Thursday, August 28, 2008

Wine Tour, Take I

Sorry it's been so dull around here lately. A two-week vacation always seems to take longer than two weeks... Between the packing, traveling, packing again, traveling again, unpacking, and clean up, the days just seem to disappear. But the Baart family is finally settled at home and life is more or less normal. If you can call my Big Boy going off to preschool next week "normal." (Brief pause to wipe slobbery, pathetic mommy tear.) Any-hoo, you don't give a rip about the trivialities of my life, so I'll stop babbling and get to the good stuff.

Where to begin...? Though our two weeks in BC were filled with family, friends, and a beautiful wedding, we did manage to squeeze a three day trip in to the Okanagan. This region is about a four hour drive east of Vancouver, through some of the most beautiful mountain country you'll ever see. As you near Canada's only desert, the topography undergoes some dramatic changes: it seems like one moment you're driving through a coastal rainforest, and the next you can imagine the hiss of rattlesnakes just over the sandy ridge. It's breathtaking.

Why the Okanagan? Well, partly because it's our favorite vacation destination, but mostly because my next book, All the Places Between, is primarily set there. The backdrop for the book is a small, family owned estate and vineyard called Thompson Hills. Though the book deals with suicide, mental illness, relationships, and revenge, wine plays an integral part in the storytelling. And I just had to do some research.

Over the course of three days we visited several vineyards, including the world-renowned Mission Hills and the lesser known Tinhorn Creek. Mission Hills crafts some of my favorite wines, and it was absolutely inspiring to spend time touring their grounds and visiting their spectacular cellar. As for Tinhorn Creek, it deserves the distinction of being the very first winery I ever visited (and the place I began to really fall in love with wine). I toured Tinhorn for the first time over six years ago and was enchanted by the picturesque winery. My memories of Tinhorn served me well as I was writing All the Places Between.

Anyway, I don't feel like I'm doing a very good job of articulating myself. I'm still tired, and a little off from traveling, so for now I'll just leave you with some pictures. Enjoy.

A lovely little bunch of Cabernet Franc graps at Tinhorn Creek.

The remains of salmon with red pepper remoulade and a blackberry and goat cheese salad. We had a flight of white wines to complement the meal, starting with a soft, buttery Chardonnay and ending with a Pinot Gris.

Here we are in front of Tinhorn Creek. The tasting room overlooks the show vineyards and the valley below. It's so gorgeous.

I just loved the look of the vines...

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Too busy to write...

Well, it's been a busy week to say the least. After a fifteen hour trip, we finally made it to my in-laws' lovely home in Surrey, BC. We spent one night there, then headed out to the valley for a wedding and some time with our siblings. Next it was off to the Okanagan for a quick, three-day wine tour extravaganza. Wow. I took nearly two hundred pictures and sampled some of the best wine I've ever tasted. When I get my thoughts and photos organized I'll be sure to put together some posts. But, to be frank, right now I'm too busy and having too much fun to worry about blogging. Until I have time to write more, I encourage you to check out an interview on TitleTrakk. Apparently, I'm the featured author interview this week. Cool.


Tuesday, August 12, 2008

On Vacation!

Today is the last day of "normal" summer for me. It's my last day of plant watering, pool playing, and backyard barbecuing. Depressing, isn't it? Not really, since the rest of our summer is going to be spent in British Columbia! Yay! We're going home (well, we're going to our second home), and I can't wait.

My husband was born in the Vancouver area, and we lived there for several years after we were married (while he was in grad school). The city is gorgeous and there is so much to do. We love strolling Robson Street, taking the False Creek ferry to the Lonsdale Quay, shopping on Granville Island, and attending Bard on the Beach.

Another favorite summer destination is White Rock, just north of the US/Canadian border. There are great little restaurants with outdoor patios, a nice beach, and a long pier where you can admire the sailboats and profusion of purple starfish on the rocks.

When we lived in BC we made a point of going to the Okanagan every summer. The Okanagan is wine country and Canada's only desert. It's hot and dry, and the fresh fruit can't be beat. Sadly, it's been many years since we've been able to make the three hour drive from the coast to the interior. But this year we're taking a mini-vacation to Peachland and Osoyoos. Since All the Places Between is set primarily in this region in BC, I really wanted to travel back there and make sure all my memories matched reality.

