Musings on the Art of Writing

As a child, I discovered fantastic worlds created in books. When I began writing about the worlds of my own imagination, I realized how hard authors work to set their characters free to live for our enjoyment. This blog will explore that weird and wonderful process.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Tale of Two Books

Never have I had two books on the go at the same time.  This is very weird and it probably means my blogs will not be as frequent.  Lol!

I got caught up in my gaming book this week when I thought about smallpox and wondered how I could get my modern girl, Sarah, vaccinated.  You may or may not know that smallpox was irradicated as a human disease in the 1970s and no one has been vaccinated against it since.  This led to a discussion with my microbiologist hubby who said why not have my character come in contact with cowpox.  Originally, cowpox was the disease used to vaccinate people against smallpox.

Turns out Europe has cowpox among its cattle but North American herds are free of the disease.  How could I get my Canadian girl exposed?  More digging on the internet led to an article written on the natural host of the disease which is rats.  The last outbreak being among a breeding colony in Germany.   Another stumbling block for me because Alberta, where Sarah lives, is rat-free.  But, rats are used in scientific research so I just had to have her meet up with a lab rat.  I wrote the scene yesterday and I think it will work.

I love learning something new when I research my books.  The fact that rats are the host for cowpox was a gem of information that not even my hubby knew.

So it's back to the books--literally.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

New Project

I began a new project last week.  Years ago, my sister, a psychic, did a reading for me using rune stones.  I was working on the Sceptre of Terran-Gayle at the time but her guide suggested I should write a cookbook.  It was a neat idea.  I began collecting recipes and changing them to suit my tastes.  Every recipe book has a theme and I considered and rejected many.   I had thought of a book based on characters from my books (Geri's Bread, Jarvis' Stew), then thought perhaps I could do food for college students.  I even bandied about the idea that the recipes could revolve around my favourite fantasy creatures--dragons.  Nothing seemed to click.

Last week, I created a new letterbox which required buying red duct tape and that's when a character came to life.  I had the recipes to suit this individual but I decided I needed to get to know him better before I began assembling the recipes.  I gave him a Twitter account and we'll see how he runs with that.

Also on my mind is my aboriginal novel.  My hubby promised to read White Crane and give me his critique.  I had the proof copy printed in June and have been waiting for him to finish A Game of Thrones.  He is a slow reader.  He flew to Toronto this weekend for a wedding so I slipped my book into his bag.  He's read the first two chapters and has already decided he hates the word 'roiling'.  I guess I'll have to find some other word to say what I mean.  He thinks it's an archaic word and should never be used.  Of course, it appears in crossword puzzles all the time.

Definition of roil:

1. (tr) to make (a liquid) cloudy or turbid by stirring up dregs or sediment
2. (intr) (esp of a liquid) to be agitated or disturbed
3. (intr) Dialect to be noisy or boisterous

Monday, August 20, 2012

Best Laid Plans

I just read On the Brink of Summer and realized summer is almost gone and I have yet to begin Sarah.  I had hoped my muse, which seems to flourish in Victoria, would visit me there but I just couldn't get inspired.  Read my travel blog, A Brief Moment in Time, to see what occupied my time.

It's seems ironic my last post was written on my grandson's final day of school and this one on their first day back.  I'd like to say the nip of fall is in the air but we're still enjoying balmy days and warm nights.  The hills surrounding me are green, such an unusual colour in southern Alberta at this time of year.  I hope that come September, I'll feel the revitalization of a new season and inspiration will strike.

I know my problem.  There is a scene which I must write but my vision of it keeps changing.  My two main characters meet my two secondary characters.  These guys are Chinese and I want them to sound authentic when they interact with Sarah.  I've done some research with a Chinese Canadian girl who has helped me understand the culture of the community but I'm not sure if what I know will translate when these two boys begin to talk.  It's a road block I must overcome before I move on to the next phase of the tale which is where the magic begins.  Sigh.  Work before play.

