Saturday, 29 November 2014

Child, you have to learn to see things in the right proportions. Learn to see great things great and small things small. ― Corrie ten Boom

Technology can be an amazing tool or the source of absolute misery. Over the last few days, I have cried a pox on computers. Gmail has refused to maintain integrity of formatting. Word shifted the settings on a manuscript, but insists that it sits at one-inch margins despite the fact that the ruler clearly shows it at twice that width. Add to the list, an Internet connection that keeps playing hide and seek. Yesterday, frustrated and ready to toss my laptop out into the cold winter night, I took a break and watched the news.

Bombs, gunfire kill 81 at crowded mosque in Nigeria. Wrongly convicted man released after twelve years. Over five thousand dead from Ebola. Calm comes to troubled Ferguson while protests ignite around the country.

I took a very long, very deep breath. I live in a country where I can practice, or not, my religion without fear, where medical care is a right of every citizen regardless of income, and where, should I not agree with my government’s policies, I can stand freely and shout my concerns and back that up with a vote. I never want for food on my table nor a roof overhead. My home is filled with laughter and love and too many hugs to count. 

So, technology is messing with me a bit. Let it. I’m off to take a walk with my two dogs, hand in hand with my husband and, I’d put my money on it, there’ll be some hugging going on when we get home.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

In everyone's life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit. Albert Schweitzer

Eight years ago, my inner fire was a small flicker—not entirely extinguished, but it was not lighting the way as it once did. My job was slowly eroding my soul. I didn’t know if I could hang in there; I worried that I had taken a wrong turn on my career path. The proverbial window opened, and I was promoted and transferred to a new location.

A fresh start is an amazing thing. I was thrilled to be there and discovered that, in embracing others, I was embraced. I spent the next six years in a wonderful nurturing environment. We grew together, working through each day, and any problems, with genuine affection and lots of laughter. Fanned on a daily basis, my flame began to glow. A lightened heart is capable of so much more than a heavy one. The joy of my working days spilled into my home life and I began to write regularly.

It was with mixed emotions that I voluntarily bid farewell to that part of my life. I have no regrets. I treasure spending time with my small family and am loving the hours each day that I am now able to devote to writing. Things could not be sweeter. Still, I said goodbye to some amazing people. Well, those folks visited last night. We shared a little wine, plenty of stories, and so much laughter.

It seems  goodbyes do not have to be forever. Thank you, my friends. Once again, my flame burns a little brighter.

Saturday, 15 November 2014

If You Build It, They Will Come

I mentioned two weeks ago that I ditched Nano in favour of life. It was a good decision. Not just in terms of keeping all happy on the home front, but because of the myriad of things I have needed to do for my writing. All of which are important, although they certainly get in the way of writing. I am just shy of 4,000 words on the sequel for Raven’s Path—a shabby output for the month of November.

Research tends to swallow me whole, but I rest comfortably in its gullet, lying back on its cozy curved lining, my feet dangling courageously over the duodenum,  contentedly grabbing at all of the tidbits floating by. While less writing occurs at this stage, I digest all of these little bits and bites, knowing that I will eventually crawl up the esophagus (Ah, you thought I might sneak out the other way. No, can’t have that. Easier, perhaps, but I might get separated from the good stuff!), pat my friend, Research, on the cheek and wander off to chunder the hodgepodge into a story.

But, I digress, as a writer is wont to do. Platform. That has been this month’s distraction. I began this blog in July with an eye to developing an online presence. It has been a slow learning process as I resented the time away from writing to format it beyond its original simplicity. Based on a plethora of advice on the various author/writing websites I haunt, I have begun to expand its interface. You now see some sites I visit regularly, a Pinterest widget, some followers, and there is actually something at the end of the Google+ link.

I have not added a question to each blog entry, meant to obligate folks to respond and prove they have dropped by because, well, I’m Canadian and am just too polite to make anyone feel they are beholden to remark upon anything I write. I have, however, changed permissions on the “reply” in the hopes that it is now easier for people who would like to drop me a line.

