Conversations in the Car

Husband and I were in car, on the way to see the film Looper.   “Watch out for that guy,” I said.

“I saw him,” he said, turning onto the main road.

We’ve been married 27 years. Driving is a we-effort. “He came up on that light so fast, I didn’t think he was going to stop.”

Husband drove. After a block he said,  “You know, I saw the worst driver last week.”

“Yeah?”

“He didn’t stop for any of the stop signs. Just rolled right through them.” Husband used his hand to give me visual. “Blew right through all the red lights, too.”

I shook my head, the way women do when they want to show mild interest.  Then I broke his contemplation of the Most Terrible Driver in The World by observing, “Les Miserables is coming out this year. I can’t wait to see it.”

Dead silence until the next red light. “That’s a historical thing, right?”

“Yup. A musical.”

I gave him the look.  “Don’t even try. We’re going to Les Miserables.”

Husband sucked in a long, breath then released it in an equally long sigh. “You know what else that driver did? He filled in two of his letters on his licence plate with a magic marker. That’s illegal. He must be trying to get around the fees on the 407.”

“Don’t even try to squirm. You owe me for On Bak.”

The corners of his mouth pulled down as if I’d handed him a lemon and asked him to bite down. “It’s a musical,” he said in an aggrieved tone. “With. Costumes.”

We passed a car and he changed lanes.

“Bear?” I asked softly. “How’d you keep up with the Most Terrible Driver in the World?”

Dear husband’s expression went curiously blank. Then he said, “Les Miserable, huh?”

“Yup.”

He released another heavy sigh. “Why do you think they call it Miserable?”

“Don’t worry. I’ll let you can sleep through it.”

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Margaret Atwood’s Rules

In 2010,  The Guardian, inspired by Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing, published a two part article wherein 15 authors set to paper their own list of dos and don’ts. We’re talking big names here. Go ahead, check  out: http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2010/feb/20/ten-rules-for-writing-fiction-part-one

I read the articles again this morning. And wouldn’t you know it? This year my favourite was Canada’s own~

Text below is taken directly from the article.

Margaret Atwood

1 Take a pencil to write with on aeroplanes. Pens leak. But if the pencil breaks, you can’t sharpen it on the plane, because you can’t take knives with you. Therefore: take two pencils.

2 If both pencils break, you can do a rough sharpening job with a nail file of the metal or glass type.

3 Take something to write on. Paper is good. In a pinch, pieces of wood or your arm will do.

4 If you’re using a computer, always safeguard new text with a ­memory stick.

5 Do back exercises. Pain is distracting.

6 Hold the reader’s attention. (This is likely to work better if you can hold your own.) But you don’t know who the reader is, so it’s like shooting fish with a slingshot in the dark. What ­fascinates A will bore the pants off B.

7 You most likely need a thesaurus, a rudimentary grammar book, and a grip on reality. This latter means: there’s no free lunch. Writing is work. It’s also gambling. You don’t get a pension plan. Other people can help you a bit, but ­essentially you’re on your own. ­Nobody is making you do this: you chose it, so don’t whine.

8 You can never read your own book with the innocent anticipation that comes with that first delicious page of a new book, because you wrote the thing. You’ve been backstage. You’ve seen how the rabbits were smuggled into the hat. Therefore ask a reading friend or two to look at it before you give it to anyone in the publishing business. This friend should not be someone with whom you have a ­romantic relationship, unless you want to break up.

9 Don’t sit down in the middle of the woods. If you’re lost in the plot or blocked, retrace your steps to where you went wrong. Then take the other road. And/or change the person. Change the tense. Change the opening page.

10 Prayer might work. Or reading ­something else. Or a constant visual­isation of the holy grail that is the finished, published version of your resplendent book

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I just can’t talk about it.

Sometimes people ask me, “What’s your book about?”

That’s when some evil thing grabs my throat and squeezes. And for the life of me…I. Can. Not. Talk.

Oh, I can ramble on about other people’s books. I just get struck dumb by the enormity of talking about my own.

So. Outtakes can be fun. You want to see what happened to me when Rich of Astral asked me the dreaded question?

