Friday, 28 October 2016

Why do you jump in a roller coaster? You want a thrill. —Fede Alvarez

Last weekend I attended the Surrey International Writers' Conference. It is a roller coaster of stimulation filled with the requisite ups and downs. Rather than wax eloquent about the emotive ascent and descent of such an event, I thought I'd give you a visual representation of the ride.

      1. Anticipation began before I left the platform.

2. Travelling to the conference was a slow climb, but it sped up
    when I met folks I've known online for years, as well as
    saw writer friends from last year.

                                                           3. The rush of reaching the pinnacle was rubbing
                                                               shoulders with published authors. (Yes, I could have
                                                               had books signed. Do I regret not doing it? A bit, but I
                                                               was busy. See #2!)                

4. Throughout the ride, I partook in a little of this...
5. ...a lot of this...
                                                                      6. ...and, a ton of this.                                              
7. I hit a bump saying goodbye.
8. But soared with joy at seeing my loved ones
who waited patiently at home.
                                                                       9. I hit bottom at withdrawal and depression.
10. Oh, wait, bottom was stalking Twitter. Why? Cuz of #9.
I was looking to share that feeling of being lost, to know that I'm not insane,
 that this is a normal reaction. Right? Right?
                                     11. In a few days, I returned to the platform. Accepting that the ride  
                                           was over, I reconnected with everyday life. I reviewed notes,
                                           which led to renewed inspiration, and I got back to writing.
12. And, now I sit, looking at the track in anticipation of #SIWC17 because, well, I'm a writer. Why wouldn't I want to take the ride again?

Saturday, 15 October 2016

Looking forward to things is half the pleasure of them. —Lucy Maud Montgomery

Anticipation: a feeling of excitement about something that is going to happen; the act of preparing for something. —Merriam-Webster
That about sums it up for me at the moment. While the winds howl and the rain pelts, I am all smiles and laughter. For, next week, I am off to the Surrey International Writers' Conference. For the uninitiated, it is a cornucopia of stimulation, a full-out feast of inspiration and word crafting for writers.

My four day foray into the joyous muddle of writing and publishing begins with journey by float plane. Weather permitting, I will be taking my first itty-bitty plane ride. I am ridiculously excited by this. Not even the fact that I must minimize my luggage is putting a damper on my eagerness to see the islands from above. Not to mention, rather than a two-hour ferry ride, I will be on the mainland in twenty minutes. Nothing against the ferry service—it is comfortable and scenic—but, seriously? Twenty minutes?

I am taking a master class the day before the conference starts. The thought of this class has me doing a happy dance and, for those who know me or who have followed this blog for any length of time, you will recognize immediately why this particular class has me hopping up and down. It is "Writing Sex Scenes" with…wait for it…Diana Gabaldon! For folks who don't know why I am giddy over this, let me give you a brief summary. Diana wrote my all-time favourite series that begins with Outlander. It re-ignited not just my joy of reading for pleasure but my love of writing too, essentially sending me down this path of wordsmithing that I so enjoy. Outlander also led me to a forum where Diana is very active, supporting readers and writers alike. She has encouraged me and given me feedback, often at times when I despaired of moving forward in my writing. I met her briefly in Fergus. A highlight for me. Now, I get to learn from her in person. And, between the forum and having read her books, including the latest e-book, I Give You My Body, there is no doubt in mind that she is a master of the craft.
That forum I've mentioned? It has been a gold mine for me over the last eight or so years. Populated by published and wanna-be-published writers, it is a supportive environment where I have been encouraged to grow and learn. I consider many people on it my friends, even though I have not met many of them. That is about to change. An unprecedented number are flying in from around the world for this conference. At last count, I believe, we were at 40. Included in this number are two of my beta readers for Raven's Path—one from Germany and the other from California. I never thought I'd get to meet them and thank them personally for taking the time to read a novel and give feedback to a stranger.

Of course, I am also looking forward to the myriad of workshops and talks. Last year, I was entertained as well as enlightened. I laughed and cried and the cogs in my writer's brain got so well-oiled, they began to spin. Inspired, I came home and wrote Cutting to the Chase in a month. It literally spilled onto the page.

So, dear readers, these are the things that currently fill me with anticipation. I will not be blogging next week, but know that I will be immersed in my writer's world, embraced by friends old and new, and nurtured by the seasoned guard of authors who so kindly feed my soul.


