Thursday, February 24, 2011

I Don't Want To Know

In today's Toronto Star, Dr. Oz talks about a new brain scan that can spot buildup of plaque, that tangly stuff related to Alzheimer's Disease. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration advisory committee has recommended its approval, but wants to ensure that all doctors and radiologists know how to interpret the scans.

Many medical experts are discouraging consumers from taking the early-warning test. Dr. Oz disagrees--he believes that anyone over 50 with a family history of mild cognitive impairment, Alzheimer's or Parkinson's, should take the test.

I meet all of these criteria, but I have decided not to take the test. Instead, I will follow the everyday health habits that Dr. Oz recommends:
  • Eat more salads, fish and fruit. 
  • Eat less butter, ice cream and red meat.
  • Take a brisk 30-minute walk each day.
  • Do not smoke and do not go near people who do.
  • Drink three to five small cups of coffee a day.
  • Drink in moderation--one drink a day for women and two for men.
  • Take a DHA supplement.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Listening to Maria Aragon

The 10-year old Winnipeg native has been caught in a whirlwind. She is living proof that life can change on a dime.

Last week, her sister, Rojuane, filmed Maria as she sang Lady Gaga's latest single, Born This Way. The day after, Lady Gaga tweeted a link of Maria's version to her millions of followers. She commented, "Can's stop crying watching this. This is why I make music. She is the future."

Watch the video on youtube.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Movie Review--Unknown

This Euro-thriller deserves more than 2.5 stars.

Liam Neeson delivers an excellent performance as botanist, Dr. Martin Harris. His beautiful and mysterious wife is played by January Jones.

After arriving at their hotel in Berlin, he realizes that he left his briefcase--with their passports--at the airport. When he hops in a cab and dashes back to retrieve it, a chain-reaction crash sends the car off a bridge into a river. The driver--an illegal immigrant played by Diane Kruger--saves him and runs off. When Martin awakes in a hospital four days later, he's told he has been in a coma and may experience selective amnesia. He returns to the hotel and discovers that his wife does not recognize him and another man is claiming to be the real Dr. Martin Harris.

The rest of the film involves a number of car chases, Euro hoods lurking in the shadows, a few murders, and an encounter with a former Stasi agent.

The storyline is a gripping one and I must admit I was totally unprepared for the twist in the movie.

Watch the trailer.  

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Sundays for Writers

The members of Guelph Write Now meet the third Sunday of each month at Lucie's Bakery in south Guelph. Their organizer, Cindy Carroll, invited the Writers Ink group to join them today.

I accepted her invitation and enjoyed two stimulating hours with four other aspiring Guelph authors. We chatted and shared our writing experiences. Cindy provided us with four prompts and we wrote spontaneously. Afterward, we shared our stories and commented on each other's interpretation of the prompts.

We also enjoyed the delicious coffee and desserts.

Saturday, February 19, 2011


Published...two weeks in a row!

My review of The Lake of Dreams appears in today's Waterloo Record and Guelph Mercury.

Read my review.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Creative Explorations Workshop

This evening, I attended a writing workshop facilitated by Nikki Everts-Hammond.. It was two hours long and very interactive. We had to write spontaneously, given a few leads from Nikki.

A few examples of the scenarios...
  • If you were a vegetable, what vegetable would you be? 
  • What item comes to mind when I say small? 
  • You are in a closet with the door closed behind you. Imagine that a time machine takes you to the present or past. Describe the experience.

It has been awhile since I have written spontaneously and it shows. I am at my writing best when I sit in front of the computer with a cup of tea, coffee or hot chocolate at my side.

I was impressed by many of the other aspiring writers who shared their work with the group. Read a few samples written by my friend, Patricia Anderson at Writers Ink.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Book Club Night

While the group was a large one, the discussion was a bit subdued. A bit of the February blahs?

Three ladies did not like the book. One was very disturbed by some of the graphic and violent scenes. She actually had nightmares and couldn't sleep.

The rest of us enjoyed reading When Will There Be Good News?  The third in a series of books dealing with retired detective Jackson Brodie, the book opens with an act of shocking violence. Six-year old Joanna is spared but her mother, sister and brother are brutally murdered by a complete stranger.

The rest of the book focuses on the present, 30 years after the incident. A series of events are told through the four protagonists--Reggie, Jackson Brodie, Joanna Hunter and Louise Munroe.

At first, I was put off by the number of coincidences in the book. It seemed a bit far-fetched that so many characters could be connected and somehow meet at the same place. But it did not stop me from reading the book in two sittings. I could not put it down for too long.

Afterward, I went back and read the first book in the series, Case Histories. I wanted more of the back story.