Have I learned anything this summer which will help?  Perhaps, as you never know what you will eventually use in your writing.  So far this summer, I

  • got caught up in a spider-web infested rain forest.
  • saw mist rolling over hills and farmland
  • learn to knit a cipher like Madame Defarge in Tale of Two Cities
  • enjoyed dim sum and photographed the meal for the first time
  • learned how to make fried rice
  • gained insight into the dynamics of a small town's economy
  • saw some weird mushrooms
  • saw lots of wildlife including black bears, elk, mountain sheep, black oystercatchers, herons, gulls, osprey, bald eagles, cooper's hawks, swainson's hawks, gold mantled ground squirrels, marmots, deer
  • met some interesting people while golfing
  • was named player of the week by my World of Warcraft guild (not sure how that will help but Sarah is a game-based story)
  • witnessed an early morning sailing on the ferry
  • enjoyed a busy market day on Salt Spring Island
Will any of these experiences be used--most definitely for fantasy fiction must be based in reality.  The trick is to lure readers into believing in your characters before they use something as unreal as magic.  You do that by making them and your setting familiar.  Sarah is set in Canada in 2012 and she is a typical teen.  Magic happens and her life is changed.  The theme isn't new (no theme is) but I hope Sarah can draw readers into her life but first I must smash my writer's block and write the tale.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

On the Brink of Summer

Spring comes late to Alberta and the advent of summer is hard to define.  We can get heavy snow in June or a killing frost in late May.  No one can predict.  But, I've always felt summer began when school ended.  I've been tied to the school system for 55 years as a student, parent, or spouse of a professor.  I've come to think of September 1st as my New Year's Day and June 30th as the beginning of summer.

Today, though, is the last day of school for my grandsons.  They live in Colorado and their springs are earlier and their winters late.  So, today they leave the confines of their school desks and all the rules one must obey and embark on a summer of learning through osmosis.

I use that word because I was once a biologist and it describes exactly how I believe we learn best.  I was a good student, learning from a book came easy but I think it's not the only way to learn.  Summer is the perfect time to absorb knowledge.  Perhaps you learn to identify a bird's song or build the biggest Lego castle yet.  It doesn't matter as you are adding to your knowledge base and who knows when that might be useful.  And if not useful, wasn't it fun to learn?

I spent my summers playing outside as most kids of my generation.  With our dog in tow, we'd explore our world without fear.  Mom was home to treat cuts and bruises and feed us when we were hungry.  I spent many hours high in a tree telling stories to anyone who listened.  There is a certain magic in the forest.  Using osmosis, I absorbed the sounds and smells that I still tap when writing.  And if I weren't outdoors, I had my nose in a book (there was no such thing as daytime TV).  Again, learning through osmosis.

My own kids lived in the city where streets divided neighbourhoods and mothers worked.  Most kids were off in day care so there were few kids to play with.  We created a vacation spot in our back yard where they could wile away the sunny days.  With little money for day/overnight camps, we took our kids to the mountains so they could enjoy the magic of the forest.  Osmosis again at work.

I wrote my first novel, a set of stories based in a land called Katishwa, during the summer I was seventeen.  I wrote on loose leaf paper using a 2H pencil (see White Paper).  What was I thinking?  Yes, we had a typewriter but my typing was pathetic (still is).  I had a part-time job working for the department of education but that didn't fill the long summer days and one could only read so many books.

So today, being the last day of school for some, is the brink of summer to me.  I still find my creative juices flow better when the sun is shining and I'm warm.  I've set myself a goal this summer which I hereby announce.  I will write my Sarah novel this summer.  There I've said it and now it must happen (I can see my son-in-law giving me a thumbs up).  But first, I must finish the edit of White Crane.  Chapter 16 is staring at me so I will end this blog.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

White Paper

Before the advent of the computer, most words appeared typed or written on white paper.  Perhaps ivory paper was easier on the eyes but rarely did one use coloured paper.  When I began submitting stories, publishers required pages to be typed in pica (12 point) and a font that resembled today's Courier.  Lines had to be double-space with no more than two errors (corrected with White-out or softly erased).  For someone like me who was a poor typist, it took work to get a manuscript to this level of perfection.  Inevitably, my final proof would reveal mistakes which I would ignore in order to get the manuscript into an editor's hands.

Computers changed all that.  One can choose any font of any size and style, colour can be added to any document and, gone are the days when you submit an entire manuscript to a publisher.  Most still require paper versions but only the first few chapters and some will even consider electronic submissions.  And who reads bound books anymore?  E-readers have changed the book industry as much as computers once did.  I, for one, have embraced the idea that I need only pack my Kindle when traveling.

