Sunday, October 25, 2009


Everyone knows the old adage, "write what you know". My characters are nomads. Most of them haven't lived in a place longer than five years, and most view homes are transitory places of abode. One is just the same as the next. Their attachments are to people not houses. Nea takes that to the next level by not residing anywhere.

I'm not quite that bad but I did grow up on the move. Military families are like that. One never knows when marching orders will come in or where they are sending you. Apart from family and prized possessions, it's a new life every few years.

I'm not only third generation Canadian but my great-grandparents weren't exactly stationary back in Scotland either. My paternal great-grandmother moved every few years as well. The only two siblings who were born in the same village as each other were the twins. Given that great great Grandpa Campbell married a MacDonald may account for some of that moving. But for the most part, I think I just came from people with a low boredom threshold. Both maternal and paternal grandparents changed residences several times in their lifetimes.

As much as I love this area of Niagara, as much as I consider it home and always have (most of my paternal family settled in and around here) we're not exactly well known in the community. We can't trace our lineage back to the founding of the town.

My Dad's cousin's family settled here a little more solidly than our branch. They owned and operated a butcher shop on the main street that it seems like half the town worked for at one point or another in their life. They were support beams, not pillars, for the church. The minister went so far as to call my Aunt Marg a saint the other day at her funeral. Their roots were firmly settled into the ground here. When someone expressed surprise the other day that I was related to them, that they were my people, I felt this clutch in my belly. I was able to see my context in the web of this small town. It was both unfamiliar and welcome.

In that moment, I truly understood what is missing from Nea's life. What few tenuous connections she does have to people and places have all been torn from her. I'm not writing what I know but rather what I thought I knew. What a relief. Who wants to live like a rejected demon?

Sunday, October 18, 2009


I was remiss with a post last week because I was enjoying good friends and great conversation on Stingray Point in Virgina. I'm so used to Internet connections all over the place that I didn't prewrite my post to automatically publish on Sunday. I just assumed (always dangerous) that I could post from the cottage.

While I was away, I did absolutely no writing, not a single word scribbled down, despite the ever present Casey journal and a stack of paper in the living room. What I did was listen to my friends talk about books. There was literally a two hour discussion of a Linda Howard book that her avid fans didn't enjoy. They analyzed what they liked and didn't, why they forgave her that one book and made allowances for trigger points that the author knew nothing about. Those readers have a strong connection to that author's work. They enjoy not only her characters and storylines but her writing style as well.

Robin Sorrentino is a brilliant storyteller. Sitting in a circle of Adirondack chairs and listening to her describe the next project, George's Book, was so much fun. She pointed out the island across the way which served as inspirtation, used her entire body to describe his journey and made us laugh with all of her research questions. We might not all be agile enough to hide out in the trunk of a car but we'd all fit. Just not all at the same time.

It was fascinating to listen to everyone share their love for reading; for good books and excellent story-telling. At any given time over the weekend you could enter any room of the cottage and see someone reading. There were even a few occasions when one person would be reading aloud to others.

As a writer, stuck alone in the attic with only your characters for company, it's easy to lose track of your audience. We get so focused on the words on the page, on making a particular scene shine or another scene come to vivid heart-stopping life, that we lose sight of who we're bleeding on the page for.

It's one thing to write for yourself; and honestly I'm my first reader, I need to feel/enjoy/engage with my project. In order to be a successful author, the connections have to radiate across the sky to bathe a multitude of readers in the warm glow.

That awareness came home with me. I was able to keep an open mind when Kate, my brilliant critique partner, told me how difficult it was to connect with Nea. Demons by their very nature are not sympathetic creatures. Understanding what made her so nasty might make it easier for the Reader to go on this journey with her. So the prologue is written.

Casey is so darn easy to connect with that his story naturally flows. As his journey is ongoing, the challenge will be knowing when to stop writing and just continue to live with him.

Sunday, October 04, 2009


I'm sitting upstairs at my desk, listening to Ky barking his head off (what a visual) at the apartment door. Casey had raced up the stairs and had his head poking through the cat door. He has a strong need to be acknowledged by me first thing every morning.

Right now I can hear him playing downstairs in my parents' living room. He has this funny step-clump stride that comes from the brace hitting the floor. The only time he is silent is when the brace is off. I can hear him pounce on his toys, the crash of the bookcase when he flings his stuffed bear into it and the step-clump bounce move that he does when he's playing ball.

My dad claims he likes to balance his earth-shaped Planet Dog ball on top of the Pilates ball. I've never seen it myself but nothing would surprise me where Casey is concerned.

I mention all this because it's an interesting back drop of sound while I work on the first draft of his story. Unlike my other work, this one is ongoing. Even when I'm not at the computer recording Casey's progress we're living the book. It's happening right now as I type. Sometimes I have to stop writing and go experience it.

When I listen to him play, or watch him leap across the room onto Ky or hear the distinct step-clump on the wooden stairs outside my door I'm reminded that Casey's story isn't just about the medical. It's about what it means to live with him. Day in, day out, through frustration and triumph, he's a blur of energy and exuberance. All he cares about is playing with his pack, getting his belly rubbed or leaning on his people. Figuratively and literally.

Step-clump. Step-clump. Step-clumpstep-clumpstep-clump. This is the soundtrack for his book.