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 End of Hibernation

Oh wow! I fear I have been neglecting my blog this past winter and the three people who faithfully read my blog posts. (Well, hopefully, there are more than three of you, although sometimes I do wonder!)

Winter seemed to fly by, not that I spent the time hibernating. I was busy writing most every day and avoiding housework, I mean, the icy world outside. The only way a story gets written is by faithfully returning to your computer and writing. Alone. Keep your butt in the chair, as some writers will tell you. Well, I can attest to the fact that my chair was well-used these past months.

Writing is such a solitary venture for authors. Some days I wish it wasn’t so. Some days I want to sneak out into the world and see/talk to other people.

But I can’t always do that because the story won’t get written if I do. By the time I get well into a story it keeps me awake at night. It’s my first thought when I wake in the morning. I hear dialogue in my head and wonder: will I remember these bits of conversations between my characters when it comes time to write? I experienced all these things this winter. I call it falling in love with the story all over again.

But…

I’m not writing this post to lament being a writer. It’s who I am. I can’t change that. Take it or leave it, things aren’t going to change in that respect. I love writing.

Now, for some news:

I recently received word that Penelope Jackson will be working with me on the edits for my adult fiction novel, due out in spring 2020. I can’t tell you how that news makes my little heart sing. I worked with her on my last two novels and she’s absolutely wonderful. Although, I’m not sure what to expect with this being my first novel for grown-ups, I’m looking forward to the edits. It will be a busy summer. My publisher wants the ARCs (advance reading copies) ready for early 2020. I’m sure we’ll get there on time. I’ll share the cover when the time is right.

Let’s not forget there’s another book coming in the fall of 2020 as well.

Of course all that doesn’t mean I don’t have other stories I’m working on. In fact, I’ve several that are in various stages of completion. Right now, I need to decide which one is crying out for the most attention. Since story ideas can come at the drop of a hat, I have bits of stories sprinkled through my computer files. Hopefully, they will transform into full-fledged stories in time. There also comes the realization that a writer can only write so fast, produce so much. We’re all individuals in that respect. And there is life beyond writing…There I said it.

So, this post is really just to let you know that I’m around and kicking. I didn’t freeze up during the winter, but I am crawling out into civilization a bit more now that the weather is warming up. Hibernation for this author is officially over.

What have all of you been up to this past winter?

 

Confessions of a Word Hoarder.

Look at me, finally writing a blog post on this holiday Monday—Heritage Day. I haven’t been hiding, well maybe a little. But I’ve been hiding out at my computer, working on my next book. Knowing that the edits for my spring release in 2020 is coming up I really wanted to get the story I’m working on ready for submission. That takes a lot of writing and revising and deleting. It also takes discipline which isn’t always an easy thing. Working at home there are so many distractions.

Being a writer I’m a self-professed lover of words. Nothing makes me happier than rearranging sentences and paragraphs during the writing process, sometimes it’s a matter of finding the right place for a particular word. I know, I can be a little anal that way.

What I am finding with my current WIP is that the story I originally began with has taken some unexpected turns, making some of what I’d previously written not relevant to the plot.
So what to do? Well, if it doesn’t move the plot along it has to go. Simple to say, not always simple to do.

After some deliberation I determined that a lot of these scenes/chapters needed to go. There was no way around it. It was the right decision to make.

Here’s what I wrote in a recent Facebook post about it.

I deleted two whole chapters today. It’s like going on a diet. I suddenly feel so much lighter. Whee!!

And here’s what a friend’s comment was:

Now, if that were me, I would have to save it in another file “just in case.”

Her comment made me laugh. We were more alike than she knew. Being a word hoarder–you heard me right, word hoarder–I knew right where my friend was coming from.

I can’t throw away my words. As my friend said, “Just in case.” My computer files are full of folders with such titles as: The cut Parts from: Cammie Takes Flight or Flying with a Broken Wing and this new untitled one. I also have files with different versions of the same story. You know, you start out telling the story one way but then suddenly have a change of heart and start all over.( Maybe you’re beginning isn’t the beginning that needed.) I save all those different versions as well. I mean, what if I decide I want to go back to an earlier version, maybe experiment a little more with it?