But, when one is writing even on the white screen of a computer, one misses things.  I always print out my manuscript to edit one version with a pencil.  The eye sees things differently when the page is printed.  You can catch spelling mistakes, awkward phrasing, and even glaring repetitions that you don't spot on a computer screen.  It also gives you a chance to be a reader.  I often take a stack of chapters to a comfy chair and edit them away from my desk.  Just a change of scene and sound of shuffling papers can evoke a different mood and allow for better storytelling.

The eye likes white space around black letters.  Why do you think books with dialogue are more enjoyable than those with solid text?  So the next time you write something, print it out.  See how it looks to your eye.  Opening up passages with dialogue, create single sentence paragraphs, allow 'air' to flow around your writing and you'll be surprise how quickly you will see how to improve your writing.

Friday, May 4, 2012


My husband and I love to travel but my body does not.  The older I get, the more it complains.  Today, just as I am beginning to recover fro my cold/sore throat, I must embark on an overseas journey.  I'm excited to see new places and experience a different culture but know I will suffer a relapse.  The last thing I want is to be stuck in our hotel room nursing a more virulent bug than what I'm battling now.

The Netherlands has never been on my 'to see' list.  All I ever wanted from the country was a pair of clogs which my in-laws brought back years ago when they visited.  I didn't really need to see windmills or tulips.  Now I find I'm looking forward to experiencing what Bessie and Jim did.  But unlike then, we are going to a conference which puts a different spin on what one does in a foreign country.

I love writing about our travels.  My first article was about our trip to Panama and then in 2009, I started doing a blog on our travel adventures.  Since I have a notorious weak long term memory, these scribblings help me remember the good times we've enjoyed while traveling.  I haven't sold any of my articles and gave up marketing them when I realized they were for my benefit and that of my family.  Writing one blog entry is far easier than sending out umpteen emails basically saying the same thing.

One thing I try to accomplish with my blogs is educate.  Often what I learn while 'in the moment' can be enhanced by doing research.  This means searching the Internet for links to restaurants, museums, art galleries, and stores.  It also allows me to add to my knowledge of the history or environment of an area.  Anyone interested can explore my links and learn as much or as little as they want.

However, the last thing I want is to repeat what can be found elsewhere.  I try to tell a story of our trip, sometimes it sounds like a diary or travelogue but I want others to know how I felt when I was there.  How the sights, sounds, and smells enhanced the atmosphere of the place.  My sister once remarked on the post I did of our photo shoot in Banff saying it was almost exotic and nothing like how she remembered it.  She lets her photos tell her stories but I must use words.  It is how I view my world and blogging allows me to share my experiences with others.  It's also good practice for writing my fiction for it helps me give my characters a world to live in that mimics our own.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012


I used to cut out newspaper comics related to writing and plaster them over my fridge.  When they became yellowed and tattered, I'd stuffed them into an envelop for future inspiration.  Some, I eventually used to create a workbook for a workshop I ran for elementary kids.  One I remember called Shoe had a cigar smoking newspaper editor asking his reporter (who was looking out the window) why he wasn't pounding the keyboard writing a story.  The reporter's reply was that typists pound keyboards whereas writers stare out windows.

Obviously, every writer must get the story in their heads into the hands of a reader (by pounding the keyboard) but first, they must 'stare out windows'.  By doing this, they can organize the scenes playing out inside their heads.  To those watching, it appears as if the writer is doing nothing but whole conversations could be rattling around their brain.  Snippets of description or complicated plot twists swirl through one's mind when in the heat of 'writing' a story.  Staring out the window can often be the key to sorting out problems before any word is typed.  Sometimes years go by without a single word being written and often writer's families wonder if they are actually working.

Recently, I've found myself in this weird state where I have many ideas on how my next novel will unfold and I've spent a few years researching its background.  Just as I feel it's time to 'pound the keyboard', a tantalizingly new idea erupts or my research leads to another line of thinking.  My novel is stuck at three short chapters and even though I know where I will eventually end up, new ideas have shifted its focus.  However, you will not find me staring out my office window.

I find that I do my best thinking while exercising (see yesterday's post).  This has the bonus in that people don't think I'm crazy when I'm working on a story.  I walk, do yoga, or lift weights.  Each activity is easy enough to allow my mind wander.  Knitting is also good and bonus, you have made something more than a novel when you're done.  Every writer needs these times of calm so their minds can race and their emotions soar with those characters who populate their thinking.  Real life has a way of distracting even the most dedicated writer so if you feel the need to create, perhaps staring out the window (or its equivalent) will help.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Gave Up

Yesterday, I finally gave up my battle with my cold.  My throat was so sore I could barely swallow.  So, I made an appointment to see the doctor although she is not my most favourite physician.  She tends to fawn on my husband and ignore me.  I thought I'd be okay yesterday as I would be alone.

