Thursday, March 27, 2008


I went out for a bite and a pint with some friends the other night. We had all needed a break from reality and shared a few laughs about the turns our lives have taken lately. It was nice to introduce friends I've known for many years to someone I've known for a shorter period of time.

We all share an interest in birds of prey. Many years ago, the one friend and I belonged to a raptor rehab center. I have tons of books on how to properly care for and subsequently release injured birds of prey. Unfortunately the group disbanded over politics before I was able to actually nurse a raptor back to health but not before I was able to learn plenty on the subject. I didn't get my rehab license at the time but am looking back into that certification.

The more recently acquired friend is interested in falconry. We shared our experiences with her. Training with lures. Feeding. Teaching an injured eagle how to fly. I used to be friends with a man who trained birds of prey and helped him on occasion. It was exhilarating.

There's something about watching those creatures hunt that is both graceful and noble. Yet it's also violent. I'll spare you the details but it's not a clean kill. It's brutal and messy. But it is often swift.

That made me think about Nea's relationship with her wings. She cherishes them because they are a symbol of her demon status. They carry her with speed and efficiency towards destruction. They also lift her high above the trees. Demons are violent nasty creatures; the antithesis of everything her wings grant her. Freedom, beauty and speed.

Like a falcon spiraling out of the sky, Nea dives on Alex and twists her talons in his soul. Swift. Brutal. Elegant.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Will Write for Wine

This isn't the first time I've mentioned Will Write for Wine. It probably won't be the last. I was out running my darling dog along the canal in an effort to dissipate the sugar buzz. I was also trying to catch up on all the podcasts I've downloaded over the last few months. One of the reasons I get so far behind is the writing frenzy that Lani Diane Rich and Samantha Graves inspire.

I listened to an episode about Dialogue and watched the tugboats breaking up the ice in the canal. I also threw a stick for the dog. I was laughing at all three when Lani said,"Everyone lies." That stopped me cold in my tracks.

I'm in the midst of a scene where Alex is making some conclusions about his own redemption. And it occurred to me how much stronger this scene, and the rest of the book, will be if he's lying to himself about his motivation. He's being both selfish and noble but mixing up which belongs to what action.

I'm excited, and have to go write. I'll probably be late with the next blog if all goes according to plan. Bwahaha. Like that ever happens. Poor Alex.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Alex Across the Universe

My friend came over last night to work on her essay about Across the Universe. Someone had stepped on her laptop so she used mine. I also own the movie so we watched it 5 times in 24 hours. As of this afternoon I still wasn't sick of it. Odd considering each viewing was consecutive.

The most interesting aspect of the entire experience was how much I wrote. A little friendly rivalry kicked into gear. I grabbed pen and paper and just wrote everything that came to mind. I started with the end of one scene and notes for the next. Every tap of the keys drove me to match her word for word with ink. Scratch, sing, tap. Scratch, sing, tap. So our night went.

The Beatles are not on my playlist for Alex. He's more of a nature tape kinda guy. But knowing someone else is writing beside me gets the juices flowing every time. Hmmm, I wonder where Alex gets his competitive spirit from...

It was fun, productive and created some good stuff. A writer's retreat would get this sucker finished in no time. Just saying...

Monday, March 17, 2008


Melancholy. It's an interesting word. The last four letters spell holy and at the risk of sounding sacrilegious that's almost how I feel right now. Reverent.

During Holy Week I'm attending two memorial services. It's made me reflective about how we live our lives. Most of us go about our business, make homes for our families, provide for them, share experiences with good friends and move on with little awareness of how much we touch each other.

A man came into the store the other day and told me that I never fail to brighten his day. You'd think I would have been less surprised given that I'd just written about the importance of a positive outlook over at the CB Bar and Grill. He's been depressed for some time. I had no idea. He comes in. We talk about animals, great books and tell each other a few jokes. Then we go our separate ways, both carrying that good humour through the rest our day.

Some times the way people touch us is more subtle. Write off the Deep End is a writing group that formed when Brian Henry wrote my phone number on the blackboard at a writing course he was teaching. I was the only volunteer to host a group. Kate and I have looked back plenty over the years in amazement that we so naively gathered other writers (including each other) towards us that day.

I'm not sure of the evolution from there. We met more people at other writing courses and our information was circulated in the Niagara region. Tom Torrance taught romance, poetry and writing for children(all separately, of course) at Niagara College during that time. While I never took any of his classes other members of WODE did. As we tended to pool our resources, I heard "In Tom's class, we..." a lot. He was a great influence on all of us. Brenda Harlen credits him with a good portion of her success with Harlequin.