Parts I cut from the edits of Flying with a Broken Wing found a place in Cammie Takes Flight. Glad I didn’t delete those for good. I have to admit sometimes those deleted words have come in mighty handy. No, I agree with my friend, deleting something forever is not an easy thing to do and as I write that, I feel as though all hoarders have similar excuses.

Of course there are drawbacks from being a word hoarder. Since I tend to have several stories on the go at one time ( Yup that’s right, I have at least half a dozen stories I’ve started over the years and plan to one day get back to) it can be difficult to find the version you’re looking for.

What the heck did I name that file? I know it’s here somewhere. Not in my documents on the computer, how about one of the dozens of thumb drives I have?

You get the picture?

So this is my confession on this holiday Monday. I know there are far worse things to hoard than words. At least it’s something I can hide from the prying eyes of others. There’s nothing messy about a thumb drive in a drawer.

I hope you are enjoying Heritage Day here in Nova Scotia. I spent much of the day at my computer. And you guessed it; I saved this blog post in another file.

Happy Heritage Day or whatever day your province celebrates!

Things for 2019

I’ve made a list for 2019—me, the person who is not by nature a list- maker.

Will wonders never cease?

What’s on the list, you might ask?

Well, things.

What kind of things?

Things I want to accomplish during the year, things I’d like to see happen. Things like hopes and wishes and dreams. You know –all that important stuff deemed not so important by some, but extremely important to this writer. I’m a dreamer, a hoper, a wisher–what can I say?

Not all of these things are of a writing nature, mind you. Even though I often feel that my life is lopsided and I’m too immersed in this world of words and sentences and pages for my own good. But then I remind myself that I do things other than write.

Family–always number one, even before writing. Family are the people who support you though the good and bad. They accept you, not only at your best, but our worst. They are the people you laugh with and cry with and share with. They are your safety net when life gets tough.

I knit. Sometimes, but not often. There just doesn’t seem to be the time.

I garden—in the summer months—but not as regularly as I should. Much of that falls onto Hubby’s capable shoulders.

I grandparent—not as often as I’d like, distance being the primary reason. Is that a hobby? I don’t think so. That’s just life. Little people rock!

I’m not going to claim to be a cook. I gave that up when the kids all moved out. Cooking now feels like an inconvenience at the best of times. I now have a daughter-in-law who can cook circles around me, and I just love that!

Okay, I do housework…sometimes. While matters of sweeping and laundry and dishes don’t invite me to use my imagination to the fullest they are sometimes a necessary part of living. Dust bunnies do not rock!

I have a job—for about eight months of the year I get up early in the morning and spend maybe ten or eleven hours away from any kind of technology. If I must write, I “head write” then wait for a break, or lunch time, to jot down all those clever thoughts. Did I say clever?

I have friends. Having friends means putting effort into that friendship, taking the time to have coffee or just phone to say hello. Sorry, a like or a comment on a Facebook status just doesn’t cut it so far as I’m concerned. I need real contact of some kind. I know it’s time consuming, but isn’t friendship worth it?

Maybe 2019 will be the year I try something new, or even a plethora of new things. Why stop at one?

I’ll be working on the edits for my two books due out in 2020. I’m a so excited about this. I love working on edits. It’s where the magic happens.

If all goes according to plan, my list of things for 2019 will continue to grow. It’s not simply a January list but one that will evolve over the weeks and months ahead.

Happy New Year to all my readers. I hope 2019 has something truly remarkable in store for you.

Are you a list-maker? All the time, some of the time, never or just occasionally?

Season’s Greetings

As  I watched the snow from inside my house today, it seemed like a good day to write a short blog post–my last one for 2018.  It also seemed like an even better day for decorating the Christmas tree and wrapping prezzies. Christmas is only a week away and yet I find myself, once again, scrambling to get everything done. Big surprise!