Her diagnosis was quick--I had a throat infection, possibly strep.  She prescribed amoxicillin then asked how Glen was doing.  Actually what she said was "How is that wonderful husband of yours?"  Not "I hope you get better soon" or "This drug will cure you".

I left and continued my walk to Safeway to get her prescription filled.  The pharmacist asked me if I knew that amoxicillin was a derivative of penicillin.  I shook my head.  Why would my doctor prescribe something I was allergic to?  Then I recalled I had amoxicillin before and it didn't make me as sick as erythromycin so perhaps it would be okay.  Reluctantly the pharmacist agreed to give me the pills.  I was desperate and certainly didn't want to return to the doctor.

The walk home exhausted me and I rued my decision not to drive.  Why, if I have a car in the garage did I choose walking?

1) I live by the adage, if you can, walk, otherwise take transit.  When there is no alternative, drive.

2) Walking usually makes me feel better

3) The car in my garage is a 1995 Sonata that requires coaxing to start and will stall at least once on any given trip

4) I'm a nervous driver, imagining accidents more horrific than city fender-benders could be.

One thing I do while walking that I can't while behind the wheel, is work through plotting issues or 'talk' to the characters in my books.  I find an hour's walk can clear my head for writing what may come next.  Unlike some, I don't plot my stories other than have a vague outline in my head.  I know my characters and they pretty much tell me their stories as I type.  However, there are often stumbling blocks along the way and a walk can show me what I must do.  Sometimes it's cutting a scene; sometimes it's going back to foreshadow an event.

Walking is also good exercise and can get the blood pumping which feeds the creative process.  However, I would not recommend it if you are ill.  Your body has enough to do trying to fight your disease, it doesn't need the added strain of exercise.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Too Much Science

Due to my illness, I've not done much writing over the past few weeks except perhaps this blog.  I've done a lot of reading, though.  Writers read--it is a well-known fact.  The problem most of us have is we can't read all the time or we'd never write.  Ironic, eh?

I've discussed some of the books I've read but yesterday I had a bizarre experience.  I was reading Dragongirl by Todd McCaffrey.  It's not his first solo Dragonriders of Pern book as he explores some of his own ideas on the planet Pern his mother created.  However, it seems to have been written in a rush and some passages are very confusing.  In fact, I found myself mentally editing one scene last night.

Normally, I am so lost in the story the writing becomes just a conduit for the lives I'm reading about.  I expect to tumble over passages in my own writing as I try and perfect my storytelling but to do so in a published work is rather unnerving.

I realized when I finished reading the scene that it told us nothing more about the characters, it gave no direction to the narrative, and it seemed to be a scene lost in numbers.  Nothing more was learned after having read the scene and honestly, it could have been cut without any lost to the plot or character development.

It was as if the author, who trained in engineering and writes military science fiction under the name Todd Johnson, decided this book needed more science.  Anne McCaffrey always infused her science fiction with people to whom you could relate.  The science was secondary, often many threads in the fabric of the story but certainly not the most important.  Todd seems to have stepped away (for that brief moment) from his mother's view of Pern and tried to insert more science/engineering into her world.  I'm not averse to this but I do not expect it to be the essence of one scene to the detriment of the rest of the book.

It reminded me of the time I met another engineer who felt he could write science fiction.  The first paragraph of his book was essentially a thesis on the science in the world he had created.  Great if you wish to read science, not so much if you want to read fiction.  Fiction is about folks (to paraphrase Robert Newton Peck's book Fiction is Folks).  Where you put them, whether it's in Calgary, Alberta or Telgar Weyr, Pern, you must make your reader care about them.  They won't if science or magic clouds your writing.

It was a good lesson for me to learn and one I hope others will consider when they embark on writing genre fiction.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Are Movies Better?

Are movies better/worse than the books they are based on?  It will always be a debate because those who have read the books, see the characters differently from what is portrayed in the movie.  Also, without an annoying voice-over, you don't know what the characters are thinking.  You don't smell, taste, or feel what the characters do -- something a book can convey but is hard to show in a movie.

