My Deserted Island

Across the lake from where I live there’s an island. Plenty of trees but nothing else, it’s basically deserted, if you want to use that term, although we have seen the remains  of human activity left behind on the shores from time to time while out in our boat; the remnants of small camp fires and some empty bottles.

I was thinking today how writing is sometimes like being on a deserted island in the middle of nowhere, where your only thought is of survival—survival of the story, that is—with little contact with the outside world. You’re in hermit-mode—thinking, eating and breathing the story you’re working on. You can’t keep your thoughts on anything other than that dang story which can become kind of a convenient excuse for your own forgetfulness with those in the outside world. Things like not remembering what you were going for in the refrigerator or even the next room, the phone calls and emails you forgot to return. I like to call it author-brain, kind of like mommy-brain when all you think about is that little bundle of joy( or story) you’re suddenly responsible for. Don’t bother the author, her mind’s on her writing.

These past few weeks have been kind of like that; kind of, but not quite.( I’ve still had family time that I wouldn’t trade for all the stories that are circulating in my author-brain.)

I’ve started edits on my adult fiction novel recently and have just sent round one back to my editor. I’ve got to be honest, it’ always difficult to hit that *send* key and resist the urge to keep making changes, some so tiny that no one would ever know, except the author. But eventually you have to let go, the same way you let go of your child when you send her/him out into the big scary world. And it’s been pretty scary out there as of late.

All authors want their books to be perfect, and if not perfect, then as near to perfect as is humanly possible. Still, the typos pop up, the missing commas or periods, the misplaced words—all these things, regardless of how many proofreaders go through it with a fine tooth comb. Still, it’s something to aim for.

As many of you know, this is my debut adult fiction novel which doesn’t mean I won’t be writing for kids anymore. It just means, I’ll be doing both. I’ve several other adult novels that need to be resurrected after years of neglect. It was more like I got side-tracked. I’m really hoping to get back to them soon. But…I’ve also a few more ideas for children’s books as well. Why can’t there be more time in the day?

As of yet, this next novel of mine is titleless which isn’t really a word but I felt like using it. Titles are important but can sometimes be SO difficult to come up with. I was lucky with my first three book but this one has been a bit more challenging.

Another snippet I can share with you is that much of it is set in the Forties Settlement which, as many of you know, is right next door to good old E. Dalhousie. I like to give my stories local settings or use local name places. It’s important to me to share my part of the world with readers from far and wide.

I’m hoping I’ll find time to blog a bit more often, although it seems I’m forever promising that. It’s not as if I purposely ignore that promise but I’ve been putting more time into my actual writing these days which is probably more important. Perhaps when I’m fully retired I’ll make more time.

So that’s it for now. The edits are back in my editor’s hands and I’m getting ready to work on a project I started about nine years ago. I’ll be off on my deserted island at least for a little. They say that publishing is a slow business. It takes plenty of patience, but then so is writing sometimes.

I hope you’re all having a wonder summer and are enjoying this beautiful Nova Scotia sunshine. I’d love to hear what you’ve been doing this summer.

The Voice

There are times when I feel as though my blogging voice is gone, and lately this has been the case. I can tell you this doesn’t feel like a permanent condition, and I’m not planning to go anywhere soon. It just means I might find it more difficult to blog on a regular basis. Truthfully, I sometimes wonder what difference blogging makes to my writing life except to take time away from writing fiction. But no sooner do I have that thought then I remind myself of all those faithful readers out there who come by to visit, and the other bloggers I’ve come to know. Blogging shouldn’t be about accumulating a huge number of followers and racking up hundreds of comments, but engaging with those readers we do have. What that means is you’re all important to me and I appreciate your visits.

While I’m on this subject, I might just as well mention that, along with my reluctance for blogging, the same has been true for Facebook. I pop on by times, mostly to see any updated photos of Miss Charlotte, but when it comes to updating my status, I find I rarely have anything I want to say. I do try to update my page more often, but days sometimes go by before I feel the urge to post something there. Does it sound as though I’m whining? I sure hope not. As a 96 year old Grace once said, “I”m just stating facts.”  BTW Grace is an amazing woman who shared a room with my mother-in-law at the nursing home.

Don’t worry though, all this doesn’t mean I’m not writing, in fact just the opposite is true. I’ve been busy every day working on my next novel, and as any of you writers know, it can be an all-consuming task. Did I say task? Well, not so true. Writing isn’t and shouldn’t be a task. Expressing our creativity should be a must for all of us.

Sometimes our writing lives seep into our everyday lives, and people start to wonder just what the heck is wrong. That faraway look we have might not be one of indifference, but our minds busy creating those imaginary worlds that feel all too true. For a writer, our characters are real people who exist in a parallel universe. If we didn’t feel this way about them we couldn’t possibly make them come alive on the page.

Hopefully, once I have the first draft of my novel completed my blogging voice will return, and just so you know that first draft feels quite close to being done.  Believe me, I’ll be doing a happy dance at that point.

 Do you ever feel as though you’ve lost your blogging voice? Do you have times throughout the year when you devote less time to blogging?

Just Write It

When you first started writing did you know immediately the kind of book you would write?

People often talk about “finding themselves” and I suppose for many of us it comes down to living an authentic life, and being who we really are without worrying about disappointing those around us.

Writers also need to find out who they are as a writer, what genre they write in, and what their own unique style is.