And all the while I’m preparing and thinking Christmas, there’s this nagging urge within me to start writing. Some days are like that, it seems that new ideas are prodding me, begging me to pay attention. Not to mention some stories that have been lurking in the shadows for some years now, following me around like the ghost of Jacob Marley. Oh… but then that would make me Scrooge, wouldn’t it? No, no, no. I’m not feeling like Scrooge today. Perhaps I’m more of a juggler, with several stories still up in the air. I like the thought of being a juggler of new ideas, new stories not yet told.

I always welcome New Year’s, knowing that I’ll able to spend more time writing, and hopefully finishing up some projects I began during the year. Winter is my official time to create. There is just something so new and special about a new year. I find it difficult to describe, and it’s not that I’m even a big fan of winter. Perhaps it’s the sense that, with a brand new year comes brand new hopes and dreams.

Earlier, I found a few very old–like 100 years old–postcards I wanted to share since Christmas and New Year’s are just around the corner.

I love the images on the old postcards, so nostalgic. (Not that I was around back then, but still…..)

 

Wouldn’t you just love to climb inside this image?

Wishing all my readers a wondrous and magically New Year. I hope to see you all in 2019, and hopefully I’ll continue to find new things to blog about!

 

 

Persistence

You don’t start out writing good stuff. You start out writing crap and thinking it’s good stuff, and then gradually you get better at it. That’s why I say one of the most valuable traits is persistence.
Octavia Butler

I love this quote that I recently stumbled across. In the past I have shared this same sentiment about writing because it’s SO true.

When we first start writing we think we’re so much better than we really are. This is understandable since we’re so eager to unleash the creativity that’s been pent up inside us, sometimes for years.  In the beginning, we love all the words we put down, all those flowery sentences we deem so very important to all great works of fiction. And make no mistake, ours IS great, maybe THE greatest.  We smother our run-on sentences with adverbs and adjectives while searching for meaningful ten syllable words that we think makes our writing infectious, and certainly makes us sound….educated and sophisticated. You know, the way an author is supposed to sound. People simply will not be able to resist reading our work. (Wait until this comes across some editor’s desk! Won’t they be surprised!)

Turns out “infectious” is just another word for BORING, but boring to everyone except the author—funny how that works. We’ve been told that “describing words” are needed—and  plenty of them. Don’t just write simple sentences; make them come alive by describing them in detail…fine detail. Who cares about an actual plot when you’ve got a bunch of descriptive words and sentences to read?  Simple sentences show a lack of imagination and no one, but no one, wants to be accused of that. I remember this advice from my elementary school days when I was first discovering the power of words, when good writing amounted to writing with a lot of these aforementioned “describing words.” It takes a lot of imagination to come up with some of them when you’re nine or ten. I mean, how many words can you use to describe say, a blade of grass or a sunbeam that is SO detrimental to the story you’re crafting?

What is sometimes hard for people to understand is that the more you write the better your writing becomes. Just like anything else you’re learning. Authors don’t just sit down and write a story that immediately gets published. We write, and rewrite and rewrite some more. And once we’re convinced the story is as good as we can get it, we write and rewrite again. And then, when it’s finally accepted for publication we work with an editor who will squeeze even more out of this story that was finished a long time ago.

The story is not truly completed until we’re holding that book in our hands. But what’s this with all the writing and rewriting, you might ask? As anxious as we might be to see our story in book form every revision, every rewrite, all that extra buffing we do to the story only improves it. I promise.

I honestly believe that I became a published author because I refused to give up. Okay, so I did give up, many times. I screamed in frustration and vowed to never touch a keyboard again. But once the tantrum was over, I was right back at it. Like an addiction, I just couldn’t stop.  

So, to all the unpublished writers out there, I hope you can take heart in knowing that as you continue along in your writing journey, each story you write, each paragraph or even sentence, your writing improves. And if you’re writing is crap in the beginning you’ll know, so long as you never give up,  you’re one step closer to improving. And, by the time you are finally published, you will have learned the value of persistence. 