Last night, I saw the film, The Hunger Games (see previous post) and wondered how they would adapt a first-person narrative to the silver screen.  There were many quiet moments when you know what Katniss is thinking (if you'd read the book) but she never tells the audience.  Her actual hunger, a gnawing theme throughout the book, is ignored in the movie.  We never see her stuffing herself with food or understand in her overwhelming thirst when she's in the game arena.  We only glimpse the oppression under which District 12 suffered and her father's memory is a brief moment.

We do see many 'behind the scenes' scenes that can't be shown from Katniss' point of view.  How the games are staged and the reaction of those viewing them.  We get a hint of what is told in Catching Fire and Mockingjay about the society that would stage such games but we don't really see this world through Katniss' eyes at all.

I think the movie stands alone as a good one but many fans might be disappointed that it didn't 'follow' the book.  Yes, all the elements were there but because the story had to be told in two hours, much was lost.  My hubby, who began The Hunger Games a few weeks ago, decided, after seeing the movie, that it lacked detail so he'll finish reading the book despite knowing the ending.

If the film encourages people to read the books, then I think it has done more than just entertain.

Monday, April 23, 2012


Today, the province of Alberta goes to the polls.  I've seen many elections in the past and can never understand why people don't exercise their right to vote.  I've railed against construction workers and young people who believe their vote doesn't 'count'.  Well, it won't unless you actually go in and mark your 'x'.  How hard is it to follow the campaign leading up to election day?  The media bombards us with party policies and thinking.  They make us aware of scandal and photo ops.  Surely some of it is of use when one makes a decision on voting day.

We're lucky in Canada that we have a variety of parties representing all views.  We can vote for party policy even if we hate the party's leader.  We can vote for the leader even if we aren't sure their policies will work.  Or we can learn about the people vying for the honour to represent us in our ridings and make our decision on a grass-roots level, ignoring who leads the party.

Not long ago, woman could not vote.  Alberta granted women the right to vote in 1916 and in 1918, they could vote federally but my mother could not vote in provincial elections in Quebec until 1940.  This is one reason I vote.  I want my voice to be heard even if the ballot count doesn't reflect it.  Woman across Canada should remember the battles fought so they could cast their ballots.  Even if your grandmother/great-grandmother didn't partake in the suffrage movement, she benefited from the determination of those who did.  Today, two women lead the parties vying for our votes in Alberta and as an old cigarette commercial used to say, "You've come a long way, baby."

So whoever you are and whatever you believe, please get out and exercise your right.  You don't know where such an action might lead.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Golf and Inner Peace

Today, we golf at our favourite Calgary course, Silverwing.  It is a links-style course with prairie grasses and great views of the city.  The flags are little windsocks so you know you're close to the airport.  It is a challenging course for someone who is transitioning between beginner and intermediate golfer.  I love it.  Usually.

Today, I am still hacking with my cough and I am not up to walking nine holes (see Golf is a Good Walk Spoiled) which usually takes us two hours.  I just don't have the energy and frankly, I'm not as excited to play as my hubby.  I know I'll enjoy the day but it will also exhaust me.  For the first time, I'm actually going to rent a power cart to do nine holes.  My hubby will be shocked but it may save the day for me.

Golf is a game of many facets and can be played by those of every shape and size.  Last weekend, Carl Pettersson, a hefty individual won against much thinner golfers in the RBC Heritage tournament.  Fred Couples played the Masters the week before and held his own against far younger players.  The game has a way of tapping inner resources.  I hope to tap mine today.

Usually I have had weeks of yoga, walking, and weightlifting done before I swing a club but due to my illness and travel, today, this is not the case.  I should be worried but I'm in a strange state of calm.  This outing just doesn't count in my mind.

I also now feel this 'inner peace' in my writing.  I've tried for years to attract the attention of publishers and have failed.  I realize I probably lack the 'magic' to create a blockbuster but I can't stop writing so what is the solution?  Self-publishing.  It has freed my spirit.  No longer do I worry about pleasing an editor or an agent.  No, I think of my reader and write for them knowing my story will make it into print.  If it sells, fine.  If not, I have a legacy to pass onto my family.  My mother gave us her paintings; I give my books.  So finally, I'm at peace with who I am.  I write, therefore I'm a writer.

Thursday, April 19, 2012


At one time, many years ago, writing was a hobby of mine.  My real job was doing well in school, getting my degree, and landing a job as a technician.  I wrote occasionally for fun.  Then I lost my job so had to fill the hours.  I did this by researching a story about a young girl who witnessed the building of the Rideau Canal in Ottawa.  I discovered that I enjoyed researching and loved writing full-time.