I am looking forward to reading the other two books in the series: One Good Turn and Started Early, Took My Dog.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Movie Review--Just Go With It

The reviews did not sound too promising. The Record advised us to Just Run From It while the Toronto Star's headline read Just Forget It.

The movie was pure entertainment. It was light, funny and totally predictable. Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston play the leads in this romantic comedy which involves an unlikely cast of characters, among them Nicole Kidman.

Sandler plays the part of Danny Maccabee, a unmarried, well-off plastic surgeon who has spent two decades pretending to be a mistreated husband so he can score with young, attractive women.  Aniston plays the part of Katherine, his assistant and longtime platonic friend. Sports-Illustrated swimsuit model, Brooklyn Decker, starts as Sandler's latest love interest.

Danny Maccabee's lies catch up with him and he asks Katherine to pose as the wife he is divorcing. A series of comic events ensue and the whole gang ends up on an extended-family trip to Hawaii.

I must admit there were a few annoying parts. Two of the actors had grating, European accents. And the hula smackdown between Aniston and Kidman fell flat.

Watch the trailer.  

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Published in The Record

Even though I have had a number of book reviews published in the Waterloo Record and Guelph Daily Mercury, I still get a thrill when I see my byline.

Today, my review of Condoleezza Rice's memoir appears in both papers.

Read my review.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Inspired by Jeremy Tracey

It was definitely worth the drive to the east end of Kitchener.

Holistic lifestyle coach, Jeremy Tracey, gave a very entertaining and informative presentation entitled  Master Your Mindset for Success. He talked about goal setting, roadblocks and beliefs.

Some of his suggestions...
  • Set goals when you are in a peak state.
  • Put a positive spin on all goals. For example, state "I want to weight 125 pounds" not "I want to lose 20 pounds."
  • Find someone to hold you accountable to your goals.
  • Write a short paragraph that contains your goal statement. It should address the following questions: What do you want to accomplish? What actions are you prepared to take? What benefits will you notice? What benefits will other people notice?
  • If you cannot get rid of the negative people in your life, avoid talking about your goals when you are around them. Arm yourself with other topics of conversation.
  • An acronym for LUCK is Labour Under Correct Knowledge.
  • Replace limiting beliefs with empowering beliefs.
  • Squish the ANTs (automatic negative thoughts) in your life by stating their polar opposites.
Quotable comments...

Thank you for sharing your opinion. I need to sit with it for awhile before I decide whether or not it is true. 

Rising tides raise all ships.

The minute you start working on yourself you become very dangerous to other people.

It is better to leave a bad impression than no impression at all.

You can't become something you hate.

Appreciate what you want before you have it.

Negative beliefs keep you stuck in a rut.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Meeting With Aspiring Writers

I enjoy the monthly meetings with short story writer, Sarah Totton.

This evening she talked about writer's block and how to overcome it. She discussed a number of possible causes such as laziness, procrastination and lack of inspiration. In the course of the discussion, she referred to the two parts of our brain, Sid and Fred. Sid is the conscious critical mind (left brain) while Fred is the intuitive mind (right brain). She suggested that we find ways to feed Fred. When we provide Fred with the seeds of an idea, he will shape them into stories.

Some of her suggestions...
  • Keep a notebook with you at all times. Record any ideas that come to mind.
  • Practice dictionary diving. Pick two words at random from the dictionary and see if you can create a story around them.
  • Examine your personal mythology--colors, images, situations, themes--and write about it.
  • Use contest deadlines as motivation for writing.
  • Give yourself permission to write crap (free writing).
  • Keep a Progress Log. As you write a story or novel, write about your feelings and progress in a separate log or journal.
  • Take the worst story or book you have ever read and force yourself to type it out word by word. You will quickly realize that you can do better.
  • Set the alarm to wake you at 3:00 a.m. For 15 minutes, write whatever comes to mind. Fred is most active at that time.
  • Start with any scene that inspires the story. It does not have to be the first scene.
Other Information...
  • For information about anthologies, visit Duotrope.
  • Good online markets for fantasy stories are Strange Horizons and Fantasy Magazine
  • Read the following books for more inspiration: Creating Short Fiction by Damon Knight and Becoming a Writer by Dorothea Brande

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Good News from Dr. Oz

Dr. Oz inspires all of us to change our health habits and improve the quality of our lives. I enjoy watching his daily program and reading his column in The Toronto Star.

Yesterday, he focused on "middle age without the spread" in his column.

It was reassuring to learn that women can recover a decade of muscle loss after two months of strength training, three 40-minute sessions a week. I started strength training in September and have kept it up since that time. I am a bit shy of the 40 minutes, but intend to work up to that time.

For men, the same amount of training will help them recover two decades.