Another Blast of Winter in Spring

Winter just doesn’t seem to want to go away this year. Here in East Dalhousie we were blessed with about 10 cm of snow last night. Some of it melted during the afternoon, and the eaves are still dripping. That said, we’ve been told to expect another 15 cm overnight. I’m not sure what will happen to the tulips in our garden that suddenly burst through the ground late last week, but I’m hoping they’ re hardy enough to survive this next blast of winter weather this spring. But this is not unusual for spring, nor is our complaints that winter just doesn’t want to give up. Still, with each warm day we’re granted, hope stirs inside us. That’s the one thing about hope. It seems no matter how many times we’re disappointed with the outcome of something, we remain hopeful that next time the results we’re looking for will finally show up.

It’s like that when writing a book. Most times it takes several attempts before I end up with the results I want. Some authors write many drafts before they declare the story completed. I tend to edit and revise as I go along, and often never get a first draft completely written out so I have no idea how many drafts I go through. Back when I was writing Flying with a Broken Wing I became dissatisfied with the story and even stopped working on it, so sure I was that it was never going to amount to anything, let alone anything publishable. So I took a break from it and went back to it many months later filled with new hope that this time I was going to make it to the end. And I did!

I actually started the book I’m working on now about the same time that I started Cammie Takes Flight, and while Cammie’s been a book now for nearly a year, that other book is still waiting for me. I don’t expect I’ll ever be a fast writer. Many times I feel as though the story is struggling to find me. Sometimes there’s a lot of static in the way. But when the lines finally become clear, sentences and paragraphs begin to fall into place. That’s when I know for sure the story I’m working on will not get abandoned along the wayside.

And while I’m hopeful that spring will soon be here to stay, there is definitely no guarantee. Just as there is no guarantee that the story I’m presently working on will make it into book form. Still, amidst the struggles and frustration, I try to remain hopeful. It may not always be possible. I sometimes fall into a rut and become discouraged even with three published books and over forty published short stories. I’m fairly certain I’m not alone in this. We all become discouraged from time to time. But it’s our ability to pick ourselves up time and time again, to find that small bit of hope and run with it as fast as we can, that is responsible for all the accomplishments we achieve in life.

I’ll leave you with this quote that I find particularly inspiring. Maybe you will, too.

We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope. Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

Spring, Writing and Book Launch Photos

Time has certainly been flying by this winter or I should say spring? I can’t believe it’s been over a month since I last wrote a blog post. Here we are near the end of March. While the last time I wrote about how warm and unwinter-like the weather for February was, as we get closer to spring, winter decided to remind us that we needn’t start looking for crocuses and daffodils just yet. But that’s life, isn’t it? Just when we start feeling comfortable about the state of things, thinking maybe we have it all figured out, the rules change on us. In a way, it’s for our own good. I believe we all need for life to challenge us from time to time otherwise we stop growing and expanding as human beings, learning new things and having new experiences. A.K.A BORING.

I’ve been busy juggling a few stories these past few months, carrying on a love/hate relationship with them. I guess it’s why I juggle in the first place. As soon as I start hating one story, I switch to the other. Sometimes one of the stories will stick in my head and follow me around, sometimes even haunting my dreams or else coming to me late at night. The stories are so different from one another and maybe that’s a good thing. Writing is finding that balance and not sinking into a rut. So, I’ll keep juggling so long as these two stories dictate. Seems it’s rarely the writer who’s in charge of the story anyway.

I finally got around to posting some launch photos. You’ll find them HERE but also under the Cammie Takes Flight tab. There were so many photos taken  that day, I couldn’t possible post them all. I just picked out a few. Maybe you’ll see yourself in some of them.

Easter is in a few days, and although we have plenty of snow here in East Dalhousie, it’s melting away quickly. Today was absolutely gorgeous. Hopefully, it won’t be too many weeks before we see those crocuses and daffodils.

Happy Easter! Oh, and a shout-out to my friend, Gail, whose birthday is today. I’ve been calling but the line’s been busy. Hope you’re reading this and are having a stupendous day!