I didn't know him well. He was my parent's neighbour for several years. He frequented the library where I work. He came to book signings. He always smiled, said a few words in his soft voice and let the action flow around him.

He was a quiet man. A gentle man. The kind of person your glance bounces off in its quest for stimulation. But his words carried weight and his message had power. I look at all the people whose lives he touched, all the writers to whom he gave confidence in their abilities and I am awed.

In one of those serendipitous moments I love, I just finished reading a book this morning. I almost turned away from it in the beginning because the prose was literary, slow moving and lyrical with it's gentle images. Yet the more I read, the more I enjoyed the slower journey full of profound observations that I would have lost in a faster paced book. The end left me pensive and pondering the final paragraph. The main character says the need we have to put words on a page is the way in which we grasp hold of meaning in every day tasks. She suggests it is a way to hold onto our memories.

It may be my interpretation but I think writing is the way so many of us find meaning in our interactions, our communications, in our lives. As writers we are allowed, even encouraged, to ponder all the connections we make in daily tasks and assign meaning to each. As writers we record all that happens around us. We make sense out of chaos, and order.

Sometimes we merely observe. Sometimes we extrapolate from those observations. Through our writing we share bits of ourselves. Bits that have an effect on someone else, bits that alter their reality or thinking, bits that float across miles to land in another's conscious when they most need to see another perspective.

Few of us know how long-lasting or far-reaching our interactions have on our family, friends, co-workers, strangers, students and teachers. Memorials are an opportunity to share that person's significance in our lives with those who love them. The two people whose memorials I attend this week were fortunate enough to know, through words and actions, the myriad of ways in which they had touched the lives of others.

Sometimes melancholy can lead to bright memories. Thank you all for reading, and inspiring me to reach for meaning in the mundane and the magical.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008


I went through some boxes of old paper this weekend. Not only am I doing my annual search for tax paperwork, receipts and such, I'm also sorting and shredding things that have outlasted their usefulness. For some reason I cannot bring myself to shred a sketch an ex-boyfriend made of a thermostat for a car that went to the wrecker twenty years ago. It makes me smile every time I look at it.

Among other such memories I found notebooks, binders and sheafs of paper with several story ideas, outlines and even scenes. Some are good, some not so much. But they all had one thing in common. The hero's name was Alex. He's been dark, fair;lean, stocky;tall, average;a firefighter, medieval knight, and electician(not sure what the last one was about).

In his current incarnation as an extreme sports athlete, he's been around for twelve years. I knew where we were going together and how we were getting there but could never find a strong enough companion for that journey. So I sent him to Tibet while I gave his original storyline to his sister(that was Kate's Idea and it took me six months to accept it).

I wrote several other books in the meantime. Now that I had Alex's identity solidly implanted in my subconscious those heroes were able to form with different names and their own solid identities. Alex wandered through Indonesia and Australia with brief jaunts home to see if I was ready for him. When I started his sister's story in earnest, he went to South America. Who knew he would connect to Belize so thoroughly? Certainly not I.

The character has been rolling around in my head in one form or another for fifteen years and I'm still learning about him. Some of it is fascinating stuff. Some of the little details don't amount to much until you put them all together. He's so much tougher,versatile and resilient than I ever could have imagined. And funny. His sense of humour is a little bent.

He's larger-than-life, contained to a larger-than-life home at the head of a powerful natural wonder. He's sparring with a demon(also Kate's Idea that took some time to accept)for his soul. Yet he's as trapped as anyone has ever been, even if the cage is immense.

He had an epiphany yesterday. While I knew the first part of the book involved unAlex-like behaviour I didn't realize how it was possible for him to change so drastically. I thought it was the demon's fault. Alex says otherwise.

After all these years, I'm still enjoying the revelations. Perhaps that's why I'm not working too hard to finish the book. It will be hard to let him go.

Fortunately, other heroes await. There's that old ghost story whose memory was triggered by Gerard Butler. That's on an old floppy disk, as well as in a binder. But you know I remember more of that story and that hero every day.

Meanwhile Bracken grows.

Monday, March 10, 2008


As writers, we tend to live in our subconscious more than most people. We create characters, situations, worlds and realities that must feel real or the reader won't be engaged. Not only will they toss the book against the wall, they'll tell all their friends how ridiculous it was.