Saturday, 8 October 2016

Sometimes the best way to recharge our batteries is to unplug them. —Source Unknown

Like so many Canadians, we used to go away in the winter. One week a year, paying an exorbitant price because we were only able to travel during peak times, we would steal away from cold snowy Ontario and relax in the sunshine of Mexico or the Caribbean. During the winter of 2015, we were snowbirds for the first time in our lives. Thrilled to pay for a month what a week used to cost us, we enjoyed two months in Texas.
Since moving to Vancouver Island in July of 2015, we have not gone south. Actually, except for a stolen weekend on Hornby Island and a writers' conference last fall in Surrey, BC, we have not left the island at all. Inevitably, we are asked when we will be going, especially by those anticipating the long frigid months ahead in Ontario. While all things change and unexpected adventures arise, at this point we both can honestly say we have no desire to head for warmer climes. It's an easy decision. There is no reason to leave.

Our every day is filled with the spectacular beauty and moderate weather of the Cowichan Valley. We have basked in the sun on the decks of the seaside restaurants in Cowichan Bay, celebrated guests with brunches over the water at Bridgeman's Bistro and been shuttled with new friends to our favourite pub in Duncan—Craig Street Brewing Co. We have painted and sipped at Blue Grouse Winery, we have sampled crisp pinots on the mountainside of Averill Creek and we have laughed to the point of tears while being entertained and informed at Rocky Creek Winery.

Last weekend alone, we enjoyed Octoberfest on a barge temporarily located at the end of the dock in Mill Bay. We nibbled our way through the evening, relishing culinary treats and sipping local ciders and beers. The following night we had dinner at one of our favourite wineries, Unsworth. The food is of the highest quality, the service is stellar and their Charme De L'lle is one of my favourite bubblies. Add the best of friends and a flock of frenetic chickens, and it's the perfect night out. And, it's right here in our own backyard.

The weekend was followed by four days at a small resort on the Pacific coast of the island. Point No Point is nestled along the shore, far from anything except extensive and stunning provincial parks. It's somewhat off the grid—no TV, no Wi-Fi, no cell reception…not even a landline phone in the cabin, and I was worried I wouldn't do very well. I asked my Twitter peeps to pray for me. How would I survive, unplugged, for so long?

Well, I didn't just get by. I adored it. We walked the trails, we cooked our meals and we sipped wine, surrounded by a breathtaking ocean vista. In the evening, we talked and played games, and then we curled up in luxurious beds, drifting off to the sound of waves crashing on shore. I discovered that unplugged did not mean disconnected. Keev and I and our dearest of friends, Alice and Jim, spent four days uncluttered by technology, four days living in the moment, four days of truly spending quality time with one another. Amazing.

So, when once again asked when we will next go on a southern vacation, Keev and I will just look at each other knowingly, shrug our shoulders and smile. The truth is, when you love where you live, you don't need to get away.

Saturday, 1 October 2016

Revisiting Raven's Path

These photos came across my Twitter feed last week and it reminded me of a scene in Raven's Path. The time is 1750 in the Ohio Valley. Brandan "Raven" Murray is in the woods considering abandoning Ana, a woman he has pledged to see safely to her father but who seems to be thwarting his attempts to do so. She is a woman he wants to protect and has grown to think of as his little deer, ma petite faonne. This moment brings him full circle back to her.

Some rustling caught his attention. He crept forward, crouching low, and hid behind a low-lying cluster of brush. A shaft of sunshine lit the dense forest. In the middle of the small meadow a doe casually pulled at random patches of new grass. He shifted his weight and she raised her head, sniffed the air, and began shuffling nervously.

A fawn stumbled into sight and the doe grew anxious, glancing toward her baby and back to the brush. The fawn, oblivious to possible threat, wandered aimlessly around the glen, its curiosity and enthusiasm a pleasure to behold. It blundered about the clearing, bouncing at its mother and at imaginary wisps in the wind. The mother’s nose flared and she became well agitated.

Brandan slowly stood so that she could identify the source of her anxiety. The deer froze as his eyes met hers. Eyes hauntingly familiar. Their gazes locked and she assessed his threat. He was captivated by her wary innocence. The fawn crashed into her side, yet she did not break eye contact. Seconds later, the doe made her decision, gently nudging the young animal, moving it toward the trees edging the far side of the clearing. She turned before entering the forest, her dark gaze acknowledging his gift of life, before she disappeared into the darkness.

The doe recognized his benevolence and accepted it. She knew he meant her no harm. Now, if only he could get Ana to see the same thing.