tulips along the river's edge, in Windsor

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

More tulips!

By popular request, more purple tulip pics, and one of the red tulips. :-)

Sunday, April 15, 2012


We decided to go for quality over quantity this year. ;-)

Monday, March 26, 2012

To-Do List for EBWW 2012

My husband, M, and I are getting ready for the 2012 Erma Bombeck Writers' Workshop in April.

Here's my To-Do List:

1. Help M sort through his original humour files to find the funniest jokes for his standup comedy gig.

2. Be his audience while he rehearses.

3. Time his routine. We don't know how long his routine will be this year, so that's a problem. We're assuming it's the same as in 2010, three minutes.

4. Learn how to use the video camera component of my Blackberry to record his comic genius.

5. Lose  20 pounds. Buy new clothes.

6. Think funny.

7. Breathe.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Leash Dance!

Today he turns 11, but he still believes he's a puppy!

Dance with your leash, Echo! Your birthday present will arrive next week.


Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Fun and Inspiring Links

Some interesting links found here and there in the blogosphere: Kelly Barson, author of the upcoming YA novel, 45 Pounds, is featured on the Friday The Thirteeners blog today. Kelly is also a member of my critique group, the Feathered Pens.
She reveals her most embarrassing moment! It's okay, Kelly, we won't tell anyone...

Next, a big congrats to Donna Gephart, whose MG novel, Olivia Bean, Trivia Queen, was released today!

The inspiring story of how Kathryn Stockett, author of the bestselling novel, The Help (which was made into an Academy-Award-nominated movie), was rejected by 60 agents. Her 61st query letter netted her an agent, and her agent sold her novel and the film rights soon after.


A story that I read, probably in "Writer's Digest" years ago, or perhaps in King's memoir, On Writing, that still inspires me when I need a morale boost: Stephen King, after hundreds of rejections, sold his novel, Carrie, to Doubleday. He answered the phone call from the editor on his neighbour's phone because he was too poor to have his own phone line. After signing the contract, the editor wanted to know whether King had any other novels to show him. King replied, "What about those other 17 novels you rejected?"*
* a rough paraphrase of what I remember reading.

Finally, a story about Margaret Atwood, which I may have read in The Red Shoes: Margaret Atwood Starting Out, a biography about her, or perhaps it was in "Writer's Digest." Atwood decided to self-publish her first book of poetry, The Circle Game, which went on to win The Governor General's Award. Later she received a phone call from Jack McClelland of McClelland & Stewart, at that time Canada's largest book publisher. He asked her whether she had written any novels for his consideration. She said something like, "What about that novel I sent you two years ago that never received a reply?"* *again, a paraphrase McClelland dug her manuscript of The Edible Woman out of the slush pile on the floor, read it, and published it, to much acclaim. It became a best seller and was the start of her astonishing career as a literary novelist.

Have a good day and happy writing!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Mercury Lament

Mercury Lament
by Barbara Etlin

When Mercury's in retrograde
it always foils me. It will raid
creativity and cause cascade
of brain. And all the plans I've made
to write will go askew. I wade

through computer repairs,
Blue Screen of Death.

My fancy new mouse doesn't roar
and I don't know what good it's for
(It sure won't move the cursor.)
I feel as though I'm slogging through
a prehistoric swamp of gore.
(I notice that my rhymes become
progressively worser.)

Though Skype is free I'd gladly trade
for working speakers that don't fade
when Mercury's in retrograde.

Copyright Barbara Etlin 2012, all rights reserved

Monday, February 20, 2012

Where have all the bookstores gone?

On my recent vacation to Monterey and Carmel, I was dismayed by the lack of good bookstores in the area. I had packed lightly and, as usual, planned to buy a few paperbacks for my vacation. Monterey is the home of a jazz festival and Carmel is an affluent, very artistic city. I'm sure lots of writers and readers live in the area.

Monterey used to have a large bookstore about a block from my hotel. It was gone. There was a small independent religious bookstore in Monterey--not what I wanted. On Cannery Row, there was a used bookstore with not much selection.

Carmel used to have a lovely independent bookstore near or on Ocean Avenue, the main street. (I remember it had a kangaroo in the window with paperback books in her pouch!) It was gone.

I used Google to find an independent bookstore, River House Books, down the highway from Carmel, in a shopping centre. I found two books that interested me, both non-fiction, and M found one. M would have preferred to buy a SFnovel but they didn't carry genre fiction, only literary novels.

Thanks for saving my sanity, River House Books!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Life is a Song Lyric (example #1)

Breakfast table.

Me: Whenever John [renovator] does the slightest thing
here, the whole condo ends up full of dust.

