Where have I been?

Where have I been?

Where have I been?

When we arrived in San Miguel de Allende (Mexico) over five months ago, I went on a blogging spree. I was inspired, in part, by the refreshing wonder of fast internet. A month later, I stopped writing blog posts, getting down to the business of writing the keynote speech I was to give at the San Miguel Writers’ Conference mid-February.

As well, The Shadow Queen had been chosen as the Conference’s “Big Read” and an event was organized presenting it to book clubs. The event ended up including a video interview of me on writing The Shadow Queen, two lively short lectures by experts on the historical period, and a dramatic performance from the novel—plus champagne and authentic French beignets.

Being an all-or-nothing sort of person, I got very involved in scripting the film, which you can see here. Denis Lanson, the film-maker, did a wonderful job.

The short dramatic performance was my suggestion (in lieu of a reading). I discovered that it was quite a challenge to write. Wonderful actor friends Marilyn Bullivant and Rick Davey performed it. We went through several rehearsals (necessitating rewrites) together with Karen Kinney, head of the committee (a creative committee from heaven, IMO).

In short, a good part of December, January and early February was entirely taken up with writing the keynote, preparing readings for several Conference panels, and scripting the film interview and dramatic presentation of The Shadow Queen. All very exciting!

On stage before my keynote.

The Conference went wonderfully well. I still glow thinking of the reception to my keynote—a standing ovation from an audience of about five hundred—this in addition to the thrill of so many people reading The Shadow QueenIt was a highlight of my life as a writer.

In the weeks that followed, I struggled to get back to work on the WIP, an increasingly curious little novel about a young falconer in Elizabethan England. I went through all the stages of the writing process, including the requisite, “This is garbage, I should just retire” phase. (“What! You’re on Chapter Four already?” one writer’s husband would say whenever she voiced that thought.)

I made a self-appointed deadline mid-April to deliver an outline and character “bible” to Allison McCabe, the wonderful editor of historical fiction who worked with me on The Game of Hope. I delivered it Saturday morning, then celebrated with a lunch margarita at Casa Blanca, one of our favourite restaurants in San Miguel this year.

The working title of the WIP is now Raptor Wild, which I rather like. The “outline” is a mix of bare-bone scenes (mostly dialogue) and narrative plot points, weighing in at a hefty 14,392 words. The character “bible” is simply a page or two on each of the thirteen main characters, including a gyrfalcon and an elderly English Water Spaniel. A significant number of the characters die or are killed off rather early on in the story—somewhat too grim for a YA, I suspect.

falcon

“Beauty,” one of the WIP characters.

Although this was only an outline, I developed all the usual symptoms of being in final draft mode. Invariably, at that stage, I become obsessed. I get little sleep, cancel all activities that are not work-related, and become convinced I have a fatal illness. That’s when I think: Ah, almost there. How wonderful to send files off and experience a miraculous cure!

Now that Raptor Wild has been wrapped up (for now), it’s time to prepare to leave San Miguel—never easy. I love getting back home to Canada, but I hate leaving Mexico, too. We’ve had a wonderful winter here this year.

Next up, the paperback release of The Game of Hope, all gussied up in a beautiful new cover!

 

 

Trying to write in 2017 …

Trying to write in 2017 …

{Photo by Ian Chen on Unsplash.}

I sent draft 9.8 of The Game of Hope to my editor – a partial deadline met, which is always a wonderful feeling. Right now I’m organizing my beta-reader and consultant feedback notes and making further changes.

The final-final draft is due in only two-and-a-half weeks, which isn’t much time at all given that most of that time will be given over to 1) packing up our house in Mexico, 2) flying back to Canada, 3) visiting our daughter and her wonderful family, and 4) settling back into our house in Canada.

In other words: I must keep at it.

It has been a challenging year. We sold a house and moved into a new one while it was still under construction. Needless-to-say, that was not conducive for writing. (At one point I was at my desk with headphones on, trying to ignore the six workmen in my study!)

Writing when the world seems to be self-destructing

Additionally, in truth, I have been seriously side-lined by US news: anxiety, horror, alarm, fascination … all of that.  I know I’m not the only one! This gif expresses the problem perfectly:

On thickening plots with index cards and the Order of Good Cheer (i.e. Canadian Thanksgiving!) — plus links of interest to writers and other creatives, historians and clutter warriors

On thickening plots with index cards and the Order of Good Cheer (i.e. Canadian Thanksgiving!) — plus links of interest to writers and other creatives, historians and clutter warriors

Sorry, Peeps, I’ve apparently disappeared on you! I was doing my best to post at least once a week, and — voilá — now two weeks have passed.

