Monday, August 30, 2010

Cemeteries - A Lesson in Words

The other day during a trip to the Qu'Appelle valley I visited the local cemetery.  It is a cemetery that has perched on the hill overlooking the valley since before anyone can remember.   In the oldest part of the cemetery the brush has grown gently over some of the graves.  

Have you ever heard of a story in six words?  They're here, hidden by prairie grass, warmed by the summer sun - waiting.
The young man who died from typhoid over a hundred years ago.  His massive stone cross was transported from England and now sits proudly overlooking the Qu'Appelle Valley and marked only by his name, age, cause of death and "Only son....    What had brought him here across an ocean and a continent?

Another marker is a monument to a man killed in the Northwest Rebellion, again over a hundred years ago.   The people he may have known.  The men he fought beside - now only names in a history book.

I move on to the woman who unlike the others does not have a date of birth, only a date of death 1925 and her age which is etched with strong, clear lines into the stone - 102 years.  I see pride in that simple stone and I imagine her story. 

How effective the simple epitaphs are at reflecting the lives of those that rest here, but even better at conveying the love that they left behind.   "Cherished...", "Together Again..., "Until we meet again...",  "Forever Beloved...",  "Gone for a time..."   Memories, sorrow, love - a lifetime is condensed into those few poignant words.

As a writer - how do you touch those emotional depths?  As a reader it is a rare book that does - but one you can't put down.  Those are the keepers.  Read any keepers lately? 


Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Travel Book is Open

A trip to the library for research books ended up in going home with the latest book on Mexico.  While not area specific, it does cover Jalisco state and that will do.  At least I thought it would do until the piece on Mexican beer.   Apparently the author didn't know a light beer from a dark and went on to compound the error by naming brands and turning a simple error into a glaring set of errors.  So my question, do you trust a travel book who can't get the beer right?  Would their maps take you far off the beaten path to places unknown, drinking beer that was more suited for enjoying in an Irish Pub than under the Mexican sun.   I'm not sure but on the safe side - I may need another travel book.

Reminder - if you are entering a comment for an entry into my contest, For All Time - make sure that you enter For all Time and a contact for the entry somewhere in the comment.  Otherwise I won't be able to count your comment for an entry.  If you don't want to leave that info online - give me an e-mail with a heads up as to which post you commented on and your contact info. 

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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Dusting off the Passport

I'm not going anywhere yet but I'm sure thinking about it.  It's a different kind of trip this time round.  Usually the story comes out of the trip, this time it will be the other way around.  Even though the backpack isn't out, the plans are in the works. The story, however, is also in the works.  But it needs grounding, reality, and that all important character, setting. 

Guadalajara here I come. Just don't ask me when.  It would be good to get there for Day of the Dead. Whether that will happen or not - I'll let you know.  There are other times that would be good too - timing you see, is still under review.  Meantime, there's fun in the planning.

And it's not just the passport I'm dusting off.  The other day I reconnected with a high school friend.  While catching up on what was happening in our lives, we agreed to meet for coffee and review the old yearbook.  Those memories will be a journey unto itself.  

Any trips scheduled in your life - memory lane or otherwise?


Friday, August 20, 2010

The Book's Got a Waiting List - Rules!

Revisions are a fact of life when you write fiction. Just recently I was shaking things up in a romantic suspense out of Borneo and discovered that shaking or stirring wasn't going to cut it.  I moved into the heavy artillery.   Whole paragraphs were on the move, words were blasting into nothing and new words were replacing them and filling the holes in the landscape.  In some places this story became a minefield of plastique.  But at its true heart, it's still the same story I started out telling.  Only better.  Like a sapling grown into a tree with character - at least I hope so.

Is there an end to how much you can play with a story?  Is there some point where the rewrite doesn't make it tighter, clearer or more emotional?  Of course there is but a strong story takes a lot of reworking.  Just look at any of the masters, sentences were written and rewritten, and rewritten again.   The trick is to learn when to stop.

Maybe I would have saved a lot of trouble if I had just outlined and planned before I wrote but I don't think when the idea for this story first percolated that I was ready to, or more appropriately knew how plotting would fit into my pantser nature.  It wasn't like I began writing with no idea where the story was going but my plot was loose and gaping and recorded only in my head.  It took beginning my eighth novel before the idea of a more detailed plot had any appeal. 

I admit, more detailed plotting does keep things slightly more organized.  Does plotting keep problems and rewrites at bay?  More than likely, at least to a certain extent.  But there is always the threat of too many rules biting into artistic expression.  I don't like boundaries, rules, regulations - and that's the heart of a pantser.  But if it makes life a tad easier I can adjust to loose outlines and easy plots - for now.

So here's a simple rule I love - from the book I'm reading "Stein on Writing" - "Fiction evokes emotion."  How much easier can it get?

Now I have a slogan to remember. Rather like the days of music lessons - Every Good Boy Does Fine.  And they do - with just a rule or two for good measure.

And my good news for the day - a friend reported that not only is "Ring of Desire" finally in circulation at the local library but there's a waiting list!  Happy dance!

Any happy dancing in your day?


Sunday, August 15, 2010

Don't Travel Quietly

We have squirrels, dozens and dozens of squirrels.  I love the little guys.  They're entertaining and harmless except for a dug up flower pot or two.  And I'm an ardent defender of their right to share my backyard space.  Not everyone thinks that way and I have to admit that even I have resorted to a little hot pepper sprinkled around a pot or two to keep them from digging up flowers.

Maybe that was why they dug up the Habanero pepper I had growing in a little pot on the deck and took away the evidence so there was nothing to even replant.  I do believe they have a sense of humour.  If nothing else, they're letting it be known that they were here.  Still, it was rather ironic when after years of falling apart public sidewalks on our street, on the eve of getting new concrete I say, "No one better engrave their initials or hand print etc., etc. into the fresh concrete. 

It wasn't long after when I discovered these tiny little paw tracks immortalized for all time in the new concrete.  There was nothing I could do but laugh - this was a squirrel I wouldn't forget!

Something to remember as we travel through life - don't travel quietly, at least not all the time.  Let people know now and again that you've been here.

Check out the August contests over at Writerspace.


Friday, August 13, 2010

Books, Travel and Friday the 13th

It seems like a different story.  That was a comment made by my critique partner on the last round of revisions.  Not that she literally meant that my story was radically altered but that it was tighter, or more concise as she put it.  Suspense - there was more of it.  It's a romantic suspense, so that's a good thing.  The Borneo jungle is a little hotter than it was two weeks ago.  Again - good from the romance aspect.

Good changes, I think - and it was all because this set of rewrites came from a different perspective.  The writer that wrote the first version over a year ago isn't the writer that wrote the revisions.  Well, the mirror says it's the same one but I like to think she's learned a lot since then.

Different perspective comes from many places, experience and honing your craft is one.  Seeing the familiar from a different angle is another way.  So the other day it was a drive into the country.  It was a week day - what would once have been a work day, and that was the beauty of it.  My new daytime job, writer, is so much more forgiving about the hours.  So I became a tourist in a short drive out of town.

First up were these girls who gave me the look that I've seen in so many other places of the world - sure take my picture, that will be one American Dollar.  And in case you're wondering, or maybe you're not, one Canadian Dollar just doesn't cut it.  I didn't stop to ask the preference of these ladies.

Next on the list and much further down the road, was a chap I'll call George.  He seemed to have escaped from the field and was standing quite calmly on the road.  This picture was snapped in a bit of a hurry, just in case his complacent look was all a ruse.

A farmyard can be an intriguing place, at least to a city person.  And in this case, the farm was once my husband's family home.  Now, while the land is still farmed, the house sits, like many of the original homes on the prairie, abandoned.