When my hubby and I decided I should stay at home to raise our children, writing became more than a hobby.  I began honing my craft--writing, re-writing, and writing again.  I read books on writing and even took a correspondence course on how to write for children.  I submitted my work and slowly the rejection letters became personal.  Writing young adult fiction became my career.

Now, my hobby is photography.  It is a different way of expressing my creativity and can be lots of fun.  I began when I photographed our honeymoon where mushrooms captured my enthusiasm.  I developed a love for capturing flowers and plants 'on film'.  Well, slides/film are an ancient medium today with the advent of digital photography.  Just as the computer changed the way I wrote, digital photography changed the way I took pictures.  No longer do I need to worry about straight horizons or bad lighting.  Even 'dirt' in a photo can be removed.  I've taken out offensive graffiti and even created a hand where none existed in the original piece.  I've removed unwanted people from photos and moved others around.  It's fun but still a hobby.

Today, something happened that surprised me.  While in Aurora, we had wet snow fall that coated all the budding trees with ice.  I braved the elements and took photos of my son's apple tree.  I posted it with others of our trip.  My sister, Lynda, whose photography goes beyond hobby status, sent a copy of it to a friend of hers who is a landscape designer.  The woman loved it and wanted an 8 x 10 which she could frame.  Suddenly, my hobby has appealed to someone who wishes to hang my 'art' in her living room.  This is pretty heady stuff.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

So Much for Plans

Well, my plan to write this blog everyday was waylaid by a trip to Denver (see my travel blog) and a bad cold.  I'm still suffering from a horrid, hacking cough but I think I might be on the mend.  Bonus to being sick, is 1) reading and 2) watching TV.

I've consumed all the books in the Hunger Games trilogy as well as the latest Rain Wild Chronicles by Robin Hobb, City of Dragons.  This four-book (so far) series follows her Liveship Traders Trilogy which I read last year.  This week I also began another Dragons of Pern book, Dragon Harper, written by Anne McCaffery and her son, Todd.  Since the last book I read in this series was in 2007 (I think), it's taking me awhile to get back into the characters.

On the TV side, I finally got to watch Game of Thrones (Season 1) DVD thanks to my son-in-law, Mike.  Seeing a newspaper article about this series spurred me to read the books by George R.R. Martin which I did last year (May 2011 to January 2012).  The TV series does not disappoint, following the plot pretty well and the casting is excellent although there are some characters who aren't as I 'pictured' them.  The bonus for waiting to see the series, is I don't miss any episodes.

Next, I hope to get The Bourgias which hubby has seen most of but would like to catch the episodes he missed.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Point of view

Okay, I know that last post had nothing to do with writing but I did write it.  I did edit it.  And I tried to put forth an idea so I think it should qualify as an entry in this blog.  I'm letting this forum evolve and seeing where I end up.  The last post was my point of view on a vexing problem.  Today, I discuss point of view as a writing tool.

The reason for this is because I've begun reading the book Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.  The movie, released last week, intrigued me as it was based on a young adult novel so I decided to discover its literary roots.  Also, this is the genre in which I am most comfortable writing.  Besides, I had just finished Empire of Silver by Conn Iggulden, a historical novel based on Ogedei Khan, son of Genghis so I needed something light.

A good friend had read Hunger Games and said she hated the voice of first person (I said this, I did that) which Ms. Collins uses, preferring third person point of view (she said this, she did that) in her readings.  I've written first person before and it is a classic way to write a book for young people as there is an instant relationship made with the character.  What is unusual about Hunger Games is that it's also written in the present tense (I say this, I do that).  This can be jolting as rarely is this tense used when writing fiction.  It took me an entire chapter to wrap my mind around this style and only then did I finally immerse myself in the characters and story line.  Perhaps that is why it might be a tale better told as a movie.

I've never been happy writing fiction in the present tense because I am telling a story that has already happened, hence is in the past.  With Hunger Games set on a future earth, it seems a rather odd choice of tense but Collins may have wanted us to believe this could happen now.

But, back to point of view.  First person works well if you know your reader is the same sex as your character.  A boy rarely reads a book where the I is a girl.  With girl readers, it doesn't seem to matter.  They relate to the personality of the character not whether it's a he or a she.  I've written several young adult novels and of my latest, half have a girl protagonist, the other half, a boy.  My hope is if my male readers like my prose, they will accept my female characters.  But none of these novels is written in the first person.