I explored Pinterest for the first time this week and paid homage to Raven’s Path. My betas may find that interesting. The rest of the world? We’ll see. Working through Pinterest is definitely an entertaining diversion. I’m navigating my way through Google+, attempting to link those authors I have met (and thoroughly enjoyed talking with and learning from) on my writer’s forum. It is a work in progress so, if you drop by, keep that in mind. I have also joined several more writing websites. Another rabbit hole is all I can say about that. J

When I move to the next stage of this exciting journey, I will jump whatever media hoops are necessary to get my book in people’s hands. For now, it is enough. I do need to get back to the nitty-gritty of writing a book. In the meantime, I wonder, since I’ve built it…will they come? (See that, I snuck a question in like a good little blogger. Okay, it can be considered rhetorical, but if you have an inkling of a desire to answer, or say anything at all, feel free, as I am incredibly curious as to just who you are. J)

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Down the Rabbit Hole

I was going to title this “I’ve Fallen and I Can’t Get Up!” but the reference to Alice in Wonderland is more appropriate to the surprise and wonder I feel when I plunge into research. It’s a freefall and, tumbling joyfully, I snatch at details that are enlightening, deeply moving and delightfully entertaining, tucking them away for use in my novel or for that lull in a dinner party that just needs to be filled with something.

Let’s look at plot potential. I tripped across John Pattin, a mapmaker, trader, and all-around curious explorer from the 18th century. He managed to get arrested in 1750 for encroaching on French territory. Held in no less than 6 strongholds of New France before being sent to France, he was not only freed but managed to secure restitution for losses as well. Pattin promptly returned to the colonies and drew up plans, for the British, of all of the French forts where he had stayed. Now that’s a character I can work with—adventurous, savvy and, depending on the lens, incredibly loyal or wonderfully manipulative and deceitful.

Then, there’s Elizabeth Couc. Too early for Crossroads, but I'm sure I can work her story in somewhere. Cadillac describes her as a woman “kept by more than a hundred men.” Now, how could I resist finding out more about her after a declaration like that? Reality show scripts read dry in comparison to this real life, multi-husband woman from the 17th century.

As for the dinner party conversation, it would be all about the beaver. Yup, that crazy little furry river critter that was so sought after in the 18th century. The economy in the Ohio Valley, in 1750, was wrapped up in the beaver. So much so that the beaver pelt was considered currency.
The skin of the buck or male beaver was worth four livres, twice as much as the skin of the doe
beaver. It is the buck that came to be recognized as the money unit, and is used to this day as slang for a dollar. It would be interesting to find out if the word "dough" for money comes from the homonym "doe," worth half a buck. (from The Windsor Border Region)

I don’t know about elsewhere in the world, but bringing up beaver at dinner in Canada just might cause a few forks to clatter and chip the good china. How wonderful that I can smile graciously with feigned oblivion, and explain how we owe our current currency slang to that charming woodland creature. J


Saturday, 1 November 2014

Anachronism: something or someone that is not in its correct historical or chronological time

My characters are fiction, and how their lives unfold is completely a figment of my imagination. However, they live in a world that was, peppered with people who were, and are influenced by events the actually occurred. I research endlessly and thoroughly, keen to be historically accurate. I also strive to keep those real people as true to their actions and personalities as I can, based on what written accounts of their lives and actions exist.

That is the easy part of writing historical fiction. The harder part is spotting anachronistic language in my writing. Take for example, angst. Visually, it’s an odd word, looks rather old. Yet, it didn’t come into common language until the mid-19th century—one hundred years too late for Raven’s Path. Now, when you spot it, it’s an easy fix. Anxiety hit the streets in the 16th century. That works. Although, tread cautiously if you are writing in an earlier period than mine; anxious and its varied incarnations as adjective, adverb or noun, did not join anxiety until the 17th century.

I’ve gotten quite used to writing a word, getting a nettlesome feeling about it and heading off to the etymology dictionary to confirm its origin. It happened the other day while writing the sequel to Raven’s Path (tentatively titled Crossroads). Ana tripped, smacking down on her knee and I wrote “Ow!” It looked modern, so off I trekked to check. As an expression of surprise, 14th century, as one of pain, not until 1919! Hers was definitely a pain reaction, so that would not do. Ouch? 1837. Where to now?

What does one say when experiencing sudden pain? More precisely, what does one say in 1750? I could write grunted, groaned, screamed, yelled—you get the idea—but I found those too passive for the moment. I actually Googled “expressions for pain” and came across an oddly interesting article, The Language of Pain.

This language of pain has no consonants, but consists only of vowels: ow! aiee! oy! oh! These are the sounds the sufferer makes, each punctuated by grunts, hiccoughs, sobs, moans, gasps. It is a self-absorbed language that might have been the first ever uttered by prehistoric man. Perhaps it was learned from animals. These howled vowels have the eloquence of the wild, the uncivilized, the atavistic. Comprehension is instantaneous, despite the absence of what we call words. It is a mode of expression beyond normal language. Nor could it be made more passionate or revelatory by the most gifted writer. Not even by Shakespeare.

Another anachronistic crisis averted. Get rid of the consonants. Now, if only that simple rule applied to other anachronisms.J