Saturday, November 1, 2014

Taking The NaNoWriMo Challenge...Again!

It's Day One of National Novel Writing Month aka NaNoWriMo. If you haven't heard of this insanely awesome challenge yet then visit to sign up and start your novel today! It's something your inner critique will hate you for and it might just do fatal damage to those nasty little gremlins who tell you that writing is a total waste of's not.

2014 is my third year of taking this challenge and I intend to type my fingers to the bone not just over but BEYOND the November 30 finish line. I first attempted to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days in 2004. Writing 1,667 words every day was tough because life was VERY different back then. I had very little control of my schedule so NaNoWriMo had me writing well into the wee hours and up again at dawn to write some more, before my day got swallowed up by the endless To Do lists.

I waited 9 years to take the challenge again - last year was MUCH easier - not just because my sons are old enough now to make their own french toast and NEVER want help with their college homework - but because I had grown as a writer and was halfway through a 2 year plan to completely change my life. 

This year promises to be even easier because writing isn't something that I have to escape my daily life to do anymore - it's something I do every day. My work as an online publisher, manuscript editor and writing coach has my butt firmly in my seat for at least 6 hours a day - sometimes 7 days a week. Adding a couple more hours for nothing but MY WRITING seems doable now that my 2 year plan is finally complete.

It's pissing down with rain here on Cape Cod on Day One of NaNoWriMo 2014 - it's Saturday and the only other To Do on my schedule is to take a ride over to the gym. There's a Nor'easter brewing so my logic brain thinks I should head out now, before the wind picks up and the rain is too hard to drive through safely, but my NaNoWriMo heart is telling me to stay put, get those 1,667 words written, upload my word count into the website's lovely word counter and THEN hit the treadmill...I wonder which part of my brain will win... ?

If you've signed up for the NaNoWriMo challenge here's a little tip to help get you to the 50,000 word goal by November 30: before you strap yourself to your NaNo throne of inspiration load up your fave tunes on Spotify and dance your buns off for 10 mins to get the proverbial creative juices flowing - trust me, it works!!

I bragged in my NaNoWriMo profile that my favorite writing music is The Pogues - if you don't know who they are here's a link to one of their best fire-up-your-ass tunes: to I defy you stay stuck in your seat as these drunken louts enter your heart and get it pumping.

If you feel stuck while writing get up out of your seat and dance for a minute or two - that's all it takes to shake off those nasty gremlins who tell you your writing sucks - so what if it does? You can fix it on your rewrite - AFTER Nov 30th! For now, just enjoy the gift of writing - every day - and perhaps dancing off a few pounds you'll inevitably gain from that Halloween candy that's sitting right next to your screen....

Happy Day One fellow Wrimers...congratulations on showing up - now hit that link and get dancing!

Want to be writing buddies? Find my NaNoWriMo profile CapeCodNic at 


Saturday, April 5, 2014

Running for the Hills!

Just got shamed into writing something, anything, after realizing my last entry was halloweffingween ... omg ... seriously?

That's why I ran to the hills today - to escape. The White Mountains aren't exactly hills - they're real bonafide mountains, with snowy peaks and moody weather patterns. See?

Okay so maybe I forgot to snap a shot of Mount Washington - which IS still very snowy - I'll walk the main drag tomorrow and take a few shots. Saw a Chronicle episode the other night featuring the Fern Forest Tree House that I'd stayed in a couple of years ago, then the next town they featured on the show was North Conway - weird coincidence? I think not. I'm meant to be here right now.

Not sure what I'm going to do, now that I'm here. I just knew that I had to get away for a few days. I left my fiction novel at home because that would have felt too much like 'working' when actually I'm here to NOT work. Although I am here to write. Catching up on this blog is a good start. At least it gets the fingers flying over the keyboard without too much concern for grammar, word limits, structure etc...just write...that's the ticket.

Wonder if this old Inn is haunted? Guess I'll let you know if it is...I hope so...I love haunted...

Here's the room I finally chose after way too long searching for the perfect escape - it's the only room at the Inn with a desk, which of course was my number one concern, after the four poster bed, fireplace, wi-fi, cable (movies) and within staggering home distance of a good I took me a while to find this but it was well worth the 4+ hour drive.

