All right. I have to get real. Every possible holiday celebrating the birth of Christ has passed and I still haven’t taken down the Christmas decorations. The weather is so gloomy and all of the greenery, gold and red decorations make the house seem so much warmer. But it’s getting embarrassing now. AH says that her daughter called it the ‘tree funeral’ and she’s right. I always have a couple of hours of sadness as I pack everything away in the Rubbermaid boxes for another 11 months. Bagging up the tree and taping the three packages shut against dust makes me long for summer, when I ask myself why I left the tree bags on top of the tractor and did I remember to check the lights. I’ll get to it…later.

That ‘Unknown’ gal certainly was prolific. Probably one of those perky bake-cookies, pull-the-kids-sleigh-to-school, greet her man wearing a smile, spike heels and cellophane kinda women. Ah, well.

I braved the icy roads yesterday to attend an all-day workshop sponsored by the Toronto Romance Writers at the Northern Library in Toronto. The intersection of Yonge and Eglinton has been under construction for years and the powers-that-be can’t seem to get the underground mall fixed up. The whole area seems run-down and neglected, despite the rows of glitzy condo towers blocking the sky. The sidewalks are broken and unsalted, cigarette butt litter is everywhere. Honestly, Thailand was cleaner.

Great session by Kate Bridges on Romance 101 and the Business of Writing. I got some good tips for punching up my writing, stripping out extraneous descriptions – get a secondary character to articulate what’s on the protagonist’s mind, weave plot, romance, character development and emotional conflict back and forth, characterization should take precedence over plotting, make sure you introduce conflicts and resolve them so that the tension builds and the action is sustained. All good advice that I will put to use as I ready my first chunk of work for my beta reader/critique pal.

The really positive thing for me was that all of the 30 or so women were writers. Compared to some other groups I belong to where most of the members are fans, TRW has dozens of published authors. Multi-published, big name writers. They know what real is. I sat with Tina, who came in from Sarnia and Stella from Waterloo. Stella introduced me to the books of Melody Anne. She is a New York Times best selling author. A prolific writer. Her books are listed on Amazon – many are available free for download. I did that on the spot, so now I have some light reading on my phone and my tablet. Melody writes in the contemporary romance genre – powerful man, lovely but naive young woman, etc. Light and fluffy. The reviews are all over the place – ‘loved it’, ‘hated it’. I have to say that the quality is…variable. Her punctuation is terrible (comma-itis) and words are repeated too often. Obviously, she needs a good editor. The thing is, though, it’s easy for me to critique her from the (unpublished) sidelines…but then again she’s produced dozens and dozens of books and is probably making a ton of money. Another reason for me to get off my derriere and get my writing ‘out there’.