Well, that's what I'll be up to for the rest of the month. I'll try to blog from BC when I can, and you can bet I'll take tons of pictures in the Okanagan. I'd love for you to be able to see the setting of my next book. In the meantime, blessings to you! Enjoy the rest of your summer!

Monday, August 11, 2008


It's Monday afternoon and I am officially exhausted. And the week has just begun--what's my problem? It could have something to do with the fact that it's cool and overcast today (fall weather already?), but more likely, my eyes are tired and my brain is fried from working on edits for my third book (tentatively titled All the Places Between--what do you think?). Hooray! I'm firmly entrenched in the editorial process!

Believe it or not, I love editing. Right now I have spread out beside me all 407 pages, 115,438 words of my manuscript. And it's covered in handwritten comments, post-it notes, and suggestions. Most of the time, I find the observations spot-on and helpful. Since I want this book to be the best it can possibly be, I'm more than willing to iron out every wrinkle I can. But deciphering the notes isn't always easy (I just read: "Catholics are hot, big Bible readers," and stared cross-eyed at the page until I realized the comment was actually "Catholics are not big Bible readers." He-he-he!), and sometimes I feel like untangling the story lines to get at the heart of the matter is dizzingly difficult. Difficult, but very rewarding. I love doing it.

Anyway, back to edits for now. I leave on vacation soon so I want to get as much done as possible before we jet off to BC. I'll keep you updated.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Gen Y

If you've spent any time browsing my blog, you know that I've written before about postmoderism and how it affects my writing. I think it's impossible to grow up as a part of a generation and not be shaped by the cultural aura of the time. In fact, I sometimes feel that boomers don't always "get" what I'm writing about because they were born and raised in an era that felt and acted totally different from the era in which I was born and raised. Sometimes I can't help but find it overwhelming that we not only have to hurdle racial, ethnic, and gender divides, we also have to worry about generational issues. It's enough to give a girl a headache.

But before I get too philosophical, I thought I'd share a cartoon to start off your weekend with a laugh. FYI, in case you didn't know, here is where you fit:

The Silent generation, people born before 1945
The Baby Boomers, people born between 1945 and 1961
Generation X, people born between 1962 and 1976
Generation Y, people born between 1977 and 1989

If you're wondering, I'm Gen Y. Though I will say that there was never a time in my life when I considered myself young enough or cute enough to get by with jeans that showed as much as some girls like to flaunt. I guess I was one of the Gen Y prudes. :)

Makes me wonder, where do you fit? And, if you're X or Y (or later!) did your beltline ever creep so low???

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

TV Faves

I was bumming in front of the TV last night when it occured to me that if the films I watch influence my writing, maybe the television shows I tune into have to say something, too. Maybe my TV choices have even more to say about what I write because I flip on the cable so very rarely. Aaron and I went without a television altogether for two and a half years before the Canucks had a legitimate shot at the Stanley Cup and we had to jump on the digital bandwagon and get ourselves a station that actually aired hockey in the US. In that TVless time I lost all interest in it. But it's coming back to me now... slowly.

So, I want to explore this a bit. What are my favorite television shows?

Like most of the rest of North America, I just love The Office. It's so awkward it makes me cringe, and that's why I can't get enough. The characters are spot-on and the humor is just my style.

I discovered Scrubs in syndication when I was channel-surfing during advertisements as I watched The Daily Show. Okay, I'm way behind this particular bandwagon, but this show is laugh-out-loud funny. And yet, there's a real vulnerability to it. I love how deep the characters go when you scratch past the quirky surface.

Corner Gas was another find while channel surfing (it airs the same time as The Colbert Report, another staple in our house). It's a Canadian sitcom about a gas station in Dog Prairie, a tiny town in the middle of nowhere (i.e. Saskatchewan). It feels like one of the old-timers, those classic sitcoms that were gripping and funny before reality TV came along and made everything uncomfortably real.

