The pause that refreshes

It’s true: I’ve been missing in action for some time. The past few months have been my equivalent of an embryonic diapause. This is a mechanism where certain mammals do not reproduce when the environment is not right for nurturing young. Embryos remain in a state of dormancy until conditions are right for reproduction. In 2016 my dormant young were my YA and contemporary stories.

I’ve been writing in a different genre, under a different name. But that’s another story for another day.

A couple of things stirred my interest in disaster scenarios again. One trigger was listening to this chilling podcast from CBC. It dramatizes an earthquake event in the Pacific Northwest. Add to that the new earthquake threat, identified as the Devil’s Mountain fault. Suddenly interest in prepping was alive again. Do you want to read a fictional account of an earthquake hitting Vancouver and surrounds? Look for my book Lockdown.

What about you? Are you ready for a disaster? Is your grab-and-go bag packed? Have you stockpiled food yet? If you’re unsure how to do any of that, there is a world of reference material out there to help you. One place to start your emergency preparations is with the Geek Prepper site. Here’s their recommendation as to how to build your food resources – 35 Survival Foods. Or click on the picture to get to their site.

In the meantime, I’m going back to my story in the mountains where a trio of teenagers are dealing with a disaster of great magnitude. Someone has prepped for this event but will they share their emergency supplies?

Merci! Gracias! and other thoughts about my book launch

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Friday May 2nd, fifty or so people gathered for the launch of Lockdown my debut novel. The weather was kind, the assistants from the Young Writers' Club were helpful and enthusiastic, and the mc's were wonderful.
Certain thank you's are in order -

  • to my two wonderful mc’s at Friday night’s book launch, Lisa Voisin and Lynn Crymble.
  • to the members of the Young Writers’ Club who helped set up the room and worked on the draw for the door prizes.
  • to my family who have encouraged me every step of the way. 
  • to all of you who showed up to support my launch.
  • to those who could not make it but sent congratulations and encouragement.
  • to my publisher, Great Plains Publications, without whom there would have been nothing to launch.
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What is shaking your tree?


When our house sold in February, it had only been on the market for a few days. The buyers wanted possession in three and a half weeks. My husband and I had anticipated the usual sixty to ninety days to ease ourselves out of our North Vancouver lives. However, we are nothing if not adaptable. A bird in the hand and all that. We went into overdrive, and last week packed up a trailer and said good-bye to the house on the hill.

Word count: 335                                                                           Reading time: 1-2 minutes

For the next few months, we will live out of the suitcases and few boxes we brought with us. Our new place is in its original thirty-year-old condition and needs many upgrades. We’ve rented a tiny apartment a ten minute drive away. Empty and bare, our home waits for the contractor to start ripping out walls and tearing up the stained carpets. The ordered, relatively predictable life I had in November has vanished into the ether.

To add spice to the mix, my novel Lockdown is ready for release. I have been given a budget by my publisher, Great Plains Publishing, and must start planning my first book launch. Next week I travel back to Vancouver to lead the March session of the Young Writers’ Club.

Recently I read this Nietzsche quote: You must have chaos to give birth to a dancing star. I have adopted it as my personal mantra. From all this upheaval some good writing will surely be born.

What is writing if it isn’t chaos anyway? Still, for two weeks I’ve barely written a word. Now I am shaking myself out of my stupor. It’s time to retreat to writing when everything gets a little crazy. For one thing, it’s much cheaper than therapy. Writing is one place where I can create a world that makes sense, at least to me. It’s a place to escape the turmoil of building codes and construction.

When your world gets turned upside down do you capture the madness in your writing? Or do you step away and wait for things to settle before you start the next chapter?

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Photo from dreamstime by: Stuart Miles

How are your tent caterpillars?

Ernest Hemingway rewrote the ending to A Farewell to Arms thirty-nine times. When asked why, he said he rewrote it to get the words right.

Yesterday I walked along a sunny road on the edge of Mount Maxwell. It was bordered by thick rows of enormous foxgloves, some of which towered over my 172 cm / 5’ 8” height. Later, when I mentioned it to my sister, she commented only weeks before when she walked it, she’d had to push her way through all the tent caterpillars.

Word count: 344                                    Reading time: 1-2 minutes

Not long ago my novel Lockdown was in the same state as that mountain trail in the spring: sticky with tent caterpillars. It had been part of me for so long that I was unable to see its flaws. Then I skyped with my editor, Anita Daher and she turned the light on. The spidery webs started to fall away and a few flower spikes nudged their heads into the sunshine. Those blooms only started to open after more rewriting.

The editing process is far from being a pleasant summer’s walk on a favourite mountain trail. It’s more like hiking the same terrain in autumn, winter, spring and summer and contemplating the different perspectives that each rewrite brings.

I think my novel is getting close to its full glory, although I have a draft or two to run through yet. To help get there, I remember the beautiful flowers that rise out of the caterpillar silk. As I work through the next reiterations, I’ll model my attitude on John Irving’s: I think what I've always recognized about writing is that I don't put much value in so-called inspiration. The value is in how many times you can redo something.

How many times have you rewritten your latest scene, story, or book? Are you like Hemingway, rewriting the same page thirty-nine times? When someone suggests you rewrite something, do you perceive that as a punishment or as an opportunity to bring the work to greater power and clarity? Are there bright spring flowers poking through the caterpillar plague?

 

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Photos from Wikimedia Commons:

Abstract art in the hedgerow by Penny Mayes

Digitalis purpurea by Nevit Dilmen


Groundwork

 Word count: 220    Reading time: 1 min

As NaNoWriMo draws to a close, I’ve almost finished ploughing the field of my next YA novel. That’s right: I almost have a 50,000 word starting point. Or to borrow from Anne Lamott’s wonderful book Bird by Bird, I almost have a shitty first draft, a SFD. Emphasis on S.

That’s okay because I know the field needs more than ploughing. It needs harrowing and levelling as well. Revision is the harrowing and levelling of writing and I won’t start that for at least a month. What I will do is let it lie fallow so I can come back with a fresh perspective that allows me to see the plot lumps and the character weeds. Then I’ll read the whole thing, cover to cover, and try to sustain an attitude of confident optimism as I splash the pages with red ink. 

Before then, I have another field that needs attention. From January to October this year I rewrote last year’s NaNoWriMo effort many times. A YA novel, Lockdown takes place in Vancouver during a natural disaster. I believe it’s almost ready for harvesting.  

What’s growing in your paddocks? Are you working several crops at once? Do you rest your work? Or are you the mythical being who can produce a flawless tale in a single writing?

Photo by: Anna Fredriccsson