Monday, January 28, 2013

The Write Read for a Wintry Afternoon

Easy for you to say, Steve baby.  That’s my response to Stephen King’s famous quote – they’re all famous −“If you don't have time to read, you don't have the time (or the tools) to write.  Simple as that.”  It's not always that simple.

My books have been gathering dust and creating stress.  Yes, it stresses me out when everything seems to take precedence over reading.  Anyway, today I finished a book that I couldn’t wait to receive in the mail – months ago − Ellen and the Hummingtree by Audrey Austin, a writer from Elliott Lake. 

I had the good fortune to meet Audrey online and become acquainted with her writing.  If memory serves correctly, I first noticed Audrey’s work on, a site that has featured my work as well. 

Ellen and the Hummingtree is an interesting book about a woman of deep faith who has a unique coping mechanism.  She speaks to God.  Now, I know you will argue that many of us speak to God.  But Ellen believes God lives inside a large yellow quartz rock in her backyard.  Oh, and of course He speaks to her too.  There’s a little hole in the top of the rock.  Never mind, just read the book.

It is a collection of well-written stories that weave back and forth through the emotional circumstances of a woman’s life.  These stories delve into her relationships as a daughter, wife, mother, grandmother, and friend.  Oh, and cousin – I forgot about her cousin Marielle.   

In my opinion – only my opinion – the theme of this book is fear.  I know that some of you who are familiar with this book may harrumph at that statement but a book is very personal.  It’s interpreted differently by each reader.  That’s why I love talking to my first readers.  I’m fascinated by the interpretation of my work.  Each person sees something different or relates with a different character.  I digress (as always). 

Audrey’s character, Ellen, is on her own to raise two children.  Fear.  Her grandson, who has a learning disability, is bullied at school.  Fear.  God lives in a rock in her backyard.  That would scare the crap out of me.  (My attempt at humour – I’m sorry)

Ellen has many fears, as do we all.  The fear of growing old and senile, the fear of having to give up a home to live in a facility.  Then there is the ultimate fear.  Of growing older and older and older, when all she wants is to re-unite with all the loved ones that have passed on.  You do remember that I said this was strictly my opinion.

Near the end of the book there is a chapter I Need You to Remember Me.  I remember reading that story, or at least an edited version, some time ago.  Please tell me, Audrey, that this was a published short story at some point.  If not, I had an incredible déjà vu moment.  I liked the story the first time I read it – otherwise I never would have remembered it – and it will remain indelible in my mind.

The last chapter Time to Go Home is melancholy and poignant.  I have witnessed death and thought about life after death.  I appreciate Audrey Austin’s rendering.  This chapter was a fitting ending to a thought provoking book with a unique approach. 

Ellen and the Hummingtree by Audrey Austin; a good read for a wintry afternoon.


Monday, January 21, 2013

Written in Stone

So, what’s with the rocks?  I had no idea what he was talking about. 

On his way upstairs, he peeked into the large room where I work.  Oh, he said, this is your office.  I hesitate to call it an office but it is where I work.  I flip on the light.  It’s actually a large storage area.  I commandeer one corner of the room.  A large corner.  My old desk is at least seven feet long. 

I would have expected him to mention the framed pictures that almost fill my desk – and the wall above it.  Instead, he notices rocks.  I step forward, aware of the frown creeping over my eyes.  Oh, those rocks, I say. 

Hands in his pockets, his eyes shift from one side of my desk to the other.  Finally, stepping forward, he checks out a crystal dish that holds an assortment of smooth stones.  I pick up one and then another, reading the words engraved on their surfaces.  Laugh, Hope, Believe, Smile...  Not all the stones are engraved, though.  Some are just a lovely shape and size. 

Where’d you get this one?  He was examining a medium size rock with sharp, jagged edges.  I use it as a paperweight.  I had to think for a minute, and then a minute longer.  I remember – barely – finding it during a road trip to the east coast. 

The heft of the rock feels good in my hand.  I trace the uneven surface and picture myself on a gravel shoulder admiring a copse of autumn coloured trees against the brilliant blue of the water.  I spot this rock – all pinks and browns with glittery veins − and immediately reach for it.  A souvenir, I call it. 

My eyes flit across the surface of the desk to a mirrored tray holding several stones in varying shapes and colours.  Oh, now these are very special.  Caressing one of the stones from the tray, my memory takes me to a beach at Chapel’s Cove, Newfoundland.  The mist breezes across my face as I sit on a piece of driftwood and look out at the bay. 

Before that trip, I had only visited Chapel’s Cove online while researching my first novel.  To be enjoying the same view as the characters in my story…well, it was a magical moment.  A friend fashioned one of the stones into a necklace for me.  A treasure!

