Blame everything on the weather!



Streaks of clouds in pre-sunset peach and charcoal-purple cut through a cerulean sky. The weather is changing. There’s been intermittent light rain interspersed with brief sunny breaks through much of the past few days, but flurries are in today’s forecast.

I don’t fuss over the weather. There’s a saying here on the west coast, “If you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes.” Some folks also say, “If you can’t see the mountains, it’s raining. If you can, it’s going to rain.” The more optimistic of us point to how green everything is, thanks to the rain.


My mood isn’t affected, whatever the colour of the sky. There are people whose mood is, and some who even experience S.A.D. — Seasonal Affective Disorder — during low light seasons. I tend to forget that it’s a very real, clinical disorder, and I can sometimes be insensitive to those who complain about the weather, or display negativity, discouragement and depression because of it.

During November’s NaNoWriMo my project was to rewrite the ending of a recently completed manuscript. As I rushed headlong through the words, instead of resolving my protagonist’s dilemmas, I ended up heaping more upon her. Nothing seems to go right for her, and I’ve realized a lot of the time it’s because of her negative perspective. The story happens between November and February. I’m beginning to wonder if she has S.A.D. That would explain a lot, but it complicates the plot.

The story is taking off in a direction I didn’t intend, and I’m not sure I like this feeling of losing control.

If you’re a writer, are you always in control of your story and its characters? What happens when your control slips away?

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Skipping the present to get to the future

There’s frost here this morning. Our shake roof glistens white in the sunshine, and trails of mist play at the edges of the marsh. An e-mail from family in the southeastern corner of the province brought photos of their first major snowfall — 22 cm that delighted the children but required plowing at 5 a.m. to ensure everyone could get to work and school.

I love the early fall, when bright colours dapple the landscape. It’s my favourite season.

Geese on the go in the Fraser Valley

Geese on the go in the Fraser Valley

Fall on the Fraser River

Fall on the Fraser River

Mist on our lake in BC's Cariboo

Mist on our lake in BC’s Cariboo

I’m not so enamoured by late fall. We west coasters know that many weeks of grey skies and constant rain are on the horizon. But if I dwell on what is to come, I won’t fully appreciate the present.


When it comes to my writing, during November if I’m not revising one particular manuscript I’m working on the first draft of another. That one is still new and I don’t have a clear view of its ending. As I work on preliminary scenes I’m sometimes tempted to skip ahead and try to figure out exactly how my characters solved their dilemma. However, to do so would mean missing the excitement of discovery along the way. For now, I plan to focus on the present and worry about how the future unfolds when the time comes.

There are many different ways of constructing a novel. What’s your process during a first draft?

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Autumn’s Glow


Lakeside 2

There is a harmony
In autumn, and a luster in its sky…

[Percy Bysshe Shelley]

Colours 3

I loved autumn,
the one season of the year
that God seemed to have put there
just for the beauty of it.

[Lee Maynard]


So many things to love about autumn!

I had leftover pumpkin on hand
and baked pumpkin spice muffins this morning.



What’s your favourite thing about Autumn?

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Personal Gifts and Fall Priorities


Red-shafted Northern Flickers

Red-shafted Northern Flickers

Fall officially arrives next weekend and I’m having trouble letting go of my summertime no-daily-schedule mindset. Without children in school it’s easy to coast into September and ignore the subtle seasonal changes. But many of our regular church groups and community activities resume next week so it’s time to begin gearing up and setting priorities.

In my more youthful (read that as ‘energetic’) years, it was normal to have things written into every square of the calendar — multiple meetings, appointments, and commitments of all sorts. I didn’t function well in that routine, but there  wasn’t much time left over to stop and plan alternatives. Retirement gives me the freedom to choose how I want to spend my days.  Being an introvert has meant I often choose activities I can pursue in solitude. At one time that would have made me feel guilty, but I’ve come to realize it’s okay to indulge my individualism (maybe some would call it my eccentricity). 

