Sunday, July 25, 2010

Even when it isn't, it's always about writing

I've read a few blogs lately that suggest writing blogs can't be about writing forever. There's only so much you can say about writing; readers don't want to hear about the process; it takes away from creating the book about which you're blogging.

I disagree for several reasons. This blog has been invaluable in helping me clarify plot points, characterization or meet deadlines.  I receive plenty of emails about how sharing that process has encouraged readers to keep coming back (think special features on the the DVD) But the main reason I think writers can blog about writing indefinitely is that no matter what we're talking about, it's writing related.

We're writers. Everything in our life is filed away for future use. That doesn't mean that I mentally record every conversation or confidence so that I can plagiarize your life.  I notice the body language that accompanies those confidences. I remember the cadence of your voice.  I notice how weather, colours, food, music and scents evoke certain responses in different people. I listen.

When I'm out walking Ky or doing Casey's exercises, or swimming with the kids or exploring the gorge, my brain sorts through plot ideas.  A perfect day with Stashaholic bred a book.  I've put that project aside but it's interesting how many times a day I think of something to add to the ever expanding notebook I have for that particular book.

Writing takes place in our minds.  We take our consciousness with us everywhere we go throughout our day.  It's an essential requirement for all of our interactions. We can't get away from our own thoughts. Therefore no matter what I discuss on this blog, you can be sure in some way shape or form, it's related to my writing process.

Random posting about friends visiting from out of town - how do my characters interact with their communities? Do they hide from friends and coworkers, preferring to keep to their own company? Why? Are they gregarious, the life of the party, trying to drown out the screams of lonliness?

Random post about Yoda the Quaker Parakeet - do the characters have pets? Do they work with exotic animals? Do they empathize with the caged bird who refuses to come through the open door? Are they afraid to take control of their life?

Little of those thoughts end up spelled out so clearly in my final projects but they are all part of the process. Of course I steal from my own life when possible - Heal, Casey is an excellent case in point - but I also have a wicked imagination.  My brain takes a little bit of this,(a photgraph taken by a friend) mixes it with a dash of that (a lifetime of listening to Scottish mythology), adds a soupcon of spice(the light and shadows in the photograph)  and voila nymphs and demons in a pivotal scene from Hell to Pay.  I grew up believing in nymphs, fairies, little people and magic. It didn't take much for me to extrapolate a story out of all that.

My blog will always be about writing - even when it reads like rambling about the weather (HOT! and HUMID) this summer, a review for BB's Robin Hood or junk drawers


Sunday, July 18, 2010

Writer insecurity

I finished Heal Casey this week and it's out to readers. 
My stomach is queasy and I think every single word is crap.

That is normal.

The only control writers have over their work is the actual writing of it. After that, there's a score of people who take over; readers, agents, editors, more readers.  It's scary to let go and trust others to recognize the brilliance of your creation. It's scary to pour yourself heart and soul onto the page for the world to read. It's scary to be so exposed and vulnerable knowing that not every word is perfect or golden. Someone somewhere is going to want some of those words changed. How many is my biggest concern.

I don't truly believe I'm a lousy writer. I'm simply nervous. I want to do this story justice and tell it in a way that moves people.

As I was writing this blog, one of my wonderful readers called to tell me how much she loved this book. Yes, it had a few problem areas but nothing that couldn't be easily tweaked.  She cried all the way through the book, even though she knew the story and how it ended. I was able to move her, but what thrilled me most about her call, was that this story, on this day, helped her cope with some serious issues in her own life.

Yet again, Casey heals.

Sunday, July 11, 2010


I'm having some tense trauma.

In the last post you may have noticed that I used past tense all the time I discussed Sir Guy's past experiences. But when I switched to what he was going through in season 3 my tense use switched as well. Past/past present/present.I was aware of it and left it alone on purpose.

But now I'm stuck with Casey's story. Most of it is told in first person, present tense. I'm using journal entries as the basic format. I've filled in the blanks or expounded on ideas, described techniques and therapies in contemporary past tense. I've added photos in this draft as well but that doesn't involve as much hindsight as the narrative asides.