Writing in first person does focus your writing on what is happening to the main character but it doesn't allow you to explore another character's view of a given situation nor can you give the villain's point of view.  So, it's good to explore a story through different points of view then decide how to write it that allows the characters to tell the tale.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

First World Problem

When I first heard about First World Problems, I didn't realize how profound those three words were.

This past week, I've had a first world problem with Sears Canada.  On March 10th, we ordered a water softener.  There were multiple reasons for this.  Calgary water is hard which means the dishes are never really clean coming out of the dishwasher, hubby can't get a lather while he's shaving and it dries out his skin.  My hair stylist said I needed softer water as my hair is so fine and hubby's dermatologist also recommended one.  The Sears salesman said it would wipe away the build-up in our pipes (we've had two emergency visits from a plumber).  But, we've lived with hard water for 35 years so it is really a luxury item.

The softener was to be installed last Saturday morning.  We stayed in and waited.  Finally after lunch, hubby called Sears.  Could we wait until Sunday and see if the plumber showed up?  24 hours later we called and were told what did we expect?  No plumber works on Sunday.  Sheesh!

Monday, another call to our salesman.  Horrors, the plumber hasn't called?  No, so he assures us 'something' will be done.  Tuesday, we hear from Sears headquarters.  They were getting to the bottom of the problem.  Meanwhile, I am tweeting about this issue, hash-tagging Sears.  @SearsCares begins to follow me but not a whisper of any help.

Yesterday, I was told a plumber would come this afternoon but at 11:30 today, I get a call saying he injured himself and had to take the afternoon off.  Okay, I'm sorry for the guy but is he the only plumber in the city?  Bottom line--he'll come tomorrow.  Not holding my breath!

Oh yeah, remember this is a blog about First World Problems?  Obviously this water softener issue is one such problem.  In the Third World, they don't know what a water softener is and I'm sure if you're hauling water from the local well or river, you don't care if it's hard.  All you want it to be is clean and safe.  Perhaps you'd love to buy a pump at Sears so you didn't have to make that journey to the well.  Maybe you would wait months for its installation knowing your life would change.  Would you complain about delays?  I don't think so.  That is a First World issue.

So rather than railing about how unfair life is, I'm going to think how lucky I am that I can worry about whether or not the plumber will come with the water softener tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012


After self-publishing The Quest of Bathasar, I decided I'd do the same with the fantasy I wrote that excited the agents to whom I submitted it--The Sceptre of Terran-Gayle.  Amazon had started an on-line publishing arm called Createspace which was a lot easier to use than Lulu.  Each step of the way was explained and corrections suggested.  Before the book was published on Amazon, I had to proof a copy.  Lulu didn't do this.

When I received the copy I ordered from Lulu, Balthasar was already in the public domain.  As I said in a previous post, I was not happy with results.  With Terran-Gayle, this awkward period was eliminated since I could make changes before it became public.  And I did.

I gave the book to hubby to read and he made a major suggestion of reversing chapters 1 and 2.  This made so much sense that I wondered why my agent hadn't clued in.  As I resubmitted the changes, Amazon announced a contest called the Breakthrough Novel Award.  Self-published books were eligible so I submitted mine.  The Sceptre of Terran-Gayle was one of 1000 chosen from a field of 5000 young adult novels.  I was pretty darn excited.  I didn't make the second cut but I'm feeling better about my writing so can accept this rejection.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Is Blogging Worth It?

I've been blogging off and on for about 2 years now.  My travel blog is up to date with our latest adventures while this one languishes.  I wanted this to be a forum for some insights I've had as a writer but I think it's now time to change things up.

I'm going to try and blog every day and see if it helps with both my writing and my ability to get an idea across quickly and affectively.  No more long-winded blogs!!

So, today I will say that I finished editing the second draft of my aboriginal fantasy book for young adults.  I love my characters but I must work a bit to fill them out.  Right now they are skinny creatures with eyes and hair colour and not much else.  I think the magic is good and I feel I've tapped into my version of native myths but it still needs some work.  I'm putting it away for a couple of weeks while I tackle the second book of The Lochnaeran Cluster books.  I blogged about publishing The Quest of Balthasar and now I have a fan in my second cousin, Collin who loves the story and wants more.  Talk about pressure!