The bathroom is gorgeous too, with a shower AND a soaking tub. Luxury! Of course, I already set out the candles and poured the wine...not a stranger to pampering myself...

So the last time I took off for a break by myself was in April 2011 - 3 years a go, not 2! Just checked the date on this tree house pic to find out when I took it. Lincoln, Vermont, during MUD season. Not the smartest timing but again, well worth the drive. The sense of escape begins with the drive - the longer the better. Can't believe I waited 3 years to do this again! No wonder my foot was so heavy on the gas pedal. I felt exactly the same about escaping back then - only then it was to work on something specific. This time I can write about anything I want. It's a luxury not many writers have (if you want to pay the bills) so best not to lose too much time here.
This incredible structure was hand built by a man and his son over three summers. 95 sq ft of 'living space' set 30 ft up in the canopy of several sturdy literally rocked when the wind blew the branches. I guess I didn't mind the rock hard futon mattress in the loft, which was accessed by climbing a wall ladder then pivoting your bum onto a narrow ledge then shuffling to the right and onto the 'bed' without tipping forward and plummeting to your death. I am afraid of heights so didn't dare look over the side of the bed except to take the photo below. No guard rails - just fear of falling to hold you in place.

It was fun listening to the animals scurry across the roof just inches from my face all night. And there's seriously nothing quite as comforting as being rocked in the arms of the trees. Well, perhaps the memory foam mattress I get to sleep on tonight could come close... I'm not knocking the rustic nature of the tree house at all...that's why I chose it...I'm just noticing my radically different choice of venue for this particular trip. Last time I craved the silence of the woods. Now I'm happy to hear voices outside the windows and ready to check out Horsefeathers for dinner.
Anytime I let the universe know I'm ready for a little adventure it never disappoints. Hmmm...why did Ivor Cutler just come to mind? The bird flew into the cat's mouth. "When I get out of here," it said, "I'll have a tale to relate!"

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Scariest Hallowe'en Ever!

 As a kid, we didn't do a whole lot of Trick or Treating in the sleepy suburbs of Manchester, England. It just wasn't celebrated over there like it is over here. Okay, so we did dress up in cool handmade costumes for parties, but we didn't go door to door for hours on end, collecting giant garbage bags full of candy. We just stuck around our street, well after dark, and dared each other to venture through the wrought iron gates of Urmston Cemetery, tucked into the shadows at the end of our little cul-de-sac (aka NO WAY OUT!)   

But this isn't a spooky tale about the cemetery, although I do have a few of those, too. I didn't even have to leave the comfort of our red-bricked Victorian house to scare the pants off myself. This is because there was plenty of paranormal activity going on within the walls of our home. That's right, I grew up in a haunted house.

When you're raised in house where strange creaks, late night groans and pipes pop and squeal in the night you don't pay too much attention to the 'other stuff' until you're old enough to realize you can't explain these strange sounds to your friends. It's more THEIR terror that brings on your own. That's what happened one night, when I had a couple of friends sleep over.

I'd followed the usual routine of brushing my teeth without looking up at the square attic trapdoor in the ceiling above the bathroom sink. It was one of those things you know NOT to do, but never think about why.

Kinda like how everyone in my house flew up the last 6 stairs, then catapulted themselves from the top stair into their bedrooms and slammed the door shut...again, habitual behavior that none of us questioned. We did the same thing going downstairs, only we'd skip the last 5 stairs entirely and just leap to the bottom, swing around the wooden bannister, then run into whatever room we were headed, slam the door shut and settle down, oblivious to our acrobatics. It was definitely Pavlovian behavior.

So on this night, we were whispering and giggling about god knows what when the creaking started. I ignored it, of course, but my friends stared at the corner of my bedroom where a small door hid a marvelous fat pipe around which I dried my socks and underwear. My dad had installed our heating system and ran the pipe from the furnace in the kitchen up through floor in the corner of my room, and up into the attic.

"What the...?" Rachel gasped, pulling the covers up to her chin.