I must have fallen silent, lost in my reverie.  He cleared his throat.  I guess this one’s pretty special too, he said.  Grinning, he lifted it off the desk and balanced it in his hand as if judging the weight.  He turned it over and over before placing it back with a thud.

Yes, I laughed, that one is very dear to me.  A mini boulder with crayola markings covering the surface in purple, orange, green, black…well, all the colours.  Looking closely, you can decipher the letters ‘s o p h i e’ amongst the shading. 

With a sigh, I realize why I didn’t understand what he meant by ‘rocks’.  To me, they are inspiration, memories, and love offerings. 

Monday, January 14, 2013

Writing and Editing a Crime Story

Imagine a gathering of writers, elbow to elbow, sharing their traditional haiku, literary prose, and symbolistic  poetry and then I’m next in line with, ‘The knife dangling from his fingers dripped a bloody path to the bathroom.’ 

Recently, one of the writers urged me to submit a short story to a publication that issued a call for crime fiction.  I love writing crime fiction, but short stories...ehhhh...  Whatever, I decide to give it a shot. (pardon the pun)

The deadline is almost on top of me and there is no time to start one from scratch so I check out the short stories I have on file.  Maybe there is something promising that I can re-write or edit.  I never think of myself as a short story writer but it’s surprising how many I have written over the last two or three years, although, only a few are of this genre. 

Back to the submission call – I select a story that has always been one of my favourites.  I love this story.  The twisted, tragic ending.  Ahhhh.  I think I’ve sent it out a time or two with no luck.  Let’s see if it’s worth salvaging.

Every story has a beginning, middle, and an end.  I move the middle of the story to the beginning, and I shorten the ending.  That in itself is a major improvement.  So far, so good.  Now, it's obvious that one or two characters have to go.  After all, this is a short story.  Much better.

My next read-through, I pay particular attention to the paragraphs, and then narrow my focus down to sentences.  Now I can see the problem.  This paragraph belongs up here − these sentences are too choppy – and those ones need to be tightened. 

Dialogue!  I need dialogue to liven up the beginning of the story.  So now, I have our protagonist talking with a waiter who provides information important to the development of the story.  This is all good.

The lead character’s name is wrong.  I just have that feeling so I change her name.  Any sentence I’m not 100% comfortable with has to go!  If there is a word I stumble with, it has to go.  I keep reading until the story flows smoothly from beginning to end.

Keeping a close eye on the word count, my story remains within the required length.  Okay, one last read-through to see if I am following the criteria of the submission call.   

Family ü Fraud ü Deceit ü Wrongdoing ü   Murder ü Injurious Acts ü

Looks like I have it covered!

Wish me luck!

Monday, January 07, 2013

2013 Write on Target!

I’m baaaaack...  and guess what??  My blogger stats are through the roof!  Thousands are reading my blog and comments by the hundreds have been coming in from France, Poland, Slovakia, Malaysia!!  Yeah, you guessed it...spam.  My stats reports are crazy. They look awesome but I know they're crazy.  If there are any bloggers out there who know how I can correct that, let me know. 

In the meantime, by running previously published posts on my blog these past few weeks, I’ve enjoyed a luxurious timeout for the holiday.  It felt like the best Christmas ever.  I even enjoyed shopping − something I rarely enjoy.  The gifts I purchased seemed to have hit their mark.  Each year I strive to please everyone and that usually spells disappointment. 

This Christmas everything seemed to fall into place.  I cherished the time with my family and even managed a few extra days with the grandchildren.  They bring laughter – theirs and mine – into the house with each visit.  That was especially important this last year.  

Now, here we are in 2013!!  Even though I am happy to see 2012 end, I’m in a holding pattern − hovering and flitting around the edges of the New Year − not ready to embrace it. 

Last year started out with the loss of both a family member and a cherished friend within a couple of days of each other in January.  The year ended in much the same way.  Not only did I lose loved ones, but several of my friends lost precious family, too.  A deep sadness for everyone.  Soooo... here’s to a year of healing.

That said I must make an effort to move on and get back into a productive routine.  Perhaps I should be thinking of my next book.  Something tells me it will be another suspense.  I LOVED writing Bad Seed. 

I also must catch up on my reading!!  I have several books on the nightstand that I pat affectionately now and then but just can’t get into.  I apologize to Audrey Austin and Terry W. Ervin as I promised to review their books in this blog.  Sorry it is taking so long.

During the busy holiday time, the library called with David Baldacci’s latest book, The Forgotten.  Strangely enough, I immediately immersed myself into the story.  Couldn’t stop reading until I finished the book.  What a relief.  For weeks, I felt too distracted to read.  If I can lose myself in a book, I’m almost back to normal.  Almost ready to embrace the New Year.