Saying goodbye to favourite seasons and characters

Now that the windstorm has died, we’re left with bare branches. I can envision their earlier colour, once burgundy, then scarlet, now strewn as a blanket beneath. The forecast is for frost tonight.



This is the part of autumn that makes me wistful. I love all the weeks of lingering warmth and glorious colour, and am always reluctant to see them end. Mind you, there have been compensations. We enjoyed a toasty fire in the family room fireplace last night for the first time in months. I’ve also been cuddling into a cozy afghan while writing this week. Oh, and the bins of winter wear came up from the basement recently and I’ve re-discovered my favourite sweaters.

Nevertheless, I hate saying goodbye to what has become familiar and comfortable. I’m SO not an adventurer, at least not in real life. In fiction it’s a different matter. A new season suggests jumping into a new story, and that aspect is always exciting.

But am I the only one who hates to say goodbye to make-believe characters when their story comes to an end? After creating them and spending months being an integral part of their lives, loves, and struggles, it’s hard for me to cut them loose and send them off into the world on their own. I want to follow them.

That has to be why sequels and series are so popular. At least in a sequel I could continue with my favourite characters into their new adventures and conflicts. So far, my stories have all been the stand alone kind, but there’s a growing community of people within them that wants to return. During this month’s NaNoWriMo endeavour, I’m trying to finish another independent novel, but I’m already thinking ahead.

There are whispers on the wind from earlier characters, begging me not to abandon them. Hmm … something familiar to help disperse the chill of the approaching new season. :)


To everything there is a season,
A time for every purpose under heaven”

[Ecclesiastes 3:1]

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Starting another new month, and NaNoWriMo


There’s nothing realistic about the premise of National Novel Writing Month, i.e., that “the world needs your novel”. No, it doesn’t. It isn’t likely to need the 50,000 words that will spew uncontrolled from the chaos of my less-than-organized mind.

But I need them, and I need NaNoWriMo. I need the discipline to force those words out of my head, onto a page, into a manuscript where they can then be rearranged and revised into something resembling the story I’ve been imagining.

So now that November is here, I’m once again committed to participating in NaNoWriMo for a month of BICHOK (the acronym for Butt In Chair, Hands On Keyboard). My name on the NaNo website is Wildwood Gal, if you’re looking for a buddy. I may cheat during this first week because I have a completed manuscript that requires another read-through and minor revisions before I’ll be ready to start something new; but you can be sure I’ll be working on words every day, all month.

What’s your project during this new month? If you’re writing, are you taking part in NaNoWriMo, or do you have a personal goal? 

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Everything Writing

This week my life is all about writing. Oh, I write pretty much every day, but there’s a special focus on it right now.

On Tuesday I joined my daughter, Shari Green, for an evening hosted by the Golden Ears Writers in Maple Ridge. She and her fellow authors Denise Jaden and Dawn Ius Dalton took part in a panel-style workshop on ‘Ideas and Imaginings: Finding and developing story ideas and exploring the world of re-tellings and re-imaginings.’ Such great insights and so many good ideas emerged!


(Denise Jaden, Dawn Ius Dalton and Shari Green)


Now Shari and I are at the Surrey International Writers’ Conference, a long weekend that is always the highlight of our writing year. For our very introverted souls, it’s both exhilarating and daunting to be a part of the hundreds-large crowd of literary peeps — big name authors and writers of all levels of experience, editors, agents, publishers and screenwriters — and be immersed in everything writing for three (very long) days.


With several dozen workshops and presenters, keynote speeches, book signings and banquets plus all the hobnobbing in between, it provides a huge dose of information and inspiration, boosts our creativity and rejuvenates our writerly souls. It’s also exhausting!

It will be good preparation for November and the annual NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) marathon  — our zany effort to produce 50,000 words in thirty days.


With it following a week after the conference, we’re always more than ready to creep into our solitary spaces and start prepping for a month of concentrated writing. Then, with the arrival of November, more times than not, we manage to hammer out a rough draft of a complete novel.

So I guarantee you won’t see much of me around here for the next few weeks — there won’t be a lot of musing and mental meandering time — but I’ll pop in with periodic updates. Let me know what you’re up to, too, and I’ll offer encouragement where I can. Any new projects? Are you finishing old ones, revising, mulling, or deep in tearing-your-hair-out frustrations? Let me know. We can console each other. :)

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I have miles to go…


(Consider clicking on photos for a larger view.)

In round numbers, we drove about 500 miles on a weekend in mid-July, then 600 more on a round trip to our Cariboo cabin in early August, and another 1000 to the Kootenays and back in the past couple weeks. I am always awestruck by the seemingly endless miles of wilderness in our province, and how long it takes to get anywhere.


Although he was speaking of a winter landscape, Robert Frost said it well:

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,   
But I have promises to keep,   
And miles to go before I sleep, 
And miles to go before I sleep.
It takes time and effort to travel any major distance, whether it’s a journey by car or by pen. Wherever we’re going, we must stay the course or we’ll never reach our destination.
A novel of 90,000 words may take one writer only a few weeks, and another, several years. The speed doesn’t matter as much as the consistency of effort. (There’s a lesson for all of us in the story of the tortoise and the hare.)
As mentioned in my previous post, I abandoned the journey on a short story this month, not so much because I wasn’t enjoying the writing, but more because the effort lacked purpose. Not to say I won’t ever finish the story. One day I might, but I’ll need a better reason than to meet the deadline for a contest of dubious value to me.
I want to feel passion for a story — a yearning to record and share its characters and their message. I want to immerse myself in the creation of words that will transport me into and through their world. A novel-in-progress is beckoning me to put aside less challenging distractions and get back to work.
A journey awaits.
I’m curious. What motivates you to write?
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Labouring on Labour Day

The internet reminds us that traditionally, “Labour Day was an occasion to campaign for and celebrate workers’ rights during parades and picnics organized by trade unions.”