When reviewing it the other day, it read strange with the back and forth of the tenses.; So I switched to present tense for the narrative and used italics for the journal entries. Perhaps, I've read it both ways too often but, neither one feels right. The first chapter is all narrative and past tense so it's possible that's what's throwing me off. It feels wrong to use present tense there as none of us had the understanding and awareness in the beginning that could only come from looking back at the consequences of our actions.

Here are two examples. The first is present/past:

As this was going to be a team effort, and to keep her both aware and involved, I asked Mom to keep a journal of the pup’s progress.His healing was her project, her idea and she’d fought hard to get him to us.I was concerned that she would feel left out once we’d gotten into the practical application of his therapies.Besides, he lived with her. She would be able to record more of his behaviour.

Mom’s Journal September 10/08
Casey joined us on September 9, 2008. He had his first appointment with Dr. Susanne Langdon who did an assessment and an adjustment. Dr. Langdon suggested that we contact Dr. Lisa Burgess, a veterinarian/acupuncturist for treatments which might improve the nerve damage in his leg. There is no feeling below the shoulder and Casey walks on his leg rather than his foot, with the leg bent upward. Moosonee Puppy Rescue’s vets decided the foot was fused backwards but Dr. Langdon says not so. Bones have not developed yet. The walking on his foot is a result of nerve damage to Casey’s leg. Dr. Langdon feels this may be correctable. Good news.

The second example is present/present:
Mom asked about his progress, mentioned Lisa’s prognosis of floppy foot forever. So Susanne brought out her reflex hammer. No real response. Out came the pizza cutter. He was so laid back – until she got to his baby toe (or that’s what it would be on a human foot anyway). The outside toe was sensitive. She ran it over that toe again and again from every angle and direction. It was the only toe to react but she felt the tendon contract every single time. He wasn’t all that aware of it but she said it was HUGE progress. Tomorrow we swim :)

Dad’s primary input into Casey’s therapies comes as the occasional driver, money man or hot tub assistant. The latter means he coaxes Casey out to the garage and the hot tub. Once I’m settled in the water, he hands the struggling pup over the side and into my arms. He also turns on the timer, hits the button for the jets and yells encouragement. Most of the time, he’s telling Casey to swim across Lake Ontario, chase the geese or head for shore. 

So which do you prefer?

Sunday, July 04, 2010

More reasons for good back story

Several years ago, my friend Sage shared her obsession introduced me to the sheer entertainment that is BBC's Robin Hood. We're a year behind over here in North America but we've been buying the complete seasons when they've become available on DVD.  It's good clean fun the entire family can enjoy together.

There have been times when the writers have dropped the ball, or completely rewritten the legend so you never quite know what you're going to get.  Much has been made on the Internet of the Robin/Marian/Sir Guy love triangle.  For some strange reason I was always rooting for the most heinous Sir Guy. Partly, no doubt, because of the brilliant acting and nuances that Richard Armitage brought to the role. Partly, also I think, because there was so much more to Sir Guy in this version than just the Sheriff's lackey.


You may remember my fascination with backstory and all the history behind a person's action. Never was that more evident than in season three as Sir Guy's motivations and life history were revealed. I always suspected he was not all bad, some of his scenes with Marian in season one hinted at his social ineptitude. His obsession with her was at times creepy and others oddly sweet.  He truly loved her.  I knew there had to be a reason that he could so easily twist her kindness towards him as a proclamation of love. Of course, she manipulated his emotions for her own well-being so some of his confusion, and inability to keep up, stemmed from her actions.

Finally, in season three, his past is slowly revealed, a sister returns, the existence of a brother is discovered. All that he thought he knew about himself and the world around him might all be wrong. As we see how past events shaped his decisions, and he experiences the truth of those events, he is faced with decisions about his future.  While he can never atone for all of the lives he took, he can now see how far-reaching and wrong his actions were.  He will never be trusted, his redemption incomplete but he moves forward armed with better information and a desire to if not right some wrongs then at least minimize any future damage. 

Sir Guy was always a tortured and troubled soul. That doesn't change but he no longer subscribed to the life path that misery loves company.  Had his back-story not been revealed, I doubt the viewer would have accepted the changes that took place within him. 

The following video from episode nine is long, fan-made compilation but was the episode in which Guy's transformation solidified.