Busy, Busy Beaver

On the property across from ours, the beavers have been extremely busy as you can see from the photo. It’s rather amazing to know that these small creatures aren’t afraid to tackle something so large. This urge to chop down trees is something that comes natural to them. Funny, how they don’t shy away from such a big undertaking. We see plenty of evidence of the beaver’s work, but we’ve never caught them in the act. I think much of their work is done at night.

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Writing a novel is also a big undertaking. One that writers enter into willingly, regardless of the work involved. Rarely can an author say they whipped a novel up in a matter of a few weeks or months…(Yes, I know, some can, but many can’t.) For many authors it may take many months, maybe even years until their book is ready to be read by an editor. But once a book has been accepted for publication it doesn’t mean a writer can sit back and wait for those royalties to start rolling in. For those not involved in the industry, it’s difficult to understand what takes so long for a book to come out. I hear from people all the time, anxiously wondering why, if I’m working on edits for the book now, it isn’t coming out until next fall.

The whole idea behind the edits is to help make that story shine as much as possible. A writer often becomes immune to seeing the flaws in our stories and it takes another set of eyes to point out the imperfections and make suggestions as to how the story can be improved. We all want that book to be the best it can be, right?

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So this is where I am at the moment. No, I don’t mean I’m cutting down trees….The edits are going well and I’m pleased with how the story is evolving even further. It’s always exciting to discover something new in your work, something you overlooked while you were getting the story down the first time around. Did I say the first time? I guess I should say the first several drafts.

Christmas might be creeping up on me, but I’m very hopeful that I’ll have the manuscript sent back before then. What is it about Christmas that makes us want to accomplish certain goals? I can remember, as a child, that rooms were painted before Christmas or new flooring laid.—always before Christmas, regardless of how close to the big day that it happened. So long as it was done by then everyone was happy. Anyway, I’ll use Christmas as a deadline to have this round of edits completed. I’m pretty sure that I won’t get a whole lot of writing done once a certain little someone arrives anyway.

How about you, is there anything you’d like to accomplish before Christmas comes?

Let the Edits Begin

Seems as though the things we often expect to happen a certain way end up going off in a totally different direction altogether. Life is funny that way. This month I thought I’d have time to devote to my new writing project, but low and behold I received an email from my editor at Nimbus Publishing. It is time to start editing my new YA novel, “To Fly With a Broken Wing.”  Yippee!!

“If you could have the edits done by January that would be great,” she said.

“No problem,” I replied.

No problem! Oh right, there’s this thing called Christmas coming up this month. I forgot all about Christmas mere seconds before I fired off the email. *gulp*

Okay it’s really not THAT bad. My editor is understanding and did add that if I needed more time it was fine, just to let her know. And truthfully, edits seem a bit overwhelming at first until you actually start addressing each comment and suggestion as you go. Personally, I’m just happy to be working on it and gearing up for the book’s release next fall. The exciting part is, the book is making progress. Edits have begun and, Christmas or not, I’ll get the work done. Authors are funny that way.

But it hasn’t been all work. I’ve been balancing things out as I go. A little shopping, a little gift wrapping, a lot of editing, a little decorating. If I play my cards right I’ll even get to watch an episode of “Grimm” this evening.

DSC02991A big thrill this week was meeting up with Donna Morrisey at a book signing. Donna’s new book is “The Deception of Livvy Higgs.” If you remember, I mentioned in an earlier post that she was on my list of authors to meet. Little did I know at the time our meeting would happen so soon. Yes, life certainly does throw in a surprise or two. This month has been busy with lots of authors doing book signings and I’m heading out again for one tomorrow. I’m sure I’ll either post about it on Facebook or my blog.

I’ve also had a disappointment this week. I’d been planning for months to get high speed Internet service, but it just wasn’t to be. I know this is difficult for many of you to understand, but here in rural Nova Scotia we don’t necessarily have the option for High Speed and that sucks. One company put up towers and many people can receive a wireless signal, but I happen to live in an area where too many trees are blocking that signal. I’ve got to say, dial-up makes life very challenging, and many times I have problems with pages loading, especially those blogs that have lots of photos posted on them. Then again, it can sometimes be impossible to comment when it does load. But I’m dealing with this challenge the best way I can. Some things are out of my control. I sometimes think the thought of something better makes us less tolerant for what we have. So perhaps now, I’ll accept what is and feel grateful to have Internet service at all.