At my daughter’s home, however, there’s been a whole week of labouring. A new wood stove was installed, a fence is under construction, there was painting to do, and firewood to cut.


Labour Day itself became a time to labour in her garden.


The existing much-too-narrow fifteen inch strip of flower bed that edged a stepping-stone-and-ornamental-gravel path beside the garage was an annoyance. Most plants didn’t do well in the limited space against the foundation, and those that survived spilled over into the walkway.

We put our imaginations to work and decided that the cement stepping stones would be better sunk into the adjacent grass. Then one set of the wide wooden beams could be removed, leaving space for a generous garden bed.


Initially it sounded like a relatively simple task, but my hubby is quick to point out that every job I think up for him ends up requiring more time, energy and money than we expect. This one became a major endeavour. Since there were no existing evergreen shrubs, all the plants were removed in favour of a more seasonally balanced design, and the ornamental rock was raked out and collected for use in a different location.

The various aspects of the job took the combined effort of four of us! My hubby relocated the pavers; our son-in-law used his chain saw on the discarded wooden ties to cut them down into end pieces for the new bed; and both men worked for hours to lever huge rocks out, one of which was retained for decorative use in the final landscape.


Then it was time to haul in a truck-‘n-trailer load of topsoil and shovel it into the new bed, and make another side trip with quad and garden trailer to add a load of compost — both to be mixed together with a rototiller and raked smooth. And finally it was time for daughter and I to make a trip to the nursery to select suitable plants for this Hardiness Zone 3 location, followed by an afternoon of planting. There is still a top dressing of bark mulch to be added.


I suppose I should have expected the job to be more than a quick dig-and-plant event, but as a minimally knowledgeable gardener, I think I approached it in much the same way as a novice writer tackles a first novel. On the surface it sounds easy — just find an idea, do a bit of planning and plunk the words on a page until the job is done.

Some people may be ‘natural’ gardeners or storytellers, but I now have much more respect for the professionals who work full time to make a successful career with what they do.

My Labour Day job isn’t done yet. Excuse me while I go water the new plants. Then I’ll be heading for the bottle of Tylenol. :)


Do you enjoy planning and planting a landscape, or are you more of a plunk and putter kind of gardener?

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Information Overload


It’s just a truck — this single vehicle that replaces all our other ones. Granted, it’s new, and we expected there would be some changes since years ago when we acquired our previous one, but things like a ‘Centre Stack‘ command module with touchscreen computer wasn’t one of them.


And yet there it is, front and centre, almost as big as an iPad, telling us everything we need to know, and a lot we don’t. Bluetooth wireless connectivity wherever we go. Sheesh! It takes more programming than our home computers! Thankfully it came with a manual.


The problem is, we can only read so much before our heads begin to swim with information overload. We forget which feature requires that we touch the icon for more than two seconds until a beep sounds indicating the setting has been saved, and which one will shoot past all the settings if you do more than touch it once lightly.

We’re learning that it’s best to deal with one feature at a time, on a priority need-to-know basis. We sit in the truck with the manual in hand and work through the necessary steps. At this rate, however, it might take until it’s time to trade it in again before we figure out everything.

I recall when some of my writing attempts made me feel equally uncertain. I read so many books on how to write, that when faced with a blank screen I wasn’t sure how I should proceed. Too much information had overwhelmed me and confused the process.

Now I just write. I do it while hoping that I’ve absorbed the most useful techniques enough to use them automatically, but knowing any necessary repairs will happen in stages during a later revision process. I’ll read the finished manuscript through multiple times, looking for specific shortcomings to correct each time. When I’m done, I’ve come to accept it still won’t be perfect, but it will be ready to face the scrutiny of my critique partners, who will undoubtedly offer additional advice for polishing.

I wonder if I could convince my critique group to meet in the truck for one session. They could browse the manual and offer suggestions for programming the Centre Stack display. I’d love some help in finding and setting my favourite radio stations from Sirius satellite’s choice of one hundred and twenty!

How do you deal with the ‘information overload’ syndrome?

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Tackling the Impossible

The ‘back road’ we travel for the twenty minute trip to and from our son’s home takes us along a winding rural route through forest lands, past two lakes and over an hydroelectric dam. We’ve watched with mild interest as BC Hydro has logged and created a right-of-way that cuts across the landscape for a new 500 kilovolt transmission line being built over mountains and through the wilderness between Merritt and a substation in Coquitlam, BC.

Late last week we drove over the dam while keeping an eye on one of the helicopters that is helping in the stringing of the transmission wires along the new towers. It was an impressive sight with one helicopter hovering so low above us, and linesmen working so high! (That’s one person on a platform by the top wires. They don’t always stay on those platforms. At times we’ve seen people scrambling around on the metal braces of the towers.)


Global TV News did a brief update on the project recently, and it includes a video showing one of the other helicopters that we’ve seen, that one a massive construction helicopter maneuvering the top section of a tower into place. All four of its corners had to meet with something like one-half inch precision! It’s mind boggling.

I wonder if, in the initial stages, designers and construction crews are ever overwhelmed by the impossible magnitude of such a project. Or do you think they have a mental overview of the entire thing, and an understanding of how to break the undertaking into manageable pieces?

Do you think maybe that’s the approach authors are meant to take when beginning a new novel? I don’t know if it would work for me. I like a seat-of-the-pants method but that’s only because I know I can do extensive revisions later. There’s no doing over of 100 metre high transmission towers and a 500 kilovolt power line. I’m afraid, if I had to get it right the first time, I’d never make it through to the end of the first draft. How about you?

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