"What is that?" asked Cathy, mirroring Rachel.

I glanced at the cupboard door and shrugged. "Oh, it's just the stools rocking in the kitchen. They'll settle down eventually."

As I said, it was my friends' reaction to my nonchalance that opened Pandora's Box.

"What do you mean, rocking?" Rachel pressed.

I had to think about my answer. "I don't know. They just bang around down there until I fall asleep. You can hear them better if you open the cupboard door." 

"Go on then," Cathy urged. "Let's hear it."

I opened the door and we all stuck our heads in the cupboard, straining to see if we could catch a glimpse of the stool party through the big gap in the floor around the pipe. It was definitely much louder.

Rachel backed away and looked somewhat unsettled but Cathy was positively excited. "Shit. This is great stuff!"

It is?

"So what else goes on?" she asked, clearly hoping for more.

I sat on the bed and got comfortable. "Well, we used to wake up to find the attic trapdoor leaning against the front door every morning, until dad put a lock on it."

Rachel's eyes widened.

"Go on," Cathy grinned. "What else?"

"There's an old woman who stands on the landing, just behind the stairs," I continued, slowly connecting the dots between the strange nighttime noises of our house. "You can't really see her, but you know she's there, just watching."

I felt a chill creep up my neck as I recalled all the times I'd been afraid to look up at that one spot near my brother's bedroom door, where the blankets were stored in an old chest. It always made my skin prickle to walk passed it, and none of us lingered there for longer than a few seconds. But this was the first time I really considered why.

"Let's go see them stools," Cathy suggested, already heading to the door.

We crept across the landing outside my bedroom, taking care not to glance into the bathroom, just in case the attic door had escaped its lock. When we reached the top of the stairs we all froze. There was that cold feeling again. I wasn't used to fighting it, but my friends were feeling it for the first time so I forced myself to stay put.

"Can anyone see the ghost?" Rachel asked, peering across to the other landing that ran behind the stairs.

"No," I replied, "but I can feel her."

"Me too!" Cathy yelped, starting an avalanche of bodies fleeing down the stairs.

We smashed into each other at the bottom, careful not to scream in case this made the ghost chase us. I don't why we thought we'd be safer if we kept quiet, it's not like ghosts can't walk through walls or anything.

I led the way to the kitchen door, beyond which the stools were rocking and scraping all over the linoleum floor. We always shut this door tight before going to bed, so it wasn't easy to push it open without making a loud creaking sound. We held our breaths as I pressed my body against the door and tried to hold the handle to control the creak....

It didn't work. The door flew open and the racket stopped within a nano second. Faced with nothing but a cold, eerie silence we stared into the room, then stared at each other, then screamed and flew back up the stairs. I think I beat my own record in how many stairs I managed to skip, and how quickly my bedroom door was slammed shut.

About 10 minutes later we were back on the landing, peering into the darkness of the bathroom.

"Go on, just unlock it," Cathy said, her voice still shaking a little.

I climbed on the stool that sat next to the towel rack and felt for the slide lock my dad had secured to the attic trapdoor. "Are you sure you won't run off and leave me up here on my own?"

Rachel and Cathy shook their head, their eyes and mouths wide open.

I felt the lock let go just as the door flipped upward and banged hard against the side of the small square door frame. I hadn't pushed it - it had been yanked away from me by something that felt a LOT stronger than I was. This time I didn't stifle my screams, nor did my friends.

I hit the floor before the stool did and was on my bed, under my quilt with Rachel and Cathy beside me, shrieking and giggling like hyenas.

"Your F.....g house is haunted!" Cathy yelled. "This is the scariest Halloween ever!"

We slept with the light on that night. I never did understand why all our racous hadn't woken up anyone else in the house.

Perhaps they were all just used to the noise and had slept right through it.

Happy Hallowe'en :)

PS Remember to leave a comment below about YOUR scariest Hallowe'en ever to enter to win a FREE listing in the CWO BOOKSHELF!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Join Me For A Hollowe'en Blog Hop!!

Get Ready - Get Set - Trick-or-Treat!

