Saturday, May 12, 2012

So Many Projects, So LittleTime

I attended the May Capital Crime Writers meeting on Wednesday night when C.B. Forrest aka Chris talked about working fulltime and finding time to write. Chris has a busy communications job - in fact, he drove directly from the airport to the meeting and had to fly out the following morning for Halifax. He's seated above before his talk with two CCW members Janet Claridge and Katherine Hobbs, who is also city councillor for Kitchissippi ward (speaking of busy).

Chris prepared a power point presentation complete with legal disclaimer . .  .

And he spoke for a good hour about everything from plotting a book to carving out time to write to completing a manuscript between flights while completing a kitchen renovation (and doing the destruction and construction himself). The major message is that writers need to write and nothing can deter. The trick is to create time and space and to make efficient use of every minute. Chris's first two Charlie McKelvey books, The Weight of Stones and Slow Recoil, were each shortlisted for Arthur Ellis awards and his third and last in the series The Devil's Dust (Dundurn) will be launched in June. Check out his website for details bout the launch and his books.

I also caught up with another YA author Jeff Ross at the meeting. Jeff teaches at Algonquin and has a third YA novel Dawn Patrol being launched May 27th at Collected Works. Authors love when new readers from the community come out to introduce themselves, mingle with a glass of wine and even buy a book - after all, it takes a year at least to write one and it all goes for nought if readers don't pick it up. Jeff and I launched our Rapid Reads books alongside Barb Fradkin last year, and he tells me that his wife will be making her famous cupcakes again.

I'm currently at that stage in my new manuscript where I'm doing a lot of thinking about the plot and characters. Chris, along with a lot of other authors I know, advises not to edit on first draft but just to get it out completely before going back to rewrite and tinker. I'm not able to work this way - I edit quite a bit as I go, particularly the first 10,000 words. Tim Wynn-Jones said that the opening chapter is the engine that drives the book and it's key to get it right. I'm with him on that.

Speaking of renovations, I'm happy to report that Ted completed painting the bedroom! Now before you get all excited, he decided to sand and varnish the floor, so chaos still ensues. Maybe I need to have Chris come over between flights

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Saturday, May 5, 2012

Why I'm Not Cut Out to Watch Horror Movies

I'm often asked where I get the ideas for my writing. While I believe the creative process an intangible, untame-able kind of beast, sometimes I'm surprised by random memories that find their way into my stories - totally unplanned and often satisfyingly right when they appear. And maybe, writing mysteries with a hint of the dark side comes down to one of my first childhood memories.

My father was an engineer who began his career working on the ill-fated Avro Aero - the wing flaps to be exact. When word came down that Diefenbaker was going to nix the project, Dad took a job in Kapuskasing in a pulp mill. I was born two weeks before the trek north and we lived in Kap until I was four. So this memory falls somewhere in between these events.

I have a hazy recollection of being in a playground on top of a hill with my sister Donna , who was almost three years older than me. I remember an older girl leading me to the top of the hill, which looked out over a river, telling me that a pirate ship cruised the dark waters looking for children and taking them away never to be seen again. I looked down the steep hill at the blackish water that disappeared into the trees and can still conjure up the feeling of utter horror. The girl, who was likely a summer camp counsellor, told me never to climb down the hillside or . . . well, that would be it for me. I'd never see my family again. In hindsight, she was probably just trying to keep a three year old from going near the water. She couldn't know that her words were the stuff of nightmares that replayed for many years afterward. For a long time, I believed I'd actually glimpsed the pirate ship going around the bend. I can still tap into the feeling when I'm writing a suspenseful scene. I can still scare myself.

Authors tap into feelings and memories and put them into words and create characters around them. While the stories are a fabrication, it's the details from real life that can make characters and situations come alive. I remember the first time someone talked about Jennifer Bannon (heroine in my YA mystery series) as if she were a real person. It was a peculiar and kind of surreal moment. In the upcoming release, Second Chances, I had a few people read the draft manuscript before I submitted it. Both told me they cried at a certain point . . . and one of my readers was a man :-)  It's a beautiful thing when readers feel what I feel and envision my characters as I do.

Well, enough of my ramble into the past for this morning. It's a gorgeous spring morning. The sun is shining and the tulips are up. Time for a little writing, a little shopping and chatting with neighbours out on the street. It's too good a day to waste . . .