More Words…

Writing isn’t always easy.  Sometimes it’s hard work and other times it’s as blissfully simple as breathing.  In the last couple of months, I’ve been working very hard. Unfortunately, to the cost of reaching out to you, to a lack of social media in general.  But I’ve done it because I believe that this is all making art. I might be silent but I trust that you understand the payout will be worth it. So here goes.

April 21, 2018 is the release date for Pure Red Sand: Uncomfortable Truths.

If you’ve read An Expensive Retreat, you will definitely have questions.  In this book, I’m going to answer some of them and create others. A little faster paced than the first book, in this one we’re going back to Earth.  This is a little snippet of what to expect. (I’ll try and post some more across social media leading up to the release.)

In this scene, Sven meets one of the medics from the hospital in Stalear to find out what happened to the 112 people who were left behind:

           She sat quietly for a moment but she still fidgeted with her coat and the edge of the table. When she looked up, some of the wariness had returned to her face. “Look, I’ve been well paid to keep my mouth shut and stay out of this mess. I have everything I need here. I won’t pretend that life is good because when you’ve seen what I have, you can’t live a normal life again. But it’s my life and it’s all I have. I’m starting to think this might have been a mistake.”

        “You keep saying that you want to talk about it. What will it take? I don’t have money. I told you everything I know about the abandonment and about your friends. You’re the one who agreed to this meeting. You contacted me. I’m here and listening.”

        She slumped back down but finally nodded. “Fine. What do you want to know?”

        “Everything you can tell me about the abandonment.”

She sat up straighter, glanced around the room, and rubbed her arms as if she were cold.     “Cameras?”

        “No. I randomly chose the room and did not take the first one they offered. I came here immediately. I will record your story on audio and take a couple of notes but there’s nothing secret. My datapad has a filter so no one can pick up the signal and the recording will be encrypted. This is as safe as I can make it and I’ve done it before. Are you willing?”

        “What do you know?”

Sven watched her for a minute. She was stalling and he couldn’t figure out what it was going to take. Everyone else had been willing to spill everything they knew from the second they came in. Maybe she would be more willing to talk to Nadine? Or was he just trying to get out of doing it alone?

        “Okay, this is how it works, Claire. You know you want to tell me everything. You can drag this out as long as you want but I can promise you, it’s never going to get any easier to live with until it’s out there.”

        “You can’t know that.”

        “You’re right. But I do know that’s what everyone else told me.” He gave her a moment. “Are you ready?” He was pushing her but he was so close to getting her story and to knowing what happened that he didn’t want to let it go.

        “You know what was left behind, don’t you?”

        “Yes.”

        “God, I hope we all rot in hell for this.” She took a deep, ragged breath, leaned forward to rest her arms on the table and began to speak slowly.

*

I’ve been working really hard on “Julianne” and I’m really excited about the progress I’m making.  I’ll try and share a little more of that project as it comes together. (I’m just past halfway to the finish.)  Plus, in September or October, you can look forward to the conclusion of Nadine’s story in “A Family Affair.”

There will also be at least two more titles coming in 2019.  More on those once I survive these.

Ottawa people – Stay tuned for news of a book launch in April.  As soon as I know more, I’ll let you know.

Newfoundland folks – I plan to be in your province in May.  I’ll arrange an event* to celebrate the first two books if there’s interest.

So now the ball is in your court.  If you want an event, let me know through email, facebook or twitter.  I want to hear from you lovely folks!

 

*Readings, Q&A period and anything else I can manage.

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Let’s Talk about Place!

Describing the setting of any of my works is my own private hell.  I have a movie in my head and I can see where my people are and what’s going on there.  The most important part is the characters so why do I need to describe where they are.  After all, my readers are “watching” the same movie, aren’t they?