Join me and the CWO team for our first ever TRICK OR TREAT Blog Hop. Our theme? Hallowe'en - what else?

Hosted by author Katie O'Sullivan, this Blog Hop invites you to go from blog-to-blog on Oct. 30th and 31st to read spooky tales and enter to win fun TREATS or prizes...the CWO TREAT is a FREE LISTING ON THE CWO Bookshelf in the upcoming Holiday Edition of Cape Women Online magazine!

Think of it like your old fashioned TRICK OR TREAT, only this time you don't have to traipse up and down long, dark, scary streets in silly outfits that freeze your (insert noun) off! You don't even have to leave your house, which means you won't miss those cute little beggars in bumblebee costumes who may come knocking on YOUR door...

Here's how to enter to win the CWO TREAT: Become a Follower of the CWO Blog - yep, that's it! Enter a comment in the Comment box below our Halloween blog entry (which will go live at midnight on Oct 30th) and tell us about your spookiest Hallowe'en ever. We will select a winner to be posted on November 2nd.

If you're already a CWO Blog Followers then hop over to the CWO Facebook page and Like that instead :) Leave a comment below our Hallowe'en Post (posted on Oct 30th & 31st) telling us about your spookiest Hallowe'en ever...same deal as above so you all have an equal chance of winning :)

Registration is easy - just click on the link below to go to the Blog Hop instructions on Katie's blog, where you will register using a nifty LinkyTools form. As the blog tour is only for two days (Oct 30th - 31st) be sure to write your blog post ahead of time so that it's ready to go live on Wed. 30th.

WARNING - our Hallowe'en Blog Post is a TRUE STORY about something VERY SPOOKY that happened in the home of yours truly...hint...there's a reason I LOVE horror movies...I grew up in a haunted house...! 

CLICK HERE TO READ THE INSTRUCTIONS AND TO REGISTER: (You can still register after the 27th so ignore the closing date...)

See you on the Blog Hop!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Climbing The Mountain of To Do's!

Every time I think I've reached a safe place to stop, look back and take in the view, I'm shoved forward again by yet ANOTHER "really important" thing on my endless To Do list. It's exhausting!

Write my novel? Are you kidding me?? I just saw a facebook post from one of my students enjoying the delicious isolation and support of a writer's retreat...I WANT TO BE THERE! I miss writing my own novel. I miss the ritual of stepping into the last scene to continue the story. I miss the peace of mind that comes with writing, every day, and the sound sleep that follows.

I have been so busy editing other people's novels, promoting and publishing other people's writing, making other people's deadlines more important than my own, that my writing has fallen completely off my list.

What to do? Stop the insanity and pause for a peek at the view anyway. I'm going to see what ignoring the shoves leads to. I'm going to practice saying "not right now" to the incessant interruptions and demands on my time...I'm not very good at doing this but we'll see how it goes.

Wish me luck!!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Bed Hopping

Sleeping Beauty - Eloise napping after Dinner
There's nothing better than a comfortable bed. Except a REALLY comfortable bed!

So when I prepared to leave the soft sheets and blankets of my king-sized nest to spend the Holidays with my family, I was disappointed to find I couldn't get a good night's sleep for almost two weeks prior to my departure.

Pre-vacation lists and anxieties stole my peace. None of my usual calm-me-down routines worked; trading red wine for Sleepytime tea, drops of lavender on the pillow… I knew I'd be bed hopping for the entire Holidays and wanted to clock some Zzzzz before I left.

With less than two hours sleep the night before we flew to London, I staggered onto the plane looking like death warmed over. Excuse the gruesome simile but it was that bad.

I got no sleep on the plane (that's another story) so when I arrived at my sister Sue's house in Surrey, around 9 a.m., I almost cried when she suggested I stay awake until 9 p.m. GMT to face down jet lag. I stared into my coffee mug. My circadian rhythms had gone up the spout weeks ago and I just wanted a bed – any bed.

"I can't do it," I groaned. "I'm going to fall over if I don't get some sleep."

"Then just an hour," Sue warned. "You have to get your body clock in synch or you'll be jet lagged for a week."