 

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Everyone should have a Gandalf

This brief film clip is testament to the profound effect a teacher can have upon the course of your life. Forgive the stumbles and the pauses. We filmed this at Toronto’s jewel of a book store, Bakka Phoenix.

Mentor. It’s a simple enough word until you have one, and then it becomes a whole different word. Full of layers, and emotions, and hidden values.

I’d like to introduce you to my first writing mentor, Caitlin Sweet.

Yes. This is the youthful and lovely  woman whom I call my Gandalf.

Caitlin’s a first-rate author, whose books have won much critical acclaim and praise. But beyond that, she’s warm, and smart, and educated. The intersection of her path and mine was a huge pivot point in my career–she was endlessly supportive during the birth of The Trouble With Fate.

Case in point. Before I registered for the class she teaches at The U of T’s Continuing Education Creative Writing Program, I had become increasingly disheartened about my work in progress. Despondent over my chances of ever finishing a book.

Walking into her Fantasy class at the University of Toronto changed that.

The video was shot last month by Astral Road Media. During the morning session, the plan was for me to speak about my five favourite urban fantasy writers. When I mentioned to Rich Fahle how much I wanted to speak about Caitlin even though she’s NOT an urban fantasy writer, he said, “We’ll shoot it anyway.”

But–ahem–I hadn’t primed myself for speaking about my Gandalf. The youtube clip you saw was done completely off the cuff, which resulted in that Hor-rific stumble as I tried to think my way through this sentence: “Caitlin writes literary fantasy.”

*Big toothy grin*

Want to hear my inners thoughts during that dreadful pause the followed “literary”? …Wait a minute, you can’t say literary fantasy. You’re holding up her novel, The Pattern Scars, which was sold as a literary horror. Okay, no problem, just take out the word fantasy and put in the word “horror”…oh shit…Whenever I try to say that word it comes out as WHORE…OMG, OMG, don’t say whore. Think it out…it’s two syllables. DON’T SAY WHORE.

Yeah, I’m going to run out and get myself a job in the media.

In meantime, here’s my thought to those you currently mentorless: Get yourself a Gandalf, guys.

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I’m in cover clover

Today, Pan Macmillan released the British cover for The Trouble With Fate on its Tor UK blog where my editor, Bella Pagan, revealed the artwork and said some rather blush-worthy things about my book.

However, I know some of you are reading this on your cellphone (if so, be kind to your neck and stretch it once and awhile, okay?), and the to-die-for Justin Bieber tune you just downloaded has put you dangerously close to your limit, so you’re not going to toddle over to that link above.

*Big Toothy Grin*  Lucky for you–Bella sent me a copy of the cover. You want to see it?  Just scroll down.

But first, the teaser: it’s gorgeous!  The hairs stood up on my arm when I saw it.

Ready?

Simply brilliant, isn’t it? The artwork came from Tor UK’s design house. I’m very grateful to James Annal for this intriguing, elegant, and breath-catching lovely cover:-)

Posted in Bella Pagan, The Trouble With Fate, Tor Uk, urban fantasy | Tagged , , , ,

It started with a hole in the wall.

Disclaimer:  I do have a daughter, of whom I’m extraordinarily proud of. She’s talented with words and images, and funny, and smart, and oh-my-gosh-beautiful. But I’m a slow thinker, so I’m still mulling over things that were said last weekend, and things I discovered about my life through that talk, so this is post number two regarding my son.

Last weekend started me thinking. As I told you, son and I spent time talking about the book etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. He said something that made me realize how long–how incredibly long–I have been working on giving birth to Hedi Peacock.

My sweet heaven. Now that I consider it, it’s got to be the longest gestation period known to mankind. She’s been in the shadows of everything I’ve done for years.

Case in point.

Dearest son was a prodigious liar when he was a wee tot. It worried me. I looked at his sweet angelic three year old face and imagined that I could read I-N-C-A-R-C-E-R-A-T-I-O-N written in a wispy thread of smoke over his head.