Anyway, despite Christmas and the edits for my novel, I’m hoping to be around Blogland a bit more this winter. I have a lot to catch up on.

Has life given you any unexpected surprises lately?

Slow and Steady

I’ve been busy these past two weeks working from home. I’m usually torn between enjoying the luxury of being able to work at home and disciplining myself to work at a steady pace without distractions. It’s not always easy. The truth is sometimes I like distractions, sometimes I hate them, depending upon the particular distraction. I’m fickle, I suppose, but I can be whatever I want. Right?

The good news is, I’ve been steadily increasing my word count on the novel I’m writing without letting it interfere with my “other work.” Yay me! Mind you, some days I’m not making any huge big strides but a few hundred words here and there add up over time. Sometimes it’s a matter of stealing a few moments in the early morning. I like waking early. I seem to accomplish so much more when I do.

I’m not really a slow and steady person by nature. I’m more of a jump-in-there-get- going-get-done kind of person, but I think this pace has been good for me. We don’t always need to do things the same way every time. That’s how we get stuck in ruts. I don’t like ruts either. They’re sneaky. You fall into them gradually over time and before you know it you’re living in that rut without a clue that you’re even in one. You’ve got your head in the clouds and you’re belting out Abba tunes. La..La…La…

Human behaviour is strange sometimes. I’m always amazed at how quickly I can see these things in others but not myself. To see them in myself I have to look mighty close, maybe even admit a thing or two I don’t necessarily want to. It’s all part of being human. No sense beating ourselves up over it, just make a commitment to do better the next time.

So here’s where I am at the moment. My usually Monday and Thursday posts didn’t happen last week, and likely they won’t for the next month. My goal it to blog whenever I can. Hopefully, the month of December will find me back into my routine.

Pig Identity–Do You Write in Character?

My two-year-old granddaughter is obsessed with pigs. She loves to draw pigs, read about pigs, she even likes to dress up like a pig. I bet if someone asked her she’d say her favourite book was “The Three Little Pigs.” The week she visited with us, she wore her pig hat most of her waking hours. At night, she’d often wake and cry, “Want to be a pig.” Oh yeah, she’s got a real pig identity problem.

As a writer, I can relate to how she feels. When my writing is going well, and the story is flowing, it usually means I’m writing in character.  What’s writing in character? Simple. As events pop up along the way, I feel the character’s emotions, as surely as if I were that character. Now, I don’t usually feel the need to dress up, but I’ve heard of some writers who do, to make their writing feel more authentic. I’m no one to judge, if it helps someone make it through a scene I’m all for it.

Personally speaking, writing in character provides me with insights into the thoughts, emotions and actions of the characters, but it doesn’t mean the story will automatically write itself. Oh no, there’s a little bit more to it than that. For me, character is important, as important to the story as the people in my life. When I’m out and about in the world, the things I do always seem to pale in comparison to the interaction with the people involved. I know not everyone shares this sentiment. That’s okay. There’s a quote by Maya Angelou that goes like this: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”  This kind of sums up the way I feel about the characters I write. At the end of the book, I’d like them to be remembered for the way they made you, as a reader, feel.

So, like any two-year-old, Miss Charlotte might sometimes be a bit confused about the character she’s portraying and exactly which way she’s headed, the laughs and giggles she presents us with is what we’ll remember the most. In a few days she’ll be bringing her mom for another visit, and while I’m not sure if the pig hat is still part of her everyday apparel, I’ll always look back with fondness at those days when nothing seemed more important to her than her declaration of, “Want to be a pig!”

Writers, do you always know which way your character is going or do you show up and wait to see what happens? Do you ever write in character?

Writing Challenge

I’ve been given a writing challenge, and it’s been taking up a good deal of my spare time. Did I say spare time? Wow! That’s a joke.

Yeah, I know, I don’t often mention the projects I’m working at because I really don’t want to bore you all, but I’m making an exception with this post, maybe get a few opinions along the way.