This leads to the need for some solid research. I've never been to Belize nor run white water in a raft(or any other conveyance for that matter). Travel books, tourism boards and the wide world of google help to capture the feel of the tropical country. YouTube has some fascinating video of amazing river runs that I've previously shared with you. I draw on those resources a fair amount when I'm writing.

There's a pivotal scene with Alex and another character going over a waterfalls in a kayak. Racing off the edge of the earth to plunge 200 feet. Exhilerating stuff. Terrifying and something I feel confident describing despite the fact that I've never been in a kayak.

Every Spring for the past 16 years, I've dreamt about going over Niagara Falls, without a barrel. I swim, sweep or flail my way over the edge. My breathing changes, adrenaline floods my bloodstream and euphoria and terror dominate my senses. I am never injured but I am always aware how precarious my survival is. There are a variety of reasons for this recurring dream but the one that interests me most for this blog is the way I can use that experience to give this scene a sense of truth. Even though my feet stay firmly planted on the ground whenever I go to Niagara Falls, I can recreate that feeling with a high level of accuracy. Because I've dreamt it so often.

Which brings me to the recurring dream from the last post. I have this ongoing relationship with a NASCAR driver because I write romance and need some stuff to drawn on. My subconscious likely chose him because we've met a few times, I'd done all that research on him for the game and wandered through his hometown. It perceives him as familiar. The relationship isn't real so I can poach from it all I want for writing purposes.

The subconscious is the best tool in a writer's toolkit. It isn't bound by physical limitations or conventional thinking. It has a symbiotic relationship with the imagination. They fuel each other.

And save me a plane ticket to Belize.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008


This blog used to be all writing all the time. Then I headed into Gerard Butler world and have seen him in everything I write. There is a definite connection between that actor and a story I wrote many years ago. The odd thing is that old manuscript was based on a dream I had about a different actor, Jon Erik Hexum, the night before he died. The two men have no obvious connection other than the one my brain has made.

Over the years I've learned to pay attention to my subconscious, even when I don't have a clue what it's trying to tell me.

There's a NASCAR driver who raced to the front of the pack in many of my dreams a few years ago. Entire lifetimes together, including the occasional scrape against the wall, occupy my nights. During the daytime I'm mystified. I'm a fan of the man's driving and competitive confidence but hook up with him? I think we'd take each other out on pit road. I have to admit how strange it was to spend a good chunk of time last year in his hometown visiting with a real life, non-celebrity man. I was terrified we'd run into the driver and I'd end up saying something that sounded stalkerish.

I'm aware of that line between fantasy and reality, truly I am, but spending so much time with someone in that subconscious state lends a false sense of familiarity. It doesn't help that I spent a fair amount of time researching him for a game on which I worked a couple of years ago. It's that very essence of fact underlying all the fiction that could easily make me sound unhinged.

As a writer, I weave fantasy and reality together in a seamless blend of entertainment. Regardless of whether the book is plot or story driven; character is what engages the reader. These men are interesting characters to me. They aren't real. I don't know them. But there are elements to each of them that compel me to revisit the connections time and again.

It's that sense of the familiar that comes from perceived connections. Whether it's the dreams, the hometown or mutual acquaintances that give me that idea of being connected, the truth is irrelevant. There are times when I have to stop for a moment and think about whether I actually had that conversation - despite the fact that we haven't met.

Maybe I'm losing my mind. Or maybe I'm letting my imagination run with all the scenarios and possibilities so that I can write the most complete, real and flawed characters I can.

What do you think?

Sunday, March 02, 2008

A good read

I fell into a book this morning and it wasn't my own. It was The Footprints of God by Greg Iles. I try to avoid his writing when I'm under the gun because he sucks me in so completely. It's a combination of characters, story and writing style.

Like Susan Wiggs, Iles is difficult for me to dissect. I've tried analyzing both authors in an attempt to understand what drives me to keep reading long past logic dictates I should. It would be much wiser to shut off the light, get some sleep or finish my own writing. Instead I fall into a fictional world that engages all of my senses. I suspend disbelief for the hours it takes to work my way through to the end. In the case of Iles' work, I'm usually exhausted at the end. Yet satisfied.

That satisfaction is what keeps me plugging away at my own manuscript. I want readers to put my book down at the end of a wild ride with fascinating characters and feel like it was worth the investment of their valuable time. That, and the hope that some day Gerard Butler will star as one of my heroes in the film version of that book. Dreams are good. They're an essential element in creating a satisfying book.

How do you classify a good read?