Yes, you’ve got it.  Unless everyone woke up this morning with telepathy and no one told me, there’s a hitch in my theory.  Psst, the secret is, no one else is seeing the movie and without some basic structure I’ve left people hanging in a grey void.  Trust me, they don’t like it out there.  I’ve tried dragging some of them out and paid the price.  So many tiny bits of story that have characters shaking their heads, saying no, this doesn’t float for us.

But how do I find the happy medium?  I don’t want to get so caught up in description that I lose the point, the plot, the people…hell, my readers.  (Don’t worry, I’ve expanded into a painful minimalism there.  I don’t run the risk of being the next Tolkien.)  Not to disparage him of course.  I enjoy his work immensely.  It’s just not my style and I’m sure mine would not have been his…

Okay, I wandered off in a tangent as I do when writing these things.  Where were my notes, otherwise known as the first draft?  I still struggle with making sure that some of my vision of place comes through.  When I write stories based on Earth, it’s okay to say “it took place in Grenada in 1892” because people can image search Grenada and think, oh okay, I get some of it now.  Then I only need to describe the house, the people, a small world.  With the Mars trilogy, it’s a big world.  Not just the one that Nadine lived in but also Sven.  The one where people like Anna had a place and Karl, a history, before we met them.  Yeah, it got big and thinking about trying to do that again is scary as hell.  So, if you have a little bit of world building fear or maybe setting paranoia, read on and I’ll do my best to give you some ideas to chew over.

Remember when I said that you needed to make sure the character was real before you started writing them?  The place is the same and everyone is going to do it slightly differently.  Maybe you’ve decided to skip the character building until you have a place to put them in.  That’s totally fine and I’ve known others who followed that path.

An Expensive Retreat started out as a short story and then several short stories, all taking place in the same town with the same struggles.  I even draw a map for myself, so far the only one I created.  It was really poorly done and I don’t think anyone ever needs to see it.  After all, it was only for me.  I drew bad pictures of houses while I wrote the novel, imagined streets, tried to smell what they would.  I tried to go to Mars in my imagination.  And then in the second novel, I sent myself back to Earth.  But not an Earth I recognize, another foreign place that I had to build to some extent.

Use your senses.  It was hot on Mars, a dry heat that seeps through your clothes, your skin and warms your very bones.  I’ve felt heat like that sometimes although I’m definitely a northern climate kind of person.  I used it though.  I’ve stood on the sidewalks of big cities and had to breathe in the dank air, the humidity and the smell of people, of things long abandoned and food lost to memory.  I’ve taken in the worst of those and I gave them to Sven, to Nadine to experience.  They made my world real.  The whistle of endless wind on Mars, an echo of that from the east coast.  The taste of dry bread and crisp apples, my own experiences too.  The hardest one for me was touch.  The feeling of fabric against her face when Nadine rests her head against Sven’s shoulder.  Those sorts of things could be replicated.  But I am not my characters.  I’m not going to react to them in the same way.

So, figure out what it smells like in your place.  Eat the food and listen to the birds or the flying cars or the carnivorous slugs.  What colours are things?  Does everyone share the same sensory experience or does that change?  The world is yours to build, to create, even in the current world, to offer.  Make sure your people fit.

I write things down because it makes it easier for me.  Whether you describe something on paper, digitally or inside of a memory, just make sure it’s real.

More to Come

In November, I had the great pleasure to meet Charles de Lint for the second time (If you don’t know who he is, drop everything and head over to http://www.facebook.com/Charles-de-Lint)  (Trust me, it’s worth it).  This was a book sale and the audience was slow.  In a period of quiet, he spoke at length with me and gave me some wonderful advice.  While I haven’t taken all of the steps he suggested, one of the things he mentioned was about having a larger library of books available.  For some of you who may not know me personally, I do have a number of completed novels under my belt and I continue to write.  So, is it possible to offer you more choices?  Yes.

With this in mind, in 2018, I will release three more titles.  For those of you enamoured of my Pure Red Sand series set on Mars, this is very good news.  This speculative fiction trilogy will be complete by the end of this year.  Look for the second book, Uncomfortable Truths, to be released in the spring.  By fall, the third book, A Family Affair will bring a conclusion to Nadine and Sven’s story (Of sorts.  More on that later).  By the end of the year (and especially for those who are not big fans of speculative fiction), I will be releasing Julianne.  A historical fiction novel set on the island of Grenada in 1892; it’s a love story and an exploration of sanity in the Victorian period.

In the meantime, send me your questions, your opinions and your thoughts.  I don’t write in a vacuum and I love to talk about the process.  For anyone looking for some thoughts on writing a novel, continue to check out the blog.  I’ll talk to you soon!

Down the Rabbit Hole

I watched a documentary, on youtube (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CnF6Wej3YO8&t=117s), recently about the origins of romance in Britain.  While I put this on as a background to chores I was completing, I found the topic interesting, especially where it was related to books, novels, to the story (ie. pre 1920ish).  From their perspective, society learned about romantic love through the stories they read en masse.

It’s not the first time I’ve thought about or written about the power of the story but it was an interesting new take on it.  If we can change society (at whatever pace), that’s a heavy weight to bear.  I am definitely not suggesting that I can or that anyone else will.  But art does have an influence.  I don’t see it as a responsibility or a duty though.  Perhaps more of an opportunity.  Charles de Lint said “all endeavour is art when rendered with conviction” (1996/1999).  We can make artistic gestures out of our everyday (consider the Japanese tea ceremony versus pouring a cup of tea).  So this is not just for people who consider themselves artists, but maybe for everyone to be aware when we create.  Everything we put out there is a manifestation of ourselves, of our lives and of the material we take in.  Sometimes I refer to taking in too much as ‘over stimulation’ and that I need to take time to assimilate it (just how I work).  In a way, it’s an awareness of our every action in the present.

Well, that went down a rabbit hole, now didn’t it?  Hopefully you’re all still with me here.

I want to make sure that I continue to create.  Not just because I don’t believe I have a say in the matter.  But perhaps because I want to.  Because I want to share the stories with you.  I think, deep down under my neurotic self-doubt, that they’re worth reading.  If I can get caught up during editing and wonder what will happen next, maybe I can keep your attention for a while.  Maybe until the end of the story…

 

NEWS:

If you’re in the Ottawa area, I will have a table at the Ottawa Small Press Book Fair (http://smallpressbookfair.blogspot.ca) on November 25.  If you’re in the area, please drop by.  There will be a good crowd of publishers, authors and bookmakers to meet.  Plus, admission is free!

A Bad Case of “Then What Happened?”

Have you ever read a book that was so good, it was like a drug?  That you’ve found yourself doing chores one handed so you can keep reading.  Putting the book down just before going out the door and with deep reluctance?  I love those stories and when they’re that good, I feel like you can go back multiple times and the magic will still be there.

As requested after my last blog post, a little sample of some of my work.  This is the opening to a small series of interconnected short stories called “It was Supposed to be a Dream.”  They’re currently published as a chapbook, volume 1 in “The Collected Words.”

I remember the night I first met him.  It was so late and I was closing out the coffee shop.  I remember being weirded out by the feelings I got off him.  I normally get nothing off the living because they didn’t need me until after death.  But he felt empty.  The kind of empty that is an endless pit compared to normal puddles.  I didn’t say anything although he looked at me strangely.  I brought the young couple in front of him some pie.  She was one of the self-proclaimed wiccans of the town and he was a straitlaced youth.  I felt bad for her because I could tell he was in it for the kicks.  She was loudly explaining how there was more to the world than we know.  So I tried to do the right thing and support her.

“You have no idea,” I offered.

“This is a private conversation,” she responded coldly so I backed off.  Maybe she was more in tune than I gave her credit for, maybe she saw what I was trying to hide.  Maybe she didn’t want me honing in on her date.  Life gets complicated no matter which way you walk.  I just remember how Michael turned suddenly at my comment and the eyes behind his sunglasses seemed to drill into my back as I returned to the counter.  He followed me there, standing in all his cold, empty glory.

“You can see them, can’t you?” he asked hoarsely.

I didn’t know how he knew but I just agreed.

“Good.  I need your help.”

Language Lessons

“I will not dismiss her care based on your erroneous decisions.”

Sometimes I wonder about language and readership, especially when writing pieces that don’t take place in the modern period.  I find it easier to write for the future even though I have no doubt we won’t be using the profanity of today.  But I think that’s something that can be overlooked.  My work focuses on people.  On the nearly impossible situations I can put them in and how they react to it.  So while my terms and language of science fiction might become obsolete, I hope the characters/people will continue to carry the story.

That brings me to historical periods.  In between spending time on Mars (new book in the works) and Terran B (another new project), I’ve been working on a historical fiction novel.

I read a lot of classical books, some of them over and over.  As one friend recently pointed out, my everyday language can come across as rather old-fashioned at times.  I’m good with that.  So I think I do a fair job of using the correct language for the time period and the class of person I’m writing about.  But here’s where I get confused.  Is it too old fashioned?  I doubt this current book will have the same appeal as the Pure Red Sand trilogy.  I can see it more as appealing to a niche market.  I want to make it accessible to everyone though, not having anyone alienated by a turn of phrase.  At the same time, I am bound as a writer, to the truth of the story.  So I continue to use obsolete language and to worry of losing touch even as they characters are formed with each line of text.  Dear readers, I hope you’ll follow me in.

 

P.S. My long silences are generally associated with wondering what I could put here.  What would people like to read?  Would you like to see excerpts of work?  More information about current projects?  Please post in the comments and help me make this a more relevant and enjoyable place to visit.

A Prologue or An Invitation

For you lovely readers and those of you taking a peek, this is the NEW prologue for Pure Red Sand: An Expensive Retreat.  Enjoy!

Prologue

Goosebumps were apparent on the woman’s arms even though it was hot outside. The man across from her stared, his hard eyes buried in the traces of excess. The suit strained a button or two but he didn’t move.

“Mrs. Cloutier, you must understand that your husband is gone. He’s not coming back.”

“I never thought any different.”

The seat creaked as he sighed and readjusted himself. “Then why are you still here? You were booked to leave yesterday on the main flight. We’ve paid up your salary. I don’t understand the problem.”

“I do a good job here. I clean the school every night and I do the board office on Mondays. You need me.”

He stood, walked to the window before him and stared out at the Martian landscape. Not many people moved in the square below. Those that did were marked by the noonday heat. Finally, he turned back to the woman. “Mrs. Cloutier, you know we can replace you. There are any number of people looking for employment here. Cleaners are very easy to come by. It’s time you went back to Earth.” That decided, he settled back down in his chair and pulled up the departure schedule. “I can get you on a flight tomorrow.”

“I need to offer you something to make it worthwhile to keep me.” Her terse voice sounded off in the decadent surroundings.

“Mrs. Cloutier, you’ve lived here almost eight years. We own just about everything you have here. There’s nothing you can offer us.”

“You don’t own everything. There’s Nadine.”

“Your daughter? She’s seven years old. We don’t take workers that young for the mine. You know that.”

“Don’t be daft,” she snapped, almost secure now. “In ten years, she’ll be old enough to train. Educate her on Earth and I’ll make sure she comes back here to work. You need medics.”

Silence stretched in the room as he considered her offer. “What kind of guarantee do we have?”

“You control the ships off this planet. Give it some thought.” An almost smile brushed her lips. He was hers now.

“How do we know you won’t change your mind?”

“I won’t.”

The slow years to come ground down on that decision until she was left with empty hands and a choice that became a prison.

 

For the rest of it, you’ll have to pick up the book!