It wasn’t until I’d been writing short fiction for many years that I began to notice a pattern in my writing. Most of my protagonists were kids, and it felt quite natural to write from a child’s POV. Even so, at that time, I didn’t consider the stories that I was writing were intended for a young audience because they weren’t. The literary magazines that published them didn’t think so either.

Still, I had this strong need to write for kids that didn’t go away. It wasn’t until a writer (one who had just published her first young adult novel) basically told me not to worry about who I was writing the story for that I felt completely free to write. She advised me to simply write it and, once it was written, then decide if it was best told for a young adult audience.

I took her words to heart and shortly afterward began writing Bitter, Sweet. I knew I had a story to tell and I couldn’t allow myself to get caught up in a game of self-doubt. Just write it. Just write the story, my story—those words stuck in my mind.

So what happened to my writing over time?

The best way for me to describe it is to say, I slipped into a time and place that felt so utterly right for me. Right now, I’m particularly happy setting my stories during the first half of the twentieth century. That time is like a welcomed friend, one that I greet with open arms. For me, writing needs to be enjoyable, a safe place for me to explore who I am and where my writing is taking me. It is a place where I can take my characters, explore their feelings, and discover who they are as well. I don’t worry anymore what genre I’m writing in these days because so far as I’m concerned, we do not pick the genre, the genre picks us.

What genre do you write in? Do you agree with my statement that we do not pick the genre, but rather the genre picks us?

Is Your Writing Telling Tales On You?

Have you ever considered what your writing says about you as a person?

Something? Nothing? Not sure? —-Come on be honest.

You don’t have to look very far to see what peeks a writer’s interests because it is right there on the page for everyone to witness, sometimes boldly so, others times more subtly, a sprinkling of small clues hidden here and there.(No one will ever know.) If you think you’re being clever about it, you might want to think again.

If I were to use my own novel as an example, it would tell the reader that I have an interest in history, especially local history, since I set it in 1940’s Nova Scotia. Not only that, they could probably guess that I am interested in healing plants which play an important roll in the book. If they were really paying attention they might even pick up on the idea that I’m interested in things of a spiritual nature, which mama brought though loud and clear in the book. Got to love mamas for their eternal wisdom, right?

The wonderful thing about life is that we learn and grow. We hear about something new and suddenly we’re interested in finding out more about it. When something I’ve heard or seen grabs my attention I like to jot these things down so that I can look back and remember when the time is right. Relying on my own brainpower just doesn’t work.

Nothing feels better to me than starting a new notebook and filling it with ideas. Many times it is just a word or two scribbled across the page. And I do love placing asterisks in front of those really important thoughts that will definitely need attention at some point in time.

If a writer can’t think of anything to write about they need only to pay attention to what’s happening in the world around them. Life is anything but mundane. Ideas are everywhere. Think about the things you like, and the things that have made you stand back in wonder. Do you like handmade quilts? Spaceships? Trees? Animals? Cars? Mountain? (Okay I could go on forever here, but I’m sure you get the point.)

Finding something to write about is a matter of keeping our minds and thoughts open to the endless possibilities that surround us. That next story is out there waiting to be written. If it is your story then you are the only one who can write it. That’s an important thing to keep in mind. No one can write that story but you. No one can bring that uniqueness to the page the way you can.

If someone you didn’t know picked up your book or manuscript, and read it, would it tell them anything about you? Would they discover the things that interest you, the things that surround you, the emotions you feel, the thoughts you think?

Can a writer hide behind their books? I don’t think so. I’m willing to bet that you have put something of your own into your writing. Our fiction does not spring to life from out of nowhere. It comes through us, and our true self trickles onto the page whether we want it to or not. The fiction we write might be a complete figment of or imagination, but we are still there on the page regardless.

What clues have you left behind in your writing, either intentionally or unintentionally, that would tell you reader a little about the person you are?

Where do you get your ideas?

Ideas come from anywhere and everywhere. They are whispers of past events, and the imagining of things that could be. Sometimes they are smudged images of the truth, other times they seem to materialize from thin air.

A few years before writing “Bitter, Sweet,” I came across a newspaper article that caught my attention. I clipped it and put it in a folder for later reference. I imagined that one day this article would be the inspiration for a short story I would write but other than a certain event that had taken place I knew nothing else. Every so often I’d come across the article, read the headline, and file it away (always with the thought that something similar was going to happen in a future story.) I wasn’t worried; I had plenty of other things to work on.

Then one day Pru Burbidge whispered in my ear. I thought she had given me the first line for a short story. Turns out it was really the first line of chapter three, only I didn’t know that at the time. As I continued to write I began to see that somewhere further on these four kids were going to get into a whole lot of trouble and I even had the newspaper clipping as proof!!

At the time I wrote “Bitter, Sweet” I was working every day so I’d take along a notebook and pen. At break time I’d jot down what Pru had to say hoping that by the time I got home, and was finally ready to sit down and write, she would still be willing to tell me her story. I’m glad she didn’t bail out on me!! Her voice came so easily; it was as if she was patiently waiting for me to start writing her story.

Where do ideas come from? The ideas for writing fiction are born from tears, fears, joy and laughter. It is a scraping together and melding of the tiny scraps that makes up real life. It is inspired from the past, present and future– not only of our own but others’ as well. It is an assortment of random thoughts that spring from somewhere within us just begging to be heard.

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  • Publication date April 30, 2020. Available for pre-order NOW.

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