Husband: All we are is dust in the wind.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Something Is Rotten

Something Is Rotten

by Barbara Etlin

life is too short
for flossing three times a day

no, I still haven't given up
my addiction to Diet Pepsi

my lack of fresh cavities
is not an invitation
for you to renovate my mouth

although you say
dentistry is not an exact science
(but if I botch it the first time
I'll give a 10% discount
on the second try)

I still believe
temporary or permanent paralysis
is unacceptable

I leave
with two unanswered questions

what exactly did you learn
in four years of dentistry school
if it wasn't science

and what makes you think
I'd ever come back
for a second try

Copyright 2012 Barbara Etlin, all rights reserved

Wordless Wednesday



California Dreaming


We're back from two weeks in California.

We flew to San Francisco and stayed there two days. Then we drove to Monterey, where we stayed ten days, then back to San Francisco to fly home.
Random observations made on the trip:

1. It is possible for someone on a plane to make a five-and-a half-hour sales pitch, practically without breathing. Possible, but not desirable.

2. San Francisco really is a series of picture postcards come to life. It is probably my second-favourite city in the world. Amsterdam would be first.

3. I would not like to drive there. (M was the driver.) If I could get over my fear of heights and steep hills--Hitchcock was smart to set Vertigo in SF-- walking around would be a great workout!

4. I don't see how the Lone Cypress can be owned as a trademark by a company. Regardless, I consider it *my* tree. Fie on you, trademark owners!
5. The Seventeen Mile Drive is wild and serene at the same time.

6. I checked out Asilomar while we were in the area. I had been very curious about it. (It's in Pacific Grove and has its own private beach. Wonderful location for a writing conference.)

7. With treatment, it takes seven days to get over a cold. Without treatment, it takes a week.

8. We received two emails from Echo while he was at camp. He missed us and sent a couple of photos! :-)

Rare sighting of a great grey owl... a town in southern Ontario. The great grey normally is found much further north.

Here's a link to an article in The Toronto Star about it, complete with photos and a video:

Submitted some non-fiction... a contest.

It feels good.

Quick Book Look: 11/22/63 by Stephen King

11/22/63 by Stephen King. Adult SF/time travel.

For people of my generation, the Boomers, the assassination of JFK was a traumatic, life-changing event. So I was looking forward to reading King's novel on the subject.

When I was looking for it at the bookstore, I had trouble finding it because the front cover--half of which is a newspaper's front page--is so busy. Also the title would have been more effective spelled out instead of using numerals. (When I finally noticed that the back cover was an alternative news story in which JFK survives his close call, I realized why the art department had done the cover that way. I still don't like it.)

I liked Jake, the protagonist, immediately. Jake steps through a time portal to a day in 1958 and lives through the years until 1963, in his attempt to prevent the assassination, probably lessen US involvement in the Vietnam War, and save thousands of lives. Despite our knowledge of history, King somehow maintains the suspense.The past, we learn, is extremely resistant to change. Also, any changes you do make have a ripple effect--sometimes good, but often disastrous.

King's time-travel historical novel is a masterpiece. This is one time you definitely shouldn't judge a book by its cover. :-)

Wordless Wednesday (almost)

When I saw this I couldn't resist taking a photo. That's Santa inside, and the rotors actually turn!

Winter Blues

Winter Blues
by Barbara Etlin

We've only just begun
to freeze
White snow and icicles
A slip--Bad luck!--
and you're on your butt
It's only begun...

And at the solstice sun, we sigh
So many icy roads
We'll start out walking then slip and slide
And winter's just begun...

And when vacation comes, we smile
Hop an airplane, farewell to gloom
We'll find a beach where the snows don't go
An end to winter's doom

Copyright 2011 Barbara Etlin, all rights reserved

Jazz Quartet Playing Stevie--in Amsterdam

This video, titled, An Afternoon In Vondel Park, has nice footage of Amsterdam on a pretty summer day. An unknown jazz quartet is playing Stevie Wonder's "For Once In My Life."

Stevie's music + Amsterdam = perfection

October Leaves


Yesterday afternoon, I had to take a photo of these trees that glow in the sunshine when I see them from my terrace.

Quotes from John Lennon

...on his birthday:

"If someone thinks that love and peace is a cliche that must
have been left behind in the Sixties, that's his problem. Love and peace are

"Will the people in the cheaper seats clap your hands? And the
rest of you, if you'll just rattle your jewelry."

"The thing the sixties did was to show us the possibilities and
the responsibility that we all had. It wasn't the answer. It just gave us a
glimpse of the possibility."

-- from John Lennon Quotes in Brainy Quotes


Kelly Barson, a member of the Feathered Pens, my critique group,


Here are the details on Publisher's Marketplace:

K.A. Barson's 45 POUNDS, about a girl who doesn't fit -- not into her blended family, and certainly not into Snapz! clothes, and who is certain that if she could lose 45 pounds, her life would be perfectly normal, only to find that there is nothing perfect about normal, to Sharyn November at Viking Children's, by Sara Crowe at Harvey Klinger (world).