An update: 

The plot does indeed thicken: with index cards, the old standard. My extensively detailed Excel plot sheet bombed on me. Excel is complex, and once it stops working, it’s challenging to fix—at least for me. (If I do need a spreadsheet at some point, I think I will use Numbers.)

But for now, returning to index cards is refreshing.

What’s nice about index cards is that you can move them around and clump them up. You can throw them out and add more. You can lay them out, squint at them, and rearrange them. The other thing you can do is stick post-it notes to them. I had piles around: Random Thought Capture I think of them. Sticking them on index cards and putting them in a semblance of order is calming.

What’s eating up my time:

  • Pondering plot (puzzling);
  • Research (fascinating);
  • Taxes (aggravating!);
  • Health: getting shots, check-ups, consultations, plus learning how to sleep using a CPAP machine (challenging);
  • Fixing things (sigh);
  • Finding things (double sigh);
  • Gardening (oh, my back!);
  • Reading: catching up on many issues of The New Yorker, Renaissance, and The New York Review of Books before we head south (yikes!);
  • Preparing for Canadian Thanksgiving (yay!), always a big, boisterous celebration at our house;
  • Preparing for a trip west to give a talk at StarFest. (:-) See below!
  • Getting ready to fly south for the winter. (What? Already?)

An event coming up …

StarFest

I’m going to be flying to Edmonton next week to give a talk (with prizes!) at StarFest, the St. Albert Readers Festival in Saint Albert, Alberta, October 16, Friday night at 7:00.

I’ve heard that this is a great festival; I’m very much looking forward to it. Do come!


Sundry Sundae delectable links:

SundaeWeb

 Links for writers …

• À propos to the above: 7 ways to write a plot outline; The Infographic.

What agents think. :-(

Links for creatives (i.e. everyone) … 

• I read—and loved—Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. She is so gently hectoring in an altogether inspiring way. Elizabeth Gilbert on the perils of ignoring your creative self. Right on, sister!

Links for Napoleonistas … 

• I adore Canadian cartoonist and history-loving nerd Kate Beaton: Napoleon wasn’t so short after all: a cartoonist’s take on history.

Links for historians …

Opium Eating: The Lincolnshire Fens in the early nineteenth-century.

Links for just about anyone …

• Who isn’t overwhelmed? I find Stephanie Bennett Vogt’s books on clearing clutter — both mental and physical — inspiring. I’m looking forward to her newest book A Year to Clear and enjoyed watching her three videos on clearing: Reducing Overwhelm, Releasing Stuck Energy, and Getting Spacious.

Happy Thanksgiving Canadians! 

On the healing power of community, plot puzzles and painting — plus Sundae links for writers, time travellers, Sun King fans, and just about anyone

On the healing power of community, plot puzzles and painting — plus Sundae links for writers, time travellers, Sun King fans, and just about anyone

Untitled Untitled 3Untitled 1

Last Tuesday morning there was a terrible tragedy in our peaceful part of the world: an enraged man, recently out on parole, sought out and murdered three of his former girlfriends. Our community is so small that everyone knows someone who knew one of the victims or even the killer. It is hard to comprehend such a loss … impossible to comprehend such rage.

It is also impossible to comprehend a “justice” system that allows a repeat violent offender out on parole without providing any protection whatsoever for the women he’d already abused and threatened.

There was a beautiful vigil for the three on Friday night: it helps to share tears with hundreds (and hundreds) of others.

{Photos posted on-line by the Ottawa Sun.}


I am officially Lost in Plot. Will I ever emerge? I’m not so sure! When I’m not puzzling, I’m painting, or weeding, or reading (Lila), or avoiding getting to taxes. :-(

Here is a painting I finished this week, inspired by a photo I saw on Facebook.

IMG_1683

 


My Sundry Sundae delectable links for the week:

SundaeWeb

Links for writers …

Different Types of Plot in Fiction, by Kate Forsyth. An interesting summary.

Writing a novel: 8 writing tips from Ursula K. Le Guin. Very practical!

More on the Sun King this week … 

Louis XIV: What France’s Sun King did for art. He was a cultured man.