Working My Way Through Winter

With Cammie being nominated for the Silver Birch Award, meaning that a lot of kids will be reading the book, I decided to create a post about the Halifax School for the Blind in case anyone was interested in knowing a bit more about it since it’s  also where the book is set. I’ve already shared this post on Facebook a week ago. You can find it by hovering over the Cammie Takes Flight tab at the top of my blog it should drop down and from there you click on it. Or you can follow the link HERE. The post explains how I used some of stories my mother and stepfather told me about their experience at the school when writing the book. This doesn’t mean the events in the book were real, of course not, it just means these experiences inspired me to create a fictitious story. Being able to add real details only adds to a story’s authenticity. That doesn’t mean a writer can’t also take certain liberties when writing as well. That’s the beauty of writing fiction.

I’m also planning to add some information on the Ideal Maternity Home in the future. Five years ago, when I first started writing the book, I went out to the spot where the maternity home used to stand. As mentioned in the back of the book, there’s a monument there to mark the place, and I did take some photos. It burned in the sixties. As sad and tragic as what the story about the home is it is a part of our history here in Nova Scotia and something I’m exploring further as I work on my next book.

Now that Christmas is behind us, and we’re making our way through winter, I’ve been able to devote more time to reading and writing. I’ve also more time to think and daydream. A lot of thinking goes into any book and something that can be done while doing housework or other mundane activities. What could be better? A writer doesn’t just sit down at the keyboard and watch the words materialize like magic. We spend as much time plotting a story as we do writing and rewriting. Some chapters take more time than others, some paragraphs for that matter, as we smooth out the writing and find that flow that makes our words sound effortless. Believe me, some first drafts can be pretty choppy. But that’s the part I like, pulling out the wrinkles, finding the right placement for a sentence or even word. Yes, it can be that exact.

I won’t lie. It’s easy to become discouraged, no matter how many books you have published or how many great reviews your work receives. Writing is challenging. It’s a solitary activity. Sometimes it can get lonely. Thankfully, we have our characters for company. So here I am, again, working my way through winter, keeping my head down and concentrating on the finish line.

Until next time.

Cammie Takes Flight: One Step Closer

“You’ve signed a contract months ago so what’s taking SOOO long?”

As a writer with a new- to- be published book I get asked that a lot, which I suppose isn’t a bad thing. Means there’s interest, right?

A published book comes about in baby steps. This is once the book has been written (not to mention all those hours of thinking and plotting, writing and revising, a writer does before it’s even sent it off to a publisher.)

While each of these steps might be little over time they begin to add up.

Here’s where the books is now:

As I mentioned in an earlier post, the aim for “Cammie Takes Flight” (Yes, that’s the name we’re sticking with!) is to have the Advanced Reading Copies or ARCs  ready to be sent out in early winter. These go to reviewers etc. before the book is actually released. At this point I’ve already made revisions to the manuscript plus a few rounds of edits, smoothing out the wrinkles and straightening out any problems with the plot, etc.

Late this week, I received the design ARC galleys. This shows me what the interior of the book will look like, such as what fonts have been used and the little birds at the start of each chapter that I absolutely love! So with the file now created, the words, fonts and birds all in place you might think we’re all set to go, right?

But wait.

I still have some tweaking to do.

Crazy, isn’t it?

Not really. I’ve got a bit more work to do to the galleys, plus a decision to make, before the ARCs are ready to go to print.

Okay, so there’s no cover yet. Sorry. But trust me on this, there will be a cover before it goes to print. I mean, whoever heard of a book with no covers, right?

So once the ARCs are printed that’s it, right?

Wrong.

Believe it or not I’ll have the opportunity to make slight changes before it goes to the final print which should be late February, ready for the book’s release in April. Yay, it will finally be a book!

Whew!

So, the important thing is the book is getting closer to publication. Baby steps, but it’ll get there. I promise. And one of these days, very soon, I’ll have a cover reveal on my blog.

It’s all very exciting each time a writer brings a new book into the world. It’s our way of sharing what we’ve created with the rest of the world. Well, at least with our readers. 😉

That’s it for now. I hope you’re having an enjoyable fall and that you’re making steps towards  completing your own project whatever that might be.

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