My nephew's bottom bunk bed had never looked so good. I flopped under the comforter and was immediately unconscious. When my alarm woke me to the melodious tones of Apologize I felt better, until I stood up. The room started spinning and I wondered how I'd ever make it through the rest of the day.

Coffee, wine, British biscuits and not-seen-you-in-four-years catch up conversation did the trick. Before I fell back into my nephew's bed at 11 p.m., a melatonin melting in my mouth, I took a few moments to stare at the luminescent stars he'd stuck on his ceiling and walls. They were truly relaxing. I felt grateful to him for rolling out his sleeping bag on the floor next to his parents' bed so that I could have a bed to sleep in.

I spent two nights in his single bunk before heading North to my mother's house in Shropshire, where a full sized bed awaited me, until Christmas Eve. My mum had bought a memory foam topper earlier that day and we flopped around like fish trying to unroll it, then cover it with fresh sheets.

"What's that smell?" I asked. 
She glanced at the freshly painted chest of drawers beside the door. "I had an onion in here earlier but it smelled awful so I took it out."

I opened the window and hoped the smell would be gone before bedtime. After too much wine I didn't care about the gloss paint aroma that filled the bedroom. It was only when I lay down that I discovered another, more pungent smell. It wasn't the lavender I'd generously dropped on the pillow – this was a chemical concoction.

"Allow foam mattress to air out for at least 24 hours before using," stated the instructions.

Bedroom Office
I swung open all the windows, loaded up the blankets and tried to ignore the howling winds swooping through the trees. I felt like I was in Wuthering Heights. Around 3 a.m. I gave up trying to sleep and turned on the laptop my sister Jackie had loaned me. I answered emails, designed layout pages for this Winter issue and synched photos from my cell phone to an external hard drive that contained ALL the docs I didn't want to lose should my house burn down while I was away.

"Did you sleep well?" my mum asked when I shuffled into the kitchen to get coffee.

"Bit windy," I replied. "Do you still have onions?"

After three nights the smell began to clear up. My sister Sue was arriving to take over the room so I packed my case and wheeled it around the corner to my sister Jackie's house.

As her bedrooms were already full with family my bed for the next two nights was in the middle of the dining room. I unrolled the brand new Aerobed and plugged in the pump.

"Charge pump for 24 hours before using." Seriously?

The Aerobed fit snugly between the wooden desk and round dining table. I soon surrendered to its surprisingly solid comfort. 

When I woke up Christmas morning it was almost 9:30 a.m. and not a soul was stirring in the house. By 10 a.m. the living room was crowded with family scarfing down croissants and sipping Bucks Fizz.

The festivities flowed into the night and right through the next day with a family meal at Atcham's historic Mytton and Mermaid.

Old Atcham Bridge, Shropshire
The River Severn had busted her banks and was charging just below the roof of Atcham Bridge outside the windows. The whole country was flooding, but inside we were warm, loud and very happy to be together for the first time in years.

One more night on Jackie's dining room floor then I was wheeling my case back to my mum's house. Eau de gloss paint still lingered in the air but the foam mattress smell was gone. 

I fell asleep thinking about the family gathering scheduled for the next day. It had been eight years since I'd seen my dad (he was still living in Africa the last time I was in England) and we'd planned a pot luck family reunion.

The afternoon with my dad and his Nigerian side of our family was loud and heartwarming. We took photos and promised to post them on Facebook. Tears flowed as family began to disperse to their homes across England. I couldn't believe it was over.

Bramble Cottage,  England
My case was packed for a night at Bramble Cottage, also in Atcham, where my brother Steve was staying with his family. The drive from my dad's house to the cottage was terrifying as Steve had inherited my dad's need for speed along the winding country roads.

After sharing hilarious tales over Jagermeister served in egg cups (no shot glasses to be found), I set up the Aerobed mattress in the conservatory, one of the 'newer' quarters of the ancient building. I tried to sleep but the walls were creaking. This was the only night sleeping over with my brother's family and I was already missing them. I was woken up at 4 a.m. by a strange sound. I peered into the darkness and saw nothing but a red EXIT sign.