But around the age of 3.5, my son threw a ball, and made a hole in the drywall. A fairly largish hole. And instead of fibbing, he came downstairs and asked me to come to his room. And then, with trembling hand, he pointed to the dent in the wall.

God knows what he’d thrown. Probably a golf ball. It had chewed right through the wallboard. BUT…he’d stood there, and he had told me the truth. Even if he couldn’t find the words. He’d pointed to it and said, “I’m sorry.”

Hallelujah. My kid had told the truth. Now, there were probably many smart ways–or at least cleverer ones–of dealing with that. But me? I thought, “Seize the Day! I won’t be visiting him in a federal prison!” So, I smiled at him and said, “It’s not a big deal. It’s okay, you made a hole in the wall. You didn’t mean to.”

He looked at me doubtfully, possibly thinking that his father would inevitably be called into wall repair. And perhaps, the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree. I looked at that hole and thought of my husband’s never-ending job-list (he’s a guy who can and will fix anything), and decided, “Crap, it would be easier to hide it. ”  So I grabbed a pencil, and said, “You know what? It looks just like a knothole in an old apple tree.” And then I drew a knot hole around the defect, and  then because that looked odd, I drew a twisted tree, and then because that looked even stranger, I drew a few bushes at the base of that tree….

Yup. I’m a helluva of a role model.

Six months later, I finally finished the subsequent mural, painted with craft paint and 1/2 inch brushes.  My son had requested items as it grew, and by the end, it covered every square inch of visible wall space in that bedroom. You know what I painted? Old twisted trees. Flowers. A pack of five wolves running through a field. Vines–of the morning glory variety–twining their way up the trunk of a tree. A fairy pond (complete with two fairies fluttering over it). A sunrise on one wall, and a moonfall and stars on the opposite. Grinning bears. Wise woodchucks. Snoozing coyotes.

I never took pictures of the entire canvas. It was his room and I never objectified it as mine. One day, though, he came to me and said, “Mummy, I’m too old for my walls.” So that weekend, he and I painted over it. I took pictures of him manning the roller–thus by default, there are at least 2 walls captured in those pictures.

It took a bit to unearth them today, but I found the snapshots of the day when my son took a step from babyhood to boyhood. Now, I realize that what I’m looking at is the beginning of Hedi’s world, seen through Disney.

By the way. That son? He’s not a fibber-wibber any more. He’s grown into an honourable man, and his word is good.

Posted in Hedi, Hedi Peacock, inspiration, writing lessons | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Know When To Call It A Day

I make an effort to write everyday, or failing that, to work on the book every, single day.  I need to do that because I write complicated books, and writing is no longer a fluid activity for me.

I’m not kidding. The first time I write a scene most of the sentences read very Dick and Jane. As in, “Dick and Jane went up the hill.” Simple sentence structures, one layer thick. And I don’t like simple or flat, so I stew over scenes and characters until I really understand them. This call for notes, and charts, and walks, and shooting elastic bands at the monitor.

Cut to last Sunday. My son had slept over, and was fooling around on the piano. I’d claimed the dining room table and had spread my papers from one end to the other as I puzzled over the time line.

I could have spent all day there–like I had spent Saturday.

But you what? Sometime you have to know when to call it a day. My iPod lay beside my coffee mug.  I picked it up and hit record.  The video below features my son, JB, playing the introduction to one of the songs he’s written. It’s short, about half a minute long, and is the first time I tried to make a video. *cough* Turns out you’re supposed to hold your iPod horizontally, not vertically. Who knew?

Anyhow, somewhere in the midpoint of the walk, I made the decision that I was going to play on Sunday, too. And so we did. We went for lunch at a local Korean place, we came home and rented “The Hunger Games.”  Didn’t catch most of the first half hour of it, because we talked. About silly stuff, like who’d we cast as Hedi and Trowbridge.

But it recharged me. The next day I wrote like the wind. And I figured something out. I need my family. Being with them fills me up. *grin* Which is I wrestled a promise out of my daughter last night. She’s going to go tramping through Creemore with me in a few weekends. I told her to bring boots.

Posted in Hedi, Hedi Peacock, Trowbridge, Youtube LeighEvansAuthor | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments