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Sunday, September 24, 2017

Day 21: Reading - What's the last book you read?


My Project: 365 Creative Writing Prompts

Day 21: Reading – What’s the last book you read?

There was a time that I happily spend my lunchtime in a bookstore, walking between the racks, sampling several books. 

When I received a Kindle for Christmas, I switched to electronic reading. Reluctantly at first, because I prefer a real book over an ebook, but gradually real books disappeared and I used my Kindle full-time.

While I enjoy holding a book and turning pages, the kind of books I prefer (over 500 pages) are rather heavy to carry and expensive. In comparison, a Kindle weighs hardly anything and the ebooks are cheaper than real books.

With ebooks I did have a problem though ... what would I read next? If I knew what I wanted to read the solution was simple ... I would go on Amazon and read the synopsis of the book along with the first few pages. But if I didn’t have a clue what to read next, what did I do then?

A friend recommended that I subscribe to book recommendations. In the beginning, I poured over this email list every day, but day after day I didn’t see anything of interest. Soon I stopped looking and just deleted the email. 

For some reason, I opened the book recommendations email last Wednesday and on top of the list I found ‘The Alchemist’. I remembered all the hype that was made around this book, so I headed over to Amazon. 

The reviews were contradicting, some readers gave the book a raving 5-star review, while others gave it one star and called it rambling and drawn out rubbish.

What I liked about the author Paulo Coelho is that he dared to admit in his forward that when ‘The Alchemist’ was first published in Brazil it was a flop. Only a handful of copies were sold and his publisher canceled his contract. What happened next was sheer coincidence, but the book became a runaway success.

This, if nothing else tickled my curiosity, so I bought the book. And it was an interesting read. Not the best book I’ve ever read, but stimulating and inspirational nonetheless and with a surprise ending. Personally, I would give the book a 3-star rating.





Thursday, September 21, 2017

Day 20: Missed Connections – Looking for love in all the wrong places


Day 20: Missed Connections – Looking for love in all the wrong places

My Project: 365 Creative Writing Prompts
Day 20: Missed ConnectionsGo to Craigslist and click on the ‘Missed Connections’ section

There are an awful lot of lonely people out there and they go looking for love in all the wrong places. One of them, Craigslist.

Not only are there sections for men seeking women, women seeking men, men seeking men, and women seeking women, there is also a category called missed connections for people who met but failed to connect.

It’s mainly men who post there and just about all of them start their message with ‘I know this is a long shot but ...’ Then they go on describing a chance encounter that happened today, a week ago, or in the past. I wonder if any of them ever had any success finding the girl they were looking for.

Of course, not everyone is looking for love, some of them are downright creepy. Take this guy for instance ...

Hi Sweetie,
I do see you every morning waking up and getting ready for work. I love to see you naked before and after a shower. I know you have a boyfriend as I catch you sometimes having sex. I would love to see that blonde body someday. Your pink underwear and the way you look at yourself in the mirror or fixing your bed.


A word of advice to this girl ... close your curtains.

And how about this one ...

Long shot ...
The bus was crowded you were right behind me and your bulge rubbed against my ass a few times. It was so hot. Had a boner the entire morning. Saw you on the subway too. You were wearing light color pants I think linen. 



Yeah, there's a guy you want to meet. (Sarcastic)

I’m so glad I’m no longer on the dating scene. I’m happily divorced and it’s going to stay that way. I wouldn’t hook up with another guy if a knife was held to my throat.

When I mention my dating experiences, I’m invariably sniggered at with the comment ‘In your days, things were different.’ Yes, they were, and in my opinion, they were a lot better.

There were no dating sites, no emails, no chat messages, and no cellphones for that matter. On Saturday and Sunday night we dressed up and went to a disco or a bar. When we saw a guy, we liked, we made it clear with eye contact and if he was interested he would come over. We talked, we danced and we made plans to see each other again.

If things worked out it was the beginning of a short or long-term relationship. If it didn’t, we either stayed friends or never wanted to see each other again.

Yet with all the dating sites and modern technology, people find it harder now than then to connect with someone. 

Almost every week there’s an article in some magazine how to find men, how to find women, how to attract the perfect partner, etc.

I talked to a guy the other day and he too complained that he couldn't find a girlfriend. I wondered how such a thing is possible, women are everywhere. They are at coffee shops and restaurants, gyms, bookstores, there are even women who hang out at DIY stores with the sole purpose of meeting a man. So how could he not find anyone?

Shyness he said. He’s been shot down a few times and now his confidence is damaged. For goodness sake, are women that threatening? If a guy approaches a woman and she’s not interested, she’ll simply say so. She’s not going to bite and devour a man on the spot.

As someone who has been there and done that, I’d say, take a chance and talk to a woman. She might just say yes.




Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Day 19: Cleaning - Getting a little help from my cats


My Project: 365 Creative Writing Prompts.

Day 19: CleaningWrite about doing laundry, dishes and other cleaning activities.

Cleaning? They want me to write about cleaning! In all my years, I have never come across anyone who likes to clean. Most, if not all people, do it because they have to, including me. Still, let’s see what I can come up with. Since today is international cat day, let's involve cats in this post.

Making the beds


In our house, the cats dictate when the beds are made. I never make my bed right after getting out of it. I believe that a bed has to air to keep it fresh. Unfortunately, while I shower, get dressed and have breakfast, one, two or even all four cats have taken possession of my bed. And I mean really, look at Charlotte, would you have the heart to disturb her slumber?


Dusting

Once again, the cats have to be taken into account. When I see Mickey sprawled out so elegantly on the coffee table, or Charlotte resting on the cabinet, I just let them be. There’s always time to dust the table and the cabinet later.




Window washing 

If there’s one cleaning task I like to do it’s washing windows. If I didn’t have such a fear of heights, I would have applied at a window washing company in Toronto. Unfortunately, I can’t imagine dangling by a rope from the 82nd, 43rd or even 16th floor.

Anyway, when I wash the windows here at home, I invariably have an audience. Mickey, Charlotte, Gabriel, and Holly sit on the other side of the window and watch the sponge go up and down and from left to right. While Charlotte, Gabriel, and Holly quickly lose interest, Mickey supervises until I’m done. He even points out places where I've missed a spot.

          

Vacuuming

Mickey, Gabriel, and Holly couldn’t care less about the vacuum cleaner, but Charlotte is terrified of the machine. Even though we paid attention to buying one that doesn’t make much noise, it’s still too much for Charlotte. When the vacuum cleaner gets switched on, she goes and hides under my duvet. 


 Meanwhile, Gabriel lies on the cat tree or sit on a chair and sees to it that the work gets done properly.



Dishes


I’m not a fan of doing dishes. Then again, who is? Not sure why I dislike it as I generally like working with water. I get at my most creative when I’m surrounded by water (maybe I should move to Hawaii). Occasionally though, Dieter volunteers and on this occasion (this was several years ago), Mickey was once again there to supervise.


Cooking

When I cook, I generally keep the cats out of the kitchen. When I’m working with boiling water and hot butter, I like to keep them at a safe distance. However, when the potatoes are being peeled, Mick is there to count them.


Now in case you’re wondering why there are no pictures of Holly ... Holly is a lady and stays far away from housework. She prefers sitting in her basket, relaxing on her cushion, lazing in front of the fireplace, or spending time with Dieter while he reads her a story.







Feel free to comment. I’d love to hear from you.







Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Day 18: Writing – Is self-publishing a good idea?


My Project: 365 Creative Writing Prompts Write something about writing

Day 18: Writing – Is self-publishing a good idea?

Writers are notorious procrastinators. When an idea for a novel is shiny and new they are filled with enthusiasm and scribble (or type) with fire in their hearts and in their fingers, but as time marches on and chapters fail to materialize they’ll use any excuse not to write.
It’s too cold, it’s too hot, they’re tired from working all day, the house needs cleaning, the lawn needs mowing ... you name it and they’ll use it.

Some of them, with every intention to write, sit down and fire up their computer only to stare at the screen or keyboard. From there they’re just minutes away of getting up to make a cup of tea, take the dog for a walk, play with the cat, or do something else that for one reason or another can’t wait.

Me, I’ve given up on novel writing. I wrote and self-published three novels and two children’s books and while I have a forth novel in the making, it’s gathering dust. I just don’t have the motivation anymore to continue writing.