Okay, now we're getting to the nitty-gritty. When the Baart household reinstated our TV, the only thing we watched for months on end was The Daily Show. Half an hour of television to unwind before bed. Jon Stewart cracks me up. I laugh so hard I nearly fall off the couch. Believe it or not, that's not an exaggeration.
And then came The Colbert Report. Steven Colbert is a crack-up, too, though not quite as funny in my books as Jon Stewart. Except, of course, when he's doing "Better Know a District." If you're reading this Steven (ha-ha) please do more "Better Know a District" segments! Oh, and I forgive you for bashing Canton, SD last night, even though I feel an affinity for the town because I've passed through it countless times. Maybe they'll retaliate on CNN like Canton, Kansas did. Here's hoping.

Well, there you have it. My top five TV picks. Do they say anything about my writing? Hmmm... I think definitely not. More than anything, I believe these shows reveal a deep, inner desire to UNWIND when the day is done. To laugh, not think. Works for me.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Movie Faves

A web loop that I belong to has just asked the question: What are your five favorite movies and what do they say (if anything) about your writing? Fascinating question, I think. Especially since I love a good movie. So, off the top of my head (that was one of the stipulations: don't give it too much thought) here are five of my favorite movies.

Memento is the very first movie that comes to mind when I think of my favorites. It's a little dark, a lot disturbing, and breathtakingly original. When the final credits began to roll, I was literally on my feet yelling at the television. I wanted to start back over at the beginning and see it all again. All I can say is: Wow.

I'm also a huge fan of A Love Song for Bobby Long. It's an independent film starring John Travolta and Scarlett Johanssen that is set in New Orleans (pre-Katrina). The film is visual poetry and the soundtrack is one of my favorites ever. Best of all, the characters are flawed and real, the perfect mix of lovable and loathable.
Next comes Juno, a more recent fave. So witty I laughed out loud throughout the whole movie. I wax more poetic about Juno in this post if you feel like checking it out.

Crash is absolutely a must-see movie. I wept through this film, mourning the misunderstandings and reveling in the every day grace it presented. It broke my heart a dozen times over, but gave me real hope, too.

The final film I want to talk about is Love Actually. I know most people watch The Miracle on Such-and-Such Street (I can't even remember the title!) or It's a Wonderful Life at Christmastime, but Aaron and I break out this British comedy. It's gorgeous and hilarious and a movie I'm sure we'll revisit over and over again. Though it's not for the faint of heart (language and brief nudity), it is truly sweet and hopelessly endearing even though it deals with difficult subject matter (the death of a spouse, an affair, etc.).

So... Do these movies say anything about my writing (or what I hope my writing to be)? I think absolutely.

The first thing that ties all these films together is their inherently poetic nature. There is something raw and elemental in each of them that makes me long to savor certain lines one at a time. Or certain scenes, gestures, or frames. Though I don't think I acheive this to the desire that I would someday like to, I hope that my writing contains elements of that which I love in these movies: moments of pure poetry that make my readers want to stop and reread a part that spoke truth to them.

Second, I love how real these movies are. They speak to deep longings that most (if not all) people can relate to on a very human level. Love and hate, prejudice, anger, jealousy, greed... All of it is laid bare in these movies. And though we are watching characters on a screen, there is something inside of us that resonates with their joy and pain. We understand, even if we don't want to. I long to write stories like that.

Finally, these stories are all told in a powerful and unique way. Whether it's a strong female character narrating the movie as only she could (Juno) or a backwards chronology (Memento) or a fragmented patchwork of interweaving plotlines (Crash and Love Actually), the way in which the story is told is utterly gripping. Someone once told me: "Just tell the story and get out of the way!" I'm afraid I disagree with that. To me, the person (or people) who is (are) telling the story is just as important as the story itself. Don't agree with me? Visit my Grandma for a coffee and a chat--I promise, by the time your cookie is gone, you'll be completely in love with her but probably clueless as to what in the world she's talking about. When it comes to her, it's all in the telling. Of course, I want to tell a good story, but I also want to tell it well. Hmmm... suddenly I'm in the mood for a good movie. Any suggestions?