The things I like to do are generally those that I do best. Yes, I know it’s good to stretch myself at times, but I’m not too limber anymore. Instead of struggling in uncomfortable traces to do things for which others are better qualified, I’m happier looking for ways to make use of my own particular abilities, however modest they may be in comparison. I already have a couple projects on the go and am also planning to spend extra hours during the next month revising a manuscript and preparing for the upcoming Surrey International Writing Conference.

That may not sound very ambitious, but who said I had to be ambitious? After all, I’m retired! ;)


  • In what way(s) are you stretched beyond your comfort zone? Is it a good thing for you, or not?
  • Can you identify your unique gifts/abilities?
  • If you could choose just one activity/group/form of service to be involved in without answering to anyone else, what would it be?


Use what talents you possess;
the woods would be very silent
if no birds sang there
except those that sang best.

(Henry Van Dyke)
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Subtle Differences… or maybe not so subtle

Earlier this month on the way into our cabin I took this photo:


On the way out a week later I took this one:

Same horse, same general location, but the weather had changed. Who would have thought a few snowflakes could alter the mood of a scene so drastically?

The same thing happens with point of view in our novel writing. There is a subtle change — or maybe it’s not so subtle — when a scene is viewed through different eyes or in different conditions. If you have a ho-hum scene, consider changing the perspective and see if that brings the scene to life.

Do you have an essential scene in your writing (or perhaps in a photograph) that lacks punch? What might you do to make a difference?



(A click or two will enlarge any photo for a closer look)

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How do you describe the bite of winter’s chill?

You’ve undoubtedly heard of iced tea and iced coffee, but how about iced juniper? Freezing rain preceded us on a recent trip and we discovered iced everything when we stopped in Cache Creek to fuel the truck. The sidewalks were slick, plants and branches shimmered, and the sky moped silver grey.

(A click or two will enlarge to view detail)

Boy, was I cold! Even with my fleece jacket zipped and hoodie tugged tightly over my ears, I still shivered. I read somewhere that shivering, or the twitching of muscles, is a physiologic method of heat production. Who knew??? It didn’t seem to help much that day, but I suppose my body realized I wasn’t in any danger of approaching hypothermia.

Back in the truck I flipped the switch to activate our heated seats (I know, I know… it’s a ridiculous luxury, but it was a feature already installed when we bought the truck second-hand) and then spun the heater’s dial to high. As I waited for my hubby to join me, I thought about one of the characters in my novel who relocated from a balmy city to the winter-chilled north country. In an effort to ‘show not tell’, there are numerous scenes where I need to display how he copes with frigid temperatures. How many ways can you indicate a person is very cold?

That’s a good question for today. Are any of your characters ever in the position of being uncomfortably or dangerously cold? What ways do you (or could you) choose to show, not tell, how they react? 

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The Missing Bits

It’s not fair! I went on a personal writing retreat and while I was gone, all the lovely fall colours that had barely begun to emerge before I left, arrived and departed again.

In late October, for instance, the leaves of our ‘Bloodgood’ Japanese Maple tree were their usual deep burgundy. While my back was turned, they turned… and fell. All that glorious colour is now merely a blood red puddle on the ground. I missed the best part of the show.

While I was pushing to craft my draft novel for NaNoWriMo, I had no thought for what might be happening back in my garden at home.  When I returned, it was a shock to discover a gap between what was, and what now is.

And as I read over parts of my budding manuscript I recognize a familiar truth: there are gaps in my storytelling, too. While I know what happened, my readers are not being given the privilege of seeing those rich details for themselves. They’re still in my head. Mundane bits can be skipped over, but there are some happenings that should be captured in the narrative to add spectacular colour to the story.

I may be back from my offline writing retreat but I still have almost three weeks of NaNoWriMo writing to do. When December arrives I’ll be doing major revisions on the new story that’s currently obsessing me, and I’ll remember the bare trees and all those leaves on the ground. My revisions will include the addition of missing details and description.

(A click will enlarge for a closer look.)

What kind of details do you think readers want to see? What kind would they prefer to skip over?


“If a writer knows enough about what he is writing about,
he may omit things that he knows.

The dignity of movement of an iceberg is due to
only one ninth of it being above water.” 

Ernest Hemingway
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