Sometimes you just need to get away from the familiar to clear your mind and freshen up your fiction.    
Take a different road and the view changes.  The familiar becomes, well - like a journey afar.

On another note - today is Friday the 13th.  I don't know about you, but for an unlucky day sometimes some pretty incredible things happen.  Good things.  Today is my twelve year old niece's acting debut.  It's an amateur production but no less exciting for a kid who with born with the gift of the mime.  I'd like to say break a leg but, it is Friday the 13th, it might be safer to stick with good luck!

Today is the day for subject veers - rather like that curving country road - Here are some chances to win some first reads given away by authors or publishers, maybe find a new author or two.

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Sunday, August 8, 2010

A Bon Fire to the Past or Path to the Future?

Today I burned clothes.  Work clothes.  Clothes from a past life that have no use in the future.  It took a while, the weather had to be just right and then, of course, there was the mood.  I've been revising a story and reaching the end of those revisions, that's a celebration point.  Life is full of celebration points - symbols if you will.  So today was the day.

Before you ask - No,  I'm not wasteful, growing up with parents who were children of the great depression taught me about waste.  These clothes had seen their lifespan - the ones that were still good made the charity bin.  And none of this business attire, worn out or otherwise, is part of the person who is moving forward from this point.  I'll still need business clothes, there are writers conferences and I kept those that might function in that role.  But the others - they're a symbol of the past.  The fire - a rite of passage.

Symbols.  They're important markers along the path we forge in life.  They help to make dreams a reality rather than wispy plans at a fork in the road.  They galvanize forward motion.  Real or imagined, symbols are an important part of life.  They make what we can't see and even, in the case of us writers, that which we imagine, real.

It might just be symbolic but sometimes blowing down the familiar, that which we have out grown,  sure feels good.  It's like we've cleared the path of remnants of the past, good, bad or otherwise - forward and onward!

Any symbols marking your day?


Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Vacation - In Micro Bites

This is the first summer I've had off in years.  Did I mention that before?  Probably - let's just say that it's worth mentioning again.  And again.  Okay I'm done, for now.  But here's what I thought in those first moments of anticipation as I exited my main employment gig stage left.  I imagined I'd sleep in and catch up on my reading list, preferably with a cold drink in hand on the deck.

The reality - I haven't slept in once and while I've spent plenty of time outside - weeding, I've also spent plenty of time downstairs, in my office, writing - and often rewriting.

So Saskatchewan Day yesterday was a bit of a treat.  The majority of the day was spent on the deck, enjoying a beautiful summer day.   The pulled pork turned out fantastic as usual.   And the rain, it showed up for a brief time and then disappeared.  So it ended up being a perfect day.

That's the great thing about a holiday, even a short one like that - you return to work feeling rejuvenated and ready to get at it again.  So I'm back to Borneo and a story whose revisions are almost at an end.  And I think I might take another one day holiday some day soon - just to get ready to dive into the next book, that work in progress as well as one from that tottering "To Be Read" TBR pile.

And just in case your TBR pile is in need of replenishing - Check this out.  It's a long list so you might want to get started now.


Monday, August 2, 2010

Haunted August - Win a Nook

Another chance to win a nook - check out the Haunted August contest over at the Romance Studio.  Haunted August - for a person with an affinity to Halloween - could there be a better name?

Stop by and join in the fun...


Join the Celebration - Chance to Win a Nook

The Long and the Short of It are celebrating their third anniversary.  Stop by and see how you might win a cool little e-reader, the nook.  It's just a matter of finding the nook hidden on various author websites, including mine.  There may be a little more to it but you can find all that out at The Long and Short of It

As for me, it's Saskatchewan Day today.  After July 1, the first Monday in August runs second for being the big summer holiday.  The smoker has been going since seven a.m. and it's pulled pork and baked beans tonight with a few cold beer - is there a better way to spend a summer afternoon?