I tried reading a few self-published works and they were bad. Not just bad, they were awful and I thought ... is my work as bad as theirs? No wonder self-publishing has such a bad reputation. So, if and when I decide to continue to write on my fourth novel, I will try to find a literary agent and if I fail, I will shelf the project. If they don’t think it’s good enough, if nobody wants it, then it obviously isn’t good enough for publication.

Every day I see self-published writers promoting their work, tooting their horn about how good, unique or interesting their book is. And I wonder ... did these people even try to find an agent/publisher? If they spend half as much time trying to get published mainstream as they do trying to convince readers to buy their book, maybe, just maybe their work might have been picked up by an agent.

Other than the content of those self-published books, the covers bother me equally. All too often I see book covers with half naked men, showing off their pecks, muscled arms and iron board flat stomachs. Is this what is supposed to make me buy a book? Do these self-published writers think that because some guy is on the cover I’m going to like the story they’ve written?

Other books sport such a plain and boring cover that I don’t even give them a second look. I’m sure you’re familiar with the saying ‘You can’t judge a book by its cover’ ... but this is total baloney. If this saying was true, then why do not all books have white covers with black lettering or black covers with white lettering?

Fact of the matter is, book covers are important, they are very important. You should see how publishers agonize over the right cover for a book. The picture, the colors, the title, the font of the lettering ... idea after idea is presented and rejected until the right combination is found.

While I understand that writers are proud of their work, I don’t like them bragging about it or announcing how many copies they’ve sold or their Amazon rank.

In comparison, I’m reading ‘The Alchemist’ now and what I liked about this author right away is that he was honest enough to state in his foreword that when ‘The Alchemist’ was first published it was a flop. The book didn’t sell, and his publisher canceled his contract. By sheer coincidence the book found another publisher and this time it was a success.

Something that always strikes me when I read a book is that the author has several people to thank. People who helped them in their research, people who supported them and pushed them to keep going, people who read the first draft of a manuscript and suggested changes, and most noteworthy of all, they thank their editor.

A good editor is worth his weight in gold. He will take an ordinary story and make it good, he will a good story and make it brilliant. This and the above mentioned is precisely what self-published writers lack ... they don’t have someone to read their manuscript and give them honest feedback. Writers invariably have fragile feelings and don’t take well to criticism. In turn, family and friends often don’t dare to voice their true opinion.

While there are undoubtedly good self-published books out there, the majority of those I have tried to read should never have seen the light of day.


Feel free to comment. I’d love to hear from you.



Sunday, September 17, 2017

Day 17: Pick a word from a dictionary and write about it - trainer



My Project: 365 Creative Writing Prompts

Day 17: Pick a word from a dictionary and write about it - trainer

Okay, I encountered a bit of a snag here ... I don’t own a dictionary. So I turned to Google and asked to present me with a random dictionary word. Google came up with ‘Trainer’. This word suited me just fine as it gives me the opportunity to tell you about the time I took my dog to obedience school.

My dog was called Laura, a Belgian Shephard and while a beautiful animal, she was not very obedient. Taking her for a walk was nothing to look forward to. She would strain on her leach, the leather cutting into my hand, and I would hardly be able to keep up with her. And heaven forbid when she saw a cat or a bird. She would take off like an arrow from a bow, dragging me behind her.


When a neighbor suggested obedience school I made inquiries and Laura was accepted for the September/October class.

The first Saturday afternoon we showed up at the school, which was a large grassy field with a pavilion, I was surprised at the attendance. There must have been 60 men and women there, accompanied by German Shepherds, Labradors, Border Collies, Golden Retrievers, French Poodles, Dobermans, and an assortment of mixed breeds.

While the owners made conversation, the dogs sat next to them, lay down on the grass, or tried to get acquainted with each other.

At precisely 3:00 p.m. one of the trainers called the gathering to order and requested them to go their allocated spot: beginners, intermediates and advanced. It was obvious who the intermediates and advanced men and women and their dogs were, as they knew where to go. Only the beginners class stayed behind.

Laura and I, along with 10 other dogs and their owners were directed to the left-hand side of the field. The class started by commanding our dog to sit.