Links for time travellers …

• The Diaries of Miss Fanny Chapman (beginning in 1807). It’s wonderful to see the Net used to publish such invaluable historical work. “Just before tea time Miss Simms, the daughter of a farmer near Miss Pyne’s, sent her a brace of beautiful partridges.” Don’t you just love it?

Links for just about anyone …

• I’ve been reading Marian Schembari’s blogs for some time. She has an honest vitality and sense of humour that is very engaging. I originally read her because she wrote very astutely about promotion and social media. Now I’ll read whatever she writes. I’m always happy to see a new post by her. Here’s a recent one: My recipe for $800 cupcakes.

Have a great week.

Mice, explosions and a big bear — plus Sundae Sundries: links for writers, Napoleonistas & Sun King fans

Mice, explosions and a big bear — plus Sundae Sundries: links for writers, Napoleonistas & Sun King fans

We had little more excitement this week than we cared for!

{A cloudy NY offered wonderful photo opportunities. I especially enjoyed catching the suggestive night window dressing moment on the Highline.}

After a wonderful trip to NY to see our son, we arrived home in good time on Tuesday, only to be overwhelmed by the sickening smell of dead mouse wafting throughout the house. We quickly threw down our suitcases, opened all windows and doors and set five fans blowing.

Shortly after, the power went out (but not because of the fans), and shortly after that there was a terrifying series of extremely loud explosions. I found out what I do in such a case: I run in and out of the house trembling. (Handy to know: there’s an explosion in my next YA about Hortense.) We thought it must have been the meter, triggered somehow by our new electrical furnace.

It was 6:00 by this time. We were afraid to use our generator under the circumstances, so we set out all the candles and flashlights, the land-line telephone, and closed the windows and doors since we wouldn’t have heat for the night. By then we’d thought better of staying. Instead, we’d have a quick dinner while there was still light, then pack up and move to our cabin on a lake. It was in a state of disruption due to work being done on it, but at least it had electricity, toilets and a Net connection. Who knew how long we would be without power at the house? In the morning we would contact the furnace and electrical companies.

The next morning, the furnace turned out not to be the villain, but the dead mouse was found. (Yes!) Then the electricity crew came out. A transformer on the telephone pole 100 ft. from our house had exploded. Why, we don’t know. It had been a calm, cloudless day.

The power was going to be out at the house for some time, so we packed up more gear and returned to the cabin, where—groan—we discovered that the power had gone out due to a problem in a village some distance from us.

So: back to the house, having since learned that we could safely use the generator.

We returned to a house littered with open suitcases, dirty dishes, candles and fans—but blessedly odour-free.

That evening, however, a friend encountered a very large bear at the top of our driveway. I was waiting for her not 25 feet away.

TMI? I just had to share.


It’s a pleasure to get back to what might be considered Normal Life. However, there are two things I should put on my To Do List every day, for inevitably they have to be dealt with:

  • 1 hour: puzzle out why Net/computer/software isn’t working.
  • ½ hour: search for something I’ve misplaced.

Here was my To Do List for today:

  • 1 hr. exercise
  • 2 hrs. puzzle out plot
  • 1 hr. Skype French lesson
  • chat with our son & daughter
  • ½ hour weeding
  • 1 hr. taxes
  • ½ hr. watercolour painting
  • blog post

I am down to the last one: this blog post. It helps to wake at 4:00 with a compelling idea on how to tackle the plot revision. (More on that later.)


My Sundry Sundae delectable links for this week:

SundaeWeb

Links for writers …

3 Simple Prewriting Strategies.

The Units of Story: The Sequence. There is a lot to learn in this series from StoryGrid.com.

Links for Napoleonistas people with a sick sense of humour …

• Okay, this is a little sick: Napoleonistas as well as parents will be understandably offended by this account of how Napoleon died, as told by stinking drunk kids. (The Drunk History series is rather amusing.)

Links for Sun King enthusiasts …

• There has been quite a bit again this week on the Sun King because September 1st was the 300th anniversary of his death. Here is a big treat for you all: The King Who Invented Ballet, a wonderful BBC documentary on how Louis XIV invented ballet. At the end of the video is the ballet. Heavenly! (Note: if for some reason you can’t watch this video here, you can watch it on YouTube.)

• Accompany this with a Forbes article: How Ballet Can Make You A Better Leader.

Have a great week!