Many years back I wrote a short story that had me a bit curious. The story itself had ended but I wanted to know more. I wanted to know the reasons behind a certain character’s actions. Why would she do what she did? As a mother myself, I knew this woman had to have a good reason for abandoning her children. The question niggled at me. Finally, I wrote another story that satisfied me for a short time until I became greedy and wanted to know even more. It’s like eating potato chips. You can’t just nibble on a few, you keep picking at them until they’re gone.

The result? A collection of linked stories.

Needless to say, a collection of linked stories is about a hard to pitch as a regular old collection, and while many of the stories have been published individually in literary magazines, the collection, as it stands, is just gathering dust balls, big ones! In fact, to be truthful, I really didn’t send it out very many times and as any writer knows that’s the way NOT to get published.  I know, I know, pretty darn lame of me.

But recently, it was suggested I turn this collection of linked stories into a novel, using different perspectives, since many of the stories have been written in the first person. Oh happy day, could there still hope for this dust-gathering collection? Can it be ressurrected after all?

Easy peasy, right?

Maybe, maybe not. I’m still trying to figure this out. The challenge at the moment is deciding where the story begins, exactly whose story it is, and if the story belongs to several people or one person, not to mention finding a common thread, as I work through the plot. Can I use any of the previously written material, or do I need to start from scratch? A whole lot of questions swirling in my very confused, for the moment, brain. Short stories are an entire story, beginning, middle and ending, contained into a few thousand words. A novel is a little more involved, as you all know, but each chapter needs to move the story along.

So here’s my challenge at the moment. I haven’t yet decided if converting a bunch of linked stories into a novel will flow along as smoothly as I’d like it to, but I’m sure going to give it a go.

So what are your thoughts, do you think is it fairly easy to write a novel around linked stories since the character already exist? Should I try and use some of the existing stories or start all over again? Where are you in your writing journey? Have any new challenges come your way recently?

Celebrate Good Times

Hey, look at me I’m celebrating—nothing outstanding, mind you, just the fact that this is post number 400.  Impressive, don’t you think? Why not have some dessert with me as part of the celebration?

So if I figure an average post of about 500 words (give or take) that means I’ve written 200,000 words for you, WordPress.. You ought to be a little proud. That’s a couple of novels I’ve sacrificed, maybe even three or four depending upon the length. So what do you think, WordPress, am I ready to be freshly pressed anytime soon? Be honest, I’m used to being rejected by editors, I can take it.

Hehehe..But on a serious note, when I first began blogging I wasn’t sure what I’d even write about or if I’d even write on a regular basis. Now, look at me 400 posts in. That’s kind of cool and a reason to celebrate I should think. But the biggest reason I have for celebrating is all of you for stopping by and reading what’s going on in my mind. I do appreciate everyone’s visits and the comments you leave that sometimes make me giggle, sometimes make me think, and are always entertaining.

Here’s to another year of blogging!

5 Reasons For Not Writing That Novel

I hear people all the time express a deep desire to write a book. It happened just the other day. “I always wanted to write,” an older woman said to me. Had I not just met her I might have asked, “Well, what’s stopping you?”

Often when someone learns that I’m an author it brings their own unfulfilled dreams of writing to the foreground. It seems that many people would like to write, they just don’t get around to it. Really, it makes me a little sad to know this. Whenever possible, we should try to pursue the dreams we carry in our hearts. Have you ever stopped to consider there is a reason those dreams are there?

Some dreams are fleeting fancies, as wistful as pink cotton candy — “Oh, wouldn’t it be nice to write a book?” These dreams don’t really count because they really don’t come from the heart. They come from an idea that might have popped into our heads one day as we stood in the bookstore musing over the bestseller’s list thinking it would be super cool to see our name there. I’ve known people who thought they’d be able to whip up a story, no problem, but ended up discouraged after their first few tries.

Other dreams are of the niggling kind, they stick to us like grease, and no matter what they never go away. If we’re lucky we may be able to keep them at bay for a time, by allowing life’s distractions to keep us from taking action, because one of the scariest things in the world to do is to follow our dreams. I mean, what if we fall flat on our faces? Maybe even scarier—What if we succeed?

So here we go…..5 Reasons For Not Writing That Novel

  1. I’ll start writing that novel when the kids are a bit older— A facebook buddy cited this one awhile back. It sounds like a good excuse. It’s up there with “the house won’t be messy as soon as the kids move out.” Hmmm, I believed that illusion for years, but now that the kids have moved that theory’s been shot to pieces. When my kids were small I knew that I had to have something in my life for me, something that defined me in some other way other than a mommy. Not everyone feels this way and I get that. But remember when those kids finally do move out you may end up asking yourself what am I going to do now? If you’re already writing, for whatever time you can allow, you won’t be asking that question. The answer will already be there.

  1. I’ll start writing that novel once I retire…Many people say this, but here’s my theory, if we couldn’t find the time to start writing in the first 65 years of our lives it’s unlikely we’ll find oodles of time once we retire. Retired people are some of the busiest people I know. They just never slow down. They’re off vacationing and camping and having a grand old time.

  1. I’ll start writing that novel when I have the money to take a writing course right now I’m barely making ends meet. Okay, I get the money thing. Years ago when we were first married there was barely enough money to pay the bills let alone dare to dream about spending money on something so frivolous. Here’s the thing… While writing courses are wonderful, not everyone has access to them. Here’s the other thing…You don’t need a writing course to get started. Think of all the great writers out there who wrote their books during a time when writing courses did not exist. It’s not impossible.

  1. I’ll write that novel as soon I broaden my vocabulary because we all know that writers need to know the meaning of every word especially those twelve letter ones. When I first started writing I thought I had to wow everyone with my use of the English language—Wrong. Writing that is simple and easy to understand will resonate with many readers, your storytelling ability is far more important than twelve letter words. Learn to tell a good story.

  1. I’ll start writing that novel as soon as I’ve experienced more of life  so that I will have plenty to write about. Well, guess what? My two-year-old granddaughter is starting to tell bunny stories. They may only be a paragraph long, but she’s only two. Now if a two year old can come up with something, I’m willing to bet you’re selling yourself short if you think you need more life experience. People mistakenly believe that in order to write you have to have travelled and experienced the world, but some of the loveliest stories I’ve ever read were based on very simple themes.

There you have 5 reasons why would-be writers are not out there writing. A few of them worked for me in the past until I finally determined that nothing would stop me. The truth is there will always be things out there that will take up our time, but if you’re really meant to be doing something (and it doesn’t just have to be writing) by letting your dream fizzle away you’re not being true to the person that counts the most.The happiest people I know are the ones who work toward making their dreams come true. Be that person!

What reason do you have for not writing that novel? 

Short Stories Don’t Count

But have you written a novel yet?

I got asked that question often when I was writing short stories. What is it about novels that people assume every writer wants to write them? Is there a certain prestige for the writer who can add “novelist” to their CV?  Forget the fact that short stories are challenging to write, keeping the word count to a minimum, writing tight prose, finding the perfect flow, most people seemed only to care if I’d written a novel. Some how the 40+ short stories I’d managed to get published did little to impress some. (Not that I was looking to impress. I was just looking toward that next submission, that next chance to see my words in print.) Truthfully, I knew my stories would be read by a few as literary magazines are pretty much available only through submission, and circulation numbers tend to be low. Still, that didn’t matter. Someone, someone who knew something about publishing, wanted to publish what I’d written. Yippee!

What is it about writing that causes some people to ask  such a question? Would they look at a potholder someone sewed and asked, “But have you made a quilt?” A pair of knitted mittens and ask, “Have you knitted an afghan?” Does this mean the short story is looked at as something less, as if the writer isn’t good enough to write a full-length novel? Maybe I’m just sensitive.

Perhaps in some people’s books (pardon the pun) real writing comes in a book bound with your name and your name only, the rest of it doesn’t really count.

Well, I’m here to say that writing short stories is REAL writing. Writing is writing, simple and true, and has little to do with the length of a story. The story is what counts. Some stories are short while others have longer, more intricate plotlines.