“Sit” I commended Laura, but she looked up at me with an expression that said she was perfectly fine standing. “Sit,” I said again and again and eventually she must have thought ... okay, if you insist. So, she sat.

Next came the command to lay down. When I commended Laura to lay down, she had no problem with that. She lay down, front paws elegantly stretched out in front of her. Good dog. 

Getting her to get up again proved to be difficult and I could see her point ... first you want me to lay down, now you want me to get up ... make up your mind.

We practiced and practiced and eventually Laura had it down, she sat and lay down on command. Now came the part where our dogs had to sit and had to remain in place while their owners walked away (a short distance). Laura was having none of that. I had barely taken three steps or she came after me. Walking away while Laura lay down proved to be just as impossible.

Week after week Laura and I joined the other men and women and their dogs, most of them well behaved if not super obedient (the dogs I mean).

Toward the end of October, obedience classes came to an end and the training season would be rounded off with a party. One of the staff members handed me an invitation and Laura promptly bit her arm. Not bad, but enough to warn her.

“Never extend your arm to an owner while the dog is present,” one of the trainers said. “The dog might think that you’re going to attack the owner. Do it slowly and let the owner extend his or her arm first.”

So, while technically Laura had done nothing wrong, we were banned from any future lessons. Biting a staff member, even with the intention of protecting an owner, was not acceptable.

“Don’t feel bad,” the instructor who had been working with Laura said to me. “Laura might not be the most obedient dog, but where it comes to protecting, she doesn’t need any lessons.”






Friday, September 15, 2017

Day 16: Addict - What are four things you can’t do without?





My Project: 365 Creative Writing Prompts

Day 16: Addict. What are four things you can’t do without?

Have you ever given this some thought? Have you ever wondered what you wouldn’t be able to do without? I don’t mean food, water, smokes, alcohol, or drugs, I mean the more mundane things.

People

Could you live without people? Your first reaction might be ‘Oh yes, I could definitely do without them’. For a lot of people living on a deserted island is a much-coveted fantasy. And to a certain extent I agree, some people irritate me, annoy me or downright make my blood boil, but living without them ...

One of my favorite movies is ‘Cast Away’ with Tom Hanks and it really brings home the message how difficult and lonely life can be when one must survive on one’s own. Nobody to keep you company, nobody to talk to, nobody to share things with.

Living alone might be fine for a few days or even weeks, but indefinitely ... no, it would drive me crazy.

Animals

Could you live without animals? Imagine having to make do without the loyalty of a dog, the affection of a cat, hearing birdsong in the morning or the majestic beauty of a horse. For a lot of people, their pet – whatever that animal may be – is their best friend. It waits for them when they come home, it listens attentively without interrupting and never criticizes. An animal loves its owner, regardless of whether they wear couture or vintage, whether they wear makeup or not, whether they just returned from the salon or have a bad hair day. Whichever way you look at it, animals are our best friends.

Chocolate

I know I said we weren’t going to include food in this lineup, but chocolate isn’t really food, it’s candy. Personally, I’m not big on candy, I can take it or leave it, but chocolate is the exception. Chocolate makes everything better. Whether you’re at work or at home, inside or outside, happy or sad, a piece of chocolate is always welcome. Being from Belgium I consider myself a bit of a chocolate connoisseur and let me tell you, Jacques 3 x 4 is THE best chocolate in the world. Nowhere will you find richer, smoother, better chocolate. Not in Switzerland, not in Holland, nowhere.
Books

Books I couldn't do without either. Through stories, I meet thousands of people, learn about animals, visit places all over the world and get entangled in all kinds of emotions ranging from love to hate, friendship to betrayal, marriage to murder.

I can’t remember the first book I read, but since then I have read hundreds if not thousands. While some people cheer themselves up with buying clothes, shoes, makeup or something for the house, my go-to place when things are not as they should be, is the bookstore. The scent of paper and being surrounded by authors just waiting to introduce their characters to me never fails to lift my spirits.

While these days I shop online and download books to my Kindle, I miss real books. I miss holding a book in my hand, I miss turning pages, and I miss their intoxicating smell.

In many ways, books are like candy. Carefully selected, sampled and when chosen slowly savored.

These are my four things I couldn’t do without. What are yours?

Feel free to comment. I’d love to hear from you.




Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Day 15: Most embarrassing moment at work



My Project: 365 Creative Writing Prompts

Day 15: Most embarrassing moment at work

It could happen to anyone. If you had been there, you might have made the same mistake. I was working for the Toronto office of Warner Brothers. It was my first day on the job and I had a lot to learn.

Overwhelmed with all the new information, I decided to go out during my lunch break to get some fresh air. Even though it was the middle of winter and bitterly cold, I thought a walk would do me good. The building had a beautiful garden and although the grass was covered thick with snow and the trees and bushes encrusted with ice, it appeared to be the perfect place to find peace and quiet.

However, there wasn’t much peace and quiet that day. No sooner had I reached the patio or I heard a bone chilling scream. I look around me.  Had someone fallen and broken an arm or a leg? I couldn’t see another living soul. I hurried into the garden, looking for a human or animal form, but the whole garden seemed undisturbed. Yet I definitely had heard a scream.

Still puzzled by it all I heard another scream, a man’s scream, and it was, even more, bone chilling than the first. I noticed that it came from behind me, from the lower level of the building. Ignoring the snow and the ice on the garden patch, I hurried over and heard him scream again and again.

Just as I reached the building a giant of a man walked out the door.  Dressed in pants held up by suspenders, he puffed out his considerable chest, lit a cigarette and with great satisfaction blew the smoke into the air. I skidded to a halt. This was definitely not the man who I heard screaming. 

This man, I wondered, what had he been doing? Who else was inside that building? How could he leave a man, who obviously had been in considerable pain a few moments ago, alone while he stood there enjoying a cigarette? 

My imagination took a flying leap.  Was he perhaps the man who had inflicted pain on this poor soul?  Being a few feet away from him I searched his clothing for traces of violence or worse ... blood. Had he been torturing someone? Surely not, this was 1999, not the middle ages.  Then again, these days, one never knew what went on right under our modern noses.

I tried not to be too obvious as I looked at the man, but at one point our eyes met. He grinned at me. He grunted something, but too occupied with my own thoughts I didn’t pay attention to what he was saying.

“Well,” he said, louder this time, “what’s it gonna be?”

“Huh? I’m sorry, what?” I stammered.

“Do you wanna look,” he said, throwing a nod towards the door behind him.  “You’re new here, aren’t you?  They’ll show you this place sooner or later, but I can give you a private tour.”

Stepping back, I shook my head. “No thank you.  I must go now.” 
When the man moved towards me I flew into the building, up the stairs, and into the office. As they told me later, when I entered my office I was in quite a state, pale as a ghost, shaking and obviously very upset.

“Something’s happened,” I told my boss.  “I was downstairs and I heard a man screaming. He was in pain.  We have to do something!”

He tried to calm me down but I wouldn’t be calmed. With the screams still ringing in my ears, I figured someone needed help, now!

“Exactly where were you and what did you hear?” my boss asked.

“I was out in the garden and the screams came from inside this building,” I explained.

“Did you see anyone?” he asked.

“I saw a big man come out and have a smoke,” I said.

“A big man with suspenders and a French barrette?”

“He wasn’t wearing a barrette,” I said, “but yeah he was wearing suspenders.”

A broad smile spread over my boss’ face.

“Nothing is going on and nobody needs help,” he explained.  “The big guy you met, the guy with the suspenders, he’s our sound technician and he synchronizes the images of the film with the soundtrack.”

I must have given my boss a blank look because he went on. “We have our private cinema where we show new movies before they're released on the circuit.”

“But the screams,” I said.

“Were the screams of a man being executed in the electric chair,” my boss explained.  “It’s the new movie with Tom Hanks called, ‘The Green Mile. I saw the movie earlier and they are indeed bone chilling screams.  It’s not a movie for sensitive viewers.”

As if that embarrassment wasn’t enough, more was to come.
A few days later I got an invitation to see the movie, with my choice of a guest in the private cinema.  When the scene of the execution came, several heads turned in my direction and there was a whole lot a giggling and sniggering.

Later still I got to meet the sound technician, officially this time, and when he got to hear the story of my suspicion he laughed so hard I swear the walls of the tiny cinema vibrated.

Feel free to comment. I'd love to hear from you.