Seconds after I lay back down a long sigh was exhaled about two feet over my face. I screwed up my eyes, ducked under the quilt and hid from whatever was hovering over me. I didn't come up for air until daylight.

"Of course the place is haunted," my brother scoffed. "It was built in the 1700's."

After our goodbyes I settled in for two more nights at my mum's. I spent much of the day designing pages for this Winter issue. It felt good to be reconnected with my American world while sipping tea under the thrashing rain on the roof of my mother's ghost-free conservatory.

BFF Arlene, BEST Indian food EVER& wine!
On December 30th I packed up again and headed North to Scotland for New Year's Eve with my long-time friend and U.S. traveling companion, Arlene.

I had a choice of beds in Edinburgh. My mum, my sister and I had rooms at Arlene's mother's house while my sons were staying with Arlene and her two much younger boys. 

I ended up staying at both places over our four-night visit because while I appreciated the quieter option of Betty's home, I also wanted a night to catch up with Arlene. 

This meant a conversation marathon at her kitchen table until 3 a.m., resumed over coffee by 9 a.m. the next morning.

I slept on a futon at Arlene's house, nestled in the middle of what had been her sons' bedroom until the day before, and was now in transition to becoming the home office.

I stared up at shelves crammed with books, files and papers, my head inches from a large wooden desk (déjà vu). The only remnants of the children were found in the seasonal mural still claiming the top half of the twenty-foot high walls.

My last night in Edinburgh was spent at Betty's house with my mum and Jackie, after a wonderful bonfire in Arlene's garden with fish and chips for dinner. The perfect way to end our trip.

As I sat in my seat on the plane from Edinburgh to Gatwick, I thought about all the beds I'd slept in and how different they'd been. No matter how little room a family had, they'd rearranged their own nests to make room for us. I was content to lie down wherever I landed, grateful for the hospitality and the company of so many familiar faces.

No matter where I was, I was home, secure in the bosom of family and friends that I don't see enough of.

The first night back in my own bed was amazing. I'd become so used to twin beds and mattresses on floors that I didn't move an inch all night. I woke up to my cat, Travis, stretched out next to me.

Welcome home!

This post was originally published as a Life Stories article in the Winter 2013 issue of magazine

Thursday, January 17, 2013

"Home Again Home Again Jigetty-Jig"

I can't tell you how many times I've announced these words to my living room - it's one of my favorite lines from the movie Bladerunner. (And you thought I was going to say "Mother Goose" didn't you?)

My other favorite quote from this haunting movie is when Rutger Hauer's line “I've seen things you people wouldn't believe.... All those moments will be lost in time... like tears in rain... Time to die."

Perhaps that's why Twitter and Facebook are so important to us all these days...they are ways to memorialize those moments in our lives that we just don't want to lose. I don't have a personal Facebook page because I know I'd never be off it. My CapeWomenOnline magazine Facebook page is all I can cope with, but I do have a Twitter account: 

My twitter profile shares another favorite quote, this time from T.S. Eliot: "They make noises, and think they are talking to each that a delusion?...Remember that at every meeting we are meeting a stranger."

Is that all we're doing? Making noises? Is anyone even listening? 
I visited my dad in Nigeria when I was sixteen and Blade Runner was the only video that worked on his ancient VCR player. The Television was so crap that all we had to watch was this video...over and over again. These lines have stayed with me...funny how words define moments that then follow us around for the rest of our lives.

I saw my dad for the first time in eight years over the Holidays - it was wonderful. We chatted away in his kitchen as if a day hadn't passed beteween us. That's the beauty of family - you just cut through the bullshit and get right down to the business of talking - I mean REALLY talking. 

Of course the night ended in tears when we had to say goodbye too soon. I have no idea when I'll see my dad, his wife, or my two half-sisters again. But I do know that our one evening together was enough to reconnect us.

I have MANY digital images and a few videos of our visit (the wonders of technology) but more importantly I have their voices echoing around my head. Phantoms of memory blending with desire to return sooner rather than later this time.

Sometimes words are just letters all jumbled up together - but sometimes they are all we have to remind us of how lucky we are to have family to go home to.  

"Home again, home again, jiggety-jig..."