I happen to consider myself lucky. I have many wonderfully supportive friends and family who would cheer me on if I had a paragraph published. Seriously. They’re really the best.  They help keep me going those times when I feel like forgetting about it all.

I know it is a goal for many writers to craft a novel. It’s an admirable goal. There is nothing wrong with it. In fact, it’s right, more than right. Why not? Heck, having an entire book with your name on is nothing less than sweet. But while it’s nothing less than sweet, it’s not the goal of every writer out there nor should we assume it is.

 Here’s another thought as well, once you’ve had enough short stories published, a publisher somewhere may be interested in publishing your work in a collection with YOUR name on it! Now there’s an admirable goal as well. 🙂

What are your goals, writing or otherwise?

Blast From the Past :The Royals– 1939

Writers never know where their source of inspiration will come from. For some time now, I’ve been interested in some old Standard magazines that were given to us many years ago. These magazines were saved by my husband’s grandmother when the King and Queen came to Canada in 1939. Since the main character in my next novel was born that same year, I decided to make reference to this visit in the novel plus the captions provided little tidbits of information about the tour.

So here are a few of the photos from the magazine of the King and Queen from way back in 1939.

No wondeer the King has a strained look on his face. I would too wearing that head gear. * Note: I said “head gear” for lack of a better word. I’m sure it’s ceremonial, and hopefully something they did away with years ago. On the other hand the Queen looks a tad smug. I’d say she faired a bit better.

They obviously brought this poor veteran outside for photos. There were other photos in the magazine were the veterans were outside in the hospital beds.

The coloured photo is of the Queen with Princesses Elizabeth (future Queen) and Margaret. I think this photo is my favourite.

I hope you enjoyed this visit back in time.

I’m not expecting that many of you have seen these pictures of the Royals before. 😉

Serendipitious Moments

I’ve been known to make declarations to the Universe at least a few times in my life. Now don’t go picturing me, head drawn toward the heavens shaking a clenched fist, crying out with passion, a hot tear trickling down my cheek. Come on now folks, it’s never anything that dramatic.

Last year I made such a declaration when I completed my current novel perhaps believing it would stop me from tinkering with it once and for all. One of the hardest things for any writer is to stop fixing every little flaw in their manuscript and move onto something completely new. We go over our manuscripts with a fine toothcomb so many times we can drown ourselves with the sound of our own words. Honestly, are a few rearranged words really going to keep us from being published? I hardly believe that to be the case. Of course, writers go on the assumption that if our baby is ever accepted for publication we’ll be working with an editor to try and make it the very best book possible, so when we reach the point where we declare our novel complete it really isn’t. But that’s another post altogether.

So, to continue my story…

Most of you know I have another blog where I post photos from around the area “..way out here in Dalhousie.”  You’ll see the link over on the right side. The posts are fairly simply– a picture and a quote and little more. I don’t consider myself to have any great skills when it comes to photography, but the blog is really just me playing around.

The evening I declared to the Universe that my novel was compete the very next thing I went on to do was post a picture of a chickadee I’d taken earlier in the day at a bird feeder on my Dalhousie blog. I needed a quote and randomly typed in bird quotes to see what sites Google would bring up. I found one and clicked the link. The very first quote on the list was this:  Hold fast to your dreams because without them life is a broken winged bird that cannot fly.—Langston Hughes.  I stopped cold. I knew I’d found my quote and I knew my book would be published. How? The title of my book, the one I had moments ago declared complete is — To Fly With a Broken Wing.  Pretty cool I thought. Now with this very same novel about to be published I’m reminded of this moment even more.

Now it’s difficult for me to ignore these serendipitous moments although I know many people pass them off with hardly a thought. (Coincidence, they mean nothing!) Well maybe so, but I like to think of them a signs that I’m kind of on the right track. If nothing else, they warm my heart for a time and make me smile. There absolutely nothing wrong with a heart-warming moment, nothing wrong in taking a few moments to say a simply thank you to God or the Universe (however you want to say it) for sending these serendipitous moments our way.

Do you believe these serendipitous moments come to us for a reason or they are simply nice coincidences but mean nothing else? Have you experienced any serendipitous moments lately that you’d like to share?

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

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